Remembering SOAR 2006 in Tahoe City, CA
My favorite question to ask someone I have just met at a spinning event is, "How did you become interested in spinning?" One of the unique qualities of our robust fiber community is that there are so many ports of entry. Many people are looking for a way to add a creative and calm corner to their lives, some are professional artists who venture our way, and some others are coming from agricultural backgrounds.
Belonging to the latter group, I grew up on an Indiana farm and studied Soil Science at Purdue University. I also spent a year living in England and enjoyed visiting as many museums and cafés as possible, with a novel perpetually tucked under my arm. When I discovered fiber arts, it was as if everything came together and fell into place. Textiles are, as I see it, the keystone to human culture. Textiles can provide for the basic human needs of our families, express our creativity, connect us with our environment, and pass our traditions on to future generations.
It was as I was finding my way down this path that my dear friend Susan Markle suggested to me, upon our first meeting, that I apply for a SOAR scholarship. The year I received my scholarship was also my first SOAR and, oh my, what a wild ride! As one of my favourite authors, Henry James, once wrote, "deep experience is never peaceful." The full immersion into the ceaseless exchange of information and ideas, the inspiration of techniques and textiles, the stories, characters, and lore of the event itself were staggering. When I returned home, I told my husband that it would take me an entire year just to process what I had seen, heard, and felt before SOAR came again the next year!
Since that time, I have tried to bring this energy and joyful inquiry to my own fiber community in Indiana and to each of the classes I teach. For the last three years, I have been the Chairman of Swift, an organization in Indiana that serves as a network for spinning and weaving guilds in the state. Organizations like Swift are vital to developing our existing connections as well as welcoming new folks. I also help manage the Spinner's Connection Blog here on SpinningDaily.com. I love reading the guild newsletters from around the world and learning about the creative ways that other guilds are growing and finding inspiration.
It is also important to be present in the wider community, sharing what we love about our crafts. I have done quite a few demonstrations at fairs, festivals, and museums, and I always enjoy them. I worked with the Indiana State Museum doing guest artist demonstrations when they hosted the "Radical Lace and Subversive Knitting" exhibit. Later, I taught a session of their kids' summer camp called "Fiberpalooza."
I have had the chance to meet so many wonderful people through our mutual love of fibers. SOAR opened the door to so many amazing experiences, like listening to Judith MacKenzie judge hundreds of fleeces at Black Sheep Gathering, traveling through Estonia with Nancy Bush, teaching at festivals like Wisconsin Sheep and Wool and SAFF (Southeastern Animal Fiber Festival), and the list continues to grow. Fiber arts, both traditional and modern, and the community that surrounds them have created so much joy in my life. I am so thankful for the opportunities I have been given and want to continue to give back… because we must help create the world we want to live in, stitch by stitch.