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About a Blown Out Egg-gg-g-g's Origin
A confluence of influences, impressions, memories, and mastering skills
One of the things in my practice that constantly fascinates me is how what I observed as a child comes back to me. It happens when I dream, while I problem solve, study, or ponder techniques. It is always a surprise that an idea I saw as a child rears its head while I contemplate a problem.
My extended family is a mix of craftspeople, biologists, engineers, and problem solvers.
My Granny had an artistic bend. Granny was a painter, knitter, gardener, skilled cook, baker, and loved the colour gold. She was proud of her garden, a cultivated menagerie of vibrant colours that were chosen for their shapes, the timeliness of their blooms, or their uses when dried. She enjoyed hosting people, forging communities, and making stained glass arrangements. My Granny encouraged me to go and pick raspberries from her bushes as a child. That love of the hunt and sweet berries sticks with me to this day.
My Pada (grandfather) taught me how to watch trees dance in the wind, and listen to bird song. He showed me how animals and plants are interconnected. He built ‘potting sheds’ in his backyard because it was fun, and he treasures a day of diligent work. I remember sitting inside of the Potting Shed during a cold winter day. My Pada had just installed the wood stove, and he made hot chocolate for me while he discussed the importance of proper ventilation. We played games, had sleepovers, and hosted parties in the Potting Shed. There was a wind up mechanical ladybug that would whip around in circles, trailing smaller ladybugs after it. Once while playing I was unable to open the door, and got stuck inside. After that an especially loud whistle was placed inside just for me (and later my siblings) to use if it happened again (which it never did).
At one point I considered having a career creating botanical drawing and diagrams. Just like the old ones that were found in books before photographs were invented.
My Mom prefers to work with wire, semi precious stones, wood, yarn, and leather. She taught me how to substitute ingredients in baking while being mindful of how the multiple properties of each ingredient changes a recipe. Mom has a sculptural approach to her work, which expressed itself in the costumes that she used to sew for my siblings and I. At one point she was taking pottery classes, which piqued my interest and later my studies in the craft. My Mom’s hands never stopped working. Whether she was knitting, twisting wire with pliers, or mending a garment, my mom was always in her seat fiddling with something.
My Dad has a tact of approaching problems from different angles. He favours practical maths, technical drawing, project and design planning. He, too, has an understanding of complex systems from his work with cars. My Dad introduced me to the idea of improving substitute materials, and understanding cascading effects. He used to ask me practical maths questions, or questions that might not have a ‘proper’ answer. Dad always wanted me to think about how the pieces fit together, and how an idea can beget or solve new problems. This way of thinking has been an incredible boon as I explore natural dying, and develop signature techniques that are a synthesis of what I have learned.
My Grandma, whom I met as an adult, is also worthy of mention here. She and her mother, my great grandma, taught my Dad a lot about textiles. I believe that is why my Dad wasn’t surprised when I decided to study textiles. He mentioned something about carrying on the family magic. It is part of why my Dad understood my questions about spinning wheels, and looms. We helped a friend fix their wheel once, and are (slowly) working on fixing an old floor loom. My Grandma knows secrets about knitting, tailoring, fur, and cats. Grandma can spot a sweater’s worn out stitches from across the room. She has stories about how some problems are solved by observing a system, and finding the best way to work with it. For example, the swirl in a bulb, and laying the little cinnamon roll on an angle so water can drain out of it. She taught me how to properly install zippers into a garment, and always has another perspective to an idea that I propose (much like my Dad does). I’m looking forward to learning more from my Grandma as I grow up.
Until writing this, I didn’t realize that my Granny’s and Mom’s skills are what encouraged me to pick a knitting minor over a weaving minor in college.
As a child they told me stories and taught through example
When I was little I used to watch my Granny knit and bake. She had a house full of treasures that sat in glass cabinets. I would observe their porcelain silhouettes and how the teacups were nestled into each other. There were silken tassels that I would play with. Her doilies made good hats. Fancy coloured shot glasses and glass fruits were entrusted to me for tea parties. One day, my Granny showed me a hollowed out robin’s egg.
The egg was a beautiful blue-green, the colour shifted slightly as I cupped it in my tiny palms. My Granny told me the story of how she found it abandoned on the ground. The momma robin either tossed it out of the nest because it died, or the nest was attacked by another critter. Two little holes on either end of the delicate eggshell showed my Granny’s skill as she blew out the remains. She took the lost life and honoured it by preserving the shell. For years it rested in a tender bundle of silk cloth, then a nest that she spray painted gold. Her story stuck with me, waving a hand as I was contemplating how to dye eggs.
Their influence continues to surprise me
Recently, I was planning workshop topics with a friend. We began talking about the upcoming holidays of Ostara and Easter. Eggs are a key symbol for both, and we were considering how to use that theme in a workshop. There are many uses for eggs and the new life that springs from them, which is part of why our ancestors found them sacred. As a child I used to dye eggs with my family. We drew on the eggs with wax resist before soaking them in vinegar and food colouring baths. Alternate treatments of wax and baths were used to layer colours. Previously, I have experimented with naturally dying eggs following India Flint’s Latvia Egg Dying discussion (Eco Colour). Having a workshop where people can dye their own eggs is a good place to start. Can we sell hard boiled eggs? Do people want to spend money on dying an egg that they would then break apart?
When I was pondering how to make eggs that would last a long time the robin’s egg flashed in my mind. The egg can be blown out from the shells, and the shells dried and preserved for a long time. This also avoids the tricky business of selling hard boiled eggs. That would be considered food, which makes everything more complicated. The dried shells are more brittle because the membrane directly connected to the shell is no longer functioning. They need more care when handled, but most dying techniques that I studied can be done gently.
It’s a confluence of influence
My craft isn’t just about making products. It is about understanding what techniques do to create product. How do they work? Why does it work this way? Which techniques and materials interact with or conflict with each other? Where in the process are they the most effective?
As I continue to explore and develop my craft it surprises me how the objects, tasks, and skills that I observed from my family members plays a role in how I approach the challenges in front of me.
How does your family influence your craft?
Samhain Rituals part 1 & 2
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