Friday, October 18, 2013

The Walterboro Fiber Fair -- A Great Success

Dear Guild Members,

Thank you to all who supported our effort at the Walterboro Fiber Festival! That includes people who drove a good distance to drop in and check it out. It was a wonderful day. We made a great showing and got to know fiber folk from other areas.

The mission statement of our guild of educating the community to appreciate the fiber arts was very well carried out. In addition, it turned out to be a great way to celebrate Spinning and Weaving Week which fell Oct. 7 - 13 this year.

Our display table looked great and the demonstration areas were busy. We represented lace-making, felting, spindle and wheel spinning, table, rigid heddle, triangle, and floor weaving, needle work and loom knitting, dyeing, and tools (Dale's lovely wooden yarn bowls and spindles). WOW!

One visitor told me she had a "wonderful time, everyone was so warm and welcoming". She was speaking specifically about our Guild! Our diversity is part of our strength!

And indeed, the Walterboro Fiber Fair turned out to be a great event and a great match for all that our Guild is interested in and has to offer. Coordinated by the Colleton County Museum and Farmer's Market, the event combined the regular Saturday Farmer's Market with crafter's booths, fiber animal farmers, all manner of fiber arts demonstrations, fleece, roving, and lovely pieces made from handspun fibers.

Lovely hand spun yarns from a Colleton County farm.
Four or five local farms were represented where sheep, alpacas and/or rabbits are raised for their fiber. The bunnies were the only ones who got to attend this fair.
Mostly alpaca hand spun.
Hand knits from hand spun alpaca.
All the yummy fleece and yarn and handmade pieces co-mingled happily with local Colleton County Farmer's Market produce, which was equally beautiful.
Kelly & Dale Fort and Kayleigh Osborne keep pushing Pluff Mudd Fiber to the next level. Their product mix now includes, handspun art yarn, felted ornaments, knitted and woven goods, hand turned spindles and yarn bowls and hammered metal jewelry. Their tag line says it all "Tapped, Tatted, Twisted & Turned Art". Find them on Facebook.
As we moved into the demonstration shed to take some pictures, Sandy and Michaela were delighted to see Wendy Kohler, formerly very active with our Guild. We know Wendy to be a talented weaver and knitter. Here, she was trying out basketry. She promised to be back around to see us soon!

Palmetto Fiber Arts Guild members were out in force, demonstrating what we know how to do and giving others a chance to try new things. Cindy and Kathy were busy all day introducing visitors to their rigid heddle looms.
Ron Kimzey even wanted to take the rigid heddle for a test drive.
Here, Barbara shows a fiber fair visitor how bobbin lace is made.
Maria Luisa demonstrated a continuous strand technique on her triangle loom. She was putting the finishing touches on this shawl as the day came to an end.

Kayleigh taught a class on needle felting where participants made fall pumpkins!
This young man was interested in the spinning wheel so Peggy gave him a quick demo.
Kelly encourages a new spinner.
Palmetto Fiber Arts Guild members got to see demonstrations as well as give them. This woman's daughter was one of the sheep farmers participating. While her daughter showed and sold fleece and wool, she patiently spun most of the day.
And just one more picture from our good day at the Walterboro Fiber Fair -- Dale's lovely drop spindles, each signed, dated, numbered, and labeled as to the wood. And each comes with a starter bag of fleece!

Kudus to the folks in Waterboro who planned and coordinated this event (including Palmetto Fiber Arts Guild members, Susan and Ted Chewning). They said they were afraid they were in trouble when they realized some people thought a fiber fair was going to feature dietary supplements. (Yikes!)

The day was well attended and the mashup of a great location, fiber artists selling and demonstrating, farmer's market produce, local animal farmers, food vendors, and beautiful fall weather created a good vibe for everyone.

At the SC Artisan Center, just one building over from the Museum and Farmers Market, there was even more going on -- a juried art show and more featuring traditional fiber arts. This first time event has great potential for annual repeat performances and offers our Guild the opportunity to connect with the public and with fiber animal farmers. If they let us, we'll definitely be there next year!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Gullah Lady

Wow! September's program with The Gullah Lady was really something special.
Sharon Cooper Murray aka The Gullah Lady, meets Palmetto Fiber Arts Guild members as we arrive for our September meeting.
Here in the Lowcountry of the Palmetto state the intertwined histories of many different kinds of people overlap with geography and place in a truly unique way. Sharon Cooper Murray grew up in nearby Lake City. A chance visit to Wadmalaw Island resulted in her finding what felt like home to her in terms of the place, the people and all the intertwined histories.

She is a talented and natural storyteller. She told us wonderful stories that began with memories of   her own mother's quilting circle, and later stumbling upon a remarkably similar quilting group on Wadmalaw Island -- of learning from the ladies there an old practice that involved using a sharp bone or a nail to push strips of fabric through a burlap backing.

The traditional Gullah rag strip quilt utilized small bits of fabric too small for garments, towels, or pieced quilts.

As time went by and the number of ladies who made these strip quilts dwindled to -- none but her, Cooper Murray realized how important it was to preserve as much of the Gullah Geechee culture and practice as possible.

Sharon has become The Gullah Lady and her mission now is to preserve the disappearing folk practices she learned from elderly Gullah women on South Carolina's sea islands. Her vision is not only to preserve this tradition, but also to make it relevant to a contemporary audience. She has found one of the best vehicles for this is the "Community Rag Quilt Project".

Everywhere she goes now as she leads workshops about this vanishing culture she invites participants to add a few strips to the community quilt, linking the labor of their hands to each other and to the tradition. The colorful community quilt becomes fluffier and fluffier with each program she does. Of course, she didn't have to twist the arms of Fiber Arts Guild members to get us to do our bit!

Palmetto Fiber Arts Guild members add strips to The Gullah Lady's Community Quilt
Samples of more rag strip quilts.
 The remoteness of our sea islands helped to preserve a way of life that traced some of its characteristics back to the shores of Africa (Sharon told us Gullah may be a corruption of the word "Golla" referring perhaps to Angola.) The cultural nuances are complex and fascinating.

None of us came from that culture or tradition, but many of us could relate to remembrances of old ways of making things that aren't being done anymore -- of remembering the communities that formed around and sustained our grandmothers and great-grandmothers who often lived in some isolation and often poverty. Many of us have some fiber "treasure" that has been passed down to us - a quilt or coverlet -- and we know a story of who made it and how it was used.

Thank you to Sharon Cooper Murray for being with us and sharing your wonderful stories about this rich culture still alive right in our backyard. And thank you for letting us take part in this community quilt project and remembering it really is all about community!!