I do love the southerners. In sharp contrast from where I come from, there are manners, and good old fashioned hospitality, and lots and lots of fried food!
I just finished a two day workshop near Huntsville Alabama, in the northern part of the state, closer to Tennessee than anywhere else, and I was completely charmed by the location and how different the landscape was from up here in NJ.
Flat farmland, and yet hills and wooded areas, river front, and cotton. Lots and lots of cotton. Apparently I hit it just right. When the cotton is mature, and ready for picking, I was told a defoliant was sprayed, which caused all the leaves to drop from the cotton plants, leaving stalks and huge puffs of beautiful cotton. I’m not super thrilled to hear all my cotton clothing, towels, and household textiles started out with a defoliant, but we turn our heads to how a lot of things we take for granted are produced.
Anyway, rain was in the forecast, and since cotton can’t be picked in the rain, obviously, the cotton picker trucks were out in full force driving through the fields “vacuuming” up the cotton boles off the stalks and dumping the full trucks into large containers standing in the fields. It was a pretty cool operation to watch. This is probably something that is so commonplace in areas of the south, but from someone who is not from around these parts, and a textile enthusiast, I thought this was fascinating and beautiful and worth a post.
One of the oddest things I noticed, was that during the picking operation and obvious carting away of the large storage containers, the roads were covered with cotton puffs, making them look like remnants of a snow storm.
My hostess Emily, who formally set the table for every meal, (note to self, I need to start doing that again, what a civil way to live) gave me some cotton plant stalks to bring home to add to my collection of display items for teaching.
We ate in some pretty typical southern establishments like the Greenbrier Restaurant near Decatur, where we could select from dinners “from the pond” and dinners “from the barnyard”. And for really exotic cuisine, dinners “from the seven seas”. Hooray for fried hush puppies, fried catfish and pulled pork!
My workshop ladies were lovely, though the class was small, I had a terrific time with them. I took them on a roller coaster ride, filling them with as much information as I could about garment construction, fit, and handwoven cloth, in the two days we had together. The classroom was housed in an old cotton mill converted to artists’ studios, I wish I had snapped a photo or two of the building, but I loved teaching in a space with so much creative energy.
There was Colleen, who worked tirelessly over the past year setting this workshop up and making it all run smoothly, and Lyna, who makes wicked from scratch yeast rolls from pumpkin and cranberries, and to die for from scratch brownies. Note to self, check out the King Arthur Flour website, the brownies were a KAF recipe.
There was Susan, and her husband, Daniel who is a basket maker and weaver wannabee. Daniel stopped in Sunday morning for a lecture in drafting. Daniel was a quick study, and watching his face as the mystery of four shaft weaving and what that draft with colored boxes meant, was worth the price of admission. He was so grateful he gave me one of his “cobweb” brooms, for sweeping cobwebs from ceiling corners, (I know what I’m doing this morning after I unpack), made from pampas grass, hand twisted and plied yucca, and a bamboo pole. You can see the “broom” in the last photo.
At one point, the class asked for a fashion show. My garments had been hanging on a decorative rack in the corner, but they all wanted to take pictures and see the garments on me, instead of a hanger. It was fun to dress up and show off my pieces, and my lovely hostess Emily shared some of her shots with me.
And so after a change of flights, and a detour through Charlotte, NC (thanks Emily, for waiting in the airport with me for half an hour while all this took place, I’m home. I’ll be teaching again this afternoon at the Newark Museum, and I have some online classes scheduled for the later part of the week on Weavolution (check out the Calendar App on the right side of this page) and then a much needed weekend off.
So here is my class of students from the Huntsville Guild in Alabama, a state I’d return to in a heartbeat, especially during cotton picking season. Check out that cobweb broom!