When Prue Simmons sits at the loom she can’t keep the smile off her face.
She winds a bobbin before feeding the yarn through the threads and changing the foot pedals to hold it in place.
For Ms Simmons, it is a meditative motion of pure creative pleasure.
Within 10 minutes at the loom she has created quite a length of colourful, textured cloth.
The Clunes creative teaches and practices a Japanese form of weaving called SAORI.
She is one of only three teachers in Australia trained to teach SAORI by the Japanese family who invented it. The freestyle craft is based on the philosophies of creativity and individuality.
Both long-time creators and those who have never engaged in creative work before come through her Clunes studio Dyeing to Weave.
Most leave, Ms Simmons said, with a sense of enthusiasm for the simplistic but beautiful craft.
“Anyone can sit down at the loom and start to make textiles, it doesn’t matter how old you are or how much experience you have,” she says.
“It is so easy. After 10 seconds instruction you can start weaving. You don’t have to be perfect and there is no right or wrong.”
Ms Simmons learnt the craft at an arts and craft village in the mountains of Japan in 2007.
“I went over to Japan as a zoologist and came back as a SAORI weaver,” she says.
“I had never done textiles before. I came across SAORI accidentally while I was travelling. I was building a pizza oven in a village in the mountains of Japan. The lady I built the pizza oven for was one of the first SAORI teachers. She taught me SAORI weaving as a thank you and I was immediately hooked.”
In Japanese, ‘sa-’ comes from the Zen word ‘sai’ meaning individuality and ‘-ori’ is the word for weaving.
The meditative practice took Ms Simmons’ life on a different trajectory – she went from weaving daily as a hobby while in a stressful job, to training as a teaching in Japan and opening her own SAORI studio.
“There is a lot of enthusiasm for this style of weaving,” she says.
“It is still such a burgeoning style and SAORI is something people are still only just discovering here in Australia, so I certainly try my best to get as many people to know about it.”
The work of SAORI weavers from across the country is on show at the Celebration of SAORI exhibition in Clunes.
SAORI is about creativity, it is not about counting, it is not about patterns, it is not formal. Everything you have created has come from you.Cathy Tobin, the Gypsy Weaver
The exhibition, which opened on November 2 and runs until November 18, is a colourful display of the possibilities of free form creation.
Items of clothing, cushion covers, and hanging pieces of art line the walls of The Warehouse exhibition space. All creators have been through Ms Simmons’ Clunes studio.
Cathy Tobin, who learnt SAORI at Dyeing to Weave, now has her own free form weaving studio the Gypsy Weaver.
“If you do any other crafts you have to follow certain techniques and patterns. Knitting is an example, you have to buy the right wool, you have to count the stitches. SAORI is about creativity, it is not about counting, it is not about patterns, it is not formal. Everything you have created has come from you,” she says.
Any fibre can be used in the SAORI weave, including recycled material, paper, leftover yarn and whatever material is available.
Ms Simmons places some raw llama fleece and a piece of scrap material into weave that creates a pop of colour.
“Weaving is not something that is commonly taught these days. But the simplicity in this form makes it less intimidating for people,” she says.
“You get to switch off and create from the heart. You don’t have to worry about what you are doing, you just have to enjoy what you are doing.”
Ms Tobin says she sees people who come into her studio quickly captured by the craft.
“It is amazing seeing people let go of the rules and regulations that the sides have to be perfect and this colour doesn’t match with that colour and just weave for the joy of it. It is lovely to share that with people,” she says.
Ms Simmons partly attributes the increasing passion for SAORI weaving to resurging interest in arts and crafts.
“There is a crafts revival. I am seeing a lot of people come from really diverse backgrounds – yes there are people who have been crafting forever, young mums who want to introduce their kids to crafts and professionals who want a creative way to express themselves,” she says.
“Certainly in society at the moment, many people are coming back to wanting to create their own textiles and use natural fibres again. Our clothing industry has gone to such an extreme now where a lot of clothing manufacturing isn’t happening in Australia, it is cheaply made, we all wear what we are told is great, it is made in sometimes not good conditions overseas and often using synthetic fibres.
“Being able to empower people back into and finding people are interested in getting back into working with natural fibre and giving the opportunity to be able to learn a craft so quickly, it is so good and people are responding so great.”
Ms Simmons will run a SAORI weaving workshop in Clunes on November 18 as part of the Made of Ballarat makers series.
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