Spinning in the Grease

 About a month ago now, I spent a day rambling around the Royal Hobart Show.

It was here I first came across the Hand-weavers, Spinners and Dyers Guild of Tasmania. I met and chatted with Beverly who had a badge pinned to her shirt pocket that read Lifetime Member. I watched as she stirred a ball of yarn around an electric frypan, as it slowly turned different hues of ochre yellow and dusty browns, I told her I wanted to learn to knit my own socks and use vegetable scraps as dye. She invited me along to a Guild meeting down at Battery Point where, she said, someone will take you under their wing, I mean that’s what we are here for. Within the week I found myself in St. Stephens’ Church hall amidst a room full of women, spinning wool or clicking needles, with Doris teaching me pearl knit, Mary handing me a cup of tea, and Marjorie behind, commenting on my undercut and chatting about the art of Japanese barbers.

Spinning in the Grease is a technical term for when a spinner uses raw, unwashed wool. For me the term has connotations of spinning a good story and telling tall tales. Storytelling is a unique characteristic and capacity of humans – of you and I and everyone else. It is in our blood and bones. Knowledge is passed down families, generations and cultures through our stories. But in contemporary society, we live amidst a constant hum of stories and information, all of which are in a fragmentary form – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube. Amongst this swirl, it is not impossible to conceive that one day, we will lose the ability to listen and hear the important stories and unspoken narratives.

One of the Guild members asked me on my way out, why I came along. I said I was new to Hobart, and didn’t really have any friends (alongside my dream of being able to knit my own socks). She said, well love, we may be a bit older here, but I’m sure you’ll make some friends and learn to knit in the round.

I left the Church hall that afternoon, not touched by St. Stephen or the sun pouring through stained glass windows, but touched by a room full of women. Some of them living life knowing that death is closer than Christmas, others proudly standing up during show-and-tell, talking about the changing hues along the threads of their hand-dyed yarn.

Is it possible to translate a traditional handicraft, a tangible creation, into a language and form understood in contemporary culture of tweets and texts? If emoticons are the new form of hieroglyphs, what about the generations and cultures who do not use these modes of communication  are they to be left behind, forgotten?

I want to write about these women. I want to learn from the hand of these women and listen to their stories whilst munching on fruit cake and sipping tea. I want to document the stories and lives of these women, find a way to translate the traditional into contemporary language, to transform the tangible into online spaces. But who would it be for? For myself, to record these experiences that make my chest swell? For the Guild, to share their knowledge and make connections with people beyond the existing threads of their own community? Or is it for someone else? For the really young, those who swim in new media without taking a breath, who don’t know how to pearl stitch, write a letter by hand or listen deep and long.

Tasmanian Writers' Centre Residency

Hello. I thought it was about time pay this blog some love and attention. For the past month I've been doing a residency at the Tasmanian Writers' Centre. Here is a link to a comic I created about my time there, go wild and click on it. Also, Part Two can be read here - it's about my day out at The Royal Hobart Show, a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

A Stellar Read

Hi Friends. Remember me? I'm sorry I haven't posted in a while, I could make up some excuses as to why not, but instead I'll just tell you I've created an illustrated article for Overland (an Australian literary online/print magazine). You can read it here!

The Art of Swimming

For the curious: This is from a concertina zine I made for the author of Pools and Libraries. It's inspired by Leanne Shapton's Swimming Studies  and the Shaw Method of learning how to swim.

2015: The Year of The Mower

The mower stalled, twice; kneeling, I found   
A hedgehog jammed up against the blades,   
Killed. It had been in the long grass.

I had seen it before, and even fed it, once.   
Now I had mauled its unobtrusive world   
Unmendably. Burial was no help:

Next morning I got up and it did not.
The first day after a death, the new absence   
Is always the same; we should be careful

Of each other, we should be kind   
While there is still time.

(From Phillip Larkin's The Mower)