Connecting with Young Members

Nicole Giacomantonio, our young WARP member from Nova Scotia, shares her experience at the annual meeting in Decorah, her reasons for embracing our group of textile enthusiasts and her hopes for the future…Judy Newland

An Adventure in Iowa

Iowa was beautiful, and Decorah was truthfully a place I never expected to find myself. I thought it great to have the opportunity to go out of the way to spend time in such a lovely town. I loved experiencing the textile culture specific to the area, especially visiting the local yarn shop, I googled it before even arriving in Decorah. I probably spent 40 minutes in there agonizing over how many skeins of locally dyed yarn I could justify buying (I showed amazing restraint and settled on just one). I found the speakers this year to be very compelling. The Alice Brown Memorial Scholarship winners gave incredible talks, and hearing them speak was a highlight of the meeting for me.

The visit to the Seed Savers Exchange truly resonated with me – I have very strong family ties, and a lot of our tradition is surrounding food. Passing seeds on to family members is such a romantic tradition; I was inspired by the stories of veggies being brought overseas with moving families. I connect this with my interest in conservation as well. The seeds are important objects of cultural heritage that should be preserved for other generations to enjoy.

Why Weave A Real Peace? Support is Everything!

I was overwhelmed with the amount of support I received from the WARP organization and from its individual members in Oaxaca last year. The connections that developed during that meeting were, and continue to be, very inspiring and enriching as I explore the paths I can take in working with textiles in my own life. It was important to me to keep those relationships strong and to show my appreciation for the organization and the people that showed me so much love right from the beginning. Not to mention the fact that the meetings are so fun and engaging, with so many opportunities to learn from and along side those who share my passion for textiles.

The connections I made during the two conferences I attended had an incredible affect on me, and I was honoured to receive so much encouragement from WARP members. I want to stay involved in WARP for many reasons. I want to show WARP the same support that the organization has shown me over the past two years. I also want to help the organization to grow and adapt, to diversify and to usher in new and younger members. Being a member of WARP provides a great opportunity to explore the many and varying ways of working with textiles and cultural heritage, and to begin exploring ways I can act as an advocate for the preservation and conservation of textile traditions both at home and abroad.

Looking Ahead

I hope for growth and diversification of the WARP organization. I also hope to keep engaging in conversations about conservation, preservation, and the responsibility we as textile enthusiasts and artists have to the owners and makers of the ethnographic textiles and cultural heritage that we support and celebrate, but that is not necessarily our own. I hope that we as an organization work to celebrate these traditions of culture and art, but also think critically of our involvement in it.

I am in the middle of creating a naturally dyed quilt. I was hoping to finish it by the end of the summer… but here we are in mid August and I’ve barely finished the top. Oh well. However, I have almost finished knitting a sweater! So, cross your fingers that I finish SOMETHING by the end of August.

I’ll be moving to Scotland in the fall! I was accepted to the Master of Textile Conservation program at the University of Glasgow. A big move, but I am very excited.

Textile conservation students at the University of Glasgow.

 

Nicole is managing our Instagram account. Look for important information on this coming soon….

 

Creating Connected Communities Through Seed Saving

Weavers, spinners, fiber artists and anyone working with natural fiber and cloth rely directly on seeds for fiber plants like cotton and flax. Seeds are vital in the food production for wool-producing animals like sheep and alpaca. So it is easy to imagine the importance of safe-guarding access to seeds. Seeds are the first step in our food and fiber systems.

Why seed saving is important

Saving seeds and sharing them with others has been a critical practice that helped sustain us as a species for thousands of years. Through seed saving practices, gardeners, small-scale farmers, agriculturalists and eventually small, independent seed companies specialized in open pollinated plant and crop varieties that were well suited to local environments. These practices also created a vast array of crop varieties and allowed communities to conserve, preserve, grow and promote local seed diversity and cultural heritage.

Decorah, Iowa in 2018

Attendees to WARP’s annual meeting in Decorah, Iowa (June 2018) will have a chance to visit Heritage Farm, part of Seed Savers Exchange (SSE). For over 40 years the SSE has been caring about seeds through their mission to… “conserve and promote America’s culturally diverse but endangered garden and food heritage for future generations…”. Seed Savers Exchange accomplishes this by collecting, growing and sharing heirloom seeds and plants at the farm and through a seed exchange program.

The farm curates more than 25,000 heirloom and open-pollinated vegetable, herb and plant varieties, including over 1,000 varieties of heritage apple trees. Backyard gardeners from around the world can share and exchange home-grown seeds with one another through membership in the a kind of “seed swap-meet” known as the Seed Exchange facilitated by SSE.

The importance of crop diversity

The work of SSE in maintaining plant biodiversity is vitally important today, especially in the US where a decline in crop diversity since the early 1900’s is between 75%-90%! Maintaining biodiversity is like having an insurance policy against extinction. This loss of diversity is due in part from advances in biotechnology resulting in GMO (genetically modified organism) and hybrid seeds. Multinational corporations absorb independent, regionally based seed companies to gain monopolies on seed and seed distribution. Corporations then use the notion of intellectual property rights to gain patent rights on crops containing modified traits. This directly affects farmers who no longer are allowed to exercise control over seeds produced in their fields without patent infringement and other consequences such heavy fines, lawsuits or in some extreme cases, imprisonment.

Photo courtesy of Seed Savers Exchange.

In contrast, organizations like SSE and seed libraries across the country rely on a network of growers to advance their mission as they work to keep seeds in the hands of as many people as possible. We can all create connected seed saving communities where we live.

FUN FACTS: Seed Savers Exchange currently offers 8 varieties of cotton seed (brown, green and white) and 2 varieties of rare flax seed.

READ MORE about seed saving in the October 2015 WARP blog and check out these resources:
Josie Jeffery, 2012, Seedswap: The Gardener’s Guide to Saving and Swapping Seeds, Ivy Press Limited, UK.
Suzanne Ashworth, 2002, Seed to Seed: Seed saving and growing techniques for vegetable gardeners, Seed Savers Exchange, Iowa.
Cindy Conner, 2014, Seed Libraries and Other Means of Keeping Seeds in the Hands of the People. New Society Publishers, Canada.

Special thanks to Shea Conlan of Seed Savers Exchange for her assistance with this blog.

Gail Ryser is an Andean archaeologist specializing in paleoethnobotany. She is a seed saver, gardener and active water-harvester. She will miss attending the annual meeting this year because she will be teaching students about archaeology, plants, and people during the months of May and June in Arizona and New Mexico.

 

Weaving Through a Garden

Weave a Real Peace members visited the Oaxaca botanical garden in June during the 2017 Annual Meeting

 Guest post written by Gail Ryser

…..

The thing that I love about visiting a botanical garden is how easily the landscapes and vistas transport you across space—to different climates and other places around the world, sometimes familiar– sometimes not. And the really cool thing about visiting an ethno-botanical garden is that you can be transported across space and time, because this kind of garden also showcases plants used by people. Such was my experience while visiting the Jardín Etnobotánico in Oaxaca City, Mexico. This city is a perfect place for such a garden; it is a UNESCO city of Culture, and is in one of the most bio-diverse regions of Mexico.

The only way to visit this garden is to be part of a guided tour. As our fabulous guide Georgina Rosas led us on winding paths through the 2 plus hectares, we learned that the creation of the garden was a collaboration between artist Francisco Toledo and anthropologist Alejandro de Ávila Blomberg; it is part of the Santa Domingo Cultural Center.

The garden is a showcase of plant diversity organized by climate zones, and of innovative and practical installation features that are prime examples of cutting edge sustainability. Renovation of the church grounds and building of the gardens included a passive rainwater catchment system that directs rainwater from the roof of adjacent buildings to an underground cistern (below a huge plaza) with a capacity of over 1 million liters. In an experimental setting a large geothermal temperature-controlled glass-greenhouse with roof access through a central stair, protects several species of plants and trees.

There is another story expressed in the plantings of the garden; one that reflects regional history and intentionally symbolizes cooperation and resistance experienced by native peoples. Domestication of corn from a grass known as Teosinte and squash began in this region around 10,000 years ago. Today, 47 of the 57 varieties of native (non-GMO) corn are in the State of Oaxaca. We are told that the garden also hosts rare and endangered species (perhaps the reason plants are not labeled). Georgina also takes us through a forest of prickly pear cacti ‘guarded’ by walls of columnar cacti. Prickly pear supports cochineal, a small insect that produces an intense red dye. The dye played a major role in the economic development of Spain during the 16th century. Only silver was a larger export from the New World to Madrid.

Thank you to Alejandro, the director of the Oaxaca Botanical Garden, for allowing WARP to use these photos.

 

Gail Ryser lives in Tucson, is an archaeologist specializing in paleoethnobotany and perishable fibers. Her research area is the central Andean coast. She is an active water-harvester, seed saver, and gardener.

PO Box 87351 Tucson, AZ 85754 glryser@gmail.com

Catharine Ellis at Growing Color-Natural Dyes Symposium

WARP member, Catharine Ellis, will speak at the event Growing Color- Natural Dyes From Plants Symposium in North Carolina.

 

The Growing Color Event

This event will be hosted by the North Carolina Arboretum. Here’s how to get involved if you are near Asheville!

Where: The North Carolina Arboretum, 100 Frederick Law Olmsted Way, Asheville, NC 28806-9315

When: November 5, 2016

Timing: 9:00 am – 4:00 pm

Admission: Registration Fee: $70 Member/$75 Non-Member

Catharine, Sarah Bellos and Ashley Case are the featured speakers for this event. Anne de la Sayette is the keynote speaker. Along with the speakers, there will also be vendors and exhibits. Find out more and register here.

A little bit about Catharine

Catharine taught the professional textile program at Haywood Community College for 30 years. Since retirement she has continued to learn and to teach, researching and developing new applications for the use of natural dyes in her own textiles and her classes.  The study of natural colorants has taken her to France, where she has assisted in the filming of the Natural Dye Workshop DVD’s with Michel Garcia, to India for a natural dye master class with Maiwa Handprints, and to China, where she recently completed a residency at the Jinze Art Center.

Natural Dyes

Catharine has always combined both weaving and dyeing in her work and is the author of Woven Shibori, with a new, updated version of the book focused on natural dyes, released in 2016.

After attending the 2012 WARP conference in Boulder CO Catharine and Donna Brown, in collaboration with Debra Chandler and Mayan Hands, began a project to teach natural dying in Guatemala. More details of that project can be read in an article published by The Journal for Weavers, Spinners, and Dyers.

http://www.ellistextiles.com/media/journal_natural_dye_project.pdf

Catharine serves on the Board of Directors of the Textile Society of America in addition to being the founder of the Western North Carolina Textile Study Group. Currently, Catharine is working on a book on natural dyeing, with co-author, Joy Boutrup. It is intended to be a handbook for the studio dyer.  Schiffer Press will publish the book.

Where to find more of Catharine’s Work

Website: http://www.ellistextiles.com/resources/ 

Blog: https://blog.ellistextiles.com 

 

Tajikistan Bound Part Two: The Program

This is part two of a post by Cindy Lair’s, Chair of the WARP board, efforts to get a loom to Tajikistan. In the previous post, Cindy talked about helping to get a donated (nonfunctioning) loom to Tajikistan. The loom was destined to assist a group of rural women who weave incredible mohair blanks. Before she tackled the loom project, she wanted to learn as much as possible about the program that would ultimately make use of the loom. By studying this one project, Cindy gives us an insight into the intricacies of international development. To see more photos from the project, visit our Pinterest Page.

Tajikistan shepherds show off their colored angora goats.  Photos Courtesy of Marilyn Murphy
Tajikistan shepherds show off their colored angora goats. Photos Courtesy of Libra Brent

The project in Tajikistan focused on a small group of shepherds in the mountainous regions of the country. An effort to improve their breeding stock for fleece weight and quality and to establish small scale fiber processing was started by Dr. Liba Brent, a sociologist from Madison, Wisconsin, under the auspices of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

Fleece for sale.
Fleece for sale.

Hang with me here, there are a lot of long names and complicated cooperative relationships. The IFAD is a specialized agency of the United Nations dedicated to eradicating rural poverty in developing countries. The IFAD has many different grant programs available to fund agricultural related development. One of the available grants is the Community Action in Integrated and Market Oriented Feed-Livestock Production in Central and South Asia. The International Center for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas (ICARDA) is part of a global partnership under the umbrella of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) applied for and received the Feed-Livestock Production grant. ICARDA’s involvement in the region attracted the attention of the Mountain Societies Development Support Programme, a branch of the Aga Khan Development Network dedicated to improving the life of the people of the mountainous oblasts of Tajikistan.

Collectively, all these complicated funding, research, and development agencies and organizations were seeking to promote the rights of women through increased skill development and access to global markets and income opportunities. In particular, one focus of ICARDA’s is value chain management for sheep and goat farming communities in Central Asia. Value chain managment—also called value added agriculture—focus on creating more value at the “farm” gate, so that producers receive more money for their good. Value is added transforming raw goods into finished projects by increasing the quality of the goods that may already be in production.

A spinner transforms mohair fiber into yarn.
A spinner transforms mohair fiber into yarn.

In the past three years, these collective efforts, have raised the income of participating families by as much as 50%. For example, in 2010, Dr. Brent arranged for semen from the top buck at the 30th Annual Angora Goat Performance Test Sale in Texas. This buck’s clean fleece weight produced 13.1 pounds of fiber with a lock length of 7.2 inches! This hearty fellow helped improve the fiber of the Tajik goats. In turn, the women of the village transform the improved fleece into yarn that they used to weave higher quality blankets. These efforts enhanced women’s standing in their families by enabling them to become wage earners.

As I learned more about this project it became closer to my heart, since a large portion of the project involved not just weaving, but spinning, as well. It motivated me to do my part to get them better tools to support their families.  Since they only had one loom that ten weavers had to share, sending them an additional loom essentially allowed them to double their production.  How’s that for impact, and all of this was accomplished without every leaving my community.

To purchase yarn from Tajikistan, click here.

For more information about the funding agencies, visit these websites:

IFAD www.ifad.org

ICARDA www.icard.org

Aga Khan Foundation www.akdn.org

To learn more about projects like these, like WARP’s Facebook page. To learn more about WARP, visit our website. To see more photos from Tajikistan, visit our Pinterest page.