2021 – The Year in Review – Cloth is a Great Storyteller

by - Friday, December 31, 2021

The 2021 Madder Harvest in the Maiwa Dye Garden.



At this time last year we were in unknown territory.

We had come through nine months of COVID and various stages of closures and isolation. We were looking at a very different world. You can read last year’s thoughts on disruption and artisans here.

A year ago we launched the Maiwa School of Textiles Online. We were hopeful that something new could grow in the space that had been cleared by the cancellation of so many workshops, lectures and events.

To figure things out, we began to construct a roster of free workshops and build a special website dedicated to sharing instructions on natural dyes. You might say that the best way to deal with uncertainty is hope. We made a conscious decision to adopt a hopeful strategy. We started in March of 2020 and kept going. We were looking to build a more resilient community that could not be shuttered by a lockdown.

We have maintained a shop on Granville Island for over 35 years. During that time we’ve moved it from one location to another and expanded it into many places. Some Vancouverites with long memories will recall that we once had locations in Yaletown and West Vancouver. We’ve now brought everything together into one shop. In addition to connecting with our local community, we use that storefront to unify our ideas of craft and making.

In our Granville Island shop you can find not only naturally dyed clothing, but also the natural dyes themselves. You can find magnificent embroidery, and everything you need to make your own. When visiting the store you can find, not only the starting materials, but also the best examples of how they come together through the work of skilled hands. Yes, it’s true that it can be a humbling experience to hold a piece of cloth that represents generations of dedication and skill-building. But it is also a great inspiration.

We like to think that the things we bring into our shop - both online and in person - are also ideas. Each piece of handwoven cloth is also a statement about the value of making things by hand. Cloth is a great storyteller. The closer you get to it, the more intimate its stories become.

What we have tried to do in 2021, is bring these stories closer to more people. Our School is our most ambitious attempt at this. We’ve harnessed all the power of modern film-making to make our courses, and we are proud of the results. It surprised us, though, to find out that the intimate connection between individuals returned in a new place —  in the extensive question-and-answer section of the school. Literally thousands of messages going back and forth talking about technique, craft, cloth, art, creativity and making. It was our old friend the written word that surprised us. Each course turned out to be, not only a way to educate and instruct, but also a great, far-ranging conversation between instructors and students.

We live in unusual times...and we’ve made it through another strange year.

We encourage you to keep your inspiration close, listen to the stories all around you, and adopt a hopeful strategy.

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