Friday, June 8, 2012


i don't remember when exactly i stopped spinning only wools and protein fibers and started spinning cellulose fibers. in school, i learned to weave first and later to make paper from cotton and linen rag. i did not learn to spin, though we had two spinning wheels in the studio at buffalo state, an ashford and a penguin. getting my hands on all natural fibers was not easy then. the studio was plumb full of glitzy synthetics.

i learned to spin on a drop spindle and my first yarns were... BAD. then i learned to dye using natural substances, again, after using synthetic dyes in school.

i never connected my love of paper, the collage pieces, the linen sheets, the blue jean edition to spinning or weaving. i never even thought there were any cellulose fibers out there that i would want to spin.
those early assumptions were split apart one by one... an early teacher post-college was rita buchanan who introduced me to the "hand" of many cellulose fibers. i met, and fell in love (at a distance) with shifu. it still never occurred to me that i might make paper that i would then spin and weave and use in a book.
so i learned about shifu from dorothy miller and later maryann mckeller swartz. after, i became aware of the plethora of ways the japanese have traditionally used cellulose fibers... and found bashofu.
more love, and i found a piece at sri threads, that now lives on my studio wall. quiet inspiration, abundance, actually. stephen recently blogged about bashofu.
my journey, however, continues with lokta, kozo, milkweed, and shifu. here's some lokta, ecodyed.


onesmallstitch said...

lovely tale of discovery, beautiful cloth. I have a book (guess you're not surprised at that!) titled "The Origins of Banana-Fibre Cloth in the Ryukyus, Japan, author Katrien Hendrickx. it's written in English mainly but some Japanese and Chinese with dozens of footnotes, very scholarly. When we finally meet for tea I'll bring it along - remind me.

Velma said...

ah, yes, jean THAT book. i would love to see it, but if we're having tea i might just hunker down and read the thing. sigh. i will try to be good!

roz said...

ohhh that piece of bashofu is glorious , especially draped over the lovely twig on your wall

curious and curiouser this land of paper and such

thank you for the introduction to this lovely stuff :)

ronnie said...

these are all a magical mystery to me.... and increasingly a very attractive journey that begs my inclusion...... *one day* (soon I hope!) - ahhh that link to bashofu was DELISHOUSNESS!

Velma said...

roz, you're welcome, i wonder what fber i might find to love in oz--
ronnie, one can only do so much...your delicious marks on shifu, now that's a thought!

Anonymous said...

a very belated thank you for your book. touching and reading it today brought such a feeling of connection with your artistry and the ways you work with the earth's gifts. as i stitched the square today w/pink thread, on the first day of summer vacation, i thought of "really really summerpink" and wished for some of the tenderness and joy your work gives. thank you.

anastasia said...

gorgeous piece! kasuri dyed too! i picked up a shrine grain bag while i was in japan, pieced together from many scraps of kasuri indigo dyed ramie cloth. it's like a portable 3-d book of many patterns. the japanese definitely have the upper hand when it comes to making thread and cloth out of impossible things.

will you be teaching shifu making anywhere this year or next? other than cotton, i've stayed away from spinning cellulose fibers; i want to spin some paper before i get too much older and lose my vision even more!

Velma said...

i hope that any little bit of strength in there touches you as well.

anastasia, no plans right now to teach shifu except in australia in a couple of weeks!

iNd!@nA said...

a journey is a splendid thing

i for one
am looking forward to hearing more stories of this [ongoing] journey
when you have journeyed across the Pond
and i shall be a student in your class

Velma said...

india, i am sooo excited and a little scared, too.

Fiona Dempster said...

Thanks for sharing the story V - what a lovely journey of wonderful discoveries and unlearnings!

Velma said...

fiona, i keep learning and relearning and unlearning.

Anonymous said...

what a tale - and probably good to remember now, as you prepare for your long trip around the world... people will want to know these things about you, I suspect. You and India Flint in the same room - why, there's a story right there!!!

Velma said...

yes, it's time to remember it's ok to tell these little tales.

blandina (aracne) said...

Amazing post, full of very interesting pieces of information. Spinning paper: wow, I would like to see that. Are you coming to Europe and giving any classe around here?

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