It isn’t technologyit’s is pure magic

Judith MacKenzie sharing the majesty of her new home—on the windswept shores of the north Pacific Ocean.

A red cedar tree in the rainforest at the tip of Neah Bay, Washington.

Students gather around as Judith demonstrates warping a simple loom.

On Luddites

I can't really describe myself as a Luddite, though my mom is the genuine article. She reluctantly adopts new technology—for example, she does use a photocopier and even has an email address now—but really loathes using the computer. She'd prefer to handwrite letters or use a typewriter (this is a mechanical device, with no plug, USB port, or Wi-Fi, in which metal keys are embossed with the letters of the alphabet and a ribbon containing ink is suspended in front of the key's strike zone—ingenious, really).

While on the one hand I don't know if I'd ever be able to meet up with family and friends again if I didn't have a cell phone equipped with a Qwerty texting keyboard with which to coordinate the ever-changing location and time of our reunions. On the other hand, sometimes I feel as if my life gets sucked away by all these devices, and opportunities to connect, while remaining distant.

It is safe to say that I have mixed feelings about technology. After all, I am a spinner. I can make yarn without any tools other than my hands. Seriously. I learned how to thigh spin from a Tlingit weaver/spinner who visited my art class when I was in college. A bit of fluff, damp jeans, and I was off. Not only that, but it was a process in which you spin and ply simultaneously. Brilliant!

I've been intimately involved in print publications for fourteen years, but recently, I've been watching, with a little trepidation, the birth of a new age in the spinning world. I call it the e-age. We've been making a lot of e-stuff at the request of our readers, ahem, e-readers. Happening in our offices simultaneously with the publishing of Spin-Off is a new publication, SpinKnit. Anne Merrow is the editor. She was an Interweave books editor, churning out our spinning books up until last year when she took on the mantle of eMags. Wow, what a process it is to put together an eMag. The levels of complexity are exponential when compared to the process of putting together a print magazine.

Connected to ancient textiles in the e-age
I had a recent taste of this when Anne asked me to write an article for the second issue of SpinKnit about my trip in April to attend Judith MacKenzie's Tribal Textile Treasures workshop in Forks, Washington. Along with my raincoat and boots, I packed my spinning wheel and tools and a digital video camera. I came back with miles of yarn (bison, dog hair, wolf hair, qiviut, encased duck down, hemp, and pygora! Oh my!), and hours of footage of Judith teaching, plus gigabytes of digital images. Most importantly, I came back with a renewed vigor for spinning. I fell in love all over again with textiles that were made so lovingly by hand by people who are connected to ancient traditions and the natural landscape that dominates their world, yet also moving along in the tides of our new time.

Though I'm sometimes skeptical about this e-age—I can actually come close to sharing with you what this experience was really like because not only can you read my words and see my photos, you can hear Judith speaking. You can experience Judith's unique and captivating style for yourself. You can hear the respect and awe in her voice as she talks about the way cedar bark has been carefully harvested to make baskets to diapers among the Quilieute and Makah people of the Northwest coast. If you listen closely, you can hear the threads that connect us and bind us simultaneously to the past, present, and future.

And this is just one article in the eMag—there are many more that provide windows into different times and places. It isn't technology—it is pure magic.

Happy spinning,

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