Monday, June 28, 2010

First Festival

I spent the weekend helping out with a friend at the Olds Fibre Week in Olds, Alberta. It was something we'd planned to do a long time ago, and when the date approached, the excitement increased day by day.

"Do you think we'll see any sheep?"

"I dunno. Maybe. Or maybe there will be alpacas!"

"Wow! Alpacas! Baa."

"Is that what alpacas say?"

"I'm not sure. Maybe they say 'mwah.'"

"No they don't. I'm sure they say something else."

And thus the conversations continued in the days before the festival.

I first learned about Olds Fibre Week last year from another fellow knitter who had suggested we attend a few classes. I couldn't really get it together last year to do it, and when this year rolled around, I couldn't work it all into the budget. I was still curious to find out what it was like to go to a real fibre festival, even a small one like this one, so we got involved as volunteers. Needless to say, most of my non-knitter/crochet friends didn't get it at all.

"Fibre week? Like bran? For digestion?"

"No, it's about yarn and fleece and fibre like that."

"Well, what are you doing there?"

"We're running the sock display booth."

"Oh... why are you doing that?"

"Well... nevermind."

It was a pretty relaxed affair - but truly exciting for me. I was so happy to be around people who shared such a passion for this thing that I do. I met people who could do things with yarn I'd never considered. I met people who raised sheep, angora rabbits, angora goats. I met a little girl who dyed - and sold - her own yarn.

At the bed and breakfast we stayed at, I walked past one of the open bedrooms where one of the ladies staying there sat, winding a ball of yarn. I told her how I'd made some great purchases that day. She invited me in to see what she had bought. My jaw dropped with all the beautiful roving she'd purchased to do her wet felting.

I touched yak fibre, bison, silk.

I watched a lady handweave tapestry on a tableloom.

I witnessed a woman literally flap her arms in excitement with the amazing fibre purchase she secured ($3 a bag!). I was so happy for her, and I told her so.

I had a chat with a gentlemen who raised angora goats about his earnest wish that fibre education be made compulsory in schools.

I touched a teddy bear made out of alpaca fluff.

I watched in awe as judges looked through bag after bag of fleece.

I was really, truly happy to be there.

And I met an alpaca.

And guess what it said to me?

It said, "Mwah."

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

It's funny how things work out sometimes

I finished my Lacy Crochet Top last Saturday. I've been trying it on, looking at it from all sorts of angles, placing it with different colours, trying it with skirts and jeans, and I've realized something.

It looks like something straight out of a Filipino wedding.

I'm not upset about this or anything, but it's funny how these things turn out in the end. I certainly didn't plan on it turning out this way, but it would not look out of place at the taking of vows in a church in Malolos. Seriously.

The path to this finished object was a struggle. I was sailing along until I hit the sleeves, and it took me four attempts to get it right. Once, I had to rip out the entire sleeve and start from scratch. They are still a little bunched up in the armpit, but they fit my arm.

It is also a little snug around the bust. I could almost get away with going braless with this, but that ain't gonna happen.

I opted to use the original straps in the pattern as a neckline, and omitted the double picot edging from the arms and the bottom of the hem. They just looked a little flimsy when I tried doing it, and I was afraid of catching them somewhere.

I'm wearing a dark blue camisole under it for these photos, but I think it would be nicer with a paler blue or pink underneath, something with less startling contrast, and a bit longer, too.

I was quite impressed with the yarn for this project. It's Elann's Lara in cream, and it just seems to glow. Lustrous without being shiny and tacky. It is a bit splitty, but no more than your average plied yarn, and I only found one knot in one of the balls throughout the entire project.

Anyway, it's not bad for a minor attempt at re-engineering a crochet pattern, and I'm hoping I feel confident enough to wear it out to something soon.

Maybe a Filipino wedding.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Giggly Octopus and her Yummy Cards

There's this crazy girl I met at work a few years ago. She laughs a lot, smiles a lot and knows the value of a good meal. That's my kind of people. And she used to live in my basement.

She's always been interested in photography. When she was living with us, I had an Etsy shop and was selling my handmade jewelry. One of the hardest and most time-consuming parts of maintaining an online shop is getting good quality images of your products which attract the eye at various sizes. And I thought, well - how about I get the girl in the basement to take my photos for me?

And she did a fantastic job.

During the hours she spent snapping photos and adjusting lighting, she shared with me her dreams of pursuing a career in photography... maybe owning her own shop one day, taking people on photography tours. But, like many people, she felt it couldn't be a reality, that it was the stuff of dreams.

Nay, said I. It is possible. And we talked about all sorts of things she could do to make her dreams come true.

She moved back to Japan, and shortly afterward, she sent me an email, and told me that living with me changed her life.

I tell you, I am a marvel *grin*. And I'm so touched that she told me that. It is such a relief to know that there are others who believe in the creative dream.

Since then, she has moved back to Canada (with her PR card clenched in her hand) and is cultivating her talent in photography. She and recently started making hand-bound books of some of her fantastic images, one of which was purchased by me.

She is also selling some of her images as postcards at her website:

Here is an excerpt from her About Me section:

Once upon a time, there lived a giggly octopus under the beautiful sea. She traveled to a place called badlands one day and fell in love with the place. She met a butterfly in the badlands and fell in love with him, too! She wanted to spend an eternity there, but it wasn't her home. She had to go home to her beautiful sea --- and this is why I take pictures.

Please go and visit the giggly octopus and peruse her images. It's a magical place.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Importance of Creativity

I've been watching a lot of online videos from the TED conferences... one after another after another. It was first introduced to me by my friend, Dawg, who shared a talk by Sir Ken Robinson, when he spoke at the TED conference in March of this year. I won't get into it, but it was inspirational for me, as are most things that have come out of TED. I decided to look more into this person and came across the following video. I'd encourage you to watch it before I continue. *sits back and relaxes with cuppa tea*

Ok, now you've seen it. Here are some things that really struck me:

Kids will take a chance.

If you're not prepared to be wrong, you'll never come up with anything original.

We stigmatize mistakes. It doesn't matter how many people say how important it is to learn from your mistakes. You make a mistake, people remember you badly for it.

Formal education came about during the Industrial Revolution. People are talked out of doing creative things. The result is that highly talent, brilliant, creative people think they're not, because the thing they were good at school was not valued or was actually stigmatized. We can't afford to continue that way.

Ok, let's imagine this:

There's a kid at school. We'll call her Sarah.

In kindergarten, Sarah plays at the water table, practically all day. She watches how the bottles she fills with water sink to the bottom of the pool. On days when there are bubbles in the water table, she observes their colours, how they burst and re-form. She observes how she can keep dripping water on the surface of an already-filled cup and how it won't overflow until it is truly full. She watches how air escapes out of vessels she has pushed into the water upturned. She won't let any of the other children play in the table, she is so fascinated.

She goes into grade school. She's often off on her own, watching the clouds at recess. The teachers often have to search for her to bring her back in because she has wandered off, maybe to look at the nearby creek, or to listen to birds, or is so busy building something in the sandbox that she doesn't hear the bell. "She's in her own world," the teachers say. "She needs to learn to focus."

In high school, she is asked to write a paper about importance of the local dam to the region, its history, how it came to be. She ponders this for a while, and decides to think a bit bigger, and writes about the importance of water in industry, how it has powered machines through its own force, how it powers steam engines, and then narrows the focus to the hydroelectric industry, finally zeroing in on the local dam. She gets a failing grade because it's three pages too long.

She gets a degree in engineering, gets a consultant job in a firm that mines resources.

And then, one day, on TV, she sees the news about the huge oil disaster in the United States. How the oil is pouring into the ocean, and nobody seems to know how to stop it.

She thinks she has an idea of how she could stop it. But she would have to go out on her own and find someone who would believe her, and find someone who would be willing to test the idea, and buy the equipment and take it down south, and then find someone to stay there and manage the whole operation. That's hard.

And besides, she might be wrong. And that would be horrible.

So, she sits back and lets the experts deal with it. As we all are.

I'm not saying that we should all go down there and clog the telephone lines with all our maniacal ideas. That's not practical. But...

I can't help but think of how, in the Middle Ages, when a house was on fire, everyone came running to throw a bucket of water, or to help the family. There was always the "strange one" who had some radical idea to stop fires starting in the first place.

And I can't help but think that there's someone out there who can help stop this kind of disaster that is currently happening with this oil leak. And they're too afraid to say so, because they are afraid of their idea being wrong.

And I can't help but think that, if we weren't so afraid to be creative, if we weren't talked out of thinking outside of the box, or if being creative and artistic was rewarded monetarily... well, maybe, just maybe, things would be different down there.

It's a hypothesis. And I might be wrong. But what the hell: there are worse things happening, after all.