Meghan Riley, In Element, 2018, Woolen Garment, Handspun and machine spun wool, natural dye, locally sourced and imported.
Clothing has the potential to hold the power of connection to time and place, to material resource and to story. By creating a garment and participating in the processing of fibers, we lay witness to the labor that is usually either hidden or replaced by machine.
My original intention was to spin Icelandic wool and spend my time outside in Blönduós, knitting and observing; knitting the elements into the garment. As my project progressed and the weather became cold with wind and rain, I was caught between the desire to stay and knit indoors, where I could be cozy and dry, and the feeling of containment that came with it. I tracked my movement between these two environments in the final garment by using handspun wool while outside in the elements and machine spun wool while protected indoors.
The handspun wool, with its uneven rough texture and varied colour, aptly reflect the full-body feeling that came to me when I put myself out into the ever-shifting weather. The machine spun wool was much easier to access. Consistent in colour, blend and thickness, this wool is ready to use, but lacks certain liveliness. On a trip through the West Fjords, I knit with my indoor wool in the car. We drove through wild and open landscapes of snow and water but it was not until we stopped and stepped outside that we could smell the snow and feel the cool air, the liveliness of the outdoors. I reflect on the ease in which we travelled by car through the West fjords, and recall Chris Mendoza who, from the backseat, stated “Your wool and your travel are both mediated by industrial technology.”
The natural dyes I used are either locally sourced, such as rhubarb root and birch leaves, or they are mediated through the technology of trade and export, such as avocado pits and Campeche logwood. I realize that in my hope to spin wool, to knit outdoors exposed to the climate, to connect to the landscape though natural dyes — the challenge is that I am choosing limitation. This garment reveals both the moments where I was true to my original vision as well as those when I chose an easier, more comfortable option, mediated by the technology of our time.