I have had many responses to my blog posting of a week ago. The news has touched many. I have asked permission of Margaret who contacted me privately if I could share her letter. It provides such a snapshot of weaving at Sturt in the late 1980’s- early 1990’s under the guidance of Elizabeth Nagel. Thank you Margaret for agreeing to share your experiences.
My name is Margaret Stone and I am an ‘old ‘ Sturt weaver. I just read your blog post about the changes for 2015 and like you and the regular weavers I am shocked and saddened to see such a special place undervalued and supposedly in need of updating.
In 1988 I called the Sturt weaving studio and asked Elizabeth if she would teach my children to weave. She said if they could count to 50 they could come.
For the next 10 years we made our way to the weaving workshop starting with Annie and Christopher (aged 8 and 6) with the 2 youngest tagging along to play in the garden and with Lucy, the youngest, calling Elizabeth ‘grandma’ as the only people she knew with white hair were Grandmas!
Annie and Chris continued to weave for most of the next 10 years, Rob did some weaving but it was not his thing (he much preferred playing to the glorious gardens with his friends), Lucy started when she could count to 50 and continued to weave throughout those years as well.
We brought our home schooling friends along and for several years about 4 sometimes 5 families learned to weave under Elizabeth’s measured, patient approach. The most trouble she had was with the Mum’s who were often banished to the garden as we talked too much while knitting or quilting or helping our children warp looms!
It was not just the weaving our children learnt but the history of a person who grew up in Germany throughout the 2nd WW and had so many stories to tell, the extra skills like braiding, knitting, gardening and much more.
Chris was the last to weave a piece at Sturt. When he arrived at age 6 he walked in to the back room and saw the enormous floor loom and his goal then was to weave on it. At age 16 or 17 he was big enough to finally use it and wove a huge fleece floor rug. Elizabeth tells the story of another much younger school boy who had come to classes at that time and who was being teased at school as weaving was considered ‘sissy’. Elizabeth took him into the back room where Chris was banging away on the huge loom making an impressive racket and the little boy was awestruck.
Each of my children value their time spent with Elizabeth and have taken into their adult lives the ability to appreciate handmade items, to continue to see the value the discipline and hard work of making from scratch and 10 years on from their time at Sturt remember it and Elizabeth with much affection. I continued to attend classes at Sturt off and on over the past 10 years and continue to spin and knit and (weave a little) at home.
Sturt, as Winifred West intended it to be, was a place of respite from the world where we could lose ourselves in creative tasks each week and go back out into the world refreshed and satisfied that our creative urges had been met and encouraged. The simplicity of the building, the beautiful gardens and the generosity of the people we shared the space with over the years has made our live richer and more meaningful.
I am so glad I found your blog post before it was too late,