A Student Perspective by Donna Mentzer
Last spring I was visiting a yarn shop with a friend who was looking for books. As she pulled out the book she wanted, another book fell to the floor. I picked it up and was about to replace it when the wonderful fabric on the cover caught my eye. It was Catharine Ellis’s book on Woven Shibori! I bought it and in the process of reading it, the new catalog came from John C. Campbell. Kismet! I immediately signed up for Catharine’s class.
Fabulous! Amazing! Extraordinary! These are only a few of the adjectives to define the class. She taught us take white fiber and weave a cloth using monk’s belt, twill or overshot structure in a new way to weave in gathering threads. At this point we could begin the process of mordanting and dying before gathering and applying more mordants or dyes. Or, we could gather those threads into their narrow, unusual shape and mordant, dye, possibly re-mordant, and dye again. Either way created fabric that is absolutely breathtaking, solely our own, and definitely one of a kind. It was a class that has taken my skills and my craft to a new level. Catharine’s knowledge of fiber, structures, dyestuffs and mordants, which she shared, are the result of years of hands-on studies combined with meticulous research.
Through each step, Catharine listed choices which allowed us to use our imagination and to choose how that step was applied. Confusing at first; because there were so many choices, we came to realize that she wanted us to make the process and ultimately the fabric our own. We came away truly understanding the process and the limitless possibilities we can create. Will we make ugly cloth? Undoubtedly! However, we will understand how we made it. After all, as Malcolm Forbes has said, “Failure is success, if we learn from it.”
Cory Marie Podielski is a freelance graphic designer, photographer, and writer for the John C. Campbell Folk School. She has been writing for the Folk School Blog since 2012 and enjoys interviewing artists, musicians, and craftspeople. In her spare time, she enjoys playing the banjo, dancing, printmaking, playing in clay, and assisting in Folk School bread baking classes. podielski.com