Submitted by: Kara Perpelitz, SCC member and fibre artist
Late last year, a friend of mine (who happens to be a teacher in our local school), Jessica Lepitzki, approached me about teaching a class of grade 8 & 9 students to spin, dye, and weave. The thought intrigued me because I love to share these skills with anyone who will listen. Of course I said “absolutely yes!” So, being the dedicated teacher she is, she got to work on an application for an ArtsSmarts grant (now known as “Artists in Schools”) from the Saskatchewan Arts Board. Early in January she was thrilled to tell me that we had gotten the grant! I was just as thrilled to get this news. I got to work laying out an outline of how I’d present my information, and she shared with me the outline of the lesson and the outcomes expected from the students. It wasn’t simply to spin, dye, and weave but to also to open up discussion and awareness of what kind of energy goes into creating something and awareness of overconsumption and the greater effects of our throw away culture, with some good old Math, English and Chemistry mixed in for good measure.
We spaced the course out over the month of March, having only four 3-hour sessions to get it all taught! Our first day consisted of creating our own drop spindles, and learning about fibre and how to spin. The kids took to it very well! They were off spinning on their own quickly.
Our second day we took a quick look at industry standards, discussed the mechanization of the textile industry and mixed up our dye stuffs in preparation for our 3rd day, which was Dye Day!!
On dye day, the students were able to choose the type of dying they were going to do. I gave them the choice of a pot dye or hand painting their yarns and they pretty much split themselves in half. We ended up with shades of blue, and a few variegated skeins. While the dye was being heated I showed the kids a raw fleece and walked them through the whole process from shearing to finished product.
Our last day was the day the kids learned about weaving their own yarns into tapestries or placemats. I do believe they did brilliantly! Once we wrapped the whole class up, the teacher put together an awesome mural, and is placing the kids work around town with explanations of the work we did.
As this was my first experience with this type of thing, I looked to the Sask Arts Board for help with the finer, more business oriented details that an artist needs to have in place for working with just about any business or school. Jay Kimball (Sask Arts Board Program Consultant, and also an SCC member) was wonderful help, and I probably would have floundered without his assistance. It was definitely a wonderful experience, and one I hope to repeat!
Check out this video for another look into Kara’s time working at Goodsoil Central School.