Last week I had the opportunity to assist my friend and mentor, Chiaki O’Brien, teaching SAORI weaving to K-5th graders, at the Blake School just outside Minneapolis. To say it was an inspirational week is an understatement.
First let me start by saying, we were less “teaching” and more watching in awe what these kids were creating. Chiaki is the founder of SAORI StudioFun just outside Minneapolis. She is one of the greatest people I have worked with. She is always encouraging you to explore and learn, while also sharing inspiration and gentle guidance. One of the things I l love that she told the kids was that plants just know how to grow. They don’t need to be taught. Just like them, they don’t need to be taught how to create. They are creative just as they are. She showed each group the process of weaving, and how to use the loom; and then let the kids just do their things.
The 4 SAORI principals were in full effect during the week. Kids were encouraged to stay in the moment and follow their hearts with color and texture choices. There was a candy store of yarn colors and textures for the kids to choose from. They even wound their own bobbins, combining yarns for their own enjoyment.
We worked with kids in grades K-5. Some groups were large enough so the kids needed to work together. It was amazing to watch them figure out a process. Some would have one kid push the pedals and the other throw the shuttle, Other kids would weave a few picks and then trade. There was no fighting over yarn, or who’s turn it was to weave. Everyone worked together. Even in the groups that were small enough for everyone to have their own loom, there were some kids that continued to want to work with others. They thrived on the collaboration.
Kids also learned from each other. They watched each other and when one wanted to wind a bobbin, the kid at the loom over would show them how. When groups were on their second session we began showing them techniques like clasp weft. We showed one or two kids, and then in turn shared the technique with those around them. It was a joy to watch them get excited about teaching their friends. It was so great to see their minds work.. more than one kid mastered 2 color clasped weft and quickly asked about combining 3 colors. Before long they had cones on the floor and a 3 color pattern emerging on their loom. There was so much awesome, it was hard to capture it all.
Without any prompting, one boy began working the yarn with his fingers, rather than pulling down the beater bar. His shuttle flew as his fingers danced above the loom.
Another boy created a picture of a sun in the sky, over a hill and water.
There were 11 looms, and as the week progressed we began to cut the fabric off, and create SAORI Wish Flags. They hung above the looms, sharing the positive energy of the hands that wove them.
The kids were so happy. We heard things like “I want one of these at HOME” and “I want to do this for a job!!” Teachers told us that the kids were later telling them about how much they loved their time with us, and how much they wanted to come back. One boy loved weaving so much after his first session, he went home and poked holes in a paper plate and figured out how to use it as a circle loom and weave. He proudly brought it back to show us at his next session. Chiaki showed him clasped weft and that’s what he did the rest of the time.
I had such a great time with Chiaki and the kids. I was super sad to have to leave at the end of the week- I soaked up as much creative energy to take home as I could. I look forward to the next time I can so fully be inspired by a roomful of kids at looms!