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Harriet Goodall: Passing Knowledge Sideways - Weaving Connections



“...Rising with the sun for a bumpy car ride along a dirt road en route to a small community, where a group of dusty weavers have gathered in a communal place ready for a day of hard work ahead. Mats lie unrolled on the grass ready to work on, bundles of leaves and dye powders are being ground up from barks and bugs in stone mortar and pestles. Strips of undyed fibers are washed and bundled. Women chat and gesture with suggested hilarity filtering through, they kindled fires and lowered blackened dye-pots to boil, leaves are picked. A communal lunch is cooked for everyone and the now coloured materials, pulled out of the steaming pot on a stick, dry in the sun. As the day goes on, the fibres are divided out for the weavers to work with. The best colors are tousled over good humouredly. The weavers hitch up their skirts, and sit on the ground spending the rest of the day making their cultural artifacts, cheerfully chewing leaves. There is no teacher, the knowledge passes sideways, laterally through the group by observation and practice.”

Andean mountain weaving communityAndean mountain weaving community

Harriet Goodall_02

Now raising a family in one of the most fertile places in the world, the Southern Highlands of New South Wales, it took a little time to fall in love with the lush place that she lives because her palette leans to more arid bush. “It's quite incredible that you can go out and find plenty of things to work with, you can go with a pair of cutters and often, all you need is water. With a bit of knowledge and understanding of the basic rules of what will work and what won't, you can effectively create artworks using things that you find. I get excited when I see, you know, abandoned houses and rubbish burnt out cars with gorgeous patterns on them. Yeah, I feel like I'm on a treasure hunt.” Harriet explains.

Harriet Goodall at a Weaving workshop in Samoa


Harriet Goodall at a Weaving workshop in Samoa

When Harriet started making baskets, she stored everything in a little timber cottage until the tangles of palm and piles of vines were tripping her over in the spare room and she decided she needed a dedicated place to weave. Her first ever 'studio' was in an old dilapidated two-room dairy building on the farm where she rented. 

Up to her armpits in rubbish with no doors, windows, power or running water she managed to clean it all out and salvaged some old windows and a glass door to weatherproof it. She stayed there for four years, weaving in stolen moments, ran her first classes, had work requested for the regional gallery and made her first big commission of 6 foot tall woven lights for a restaurant in California using fencing wire and foraged plants.

Despite having the  best studio view with only cows for neighbors the cows also forced an end to that space, when one day, she strolled over to find a cow had somehow squeezed its way in through the single doorway and, unable to get out again, had proceeded to chew up all her baskets. Seeing it as  a sign it was time to get serious, she rented herself a decent space and moved in to share with 2 other artists in town. She has had four different studios over the years all with power and lights but that one proved that you just need to have a space of your own to get started - and you can weave until the cows come home. 

Harriet Goodall artist - on location in Northern Highlands AustraliaDyeing materials in Andean Mountain Country - Harriet Goodall artist

The practice of passing knowledge sideways in communal settings and creating without the need for fancy studios speaks to a deeper truth about the essence of creativity and learning. It’s not about the tools or the environment, but about the shared experiences and the passion that drives us. Harriet’s journey illustrates that creativity thrives in simplicity and community. How can we foster this kind of connection in our own lives? What spaces or communities can we create or join to share knowledge and inspire each other?

Weavers in Samoa

Weaving community at work

Through her online course, Harriet has helped create a global community of over 1300 members, where knowledge is passed sideways across continents. This vibrant community mirrors the communal spirit of traditional weavers, demonstrating that even in a digital age, the essence of shared learning and creativity remains powerful. As you think about your creative journey, consider where your "studio" might be and who you can share it with.

Harriet Goodall artist - work in studio in Northern Highlands AustraliaHarriet Goodall artwork - weaving


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