I’ve been meaning to catch up on blogging, but life has its way! Between a bumper crop of raspberries and Marionberries to pick, regular harvesting of our produce, family gatherings, and a lovely hike in the Olympics with friends, I’ve been silent! I hope to remedy this beginning now, with some entries that are retrospective of the past year or three. Thanks for your patience!
I would like to thank the dedicated volunteers and staff at the BARN, that is the Bainbridge Artisans Resource Network, www.bainbridgebarn.org, for inviting me once again to teach the workshop “Cedar From Tree To Pouch”. No matter what venue, every class I am invited to teach seems to bring together exceptional people, all uniquely talented and finely skilled from life experiences. I am grateful for this wonderful weekend in June with these amazing people. Thank you for sharing this precious creative time with me. We all have much to learn from each other about leaving a lighter footprint on this planet.
Here are a few related books I recommended during the workshop, which I promised students I would write down for them for further reading: CEDAR, by Hilary Stewart, UW Press, 1984; THE PEOPLE OF CASCADIA, PACIFIC NORTHWEST NATIVE AMERICAN HISTORY, by Heidi Bohan, 2009; LAB GIRL, by Hope Jahren, 2016; BRAIDING SWEETGRASS, INDIGENOUS WISDOM, SCIENTIFIC KNOWLEDGE, AND THE TEACHINGS OF PLANTS, by Robin Wall Kimmerer, Milkweed, 2013; KEEPING IT LIVING, TRADITIONS OF PLANT USE AND CULTIVATION ON THE NORTHWEST COAST OF NORTH AMERICA, edited by Douglas Deur + Nancy J. Turner, 2005; PLANT TECHNOLOGY OF THE FIRST PEOPLES IN BRITISH COLUMBIA, UBC Press, 1998; THE EARTH’S BLANKET, TRADITIONAL TEACHINGS FOR SUSTAINABLE LIVING, UW Press, 2005.
This is the Western Red Cedar tree that generously became our “teacher” for this class. My husband and I knew there was a likehood that the county tree-trimmers would be obligated to cut this tree in a completely unnatural way to accommodate the power lines above.
Thirty-six years ago, we planted this tree, dreaming of other things at the time. We didn’t know how important the plants would become to us then. My husband and I just liked trees, their greenery, the way the air smelled so fresh around them. Those were enough good reasons to want to plant more trees. And so we did.
Ever since our decision was made last fall for this Cedar tree to be cut down, I’ve been thanking it and apologizing to it almost everyday, for shortening it’s life. And with those apologies I’ve also promised to use it’s bark, and wood, and limbs, with respect, gratitude, and not to waste the opportunity to share some of the teachings that have been generously shared with me about the gifts of Cedar and it’s other plant relatives. Thus the class at BARN was planned at a time when the sap would be rising up the trees of our Salish Sea lowland forests. About the same time the Thimbleberry blooms, or when a person can finally catch the scent of the Wild Rose blossoms on a spring breeze. (Image credit: Leslie Newman)
My sweet husband, Paul, was up early on the first day of class. With his chain saw and an orchard ladder ready, he cut all the limbs from the tree within his reach, and then carefully cut 16″ sections of the trunk which I quickly placed in water, then wrapped in wet towels and plastic bags and loaded into the car. Sadly no pictures were taken by me on day one of class. We needed to work quickly while the sap layer was still liquid and the bark pliable. Everyone worked hard physically and mentally, removing the bark, stitching up rips or tears, making decisions about how to cut it, and learning how to score, fold, and form the bark into a pouch shape.
Day two, students learned to prep inner cedar bark and weave a multiple braid to strengthen and trim the rim. Here are some images of these amazing students and their work.
Right off I’d like to thank Bridgett, (above, with her creative variations), for being my BARN liaison, ultra helpful to me and to all the students, in every way possible.
Mary, with a fantastic formed pouch.
Stiching is functional but also adds interest.
Time for Betsy to figure out some type of handle.
Cooperative work, yet everyone’s piece(s) look quite different.
Julie pealed a fresh cedar limb for her handle on one of her pouches.
A pouch with a simple rim treatment of a stitched cedar limb hoop and hanger.
Kelly finished assembling one pouch and is preparing to fold another.
Rita, by far the wisest-woman of this group said: “I am learning not to be afraid of the Cedar. I am learning just to trust it.” Thank you Rita!
So many ways to make and attach a handle.
I’m glad Bridgett is still smiling! That diagonal plaiting takes much longer than one might expect when all the inner bark of the Cedar must be carefully trimmed and then divided into thin ribbon-like layers. The Cedar for the braid had been gathered years before, cured, and then resoaked prior to class. But the students had to prepare most of their own materials!
Students made toggle buttons and interesting finishing touches.
Ellen, consentrating on working a beautiful, even weave for trimming her pouch.
Putting all the elements together.
Betsy, almost done!
Jocelyn, bringing it all together in an awesome way.