Monday, September 16, 2013

A Gathering on Squam Lake.

I am home. This past weekend, I had the great pleasure of teaching foraging and natural dyeing at the Taproot Gathering with the Squam Art Workshops. Though my travels were lovely and oh so quick and easy, (i did find a gigantic fabric store on the way home. Such a dreamy place!) I am exhausted.

My body, for some reason has not been this exhausted since last time I played field hockey... 17 years ago. 

But, my mind has once again clicked over to a new setting of slow, calm, excited, inspired, focus, thrive, and light. Yes, all rolled into one. In other words, R E F R E S H E D

And, my heart is completely and utterly full. 

But jeeze.... as I get older, it really doesn't get easier for me to enter into a community where I don't know people at all or even a little. Having no idea what every thing would really be like, just a touch of anxiety forms. Knowing I was there to work, which has been one of the biggest opportunities to come my way in a very long time, I knew also, I wanted to soak it all up, keep myself as open as possible and most of all, I wanted to make new friends. And indeed I did. 

My room-mate and I couldn't have been better matched. Julia Shipley is a writer from Vermont. I am so blessed to have gotten to know her. If your a writer and would like to travel to Vermont for a writer's retreat on a farm, Julia's your gal. We made saying goodbye super easy by simply saying, "See ya later." Because we know we will. 

The evening gatherings were a blast. Taking place in the Playhouse each evening. This space also doubled as my class room space for Thursday and Friday. One of my favorite things about these evenings was walking back to my cabin, in the dark, through a trail in the woods, with my head lamp, often stepping off the path to get a closer look at a mushroom. The first night at the opening ceremony, a HUGE THUNDERSTORM BROKE OUT. It stormed like that on and off for the first two days. It was needed as the temperature upon arrival was in the high '80's. I felt like my clothes were painted on. Really had to resist the urge for two days not to strip to nothing. Hate humidity with a passion. But- there where so many good happy vibes going on, I just kept focusing on those. And before I knew it, I was one with my clothes and it didn't matter any more:)
On Thursday evening, Ben Hewitt gave a wonderful talk about his life on his farm and haying with his neighbors and family. Enjoyed that so much. On Friday evening, there was a fashion show from two of the classes, Squam Smock with Cal Patch. And Alternative Stitch with Emily Falconbridge. More classes I wish I could have taken. Afterwards, Stephanie Pearl McPhee aka The Yarn Harlot, read a few stories from one of her books. She is a stitch and she had us in stitches and tears. Students of Julia's writing class also read some of their work. A really great night. 

Elizabeth and Amanda where loving gracious hosts who always wanted to know how you were doing, if everything was going ok, and where such a lovely soft and sparkly presence. 

There was so much about this entire experience that blew me away. The accommodations were rustic, old fashioned with a warm energy. Many of the cottages, including mine where right on the lake with a dock at each. One of the first things I did after arrival and set up was jump right in. I then had a nice conversation with a lady two docks down.  

Love sleeping next to an open window. For some reason when I closed my eyes at night, in my minds eye, I saw only the dark outside but kind of lit up. And there was no window. It was as if I was laying outside. It happened each night I was there and sometimes I would open my eyes again to make sure the window was still there. It was of course but the window didn't exist in my sleep. 

The food, the food, the food. Every single time I was being fulfilled emotionally. Every dish I tried was a taste explosion. The Bread and Butter Catering Company is from my back yard (South Portland) so I look forward to finding some way to indulge in their delights very very soon. Home made yogurt and granola every morning along with several other choices for each and every meal. Amazing selections catering to every food preference. Then there was the morning that eggs benedict where served... heart melted and I almost cried.

I did not try this but I was so delighted to see a mexican dish served at breakfast. Really took this picture for my husband. To torture him maybe....? I think the only person who may love food more then me is Jubal. 

My dyeing workshops were filled with fun, inquisitive, giddy energy. Filled with color and discoveries, conversations and squealings of the yarns and colors. Squeals mostly due to the fact that a BIG ASS box of super soft merino yarn from Purl Soho and gorgeous blends from Blue Sky Alpaca and Spud & Chole yarns was DONATED to us, and put in front of a group of knitters. Free for the taking. Free to dye with. Free to take home and call your very own. The amount of yarn that was dyed was joyous and thrilling. And I think I'm still on a high from it. 

We got some vivid deep pink from my cochineal/ cream of tartar blend. 

When it was time to hang out our yarn, we quickly discovered the hooks on the porch and deemed it a great place to let our yarns hang, drip and dry. Saving the dripping for more dye baths. 

This was the first time I used osage orange in such a concentrated form and I LOOOOVED it. Will be ordering more very soon. This lovely purple came from the cochineal dye bath before cream of tartar was added. Really love. And the the green...... So I've been using red onion skins for a while now. For a long time I saved and saved my skins. I eat a lot of red onion as it's my onion of choice. So much more delicious flavor! Got a tip from Bitsy, one of my students from the The New England Fiber Arts Retreat last August. My other heaven. A week in fibery bliss every August. Anyway, Bitsy said to me one day, "I just scoop 'em up every time I go the grocery store!" Jeeeeeze... I thought. What have I been missing??!! All those onion skins. So ya. That's what I did three times before Squam. I scooped up onion skins and will from now on. We added lots of onion skins to the bath and this is what happened. I think this skein is 100% cotton. And with only alum. Now, I say that but, I did use the spicket (love that word) outside the building that I believe was a copper pipe. A very similar color I got when dyeing in Ireland, also drew water from copper pipes. 

All these greens are from a second dye bath of the onion skins when we all caught on to what happened. A really really strong bath!

From our foraging finds. A type of fungus that gave a warm yellow, black walnuts, and black eyed susans.

osage, black walnuts, indigo, madder, cochineal. 

My class room space.




At the end of each work shop day, who ever wanted to, displayed some of their work in the dinning hall. I was so inspired by all these wonderful treasures. Again, so many classes I would take. 

These really are not great pictures and just don't do these treasures justice. But this one here was A Return to Play with Phoebe Wahl.

I loved the embroidery mixed with the paper. 

Was inspired by the Alternative Stitch. 

Being tucked away in the woods for a few days, I made sure to make time to go out and forage. Foraging is really creeping into my life and at some of the most unexpected moments. Walking home in the dark. Rushing to the ferry. I never know what my eyes will pick up on. Often I shut my eyes at night to sleep and I see tooth fungi. 

While walking by the edge of the lake, I discovered these little gems. A mass pile of them. 
Not sure yet what they are but they have teeth! And I was told by Alissa Allen, a prolific mushroom dyer to look for mushrooms with teeth. They are now drying in my basement before I extract pigments from them. 

Another discovery I made was this lichen. Oh this lichen... I have seen it around for years and have thought about it, wondered about it and thats as far as it went. I had heard that Stephanie Pearl-McPhee had set up some lichen jars so I thought I would ask her it. So glad I did! I had a great time laughing with her over the fact that I had like 4 jars fermenting and none of them where the orchil acid giving kind. She told me about the bleach test though and that's what I did as soon as I got home. Will now be adding a tiny jar of bleach and dropper to my foraging kit.

The discoveries of blue and purple mushrooms always bring me delight. 

Same with finding tiny frogs. Or toads. I think I woke this one up. I don't think Ralph was pleased.

Then there was the Art Fair. These out door lights: ice blocks harvested from the lake during the winter. Each one had a candle lit inside.

My table. I had so much fun talking with people. It sure was a busy night. 



So so thankful and blessed to have had this opportunity to have been part of this gathering. I look forward to some new projects ahead and my new friendships most of all. 

As I prepared to leave and go back home to my sweetheart, my fluffy cat, my island, my life, I knew deep down, no matter what, I'd be back. 


p.s.....  if your able to, please come along next time. You won't regret it.






























4 comments:

Juliette said...

I am still so psyched that you got to go! =D And Squam is so pretty to boot! =D

I don't do a thing with yarn, but I love reading about your creative process. Thanks so much for sharing how this experience went! I'm really thrilled for you -sounds totally exhausting in all the good kinds of ways. =)

44 Clovers said...

Thank you so much Juliette:) You are so sweet. I really enjoy reading your blog as well!

CathyR said...

Love reading your blog! Can you tell me more about the fabric store you found? Rediscovered my sewing machine and serger over the weekend and remembered how much I really do like to sew!

Rachel Bingham Kessler said...

Hi Cathy, Thank you so much:) I sure can tell you about that shop. The name is Keepsake Quilting. Senter's Marketplace, route 25B, Center Harbor, 603-253-4026, www.keepsakequilting.com.

It's such an explosion of fabric!