UW-Green Bay History and Fiber Arts students had some fun harvesting this year’s flax from the University Union plaza in September. Faculty members Alison Gates, Art and Design, and Heidi Sherman, History, spearhead the interdisciplinary project, which has begun to attract academic notice nationally (and internationally) and yielded invitations to present at workshops in Europe and elsewhere. For more about the project and process, as well as faculty hopes for new projects, see Gates’ blog post.
Associate Prof. Alison Gates, Art and Design, shared the history and highlights of the UW-Green Bay Flax Project in a recent online article for the Surface Design Association. The piece, currently featured in the SDA NewsBlog spotlight, emphasizes the interdisciplinary nature of the Flax Project, which started as a collaborative effort between Gates and Associate Prof. Heidi Sherman, Humanistic Studies. As Log readers may recall, the pair and their students have been working together for several years (they’re now in their fourth planting season) to grow, harvest and process the flax to make it suitable for use as linen. On the Humanistic Studies (History) side, the project has provided a number of learning and research opportunities about the use of flax in the Medieval world. For more, check out Gates’ article. You can also find the Flax Project on Facebook.
Rippling, retting and rarin’ to go, UW-Green Bay History and Fiber Arts students found fun (and beautiful weather) in hands-on learning Sept. 5, inaugurating another year of the Flax Project at UW-Green Bay.
Engaging in several steps of flax processing, the students harvested this year’s flax, rippled flax from earlier harvests and loaded the retting pools. For the uninitiated, “rippling” is the process that removes the seed bolls from the fiber tips, which must be done before the flax is laid in pools to rett (essentially, to soak — this separates the fiber from the stem). Further steps will include breaking the stem into short segments, “scutching” (extracting the fibers) and “heckling” (combing) the flax before it is spun and woven for use.
Faculty members Alison Gates, Art and Design, and Heidi Sherman, History, are spearheading the interdisciplinary project, which has developed an international reputation and yielded invitations to present at workshops in Europe and elsewhere.
For more information and additional photos, visit the UWGB Flax Project Facebook page.
– Photos by Laurie Case, Chancellor’s Office, and Kimberly Vlies, Office of Marketing and University Communication
Prof. Alison Gates (Arts and Visual Design) and Heidi Sherman (Humanistic Studies) and their student, Alicia Engstrom (a Humanistic Studies major in the Ancient/Medieval track and and Art minor), presented three papers May 11 at the 47th International Congress on Medieval Studies held at Western Michigan University. They presented at a special session sponsored by DISTAFF (Discussion,Interpretation, and Study of Textile Arts, Fabrics, and Fashion). The session was titled “From Field to Fabric: The University of Wisconsin–Green Bay Flax-to-Linen Project” and included the following papers: “Ancient Fiber Crop Cultivation on a Twenty-First-Century College Campus,” (Engstrom); “Flax and Linen as Subject and Content in Medieval Images,” (Gates); and “Seeds, Scutches, and Retting Pits: Archaeological Sources for Medieval Fiber Production,” (Sherman).