APRIL 26, 2023
I want to do a large site-specific project this year about the mighty oak tree in the alpacas’ field, so i have started thinking about other materials i might use with the alpaca yarn, as i only have a limited amount from my five alpacas.I started to become interested in flax. I went to Flaxland, run by Simon and Ann near Stroud, to learn about the process of growing right through to spinning. I was fascinated and, with Simon’s expert help, even managed to spin it successfully too! Recently I also visited THE NOSE in Walton-on-the-Naze, Essex, a brilliant bookshop-cum-café-cum-project space, where Shane Waltener was exhibiting some of his work. On the day I visited he was performing, focussing on processing the flax that he has grown. I thought it was a brilliant venue and project. I became hooked and intrigued by this plant and its uses… However, it is not grown in this country anymore, except as a ‘cottage industry,’ so my work incorporating flax will be limited. I am going to go to Chatham docks, where they have made ropes out of flax and hemp for centuries (sadly now using imported material grown in Europe), to see what I can buy there in larger quantities – more on this later. I have made several pieces using the flax that I spun at Flaxland and some more that Shane had spun from his home-grown flax plants. Shane and I exchanged materials and he also spun me some yarn, a mix of alpaca and flax! The pieces shown below (Wall Pieces: W001, W002, W003 & W004) are made celebrating the contrasting textures of alpaca and flax, the subtle tones and beautiful colours of these two materials. I have used natural dyes for the alpaca fleece.
Rosalind came to see Flax Piece #1, a performance which I and Merlin Nova performed at The Nose in Walton-on-the-Naze. The piece consisted of me processing flax from plant to thread accompanied by Merlin on the drum and other instruments, some of them handmade and not unlike the tools I’d made to process the flax. The piece highlighted the inherent musicality of textile making and connection between music and making.
The event was programmed as part of the Walton Flax Exchange, an exhibition and programme of events raising awareness about sustainable textiles and aiming to prompt the production of cloth made from locally grown fibres. The project was inspired by ‘fibershed’, a term coined by Rebecca Burgess describing a network connection producers, maker and consumers.
Rosalind coming to this, and the flax-alpaca exchange we made, meant the project was extending beyond the immediate locality already. That was then. The Flax Exchange is now due to travel to London as well as Harwich for the festival this summer. Meanwhile, both Rosalind and I have had a go as spinning flax with alpaca, mixing one of the hardest and softest fibres together to produce yarn. Ros has dyed and woven it. I’ve a plan to choreograph and perform a piece for two humans and five alpacas, hers. Ros has yet to know about this though…
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