Thursday, October 15, 2009

1. Three Considerations for Faster, Easier Coiling Post Number 1

In this series, hope to address how to make coiler faster and easier. If you are already content with your method of coiling, and your skill level, you may disagree with my philosophy. I understand this, and I acknowledge your right to be different from me.

The people I would like to reach are those who are struggling with coiling. Those for whom the methods already tried seem cumbersome or just “not quite right.” People who love the idea of coiling, but cannot seem to make things work YET. If you are one of those people, this is for you. If you are not one of those people, you are also welcome to join us. Positive-toned comments are welcomed, as this is meant to be a helpful thought process, and not a debate on “the way to coil.”

In my opinion, coiling is a very personal thing. It matters how your body is made, what you are comfortable with, and the overall goal of the activity. I coil for relaxation, and for personal expression. For me, what WORKS is the most important thing. I do not believe in rules, I do not believe in “the way things are done.” The only thing I care about is what works for me. You should only care about what works for you, too.

I have heard teachers say, “That’s just not done.” This, in my opinion, is a cop-out. If you cannot articulate a specific reason why something is not done, then it is “not done” just because you don’t like it. That may be a good reason for you to do something a certain way, but it is not a good enough reason for me. I want to know WHY. I think students should ask WHY whenever a teacher says “we don’t do that.”

I want to make it very clear: I am not advocating large scale rebellion against teachers everywhere. When taking a class, always remember you are paying to learn the teacher’s expert technique. Obviously the techniques she is teaching work for her, and for others who have learned from her. You have to give it a “good shot,” and do your best to learn the methods she espouses. If you are in a class, you should make every effort to do what the teacher teaches for the duration of the class. Then, after you have gone home, sort out what works for you…keep what works, and don’t worry about the rest.

So, this series is written primarily for the self-learner, one who is learning from the internet and reading books.

There is nothing quite like learning on your own. A person who has “reinvented the wheel” through self-learning is a wonderfully educated person. She may not have as many perfectly finished products as one who learns with the guidance of a teacher, BUT the self-learner knows what does and does not work for her. This is very valuable learning.

When I first started reading Judy Mallow’s book, From Forest Floor to Finished Project, I was enthralled! I could not believe the beauty of her baskets, and it sounded so easy! Then, when I began trying to duplicate what I saw in the book, I thought, “What’s the matter with me? Why can’t I do this?” My baskets looked nothing like hers. My stitches did not spiral, my baskets were ill-formed, the pine needles refused to lay flat. I was very disappointed. I really needed someone else to talk to about this! But I couldn’t find anyone living near me who coiled.

That is how the Pine Needle Group was born. The Pine Needle Group is an online circle of cyber friends. We are based on the yahoo group email list at . This is the place where I learned that I was not the only one who could not do things “by the book.” Through the years (eleven years now) the Pine Needle Group has served as my sounding board, my teacher, by companion to learning. They are an amazing group of people. The yahoo groups’ companion website is . Please join us, and enter our continuing conversation….we focus on coiling. It is because of this website and this group that I have grown from an all-thumbs loner learner to an emerging artist and teacher. I think you will find it a nurturing environment, too!

The next post will introduce the three considerations for faster, easier coiling.

I would love to hear about your learning process, please leave a comment here for everyone to read! Thanks


Donna in WA said...

Hi Pam, I agree so much with what you write. I learned how to coil back in August of 2003. The woman who got me started with coiling said I was a natural. The book I used was Jeannie McFarland's book, Pine Needle Raffia Basketry. I notice when I sit with others who are also coiling, my method of coiling is different from what they are doing. But, it doesn't matter to me. What they do, works for them. What I do, works for me.

Because McFarland's book uses a lot of drawings with the written instructions, it's not always easy to identify how to do something. I think that I have gotten some help from all of the pine needle coiling books that I have.

CATZCAT said...

Amen! You said it best! I'm now gonna give coiling another whirl!! It'll be my way not what I think is their way! Thanks! :-)

harmon said...

Coiling is a process of growth, both for the maker and for the basket. My best baskets are the ones where I did not try to make the basket look like one in a book, but rather let the basket make itself. It really is the magic of coiling.

I do not coil on a regular basis, but I miss it when I am not. Right now I am looking at a nice pile of pine needles and thinking of the wonderful butterfly ceramic center I just purchased from you. I plan to work on it during my lunch hours so not only will I have a basket, but I will probably loose a few pounds over the weeks it takes me to finish it.

J. Anthony Stubblefield said...

I learned to coil over 20 years ago at a little group get together. It wasn't anything formal and was probably only a couple of hours at best start. I learned not using a gauge, so never really have. I give it a try ever once and awhile, but always end up putting the gauge away as it seems to awkward. Of course when I say this to about any coiler they are completely dumbfounded as to why I don't.

I really should take a class sometime as I am pretty much winging it and only use one stitch!


Midnightcoiler said...

Pamela, I'm enjoying this series and thanks for letting me include the first few installments in From the Ground Up.

I tried to learn coiling on my own without books, then met a new friend who really got me started and loaned me a book.. Funny because she did things much differently from the book. I tried things both ways and ended up finding what worked best for me. Very similar to my teacher, but I still add by tying knots when she isn't looking!

By the way, I like that rugged looking guy wearing the Pine Needle Group t shirt!