BaaahhhIG Things Happening
Updated: Mar 18, 2022
A few years ago, I became interested in the wide variety of fibre we were growing on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands. I wanted to know what I could use in my own weaving practice that was grown locally. What I discovered was amazing. We have a huge variety of breed specific fibre and the potential for so much more.
I heard about the fibershed (https://fibershed.org/) movement that was started in California by Rebecca Burgess and found we had a local fibreshed network (http://vancouverislandfibreshed.ca/) and when I checked out what they were doing I instantly wanted to get involved. I got in touch right away and have been working with an amazing network of people here on the Island ever since. Covid slowed down progress for a while, but we are back to work, getting more educational workshops going again and trying to grow the local awareness around fibre processing, renewable practices, and soil regeneration. There has also been a Cross Canada network forming to compile resources and help grow the fibreshed movement across the country.
In the past the VIfibreshed put together an online local producer directory but they ran into some issues with getting commitment and the project came to a stand still. As a maker looking for the local fibre this intrigued me.
I wanted to contribute. With my background in creative writing and publishing I couldn’t help but want to feature all the Islands amazing fibre in a tangible book. I felt a project like this could be my way of helping to grow the connection between farmers and makers and support the growth of our fibreshed in a way I knew how.
I dreamed of holding a glossy, full colour coffee table style book packed with gorgeous images of our fibre animals and plants, the amazing farmers and producers working with them and regionally specific information to accompany the images. The idea wouldn’t leave me, and signs began to pop up everywhere: my son brought home a fleece to fibre project from his kindergarten class, I would see fibre animals on every drive that I hadn’t noticed before, family members and friends who didn’t know what I was working on would send me fibre related posts and videos. Everything felt like it was telling me to go in the direction of this project.
I decided to heed the signs and start the book. I quickly realized that it could take many directions. It is a community-based book and there for I needed to figure out how it wanted to be in the world. I did the base of the research, finding farms and breed specific information and then felt like I needed some motivation, or maybe a confidence boost. Impostor syndrome has gotten me down a few times along the way. I am a writer and fibre artist, but I don’t raise fibre animals, so sometimes it feels like I am out of my wheelhouse. But one thing I have learned from working with the fibreshed movement and farmers is that if we want our local fibre economy to grow, we need to have all levels of interest involved. Not all farmers have the time to process the product, market the product, start fibre related businesses, write the fibre books, run fibre workshops. It takes the makers, the marketers, the designers, the teachers, the writers, the businesspeople, the wearers of clothes, to all get involved.
I decided I would apply for a Research and Creation grant through the Canada Council for the Arts. I thought if I could secure myself a grant then I would be able to harness my confidence and really finish the book.
Well, at the end of February my grant was approved. I couldn’t freakin believe it! Looking back from here, this project has felt like a natural path that some force is pushing me along. All I can do is continue to ride the flow (when its flowing) and be grateful. I never thought this would be the first book I would write but it’s taken hold and it won’t let go. So now I’ve got a year to finish the final leg of my research.
I have a list of over 70 farms across the Island and Gulf Islands that are growing some sort of fibre either from sheep, goats, llamas, alpacas, rabbits, or cellulose based. And I know there are many, many more. I need the word to spread. Anyone who is producing some sort of fibre on the Island that wants to be included in this project can get in touch.
I’ve already contacted a small number of farms and they have allowed me to photograph their animals and write a highlight paragraph about their farm and what they are doing in terms of fibre and regenerative practices. I am hoping in the next few months to continue connecting with farmers and meeting their fibre animals and plants.
I plan to chronicle the remaining research and creation through this blog. I know there will be many ups and downs before we are holding that tangible book, but I would like to take you along on some of the ebbs and flows of the journey. I don’t want to put any more pressure on myself. I want this blog to be a fun way for me to stretch my voice and share some local fibre knowledge. It’s not going to be anything regular, but I hope you’ll enjoy what I share when I do. Wish me luck as I enthusiastically slog ahead!!