Tuesday, March 9, 2010

New projects and old



The responses I've received from the photo of my lovely daughter Katie petting the dead wolf have been odd. First of all, she didn't kill the wolf. It was shot by Alaskan natives. She's an anthropologist conducting an important subsistence survey. I don't know the context for the kill. It's easy to sit in a comfortable armchair and condemn faraway lifestyles few of us know anything about. Americans in general are spoiled by their luxuries and fall easily into the hands of weaselly marketing rhetoric.


Secondly, being able to touch such a creature and feel the texture of its fur is a rare privilege. I deal with fibers daily, animal and vegetable, and the variety of textures are amazing.


I included the photo because I thought it an interesting coincidence that a wolf photo would arrive in my mailbox the week I completed spinning and weaving a wolf/dog hair blanket for a client.


Let's not forget that the earliest clothing in northern climates that humankind donned were animal skins. Arctic natives still use these luxurious furs to keep warm. I guess in the tropics grass skirts would suffice.


We Americans/Europeans have grown used to wearing traditional cotton and linen fibers, then in the last century along came a rash of "man-made" fibers such as rayon (from a wood base), and polyester (from petroleum), but now producers are marketing new "alternative" fibers made from bamboo, seaweed, milk, soybeans, etc. The advertising jargon would lead us to believe these fibers are more environmentally sound because they're renewable (cotton was condemned recently because of the pesticides used in its production--hence the marketing of "organic" cotton), but the reality is that the chemistry used to turn these "new" fibers into yarn may be just as, or even more, damaging to the environment than fur or wool. In my mind, skinning or shearing an animal raised in the wild or in healthy conditions is more "natural" than soaking and retting fibers in harsh chemicals (which are dumped into sewers which eventually make their way into waterways). There is an environmental cost for everything we do.


I love spinning and weaving and use whatever fibers come my way that suit a project, man-made or "natural." My minute two-loom operation has little or no power in the massive fiber markets, and it appears from my observations this past half century that most of the "anti-this-and-that" rhetoric is really just another way to turn our heads from one marketing ploy to another. And, after all, once any fiber has been turned into roving or yarn, it would be wasteful not to use it.

2 comments:

  1. I agree with you, 100% Penelope. Moreover, if people bothered to get into the real world and touch natural things, alive or dead, they would have a far greater understanding of what it means to be human, and the responsibilities that go with the privilege.

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