Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Ducking and weaving

This is something I made at a conference I was at recently. They had a parallel session of basket weaving/textile arts - one woman had recently graduated from Charleas Darwin Uni in fine art and makes very contemporary pieces of jewellry, baskets and human and animal forms out of woven recycled plastics, yarn, sticks, washed up fishing nets etc. The other two women were Indigenous and using traditioning weaving techniques and natural fibres. This little piece I made is made from pandanas (palm) leaf, which was collected, torn using a thumb nail into strips and dyed using natural ochre and boiled in a billy can over coals by other people at the conference the day before I sat down to use them to weave with. The tricky bit was getting started - you have to make a little round bit in the middle (a bit like with crochet I think?)and then you keep making the same kind of stitch but binding on to the row before. You use a wide eyed darning type needle and need to keep the srands of fibre kind of moistened - not actually wet but just not so dry in the crackling heat of the sun that they start to break and fall apart. Filcking them with water or dipping your finger tips into a little saucer of water every so often seems to do the trick. I decided to make mine into a pendant to wear - which is why it has the little loop, to put a cord through. That was mostly because I knew that it would have taken me a whole extra day to get it to a basket size, and I didn't want a placemat. I love it a lot, and it reminds me of sitting on a tarp, under shade, next to women who I would otherwise have never met, being encouraged, seeing deft hands make short work of something that I struggled with, listening to Aboriginal languages being spoken, hearing noise in the distance and kids larking about and the smell of a fire smouldering, and not being in a talky thinky session indoors, and that ever so slight excitement of having stepped outside the bounds of everyday, and that ever so slightly shocking intimacy of sitting next to other people on the ground all trying to learn something, and the quiet talk that happens when your hands are busy.

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