I’ve a slightly patchy history when it comes to spinning in public day (which was last weekend, Saturday 21st, whaddya mean, you didn’t know?). The first year I spun in a local park with two friends, attracted a teeny bit of attention, felt like a twit and went and got coffee and buns instead. The second year some of our Guild spun at Caernarfon Castle in a freezing gale, having sidestepped a request that we wear national dress. (NO. Just NO.) Last year we ended up in the lobby of a garden centre, getting in between ladies of a certain age and a cream tea. Not good.
But this year we got it bang on. The National Slate Museum, Llanberis. A wonderful venue, and one which blew me away. And it was so sunny we had to move into the shade, and we were made incredibly welcome, and the visitors seemed to enjoy seeing what we were doing, and we got in nobody’s way en route to food, and, and, and, the cafe served lemon meringue pie.
We were stationed outside a line of four slate worker’s cottages that were moved onto the site from Tanygrisiau. Three of them are fitted out in the styles of three significant times in the slate industry – 1861, the height of the quarries really; 1901, the big strike; 1969, when Dinorwic was closed (and when Prince Chuck had been ‘invested’ on a slab of Dinorwic slate just a month earlier, hrumpf, they must have known). The whole setting was perfect for us spinners; visitors were already interested in social history, and many of them emerged from the cottages really intrigued. There isn’t a spinning wheel in the 1861 interior, but there could well be…
(I’d taken some appropriately coloured BFL cross to spin up.)
As usual, the mechanism of spinning interested people, as did the technology of the wheels – it’s so basic, you can easily understand what’s going on – this moves that, and that moves this thing, and that means the wool twists… Later, when I was going around the museum with my camera I overheard one dad explaining to his son how a belt made some wheels turn and they made another wheel turn and the boy said ‘Like those spinning things outside, isn’t it?’ YO!
It made me realise how much we like to understand just how things work, and how much we like to see them working. You can’t actually see your iPad doing its thing, even if you do understand roughly how it works (it’s the little pixies, they hide). I certainly do, though I may have been contaminated by a dear friend who was an engineer. I took a trip around the museum, ostensibly to take a couple of shots for the Guild blog, but found myself mesmerised by the shapes, the colours, the light. So here’s a montage; just click on one for a slideshow. And if you are in the area, do visit the National Slate Museum. So many lives over so many years were affected by the slate industry. It’s a wonderful way to honour that.