Mar 11

I don’t know if it’s because of my getting older or just getting wiser, but, over the past several years, I have found myself pulling away from supporting big corporations in my purchases as much as possible. Mainly, I have done this in areas of food and fiber purchases, preferring to support local farmers instead of a multitude of shareholders worldwide. But this is beginning to grow into other areas as well.

The more I think about it, I live in my community, my friends and neighbors live in the same community and without this community where would we be? I feel that the world speeding its way to becoming a huge corporation promoting a Borg-thought type of mentality in our schools, our entertainment and in the way we are living our lives is a huge mistake. All this seems to be doing is making a few people even richer while taking away from the richness of the arts and music in our school systems and the idea of our being individuals with separate thoughts, talents and desires. I do not live in a hive, but in an open, free country.

Our freedom, as Americans, is a constitutional-given right that the current administration is trying its best to take away in the name of “protecting” us. I’m sorry, but I believe the greatest danger to us, as Americans, is the current government itself. Terrorists can impact us on an occasional basis and only a small segment of the population at a given time. While I am not down-playing the threats and harm done to us on our soil, I want to emphasis the fact that the governmental restrictions to us affect all several million of us at the same time. While this government is restricting us, they are doing nothing to alleviate the real threats that dog us.

Which brings me back to the subject of community versus corporate. To me, the current administration of the government represents the corporate mentality in the highest level. All the corporate style of thought wants to do is make all of us happy little consumers of as much stuff as we can buy and squeeze into our homes and into our lives. If we out-grow our homes, then they will be happy to lead us into purchasing bigger homes so that we can buy more and bigger stuff.

Of course, all this stuff must be made somewhere, unfortunately rarely in our own country, and must be shipped in to us at a great expense, not only monetarily but in terms of making us more and more dependent on those countries who sell us the products and the fuel in which to ship it from these far away places to us. Please look around you. Gasoline and other transportation fuel prices keep climbing higher and higher, which, in turn, affects all of this stuff the corporate mentality wants us to continue buying so they can keep paying their shareholders higher and higher dividends.

So, where does that leave us, the American individual? Lost. Lost in an ever increasing pile of debt, stuff we really don’t need, and, most importantly, lost in our own communities. How many people really know their neighbors? How many people even know their neighbors’ names? How many know what is available from local farmers, locally-owned restaurants, local business who can provide anything from carpentry to banking to the things we really need?

Personally, I have banking with locally-owned and managed banks since I graduated from college nearly 25 years ago. The first one was bought out by a national bank, so I switched to another locally-owned and managed bank. I want to keep my money working for my community. 90% of the time, my fiber and fiber-related goods are bought from local sellers and producers of the things I want. The 10% I do buy from outside sources are those items I am not able to find locally, yet. I buy more and more food from local farmers and farmers markets. My food is grown by my neighbors and by my purchasing my food from them, I am supporting the community in which I live and, maybe, more importantly, I am reducing the country’s dependence on other countries’ goods in my small way. I am putting my money back into my community, not into the pockets of rich owners of corporations. If more of us did this, think of the good it will do.

Doesn’t it frighten you that more and more of this country’s corporations are owned by foreign interests? Don’t you find it terrifying to learn about governmental procedures that sell our roads, bridges, and other means and avenues of transportation to those from outside our country? If it doesn’t, it should.

You say that by buying food stuffs from third-world countries helps support the indigenous peoples of those countries. I say you are wrong. It forces people to discontinue what they’ve been doing for centuries to support their families and, instead, work for wages that barely feeds them while those who “hire” them get richer and richer from their labor. Read and you will discover that whole communities are being forced to discontinue growing and producing items for themselves so the land and their labor can be used for the corporation’s good, not their own. So, instead of helping people in other countries, we are hurting them and hurting ourselves. We, too, get poorer in many ways while corporations get richer. I just don’t see the benefits that we are being lead to believe here.

I know this is a long blog, but it is something I’ve been wanting to say for a very long time. Support your communities. Bring art and music back into our schools. Get rid of the teaching our children for test taking only. Stop holding students back for those who cannot keep up. Stop holding our communities hostage for something that harms not only the community, but the actual country in which we live. The programs that are being pushed off onto us as commendable and profitable by the current governmental administration are not good for us.

Instead, we are in a recession with the cost of living rising. Instead, we are so dependent on foreign fuel that our very lives are being controlled by it. Instead, we have people losing their homes through the mismanagement of loans or through extremely high increases in property taxes. Why are we allowing the government and huge corporations determine what we can do for their sakes of their or their supporters’ wallets? When will we wake up and realize that if we don’t begin looking out for our own interests, soon, we won’t have anything worth looking out for?

Buy local, support your community, make sure our children grow up to be thinking individuals, take care of the planet given to us, and protect those things that are truly important. Broaden your minds and horizons and make the community you live in a better place for future generations. I want our children to inherit a place worth living in and teach them how to pass on to future generations the respect and love we should have for the place in which we inhabit. Don’t you?

Mar 11

This past Friday, the Handweaver’s Guild of America held the judging of the Certificate of Excellence in Dyeing at the Indianapolis Art Center. This was sponsored by SWIFT (Spinner and Weaver’s of Indiana – Fibers and Textiles), of which I am a member. The judges were Pat Slaven, an engineer with Consumer Reports Magazine, and Sara Kadolph with the Textiles and Clothing Department of Iowa State University. Also there was Sandra Swarbrick, the Chairman of HGA. I was the scribe for Pat and another SWIFT member, Svenja was the scribe for Sara. Each judge separately reviewed both the entrants (a Level I and a Level II ) and Pat and I began with the Level I applicant’s submittal while Sara and Svenja went to another room and worked on the Level II submittal.

If you are not familiar with what is involved to pass a Level I Certificate of Excellence in Dyeing, let me give you some background. I began to do the Level I in Dyeing, but couldn’t bring myself to do the synthetic dyes. I don’t like the colors that synthetic dyes produce and I find the actual synthetic dyeing to be boring. I’ve gotten so used to the various steps with Natural Dyes, and synthetic dyes seem to be too easy to me.

The first part of Level I is the technical information. You need to be able to describe different laws, rules and regulations, both at federal and local levels. You have to know about proper equipment, safety procedures, ventilation and terminology. You have to prove that you are using the proper equipment, and that your work area is properly ventilated by actual photographs with labels. There is a list of specific books, articles and other publications that must be read and referred to and you have to make sure you have Material Safety Data Sheets on every chemical, dye, etc., you use. This is a very tedious and time consuming part (but one I enjoyed doing since I love research and enjoy learning and writing. I actually completed this section for mine and was into the dyeing part when I decided to not pursue my COE).

Part two of the Level I is where you show you understand the various dyes involved and show your mastery of the different techniques by providing samples at prescribed sizes (usually 50 grams of fiber or 20 cm X 20 cm of fabric) and of prescribed material (linen, cotton, rayon, wool, silk, basketry material) that match a particular color chip in either the Pantone or the Munsell color systems. You must, also, produce the chip of color for the sample as well as all instructions and descriptions of dyeing techniques used with each and every part. You have samples of synthetic dyes, natural dyes, a color wheel of color samples, showing you understand various design techniques like discharge, batiking, warp painting, etc. This is a very detailed section and presentation is a huge part of the scoring as well as matching chips, techniques used, etc.

Part three of Level I is the fun part. The final project is a finished item with a minimum of 500 grams of yarn or fiber or 2 yards of fabric.

So you see, there is a lot of material to review and check. It took Pat about 6 hours to review the Level I with me typing as she dictated. Each individual section has a scoring basis and the scores are tallied at the end.

Level II is different. It is like doing your Masters thesis with three to five completed projects within your scope of study. This took about 2 hours to read the thesis provide and review the finished projects, then another hour to score it and write up the comments.

Then the scores for each level from both judges are averaged and, for Level I, there is a minimum score that must be reached in order to pass. The Level II is strictly a pass/fail score. In this year’s judging, the Level I applicant did not pass, but the Level II one did with flying colors. This is the first person to earn a Level II Certificate of Excellence in Dyeing from HGA, and it is a wonderful thing to have. Because of the anonymity of the judging, I have no clue as to whether the Level I applicant was even a man or a woman, much less the name of the person, and I will never know although I know this person’s work very well indeed. Even though this person did not pass this first try, I do hope he or she will try it again and take the judges’ comments and learn from them. It is a tremendous amount of work to do not to try it again. From what I understand, the Level II person did not pass the Level I on the first try, but went on to rework the samples and submit the Level I again and passed upon the second try. If you get the Shuttle, Spindle & Dyepot magazine (the HGA magazine), be on the look out in a future issue the pictures and information about this Level II applicant’s beautiful work.

I had a lot of fun, and, while it was hard work and a long day, I’d do it again in a heartbeat. I met some very nice people and learned a great deal. Thank you SWIFT for sponsoring this examination and bringing it to Indianapolis, and thank you for inviting me to be a part of it. I am deeply honored.