Take 5 with... Alice Bernardo from Saber Fazer!


As you all know, WOMB generally advocates for lack of animal-based materials and fabrics in production (such as wool, silk, leather etc.). While consuming with fast fashion brands the general rule of thumb is to avoid such fabrics because their origin might be unclear and their sourcing unethical, there are still practices that work with fabrics sources from the amazing animals, but in a empathetic, sustainable way. One of such practices, which also educates people further not only about ethics of craft but also its hardships and complexity in general, is Portuguese Saber Fazer. We had a chance to ask a couple of questions to its founder - Alice Bernardo. And She gave us more than we hoped for! Read below!

1. How did the idea for Saber Fazer come to life? 
Saber Fazer is almost 8 years old and the road it has traveled is long and not straight at all.
It begun by being a simple attempt at gathering important information about the "Savoir Faire" (meaning: know how - hence the name Saber Fazer which means the same in Portuguese) of a few craftsmen and women, and it became an educational company that is focused on research and education. This information is not meant to be kept as a memory, but to be used in the future.

D. Ilídia Oliveira / working with wool. Credit: Saber Fazer

D. Ilídia Oliveira / working with wool. Credit: Saber Fazer

2. How do you approach the well-being of animals that you work with, for example when working on wool retrieval? 
Wool shearing is actually crucial and mandatory for the wellbeing of the animal. Although there are some campaigns against the use of wool based on the theory that shearing is cruel, these are based on ignorance.
The domesticated sheep is not a wild animal and therefore will not shed its wool naturally in the warm weather. They were domesticated by us humans precisely to give us wool and wool will not stop growing throughout the year. So, this means that humans are responsible for these animals and shearing is one of the responsibilities we have.
If the wool is not sheared, the animal will suffer during the warmer weather. They can loose their appetite due to the extreme heat, for example. The large wool fleece can also become a place for insects and other parasites to nest in and infest, causing health problems. The feces will also get the wool dirty and decomposing, so it is not comfortable for the animal to not be sheared.
Then, another part of our responsibilities is to remove the fleece with respect to the animal. The current shearing technique most used in the world was created to make the process better both for the shearer and the animal. The sheep is properly handled, with respect, not tied, and the shearing should occur peacefully. Of course, there are different professionals working in every area, but this should be the standard.
Each year we promote a wool shearing open to all the public that is performed by a professional shearer, so that people can learn about the importance of this step and how it should be done correctly, both to value the wool and respect the sheep which is a very generous animal.

3. How do you plan and execute your workshops? How do you frame them?
How workshops or courses always come about as a result of our research and continuous work. The goal is to transmit technical information that is well-funded, that can be used in a smaller scale of production. 
Our educational activities are framed within a rigorous technical research and also with the teaching of full time professionals, experts at their area.
In our activities, the attendees will not only learn about the craft, but also about the lifestyle that is associated with it and the real cost of working in that specific area.
I am completely against romanticised images of craftsmen and women and consider to be respectful from my side to relay the real hardship that is behind their work and knowledge.

4. What is your target audience for Saber Fazer and a long-time goal in educating people? Is there anything special you wish your “guests” take away from your workshops?
Saber Fazer target audience are people that are looking for real and funded technical information that can take their plans from theory to practice. Also, people that are interested in local resources and sustainability.
One special thing that I like people to take from our workshops or courses is the notion that they don't know anything at all. By this I mean that they should have understood that the craft is so complex that the workshop only gave them a glimpse into that, and years and hard work will be necessary to actually know something about it.
One of the most dangerous things I see currently are people who do a short hobby workshop and leave with the idea that they already know enough to master a craft.

5. What are some of the practices you teach people when they become part of Saber Fazer? How can one participate?
We schedule activities throughout the year that are usually connected to the natural rhythm of the raw matter production. For example, wool shearing and wool workshops in May/June. Flax workshops between April and July. Natural dyeing in July and September. We work with local resources and all our workshops are "hands on". This means that if someone came to learn about flax production, they are expected to work hard on all activities. Other workshops we host are also wet felting, weaving, tapestry, basketry, but these keeps expanding.
People can learn bout our activities through our website, at www.saberfazer.org or through our newsletter. They can also follow us on facebook and instagram.