The Green Cloth Collective: immodest beginnings

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And so, my biggest passion at the moment, the meaning in my craft: the Green Cloth Collective.

Born from disillusionment with our leaders’ inability to instigate anything better than terminal-trajectorial neoliberalism, and a fragment of a vision that I need others to help grow, The Green Cloth Collective emerges as a little-but-already-hundred-and-something-strong guerilla professional network. It is the peer group I longed for, and leftish clothmakers, other craftspeople, businesspeople, activists and economists across continents informally but informedly and animatedly chew over the advantages and opportunities of makership; the problems of race-to-the-bottom economies; and sustainable, communitarian alternatives.

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It’s an amazing feeling when you throw an idea out and someone else instantly enacts it, as with the new group reading list (thanks Laurie), or when there’s friction and somebody else deals with it (thanks ladies), or when you’ve half an idea and someone else runs with it (thanks all active members).

Sensible and harebrained proposals so far include:

Green Cloth Allotments: the Green Cloth community could add its little elbow to help save threatened/encourage the creation of new allotments on which (otherwise landless) growers might plant dye gardens and baste fibre plants, perhaps to be sent to a co-operatively owned Green Cloth Mill for processing

The Green Cloth Book of Postcards: in which we all photograph our craft with a relevant political idea (I’ve just made a handful of my own which are for sale singly or in sets in my shop)

The Green Cloth Calendar: in which we all model the garments we’ve made from scratch for ourselves [Tallula’s idea]. Assuming we’d be scantily clad (since most of of us might only have made scarves or equivalent): as well as having a saucy selling point, it would make an incisive point about our current lack of self-sufficiency in being able to clothe ourselves

The Green Cloth Camp: an informal skillswap gathering, perhaps annual (for all aspects of clothmaking and other domestic/rural/survival skills and crafts)

The Green Cloth Certification: a stamp verifying a business model based on an anarcho-syndicalist (probably) producerist economics for the common good (which might just be a posey way of referring to a green co-operative that shouts its politics from the rooftop)

The Green Cloth Circus: a horsedrawn caravan of wagon-dwelling craftspeople [Sue’s idea] on a campaign trail setting up miniature Green Cloth Fairs (see below), including performance textiles, talks, demos and workshops, on common land, village greens, roundabouts, and at political rallies, festivals and such, highlighting the importance of making and the maker’s role in an economics for the common good

The Green Cloth Charter: a statement of values, vision and aims as they crystallise with the community’s development

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The Green Cloth Code: the Green Cross Code with a speech impediment or two

The Green Cloth Co-operative: a network of nettlers harvesting and processing wild fibre to be sent to the Green Cloth Mill for spinning, and then sent out to a community of (self-employed?) weavers, before being sold as cloth by the mill

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The Green Cloth Council: for if we need a formal steering group, although horizontalist values may not permit anything but an informal cluster of emergent, and possibly transient, ‘elders’

The Green Cloth Currency: on the basis that the current system of (debt based) money creation results in a distorted and extremely unfair market, could the Green Cloth community devise its own monetary or exchange system that would serve as the neutrally useful tool of the commons that currency should be (a Green Cloth Bank or banker(s)/accountant(s) would be paid service charges, not interest, credited with either goods or currency)

The Green Cloth Database: a spreadsheet of makers which would serve, among other things, to facilitate barter [Richard Toogood’s idea]

The Green Cloth Fair: like a gypsy woodfair (and definitely in a field, wilderness or woods) but for cloth people and other makers concerned about an economics for the common good, with trading, eco-conferencing, foodsharing and musicmaking

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The Green Cloth Guerillas: where I’ll go if I get frustrated with conservatism or naysaying in the bigger Green Cloth crowd and have to form an uncompromising splinter group  (no sign of that yet, I’m glad to say)

The Green Cloth Guild: a formalised version of the Green Cloth Collective, offering support, advice and opportunities to members. A union for the 21st century.

The Green Cloth school of thought: [Stretching it a bit here even for me. Though who knows where the fantasy could go and how the micro-movement might grow…] maker-resister- and artisan-activist-devised economics for the common good

The Green Cloth Stall: a PR and campaign stall touring fairs, festivals, rallies, markets and other events

The Kinetic Nettle Knicker Knitting Kolectif: apparently there are simple man-powered Victorian underwear knitting machines, and some form of these kinetic knitting machines can even be powered by a clock and left to work for you. [I think all of us at the recent skillswap camp can take credit/blame for the K5 idea]

 

Phew. One day. Perhaps. Some of it.

Join us.

The Green Cloth Collective

 

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Autumn fires burning

So much happens. Even leaving aside the love story, so much happens.

First dye results, woohoo!

After the wonderful September gathering in the woods where mad folk huddled round cauldrons of dye and did public performance textiles beneath the canopy, Green Cloth ideas ravelled into form. A connection with a founder of that gang compelled us to follow up, and four of us got together for a skills swap camp in Devon. Hedgewitch Sue Craig brought passion, a lifetime’s knowledge of vegetable dyeing, and some inspiring containers full of plant matter, dark colour, mineral waters and sour urine. Journeyman Richard Toogood brought a plethora of rural craft and survival skills, a methodical mind, a listening ear, affection and some fleece to spin. I brought my loom, my spinning wheel, some highly spinnable Jacob’s, my wrong-time-of-the-monthness and my kitchen sink. Cloth dreamer Tallula Bentley travels lighter than all of us and brought serenity and gentle play. We all brought love, fervour, laughter and ideas a-plenty, and it was intense. It poured with rain most of the time – and we had to be towed *onto* the field – but the alchemy happened.

 

 

 

 

 

Having been static awhile with access to mains, I’m not sorted on the blown-cigarette-lighter and other fronts, so we were more offgrid even than I usually am all week. However I turned my phone on occasionally because a year after a little contact, Saturday Live producers had got back in touch with me to ask if I wanted to appear on their Radio 4 programme. Didn’t I just! It was a scary, but lovely, experience, which resulted in the highest peak ever in my stats, and more income in one day than in any single month since I started trading. Thanks to the Reverand Richard Coles (for the heartfelt compliment about my weavings, as well as for the sensitive interviewing) and producer Paula McGinley for such an honour.

Just when you’ve had the biggest flurry of interest in your work than you’ve ever had is not the most strategic moment to choose to take a holiday, but after packing up a mountain of parcels I took a holiday. (Hell, I wouldn’t be where I am if I’d thought strategy was the way.)

Murph hates the ferry, and a car alarm went off in the car next to us, which can’t have helped his night. When I let him out, he did the longest pee right by their drivers’ door. Guilty smirk: sorry mate, my dogma just piddled on your carma.

Murph running happy in Breton woods

I headed for the woodburner of a borrowed cottage in Brittany where I planned to hole up for a week. However I took my passion with me and it gave me no rest.

I also took my camera manual (that photography A-level was a long time ago, and this digital SLR is one sophisticated machine); my accordion (getting my fingers and mind around 72 buttons, bellows, keys and chords while songs stacked up and poured forth); and my spinning wheel (cursing and fuming as the thing ran away across the floor, the yarn broke a million times, my treadling leg and bowed back ached, and my whole body rocked).

 

I gathered kilos of ripe chestnuts and spent about ten hours making a lightly-sweet chestnut pie (like a pumpkin pie, but not). Slooooooow living with a frenzied mind. The forest there is especially beautiful in autumn, although even our lovely walks were exercises in photography and French, so they were hard work too. I wish I could go on holiday from myself. (Don’t give me that smug, Western-Zen hippyshit: I. Know.)

One day I walked through the woods to the nearest town as my neighbour had told me they were having a Fest Des of Breton dance, which I love. I didn’t find it, and she was touchingly disappointed afterwards. One evening I visited friends and made music, and another evening I visited a fantastic café-bookshop-gallery-hub-of-resistance in the woods. I only understood half of the talk on a graphic novel which depicted a Chilean activist’s life up until Pinochet’s coup, but it was enough to know that I was in the company of good socialists. Comprehending snatches of some heavyweight philosophers on Radio Culture debating the intersection of equality, social justice, freedom, market and state as I headed for the coast made me feel that yes, France would be a good place to live. I listened to the Italian album that accompanied my mother, father and I in the van we lived in on and off for a few years in the Pyrenees when I was wee, and imagined them as young things – idealistic then, even he. That story is incredibly sad, but I liked the feeling of being a part of mainland Europe, with all its passions and problems and dreams that are the same but different from the passions and problems and dreams of these isles.

Exhausted from sleeplessness too, I extended my stay another week, and decided that this second week I’d work (ha). So then I plugged back into the internet, wrote some responses to a written interview and caught up with customers, colleagues and friends in the Green Cloth Collective, which eased the cabin fever almost as much as it inflamed it.

Then I returned to my Devon park-up and have had to power on at the loom to make orders and winter stock. Here are the last of the autumn leaves.

Rust autumn oak snug 1

Green yellow autumn leaves snug ring 1

Bosky green merino snug red leaf detailBurgundy autumn leaves scarf twist borderOlive rust scarf detailRed rust scarf knot