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What I did on my Summer Vacation - August 2003
by Paula J. Vester
Tennessee is just a short and beautiful drive from Atlanta. It is even more beautiful if you wander off the beaten path of I-75 and travel roads that take you through the towns and mountains of North Georgia and Southeastern Tennessee. Four days isn't near long enough and my traveling companions, Kim, Marissa, Kristina and I have decided that next year we need to schedule a week and plan in sight-seeing because there really is quite a lot to see just around Tellico Plains and Sweetwater. Even our short time of letting the girls play in the river was not long enough, we need several afternoons of water play to cool down and unwind after working at the studio.
We arrived on Wednesday and went to find the Arts Center and to find where our Vacation Rental was. It was a two-bedroom brick ranch house over looking the Tellico River along the Scenic Skyway. We unpacked and went in search of groceries and dinner. After dinner we headed to Geri's studio for a planning session and just to see her place.
The Weaving Arts Studio sits on a hill just a couple of blocks from the main street of Tellico Plains. Geri has painted the outside with wonderful designs that just remind me of her. On the front stoop of the building she has a weaving evolving that every person who visits adds something to, and inside is a large room filled with looms, her spinning wheels, books, yarn, fiber, a sitting area, a small room with two beds that she uses for overnight stays and a kitchen. This was to be our workshop for the next 4 days.
Whenever the girls had sometime, they would go outside and weave a little something into the outdoor weaving. It has everything from the parts of a broken video game, parts of an old mixer - beaters and all, yarn, tassels, capice shells, a bird's nest and lots and lots of yarn. It is the coolest thing. I am trying to figure how to make one out at RenFest for kids to weave on. Geri has a box of stuff to weave with, but if kids had brought stuff (as Marissa with her broken video game), they could weave it into the weaving.
Kristina and I may just make one in our back yard, or as I told Kim, I just might make my homeowners association hyperventilate by putting one for all the neighborhood kids to weave on in my front yarn where all those trees are!!!!
Kim got her loom out of the closet (it still had the warp from a Celia Quinn workshop, and the remnants of the shawl we wove at Retreat several years ago) and brought it with us. Her goal is to get back to weaving, so she re-warped what was left on the loom and wove it off, while thinking of a new project that she wanted to put on the loom in time to take it home. She and Geri planned some waffle weave hand towels; Kim thought it would be nice since she has made all those handknit washcloths.
Marissa knew that she wanted to felt. She pretty much just wanted to do the felting the whole time, although papermaking did interest her a little once the pulp was mixed. Marissa has the cutest little "hobbit" outfit for her 18" Laura Ashley Doll (also named Marissa) that she felted herself - using both wet felting and that wonderful machine that Geri bought at Fiber Forum. Kristina also felted a dress for one of her babydolls and embellished it with buttons and machine felted color.
Kris painted a cotton warp with me which we put on an inkle loom. She wove one inkle loom that was already warped and then she and I wove the painted warp. Kristina got pretty good with her edges, while it took me awhile to remember the trick that someone had taught many years ago. My edges were good by the end of the warp.
Every Third Saturday, Tellico Plains has a Street Festival and Geri has a Baby Wolf warped with yarn made from recycled photo canisters that she lets the public weave on. She is using plastic grocery bags, and any other thing she can think of: like broken tape measures or 2-liter bottles. During our visit, Kristina and Marissa wove on it during the lull times. On Saturday, Geri cut their part off and hung it out on her fence - - - - now she only needs 100 more of them to cover the fence so that everyone will know she is up on that hill!
I wanted to make paper and to introduce Kristina to some things I may not have time to show her. I watched and was the un-official photographer. I made paper when it was my turn and even made some felted beads and a felted "snake" of a necklace to sew them onto and decorate with beads.
I made a pouch around a rock and helped Kris weave on the "Family Loom" - - a project where people can bring bits of cloth or yarn and make a small wall hanging to take home and everyone in the family can weave on it. Kris started it, we used leftover bits of her felting, some of my handspun yarn, some rags Kim brought from home, the rags I wove into the rug at RenFest and Marissa took out so that the rug would be wholly hers, some bits of yarns and some beads. It is a great project and now that I know what it is, I can think of several projects Kris and I can do together.
I read and read, made notes, read some more and marveled at the things Geri helped Kristina and Marissa do. Many times when one of the girls said she couldn't do something, Geri said that she was sure they could and if they had trouble after 3 tries, she would help. She taught Marissa, Kristina (and Kim by the way) how to tie a knot in the bottom of a sewing thread, and taught Kristina how to thread a sewing needle. I marveled at the girls' ability to wait their turns and to go back to another weaving project to wait.
We played in the Tellico River and brought home rocks to decorate Kristina's room and to hold papers down on my desk; we ate cinnamon rolls with lemon frosting from the bakery just down the street that were bigger around than a 45 rpm record. (for the younger ones, that is bigger than a cd too), pizza to rival any here and drank an orange milkshake that tasted just like those wonderful orange sherbet/vanilla ice creamsicles I used to love as a kid. Geri took the girls on a walk to one of the many waterfalls along the river. The girls say we MUST go back and see it next year, and by then they will be a year older and ready for new adventures in Tennessee.
Can you tell I had a great time? If anyone is interested in one of these amazing experiences, you can see pictures of our adventures on Geri's website and you can plan your own. Geri is specializing in Inter-generational Workshops and Family Workshops. Grab a sister (I know I am going to think about it), grab your mother, daughter, grand-daughter or son and call Geri. There are campgrounds and lots of cabins to rent all around Tellico Plains. She has contacts with folks who have gardens and organic farms to tour; there historic places to check out. Grab a sister-in-fiber and plan a weekend. I have missed Geri a lot since she moved to Tennessee, but I do not plan to sit around and wait for her to come home all the time. I plan to go visit her; there is a lot to see up there, and just being with Geri gets my creative juices flowing again.