When I began weaving, information on wet finishing was scarce. Most of what I know about the process I learned from books, and - most of all - trying things to find out what was what.
The best way to learn was to have someone who knew something about it explain it, but they, too, were hard to find. In the end I 'found' two people, both of them at conferences.
So why do we have conferences? There are many benefits to a group of like minded people gathering in one place to share information and knowledge, either formally in workshops/seminars, or informally by meeting in person.
Having an in person experience means being able to not just see the textiles but to feel them. This is very much a tactile craft and the proof of the textile is in how it feels.
The knowledge of how to make a textile by hand nearly disappeared after the industrial revolution, kept alive in pockets here and there - Quebec, Appalachia, other small areas. It was Margaret Atwater who became best known for her writing - newsletter and books - then others who followed along.
Now we have the internet, You Tube videos, on line classes, etc. But none of those provides the opportunity to actually feel the textile.
If you live in a geographically remote area, the internet can be a god-send. But there really is nothing quite like getting together as a group, to share, to learn, to inspire each other.
Prince George has always been considered far away from everything. I know because I was born and raised here. If we needed something that wasn't provided locally, it was generally a 500 mile drive to Vancouver.
When I began weaving the local college was running a class but again, resources were thin on the ground and everyone was pretty much in the same boat - we wanted to learn but there wasn't much available beyond the college library.
So I made a gigantic leap and traveled to Finland to take a two week class at the Varpaapuu Summer Weaving School in 1977. While there I met hand weavers from Europe and the United States. (There were supposed to be two Canadians but one had fallen ill so both had cancelled.)
There was the French woman living in Moscow. The Swede living in South Africa. The Japanese woman living in Sweden (I think - it's been a good many years), some Germans, and half a dozen Americans.
Us English speakers tended to hang out together mostly, and one of them invited me to attend Convergence 1978 being held in Fort Collins, CO. So my very first conference was the biggest textile arts conference in North America.
Quite the deep end of the pool for someone who had never even been on a university campus before, never mind a conference with 1500 or so people.
It was overwhelming. It was also a good lesson in so many ways. I knew exactly two people, and managed to run into each of them once during the conference. Otherwise? This introvert had to get comfortable with talking to perfect strangers. But they were strangers who were just as interested in textiles as I was. And suddenly I found myself able to talk to people about a subject that was dear to our hearts.
My next conference was the following year - ANWG in Spokane, WA. Again, it was easy to talk to people because we all loved textiles and talking about them.
There were exhibits. There were seminars. There was the fashion show. There were people attending wearing their hand made textiles. There was talk and laughter and the joy of being with others who were 'warped' in the same way you were.
It was a time to delve deep into subject matter where resources had been difficult to find. Over the years I have taken workshops and always, always, learned something. Sometimes the lesson wasn't what I had been expecting, but valuable, nonetheless.
Sometimes I learned that I really didn't need to explore that technique any further, but I walked away with more knowledge than I had had.
Sometimes I learned that I really wanted to know more, and generally had a list of resources where I could do further exploration.
Sometimes I just was completely and totally inspired and in awe of the person doing amazing things and I became a more informed viewer and appreciator of their work.
A conference is a short, intense, exposure to a variety of techniques and tools that could be done on one's own, but it would take a lot longer and still might not pinpoint the resources needed to fully understand the process.
It is also an opportunity for people to meet face to face and talk to each other.
Knowing that you aren't alone can be very helpful. There has been a great deal of growth in knitting over the past few years, and gradually there seems to be interest in spinning/weaving growing, too.
For our conference we have tried to have a good range of textile techniques because weavers and spinners rarely do just the one - if you spin you are making the raw materials for the next stage of textile making. So, many spinners knit and/or weave. If you weave, you can either make a finished item, like a towel, or yardage to be sewn into something else.
We have assembled a fantastic team of instructors. Having been in the weaving world (and peripherally in others - spinning, knitting, bobbin lace, even a wee bit of felting) I have gotten to know a lot of people involved in teaching. Having attended many conferences (and taught at a fair number as well) I have gotten to know many of the 'name' teachers in the world.
I think we have a good range of topics, presented by some fine instructors.
So while it may seem 'expensive' to travel All This Way, people will have the opportunity to access very knowledgeable people, see exhibits of really good work, and spend some time getting to know the faces and names of people they may have seen on line.
There will also be a vendor hall...just saying...
We have worked to create a good experience for everyone. The facilities are all within a block or two of each other and all are accessible with elevators to the upper floors. There are plenty of restaurants within the hotels themselves, or a short walk away. Our town has a broad range of cuisines to choose from and many are just five minutes from the convention complex. Including craft breweries and a chocolatier! There is a fruit winery about a 10 minute drive away, on the bank of the Nechako River.
We have a conference rate for both hotels and discount codes for both major airlines. There is an airport shuttle that will take people from the airport to either hotel for a reasonable rate.
For Americans? Remember that all prices are quoted in Canadian dollars. As of yesterday $395 Cdn was approximately $300 US. The airlines are Canadian and are quoting Canadian dollars, as are the hotels.
If you've never been north of the 49th parallel, you'll enjoy our long daylit summer days. Prince George is at about the 54th parallel.
Check out the website for tourism information. Come early, stay late if you like. But do think about the rare experience of being able to talk to others as 'warped' and 'twisted' as you may be. Share your textiles. Broaden your horizons. Learn.