My sweetie is the best really, and game for going to a fiber festival. We wander up and down the tents, he stopping to talk about bison fiber, how do you use it, how do you spin it. I am a novice I say, not so much apologetically as uncertain. The woman who seems most knowledgeable, feet resting comfortably on her spinning wheel as she talks to us, says what I thought, the long hairs too coarse and no twist, the short hairs too short. My assessment was correct, just never spoken. Perhaps my pirate can use the long hairs to make a cord for his knife making enterprise. My goal here is to get a new drive belt for my spinning wheel, and two starter kits, one for a student, and one for my friend’s daughter. I find two inexpensive ones, one which is a phenomenal spin, solid, stable, balanced, not pretty but quite impressive. I stop at a booth and try some unusual spindles. The proprietor is not pretty, he makes me think of my daughter’s father in his gnarled hippy state. He talks the talk, speaks of physics, of centripetal force, and spins per minute. I try both a low spin and a high spin, they are strange bulbous spindles. After several tries, I am perplexed. Hm, it wants to spin in the wrong direction. Too much twist in your roving, she says. It wobbles, I say. It is not the spindle, he tells me, it is the spinner. You must let it fall perfectly straight or it will wobble. Ok, I say. Thank you. Meanwhile I wander up and down the rows, I buy roving from a man whom I like, something in his eyes. I buy roving from a woman I met at one of these years ago. I touch bags of soft wool, and silk, and bamboo. I think he was trying to bamboozle me. I think. I think. I say as I spin the dark and blond spindle, first this one, then that one which drops a lot, then a third. Which is the one. The pirate now rejoins me. He watches as the spindle falls, no wobble and spins like it will never stop. He laughs, its not the spindle he says. I nod as I wrap my yarn round. It is a beautiful spin, isn’t it, and balanced beautifully. The sales woman talks of their efforts to balance to perfection. She tells me, I see you are not so much a novice, you started that spindle with no draft, and you are spinning a nice yarn.
My friend and co worker is married to Gabriel Bol Deng, who is a grown Lost Boy from South Sudan. He has a non-profit organization called Hope for Ariang, his home village in that country. He has been raising money for and building a school, digging wells, and helping to educate and provide economic stability for the women of his home village with the funds he has raised. A second organization called the Canvas Peace Project collects artwork based on the theme of raising up the economic and educational status of women in that region, and then donates the profits to Hope for Ariang. My friend told me about the Canvas Peace Project and asked me to create a work of art for it.
The image is of a sunrise or sunset, which represents the transition from traditional role to a new paradigm. The female figure is also off balance, a side effect of change is that it off sets the balance of things, but in this case she is spinning in circles filled with joy at the transition and its impact on her and her child. She is pregnant, her fertility is not only not effected by her education but she is full of fertility. She wears a belt which has the word Transforming in it. I chose a yellow collage paper because of one of Gabriel’s friends, Valentino Deng, in his collaborative book What is the What, spoke of the yellow dress his mother wore, and I put this in as a nod to his efforts to raise money for a secondary school in his home village. The baby has wings and the wings are made up of text from a book called The Education of a Woman, it is her education which gives the child wings. The dress of the woman is made up of images from an article about the Lost Boys in a June 1992 issue of Life Magazine. The baby is also made up of images of the dirt floor school room in the article, and behind the child’s head is the sunlight streaming through the window of that school, a symbol of the light of grace that comes from an educated child. She wears black and white beads, a tradition in South Sudan that shows the wealth of the female by the number of cows she has, but is a symbol here of the economic stability that also comes from her education.
I included for her head an image of a child from one of the refugee camps whose head was wrapped in a blanket and he was peering out from it, I felt that this was the basis of her education through the Hope for Ariang Foundation. The suffering of those children and the people of South Sudan is the soul and the secret spirit of what has created this new hope.
A couple weeks ago, when we were traveling through the Adirondacks, the pirate and I came upon this wonderful shop on Route 8 near Chestertown and Wevertown. We had the plan to go towards Fort Ticonderoga from my friends place in the vicinity of Gore Mountain, but the plan was open and flexible and as soon as we saw the wooden motorcycle (which I somehow managed to not get a good picture of) and the free form shed structures outside we both looked at each other and decided to stop.
At first we went into the mineral, fossil and bead shop, where of course I found a lovely little grey agate elephant, and the pirate bought a several long African porcupine quills. There were some lovely stone sinks, and hand carved stone art also in the shop, again really unique and beautiful stuff, but what really struck me was the amazing wordwork of Master Woodscrafter whose name I believe is Lynette. After we had purchased our items from the gem shop, she invited us to take a look around at her woodshop.
Just the sheer beauty of the truly unique wood pieces that she had around the shop waiting to be worked, was breath taking. I am afraid my photos on this grey day just do not do justice to the stunning natural quality of the unworked pieces.
It was however her intricately crafted cabinets which most impressed me. I first noticed her amazing little dollhouse. It was like the house of a wood nymph or fairy, an absolute masterpiece of work, with a gorgeous gemstone fireplace, and a hidden doorway.
Then we saw this little cabinet, that used the different colored species of wood, and the naturally formed shapes of the wood itself to create not just a cabinet, but a painted canvas. I love that unlike typical furniture which seeks to look exactly the same as every other piece, it sought to find the intrinsic qualities of each cut of wood, and to showcase it in its natural state. In each of the cabinets she showed us there were hidden compartments which were like opening a treasure box, or stealing into an old castle and finding secret passageways, there was a magic to each piece. The bar was so well thought out, with a wine rack, glass rack, bottle compartments and other places to store glasses, with an eye to keeping things out of reach of little hands. The pirate and I were both astonished at the incredible mastery of this artisan.
I bought these repurposed fingerless gloves a couple weeks ago… the artist had several sweaters, if I had much spare change I would have bought one. The pirate and I get into these discussions where I say, its too much, whereon he says, its handmade by an artist, its a unique one of a kind item. Meanwhile inside my brain I am laughing because it is like my voice came out of his mouth – made even more funny because he says stuff all the time that make me think this way. The other day he gave me a hard time for not weeding a tree out of his garden, I told him I wasn’t sure what it was so I didn’t pull it. You know, he said, I like to leave stuff to grow, because I just want to see what it is. When he says this it is another moment when my brain giggles… I am exactly that same way, it is a curiosity and a respect for life. I love that about him, just love it. And that he really appreciates art too, that he has his own style and it isn’t all cream and beige nor garishly bright, its kind of just right, he generally has good taste.
So anyway I love Colleen Brown reclaimed and repurposed sweaters and handwarmers. If you get a chance check out her Etsy site. Colleen’s Creative Outlet
Here are the fingerless gloves I bought
I seem to like artist’s who tend towards reusing already existing products. There was another booth and I just didn’t get their card or take a picture, and they used those thick Hippy sweaters to make the best carry alls. And then of course the spoon woman and then Colleen whose sweaters were so unique that as an artist and a girl who is a bit crunchy, they really appealed to me.
There were several artisans at the Crawfish Festival last weekend one of them stopped me in my tracks the minute I saw her booth basically because they were so pretty. I always love it when an artist reclaims items for his or her work and this artist had used spoons to create these really beautiful pendants. What stopped me of course were the steampunk themed images, a bird cage, and a bicycle. The pirate pointed out the om symbol and a buddha to me, and then I noticed an elephant, a butterfly (for my friend) and an owl (for my daughter). I really thought the the black silhouettes were so elegant against the softly colored background. There were also real flowers in some of them too. I LOVED this idea of using spoon heads to make art, I always find it difficult to just throw out old spoons that I have collected over the years, the first ones I ever owned inherited from a man I knew at college, which he gave me for my first apartment when he graduated, we were just pals, but that silverware saw me through several years, until I married and used the money my mom gave me to get a all new matching set. I still have that silverware in the basement. I also have a whole box of mismatched silver that my mom has given me, I am not even sure where it is at the moment, but I have held onto it forever, but what do you do with it? What an ingenious idea!!
I met the artist Randall Yager several weeks ago when I was at the local Regional Market. It was a cold day and he was in one of the few outdoor spots that was filled that day. I was with the pirate and the pirate talked to him for quite a some time, it is easy to see how he always has people he knows everywhere he goes. We were both pretty impressed with Randall’s iron bar metal sculptures, his website is here Ironbar Custom Welding. One of the things I liked about his work, is that he does use some reclaimed metal, and that he does custom work as well. And his prices were pretty reasonable. Check it out.
The Zen Center of Syracuse is a tranquil and serene refuge in the sometimes ugly nature of this city; Syracuse sometimes seems perpetually grey, perpetually snowy, perpetually loud and obnoxious, it is a town that hates itself with an ugly vehemence. The Forman House is an historic structure, with yoga studio and art studio in the attic, a lending library, and an elegantly simplistic sitting hall in its own building. In the warmer weather months, I love to sit in the Zendo when the rain is falling, all the windows wide open and the breeze blowing through the trees, the sirens pass, loud music blares, tires squeal and children play on the playground across from the hideously straightened ditch which is now Limestone Creek, but on the mat it all passes by with each inhalation and each exhalation, we sit patiently waiting for the thoughts and sirens to pass us by. After each 20 minute sitting we get up and on days when the rain is not falling we walk through the woodland garden that meanders through the woods, stone buddha’s patiently waiting to take their place in line, birds singing, dragonflys, butterflies, mosquitoes, deer, and people hands folded on their bellies.
This weekend I had the Zen Center offered a workshop on making Jizo with artist Tom Matsuda. A Jizo is a buddhisatva who is friend and protector to women, children and travelers. I attended the workshop which involved a short period of sitting, an opportunity to view both the sacred and contemporary art of the Sensei as well as his guidance in making our own Jizo for about 2 and a half hours. It was so wonderful to spend a stormy, cold and snowy day in the warm comfort in the peaceful company of so many artists, whether they are artists by trade, or merely artists in their hearts.