A Little Weather: Jessica Green

In the hills of Appalachia, where the roots of weaving run deep, homesteader, Jessica Green strives to intertwine her work and lifestyle as she continues a tradition of household weaving.

AIRED: April 30, 2018 | 0:07:25

- So I shear once a year.

So that means there's a whole year just in

growing the material, and then there's a whole year

in using the material.

There's all of these kind of secret layers of story

that end up embedded in the cloth,

like little tragedies, like what lambs died that year,

what was hard.

Whatever it happens to be,

all of that is held in the fiber.

It's like writing all these tiny little stories.

[guitar-piano music]

Early on in my weaving, I had come to Penland

and immediately fell really in love with these mountains.

I had done some farming and homesteading on land

that didn't belong to me,

and there was always the understanding of

eventually all the work I've done here,

I'm gonna have to leave.

I was really wanting to find a place where the work

I put in would stay with me.

[teapot whistling]

I did production work for a long time

and working as a production weaver.

I really was just a machine at the loom.

So basically, making the same thing

over and over again, and it's not even necessarily

like I got burnt out, although maybe I did.

Part of why I stopped production was realizing

that so much of what I loved the most was what

took the most time, and that's what I was cutting

out of the work in order to make it more affordable.

Over the past couple of years,

I've become less and less efficient.

I've just been thinking a lot about the slowness

and care that can go into every step of something.

[light symphony music]

Right out of college, I lived at a Tibetan Buddhist

Monastery for two years.

Mindfulness and embodiment have always been

really important to me and actually my background

as a performance artist and contemporary dancer

and a lot of my work was just slow,

like nothing more. [laughs]

It was just slow.

Actually probably because I have a lot of fire

and I can be really big, what feels most compelling

to me is being able to take that and really

sit in the container of myself.

[symphony music]

I feel like when I started my business,

it was very much the next step in a tradition

of Colonial American Weaving, and why the work

of Frances Goodrich and people like Lucy Morgan

who started Penland was so important to me

was being able to see it like directly

what was happening here a hundred years ago,

and I wanna feel like I'm directly connected

to what came before, as opposed to living

in the world of escapism that we're so profoundly

presented with on an every moment-to-moment basis

of how to escape.

I don't really want to escape.

[symphony music]

My sheep are so essential to me.

They know what's happening.

Hi, they help me live my life in the way

that I want to live it.

They help me get outside everyday.

We move them across, not just my land,

but a bunch of the neighbor's land.

How they benefit the pasture, it's incredible.

[symphony music]

So having the sheep as a part of the process

doesn't just mean that I'm extracting resources

from the world around me in order to create some

sort of product.

There's actually a reciprocal relationship between

me and the sheep and the land,

and we're all connected through that.

That then makes the work and my life completely integrated.

[symphony music]

Sometimes, I'll dye the wool before it's spun off

and I'm dyeing the wool after it's spun.

[mumbles] and iron just from rusty nails

and weld, which is just a little plant that I grow,

and indigo. [symphony music]

Something that I spent a lot of time giving myself

permission to do is what part of my brain

wants to call sloppy, but actually I think that there's

so much heart when something isn't perfect.

[soft symphony music]

In my early 20's was the first time I sat down at a loom,

and it was a complete watershed moment of homecoming,

of ineffable greatness.

[soft symphony music]

So you have just a bunch of loose thread,

gets wound in a really organized fashion

onto the back beam.

So the thread slowly comes off of the back beam

back through the heddles, back through the reed

and that's where you start to make the cloth.

It's such a sophisticatedly simple technology,

it's so beautiful.

[soft symphony music]

I throw the shuttle, close the shed,

beat the beater to pack down the threads

and then change the shed,

open her up throw the shuttle

and depending on what shafts are raised or lowered,

that is what creates the language of the pattern.

It's completely magical to me.

[soft symphony music]

What I am interested in and the way that I'm

interested in living is with a rooted understanding

of what contributes to my own survival

and I have a reciprocal relationship

with the world around me.

So everything that's dying to give me life

I'm also offering back to it

by putting in the work to make it all happen.

I'm not a Purist, I'm not subsistence oriented.

If the deer come and eat all of my corn,

which they did last year, I have 18 kernels

[laughs] to replant, then I can go to the store

and buy corn.

I'm not looking to create superficial struggles

for myself, but the more that I can depend

on the system less and less and depend on me

and my neighbors and what is directly contributing

to my life more and more,

that's very invigorating and intriguing to me

because it's not really about the cloth for me.

It's more about the living.

[piano music]


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