‘Everything new is well-forgotten old’
While visiting a recently established plant based fiber farm in Latvia (Barkava parish), I felt as if I’m in the past and in the future simultaneously. Nature is such a great teacher if we are open to listen to it. Nature can communicate about our past, present and our future at the same time.
The owner of the farm – Ritvars Točs is a hearty, energetic and kind man who let me experience the whole fairytale-like, ecological and unhurried plant fiber production process, starting from the harvest in the nearby forest (collecting bark layers from fallen trees and branches, plant stems and roots) till creating a medical nettle fiber wristband, aspen fiber back belt and aspen brew, shoe insoles and an oak fiber cat rug that apparently has some wound healing properties too. Possibilities to research, design and create with these fibers are endless. Ritvars knows how to produce fibers from about 20 plants, trees, shrubs and roots.
I am glad that I now have a chance to try out the healing power of nettle and aspen. Both fibers have a warming effect and feel pleasant, soft. American Indians and Balts are known to have used the bark of the aspen tree to brew a tea that would treat numerous ailments. Because the bark is rich in a substance called “salicin,” which is similar to the active ingredient in aspirin, it was used to provide pain relief and reduce fever. While we were in the forest, Ritvars showed me traces of teeth on aspen trees. This local competitor of Ritvars is elk for whom aspen bark is a tasty treat.
The nettle wristband we made is even more precious since the outside layer is a hand woven linen made in 1925 by a relative of Ritvars.
I was surprised to learn that there is almost no interest from designers to work and experiment with these fibers, even though Ritvars has been actively promoting them for more than a year and is travelling around Latvia to give lectures about the history, tradition and usage of these natural fibers.
“LIVE AS IF YOU WERE TO DIE TOMORROW. LEARN AS IF YOU WERE TO LIVE FOREVER.” ―MAHATMA GANDHI