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Prue Simmons from Dyeing To Weave

There are only three accredited SAORI weaving instructors in Australia, and Prue Simmons is one of them. Here she explains why she loves this little-known form of freestyle weaving, and what you can expect from attending her upcoming Japanese SAORI Weaving Workshop.

What is SAORI weaving and what is its history?

SAORI weaving is a fun and easy form of freestyle weaving that was developed in the 1960s in Japan. Contrary to many other forms of weaving, which are pattern-based and require perfection, SAORI allows the weaver to just enjoy creating and freestyle expression. The word SAORI comes from two Japanese words: ‘Sai’, a Zen word meaning ‘unique’ and ‘-ori’, meaning ‘weaving’, so it’s about making a unique, human-made cloth – a true one-of-a-kind!

SAORI weaving comes with a beautiful philosophy that everyone has their own, unique inner spirit that is shown when there is the opportunity to create freely. SAORI weaving allows you to express yourself through colour and texture at the loom. In SAORI, there are no rules, no patterns to worry about and no such thing as a mistake, so it’s something that absolutely anyone of any age can do! The SAORI looms are still handmade in Japan by the same family that first created them, and they are wonderfully easy to set up and use.

How did your own journey with SAORI weaving begin?

I stumbled across SAORI weaving in a tiny village in the mountains while living in Japan over a decade ago. I was instantly hooked! I loved the meditative quality of the weaving, the simple movement and the ability to quickly and easily create beautiful cloth. After enjoying SAORI for a number of years as a hobby both in Japan and Australia, I then had the opportunity to open my own globally accredited SAORI studio in Central Victoria at my llama farm. Now I am passionate about teaching others this amazing textile craft. I am one of only three people in Australia that is accredited to teach this Japanese style of weaving, and sell the looms – and I absolutely love what I do!

The word SAORI comes from two Japanese words: ‘Sai’, a Zen word meaning ‘unique’ and ‘-ori’, meaning ‘weaving’, so it’s about making a unique, human-made cloth – a true one-of-a-kind!

Besides the work itself, what else does SAORI weaving bring to your life?

SAORI weaving is not only a craft but a moving meditation, so I love being able to just chill out at the loom and create. I don’t come from a textile background (I used to be a zoologist!), so the ability to easily make beautiful cloth for unique garments or soft furnishings around the home is wonderful. Sharing my passion for SAORI and Japanese crafts through teaching, and watching the creativity come alive in my students, is so fulfilling. The SAORI philosophy and ideals of valuing creativity and uniqueness have extended right through to all aspects of my life.

What is the ‘Celebration of SAORI’ exhibition and how did it come about?

The ‘Celebration of SAORI’ exhibition is held from the 2nd to the 18th of November in Clunes, and brings together SAORI weavers from all over Australia in a celebration of freestyle weaving. A joint collaborative idea between Dyeing To Weave SAORI Studio and Cathy Tobin from Gypsy Weaver Studio, the exhibition celebrates the burgeoning popularity of Japanese SAORI weaving in Australia and aims to highlight and recognise the amazing freestyle weaving currently being produced at the loom in lounge rooms, studios and craft groups around the nation. After we held a very successful SAORI exhibition for Cathy in Clunes last year, we decided to extend that opportunity to other weavers who may not normally get to exhibit and sell their work. It will be a wonderful, inspirational venue to host my SAORI workshops and we encourage everyone to visit the charming, historical township of Clunes to see the exhibition and experience the beauty of SAORI weaving!

Favorite place for breakfast, lunch and dinner in your region?

There are a number of great cafes and restaurants in Clunes, but my favourite place is just up the road at the Talbot Provedore and Eatery in the delightful neighbouring township of Talbot. They produce absolutely amazing seasonal food, stock a wide variety of local wines and the place has a wonderful ambience. Plus I can get lots of delicious locally made products from their Provedore to enjoy at home.

Besides where you live and work, where is your next favourite part of regional Victoria?

We are so lucky here in Victoria to have an abundance of amazing regional locations that are so easy to access. I particularly love a mountain vista – so the High Country region is a favourite of mine. Such picturesque landscapes, crisp mountain air and gorgeous bushland. Plus there are some lovely boutique wineries throughout the region to enjoy!

What can people expect from attending your Japanese SAORI Weaving Workshop?

Attending a SAORI Workshop is lots of fun! The easy, relaxed, freestyle nature of the weaving means that you don’t need any experience to start SAORI weaving and all of the looms are set up and ready for you. All you need is the enthusiasm to explore playing with colours and textures to make a beautiful woven piece to take home and cherish. Come and find your Zen at the loom and discover SAORI weaving!

What: Japanese SAORI Weaving Workshop
Where: The Warehouse, Clunes
When: Sun 4 Nov and Sat 10 Nov, 1pm to 5pm
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