I want to apologize for not posting anything last week. I am taking a Metalsmithing studio this semester and I have been franticly working on finishing my Tea pot to finish it for our exhibit the Glass Box Gallery. So for the last week my brain has been on teapot and noting else. Here is a picture of my work.
With my tea pot done, I can talk about something that I have found to be the fuel that inspires me to continue to work with fibers and that’s giving demonstrations! Demonstrating is a way that I give back to the community and share my love for the fiber arts. My first experience with fiber arts was from watching an artist at work and being able to ask her questions about her craft. Now I’m now the artist sharing my passion and knowledge with others.
I do most of my demonstrations for the Rocky Mountain Weavers Guild. The guild is asked by fair organizers, event planners and teachers for artists to come in and share their expertise with the class or for spectators. Every year the Guild is asked to participate in the National Western Stock Show in their hall of education. Weavers and spinners come to show the visitors about how wool is processed into clothing. This is one of my favorite events because this is where I first learned how to spin.
Some of the other demonstration gigs I have done have been at the Estes Park Wool Market. The wool market is a weekend event in June where all things fiber in Colorado gathers to spend a week end of fun and festivities. This festival has everything from llama and alpaca shows, sheep shearing and booths where you can get partially any fiber known to man. I volunteer for the Children’s Tent. Here I take on a more hands on demonstrations. Kids can choose to make a rope form various yarns with a rope maker, weave on a meat tray loom that they can take home or spin on a drop spindle. I like to help teach the kids with the meat tray looms. I help them take a colored string and weave it through the threads- building up various patterns. I watch and parents quickly get impatient and want to move on to something new as their kid becomes enthralled with the ease of weaving. I quickly become an impromptu baby sitter as parents wonder off to see something else. I don’t mind often these are the kids who enjoy it so much they don’t hesitate to help new comers to the table.
One year I had one young man who became so interested in spinning on a drop spindle that he not only learned how to spin but helped other kids. That very next year I was volunteering I saw him again eager as ever to help I soon put him to work. His mom later that day told me that I he never forgot about last year and because if me is now learning how to weave.
I have also been asked to demonstrate sheep shearing at the Museum of Modern Art in Denver. The Museum was holding a mock sheep to shawl contest. This is where the cleaned fleece is spun, plied and woven into a shawl by a team of spinners and weavers with the goal to finish a shawl by the end of the day. Traditionally the sheep was shorn and the team would have to do the all processing in one day. That’s where I came in I was to shear the sheep.
I am my no means a sheep shearer. Unlike Tom Iamonico who can shear a sheep in less than five minutes I on the other hand took a whopping one
and a half hours to shear my sheep Camille. This also included brakes so that she could nurse her baby Cobalt. This was the most physical demonstration that I have been asked to do and one of the best. I was featured in the 2011 summer issue of Spin Off magazine.
I understand that demonstrating might not your cup of tea but if you want to give it a try here is what you will need.
- Bring a simple project to work on you will be interrupted A LOT so you don’t want to have to worry about keeping your place
- Be prepared to answer a lot of questions If you are spinning make sure you know how it works (especially when it comes a spinning wheels) I have had a lot of engineer minded people interrogate me on the workings of many of my fiber tools.
- Be prepared to politely correct parents and teachers. I have lost count how many parents and teachers who walk up to my spinning wheel and confidently tell their children that I am using a sewing machine to make clothes. I have found smiling politely until they are done lecturing about how my sewing machine makes thread and then “say well actually…” or “yes that is true sewing machines are used to make clothes, however I am making…” I don’t blame parents or teachers trying to take an educated guess, most likely they haven’t seen a spinning wheel in action except in fairy tale cartoons.
- Be aware of small children. Spinning wheels have a way of memorizing small children. One time while I was demonstrating at the National Western Stock Show I had a small boy see my spinning wheel from across the room. He left his preoccupied mother and made his way across the crowded room to my spinning wheel. He stood there watching the wheel his eyes sparkling with amazement. I managed to flag down his mom before she went into a panic over her missing kid.
- Know your fairy tales. In the business of demonstrating knowing your fairy tales is key to answering many of the Questions you will get. Sleeping Beauty, Rumpelstiltskin, and The Emperor’s New Clothes are a must.
- Be prepared to answer dumb questions. That old saying of there is no such thing as a dumb question is so wrong. A dumb question is a question in which the asker all ready knows the answer. I get a lot of wise guys who come up to me and say “don’t you know you can just buy yarn?” or “they have fabric stores why are you making your own fabric?” to these questions I smile and remind them that in a post apocalyptic world I would be well dressed and content in a nuclear winter while they would freeze to death.
- Most importantly have fun! Demonstrating is a lot of fun and a great way to get some work done. I have found that I spin more when I’m demonstrating than I do at home. I find that spinning and weaving at these festivals and fairs allows me to put aside the distractions of everyday life that tend to get in the way of my crafting. I also enjoy watching the people. People are great to watch.Don’t worry if you are still learning, you do not need to be an expert to demonstrate. In fact I personally believe that the best way to learn something new it to try to show it to other people. This way you really focus on what you’re doing and can learn from your mistakes quicker.