Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Some dear friends invited my wife and I to join them on a camping and fly-fishing trip to Chilean Patagonia.  I had JUST learned needle felting and was obsessed with it, but was glad to set it aside for an adventure (of the unknown, because I knew NOTHING about Patagonia.)

The vast, empty landscapes in the southern part of the country were really inspiring, in part because of their sheer beauty, and in part because of their lack of wildlife.  I kept thinking it would be completely unsurprising if a dinosaur stepped out from behind a mountain, or if Cthulhu himself arose from one of the deep, blue lakes.  It was hear that I first started feeling like crafting fantastical creatures, and for whatever reason (I'm not even especially a Lovecraft fan) Cthulhu was the first creature I was certain I wanted to attempt making when we got home.  (Unbeknown to me at the time was that the Great Old One was apparently gripping the imagination of many Bay Area artists.) 

There were a few actual creatures living in Chile (not just my projected monsters), even in Patagonia:  SHEEP!  Again, ignorant  me, I had no idea.  Near Coyhaique we camped on a farm, and got to watch some sheep get sheered the old fashioned way, with a pair of big scissors.  And when we made it all the way down to Tortel in southern Patagonia (a swampy little fishing village that might be the cutest place on earth) we discovered a lady selling uncarded raw wool, dyed with plant dyes taken from her garden.  I bought as much as I could and brought it home with me.

When I started playing with this kind of wool, raw, uncombed, with all the whorls and personality of the sheep still intact, it was actually a revelation to my creative process. Previously, I had only worked with processed wool roving (which I still use for many kinds of projects) but there was something about the raw wool that suggested to me an idea I'd encountered in the De Young Museum's Papua New Guinea exhibit:  certain pieces called "Imunu" which are spirits the shaman/artist doesn't so much create, but finds residing in the medium (wood, traditionally) and "enhances" or makes visible.

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