A spun thread is a thing of energy. Each turn of the spindle is trapped in the fiber, it collapses the chaos of a puff, stills it, stores the turn. The spindle's weight holds the tension, the whorl's inertia carries through assisted occasionally by the flick of fingers, twist upon twist upon twist.

The wool fed to it lengthens the thread and the ever turning spindle lowers to the ground. When spun beyond the thread's capacity to store energy the spindle's whirling slows and the finished thread is raised to be wrapped around the shaft. If the thread is let loose it meets itself with glee, wrapping swiftly into a ply. Playful and new. An active line.

When newly spun and measured into a skein it twists in a hundred places, loopy and wild. Some tame it with hot water and soap, but sometimes it should just be.

Erin Curry spun photograph

*my first wheelspun, merino wool*



Because sometimes between one mess and another I remember to catch the light.


hair sketches

Erin Curry art- hair and whiteout 1

Erin Curry art- hair and whiteout 2
Erin Curry art- hair and whiteout 3
Erin Curry art- hair and whiteout
please click to see larger or go to flickr
each is approximately 2"x3"

A way to preserve the cursive script of hair, to bury and then excavate.

These delicate little sketches proved to be difficult to document, and though unsatisfied with the image on screen (too grey and blue) I still wanted to share.


thread harvest

Erin Curry art- 45 bolls of cotton homegrown April planting of five Upland Cotton seeds.
September harvest of fourty-five bolls.
A boll is made up of four to five sections holding four to eight seeds.
Attached to each seed surface are many many fibers each of which is an outgrowth of a single cell that develops in the surface layer of the seed.
In the beginning the fiber cell elongates to its full length as a thin–walled tube. As it matures, the fiber wall is thickened by deposits of cellulose inside the tube, leaving a hollow area in the center. When the growth period ends the living material dies, and the fiber collapses and twists about its own axis.
Each boll may hold up to 500,000 fibers.

Erin Curry art- cotton bolls homegrownSome prepare all those fibers before spinning by removing the seeds one by one and combing the fibers to roll them into little pencil sized punnis.
With my handspindle I spun directly from the soft seeded mass. The fibers tearing from the seed bit by bit.
What will one boll make?

One spool of course.
Erin Curry art- one boll handspun to one spool Erin Curry art- one boll handspun to one spool detailThe cotton still blooms and a second harvest has nearly arrived.


sheep shear leads to wool gathering (of the serious sort)

Back in April, word of a spring sheep shearing nearby (in Florida!) reached my perked ears. Hands hungry for wool and feet inclined to go, I followed the directions given to me, and found myself unexpectedly at an 1840's homestead and festival. Fortunately persons with a drop spindle tucked under her arm were welcomed easily. So happily I sat for two days straight to glean from the people around me, as buttermilk biscuits and potato stew was cooked on a wood stove, water pumped, a log shed built, rope coiled, yarn spun, rag rugs and baskets woven, a native shared edible and medicinal plant lore, and there were even a few sheep sheared. Some of the wool even came home with me. My mind is still churning with it.

Gulf Coast Native Sheep are descendants of 1500s Spanish stock that developed into a tough breed resistant to Southeastern heat and internal parasites. As a result they were a favorite of southern homesteaders. Their heads, legs and bellies are bare to keep cool. They are listed on American Livestock Breeds Conservancy’s conservation's priority list as critical which means there are fewer than 200 annual registrations in the United States and estimated global population less than 5000. These days old lambs just added to that list.

things noted:
-wool can be spun unwashed "in the grease" to make waterproof clothing
-one of the fleeces brought home is from the ewe that recently birthed twins, it's significantly greasier than the ram or the other ewe's
-learned to make cordage from daylily leaves and agave, I later tried Spanish moss
-moss was once used to stuff horsehair furniture, and woven into horseblankets during the Civil War
-spanish moss may have use as a dye material (this is still unconfirmed)
-a woman raised angora rabbits that sat in her lap as she plucked hair and spun it on the wheel
-cotton was largely a cash crop for Florida homesteaders to be sold to the northern industries or exported to Britain . For themselves they raised sheep and flax to make clothing.

Perhaps the most striking bit of information:
Making clothing was a three year affair- the first year after the (up to six) sheep were sheared the wool would be skirted (manure laden bits were thrown in the garden for fertilizer) washed and carded and spun (usually with a drop spindle). The second year it was woven. The third year it was made into clothes and embellished. All the while raw wool was piling up in the attic to be processed in the next cycle.

Clothes had value far beyond what they do today. How many shirts and socks have I thrown away because of a small hole worn in the fabric? How easily would I have abandoned it if I spent three years making it? How did waste apply in the three year cycle? I imagine by the time cloth reached the trash pit it had gone from adult clothing, to children's clothing, to quilts, to patches, to rags, to wicks, to nothing but a few thread bits. How does this knowledge explain the divide between the wearer today and the wearer 150 years ago. We live in a culture of extreme wealth and extreme waste. How do I address this in my own life? My hands tell me to make art that addresses these issues while also taking time to darn my socks. Aren't they so very close to the other?

As I sit in my studio making wool thread I wonder if what I am doing is craft or art. What is my definition of craft vs. art? What are the elements that determine Craft or Art? How have they changed in the last 5, 10, 50, 100 years?

I believe what I do with the thread will determine whether or not it will be categorized under "craft" or "fine art". I am not SlowFood, but SlowArt.
I am drawn to the local, doing everything processes; growing my own cotton and flax, learning the local dye plants, and gathering wool from the area are just a part of it. It is the minimal that forces careful re-observation of the complex.


hair again

My collection of my own hair grows.
What will become of it I am unsure.
Strands unleash themselves as my hair is unwound at the end of the day. They are tucked carefully into my notebook or the jar that holds its sisters.
In bathing three or four strands come away in my hands and I twist them wet on the rim of the bathtub.
sweet sensual studies
Looped and twined each strand a story lived though unspoken.
I am tempted to tie them end to end and weave with them
or place them in all the sacred places of my life
or embed each strand on its own page of a book,
a biography of ten thousand separate strands
written in cursive by the body.

Last April while wandering a Civil War period general store, these pieces of hair jewelry caught my eye. Such delicate work was made like bobbin lace, pinned to a pillow weighted on the other end and woven bit by bit. Such work was most popular during the Victorian era as a momento mori, made with the hair of the deceased to be worn in remembrance of them. In the States sometimes it was made or commissioned by a living woman to send with her sweetheart when he went off to war in leiu of a coveted photograph or painted portrait.

I found this article on the taboos and strange practices surrounding hair.



Erin Curry art- Haystack rooftop

In a basket weaving class I found myself making cloth.
Erin Curry art- Haystack studio deskBut oh I became a scientist before I was a weaver. See that tiny weaving in front? It was a study from a washcloth with selvedge on all four sides, beginning with the weaving the tool was created sight unseen but signature present. Study revealed it was woven on a simple frame loom warped in a particular way not like an S but looped in interlocking Os. My little weaving came to be from nails in a board. Erin Curry art- tatting and coiled weavingTried traditional Andros Island-style coiling not with palm but reed and muslin,Erin Curry art- tiny weaving and stones before returning to the simple loom weaving cloth of linen and spanish moss. Erin Curry art- linen and spanish moss weavingErin Curry art- linen and Spanish Moss waeving

Erin Curry art- linen and Spanish Moss weavingHow might spanish moss be when untangled, twisted, tied, corded, partially spun or dipped in ink, wet and wound aroud a stone, or felted in wool? All new vocabulary for new language. Erin Curry art- Spanish moss vocabulary



i voted for hope.
print by f. o. morris


To skin a tree.

At this rate it appears my blog will stand still forever, unless I start rolling now. This election has me frozen and watching, I'm looking forward to next week when perhaps I'll breathe again. Here's a short breath for now.
Erin Curry art- blur of spruce pine At Haystack we were given the chance to prepare bark strips for weaving. One of the maintence men procured a freshly cut spruce pine to use. Using a sharp pocket knife, we scored strips along the bark then pried sections up and running our hands down the moist crevice between the trunk and supple bark to peel it, gently tugging when reaching the base of a branch. The feeling of skinning something freshly dead nestled in my heart and kept my actions aware and careful. My hands were soon soaking wet and mildly sticky.

Erin Curry art- preparing bark to weave 1Erin Curry- preparing bark to weave 2Erin Curry- preparing bark to weave 3

The corky bark was carefully scraped off to make something very closely resembling soft leather. Then we scored the thickness halfway and peeled open the pages to reveal the text of growth embedded there.

Erin Curry- splitting bark stripsErin Curry- splitting bark strips
Erin Curry- splitting bark strips We rolled up excess for storing
Erin Curry- preparing bark to weave 7and wove with something precious.
Erin Curry- plaiting barkErin Curry- plaited bark, closed box


Oranges are Florida's state flower

painting by Mary E. Eaton via wikipedia

In case you missed it, this Sunday's NYtimes magazine includes an article written by Micheal Pollan addressed to the next President. The article proposes solutions to our need to dramatically reduce our dependance on oil through altering our food supply system to be predominantly regionally based and argues that it would make our country safer, healthier, more efficient, and less polluted. As a Floridian who regularly sees California and South African oranges sold in Publix grocery stores, often without a Florida orange in sight, this strikes a chord. Why are we sold fruits from over a quarter world away when orange groves blanket the state?

We cannot depend on oil to feed us anymore. We can only prosper if we can feed ourselves locally and with ecological farming systems. This is true whether we live in a 'third world' nation or a 'first world' one. Please take the time to read Pollan's article, he's a smart one.

*update* Fresh Air had an interview with Pollan about his open letter today 10/21. You can listen here.


Mourning Portrait

cover of Fiber Arts

Still grappling with how to write about Haystack and my new work, but in the meantime check out the latest Fiber Arts magazine.

The front cover and corresponding article feature the work of one of my teachers at Penland, Loren Schwerd. Loren usually lives and works in Baton Rogue while teaching at Louisiana State Univeristy. Her most recent series of small sculptures was created in response to the damage done by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. After taking photos of damaged homes in New Orleans' Ninth Ward, she's paid homage to them over the last couple of years by recreating them using hair extensions discarded outside an abandoned beauty shop located in the same neighborhood.

The series is aptly named Mourning Portrait. Loren's use of hair in this work most strongly references Victorian Era momento mori- intricate jewelry made from the hair of the deceased.* Not only is the wearer of the jewelry reminded of the lost individual, but also of the fragility and transience of all human life. In the same way, this work pieces together a portrait that honors the losses specific to New Orleans while allowing us to dwell on the fragility of our own lives in the face of natural disaster.
The use artificial and real hair from the beauty shop has its own set of associations beyond the use of it as a physical remnant of the neighborhood. As a toddler I attended a southern rural preschool where my classmates were almost exclusively African American; the culture of hair was apparent to me even then. I proudly wore the same tiny plastic barrettes in my hair that they did, but they wore their African and agricultural ancestory on their heads in the tiny, perfect rows of braids called cornrows. These same tiny braids echoed in nearly all of the house portraits draw on and embrace the culture of the previous tenants.
Loren Schwerd sculpture- 1812 Tuepelo Street

My personal favorites in the series are wall sculptures, 1812 Tuepelo St. (above) and Corner of Maurice and Charles, partially because the forced photographic perspective of the shuffled buildings draw attention to the tenuous hold these buildings have on maintaining existence as structure, but also because only the entrances are carefully coiffed, while the rest of the house is constructed with window screening. These houses are now ghosts of what was once a home, wonky and imperfect shanties and undeniably vacant. The persona of southern-style vernacular embodied in New Orleans architecture lies in shambles, we are unsure the soul of the neighborhood will ever recover as entire generations of families were forced into mass exodus.

At Penland, in between classtime and helping us with our projects, Loren continued to work on one of the smaller houses in the series, carefully sewing on sections of hair bit by bit on a house-shaped framework. Fly away hair littered the floor. Watching the process up close was quite special. She's currently working on a larger house which involves handweaving panels on a loom. When hurricane Gustave hit the southeast a couple of months ago and her power was out for ten days, she was forced to use a miner's headlamp to continue working. It seems appropriate, though unfortunate, that work born of a hurricane would be continued to be accompanied by them in its making. Remember.

*The use of hair as a material has been interesting for me for sometime now (read here) and last April that interest was peaked again by seeing Civil War era momento mori hair jewelry(another post for another day).



Erin Curry- sorting stones unsorted

notes to self during:

thought of cinderella(misled by memory)
meaning vasilissa and psyche sorting the seeds
the tasks of women,
sifting the good from the bad,
the moths from the rice
and uses from others,
flax from oats
poppy from rice
we sort and sift
and hold onto that one careful handful of grain
perfect grey
in the pocket
for the precise moment when it fits



(my watch sits pocketed too)
a tiny tic of impatience
suggests boredom with my task

it passes

shift, shift,

one satisfactory moment followed by another
holding one perfect stone
and then another

a parcel of stones
clitter clack
resonance of the river

where woolf slipped stone upon stone in her (enormous) pockets
and slipped herself in the eddies.
giving up on shifting those slippery words into meaning.
her sorting done.

chaff floating in the breeze

the task lost

*when editing this, grain caught my attention and reminded me of this heart wrenching story recently in the NYTimes . . . at least Vasilissa had her doll.


penland polas

Erin Curry art- Penland Pola line house
Erin Curry art- Penland Pola line house 2
Erin Curry art- Penland Pola tin roofline
Erin Curry art- Penland Pola hay bales

she says

A little experiment. Best to view larger, silent a little while, but there is audio.

At Penland I was reminded my camera has video. Though access to only basic editing software and basic knowledge limits me severely, I am pleased with the results . . .I think. . .

audio of a loom in action to play with would be good though the story would change.

curious to know what you think. what you might change, what you like.



moments i loved,
small sweet and
just glimpsed
Erin Curry art- Penland blur llamallama hill

Erin Curry art- Penland blur llama 2
Erin Curry art- Penland blur llama 3Erin Curry art- Penland sunsetthe craft dormErin Curry art- Penland craft dorm photoErin Curry art- Penland photo Craft dormErin Curry art- Penland photo Craft dormErin Curry art- Penland photo
behind the resident studiosErin Curry art- Penland photopocket collection
Erin Curry art- Penland photothe field mowed
Erin Curry art- Penland photowould like more of those moments just now, but am packing again. missing sharp things for checked baggage: x-acto blades and felting needles. this time to haystack to make baskets.
stones and wool and grass still litter the floor. "what will i bring home to you?" i ask of them.

*felting needles unearthed*


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