John and I started the Griffin Dyeworks Fiber Retreat because there was nothing else for small fiber groups in Southern California at that time. There were several Northern California conference and workshops, but not here. There were large conferences held around the state, but they were more formal and less hands-on. These many years later, other small conferences have appeared and seem to be well-attended, too. So we asked fiber friends if they would teach classes and got an enthusiastic response.
With this encouragement, we starting looking for a venue. An Eagle Scout friend suggested a Tehachapi Mountains camp within easy driving distance of Los Angeles. We went to meet Ranger Terry Hall, camp director, and ended up selecting Camp Verdugo Oaks (CVO) for our first Fiber Retreat.The event was far more successful than we’d allowed ourselves to hope, which delighted us and encouraged us to hold another Fiber Retreat the next year. And the next. And the next.
There have been nine Fiber Retreats so far. We plan to continue for as long as there is an interest in attending a cozy, encouraging, friendly Retreat.This gives Retreat participants a chance to ask questions of the teachers, or even request an impromptu class in something not listed on the schedule. It is common to hear a teacher say “Class in naalbinding over here in 15 minutes!” Or even to have a participant show a hitherto unknown talent that they are willing to share.
We have explored many dye techniques and materials, including the Scotch broom brought in by one participant. She stopped by the side of a freeway to pick the flowers, which must have startled passersby. Another dyestuff was dodder, a parasitic yellow web often seen in Southern California.
Ranger Terry is a Mountain Man, with a fine collection of vintage trade beads. He often joins the spinning circles to bead feathers or sew leather trousers. The fiber folk welcome him.It gives us immense satisfaction to stand under the moonlight and see the outdoor work areas filled with chattering, laughing, busy fiber folk, all too excited to go to bed. This is the creativity we love to have encouraged!
Since the camp is in the wilderness, we had Bruce the Bear trolling for goodies during the night, but we seldom saw him. Ranger Terry would run Bruce off with rock salt in a shotgun. Alas, all that is left of Bruce is a large green footprint on the lodge sidewalk, the result of his investigating a newly painted picnic table. Sparky, a black and white cat, is proficient at dodging all the wildlife at Camp Verdugo Oaks. Sparky likes to hide in vehicles. Fiber folk usually get only as far as the I-5 Freeway before discovering him, but others have carried Sparky all the way home.
The finest Retreat accolade started with a tragedy. John’s sister in Montana was failing, so we got a phone call on the eve of the Retreat to come quick. It was far too late to cancel the Retreat, so we contacted several of our teachers and asked them to take over. They agreed with alacrity, and ran the Retreat so well, we doubt if anyone missed us.
These wonderful fiber friends have been a mainstay in keeping the Retreat going, planning new activities, and finding guest teachers. They are so invaluable to us and to the Retreat. This is what makes the hard work of organizing such an event worthwhile!
Where do we see the Retreat several years from now? With the enthusiasm and hard work our amazing teachers and helpers are willing to put into it, the Retreat will continue for a long time. — John & Bjo Trimble