Each year on the seventh day of the seventh month, ILSSA celebrates its own version of The Festival to Plead for Skills. The festival is derived from the Chinese holiday of Qi Xi and the Japanese festival of Tanabata, in which celebrants wish for the betterment of their own craftsmanship. Instead of wishing, the ILSSA festival is a holiday of PRACTICING. Every year on July 7, ILSSA members observe this holiday by practicing a skill: using a tool, trying a method, honing a technique. Members are asked to take a picture of their practice, and to send this photo along with a brief paragraph description to the Co-Operators.

Historically, the collection of Festival photos and descriptions have been published in print form and distributed to all members as a part of the ILSSA Quarterly. Beginning with the 2013 Festival documentation, we are transitioning to a web-based, digital publishing format. It is our hope that this will better cultivate and celebrate our community of practicing.

We invite all members to join us on July 7, 2016, as we practice together again! For the 2016 Festival, our goal is to digitally post contributions as soon as they are received, so be sure to send in your photo and paragraph to operator(at)impractical-labor.org and we will share your practice with the membership. Happy Practicing!


Heather Matthew

When I read about the ILSSA call for the 2016 Festival to Plead for Skills, I saw an email for a bookbinding meet up not far from where I live which was being held on 7/7. I thought it would be a great chance to learn a new bookbinding technique -- long stitch. What I ended up doing was finishing a project I'd started and learning how to repurpose an old book and stitch the spine in as a binding device using a combination of kettle stitch and long binding. I didn't necessarily do a great job, but I did gain confidence to try something new and will definitely use this method again. So I did learn a new skill and can take that learning into my next project, thank you ILSSA for giving me a reason to plead for a new skill.


Sarah Bryant, Big Jump Press (Local 302 Shop BJP)

Spending this day packing up the studio as I get ready for a big move. Not exactly a day of skill, but a day of necessity. What stays, what goes, what is given, what is sold, what is discarded, what has value, what has none, what is value. Practicing culling.


John Vincent, A Revolutionary Press (Local 802 Shop REV)

It's time for an advertisement, or perhaps this is more an educational piece. I decided this year, since moving to a much more populated area, that I would shuttle my printed propaganda to various outdoor artists markets and fairs. Even though all my broadsides, cards, and etc. look letterpressed to me I am constantly explaining that "no, this is not a digitally produced piece of art... no computer was used in the process." I'm hoping that the slightly smudged ink from the excessive hand rolling over the form and an extra deep impression into the card stock will provide a more convincing statement...

So, what's my practice? I am a terrible marketeer of my own work. I like to think what I print speaks for itself. Today, I am practicing selling myself, or rather my work. And, as Belden Lane wrote in The Solace of Fierce Landscapes: "Work is Paying Attention To What Matters Most." And how is this quote relevant?

The second part of my practice.....Practicing how to be a Good Capitalist, since making money in this country seems to be What Matters Most, to most people. Trust, that this will be a very short lived practice for me.


Meg Wiessner (Local 410 Shop MW)

I had plans for this day, most of which involved making some time for my personal artwork, which has been sorely neglected of late. But life intervenes, and I realized that it probably wasn't going to happen. Fortunately, I'm currently working in outdoor education in rural Maryland, and am blessed to be part of an organization there that encourages choice and experimentation as well as all kinds of wonderful handcrafts. A few weeks ago a family donated the fleeces of the three sheep they keep on a small homestead nearby, knowing that I've been fixing up an old Ashford spinning wheel and teaching some of our youth how to spin. For the past few days I've been working with children who are interested to clean the fleeces (still warm with body heat when they arrived!), removing the lanonlin and dirt in successive washes before laying them back on tarps to dry in the sun. This picture shows us skirting the fleece, removing the "bad parts" that are too contaminated and dirty to bother with. It's not a particularly difficult process, but still one that I've never actually done before myself.

So while the day was long and I didn't make it to the evening with enough time and energy for those personal projects, I'm feeling pretty good about having actually practiced a new part of the process of working with wool, and simultaneously introducing it to a half dozen very enthusiastic children. Any seed I can plant in getting us to think about where our clothing and possesions come from is time well spent, in my book. In conjucntion with thinking about this festival, it's also made me wonder about how much effort I spend as an educator in cultivating a sense of "slowness" and spontanaeity in the children we work with, but about how hard it is for me to create the same sense for myself. I'll be musing more on that in the coming days, while we're carding, dyeing and felting...


Rebecca Elliott (Local 872 Shop MP)

On 7/7, I practiced measuring, cutting, and gluing together paper triangles. Introducing one angle of randomness, I tried to make other triangles & angles to make the shape go where I wanted. I practiced making a 3 dimensional form, instead of the 2 I'm used to. What fun!


Emily Larned (Local 917 Shop RC)

It wasn't supposed to be how I spent the Festival: I was eager to print 4-up color-separated pages on the Riso. But the paper arrived inches wider than specified, too big to fit in my guillotine. So the first cut was by hand with a paper knife: 200 sheets became 400 sheets. 92 degrees, a thunderstorm, terrible news reports, and a Negra Modela later, 400 sheets became 800 sheets, cut down to final size. And so printing will be begin on July 8.


Lauren Emeritz (Local 202 Shop LE)

I created a cutout alphabet and printed a type specimen sheet on my Vandercook 99 proofing press.