Northern Wilds Magazine

Crafting in Community: Behind the Craft by Caroline Feyling

I was recently attending one of North House’s Friday night community pizza bakes. While eating my wood-fired pizza, I started talking to the man sitting across from me. He had taken a foraging class that day where they learned how to find local edibles—one of them being stinging nettles. This led me to share a fun tidbit about how stinging nettles can be processed into cloth with the same methods that are used to turn flax into linen. He sat through my winding explanation of historical cloth making techniques and when I was done, he gave a single remark that stuck with me: “You don’t have conversations like this everywhere.”

He was right. In our fast-paced lives, it is increasingly rare to sit down with people and share this kind of knowledge. May marks the eighth month of my residency with North House Folk School, and in that time I have met all sorts of highly skilled craftspeople. In being in constant contact with people who have devoted their lives to the pursuit and continuation of craft knowledge, I have become desensitized to just how special that is. All it took was a three-minute conversation about stinging nettles to open my eyes.

I am a weaver and a seamstress. Both are solitary crafts that were traditionally done in community settings. Working in a shared studio space with my fellow residents has given me the opportunity to share my craft with others outside of the context of classes and markets. The ability to celebrate all stages of our work together has been incredibly motivating. The hum of the lathe mixed with the clattering of looms makes for peaceful yet productive background noise. Not to mention that there is always someone to answer the question, “What do you think of this?”

Caroline Feyling is a weaver and a seamstress. | SUBMITTED

It seems to me that the secret sauce to creating community is having your own interests and being invested in others’ interests. I know very little about spoon carving, blacksmithing, and basket weaving; but I have had lengthy conversations about all of these topics, and more, with other craftspeople. I never get tired of seeing other people excited about their work. The dedication and depth of knowledge that people in the North House community have is mind-boggling. And it is even more mind-boggling to think that I am one of these knowledgeable, passionate people.

My fellow residents and I occasionally host small dinner parties. At these gatherings, we always make it a point to use as many handmade objects as possible. Naturally dyed napkins, a handwoven table square, and of course, lots of handmade bowls and spoons. Sometimes our guests can tell who the maker was just by looking at it. At this point it’s almost a party game—step right up for a round of “Who made that?” It’s moments like this that speak to the roots that our little corner of the world has. Friends far and wide, present and absent, all sharing a meal together.

It saddens me to think of leaving this magic world where I can walk up to complete strangers and talk about niche weaving techniques. But the clock is ticking, and come August I will move away from Grand Marais. However, there is comfort in knowing that I will still be part of the North House community despite the distance. Who knows, maybe something I wove will be the subject for a future round of “Who made that?” Either way, I look forward to all the classes, pizza bakes, and conversations you can’t have just anywhere, but that I’ll have on my return trips to Grand Marais.

Caroline Feyling is a textile artist in the Artisan Development program at North House Folk School, where traditional craft is taught on the shore of Lake Superior.

Related posts

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More

Verified by MonsterInsights