Today I attended a conference on the economics and culture(s) of wool. It was an interesting array of people assembled - from Jamiesons and Smiths' Oliver Henry via New Lanark's Aynsley Gough to environmental artist Kate Foster's explorations of sheepscapes. I had been invited by organiser Marina Moskowitz and interestingly I found myself spanning several areas as an (ex-)academic, as an educator, as a designer, as a retailer and as a consumer. It was quite a ... position. We dealt with various issues throughout the day. What was/is the reality of sheep farming in Scotland past and present? How does the Scottish landscape inform our decisions regarding production and consumption? What is "heritage"? What is the reality of working within the wool industry? What does "wool" mean?
I have previously worked with The Wool Marketing Board so some aspects of today were familiar to me (i.e. how does the wool get from the sheep on the field into your yarn stash?) but I was really struck by other aspects. Kate Foster's work was deeply thought-provoking - not only was she the only speaker to talk about sheep as actual animals rather than products but she also engaged with the changing Scottish landscape and asked troubling questions about authenticity and identity.
I did not get a chance to speak with Kate, but I hope she will be back. The idea of my little knitting project coming from continual acts of violence is very unsettling.
Other topics we explored: 'locality' and negotiations of space/place; actual socio-economic implications of handknitting; textiles as identity-making; and the future of textiles within Scotland.
It was a hugely rewarding day. I came to it with a cold and a fair bit of apprehension (it has been years since I last did anything vaguely academic) but I left feeling re-charged and inspired. Maybe this knitting life of mine does have an over-arching narrative despite my misgivings.
(Apologies for the lack of photos. I meant to bring my camera and show you some of the beautiful Jamieson & Smith samples, but I forgot it at home (along with my purse and my tissues). You can always knit them in your head.)
I do want to know: when you think about Scottish knitting, what do you think of?
You can find more blogs participating in the Knitting & Crochet Blog Week by googling 3KCBWDAY5. If you have come here as part of the Knitting & Crochet Blog Week, thank you for visiting. I'll still be here once this week is over and I'm usually blogging about arts, books, films, language besides all the craft stuff. Do stick around.