A collaboration with a local florist

Collaboration with a Florist. A walk along the path.

As part of my on going research and desire to work collaboratively I have arranged a few little collaborations which will complement the work already underway.

This collaboration with a florist aimed to seek out wild growing resources we could both use in our own ways. Create a display and some fabric designs from the dyes and prints gathered.

This documents the work in text and images- please refer to the note book A walk in Wickham Market for the field notes.

The walk took us along a roadside near the studio in Wickham Market- our focus on the wild flowers and trees we passed and considered sufficient enough to forage for a small amount of each.

I made a decision to ensure that we gathered the same plants – however it was interesting to see the different ways we cut the stems for our anticipated outcomes.

The baskets show our forage. On returning the outcomes was to create a florist display and then I’d research the colours and prints and then work on a final fabric piece.

My first job was to identify all the plants and ensure that they were safe to use. Not only for this reason, but as a natural resources based designer I want to be able to understand the wild plants that grow near me and to be able to look at the plants and see the colour and know the print. At least with some of the wild plants. To explore them all would be a life long journey. I’d been given the reference book The Concise British Flora in Colour by W Keble Martin.

This book is layed out in plates and the plants listed in Latin- it feels like it’s own journey of discovery. I like this and will use this if I get to the botanical illustration I might do with the inks I make. More on this as it developed.

Looking at ways to document the information and keep it contained in a reference book- again a prelude to the final piece of work for a reference book.

I made a start and then after creating the fabrics realised that the spaces I’d left were not big enough- so I will need to plan the book more carefully.

This is my most successful double spread and really show cases the colours and prints from one plant. It also has a new technique I tried termed by India Flint as Hapi Zome, hammering the colour onto the cloth.

After spending the whole day with the basket of plants I was able to learn so much and to create some amazing colours from the dye baths. These were yellow Alexandre or Horse Parsley- a potential yellow substitute for weld.

Crimson King Maple- using leaves and stems creating the sage green silks- and hawthorn for the rusty red- the forget me knots printed really well in the sample, however when used in a larger piece did not print well- I found the same with the Spurge.

I’ve now been able to create two large samples which are still in progress. Both needing more as the results so far are not completely satisfactory and so more work needs to happen to bring them up to standard and to a good result.

The florist arranged the plants to create a meadow display and then set about styling the shoot with the fabrics and booklets- I think the outcomes are really interesting and there’s potential for more floristry collaborations- This florist has used some of my natural dyed ribbons for her bouquets.

Having shared the results on Social media they’ve been received with really positive feedback and

It has instigated other potential collaborations.

I have now made contact with a local botanical illustrator called Laura who is Suffolk based. We have set up a date to make natural inks together which we will both try out for botanical illustration.

Both these projects show me how important it is to work with other creative people and that being isolated as an artist is challenging. I have missed the creative community which was established in the first year of the MA and felt quite detached from it this year. I understand that the location and setting up my own studio has enabled me to practice daily, however it has disabled me from the community.

After the MA I will need to continue to work hard to make connections and build networks of local artists and designers. Hopefully the ground work I am doing now will be a good foundation.

I’ll be back soon with more updates on my textile design progress and the global collaboration.

Global Collaborations

It’s been a busy time gathering all the collaborators into a single group, deciding on the fabrics to send and getting the individual parcels ready.

A mindful moment with the shantung silk as a whole piece before it was divided was an essential connection between me and the fabric to the hands it’s going to be in once they arrive.

I wanted to connect the fabric with the earth and with the air and so these images show a sense of flight and freedom before they are parcelled in to the envelops and sealed for their journey.

Creating little bundles of the fabrics with a piece of eco-dyed cotton and a windfall button was a mindful afternoon of quiet contemplation. Little knots tied by my hands to be untied by theirs.

The local post office was a great place to send out the envelopes- they will all come back through this post office before being delivered to my home- so it’s an important part of the journey.

I’ve been sharing the process and each step of the journey with a new Facebook Group I have set up specifically for the collaboration group. 102 women from 28 countries. Now all connected with one small common goal. It was a delight to see the posts of the envelopes arriving the following morning. This one is so beautifully pictures in the Highlands of Scotland.

I am keen to know how long it will take for each person to receive their envelops?

What’s been so clear is the joy, engagement and total commitment to the project I’ve been shown by my collaborators. I can’t wait to see what I get through the post box.

This project is showing me so much about myself along the way and highlighting the areas of interest and intrigue I have always had and can now actualise. I have always loved maps and now I am noticing maps everywhere I go. Feeling so much connection with more places in the world.

So the hard work at this end is now completed for this part of the project. I will continue to engage and bring dialogue and interest to the group, but will turn my attention to developing my own botanical print designs. That is until I start to receive the returned silks and botanical prints.

Feedback and making a start

It was really encouraging to receive such positive and constructive feedback from the initial proposal and it’s now with acknowledgment I can get on with it.

There a few additional research methodologies I need to understand and apply to the work and these include ethnographic and collaborative methodologies, Both of which will be interesting aspects to work through within the global collaboration. With this in mind I am current testing the fabrics to see which three I want to send out. I haven’t decided whether they will be three different fabrics, and why three? Well three is the magic number and feel right but more specifically I have two plans for what I want to do and with a third piece there is room for something else- which I expect will unfold as the work develops. Better to have more than I need than to decide later on I need more and not have the resources.

The next steps for this in practical terms is to write the project brief for the participants and request their postal addresses. This will need to include all the aspects of what the projects aims and objective are along with ethical and data protections, permissions for use within the scope of the project and permissions for its use beyond this. I also want to make sure everyone is able to provide a short statement about their practice and work.

As part of recent research I’ve been looking at who my influences are and what their work is like, how might my own work be similar or dissimilar?

At the moment I’ve been looking at India Flint and Irit Dulman as two exemplary Botanical printers and leaders in the field.

India’s work will be a significant part of the research, and her process and methodology for generating her fabrics. Describing herself as a story teller, maker of marks, forest wanderer, tumbleweed, stargazer, botanical alchemist, string twine and occasional poet. With this list of descriptive words there’s so much to learn and to parallel with the work I have been developing. Such a kindred spirit on the other side of the world. Her book Eco Colour will be a good place to get lost and also the commentary on her blog which will offer more insight into the wandering of her research, teaching and fabric designs.

Irit Dulman has a very different style and seems more design led. Her exquisite and 3D designs are inspiring and aspirational. There is much to learn from her writings on her blog and from studying the designs she’s created on fabrics for clothing.

For both my own development and for the global collaboration it will be interesting to see how the botanical prints I receive or create lean towards one style or the other.

Within Fashion design there are two ares to explore at the moment. The work of Becky Early and the latest Issey Miyake collections – in a similar way there’s a distinct style choice between the work. With Becky’s the leaf is crisp and clear, whereas the Miyake has a more painterly and incidentally pattern.

Issey Miyake Spring Summer 2019

Becky Early’s leaf printing on shirts there is more to research in her direction particularly referencing the TED 10 designs choices.

With regard to the botanical printing from my location this work will involved researching botanical printing and illustration, looking at the spotters guides from my childhood as inspiration for creating a reference of botanical printing. Botanical printing and what mainstream understanding is.

Finally there’s many contemporary patchwork and piecework textile artist using narrative to create and these will inform the patch work I develop and the patchwork piece I curate.

A collection of inspiring quilts by India Flint, Annette Morgan and Micheal James offer a good starting point for discussion and understanding. Its also important that there’s a male example here adding a bit of balance to the work.

There are many areas to investigate from traditional patchwork to contemporary patchwork, surface design and pattern, narrative and story telling.

Looking forward to learning more about these influences and seeing what else is out there.

Master Proposal

It’s been a week of gathering information and ideas to put together a manageable and exciting project for the next 6 months. As a person and artist who tends to spend most of the time spinning a lot of plates, its been a difficult path to navigate to find a strand of work to develop and work up to a sustained and in-depth research project for the final showcasing of the work I’ve completed over the last 18months. It feels like the degree show is the climax event in which I can share my outcomes with my family, peers and potential audiences and inevitably I want to be able to show everything that I can do and have the potential for. So to gather together all my ideas and attempt to work towards this has been perceived as overly ambitious and it’s only with letting go of some of it, new ideas and ways forward can evolve. Having experienced tutors, researchers and practitioners working in the contemporary art forums and having seen what others can achieve in the given time, I can only feel supported and guided through the decision making and narrowing down of focus.

I have reviewed my proposal and refined my outline removing almost half of the workload I was suggesting I completed. This does feel difficult to let go of, but it can just be for now, and there’s no reason I can’t pick up these ideas in the future and work on weaving the colours of my memories and life. After all, I have now purchased my own Saori loom and will be able to work with fibres as part of my design and Botanical Being brand. I love the potential of offering collaborative weaving sessions for families and industry and working with colour to create new fabrics.

So for now I will focus entirely on the botanical printing and natural dyeing work. Looking at local British plants that are near my home and working with the colours they offer through the seasons as they develop buds, leaves, fruit and seeds. Fostering a deep connecting with the natural environment and researching the potential for this emerging design work.

As there will be an element of waiting for the seasons and working with the cycle of growth- this adds a greater depth to the research and can pull on many aspects of other types of craft. Looking at sustainable resources and local resources and commenting on the global textile industry.

It will be interesting to explore how the work develops and include woven blanks which can then be dyed and printed onto. The challenge for me it to look beyond what is already happening in this field and research new possibilities and innovations for the direction of my own practice.

Collaboration is central to the themes within my work and I’m keen to actualise the second global collaboration. Focusing on botanical printing and bring those works together. Making connections, collections and communications through the narratives of the work.

I’ve begun to put out feelers for who might be interested in joining this project and so far I’ve got 70 botanical printers across all of the continents expressing an interest. Using the facebook forums I’m currently connected too and an active participant and admin on. This modern technology, bringing together a contemporary textile printing technique, which draws on ancient practice and has seen a return to natural practices and a slow movement in design techniques. Many themes to explore and evaluate.

I’m just about ready to get started – so lets see where this goes.

Moving forward

It’s been a time of reflection and review. Looking back over the last 18 months of work and research to begin the process of narrowing down the areas I want to pursue for this extended period of study. There are many elements of the practice and work I’ve been achieving which I want to take forward, but I’m told that more success comes from filtering out the ideas and going forward with what I feel will be my best work.  Without doubt the most successful project has been the global collaboration, The World Wide Weave . This brought together eco-dyers from across the world and a large piece of textile art was created, it holds so many messages and meanings and is a piece dedicated to the group of women who worked together to bring it to existence. It was and continues to be a global message and it’s current on its travels and being exhibited in Tasmania. It is this project management and coorodination which has been a strength and which I feel can be allowed to shine in the final masters project. I have already begun to put out feelers for a new collabotrion and have had considerable interest.  For this project, I would like to focus on the eco-printing or botanical printing and bring together the main elements that will show off the signtures of the botanical print community. This feels really exciting and I know that the buzz around the project is creating more connections across the globe. For this to be truely successful I will need to look at every angle that this work will bring with it and embed the context within contemporary textiles and the socio-political climate that we face with in the global textiles industries.

Details of the worldwide weave sampler

I will be researching the elements of narrative within cloth and looking at textile artists who also tell a story through their cloth. Looking at patchwork and multi parted textiles, like boro and the practice of stitching cloth for mindfulness and wellbeing.

Bringing together global creativity and moments in time. Contrast of home and away which will form the link between the plants around my own living space and those used around the world. Connections of nature captured in cloth. India Flint’s work will greatly influence this line of enquiry. Looking at current fashion designer like Issey M and the trends in textiles and aligning my work with contemporary textile artist and designers. If time allows I’m keen to create a lager sample of cloth that can be used to upholster a chair I have been saving for his purpose. Time and negotiation on this are still in discussion.

While the seasons progress through winter, spring and summer I will be gathering samples of plants that grow within my home grounds and researching the printed and possibilities with various processes. Infusing the essence of the plants onto cloth and documenting the outcomes in a textile publication. Something like a reference book for botanical print. This will also be another way to pull the global community together and I will ensure there is enough cloth for a ‘global textile book’ where the community can share their work within this publication. Bringing together a link between the healing benefits of plants and the comfort of textiles.

Winter view of my back garden

The other elements of my work will focus on colour and memory. Looking at artist who use colour to represent dates and moments in time. Colours that impact on emotions and memories and linking this to my own autobiography in a woven cloth.

Using natural dyes I aim to create a colour palette for the years of my life and weave a piece which will be a reflective, healing and celebration of colour and life.

Naturally dyed palette using cochineal, logwood, madder, weld and reeds.

Once I have my palette I will then conduct a series of diary weaves capturing shorter moments of time and expression of feeling -drawing on the Saori weaving philosophy and looking to Anni Albers for further inspiration, along with other textile artists who have used weaving or stitching as a form of diary.

Does this feel like the best I can do? From where I’m standing I think it will be a fantastic journey into personal and global textiles.

Time to get started.

Anni Albers exhibition

I had decided to make the trip to the Tate Modern to see the Anni Albers exhibition as it was running until the end of the month. I wasn’t really sure if I would benefit from seeing her work as I’d little insight into who she was, or what her work involved. I knew she was a weaver and was also a highly regarded influencer in arts for women.

I could not have been more delighted as I walked into a beautifully curated and extensive exhibition of textile art and narrative which described the development of her practice along side that of her students.

Seeing her design techniques and woven textiles was hugely beneficial and offered an spark of inspiration and creative thinking around her experimentations, travels and progression of freestyle weaving. I could see how much the work she created draws parallels to the freestyle weaving and contemporary Saori weaving techniques I’ve been exploring in the past.

There were so many highlights and delights of this exhibition it really needs to be seen to be appreciated. I intend to seek greater understanding and complete some more detail research into her work.

I was greatly intrigued to see her travels in South America and how many of the same places we have visited in our lives. Unfortunately I was not studying textiles during my travels, although I did gather samples along the way. With my Argentina heritage I am able to look towards this as another influencer within the textile work I take forward. It really felt like the stars aligned to draw me to this exhibition, and to offer me these hooks on which I can now hang the threads of my research and development of my practice as I work towards the final Masters Project.

I have many points of action from this visit including the research into Anni Albers work, Argentine and South American textiles and my own history.

The beautiful wall hangings telling their story in fibre and cloth, with jute being a fibre of interest to potentially dye and use. Its rustic charm adding texture to the weaves. Anni created wall hangings which were inspired by many things and included representations of texts and drawing. In Saori weaving these techniques are also applied to the weaving.

In the past I have been interested in ancient texts and symbols and maybe this can be a way to bring these together.

I was fascinated by the sampling, planning and recording of the weaving patterns and designs- this is something to take forward and develop alongside the colour matching ideas I’d got from the workshop I’d completed with Bonnie Kirkwood.

There are so many examples of Anni’s work I could add here but it will just pick the top 5.

So many visual and textural delights within this work.

Now to get started on the project planning and to pull together the strands for my brief.

I can’t wait to get started.

In Search of Forgotten Colours

Whilst at the V&A I’d seen there was a small exhibition focussing on Natural dyeing- so of course this was one I made time to visit. The display explores the work of Kyoto’s celebrated Somenotsukasa Yoshioka dye workshop. Forgotten Colours.

The textile and paper samples in this display were given to the V&A by the head of the Somenotsukasa Yoshioka dye workshop in Kyoto. In 1988 abandoning the use of synthetic colours in favour of solely dyeing with plants and other natural materials.

The workshop continues to produce an extensive range of colours- reviving forgotten ancient colours, including those of textiles preserved in the 18th century Imperial Repository in Nara.

These are some short films that share some of the work and introduce Mr Yoshioka– there are lots of links on the internet to stories and articles about the Dye workshop. What a wonderful place to add to my travel wish list.

The range of colours is beautiful and seemingly consistent across the fabrics- this is a hard task to achieve with natural dyeing. The master dyers work in teams and have vast experience in understanding the process and attention to detail in their work. Creative yarns for weaving and fabrics which are then turned into products.

The colours were produced from 19 different dyes, each obtained from a single source.

One shade of scarlet coming form the LAC insect, and the rest from 18 plants. The most frequently used being the purple gromwell, safflower, Japanese indigo, and silver grass. Producing purple, red, blue and yellow. Greens create using a double dip – frost in yellow and then in blue.

These stunning silk threads show the skill and after seeing the films it’s clear that there’s much more to dyeing these than just dipping the fibres in the dye bath. Agitation and rotation aids the distribution of colour.

The dyes papers are good to see and learning that the colour is achieved through multiply layers of painting.

Rich earth tones offering a muted palette. These are more easily achieved with plants.

Its hard to see from the picture but the silks hanging at the back are beautiful examples of naturally dyed fabrics.

There remind me of the work I have just completed with the chakra colours using natural dyes. a research project into whether this was achievable and if I could create a screen printing recipe to use in my designs and workshops.

Below are pictures of the various fabrics and threads I’d dyed using madder, weld, Annatto, Chlorophyll, indigo and logwood.

It would have good to have seen this exhibition before I’d submitted the work for my last MA assignment. However, looking at what I managed to achieve and that there are parallels between my dye kitchen and Mr Yoshioka’s makes me feel verified in my experiments and outcomes. I’ve still got so much to learn – but I’ve made a good start.

Fashioned in Nature Exhibition

After waiting for the right opportunity I was finally able to commit a day to take myself to London and visit as many of the exhibitions on my wish list.

The Fashioned in Nature exhibition at the V and A was my first destination.

I’d been recommend to visit this based on the nature of my textile work and felt it was something to see first hand. Seeking new insight and focus to underpin the sustainability and eco-friendly areas of my practice. It’s all very well holding an ethically minded stance but even better to hold it with references.

I spent a few hours walking around and reading all the information and watching all the videos, not missing a thing. Most of the information was refreshing notions I had of the history of fashion and the impact on the planet and human lives. Still shocking to see earrings made from tiny dead birds. My main feeling being that the wealthy drove this awful behaviour seeking new and more outlandish fashion statements. Bringing back the exotic and rare and wearing these trophies as jewels and accessories while unable to move in their restricted and layered costumes, created in toxic environments.

I enjoyed the representations of nature on cloth either woven, embroidered or printed- showing the influence of nature’s beauty on the cloths and clothing. What a juxtaposition of desire to wear the beauty of nature at the expense of nature.

This statement dress, after scientific analysis shows that the silks were dyed with plant dyes- redwood trees, rustic, lichens and indigo or woad. It’s a beautiful piece – although it’s highly impractical.

I really enjoyed seeing the record books with the swatches of colours and their details. As a fan of record keeping for my natural dye samples this huge book strikes a cord with books I’ve created and aim to create- In fact I have a huge book which I can now see is a samples book – purchased at an antiques store last year.

I think I might need to neaten up my samples going forward- I like the way they sit more formally in a samples book and I’ve been rustic so far so maybe a fresh and neater approach top my records keeping is a good idea.

In search of some botanical printing I found this beautiful book of botanical prints using the dry plant on a lead plate- then making an intaglio copper printing plate, which was then inked by hand. These were created by William Bradbury to illustrate Thomas Moores The Ferns of Great Britain and Ireland 1855 and Nature-Printed British Ferns 1860. I’m inspired by this book as I have an idea to create some botanical Printed samples using the plants from around my home- both on paper and fabric. Bringing this old practice into a contemporary practice.

This week I’ve been using flower bouquets on watercolour paper and seeing what colours they offer- using a mordant, iron dip and steam method. These preliminary samples will be useful when it’s time to create the reference book for the plants around my home as part of my textile book series.

I also enjoyed the link between the botanical illustrations beautifully created by artist and then copied onto clothing. I have always had a fascination with the detail and style of botanical drawings and I’d like to spend a bit of time looking into these as part of the book series. Maybe creating some walnut ink illustrations using natural pigments and inks I’ve made – part of the study and preparation work for the book series. I’ve been browsing through a book called Plant, Exploring the Botanical World which is a compilation of botanical illustrations and a good place to start with finding inspiration and reference. This is hugely important- its all very well finding the reference- but for the purpose of the MA I need to explicitly record and evaluate them.

Moving upstairs to the other displays which were mostly focused around how modern designers are addressing the issue highlighted by the industry and their statements about more sustainable and eco-friendly movements. Explorations of synthetic fibres to replicate natural fibres – bringing with them their own toxicity and water consumption have posed continuous solution focused outcomes for many designers who are attempting to bring about change- yet stay ahead of the game in their industry. The challenge of commercial mass production and ethical and sustainable earth friendly resources. So many ideas and alternatives- many still as yet waiting to be discovered. My highlights and those that resonate most with my own practice will follow.

This movement towards visible mending and visible history stretching across many artist and designers embraces the recycled and mending values which were common practice pre-war. It’s now a thing! John Alexander Skelton shows how handcraft and visible repair underlines the textiles’ age and value, in contract to todays prolific of short lived fast fashion. Using vegan and locally sources fibres and fabrics this outfit is a nod to the old is new. There are many ways this style of textile work can be described as the narrative of the mend and the cloth work together in a slow movement – showing time, showing where the story happened. I’m interested in the theme of time as part of my Time Lines and Autobiographical textile study. A search into colours and memories and a woven diary.

The wearable paper created by Swedish and British designers as a way to create short lived clothing which can be recycled – made from non-bleached pulp, the woven paper is finished using natural dyes, laser surfacing and efficient ultrasonic construction. With automated production customers would design their own.

I was fascinated by the Bolt Threads displays and the bio- engineering of new protein fibres which mimics the structure of spider silks- no pollution and reduced impact on land and water. Designer Stella McCartney launching a collection using these fabrics.

I particularly like the use of roots for these fibres and I’ll keep my eye on this as there development of the process and products goes. Such a beautiful way to create fibre and structure. Really speaking to parts of my soul that feel this can be a way to truly embrace the essence of the earth in the textiles we wear.

Some of the research I’ve been looking into with nettles and other grass fibre fabrics and construction really offer a similar aesthetic and overall sense of natural. I’ve been interested in the use of these fibres but as yet haven’t had time to develop further. It may be possible to purchase some ready made grass yarns and use these in my weaving.

I found these displays really useful as an aid memoir and for further reference. Each valid point made about process and use. My currently practice and business aims to work within the parameters of sustainable and eco-friendly- using recycled fabrics and clothes, ethically sources fabrics and resources. These link well to the TED ten which are also key titles for consideration.

All together a really good experience and I came away with much more that I had expected. One new fibre to consider is flax- it’s overall production I’d fairly eco-friendly and water use is minimal.

Wandering through the V&A I headed to the next exhibition.

Masters Final Project

Keeping up with the blog in the last 6 months has been one thing too many on the list of things I’ve had to do. However, as part of my final MA project I am determined to blog as often as I can and use this forum as a way to document the research, work and outcomes.

While I’ve not been writing on here, I have been setting up my own studio and gallery in Wickham Market called Botanical Being where I now create all the fabrics and carry out my dye work and research for my MA degree. This has been a huge commitment and a dream come true- filled with joy and fear in equal measure, as this is the only source of income I now have. I didn’t expect to have this space within a year of starting my MA- but all the stars aligned and the dots connected, so I took a running jump- without a parachute and I’m still feeling the thrill of the free fall, but also the anxiety that this inevitable brings when you’ve been used to a monthly salary to support your family.

I’ve had some really succesful projects and have immersed myself in learning all I can about natural dyeing and botanical printing and feel that I’ve delved enough into experimentation and can more focus on more in-depth understanding of the knowledge  I already have in my files and dyed samples. I also had some not so successful projects, which have clashed with other things in my life, and meant that the commitment to study and reasearch was less than I wanted.

My most successful being the global project which I hosted and curated called The Worldwide Weave  As I write this it is currently on display in Tasmania after travelling on a ship from Gran Canaria where is started its global tour. From here it is heading to Cape Breton. It’s a great feeling to know that this little project with our little woven naturally dyed signatures is travelling as one piece, after arriving as separate parcels from all over the world.

 

I have also been working on created my own natural pigment watercolours paints, making a formula for natural screen printing pastes and exploring the depth of colours I can achieve using natural dyes to represent the chakra colours.

So with all this experimentation, process development and project management experience I am now embarking on the final 7 months of my master degree and my aim is to be able to keep up with a blog to document the journey, to commit to the reseach, and reflect on all the learning so far, using this to drive my work forward.

Wish me luck!

Local Alpacas

Part of my research has giving me a desire to find the journeys cloth makes from the seed or the field. So as well as planting my own little dye garden, which I’ll write up about soon, I wanted to find some local Shepard’s and animals to meet.

Using social media to gather information, make connections and gather support and advice has been an invaluable tool in many of the searches and contacts I’ve made. My local Buy and Sell site was my starting point for asking about any local wool producers.

I was pleased to have responses and referrals for a few farmers close to me and soon had a list of people to contact. I was delighted to find that within my locality there are sheep, alpacas, llamas and camels all producing wool.

I haven’t had much luck with any sheep farmers so far, but I have been able to make contact and have arranged a meeting with another local textile artist using local wools, who I’m hopefully going to be able to purchase some raw fleece from to spin my own. I will endeavour to seek a flock of sheep and a local source of fibre- or alternatively I’ll have to get my own little flock. Now this sounds exiting!

I was really excited to have contact with Sally a local Alpaca Shepard who was more than helpful and from our messaged seemed really happy to meet and find out what I was up to.

It was unfortunate that I was unable to attend the shearing session which happened the day before I visited, but I’m told this is a long, exhausting and tough day. None the less I was delighted to meet Sally and her alpaca family.

I am so in love with these gentle creatures, there sweet little faces with beautiful long eyelashes, There were all a little chilly after their fleeces were removed and still slightly wary of coming too close. They are curious and watchful. Moving gracefully and only occasionally making sounds of communications to each other.

Sally took time to tell me her story and how she came to be the Shepard of this lovely herd. I learnt about the care of these animals and the needs they have as a pack creature. The food, meds and attention to their wellbeing to keep them healthy and happy as well as producing award winning fleeces.

I was delighted to find out that many of the females in this normally, all girl field were expecting and would be delivering the next generation fairly soon. The males are kept in another field although some of the younger males are still in with the females.

This is Reanna- the original owner of the fleece I now have. Sally explained how she used the fleeces, checks for the quality and sells them as either raw fleece or as spun yarns, entering competitions and winning awards.

The temporary tent which was set up ready for the shearing was home to bags of freshly gathered alpaca fleece. It was so interesting to feel the difference in texture and qualities of each animal. Looking at the natural colours ranging from white to dark brown. Sally was interested in my journey too and so I was able to describe my interest in eco and natural dyeing and explain my research from field to cloth in my locality.

I was delighted to be going home with a bag of Alpaca fleece, even though I wasn’t sure exactly how I was going to process this into a useable yarn- it really is beautiful, so soft and with a wonderful shine. I can’t wait to try spinning it and dyeing it with botanical dyes.

I’d love to go back and visit Sally and her Alpacas at Berryfields, meet her new babies and learn more about these animals. I feel a connection through my heritage as my Argentine relatives and my travels in South America have brought me closer to these gentle fleece givers. It’s definitely on my wish list to start my own little herd. Maybe they’ll come from Berryfields!

I am still on the look out for a local sheep farmer as I’d like to open up further networks and opportunities to gather fleece from my locality.

Now to get on with learning how to process fleece and spin some yarns!