Monday, 3 November 2008

spirit of mystery

In the past (and hopefully again soon) I have given school batik workshops – they are hard work (preparation) but always good fun. Onesuch was with Kea School, as shown in these photos, for a Sense of Place project. The theme was 'The Voyage of the Mystery', and the batik style/approach was Aboriginal Art.

The Mystery was a Cornish lugger, a traditional small fishing boat, that in 1854 sailed with seven Cornishmen from Newlyn bound for sunny Australia. The journey to Melbourne took 115 days. Indeed it seems a miracle it even arrived – the boat was only 33 feet long (about 10 metres) with a beam of 11 foot 6 (3.5 metres). It wasn't meant to be ocean-going, and indeed most men on board had never been out of sight of land! At the time, the Mystery was the smallest boat on record to have made such a long voyage. Read more about the voyage of the Mystery here.

Now, in 2008, the Spirit of Mystery rides the waves. Pete Goss has built a new lugger to the same specifications, and along with several family members is re-creating the journey made by those Cornish fishermen 154 years ago. They are using the same navigational tools and technology as then – no modern gizmos. Other than communication tools that is, so they can update their blog (and stay in 'instant' touch with family). They already have had ups and downs (in wind and seas) but the boat is running as well as the original Mystery.

So where is the connection with Sustainable Batik (other than through school workshops)? For starters, a quote from today's entry is a good one for natural dye growers to remember: "Mother Nature rules out here and you just have to make the best of what you have."

There is something more, that I'm not sure I can explain well in this blog. It is something about pride and community, pride that Goss has taken this on, has recognised our forefathers did something quite immense as well as brave, and is re-living it for us, bringing part of our history alive.

It's my hope that my own experiences from living in Australia in the 1980s and introducing Aboriginal Art (as far as I am able to understand it - another blog!) into schools also brings something more meaningful and substantial than just playing with wax and dye.


Ro Bruhn said...

What beautiful work, this must have been a great experience for them. I love the story behind it. Maybe We'll get to see Pete Goss when he arrives in Melbourne

Helen said...

I have tagged you -see my blog for more detail.
lovely work with the kids

Tiggy Rawling said...

In an attempt to find Prima cotton for dyeing, I came across your blog. Absolutely fascinating - when I have more time I shall enjoy reading it properly!

In the meanwhile, where do you obtains organic cotton in the Uk?

A book you might be interested in - Eco Colour, botanical dyes for beautiful textiles by India Flint

Robin Paris said...

Hi Ro, sorry for the delay in responding... I was hoping someone from Melbourne might pick up on this and want to see the Spirit of Mystery arrive. I used to live in Cardigan Street in North Carlton - one of the original crew is buried in the cemetry there apparently. Wish I'd known at the time. Australia and Cornwall have historic links, many of our miners emigrated there backalong, and many (English) place names have come from here. Especially in Tas. There are still Old Cornwall Societies going strong, some people speaking Cornish and practising other traditions like Cornish wrasslin (wrestling). If you do see the Spirit of Mystery arrive please let me know!

Enjoyed looking at your blog too, you are so active and energetic! And such gorgeous colours.

Robin Paris said...

Hi Tiggy - best place for prima is Textile Techniques in Shropshire, at least that's where I've bought it from. Organic cotton I bought from Greenfibres (Devon), Bishopston (Bristol), and Fabrics Ltd in Machynlleth. Greenfibres was one of the pioneers for organic cotton, Fabrics Ltd were just moving into it when I contacted them. More info on my 'cotton' label (left column).

Have just been browsing India Flint's website - I never knew eucalypt could dye without mordant, like indigo. Or maybe that's just on protein fibre. Anyway, thanks for book suggestion. I'll look out for it in the bookshop or see if I can browse it online first.

And your blog... there's a lot for me to see there too! I just met up with fellow traveller batikers last week, and reading about India on yours again is giving me that well known to travellers bug...

Stephie said...

Wow Robin! The batiks look fantastic; what will they be doing with them when they're finished?

I wish I'd got to work on something as exciting when I was at primary school - cross stitch place mats were about the summit!!

Speak soon. x

Robin Paris said...

Hi Steph - they are from a few years ago now, the school used them as banners but they did also have a stint in Truro Cathedral in a huge Sense of Place projects display. They did look really good there - something about cathedrals make art extra atmospheric!