Sunday, July 3, 2011

Course reflection, by Liz

At times life may not be all that stressful. Then there are the days when you don’t want to get out of bed. Farmstead arts is one of those classes that you want to get up for because you know that you are going to be learning a new craft, or outlet for stress and creativity. The course is not full of lab reports and reading. You work with your hands and create novelty items, foods and salves (among other specifics). Most of these items are used completely free of any harmful or toxic chemicals, making them environmentally friendly and suiting the conservation ecology degree I am going for.

Learning how to use different locally harvested fiber sources for baskets and paper was a great way to get in touch with the land and create a sustainable product from a renewable resource. When you feel the muscles ache in your arms from pounding black ash logs and harbor your stress into making each strip of weaving material perfect you turn negative energy into something positive, like a basket.

Some classes may not be so clear to some people why they are important but by the time you finish you realize that the skills you gained and the lessons learned in taking time to create something you are proud of and focusing on a goal can be very rewarding. Many other students do not yet have a child and have not gone through the few weeks where its sheer paranoia over everything that could potentially harm them. This class gives an introduction into safe products for babies and children.

The salve that we made in class is great to use on chapped knees of a baby just learning to crawl and walk. The dyes are made from natural sources so the leaching of chemicals into skin isn’t a worry. The process of dehydrating is a lifesaver when you need snacks for on the go. Drying fruit and mixing it in with some cheerios or whatever trail mix you create is a great way to make the food go farther and satisfy the sweet tooth in a healthier way.

There is no doubt that the skills I gained in this class with stick with me throughout my life. There have also been seeds planted for further study and exploration. These sorts of introductory classes get your mind reeling and your eyes are opened to many possibilities of value added products, healthier options and sustainable alternatives.

--posted on behalf of Liz--

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Dems some shiny rocks!

I had so much fun working with the lapidary equipment! I had been doing the wire wrapping in finished stones, but actually getting to polish the stones was so much fun! I'm going to work on more gravel and wrap it, maybe sell it at the farmers market. Its amazing what a grubby stone can turn into! I also thought it would be really difficult and complicated, but the swap top machine was sooo easy to use! I hope I get the chance to play with it more!

Natural dyes

WOAD! I wanted to experiment with the smelly bucket of woad, but I didn't out of consideration for other's sense of smell. Ive always been curious about woad and its use by the Picts, and I want to learn more about it. I knew that woad was used to dye the skin and was used in actual tattoos, but I was unaware that it could be used on fabric. I also was under the impression that the plant used in the dye had become extinct...but the bucket of pigment and urine proved me wrong. I was also interested in indigo, my theme here seems to be some point I hope to dye my comforter blue, but I think I need to consult more with Jody and read more before I try anything

Friday, July 1, 2011

Turning gravel to gems

This was perhaps the activity I had been looking forward to most this class. I got turned on to lapidary arts by Jody when she was experimenting over break, and definitely see myself pursuing this activity in the future, weather for hobby, use or sale. I was able to cut a limestone embedded with  layers of quartz to three pieces. one piece i shaped and buffed to make a pendant for a necklace, another i am trying to shape into a stamp. There are so many different applications, both ornamental and practical, my head is teaming with ideas. I also like a lot that you only need one machine to really use all the different shaping and buffing tools, so both cost and clutter are kept low. The really great thing is that the resource itself, the rocks, are both abundant and individually unique, so you can get a very high value out of a free commodity that requires no effort or investment in producing.

Again with this craft there is a lot of science to consider, and the composition and hardness of the stone will determine how easily it will be manipulated. I was surprised at how easily and quickly the stones were shaved down and reduced in size. You really need to be careful not to overdo the shaping and lose too much mass. I started experimenting with the carving tools and they do take time to adjust to too, but luckily if it doesn't work i can just shave off a piece and start over.

This was our last farmstead arts class. Through the semester we not only learned how to create specific things, but learned to expand our minds and look at everything around us in a different light. weeds are not longer an annoyance, but potential paper or dyes; orange peels are not only compost, but can be used for essential oils; trees and their bark are baskets, and pebbles are jewels. I am eager to find other things that seem insignificant and can be converted to useful and beautiful objects! Thank you to Jody and to all my class mates for an amazing experience of learning, growing and fun!