A beautiful short interview with a young master weaver who inspires me, Meghann O'Brien.
There's an old reptilian part of my brain that is constantly working in scarcity-survival mode, so my adrenals really get a workout in the winter when it's cold and dark and the landscape has almost nothing to eat in it. So, it was lovely to receive these gifts from the land and sea, to remind me that I can choose to see abundance instead of scarcity:
First, a massive chunk of precious yellow cedar:
There were some pretty big storm surges near my dad's place at the end of December, and the beach was first stripped of all its usual driftwood, and then graced with an abundance. I found this nice big chunk of yellow cedar and felt electrified by inspiration -- it reminded me of those wonderful 'Swedish Fire' logs that they make at East Van gatherings, such as the Night of All Souls at Mountain View Cemetary and the Winter Solstice Lantern Festivals. I immediately began to cherish the long-term ambition to carve my family a beautiful house-post, covered in magic runes and patterns inspired by weaving.
I put my back into it and managed to manhandle the thing down the beach a ways and up to the bank beneath my dad's place, where my dad and I later tethered it with a rope.
This is a fairly substantial log for a small person like me; it's a good 12" in diameter and over 6'6" long. My dad figured it was roughly 400lbs, so he went to work to borrow a block and tackle for us to hoist it up the bank, but found the gear locked up for the holidays. I hope that the log sticks around til Easter; we usually go over for a visit then and I'll have the chance to help my dad get the beast up the bank and into the back of his truck.
Next: Bull Kelp:
This was something else we found on the beach: a massive bull-kelp anchor, and the mass of bull kelp that went with it. First Nations used to make fishing line with the stapes -- line strong enough to haul up 400lb halibut, I hear! I wish I'd remembered to pack some of the stapes home with me.
Finally: Red Osier
Red osier dogwood is just gorgeous. I found a big pile of some cuttings that somebody made beside some sort of chain link meter enclosure, and so I accepted them as a New Years' gift, scooped them up and carried them home. I've tried to weave with this plant before but I was unsuccessful, in spite of how (or perhaps because of how) desperately I wanted it to work out for the pretty colour. Since then, I've had a lot more experience with its cousin, willow, and have a much better idea of how to approach it.
So these are the gifts I received from the world, which reminded me that there is abundance here.
It's sunny today, ironically; but the rain seemed relentless and heavy for much of October. As a third generation Cascadian I usually have a rather careless relationship to the rain -- as in, I don't care that it rains; rain is what's supposed to happen in the winter. I clothe my nonchalance with layers of wool and waterproofed shoes, cap it with a good hat, and I'm set.
Now that I've become a basketweaver, I've developed a fixation with the iconic hat forms of the Coastal First Nations. Generally conical and broad-brimmed for shedding rain, they speak of lives lived by the seas, under the heavy grey winter skies that I've known all my life. They are the perfect, practical, local-materials solution to the challenges of this climate.
This climate, this land that I love dearly is the only home that I know; my parents were born here, and my grandparents too, and so I identify with the First Nations art as representing 'the place I'm from', but my family can claim no First Nations heritage. Is it wrong for me to make a hat like this?
My Haida friend Giihlgiigaa Tsiij Git’anne says that I can go ahead; he said to me,"You're not Haida, so it won't be a Haida hat, it'll just be a hat". I'm not qualified to delve into the discussion of the politics at play when others practice First Nations art forms with or without cultural permission; I have simply observed that it's loaded territory. And so for now, as much as I might like to embrace a hat like this as my own, an iconic representation of 'the place I'm from', I will defer out of respect for the fact that they carry more meaning than the ones I assign.
Below are some photos that I took of hats that I saw when I visited Fort Langley with my kids earlier this year, showing beautiful examples of plaiting, twining, and the combination of the two. Also a beautiful plaited hatband, which was how the hats were
Projects & Places
Urban Weaver Studio
Aberthau Flax Fibre Food
EartHand Gleaners Society
Means of Production
The Center for Ecoliteracy