Warp speed indeed. I sit, attempting calm, at the gate in the Manchester NH airport after having discovered (at the TSA check-in) that I LOST MY DRIVER'S LICENSE (!!!) sometime during the week. Either that or I packed it. I could easily have packed it (or left it in the rental car) as I am in an exhausted (but happy) fog after a week of advanced weaving with Tom Jipson at Harrisville Designs. Before I write anything else, I have to say that if there is ANY way I can do this again next year, I will (as will most of my classmates--some of whom were repeaters this time).
Some might think that a week spent in a weaving class would be relaxing, calming and balancing--and for some I'm sure it was. But in my usual fashion I threw myself headlong into the class determined to wring every drop of experience from it that I could, and to push my projects to the limits. For example, for the first project we were asked to weave a color blanket to demonstrate perception of color based on the colors' value and proximity to each other. Harrisville has 64 colors of Shetland wool in production from white to black. The looms we worked on were 22" wide so we could, at most, weave 22 1"-wide samples in the warp and then use all 64 colors for the weft.
We could extend the project by doing it on a 36" wide loom (36 colors max), or we could extend it by weaving a black thread in between all the colors in the warp and in the weft. Guess who was the only one (out of the four advanced students) in the class who did either the 36" or the black boundary. And in the interest of full disclosure, I did both. I finished my color blanket the same day as two of the others did (the fourth advanced student was *really* fast), but where they finished by 4:00 pm on day 2, and only worked until 8:00 at the latest on day 1, I finished at 10:00 pm on day 2 after also working till 10:00 pm on day 1.
I had a guilt-free (no fall-out on others if I failed) opportunity to push everything to the maximum--and, as is so rarely the case, I actually finished every task in the time I allotted myself. Which is not to say I did not occasionally have help. Somehow, no matter where I go, I manage to accrue a village. On Thursday night at 11:00, when it was time to wind a humongous warp onto the loom, four of my fellow students stepped up and helped me get it done. I could not have managed without them that night. Left to my own devices (and tears--there would have been tears) it would have taken the entire next day to get the warp on--leaving me no time at all for weaving it as the class ended (for most) Friday at 4:00.
But enough on pushing limits. This time was good for me on so many levels. I had planned to have a single room as historically I have not shared a room well with others (Todd and Dee at the BMAC and ACRE being the exceptions). However I was so happy with my roommate Charlotte that when the opportunity arose two days into the class to move into a single room, I chose not to.
More than half of the class stayed in the old mill boarding house, me included. The boarding house is a large brick building with the town's one daycare on the first floor, artist studios on the second floor, and several bedrooms, two tiny bathrooms, an eating area and a living room for the students in the attic/third floor. None of the rooms has locks on the door--not even the bathrooms. They, at least, have hooks on the inside, but the bedroom doors don't even have those, and the front doors are never locked. The town is not on the way to anywhere, and the inhabitants' philosophy seems to be, if you locked your doors, how would anyone leave anything for you?
Other peculiarities of the town which greatly add to it's charm are the lack of modern businesses: There are no gas stations, no supermarkets, no fast food restaurants--in fact I'm not sure there are any restaurants. I certainly didn't go to one. There is a General Store/ Cafe that has an eclectic selection of everything including daily specials to take home and reheat for dinner. One day I had a pound of stuffed grape leaves for lunch and dinner (with some soup, bread and wine) and they were delicious. The coffee, pastries, sandwiches, and breakfasts were also wonderful. Even the local post office with it's quirky postmaster (the only person working the window) was an exquisite slice of life from another, slower, more community-focused time.
I could go on and on waxing rhapsodic about Harrisville Designs, the class, the town, the people (new Englanders in general), my classmates, the wool--in short EVERYTHING about the last week, but I am home now, and my family awaits. Today we are all pitching in to clean up the basement. When that's done I will be able to get to my loom again, and maybe I will be able to carve out some time to re-create my experience of wonder here at home. You can read more about Historic Harrisville, a truly innovative model of historic conservation, on their website. And of you ever get the chance to visit, don't hesitate.