Why Demonstrate?

There is something special about doing a spinning demonstration. Maybe it’s the fascination of the people who watch, commenting that it is so soothing to watch. It could be the eagerness of people from all walks of life and all ages to learn what exactly it is I am doing, and how the wheel works. I’ve always enjoyed teaching, and combining my passion with the ability to share something new with people just seems to make me feel good.

A smiling blonde woman with glasses sits at a spinning wheel in the corner of an antique farm house

I have done a lot of demonstrations over the years I’ve been with this guild, in many different arenas: from the Brown Animal Building at the Ohio State Fair to an 1880s era farmstead at Slate Run Metro Parks. I’ll set up my wheel, take out my fiber – usually wool but sometimes alpaca – and begin to spin. I enjoy spinning for its own sake, but it increases my enjoyment to see people stop and watch. Some just stand there, enthralled by the action of the wheel. Some have questions, and I answer them to the best of my ability.

Whenever I go to a demonstration, I make sure that there will be a spindle or two about in case people want to try. I ask everyone who shows an interest whether they would like to try, and if they do, I’ll get them started on a spindle. Very rarely, they want to try on my wheel – and while some people I have noted do not want strangers to use their wheel, I don’t mind. This is probably because I’m right there, controlling the motion of the wheel itself. Only a very few people show any skill on the wheel, and those were people who are in contact with fiber anyway. One was a man who had practiced a lot on a spindle and was hoping to get a wheel, and another was a child who was around looms and wheels because his mother was involved in the craft.

If I can, I also bring a pair of hand cards, and if people are interested in the process of “sheep to shawl” I have these on hand to explain how the fiber gets organized after coming off the animal. While I don’t get these questions all the time, having the cards close at hand often brings up what they are and what they are used for.

This was supposed to be a little article about why I love demonstrating so much. I’m not sure I can answer that ultimately; I suppose it’s because spinning is one of my passions, and because of that I love sharing it with others. Most people see the fiber arts as a dying art, and I would like to see their view reversed. I love to hear that someone wants to learn to spin, because that means one more person in the world who knows it’s not a dying art, but one gaining in popularity.

Dori Smith, Guild Member

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