Since being asked to join the International Feltmakers Association Committee, I have attended a number of meetings to find out more about how this organisation is run (entirely by volunteers) and what my role as Communications Officer entails. The highlight of my felting year so far has to be this year's AGM and Conference held in the stunning location of Landskrona, Sweden.
The Conference was organised by our International Officer, Carin Madsen Kollberg, in collaboration with Asa Stentoft of Hemslöjden i Skane, an organisation promoting handicraft in the region.
The days were full of excitement, ranging from workshops to talks to excursions to fine dining. I was overwhelmed by the hospitality of the Swedish people, the friendliness of the other delegates from around the world, the beauty of the region and the fabulous spring weather.
I attended a workshop with Yvonne Habbe on sculptural objects, using a technique I had heard of but not used before. She also gave a fascinating talk about the large-scale project she worked on whilst contemplating the life of a nomad.
I had plenty of opportunity to walk around the town of Landskrona, with a tour and also with other delegates. An elegant, calm town, it was a real pleasure to visit.
Not only is there fine architecture in Landskrona but a tremendous interest in gardening, with lovely allotments (each with its own summer house), parks and avenues.
A couple of trips into the countryside gave me a small taste of the region...some of us even stayed on a couple of days after the conference to visit the island of Ven, where the Swedish astronomer, Tycho Brahe, had his observatory.
All in all, it was a very successful conference. Personally, it gave me the opportunity to visit a beautiful country, meet people who share my interests, make new friends, and appreciate just how much work goes on behind the scenes to organise a brilliant conference. Thank you to everyone involved. I loved it!
After months of planning, I went out to Latvia at the end of May to help Jo and Ian get ready for our first Latvia Alpaca Adventure. I stayed in their flat in the village of Ergli and went to the farm every day. Workshops were to take place in the greenhouse and, thanks to a long winter, there was a fair amount to do. Rather more than I had anticipated, in fact.
So many wonderful things happened during the week, some planned, some not. Here are some of my selected highlights.
The felt workshops were led by Ieva Prane in her studio and me in Ergli, in the local High School, and on the Griezetes alpaca farm. Jo Storie introduced us to some interesting embroidery techniques to apply to our felt. Another day spent in the peaceful sunshine on the farm.
Latvian culture and countryside...
The contrast between Riga, the Latvian capital, and the countryside around Ergli and the farm is incredible. We sampled local moonshine, sang with the Ergli choir, tasted gorgeous goats' cheese (not to mention meeting the goats themselves) and painted porcelain.
The sun shone throughout the week, the atmosphere was serene and the Latvian hospitality was wonderful. A lovely Latvian adventure indeed.
On the road to Dhankuta
After our experiences of feltmaking and blockprinting in Kathmandu, we set off to the Far East of the country and up into the mountains. Our jeep met us off the plane and drove us up twisty and often rough roads through villages and a varied landscape, including paddy fields, bamboo glades and rhododendron bushes to our guest house in Dhankuta. Here, the accommodation was much more basic than in Kathmandu, but the cold shower was actually very welcome after a day in the heat.
Our main reason for being in Dhankuta was to meet and work with the Santang embroiderers. The women in the group specialise in counted thread embroidery, with designs centring around the house motif. We walked through the village and out into the countryside until we arrived at their workshop. We sat together on a long balcony and did our best to follow the instructions of our embroidery teachers. My efforts at the most basic of the designs were spectacularly unsuccessful, but the experience of sitting with these skilled women and watching them work was exhilarating….not to mention the opportunity to eavesdrop on conversations about working as a cooperative, wander around the land and take oodles of photographs.
Myanglung...on the day of the Haat Bazaar
Our visit to Myanglung, where we were to meet the Dhaka weavers, started with an explosion of colour as we arrived during the weekly Haat Bazaar. Here, our interest in all that we could see, hear and smell was reciprocated in full by the locals as they followed our progress around the market and through the streets of the village, taking selfies with us and practising their English. It was a real pleasure to meet and photograph these friendly people in their vibrant clothes and colourful houses.
Our hosts...and the Dhaka weavers
We were lucky enough to be able to spend a couple of days in this village, hosted by a family who looked after us, cooked for us, shared their rakshi (the local hooch) with us and made us feel incredibly welcome. From this base, we were able to visit the Dhaka weaving shed and appreciate the skill required to make their beautiful shawls and wraps. Needless to say, we spent some of our time perusing the local shops and buying quite a few souvenirs.
From the mountains back to the city
The rest of the trip involved a return to the guest house at Dhankuta and a walk around the old part of the village with its orange-painted houses, an introduction to one of the last remaining basketmakers in the region, and then back to the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu. Our last day was spent, in contrast to the peace and tranquility of the mountains, in the popular area of Thamel.
Interesting as that last day was, it made us appreciate just how special our trip had been, looked after and guided by Karen and Ang Diku Sherpa. Without these two women, their enthusiasm for Nepal and its culture, good humour and impeccable organisation skills, this adventure would never have happened. My thanks go to them, but also to the great group I was a part of: Anne Marie, Bun, Christine, Joan and Pauline and not forgetting Penny, whose illustrations added a little je ne sais quoi to the trip.
Isla is going into S6 and is already preparing for her upcoming A-level in Textiles. Her textile project for the year is Organic Forms, for which she really wants to learn about feltmaking. And so, this week, she joined me for a 2-day course. Our focus was Flowers in 2-Dimensional Felt, using merino wool and silk.