Hi, everyone -
Seattle’s famous Northwest Folklife Festival was this weekend, and I had a deadline to submit a “fiber-bombed” musical instrument for a visual arts booth. True to form, I incubated this thing for about a year (how ridiculous!), and completed it in a couple of half days. But magic was afoot as I collaged metal for the first time in this manner, using a method of attaching that I detest: hot wax! In the end, I had phenomenal fun! What a riot to watch musicians trying to test the fake strings.
I have also just completed a very awful first draft of my life story, and wonder if I will be brave enough to pass it along to Jane….
I will be traveling for a week beginning Friday 6/3, and do hope to keep up with you all.
Part 1: History
Who are you and what physical path has your life taken?
Oh boy, here comes the story….
I am the oldest of five kids, born in 1949 to a beautiful diva of a mom who was an only child herself, and then was packed off to boarding schools once she was old enough. So…she did a lot of practicing on us….on ME, actually. I was an energetic, talkative little thing, I’m told, and I suppose I was lucky to have my parents all to myself for two years, before all hell broke loose.
I love my family, but things were a little rough and tough. So early on, I learned to sequester myself and be pretty independent. I loved going to bed at night because I had such fun with my dreams. Especially after figuring out how to conquer my nightmares and teach myself how to fly. I grew up noticing everything and always had a strong sense of aesthetic. I neatly arranged things in my world and could palpably feel when something was out of place and not pleasing to me.
Because I grew up in an environment that did not encourage my confidence or self-esteem, I was a pretty awkward kid growing up. Add to that my buck teeth, funny hair and eyeglasses, and you have a real wallflower of a teenager. Until I was a junior year in high school. Braces, contacts, and a good ironing job on my hair and the boys started to notice me. I was popular on the outside and terribly lacking in confidence on the inside.
My hands were always busy making things, and it was unfortunate that no one in my world encouraged me to nurture my artistic self. So in college, I tried to take art classes, but you had to declare it as a major, and I did not realize that this was important enough to me that I should do that. I thought I needed to study something that I could possibly make money doing. I did have the good sense to study philosophy, psychology and cultural anthropology. (I was on the right track there….)
I got very involved in the movements of the day: civil rights, feminism, and the anti-Vietnam war effort. So involved that I dropped out of school mid-junior year. (Never went back and it still niggles at me sometimes….) I ultimately retreated from all the social justice causes in favor of changing the world “one person at a time”. I got married at age 21 to a gorgeous young man whom I fell in love with at first sight, who was very different from me in many ways. He did not understand my love of making things and spending obsessive amounts of time creating utterly beautiful formal dresses or whatever it was that I was making at the moment. Even on our VW bus trip around the country for three months in 1971, I had the inkle loom propped up on the dashboard of the van making beautiful decorative trim for our handmade muslin tops and blue jeans.
But turned out I married a bi-sexual man who decided he was thoroughly gay after three years. Being the strong-minded young woman I was, and loving him so much, I wanted a child and bingo….there came a beautiful boy. I was later thanked for giving my ex the greatest gift of his life, my son. (I feel the same way, and understand now that this was the purpose of the love and the marriage).
I’d better not write an entire novel here…so, cutting to the chase a bit (ha!): I found myself at age 27 a single mom with a 3-year-old. I pulled myself up by my bootstraps, took a class on becoming self-employed, and opened up a picture framing studio. Since I was not the artist, I wanted to do anything I could to work with and for artists. It was a fabulous move. I had a sweet little studio next to my home, and my elementary school son would come home and find me in the studio. (Now he loves tools just about as much as I do!) After a few years, I realized that the more busy I was, the more alone I was in the world I had created. I sat down and wrote a job description for myself, and then discovered it nearly word for word in our local paper. I had described the marketing position I would get with a talented small graphic design firm.
That job led to another and ultimately, I worked for close to 30 years in small creative companies doing marketing, business development and public relations. Self-taught, I seemed to find my courage and confidence to do these things.
I discovered swing dancing and lindy hop in the late ‘90s, and met my husband dancing. I became so enthralled by dance that I trained my skills on producing dance shows and events and bringing people together around dance. I am a part of the culture in Seattle that has landed it a reputation as one of the “dancingest” cities in the world.
After retiring from both the creative/design world and my dance projects, I trained my gaze on art studies. Mostly through Pratt Fine Arts Center in Seattle, I have taken workshops ranging from “hard to soft”….welding, mixed media, collage, weaving, textile techniques in metal….all of this based on my younger “hippie era” explorations of macrame, beading, weaving, embroidery, etc etc etc.
In 2007-08 I did a wonderful thing and signed up for the one-year certificate program in fiber arts at the University of WA. It was incredible! Like a year of fabulous grad school in the thing you love the most. I was in heaven, and my narrative story dress series began with that study.
Something I have not mentioned yet is that I am also a deeply spiritual person (and recovering Catholic). I had the opportunity to travel in 2010 to Brazil to study with a shaman, and things have not been the same since. In the past 5 years, I have studied shamanism and indigenous practices in both North and South American traditions. I would call myself now an artist, ceremonialist and dream tender. I participate in and lead ceremony from different cultures, and lead a dream group. Complete with the more serious and focused study with teachers whom I continue to consult, nature is my teacher now.
And it is from this place that I look forward to finding the soul in my creative work again. I loved Jane’s metaphor of the many threads, and have been using that for myself…seeing myself as the loom through which all the threads of my loves are moving and weaving together.
I have many visions of what this might look like, and I am ready. At 67 years young, I’d better get crackin’!
Part 2: Process
How do you work and what do you love to do?
It actually depends a lot on the materials, and whether I am choosing to be random and wild or obsessive and perfect. I’m seeing that I go through phases and benefit from both. I will generally incubate an idea for a very long time, but it’s also true that I love to work intuitively and not necessarily know just where I’m going.
I have loved working with hard materials and processes of different kinds: welding steel and making niche box constructions; collaging and sewing recycled aluminum (I just finished metal bombing a second hand ukulele…great fun!). But it’s getting harder on my hands, so the softer fibers and two-dimensional work have been of interest to me. I have a warp on my jack loom for the first time in years and am making simple base cloth to repurpose a beautiful old Guatemalan huipil and create a new ceremonial garment. I am loving the “small repetitive movements” in this, and it’s been good for me. I am envisioning a phase of working with fiber, wax, various mixed media to convey spiritual interests, dreams, personal evolution.
I am recognizing how much I also love to use someone else’s content and just rearrange it, as happens with collage….to create a whole new message.
While I am aware that these various loves need some weeding, I am really loving the freedom I am taking right now to move between very diverse kinds of projects (at the moment, from weaving to collaging metal).
Part 3: Content
What do you care about?
- Consciousness and evolution
- Guidance from the dream time
- Mother Earth and environmental concerns
- Trees! I am committed to being a steward of the trees in any way I can
- Risking delight in the face of everything that is
- Being of service in my community
- Using my hands to express myself in ways that touch people