Shirley Elwell – a weaver’s story
I am a lifelong weaver and spinner, specialising in demonstrating and teaching traditional textile skills, from ancient to medieval. I took on my first weaving workshop at the age of 19, at a Camphill Community in Switzerland, and have managed to stay involved with the craft most of my life, the majority of the time as a remedial teacher working with adults with learning difficulties but also branching out into further education by setting up evening and day classes in spinning and weaving at the Worcestershire College of Agriculture at Hindlip in the mid-1980s. At that time I acquired my own floor loom and began weaving the naturally coloured rugs using yarn spun from the fleece of rare breed sheep that are now the specialty of the Slender Thread Workshop.
Before moving to Wales from Stourbridge in the West Midlands I set up a weaving workshop there at the Glasshouse College, which was founded upon the same principles as the Ruskin Mill College at Nailsworth in Gloucestershire. It became quickly apparent during this period that I was becoming what I would call a ‘contemplative craftsperson’. The need to explore this principle further brought me to the quiet valley in Bleddfa where I now live and work.