The real primordial grit of the landscape remains in the material as it is transformed, as it is used by other hands, and the material's identity becomes part of a narrative about our experiences in our lived in places.
I tramped through the snow on a Saturday morning to our little blue car. I was with my family in full winter coats, bundled up shoulder to shoulder. Myself, my husband Brady, Tanner and Tushar, his brothers, and Oakley, Tanner’s girlfriend. I had convinced them to come along as I excitedly talked about where we were going. We were all curious. I knew this was an experience I would want to share. As an artist and a teacher, I was already feeling a synthesis of fun emotions cradled by excitement. We are on the way to Koosharem to visit Wild Clover Fiber Mill run by the Allan family.
My mind wandered in anticipation as we floated through the landscape. The bright white and gold plains landscape shouted speckles in the morning sunshine. I always feel taken with the visceral colors and textures in our pocket of the world, the real primordial grit of the landscape. We arrived at the mill greeted by two bouncy, happy dogs and Troy. Annette came out in a crocheted hat she had made and introduced us with a big smile to “the girls” (the sheep!) huddled together in cloud piled heaps with playful eyes, watching us from their sunny hangout spot.
I stepped up into the mill and inhaled deeply the smell of the wool, and those rich earthy grasses, full-bodied…slightly sweet? Spicy? Animal-y? Racks of different types of wool-lined the front room. Shades of fluffy cream and brown. Concoctions in pots of different coloring experiments were along the wall. Yarn samples lined a rack with curated care. The yarns are beautiful! You can feel the texture of them just by looking at them.
The Allans have a goal to be sustainable and cyclical with their practices. Their process has intentionality and care. We walked into the main mill area. There were blue bizarre machines. Each serving a purpose in the making process. The material we used was produced handsomely, softly, and slowly coming together in a rhythmic way. As we were working together, I became engrossed in the nuances of not only the process, but the feeling of connection I felt with the space I was in, and the materials I was working with.
As we were working together, I became engrossed in the nuances of not only the process, but the feeling of connection I felt with the space I was in, and the materials I was working with.
The bright tufts, earthy smells, and careful process of removing tangled parts of dead plants and collected dirt instantly connected me to the landscape we drove through to get here. I was using my hands to transform something with intention and care, in a way that does not ruin its original nature. The real primordial grit of the landscape remains in the material as it is transformed, as it is used by other hands, and the material's identity becomes part of a narrative about our experiences in our lived in places. With so many forms of disconnection in our modern lives, this process offered me something palatable.
The Allans are nurturing a resonance: they are helping to weave together a culture of creative ownership and creative freedom vibrating within their community. You can feel it, smell it, touch it. They are sharing with people a sense of belonging to the space in which we live - the land, and to each other. Lucy Lippard puts it perfectly in her book The Lure of the Local, “If space is where culture is lived, then place is the result of their union.”