What a ride 2020 has already been! If ever there was a need for community, nurturing and handmaking, this is it! Every conversation I’ve had lately has included the recognition of how our art is keeping us sane and how much we crave being together with like-minded souls in person.
I’m dancing with delight as I write to you with the news that we’ve figured out how to host a small gathering in accordance with the present circumstances. A NEW form of Fiber College will be held September 9th through September 13th 2020. Whilst I dreamt of promising a full range of socially distanced activities and five days of boundless collaboration, the current pandemic rules are constraining our options. BUT the spirit of Fiber College will prevail with an Unraveled Camp Out…So get ready for an experience that will not only fulfill your desire for creative expression, but fill you with yet more memories of this place we call home.
Working under both the public campground best practice mandates and the public gathering rules, we have the infrastructure to invite fifty students who are able to camp at Searsport Shores Ocean Campground for at least three nights we can still have an amazing retreat! With our gathering less than 1 month away, registration is available on a first come, first serve basis…So please reserve your campsite immediately should you wish to attend. We will accept 50 registrations and maintain a waiting list of 10 more for “just in case.” Beg, borrow or steal a camper or a tent today!
Per Maine’s state mandates, the usual manner in which we are allowed to operate will be very different from your previous experiences; however, you can still expect talented mentors and stimulating workshops, not to mention a few other surprises to delight both your palette and your musical heart. The nominal cost for the retreat will be $50/attendee plus camping. Once you have made reservations for camping, you’ll be sent a link to register for Fiber College…the Unraveled Campout.
Our gathering spaces will be outside and under shelters with plenty of air-flow. Our sanitation procedures include state of the art fogging equipment with CDC and EPA approved anti-covid vapor…and of this writing, our county does not have a single reported case of the virus.
A full schedule of mentored workshops, namely Printing, Natural Dying, Embroidery, Sewing, and Woodworking will be forthcoming in the next few days (and wait ’til you see the goodie bag that’s waiting for you at check in). You will be delighted!
My most sincere and heartfelt thanks for your continued support,
One of many who bring Fiber College to Life
Last week we started using MailChimp…because our software of 8 years was retired and we had to find an entirely new way of communicating. Long story short, not everyone in our database got our letter. Some saw it on Facebook but we can’t begin to guess who hasn’t seen it yet…so after a preamble of the next few paragraphs, you’ll find the letter posted that we e-mailed last Thursday…in an effort to keep everyone on the same page and share some gratifying news. With the happiest wishes for a lovely new decade to all, Astrig.
It’s been 15 years since we gathered for the first time. We were lucky enough to start without too much pressure because Searsport Shores Ocean Campground was our home and the perfect place for artists and musicians to congregate. As artists and musicians ourselves, we’ve been hosting creatives since 1998 but bringing a 1000 people together to learn and collaborate is entirely different adventure.
Over the years we’ve planned the programs with lots of help, kept up with communications and figured out the logistics…always with the grace of tolerance from those who attend. We’re truly a volunteer organization and we like the authenticity of sharing our success and failures…Fiber College is an art project and as such, some things work and others need to be stacked in the closet or transformed.
Making music on a loom or music on a banjo…it’s kind of the same thing, don’t you think? Karen Weaver from NH was the first fiber artist I remember bringing a fiddle to Fiber College but I can’t say for certain, we just know that music and art fit together beautifully and before too long the weekend after Fiber became music, and then the weekend after that attracted campers from all over who would go to the Common Ground Fair and then come “home” at night to play music around the campfire…and the Old Time Music Campout was born…soon to become Strung Together because there was so much Bluegrass and Americana floating around too.
This, my friends, is the casual back story of how we’ve grown. For those who have known us “forever”, we’ll always be Fiber College but in taking the step to integrate the art and the music (and the lending libraries we’re building for both tools and instruments) we’ve embraced the guild approach and for the past two years we’ve quietly become the Maker’s Guild of Maine, 501c3.
Fiber College has always been about the energy and support of students and teachers like you. As organizers, we’ve cherished these 15 years of celebrating creative expression and are excited to share how 2020 is going to be a very special year. The Makers Guild of Maine – which organizes Fiber College, Strung Together, and several other programs – has been awarded three amazing grants: a Belvedere Handicraft Grant, a Maine200 Bicentennial Grant, AND a Bicentennial Tourism Marketing grant. This is such an honor and to say we are thrilled is an understatement! These grants are a vote of confidence in who we are, what we do, and the things we care about – our pride and belief in the importance of making, of building community, and coming together in the beautiful mid coast Maine.
The funding will enable us to make a major investment in our future. We will bring all of our projects under one website, www.MakersGuildMaine.org and will make it easier to find information quickly and to sign up for classes and events. All our social media, updates, and archives will be in one place, making it a valuable community resource, and if our dreams come true, we’ll be able to cross promote the activities of like-minded organizations and keep you better informed. Standby for the launch in early April.
Equally important, these grants will enable us to take the Bicentennial opportunity to shine a spotlight on the importance of fiber in Maine history. Everyone knows about lobsters and lighthouses…but what about our wonderful linens and crafts? In the coming months, the Makers Guild of Maine will expand and promote its regular offerings under the banner Flaxapalooza2020. This will be a unique celebration of the skills, people, and communities that transformed FLAX, and other plant fibers, into so many of the iconic items that define Maine – from sails, ropes, nets, work clothes, and farm goods to beautiful linens, comfortable 4 season homes, and healthy living. Have you seen these beautiful plants?
As the keynote event, this year’s Fiber College (September 5-9) will include a flax patch in our dyers’ garden and offer sessions on growing, spinning, weaving, and dyeing bast fibers; tent and sail making; knots, rope, netting, lace, and the connections between them; shoes, garments, and musical instruments; upcycling vintage fabrics, and hearing about new fashion labels in former textile mills. We are thrilled to announce that Sarah Haskell will offer a workshop entitled: ‘For the Love of Linen: From the practical to the poetic.’ Attendees will explore the mystique of linen through spinning, weaving dish towels, and using linen in a range of projects – from clothing and domestic goods to art pieces.
Because the beauty of linen threads is so often associated with lace making, Jill Hawkins will offer a three day introduction to bobbin lacemaking and for those who are proficient, Lauran Sundin will offer a follow-up two day session on bobbin lace in wire. Is knitting more your thing?
Join Katharine Cobey for a never before offered class on knitting
linen and other bast fibers to celebrate their unique, all season beauty. We could tell you more but why ruin the surprise? Following our 15 year tradition, classes will be posted and registration will open early in April…we’ll keep you posted on the incremental updates with Facebook and Instagram, any really big news will be communicated through e-mail.
As always, there will be food, music, social events, and a makers’ market with an international flair. In keeping with the Flaxapalooza2020 theme, we plan to include some of the music, food, and craft traditions of different ethnic groups whose skills and experience have contributed to Maine’s heritage…and also play a role in its future. We have reached out to Armenian, Scandanavian, Scotch/Irish, Franco American, East African, and Native American communities who will partner with us not only for a series of special evenings during the upcoming summer season of Wednesdays at the Shores but also teach heritage inspired classes during Fiber College.
We are also exploring potential partnerships with a variety of local organizations to coordinate events and destinations that relate to the Flaxapalooza2020 theme. These include the Searsport 175th Anniversary committee, Penobscot Marine Museum, Farnsworth Museum, the New England Flax Growers Educational Alliance, and a variety of state historical societies. Looking to the future we have also begun to investigate connections with local clothing and home decor designers and to reach into communities in the mid coast and beyond to recover artifacts, personal histories, songs, archives, and memories that we will find ways to honor and share during the festival.
If you have leads or suggestions for classes, teachers, or organizations that might become part of Flaxapalooza2020, please let us know. Help us share our knowledge and appreciation of these threads that bind us as widely as possible. Thank you for being part of Fiber College and the Maine Makers Guild. We hope you’ll make plans now to be with us September 9-13!
Weaving a better world, one thread at a time,
One of many who bring Fiber College to life
The classes have been chosen, the schedule has been massaged and we’re diving into the details. It’s exciting because we’re just a couple days away from launching the very best Fiber College agenda ever (registration will open between 9 AM and 12 PM April 1st)! While Kathe works on the details of the classes, Emma keeps our books and commitments in order, Kendra works on the menus, I (Astrig) am working on the communication side of the registration process and I need your help.
In the block quote below you’ll see the note every registrant receives when the class or vendor booth registration is complete. If you’ve attended Fiber College before, is there anything else you wish we had written out plain and clear? If you’ve never attended, is there anything else you’d like to know before you arrive in Searsport? I’m looking for feedback and your input is invaluable…thanks in advance!
We’re so glad that you’re going to be joining us! You should find all of the information you need right here on the confirmation. More than a decade of experience has taught us that your life will be easier if:
You jot your password and the e-mail address you used on this confirmation.
Remember that the “details” link on the class description gives you information about kit fees and materials you need to bring. Please be prepared to pay the instructor by cash or check at the beginning of each class.
Wear comfortable clothes and shoes that allow you to add and subtract layers as necessary. September on the coast of Maine usually starts out cool, warms up nicely, and then finishes with a good excuse for a warm sweater. History has proven that you should be prepared for at least one rainstorm during this weekend.
Unless you have a handicapped license plate, be prepared to walk about 10 minutesdown a gravel road from your car to the classroom tents. We offer shuttle service on our golf carts but you could still be doing some walking. Many of the classes are held in event tents (with sides) so if you’re using a spinning wheel or sewing machine and would be more comfortable, bring a small mat for your feet.
Pack a flashlight if you’ll be coming to any of our evening events.
We will have food & beverages on site with gluten free and vegetarian options always available. If you’d prefer to bring your own, please do and know that there are lovely places to sit throughout the campground. Our central location also lends itself to exploring dozens of great restaurants within a 15 minute drive.
We’d be happy to help you plan a retreat. Consider coming a few days early and/or staying a few days later knowing there will be studio space available and we’d be happy to customize an itinerary that includes yarn stores, fiber farms, fantastic sewing/supply stores and museums/galleries galore.
If you have something to add or think that something should be changed, please e-mail me at email@example.com, leave a comment here or leave a comment on our facebook page.
Thanks a bundle, Astrig
The jury has met, the classes have been chosen and now we’re working against the clock to have everything ready for registration to open on April 1st. As things get done behind the scenes, Kathe does the hard work of creating the class registration site and massaging the software into obedience. There’s never been a better woman for the task, which involves talking to dozens of instructors about class details, artist profiles and good images. While she does that, I (Astrig) have the lovely job of fleshing out our evening programs and meeting with artists to make the sparkle side of the week happen.
The other day I had the pleasure of lunching with Betsy, Jan and Brenda to talk about an Antique Spinning Wheel Class the jury chose for Friday, September 6, 9-1 pm. My agenda was to convince them to stay for the entire day and share their passion and their stories. Imagine a gathering of four women who have earned their silver hair and are passionate about everything that spins any kind of fiber into yarn & thread…we interrupted each other constantly, laughed, traded favorite books and stories and before we blinked, three hours had passed.
Knowing that we had talked about more than any of us would remember, we wrote our assignments down and promised to pick an afternoon next week to continue our conversation. Brenda and Jan agreed to write a description for Friday afternoon’s drop in session (remember: Friday is Market Day and entrance is free to everyone!) and I would track down books with references I’ve read to the history of flax and linen in New England. We were going to share these by e-mail but when I started to write back this evening, I thought you might like to see what we’re up to…
Brenda and Jan described Friday afternoon (September 6, 2019) this way:
Join Jan Cunningham and Brenda Page for an afternoon celebrating our textile heritage and the pleasures of using antique wheels and textile tools.
Jan and Brenda love to find, clean up, and rehabilitate antique wheels to get them spinning again.
They will have a variety of wool wheels and flax wheels for you to explore. They will share how these tools were used, will demonstrate spinning and plying on great (or walking) wheels, and demonstrate spinning with home-grown line flax and tow.
In addition, they will show how flax was (and is) processed at home, from field to fabric. Jan will enthusiastically share the history of flax production in Midcoast Maine, which at one time produced some of the finest flax and flax seed in the world. Brenda and Jan will demonstrate the labor-intensive process of changing flax into linen—steps with the intriguing names of rippling, breaking, scutching, and hackling—and Brenda will demonstrate weaving linen tape on an antique tape loom.
Please bring in your old wheels and mystery textile tools! Throughout the afternoon, Jan and Brenda will have an antique wheel “show and tell.” Both love to talk about old wheels, to share what the wheels reveal about their past, and help assess whether they can be brought alive again. Many wheels have makers’ marks, identifying styles, and regional characteristics that can help you learn more about your wheel’s history and background. And most wheels can be brought back to life, some with a few minor adjustments, others with more major renovations.
These old wheels and tools were an integral and valued part of farm life in the 1700s and well into the 1800s. Both Jan and Brenda are passionate about rescuing these wheels from basements, sheds, attics, barns, and storage lockers. Most old wheels are surprisingly resilient survivors—tougher than they look–and despite languishing in dusty corners for a hundred years or more, spin with a lovely finesse and lively spirit not found in modern wheels.
These wheels provide a unique opportunity to connect with the past and to deepen spinning skills. The spinners who sat at these wheels were not concerned with the technical aspects of spinning that are emphasized today. Instead, they learned through doing—by touch and sound, and coordination of movement—and became attuned to the variables in wheels, weather, wool, and flax. These lovely old wheels–with their unique personalities—can teach today’s spinners to hone their senses, like those previous generations of spinners—and give us the rare privilege of joining in the dance between spinner and wheel that has been going on for hundreds of years.
My promise was to find the books on my shelf that I thought had good references to flax and linen textiles in New England…these are some of my favorites:
Isn’t that why we create…to create an intimate personal product…drawn from our spirit and mood?
Travel back in time to September 5th, 2018… We said hello to students who had come for the Wednesday/Thursday intensive sessions and in less than an hour we were making plans for Fiber College 2019. Yes friends, as artists we really know how to live in the moment! 😉 Fast forward to New Year’s day a couple of weeks ago…we were talking about Fiber College as we sipped Kir Royales and ate Alice’s homemade bagels with cream cheese and lox…it’s safe to say that not a day goes by without some conversation about our favorite week of the year.
So with no further ado, we will be soliciting class proposals from today through March 1st. You can find the proposal site here and if you’d like to talk about things first, send me (Astrig) an e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll gather proposals until March 1st, shortly thereafter the jury will meet to choose this year’s offerings and on April 1st Kathe will have the registration website up and running. Sounds so easy, doesn’t it? In the meantime, even if you don’t want to teach a class, please don’t hesitate to make suggestions if you’d like us to pursue something you’ve been thinking about.
You may remember last year we began exploring why craft matters in our lives. We interviewed artists Katharine Cobey, Susan Mills, Kathleen Goddu and Barbara Burns and Alice Seeger compiled our favorite moments into a video that was shown on Saturday night. This year we will continue our quest with the theme Crafting Connections. We’ll be asking you, our students, teachers and beloved friends how making things with your hands forges the important connections in your life…expect us to reach out soon. The best way to stay in touch is follow us on Instagram, like our Facebook page and join the conversation in our Facebook group.
Happy Thanksgiving! It’s a great time to tell a special story about giving — and YOU, our Fiber College friends, are a HUGE part of that story.
Several years ago in my early days as a Fiber College volunteer, I approached Astrig (FC Director Extraordinaire) about a way that we might reach out beyond our immediate FC Community — could we use the energy of our participants to help others who were using the fiber arts to change their lives?
Astrig agreed that we should try! Let’s go with KIVA!
KIVA is a non-profit organization with a mission to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty. Leveraging the internet and a worldwide network of microfinance institutions, Kiva lets individuals or groups lend as little as $25 to help create opportunity around the world.
So, at the 2014 Fiber College, I set up a video display on the front porch of the campground office; it’s a hub of activity during FC and maybe I could stir up some interest. I set up my computer and a large monitor and ran a video from the kiva.org website throughout the weekend. I put out a fishbowl for cash donations. SUCCESS! In 2014, based on those first donations, we created a KIVA Fiber College lending team. We made our first SIX loans to women working with textiles to bring themselves out of poverty in developing countries! What a thrilling start!
KIVA works with a range of organizations to find borrowers and administer loans. They call these organizations Field Partners because they work at the local level, within the communities where loans are being used to make a difference. While most of them are microfinance institutions, they also work with schools, NGOs, social enterprises and more. They all share one thing in common: the social mission to alleviate poverty and improve people’s lives.
Lenders (that’s US!) can donate in increments of $25 — their donations are pooled with money from other lenders and the money is disbursed to the Field Partners to fund loans to local entrepreneurs. As money is repaid, it is returned to the lender to cash in OR to re-lend!
Starting in 2015, Astrig and Steve made a pledge to donate annually 1% of all Fiber College registration fees to KIVA—to help even more makers! It’s been astounding!
Here is a picture of our Fiber College KIVA donations to date:
Note: In just the last 24 hours, the Fiber College KIVA team has received enough money in repayments to fund two NEW loans! Time to go make new loans — thank you, Fiber College friends!
If you want to know more about KIVA, just click here. You can join as an individual and then join the Fiber College team. We look forward to continuing to support makers around the world!
Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!
Crispina ffrench is a rock star. I’ve known it for years after my sil gave me one of her aardvarks crafted from a recycled sweater. Fast forward to 2017, our paths finally crossed at Rhinebeck and Crispina graciously accepted an invitation to teach a sweater chop workshop and a potholder rug class at FC 2018.
I admire Crispina because she started her professional textile career as a recycling queen. Looking for more meaning, she morphed her experiences into literally weaving people’s lives together into something tangible that could warm their homes and comfort their inhabitants for years after the discarded clothing had been long forgotten. (Click here for Crispina’s story.)
At Fiber College, our mission has always been focused on education and community (that’s why our evening events are such an important part of the experience and why Kendra Newcombe’s heroic meals and cocktail parties are so treasured). The intersection between Crispina’s and our aspirations are so perfect that we were giddy when she agreed to augment her class schedule and organize a community rug weaving project for Makers Market on Friday and all day on Saturday.
With the assistance of fabulous volunteer Eileen Prime, we wove a rug of t-shirts, sweatshirts, and other discarded stretchy clothing and now have a gorgeous 5×7, 2″ thick rug to be raffled off. The proceeds are earmarked for bringing more community art projects to Searsport in 2019. Tickets are $10 each and we will stop the sales at 100 tickets. The rug weighs about 35 lbs. so we’ll work with the winner to figure out how to best get it to its new home. Where would you put this colorful creation? It’s rugged and warm…perfect for a bedroom, reading nook, studio space, or treehouse!
Did you know that you can come to Fiber College and take a sampling of classes that are offered in one-hour blocks? These delicious a la carte classes are coming together and what a smorgasbord! Just perfect if you want a taste of what Fiber College is all about (O.K. – I promise no more food references!).
Here’s how it works.
A variety of la carte classes will be offered starting at noon on Friday and all day Saturday and Sunday. You can purchase one or more large wooden bobbins for $20 each — each bobbin entitles you to one hour of instruction with one of our a la carte instructors. An a la carte class listed for Saturday afternoon 1-5 would actually be offered four times – 1:00, 2:00, 3:00, and 4:00.
Some of the instructors are also teaching regular classes at Fiber College so it’s a good way to try something new to see if you want to sign up for the class (space permitting). It’s also a great way to ‘audition’ some classes that you might want to take at FC ’19! A listing of a la carte classes and times will be found in your program and at the entrance gate. With our new and improved signage throughout the venue, you’ll be able to locate the classes easily. You can browse and then choose your a la carte class and start making!
Here’s a sneak peek.
Artist Leanne Nickon will offer a one-hour Silk Painting four times on Friday afternoon — she’ll teach at 1:00, 2:00, 3:00, and 4:00. If you really like the one-hour class, you *might* find that there’s room for you to take her regular four hour class on Sunday from 9 to 1.
Todd Bennett will be offering 3-D Printing a la carte classes on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. You can take a one hour module to DESIGN and then a second hour module to PRINT. The two modules will be offered back to back throughout the day, but you may also choose to take the DESIGN class on one day and the PRINT module the following day. Just check in with Todd!
So there you have it…just enough to whet your appetite! (Oops, I must be hungry–sorry)
There are plenty more a la carte classes to come! Stay tuned to learn about more over the coming weeks.
If you haven’t registered for regular classes yet, you may want to hop to it! Some classes are filling quickly — you don’t want to miss out. Just go to www.fibercollege.org to sign up.