The introduction week of Fashion held in Common was generously hosted by Studio Claudy Jongstra and took place at ‘The Kreake’ from August 27th until August 31st.
The Farm of the World is a cultural not-for-profit foundation exploring sustainable futures for people, land and place. The project was initiated by Claudy Jongstra, Claudia Busson and Gitta Luiten and has evolved with the development of ‘The Kreake’, a small farm located in Húns, Friesland. With biodynamic agriculture and food production at its center, the farm operates on a seasonal basis producing vegetables, flowers and natural dye plants for Claudy’s art practice; with the recent introduction/addition of flax production/cultivation http://farmoftheworld.nl/
Monday, 27 August
After a prolonged train trip I arrive at Leeuwarden station. Stepping out of the train, I look around and walk into the station building. There, a guy with a backpack is holding brand new rubber boots and has the distinct look of a stranger. He must be one of us!
“Us” is a group of a dozen something students who are about to spend the coming two years pioneering the ArtEZ Fashion held in Common Master programme. We have arrived from a variety of places in the world (France, Japan, Hungary, China, Germany, Australia, USA, Netherlands) united by a shared quest, of expanding our creative practice into the world with Joy. Joy for ourselves. Joy for others. Joy in the work we bring into the world.
We arrive in Friesland and head towards the Farm of the World to engage in a programme prepared by many caring minds and hands: Pascale, Mark, Claudy, Claudia and many others.
Greeting us is a plump glass teapot in which an artful bouquet of orange flowers and green leaves swim. It looks like an exotic aquarium, made up of flowers and herbs from the farm garden, but the tea tastes good.
The farm is a green oasis with a rustic garden full of vegetables, herbs and flowers growing peacefully next to what would I usually call weeds. Biodynamic gardening is a passion of Claudia and later on she shows us what we can pluck for our meals. Our headquarters is a farm house with a cheerful open kitchen and a spacious dining-meeting-making area. The heart of the space is definitely the wood-stoked oven, which fills the space with warmth and a feeling of home.
“I thought I needed to guide you the whole day long, but after a few moments you all just started working”, Annet sounds surprised. We are makers. We love working with our hands. And who wouldn’t want to handle this wonderful wool?! Well, maybe I am biased. But I discover I am in good company to be thinking this way! We learn to spin: first the old way, with a spindle, just turning and twisting the fibres. Later on we try the spinning wheel. My uneven yarn keeps breaking, but I am determined and after a frustrating hour or two and a tea break my yarn bobbin finally starts growing.
I am in a mobile kitchen hovering above a huge pan in which I am assembling a soup from a recipe that was provided for us by Annet. The “guy with the rubber boots” is next to me, mixing butter and flour for béchamel sauce with cool determination (his first time making bechamel!). Within the main kitchen, chard (green leafy vegetable from the garden) is being washed and cut by a collective – guess how much you need for eighteen people?
After the travel, spinning, building beds, cooking, eating, talking the whole evening in a group of new friends – we are exhausted as we hit our pillows.
Tuesday, 28 August
Still drowsy after a restless night in the tent I drag myself to the headquarters for some meditation. The warmth of the oven embraces me as I join the group of early risers. At breakfast we munch the delicious sourdough bread made by Claudia in this very oven, accompanied by diverse Dutch toppings: cheese, jam and chocolate sprinkles (not all at the same time). Afterwards we jump on the bikes to go to the nearby village – we are to harvest woad today. The trip is refreshing, only not everyone seems to be able to keep up – one classmate lags behind. We slow down and, as he catches up, he tells us he was facetiming with his family in China showing them the Frisian landscape! Sometimes technology does bring us closer together.
The woad plant is the oldest source of blue dye for textiles in Europe. It was almost abandoned for the sake of the Indian indigo, which, in its turn, was replaced by synthetic dyes. The woad looks like spinach and has a fresh green scent. We cut the leaves with knives and collect them in big sacks. If you get woad juice on your hands they turn blue in the air. We also found a bug that turned blue from eating the woad leaves. The wonders of nature!
The afternoon brings more exciting experiences – dancing in vats to smash woad leaves; sculpting the mash into balls for fermentation; dying with fresh woad and indigo; harvesting and heckling flax – enough options for everyone to pick what they like doing most! I stick to spinning wool (finally the yarn starts giving in and going smoother) and observe the vigorous energy around me.
Joined by Claudy and Claudia, we spend a warm and informative evening together.
Wednesday, 29 August
Wednesday morning the headquarters is turned into a bakery – Claudia and a friend are kneading in quiet concentration as we go through our yoga routine. The sourdough “pet”, she was nourishing during the week, has given rise to a multitude of delicious fresh breads!
Today we are going to the studio of Claudy Jongstra – the birth place of enticing felted surfaces, some of which I have seen at the Fries Museum and the Amsterdam Public Library.
We have landed in the textile heaven!
Claudy welcomes us to the felting studio. It is flanked with shelves filled with mainly wool fibers that have been dyed with natural plant materials of madder, woad, onion skins, indigo, marigold and walnut. The warm hues of red, yellow, blue, brown, purple – such earthy grounding colours! We are invited to use anything we can see to make our own felted piece.
Various woolen strands pass through my hands as I eagerly lay them out, arranging and combining, while struggling to focus on just one option out of the myriad of possibilities. Looking up I notice that most of my friends have already started felting: pouring warm soapy water over their piece and rubbing it with their hands. Hmm, perhaps I need to do so as well, there’s not much time. But what an agony it is to make choices! Finally I am pleased with the arrangement and can start rubbing away!
After the magic of the felting studio where the wool yields to warmth and friction we visit the dyeing studio where the wool absorbs the earthy hues of plants. Claudy then tells us about her practice and her story: from the times when she was sniggered at for engaging in something as domestic as felting, through her continuous efforts and collaborations with architects across the ocean, to her autonomous work which found its way to a variety of museums and the Farm of the World where her passion for sustainable living and working can be shared with the local community and beyond.
The afternoon is spent in a village where a potato farmer has collected all kinds of flax-processing machines. His ancestors grew flax, but this valuable fiber source, and the knowledge attached to it has almost disappeared from the Netherlands. With the Linen project [link?] our Fashion held in Common team intends to re-activate small scale production of linen in the Netherlands and other localities.
Pizza party! With fresh dough and an appetizing selection of toppings we each create our own pizzas and bake them in the wood-stoked oven. If you could only smell the delightful scents!
Thursday, 30 August
Today is devoted to linen. We learn that it is incorrect to say “to spin linen”. The source of linen is flax – a plant, which after many laborious steps (rippling, retting, breaking, scutching, hackling) becomes a bunch of thin hair-like fibers. When flax fiber is spun into thread – it becomes linen.
We wrap fine layers of flax fiber around a cone on a distaff (in our case a broomstick) and tie them loosely. First we try to spin with a spindle. While the left hand pulls out some fibers, the right hand keeps turning the spindle, and you also have to moisten the twisted thread every once in a while. It is a challenge to coordinate all these movements, but after a while I notice that I get a hang of it. Having spun wool in the days before helps. It gives me a sense of order and a kind of timelessness, as the repetitive motions carry me on. This goes so well that I am promoted to try the spinning wheel! Again, the technique is a bit different than when spinning wool, but miraculously after some time of muddling, to my own astonishment I am able to spin a thin linen thread!
The day passed by unnoticed. We are having a party with the team of the Farm of the World. Good food and nice conversations round up the day.
Friday, 31 August
I wake up in our tent and cannot fall asleep anymore. It’s our last day here! I decide to take a walk. It’s a gorgeous slightly misty morning, the sun is rising and the cows along the road give me their musing gaze. Beautiful Friesland! A few houses, some trees, a stretch of green fields and water everywhere reflects the blue of the sky.
We spin flax, but after a while turn to weaving. Why, we still need to pack our bags and clean up, and weaving is a slow process! Fortunately, the frames we use for weaving are tiny, so it takes only a few hours to weave a little square.
With the day nearly over, this introduction week comes to an end. We gather around a table. Having met as strangers, we have set up a base for many friendships. There was a lot of care this week. Care for each other, care for the space and materials, care for each others’ time. I feel this care. I feel belonging. I feel we have something in Common.
(by Alya Hessy)