Marianne Guckelsberger2012 SOAR Scholar




SOAR scholars are asked to submit a report sharing their experiences as recipients and the impact the opportunity has had on their lives. Marianne Guckelsberger from Reykjavík, Iceland, tells us about SOAR 2012 in Lake Tahoe, California.

Now that registration is open for SOAR 2013 my mind goes back to last year's SOAR when I was the lucky recipient of a scholarship. When I first got the news I was excited and happy, but as the date drew near I was not so sure any more. In fact I was terrified. America. I will be robbed. I will land in a tornado. I will be killed, get lost. I don't even have a credit card and can't even book a hotel! I will tell them I have a headache and won't be able to come…

Then the voice came. "Oh come on, you have been there before, San Francisco, 30 years ago, New Orleans, Tipitinas, and had the time of your life." Somebody told me about Couch Surfing, for girls like me who don't want a credit card and hate hotels (except when it's at a SOAR retreat). I very much recommend Couch Surfing, it is safe, worldwide and is all about hospitality, being a guest or host guests.

So I went. Unknown people met me at the airport in Sacramento, took me to their home, gave me food and wonderful company, showed one of the most beautiful human virtues – hospitality.  They took me to the Greyhound.

I arrived at the SOAR and was overwhelmed. I had sort of anticipated that it would be big, but to actually be with hundreds of like-minded people is another thing. We don't have guilds here in Iceland, and there's few and far between spinners, so my thoughts were a bit mixed. I envied you for having so many choices for fibers, so many fairs and markets and fantastic handicrafts people to learn from. After a few days when my soul had caught up with me after the flight it was easy. I felt like one row in a fabric, one crimp in a lock, small but part of a texture.

Kindness all around. When people heard that there is only one sheep breed in Iceland, no flax, merino or silk, I was showered with gifts. Fiber samples galore, how can I ever thank you enough!

My teacher Robin Russo is a gem. She knows everything about every fiber. She also dyes with lichen, something that I have been doing also. We had inspired conversations and it turned out that she loves to travel and learn from the locals and experience culture away from the trodden paths. And here my part of giving back all the goodness began. I was able to help her prepare her trip to Iceland with some useful advice and she worked out a really interesting travel plan, met seals and goats, black beaches and basalt columns, and fiber people of course.

I have been teaching both children and adults for many years, and fuelled with all that SOAR inspiration I again accepted an offer of the Waldorf school to teach 11-12 year old kids one month in January. Snow storms outside but the class room was aglow with intent eyes, hands that wove shoulder bags, braided cords, carded, spun and plied a ball of yarn, finger looped belts and hair bands. One eleven year old will soon be the new owner of my old spinning wheel, since I upgraded to a Rolls Royce, I mean a Lendrum.

Another thing that SOAR did for me that I am more confident at accepting challenges. I will not only be teaching the children's summer courses at my textile school, but actually be in charge. I will work out an interesting schedule like berry and rhubarb picking to make jams, collecting dyeing plants and dye our yarn, wood cutting, spinning, finger looping and nalbinding, and more.

I picked up some good ideas at SOAR about hand outs and presentations which I will incorporate into the way I will present my finger looped bands (which is not as looping those chains as children do. It is a bit more complex.) at the two markets that I will attend this summer, the viking market in Hafnarfjörður and the medieval market in Gásir, N-Iceland.

SOAR gave me new friends and confidence in what I'm doing, which is sometimes difficult here as we are so few. Thanks to Robin I now have a Lendrum (incredible that you really schlepped it across the Atlantic for me) and could make a girl happy with my old Louët.  She also brought me some lichen (umbilicaria mammulata) which is sitting in a jar, turning reddish-brown and will be purple in three months. Then I will dye the yarn  that I am spinning right now for both warp and weft for a medieval head covering for my Norse Greenland persona.

So far for doing things. Now I am also thinking, and writing. Some years ago I went to university again to study Latin, and this summer will mainly be devoted to writing my BA thesis.  I guess you will not be surprised that I will write about purple dyeing in antiquity…


One happy scholar, Marianne, Iceland.




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