The timing of this post seems rather apt. I'm in the middle of converting our static caravan in a custom dye studio. I've been using it for my dyeing for the last 2 years, and finally decided to knock out some walls, the minute caravan kitchen, and the TV unit in the living space and install stainless steel workbenches, and a proper sized sink. In doing so I've had to clear out wardrobes and cupboards and came across the stuff that I'd shoved in the caravan when I came to Wales 3 years ago. At the time I didn't know what I wanted to do in the future so I kept nearly everything, boxes and boxes of teaching resources and books that I'd accumulated over 3 years. Ironically most of it was only used once, lack of permanent classroom space in all of my schools meant that once I'd used a resource I had to store it at home, so it wasn't in school for when I wanted to use it next...
Now 3 years on I won't be going back to teaching anytime soon, and if I do most of my resources will be out of date as the government seem incapable of leaving a curriculum/examination system in place for longer than 2 years. I need the space, and nothing was irreplaceable so it's all gone, to the charity shop, in to recycling, or the bin. So after saying goodbye to a school of one kind, I found myself this summer in a school of a very different sort.
I'm a member of a local Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers. If you do spin, and you're not a member of a local guild I recommend you check them out, you can find a full list of guilds on the national association website. I won't lie, it took me 2 attempts to find a guild who were a good fit for me, and the average age of most guilds is above 50, but they're a great place to learn new skills, exchange ideas, and be exposed to new crafts, and borrow more expensive equipment like wool combs and drum carders. I know there are lots of younger spinners out there and it would be great to see more of them at guild meetings.
One of the things the association organises is a bi-annual summer school. They take over a university/college campus for a week, and run week-long workshops with expert teachers. The list of workshops is varied, and it's a chance to explore a given subject over a longer period of time. My busy summer schedule meant that I couldn't go to the summer school as a student, but I was invited to the trade fair at the end of the week, and also had a chance to look round the classrooms to see what the students had been doing.
(Photos taken on my phone, so please excuse the quality)
This class was based on collapse weaving, you weave the fabric, and then when you wash it the pleats and folds activate and you end up with beautiful 3D fabric.
This class explored natural dyeing, the range of colours, and the brightness of the colours was very impressive, no sludgy greens to be seen!
This class was on tapestry weaving, there was some beautiful work, including some very clever 3D additions, I'd love to see this 4 seasons piece finished.
These were skeins from a class focusing on spinning short fibres, lots of chance to try unusual fibres, with expert tuition on how best to spin them.
This class was all about making up lengths of handwoven cloth, tailoring is such a tricky skill, and handwoven cloth is irreplaceable so it was nice to see it being put to use.
Finally the class I liked best, they'd spent a whole week dyeing with madder, using historical recipes, testing the effects of different water, trying different techniques, but they'd been wonderfully methodical about recording the results.
Using the whiteboard walls in the classroom to detail the techniques, ask further questions, and attaching samples. As a visitor you got a real sense of how the class had worked, and as a scientist the methodology really spoke to me!