Monday, October 4, 2010

Reunion, Renewal and Recharge

Every other year in the fall, Sievers School of Fiber Arts hosts a reunion. Students, faculty, family members, islanders and visitors get together for a weekend to reconnect, recharge, and get a fiber inspiration boost. The 2010 Gathering was last weekend. If you weren't able to be there, let me see if I can share the essence of the event. I hope some of its positive energy transfers to you, and you're not too jealous of my tremendous haul at the garage sale.

I started going to Gatherings in 1996 and have made it to maybe all but one since. While Bill has taught at Sievers (rustic furniture) and gone as a student (printing and dyeing fabric), this is only the second time he's been able to go to the Gathering. We were both looking forward to seeing friends and enjoying all the special events.

Most years there are workshops on Friday afternoon. One year I took Anita Luvera Mayer's Mud Pies for Adults class. One year I took Stephanie Lewis Robertson's workshop on Thermofax screen printing. This year I taught Local Color Jewelry. My voice held out through the afternoon as nine students got an introduction to the possibilities of using inkjet heat transfers to make pins, bracelets and other jewelry. In addition to Island images I shot on other trips to the Island, we also printed transfer paper with a photo I took Friday of the vines on Tomson Hall in their early-autumn splendor. We cut that transfer paper into bracelet-size strips that made lovely abstract elements for a project they can do on their own to truly capture the Local Color of a Gathering weekend.

The Friday night program was by Mary Jo Scandin, a Sievers instructor since 1982. It was a treat not only to see images of the work she's done in batik and silk painting, but also to hear the stories behind the pieces. My only disappointment of the weekend is that I got distracted and didn't get to look at Mary Jo's fabric books after the program. I'll save the story of how Mary Jo sparked Bill's fascination with silk painting for another day. For now I'll just say she inspired both of us and many others on Friday night!

On Saturday morning, we hit the Sievers fiber art garage sale as soon as it opened. People donate books, tools, yarn, fabric and more. Proceeds from the sale go to benefit different organizations, so you can feel really good about donating items to the sale and buy stuff at the sale. This year, the money raised is going to the Red Barn Theater, the Washington Island Rec Center, and the Island Players' Dramatic Arts In Education program. I was too busy buying to take pictures, but here's what I got:

  • a big bag of angora to spin for $10
  • a big bag of mohair locks for $2
  • two bags of wool roving
  • two drop spindles
  • a set of circular needles
  • a bag of lovely cotton yarn
  • a bundle of wool fabric
  • three books
  • a pile of knitting and spinning magazines
  • and a set of Louet hand carders and a case of gift amnesia. I'll act surprised when these show up under the Christmas tree, but I might not wait to use them.
After stashing my loot in the car, we picked up a few things at the Sievers Shop, where yarns were 30 to 50 percent off the regular price, and visited the vendors, who were set up in the Sophie Studio. I got some silk caps and extra bobbins for my spinning wheel from Kathi Cascio of Apple Hollow Fibers in Sturgeon Bay. Patty Brooking from Izora's Beads in Fish Creek had some irresistible seed beads and findings. I fingered every one of the beautiful handspun yarns made by Cindy Ellenenbecker of Bleating Heart Haven in New Holstein. (I totally spaced out on taking pictures, and wish I could show you the vest she was wearing -- sorry!). Bill and I kept up our strength for shopping by splitting a pumpkin cupcake from Island Bread Company and brought home a loaf of their naturally leavened, brick oven baked whole wheat sourdough bread -- yum. (Bill also got the last 5 chocolate-chocolate chip cookies a little later.)

During the Gathering, there's always a display of work students bring to show and share. After shopping, we oohed and aahed over the exhibit and (you guessed it) I added those inspirations to the stew of ideas that's simmering in my head.

On Saturday, there are usually demonstrations in the morning and afternoon in the Walter Studio. I've learned a ton from the demos over the years. That's where I first saw an auto-lift iron, and a costumed historic reenactor making traditional willow baskets. This year, I did a demo on digital fabric on Saturday afternoon. Here's a PDF copy of the Digital Fabric Powerpoint program I had running during my demo. I forgot to ask Bill to take pictures for me during the demo. He was too busy anyway over at Kathy Sorensen's table doing silk painting with Color Hue dyes.

After my demo, I packed up my stuff and we scurried over to Tomson Hall for Mary Sue Fenner's Trunk Show. Mary Sue is the first teacher hired by Sievers founder Walter Schutz, and has taught every one of the school's 31 years.

Mary Sue brought 98 jackets, made over the course of 35 years (maybe longer?). Each chair in the studio was draped with one of her creations. I didn't get to see it before people arrived, but Mary Sue gave me permission to share one of her photos:

Mary Sue Fenner's 98 Jackets
As she described jackets -- many handwoven, some felted, many hand-dyed, some constructed from commercial fabrics, many with matching scarves and accessories -- items were passed around and we could see them inside and out. Members of the audience became impromptu models. No one ducked out the back door with a piece or two, although I'm not the only one who was tempted. It was an amazing body of work, and I can't wait to play with ideas it inspired.

After Mary Sue's program, there were drawings for door prizes (I won a pine yarn crate). Winners of the Student Fiber Work Viewer's Choice award were awarded. And winning bids for Silent Auction items were announced: I got a beautiful pair of merino-and-silk fingerless mitts knit by Sievers' Carolyn Foss. Mary Sue Fenner snuck in a bid while I was demonstrating and beat me out of a pair of mittens knit by Sievers' Ann Young.

After picking up prizes, we drove over to Trinity Lutheran Church for a chance to sit down and visit with friends, eat a lovely meal, and enjoy a musical program by Sievers' own Cindra Hokkanen and Dan Hansen, program director of the Red Barn Theater. Cindra and Dan used the Sievers 30th Anniversary cookbook to inspire their set list -- a celebration of food and beverages. A Nancy Sinatra tune, "Summer Wine," is one of my new favorites. You might be surprised (or maybe not) by how many people spontaneously sang along with "On Top Of Spaghetti". The hands-down favorite was a new tune called (I think) "The Recipe" by Wisconsin folk singers Lou and Peter Berryman that captures the zany essence of multi-tasking. It was hard to control the laughter, but we didn't want to miss any of the lyrics!

I've made many friends at Sievers over the years, and love having a chance to catch up with some of them at The Gathering. We were able to visit  with old friends and new friends over the Captain's Platter (fresh lawyers and whitefish livers) at K.K.Fiske, breakfast at Sunset Resort (Icelandic pancakes filled with cream and yogurt and topped with cherries), and scones at the Red Cup. We snatched a few moments to spend with Ann & Butch, Cindra, Carolyn, Connie and Kathleen -- the team that keeps everything running smoothly at Sievers so teachers can concentrate on teaching and students can relax and enjoy learning.

It always goes by too fast, and there's never quite enough time to visit with everyone. I'm still being careful with my voice and didn't get to talk to nearly everyone I wanted to catch up with. But it was good to see them all, and I look forward to next time.

In the meantime, special thanks to all who sent healing energy my way. It really helped, and I'm very grateful! I hope you're also getting a recharge that gives you the energy to explore the great ideas rattling around in your head.


  1. Donna what a great time you had at the gathering 2010. I am jealous, I have been there and I know how much fun it can be. I will not miss the next one.

  2. It was a blast. We'll see you at the Gathering next time. But in the meantime -- Midwest Weavers Conference 2011, Northern Wefts. Hancock, Michigan, here we come!


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