Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Gail Callahan: Present in One Place

Fleece and fiber festivals reflect the connection between people, animals, and craftsmanship.

Gail Callahan. Photo courtesy of the author
The colors, smells, and air of excitement drive my love of fiber festivals, and the energy of combined passions gets my creative juices going. Every aspect involved in the process of making fiber is present in one place, each connected to and supporting the other, together under a warm, dry roof: farmers with sheep (and sheep dogs), spinners with fiber, dyers with yarn — the list goes on.

At festival time, I try to arrive the day before the opening and roam around. Because I am usually attending either as a teacher or a vendor, I know that once the gates open or the classes start, I won’t be able to see anything beyond my own space.

My favorite things to see are the animals with their handlers. The handlers are tender, loving, and eager to answer any questions. At the Massachusetts Sheep & Woolcraft Fair in Cummington, Massachusetts, children sometimes show their animals in costume, charming even the most hardened city visitors. My favorite image is of a girl, dressed up as Little Bo Peep, walking her lamb.

There are surprises at festivals, too, and something for everyone. Though my business name is The Kangaroo Dyer, I would never expect to see a kangaroo amongst the sheep and goats. At the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival, the first animal I saw at the main gate was a kangaroo, with her persistent (and probably too-old) joey trying to get back into her pouch.
Kangaroo and her joey at the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival

Gail Callahan is the author of Hand Dyeing Yarn and Fleece. Find more from Gail on her website and on Facebook.

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