Thursday, September 17, 2009

Spinny-Weavy type alert!!

I wish that I had the time to take this in. Just to find out about primitive technology if nothing else. My wife and a friend of hers is going down Sunday. This is one of the finest fairs that you will ever attend. It's not your average, "If you've seen one, you've seen them all" fairs. It is truly unique.
The following is from the Ukiah Daily Journal:
Primitive Technology at the County Fair
The Mendocino County Fair and Apple Show opens Friday, and concurrently, the California Wool and Fiber Festival is held at the Boonville Fairgrounds, in the Commercial Building.
Considered one of the nation's premier fiber festivals, fair attendees have the opportunity to take classes and observe demonstrations by wool and fiber artists. Tamara Wilder- a "primitive technologist" and educator who has been teaching ancient living skills for the past 20 years, will be offering a class in knotted net making on Friday, from 1 to 4 p.m.
While attending UC Santa Cruz, Wilder met Steven Edholm, her life partner, who shared her interests and was deeply inspired by naturalist Eustace Conway - the subject of Elizabeth Gilbert's acclaimed biography, "The Last American Man."
The couple found a mentor in renowned ethnobotanist and basketmaker Margaret Mathewson, whose post-doctoral fellowship at the Smithsonian Institute focused on traditional western fiber arts. Through their association, Wilder and Edholm discovered primitive living skills and embarked upon their life's work.
"We were young and fortunate to be living on 300 acres of open land," explains Wilder, and because of their access to the wild, their skills grew exponentially. They began assisting at primitive living workshops.
Primitive technology consists of the first techniques used by humans to assist them with comfort and survival. Using materials found in their
environment, early humans developed skills which form the basis of modern life.
"People who lived 20 to 30 thousand years ago were virtually identical to us," explains Wilder. "We still have the same basic needs - air, water, food, shelter, clothing, energy or fire, and each other. The difference today is that we fulfill these needs by having others provide these resources for us."
Early peoples, says Wilder, would easily survive in today's world. When she teaches elementary school students, she asks what their chances of survival would be if they were teleported back to the Ice Age.
Wilder and Edholm traveled for many years and settled in Mendocino County in 1996. They became expert tanners and wrote what is considered the definitive book on home tanning entitled "Buckskin: The Ancient Art of Braintanning." The couple has been featured on the History Channel's Modern Marvels program demonstrating braintanning, and offers a range of hands-on courses teaching the slaughtering and processing of small animals, creating hides and utilizing an entire carcass to make utilitarian items.
One of the couple's most rewarding projects has been the creation of a school program which introduces children to primitive technologies and helps them understand how ancient people lived. Students are given opportunities to make string from native fibers and try their hand at hunting using rabbit sticks, hand spears, spear-throwers and the bow and arrow. Fire making with a wooden hand drill is demonstrated, and students grind and drill their own soapstone beads.
"The program hits every discipline," says Wilder. "I explain how early peoples used their brains and hands instead of fur and claws for survival. The hunter/gatherer is a universal heritage from our ancestors. I tell students they would not be here today if their ancestors weren't good at these skills."
Learning primitive technology takes time and patience. "This is challenging, hard work that requires intelligent thinking. Thirty thousand years ago, people were very smart," Wilder says.
Wilder sees children demonstrate natural affinities for a tool or skill. "I was teaching students how to throw the rabbit stick. I kept hearing this thunk' and a student ran over to me and said he'd hit the target 15 times in a row. He said to me, This is my tool.'"
Wilder is impressed at the impact the program has on students. "This work hits kids deeply," she said. "They actually ask me if this is real." She ran into one of her students leaving for college. He told her he still had his soapstone necklace he made in the sixth grade.
Wilder's program is presented at Oak Manor School, the Waldorf School of Mendocino County and La Vida Charter School. Other adult workshops include making paint from earth pigments and primitive living skills overviews. Their website features many free downloadable articles, a retail tool and book section, workshop schedules and photos from their museum exhibits and replications.
Friday's workshop will focus on creating a basic, knotted net using cotton twine, a netting shuttle and measure. Net making exists in every culture- for fishing, hammocks, capes, hairnets and more. "People figured out how to loop string together independently, all over the world," Wilder said.
Wilder expertly twists and splices fibrous strands of dogbane, gathered from a Santa Rosa field where people have been collecting the plant for 5,000 years. Using a motion every child understands, she rolls the separate fibers back and forth against her thigh- and almost magically, produces a strong piece of string.
Crediting partner Steven- who is the driving force behind the research and structural components of their workshops, Wilder happily passes this nearly forgotten wisdom to the next generation. "By learning and practicing these ancient skills, we keep in touch with our roots, our independence and our place in the natural world."
For information visit or phone (707) 391-8683.


Aunt Janet said...

Thanks for this entry, Ernie. Tamara is a terrific teacher! I want to hire her to teach for a day out on our farm. I believe she will also be in Redway for the Natural Fiber Fair, first weekend in October. What a wonderful glimpse into historical crafting.

I'm sorry I gave you the "Spinny-Weavy epitaph. A respectful, "Primitive Technology" title would have been more appropriate.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Janis said that she has taken classes from Tamara, and that they are very interesting.

They maybe should call it "Early Technology". Some of the knowledge that ALL the early people had was amazing.

Who knows nowadays that a bracken fern has two very strong stings in the stem?

Ekovox said...

Janet, if this fair is like the display at the Humboldt County fair only magnified by 100, it is a doozy of an event. Have a good show!

suzy blah blah said...

There is evidence to suggest that in ancient times weaving was a religious ceremony similar to mask making.

Ben said...

Tamara Wilder was at the Boonville Fair today (Sunday) and I scored some more roasted pepperwood nuts. Definitely a little buzz in those. Indian coffee? She had an amazing display of woodcraft and essential books and, as Janet mentioned, she will be at the Redway Natural Fiber Fair on the first weekend in October. Don't miss it! I'm going to try to learn how to make fire with a stick.

Ernie Branscomb said...

I can do that over the internet for you.

1- Take a stick.
2- Wrap a soft string around it
3- Take another stick
4- Stretch a string end to end
5- Take more sticks
6- stack them in a loose pile
7- Soak the strings in lighter fluid.
8- light them with your Bic lighter

Actually most people can start a fire "Indian Style" when you don't need one. The real trick is to get a fire started, in the dead of a wet winter, when you really need one to survive.

Ben said...

Ernie... Remember the Jack London story "Fire"? We read it in junior high and it scared the whatever out of us. At least it did me.

Anonymous said...

You make me laugh Ernie. I am sure it is harder to start a fire when you need one. My works of art was in Southeast Alaska. A friend of mine had a 14 ft. skiff we would take it deer hunting and we would get as far as 25 miles from the closest road and sometimes in marginal weather. After stumbling through the wet devils club for a few hours we were wet and COLD.
I found out that 5 gallons of outboard mix and 3 road flairs was not enough to get a fire going,,, after the fuel and flairs burned out.
I know y'all are wondering what I was doing with road flairs and no roads huh? Well the time before when we went hunting we only had outboard mix.


Anonymous said...

Oregon. I can only imagine lol. Jazzuz, hope you took something along to keep you warm.

Anonymous said...

Ern. 9/21 9:44
Is that the recipe we can follow for survival? Oh, I know, I'll take my hairdryer along so I can make some nice dry sticks, lol.

Anonymous said...

Tomorrow, Sunday, at 1:00 Tamara will be giving her info packed lecture. I was very impressed today by her presentation and obvious experience and expertise.

She is doing some work in Covelo, I instantly thought of Penny and the Laytonville schools.?