Sunday, August 24, 2008

a new obsession, straw braiding

You can tell I'm busy when the length between posts increases. I'm trying hard to not panic. I have seven stores due in 2 weeks, plus the etsy orders keep coming. I keep trying to remind myself that this a good problem to have. I work constantly. Anywhere I go I bring ribbon with me to sew flowers. I have one woman who is helping me and she is amazing, but I could seriously use more help even if it's just for cutting hang tags. As you can see in the photos, I am spending a lot of time making the same thing over and over again. Strangely, I enjoy this, but it gets pretty exciting when I get to change colours.
Yesterday was our wedding anniversary. We went to this wonderful farm museum called New Ross Farm where they recreate life on the farm in the 1800's. I had read that they were having a yellow birch hat making demonstration. There wasn't that much in it for Tony, but that's the kind of guy he is. Well, in actuality Tony really liked the old plows and the sampling of fresh churned butter and Dusty was quite taken with the pigs, cows and horses. I, however, didn't see any of this because I was braiding yellow birch sheens. It was incredible. First the log is soaked in a pond, river or bathtub, then the bark is stripped and then you go at it, whittling away with your knife. You have to get pretty well into the log before you start getting long enough strips for braiding and you can't cheat by sawing into it first. For some reason it won't work. Then you soak the strips and start braiding.
I wish I could describe why this all makes me so happy. It's just so darn satisfying. The estimated time to complete a hat is 100 hours. Sure makes you appreciate all the unseen labour that goes into that made in China straw braid hat on your head. There is no machine that does this. One of the things that's so amazing is that you can't find a lot of interesting straw braids anymore. When the millinery trade was in it's hey day, there were all kinds of beautiful braids available, but what is mostly available now is raffia and artificial straw and the braiding is very standard. I would love to be able to recreate the braids of days gone by. Well, Tony's comment to me was, Oh Boy, Here's a whole new way to lose money. It's true I'm so attracted to things that have no connection to income. I guess it's the plight of every artist and craftsperson. How to find the balance between art and making a living.
So, Tony did go out this morning scavenging for yellow birch and he found it. I guess there will soon be birch logs in my bathtub.

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