Spinning with Tactile Joy…meet Linda Scharf

Linda joined Fiber College last year and taught “Bad Girls Spinning Club~Boys allowed” and brought another level of fun and spontaneity to our fibery world.  Her untamed skeins make you laugh and think…just like a conversation with Linda herself which emphasizes depth and understanding drawn from an attraction to so many subjects…and it doesn’t hurt that she floats through the room like a tall, beautiful Greek goddess.

stoneleafmoonskeinHer 2008 class was so popular with the students last year that we asked her to teach a full day class on Thursday…Spinning Out There for intermediate and advanced Students and a creative process class for everyone on Saturday afternoon called Textile Gumbo…difficult to describe but very easy to understand.  You’ll find more of Linda’s work at her website and she’s a Ravelry regular with the screen name stoneleafmoon.  She answered our interview questions this way:

1)     Teaching takes courage and experience…and so much extra time.  When you’re not teaching, what else do you like to do?

It seems that there is always more to learn about everything! I always
have a new and never ending stack of books from the library. Anthropology,
ethnography, ancient textiles, woodland management, spiritual practices –
they’re all endlessly fascinating to me. All that reading takes a toll on
the body, so I like to balance it with physicality: tennis, tai chi,
qigong and yoga are some of the things I love. Meditation and practicing
the other arts of spinning, weaving and the like are often what fill my
day and evening. It’s easy to get me to any festival that offers music and
stoneleafmoonassemblage2)     Describe the perfect class that you’d like to take…

Week long immersion classes/workshops give me a chance to stretch out. I
can relax about time and dig into an area that draws me, even if it’s not
the focus of the class. I often find that a “tangent” attracts me more
than what the class was supposed to be about. So if I’m taking a wood
working class, and I find that I start to be fascinated by the pieces that
are left when the wood is worked, I like to feel free to explore what
those fragments are saying to me. When the class material works its way
into my psyche and inspires me to keep uncovering more, and the teacher
has inspired lots of directions that can be taken when the class is over –
that’s what I like!

3)     We’d like a sense of your expertise and ability to teach the
class you’re offering…so tell us how you came to feel confident about leading
a group through your particular class.  How long have you been practicing?

“Artist” is a way of being, rather than just the works that one creates.
So, looked at in that way, one is always “practicing”/living in this way.
It seems that there’s an ongoing dialogue with the world – the universe is
always playing and offering up its beauty that wants to be recognized.
stoneleafmoonskeindetailIt’s always showing me ants on their way to somewhere, tree bark, cracks
in the sidewalk, and coaxing me into a response. And I respond with the
textures that I’m able to create in yarns, weaving, a sound or a crazy
moment of freak dancing 🙂

My knowledge is deep, just because I’ve been paying attention for a long
time. Being open to the possibility that there’s something new just around
the corner, my students and I are engaged in a happy
conversation/investigation where all the combined knowledge and expertise
of the class is available to all of us.

4)     What techniques are in your bag of tricks for motivating a
student to struggle through a difficult step…maybe something that’s just a bit
out of his/her range…and come out the other side feeling successful?

Humor can be a great relaxer, allowing us to see that what we thought was
so important might be less so. Actually, anything that allows us to see
that what we’re doing is simultaneously important and not so important is
great. So working in ways that keep our body relaxed, we’ll often realize
we’re “trying too hard” when our shoulders get bunched up. I like to show
good practices for keeping awareness in our body as we work.

One of my teachers said “Sometimes we just need to go scream in the
bushes”, and I thought that was a great way of incorporating humor and

stoneleafmoonbubbles5)     If you could ask your students questions and class time wasn’t an
issue, what sort of things would you like to know about the people sitting
in front of you?

I like to know other peoples’ “relax” places. Where do they go, either in
their minds or in reality to relax, find answers to that which puzzles
them. And I love to know about the textures that they love. What’s a
favorite book and why? What’s their sensual way of experiencing the world
– do they feel things, smell them, see them…?

6)     I am an avid collector of:

Over time, I’ve ended up with a beautiful array of textiles, baskets and
spindles. I use/enjoy them all, and didn’t set out with a mission to
“collect”. My walls offer rugs and weavings from many women, I carry my
belongings in bags woven by women from all over the world, and my spindles
inspire me to keep them spinning with fiber from New England and beyond.

7)     The best advice I have ever been given:

Hmmm…it was probably on a teabag 🙂 “All is one.”

8) What is your favorite color? List three qualities of the color.
Consider that these qualities apply to your work.

I’ve noticed that color rarely exists apart from texture for me. Right
now, today, I am loving a certain brown that is matte and muddy/dirty
feeling. Rough alternating with smooth; Deep, saturated color. The way it
might translate into my work feels like it would be a slow process,
something that slowed me down and allowed a deep grounded quality to
emerge. Then the next day, I’d probably find myself attracted to its
opposite, doing something fast and light!

stoneleafmoonwrapped9)  What do you do differently from the way you were taught? Why?

Probably everything 🙂 I admit my natural tendency is to try to find a
new way to do something. It’s not that the other way is “wrong”, but just
playing with techniques and processes to see what other possibilities
there are has amused me. Unless something has been taught in very minute
detail (and that’s the way I love to learn!), often the “reasons” behind
doing something a certain way have been lost. Sometimes the original
reasons had to do with specific materials, tools or ingredients that were
available at the time. If I am using different tools and materials, and
additionally, I am working Today in Boston/USA, not 50 years ago in
another area of the world, what can I learn that is helpful to pass on?
And doing a study of something, myself, I can often see a piece of
knowledge from older times that was overlooked, not considered essential
to pass on, and I can incorporate the missing information for my (and
possibly others) benefit.

10)  What do you mean when you say that a piece has turned out really

What makes me admire a piece of work, whether my own or something done by
another person, is that it makes me “feel” something. So whether I hate or
love it, I have been touched. It has reached me in a deep place, where
something essential registers on my personal seismometer. The effect can
be long lasting – it can end up being something that I can recall at a
later time to bring me joy or understanding of some kind. I love that kind
of communication that can continue to exist, to be embodied over space and

I’d like to add that I found Fiber College to be a very inspiring,
relaxing place. Last year was my first, and the offerings the planning committee brought in were diverse and unlike what I’d encountered
before. I especially enjoyed working with the students in the class that I taught, the diversity of vendors and meeting the weavers from Northern Thailand and seeing their work. This year, I’ll know that there is a beach on the grounds that I can easily access, and that I can wander at the camp to meet other people to have spontaneous discussions and spin/weave/knit/crochet/quilt alongs. What a beautiful way to be in nature and learn at the same time!

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