Sunday, November 1, 2009

On My Calendar / Bamboo

Yes, it is, and on Ben's. Saturday November 28th is the Marlborough Weavers' End of Year meeting and there's usually plenty of fun things happening but I've never made it; often around that time Ben has to work a few weekends. But this year, he has the previous week and the Monday and Tuesday following off, so I'm coming. I haven't seen my friends since... NO!... when I pitched the Marlborough Weavers blog idea to them in February! Geez, I'd better make up a bag of things to show this year's effort!

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I've been belatedly thinking about the environmental impact of weaving. This, I have to tell you, is one of the reasons why I never took up dyeing (so far). New Zealand and in particular Nelson sun is so strong natural dyes fade so quickly I never seriously contemplated anything but chemical dyes. Plus I have certain ideas of what I want my pieces to look like, and so far I've only come across commercially (so presumably harmfully but not as haphazardly as I would?) made material to enable me to make them at prices I can afford. Read: I haven't seriously looked into the environmental impact as I assume it's going to be very expensive and kind of dull in colors or limited in choices.

But last Sunday Claudia told me the environmental impact of cotton, lots of water and pesticides, and on Friday Ali told me the chemical treatment needed for bamboo and other new fibers concocted from natural material.

I'll tell you one reason I've been reluctant to contemplate bamboo. Traditionally in Japan, bamboo sticks about 6 ft long with one end sliced to an acute angle was a weapon. Women and children used them to practice the martial art of Naginata, a woman's sport. (By the way, Aikido is also a woman's sport in Japan, though it's practiced by both genders in New Zealand.) My mother's generation practiced the bamboo Naginata at school so they can fend of meat-eating (i.e. supposedly far more robust,) American soldiers and even B29s. See here or here.

I know I'm laughing, and so can you, and so are some Japanese blogs, but Japan was a very poor country until surprisingly recent times, somewhere between the '64 Olympics to the manufacture/export era of the 70's or 80's. But being civic minded and responsible, even the monpe-(peasant work trousers)-clad housewives and school girls had to take part in defending the Empire. And back there there would have been a bamboo bosh within walking distance from most homes.

But you can see how I associate bamboo with sharpness and hardness. It has antiseptic qualities and we used it to wrap rice balls, but nowadays you can buy plastic imitations in supermarkets, and I've even seen plastic and other imitation of lunch containers, (think ancient Tupperware). Real bamboo is not as accessible as it used to be, but to wear it as textile sounds too far-fetched for me. Apparently not so in Japan - it's a big hit and even my Mom loves them, and she nearly fell off the chair when I mentioned my picturing her with a bamboo naginata attacking soldiers.

Times change. And quickly. I've definitely been feeling reluctant to keep up with the new in the last few years. In some ways it further pushes me into weaving and old ways of doing things. And again there's that big circle, to use safer, more supposedly natural materials and methods to be kinder to the environment.

I know there are weavers using bamboo, too, now. Have you tried weaving with it?

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