Eating my sandwich on a bench in the sunshine my delight at being there must have shown because I soon found myself engaged in conversation by a disarming and amusing Tunisian author with glossy jet-black ringlets and a tweed trilby. His name was Adem and when he invited me to be his 'Eve' for the afternoon I politely made my excuses and headed for the college.
As mentioned in the previous post the students in the Design Textile department at ENSCI work on looms creating fabric designs, so my intervention was something very different for them. It provided an opportunity for all three years to work together and gave them a break from the very intensive work that they normally do. Only one of the students had done any basket making before, which she did with me two years ago, and I was pleased to have her back in the class as she had been a very creative student last time.
I teach basket-making techniques and material skills because I believe it is important to preserve this ancient and universal knowledge by handing it on to whoever is interested in learning. I do not instruct students in what to do with these skills. That is, I believe, for them to discover and for them to choose. For me there is a parallel with vocabulary, the more words you know the better you are able to express yourself and make the purpose of your speech or writing clear. With basket-making, the more techniques you have mastered the more capable you are of choosing the most appropriate one for whatever it is you wish to do or make. I also find that once the students have grasped the basics of a technique they naturally become more inventive and creative without me ever instructing them how to be so. It is the confidence that comes with learning a new skill that seems to give them the courage to try something different and it never fails to delight me.
The week also brought the pleasure of seeing friends and staying in the house of a man who is in his 101st year. It seemed an honour to have the chance to meet a centenarian who is also fit and healthy and only stopped driving a couple of months ago. It is known that genetics play a huge part in longevity but it also came as no surprise to learn that he takes a cold shower every morning, exercises every day, keeps his mind active, goes to bed early and has always eaten simply and healthily.