2020…the year of Flaxapalooza!

Flaxapalooza Banner
Fiber College with extra sauce!

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.

Strung Together Logo

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.

Dear Friend,

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.

Lauran Sundin

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 

Katherine Cobey

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,
Astrig Tanguay
One of many who bring Fiber College to life

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