Someone recently asked me about our ‘alternative lifestyle’. I responded (hopefully sweetly) that perhaps living in today’s urban environment is historically biologically alternative. Are we so suburban that living on a small farm and growing food is ‘alternative’?? My instincts lead me ever more away from city life. I like to visit occasionally and get a culture hit but I wouldn’t swap our folky farming life for traffic and concrete. I want to shop less, eat better and have dirty hands on a regular basis.
Some of the most inspiring people to me are craftspeople who are breaking the mold in their processes and leading a modern revival of folk arts. These people might be defined by one beautiful product or craft but they succeed because they are also able to be a business owner, collector, curator, designer, teacher, writer, photographer and publicist; thanks to the internet, you can go it alone away from the crowds but you have to be ready for the whole shebang. So for the next few posts I want to feature people who are forging a living dragging a traditional skill into this era and making it relevant.
The Quilter: Maura Ambrose, Folk Fibers
I just love the process employed by Maura Grace Ambrose in her Texas-based business Folk Fibers. Since March this year, this all-round amazing soul has been employing local sewers in their homes (read her moving bog post about them here) to create huge quilts from materials she has hand-dyed using plants she has grown, foraged or collected herself. What’s not to love about that?!
She has planted her own dye plant garden and her latest blog post was about these beautiful fungi she collected and used in the solar-dying method.
Aren’t they lovely? Maura lists Australian India Flint‘s book Eco Colour as one of her main source books. It’s the one I used when I eco-printed my wedding dress this year. I am super inspired by the way Maura has managed to combine her passion for farming and textiles into a unique business that satisfies both those urges and produces long-lasting positivity.
So that’s the first of what I hope will be many posts about modern craft revivalists. Please feel free to alert me if you know of any artisans breaking new ground in their field.
P.S. Just on those thoughts from the start… I went to a beautiful wedding by the beach this last weekend. I saw a lot of people who I hadn’t seen since school or uni days. I found myself hesitating when some people asked what I’m doing now. Of course “we have two kids” is self-explanatory but telling people “I am a basketmaker” is not. In a quiet moment, my husband told me “Be proud.” I think it’s not pride that causes my usual big intake of breath before I answer. In some way, I think I presume people are going to be confused by their own notions of what ‘basketweaving’ is and how I fit. I wonder if Maura feels that when she tells people she’s a quilter? I also don’t know if that really defines the many different things that I do every day in this work. I love every aspect of my craft work but it’s easy to spend a lot of time here on the internet and collecting materials, sorting my studio and teaching workshops. I think one of my goals for next year is advice gleaned from Maura Ambrose, to make the work the first and most important thing and it will speak for itself.
All beautiful images courtesy of Maura Ambrose.