By Tyler Jenkins
One Acre Exchange supports the development of an agricultural economy centering the sustainability of farmers, workers, and the planet. In North Carolina and beyond, we support farmers and artisans in the growth and development of industrial hemp because of its tremendous potential to revitalize local economies and regenerate the environment. The focal objectives in 2019 are threefold: help organize an event featuring hemp fiber, seed and grow a hemp fiber crop, and provide raw materials for market-making activities. Read past articles including dispatches from the hemp fields that produced the fiber shown below: click here for all One Acre Exchange articles.
Early in 2019, we teamed up with textile artist Katie Berman and artist and designer Courtney Lockemer on the idea of organizing an art show utilizing hemp grown from the previous year’s field trial with local artists. We applied to exhibit at a community art space in Durham, North Carolina called The Carrack. The Carrack’s stated mission was “to empower artists to forge productive cultural and socio-economic ties with the local community through professional exhibit and performance opportunities in a zero-commission art space.”
A primary goal for the exhibit was to feature the work created by a shared community that involved local rural and urban people. Another was to feature industrial hemp, a new crop with tremendous potential for the economy and the environment. Finally, we wanted to walk a person through the supply chain process of creating and connecting different materials from seed to fiber as a backdrop to where the art comes from and how it is created. Upon acceptance of this application, we quickly began planning setup and events, securing artists, and processing hemp fiber. This video shows how the fiber for this gallery show was grown and processed, and the video was part of the gallery exhibit.
Upon entering the exhibit hall, we displayed four machines through the middle of the space. The homemade items (hemp brake and nail board) demonstrated the basic principles of hemp scutching, or separation of hurd and fiber, as well as combing the fiber to separate long line and tow. Following these, we exhibited a loom that was used to create some of the art on the walls, as well as a Gearhart 1907 sock knitting machine to highlight the complexities and art of mechanical processes.
The walls around this line of machines featured the work of six artists. Nicole Asselin created a three dimensional arrangement of hemp paper cutouts forming the star of North Carolina. Her canvas paint is an extracted pigment from the soil where the hemp was grown. Alexandra Burchette created a series of hemp bio-plastic pieces arranged vertically over a basket of bast fibers. Katie Berman’s work is a wall-hanging featuring an assortment of textures of hemp throughout the softening process. Janie Kimmel utilized full slack-like strips of the hemp stalk to make an intriguing weave of minimally processed fiber with a black and white color contrast. Kelly Walsh created a series of hangings that explored the textures of hemp and how it interplays with the land and other crops. Aggregating short clips and videos from the field as well as original shots, Alex Maness created a video walkthrough of our entire process from the 2018 grow to the processing of hemp for the art show.
The art show was an opportunity to collaborate with talented and hard-working people, and in addition to being a generally fun time, was a tremendous success. Energy continues to build around local and regional efforts to integrate a local industrial hemp supply chain with existing farm and manufacturing networks that sustain the current textile economy around natural fibers. The One Acre Exchange show was able to bring existing stakeholders together in a way that could catalyze future action. One exciting local development is the rebirth of our Piedmont Fibershed affiliate, organized by Courtney Lockemer. Several key stakeholders and talented people of other fiber networks throughout the state who were able to attend the One Acre Exchange show have also attended the initial meetings of this group.