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Bare Weaving Teacher Training

Kate and I kept bumping into each other and I kept asking doggedly, "When are we going to begin Teacher Training?"

Kate Rydge and Ingrid Riverstone of Bare Weaving share their combined Weaving Wisdom through Workshops that I have been obsessively attending for seven years. They each have been adopted by Arnhem land Original families with unbroken lineage of weavers. With even the whisper of a Weaver Teacher Training I was unashamedly and annoyingly asking for it to begin!

Five Bare Weaving Babes

In February 2021 the first ever Bare Weaving Teacher Training began with five Bare Weaving Babes!

Our activities included:

  • Meeting approx monthly for focus days e.g. processing fibres, bush dying, basket bases

  • Attending the Bare Weaving Events throughout the year as apprentices in the Art of Teaching Weaving

  • Keeping a Weaving Journal

  • Completing a major weaving project for the year!

I decided that my major art work would be to do what I was already drawn to doing - to develop a greater ability to forage, dye and weave with fibres from the valley that I live in.

Working with Bangalow as a Major Art Project

I had always loved collecting Bangalow and Alexandria Palm fibres, and I had begun to experiment with the colours I could create with simple dyes.

Foraging for Bangalow

I was also having many unusual occurrences happen in my weaving world.

In March 2021 we were having an unusual season where we saw a weather pattern of alternate days of rain and sun. This seemed to spur the Banglows and Alexandria Palms to shed their flower fronds prolifically. I was having a fabulous fibre foraging time, collecting a full array of colours and sizes.

I would say to myself, I really have enough now and I don't have a need for any more or a place to put anymore! Then my neighbours would leave me some on my mailbox or perfect white minute-old fronds would fall in my driveway. So I dutifully and dedicatedly collected, boiled and dried many Bangalow Flower fronds.

In the past when I have taught Weaving the order of operations has been first to decide to put on a workshop, and second to madly collect fibres. The stress of wondering if I could collect enough in the time frame created a tension that was not natural.

This situation where I now had an abundance of Bangalow Fibres was whispering a new way to me! As nature rained down abundance I would gladly receive, and from this place of fullness begin to share with others.

I was knowing a sense of being gifted by the sentient spirit of nature.

Bush Dyes with Bangalow

I experimented with some simple household dyes - turmeric and rosella tea and bicarb dyes. By adding teaspoons of bicarb to the turmeric and rosella, I discovered that I could get a variety of tones of Turmeric Yellow and Rosella Pinks. I could also make a rick chocolate brown to complement all the other brown tones of the Flower Fronds.

And then I moved on to more complex Lichen and Tallowood Gum Leave Dyes:

Weaving Workshops and Circles with Bangalow Fibres

With this lovely colourful collection of home dyed fibres I opened up my home for a few Banaglow Weaving Workshops where I could share the skills and passion I was bursting with!

The night before the workshop a beautiful specimen of Bangalow fell on my driveway and I was able to demonstrate to the ladies how to process and weave the fibres fresh form the Palm!

Participants' Bangalow Baskets

There were some Beautiful Bangalow Baskets woven during the weekly weaving circles and the two day workshops, as are shown in the pics below! We created friendships and baskets, and had some incredibly deep conversations by the fire. If my weaving ladies had questions then I had a supportive Bare Weaving crew to go back to and ask questions.

Reading Resources

I enjoyed reading:

  • Twined Together, a book by Arnhem Land master weaver Kunmadj Njalehnjaleken and edited by Loiuse Hambly. I would pour over the book every night, devouring the stories and pictures of basket varieties, different patterns, textures, handles and colours.

  • Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer, an American Indigenous tribal history woven with scientific modern plant wisdom. In reading this I experienced similar internal sensations of mystic pleasure and I knew I had found the Rumi equivalent in the weaving world.

  • Song Spirals by Gay Wu Group of Women, full of stories of ancient codes of the spiralling through a network of knowing of land and person in kinship.

Ancestral Basketry Creation Stories

I have always had a fascination with Rock Art and I learnt that baskets were depicted in rock art. I became doubly obsessed, searching out images and stories that have baskets in the rock art.

This story from Twined Together touched me deeply as it spoke of a feminine creator with BASKETS.

'Yingarna' is the Kunwinjku name for the ancestor whose journey resulted in the creation and dissemination of the Indigenous people in Arnhem Land.

Jill Mganjmirra speaks of this ancestral woman, referring to her as Minyalawuy.

Her grandfather shard this story:

'All these dilly bags that she carries on her head that is all the people in different tribes and languages.

So this woman she came from north side of Bathurst Island. She came to two islands, Bathurst and Melville Island. She dropped one bag at each. They the tribe, we called them Wunmuk tribe.

Then she came to and crossed from two island Darwin area. She dropped one bag there. That is all the Larrakia tribe.

Then she moved walking towards the east way. She carried all the dilly bags full of people inside.

Then she crossed to other island, in Minjalang. She dropped one bag there. That bag with all the people Iwaidja people.

She kept walking east and she dropped another bag inland.

She dropped one bag all the Gagadku people, Gagadju language.

Then she kept waling towards east way now. Then she crossed to Golbourne Island and she dropped one bag all the Malku tribe.

Then she crossed inland and she dropped one bag of Kunwinjku people and she kept walking.

She had still a lot of dilly bags carrying on when she travelled east and she dropped it east Maningrida and she dropped three or four bags, Burrarra and all those people.'

Having grown up in a Christian family with the creation story including a masculine God, this story shifted something deep within my psyche as to how I was holding the creation of humankind.

Were the baskets evoking more that ancestral skills?
Where they evoking the creation stories of the ancestors of this land?

I knew from reading these stories and seeing these rock art images that I wanted to make a series of baskets that depicted this ancestral dreaming. I began to make small twined baskets from my bangalow fibres with conical shaped bottoms. First a golden turmeric one and then a pink rosella one. I planned to gather a small collection of these that could then be attached to a head piece as I could see in the rock art image.

Turmeric Basket

Here is my first conical based twined basket using turmeric dyed Bangalow and broad leaved Cordyline accents.

Rosella Basket

Here is my second conical twined basket using rosella and gum leaf dyed Bangalow

Lichen Dyed Basket

We were lucky enough to have a Lichen dye passionista in our Bare Babes Weavers. Nicky taught us how to make Lichen dye which created beautiful fushia, purple and pink.

The tuning into Lichen dye began with me noticing where Lichen grows in my local area. As Lichen is very slow growing I needed to develop caring custodianship of the plant beings I was harvesting. I began to notice the Lichens grew on Bangalow Palms. Another blessing from the sentient spirits of Banglow!

I had by now developed an inner dialogue with the plants and would be prompted with details as to when and where to collect plants. I was getting the nudge to go and collect Lichen from the Bangalows. I was a bit slow in getting there and in the gap we had a massive hail storm in our area. Every morning for about a week as I did my usual morning walk I would be gifted with lichen lining the path, knocked off the trees by the hail. Mother Nature was laying these gems before me to collect.

The basket below has the dye in the base. And this Basket was my first basket to sell!

Retreat Participation

To complete the training we were asked to share at a Weaving Retreat a summary of our experiences.

LEFT: Here I am in my happy place surrounded by fibres I have foraged and Baskets I have woven.

We were also encouraged to participate in retreats by leading fibre foraging and fibre processing sessions.

RIGHT: Here I am showing a narrow leaved Cordyline plant and how to harvest from it.

This year long cycle of Bare Weaving Teacher Training has grown me in so many ways.

I have developed my skills in:

Basketry Techniques

Solidifying basics such as starting techniques, shaping skills, criss cross, gapping, making cordage and three strand weave.

Basket Shapes

Diversifying skills in starting different shapes e.g. conical and oblong.

Fibre foraging

Identifying Plants, seasonal gathering, dye pot alchemy and strategic processing of fibres.

Teaching Groups

Developing confidence in delivering sessions to groups to facilitate ease of learning for participants.

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