July 24, 2016

The Months of Kindred Spirits: Part One

I loved this phrase the moment I first heard it from little Anne Shirley (of Green Gables fame). Kindred Spirits.  Those souls whose core contains a piece of our own...who trigger the feeling of deep connection in even the most simple of encounters.

May and June brought me two precious encounters with Kindred Spirits.  (July brought a war between my camera and my computer, with a momentary truce attained just today.)  

In May, I returned again to the Crow Timber Barn for another week with fiber artist Dorothy Caldwell.
Remember how much I loved her first class, Human Marks? This workshop is called In Place. It consists of various exercises that capture Dorothy's passion for experiencing place, recording information about it, and translating all this onto paper and cloth. Specifically, two small handmade books.

So there we were, 19 women. Some in pairs of friends or sisters, many on their own. We started with a simple map and three pins each. One by one, we pinned 1) where we were born; 2) where we live now...
...and 3) a place that is important to us. In the stories we told explaining this last pin, we begin to perceive Place as much more than landscape. "I left Cuba when I was just a little girl." "This is where my daughter was born." "I saw the Aurora Borealis here." 

"Look how much we impose on the land," Dorothy points out. "It is the library. It holds heritage, experiences, and people.  It holds everything."

For Dorothy, everyplace is Place. Look how she records airplane landings from every trip.

She makes rubbings from soil or plant matter everywhere she goes (or ink wash, when the mood strikes). I noticed she uses a singular expression about her fieldwork and it fits: When I am working, when I am In the Land...
 
We start by comparing dirt she had asked us to bring from home...
 ...and rubbing it into fancy Japanese paper.
There were many other exercises. We made cord and colored it by rubbing it in local flora...
I couldn't get enough of this one.
We wandered with pen on paper and then stitched those lines.
We each selected a Place on the farm (roped off with our cord) and recorded with simple lines the sounds, the sensation of the air there. And then stitched THOSE lines. We examined maps and how they reflect our beliefs. Read through this one if you can:
We dyed with rust and plant, we marched blindfolded around a pond. We talked about curating collections, comparing the 100 objects she asked each of us to bring from home.
As if you couldn't guess which one was mine.
Are you wondering where the Kindred Spirits come in yet? From their introductions and samples of work, it was clear that many women in the group were dazzling professional artists. From the remarkable use of paint, of color, of line, it became equally clear that the quiet ones too were extraordinarily accomplished Makers.

Yeah.

Yikes.

It didn't take long for me to feel underwhelmed by my own work. Seduced by the colorful pages emerging around me, I too took watercolor brush to paper. At which point I felt even worse. I had a sleepless night and then called Himself in tears. I don't know how paint works, I sobbed. He suggested that a one-week workshop might not be the place to master a new medium. And anyway, wasn't I there to learn and absorb the approach Dorothy takes to Place?  

And feel grateful that you are in the midst of such talent, he added. Would you rather you were spending a week with people who didn't know how to do anything?


Sometimes, he is the most Kindred Spirit of all, that one.

I took his advice and surrendered into the warmth and comraderie in the studio.

After all, when in the history of time have 19 girls ever gotten along all day, every day? Seriously, this place was far from the high school lunchroom as possible. I felt the strand that ran through us all, the urge to create, and just hung on to that.
 Creativity is probably the most elemental part of my spirit and it became magical to be among others made the same way.
 By Day 4, I recognized that while I don't understand paint, I do know more than a little about how fabric works. Hey, now I get it. I am not a painter. I AM a quilter.  So I asked each person for a two-inch square of fabric, whatever she could spare. (One woman--a gifted professional painter, naturally--shrewdly bartered her Japanese shibori scrap for a piece from my 100 finds from Dead Horse Bay.) 

 I sat with the squares and within a few hours, had the last page of my book all sewn together.
 



20 comments:

  1. this is suchan amazingly delicious & delightful post, love how you recorded your process and of those around you, thank you for being you, a great writer, stitcher & kindred spirit!

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    1. Blogging is helping me a lot. The intention to write about an experience deepens what I record...and therefore what I take in. It is a portal.

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  2. There is kindred strand that runs through people who make things. I also love that Place ran through all of your making. I am very happy for your wonderful experience and a little envious too. Thank you for sharing!

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    1. Of course, ideally, I'd be translating all that into an interpretation of my own Place but I've got to conquer the default position that this Place is littered with responsibility.

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  3. what an Experience, to be surrounded by all this Making...
    how Lucky

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  4. Sounds fascinating, I would love to do a course with her, thanks for sharing your experience

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    1. I think she's taking a sabbatical in the year ahead. She mentioned that she has never given her own Land, rural Ontario, the attention that she's given faraway places.

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  5. What a great post, Julie!
    I was lucky enough to be there and only wish we can do it all over again. Same place same people!
    Dorothy is having two more workshops in 2017 at the Barn too.
    See you then?

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    1. HEY HEY Evelyn!!! I didn't know she was on for next year, I will definitely check it out.

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  6. Perfect encapsulation of the wonder that was our week together, Julie. Truly, I couldn't have put it better. Thank you for the beautiful post. With your permission I would love to link to yours via my own blog. I haven't figured out how to write about our week. You captured the magic so well.

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    1. Thanks so much, Leslie. And are you seriously asking me if I would refuse publicity????

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  7. Wow Julie..thanks for sharing about your experience..you are a quilter and a writer, my dear..so honest and genuine..a kindred spirit to all who can listen and hear with their heart. xo

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    1. This is such a beautiful comment, I wish I knew who you were so I could spend long hours at your feet.

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  8. amazing, all of it, the shared experience, the results, the processes, the exchange, oh wow, how I would have LOVED to have been there myself
    and also, how absolutely wonderful your man truly knows you and is able to say the right thing; one of the wonders of our world: finding a mate!

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    1. There are many conversations that totally miss the mark, as those of us in relationship with Y chromosomes can imagine. However, when he hits the mark, it is a complete bullseye.

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    2. Plus he has great power tools and teaches me how to use them.

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    3. I have a girl friend (one of my very best friends) and when we talk we understand EveryThing we're on about, half a sentence is quite enough, it IS different from having talks with the man, true

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  9. how did i get here again after so long, only to find this delicious post about a wonderful group of women and dorothy. it looks like you all really invested alot (trust/etc) and learned so much! thank you!

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    1. Its funny how even the Internet is a Place.

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