I spent one week in India in September. As a guest of the Land of Nod team, I accompanied them on visits to factories where some of their products are made by hand and by machine, including quilts, sheets, rugs, and toys, and also on some special side trips. It was a week I will never forget, one that has enriched, educated, and inspired me.
Here is a gallery of photos from my two weeks at Chateau Dumas in Auty, France, last summer. Auty is in the southwest, about an hour from Toulouse. Most of these shots are of the chateau, but there are also a few of the nearby village of St. Antonin Noble Val. Week 1 was indigo and shibori dyeing with Jane Callender. Week 2 was textile collage with Mandy Patullo. In addition to our classes at the chateau, we took a couple of field trips (including St. Antonin Noble Val) and spent a day doing woad dyeing. Lizzie Hulme, the proprietor of the chateau, is planning to post the schedule for next summer in November. I happen to know a few of the instructors who will be on it. Very special! Very highly recommended! I am already dreaming of going back. (To view the gallery, click on the first photo to increase its size, then click the right arrow to move forward from there.)
I barely posted during the summer because I was really busy traveling and, in between traveling, trying to catch up with my work. In July I was on Åland, in the Baltic Sea, to take Lotta Jansdotter's printing workshop; in August I was at Chateau Dumas in southwestern France to take classes in indigo and shibori with Jane Callender and textile collage with Mandy Patullo; and in September I went to India with Land of Nod. Busy, beautiful, extraordinary. Here is a gallery from Åland. Galleries from France and India to come later this week.
Thanks very much to Gillian Brennan, Jenn Butterworth, Melissa Weisman, Deborah Fabbri, Megan Larson, and Nerissa Campbell for sharing their photos with me. (I'm still figuring out how to put photo credits in the gallery.) And thanks to Lotta for hosting such a unique and joyous adventure and welcoming all of us to her homeland with such warmth, generosity, and effervescence.
Lotta will be posting the schedule for next summer soon. Sign up and get ready for an extraordinary experience. Truly!
To view the gallery, click on the first photo to increase its size, then click the right arrow to move forward from there. )
We were 20 women from six countries, ranging in age from our 30s to 60s, gathered on the private island of Silverskär, part of the Åland Islands in the Baltic Sea, for a five-day Lotta Jansdotter printing workshop, and I believe that we were all basking in "the rapture of being alive."
“Nature does nothing in vain. Therefore, it is imperative for persons to act in accordance with their nature and develop their latent talents, in order to be content and complete.” --Aristotle
If making by hand is an important part of your life, I hope you'll take out a few minutes to tell me why. I'm doing research for an upcoming book and am hoping to hear from makers all over the world. Follow link for more detail. Thanks in advance for being part of this project.Read More
In 2012 I took part in the Yale Publishing Course, a one-week intensive classroom-based workshop for publishing professionals. I'm not sure how I found out about it, but when I mentioned it to the CEO of Abrams, the company I was working for, he encouraged me to attend. I was eager to try something different and liked the idea of spending a week at Yale meeting new people and hearing their perspectives on the state of the book publishing industry. Once I got there, I realized that the lecturers and attendees were much more focused on the business side of publishing than the creative side (which I should have expected given the program description, but somehow I didn't). Late one afternoon, when I was feeling especially lost amidst business talk, I was happily surprised when Nigel Holmes entered and gave a funny, passionate, interactive lecture about his career as a a graphic designer, art director, and illustrator. Holmes, internationally renowned for his ingenious work in information graphics (the art of distilling complex data and ideas into appealing, easy-to-understand visual forms), began and ended his presentation by showing us a simple wooden boat, which if my memory serves me correctly, he had made for his grandson. With that small handmade object he reminded us to never let the lure of technology or business overshadow our connection to our own hands. I departed the classroom quickly, walked straight to the bathroom, looked down at my hands, and started to cry.
Before going to sleep that evening, I wrote this email to Nigel:
I am taking the Yale Publishing Course and attended your lecture today. I am emailing to thank you. I actually had tears in my eyes when you finished. I have worked in publishing for over 20 years and, for the most part, have specialized in handcrafts. I have my own imprint at Abrams now and have always prided myself on the quality and beauty of the books we create. I'm a bit out of my element in this program because it is so focused on business, but that was part of my reason for taking it: I wanted to see publishing from a different perspective as I try to figure out how to navigate these challenging times. I have been asking myself many questions about the path I have taken thus far and the path I ought to take moving forward. After your lecture, I looked down at my hands and thought, perhaps the answer is right here.
Early the next morning I was happy to wake to a response:
What a nice message...thank you very much for taking the time to write (and at such a late hour!)
Like you, I feel a bit lost in conferences such as this one, and I know that I should really attend all the sessions as a participant (not as a nervous presenter, just waiting for the one before mine to end), but I have generally gone through life using intuition more than focused reasoning, and it seems to have supported me so far.
I very much like the feel of the books I can see on your site...you seem to be making beautiful books that encourage the kind of lifestyle that I was advocating last night: technology is a great tool, but it will never be a substitute for human work and ideas.
Keep looking at your hands.
Thank you again for writing.
All the best,
If you have read this blog before, then you may know that in May of last year I left my position at Abrams without a sure plan for what I would do next, feeling both scared and excited about entering the unknown. Looking back now, I think it was in the bathroom at Yale, after Nigel's lecture, that I began to truly understand that it was time for me to move on professionally. I was in tears because he had broken through the mental facade I had built to protect myself from facing the scary reality that I was in a job (in many ways a dream job) that would not suit me much longer.
I was reminded of my email exchange with Nigel this morning while preparing to write a blog post about about my new project, the one I hinted at here. I have just signed a contract with Artisan to write a book about the role of making by hand in our individual lives and our collective culture. It will involve about 18 months of research and writing and is tentatively scheduled to be published in the fall of 2018. My first book, Knitting in America, was published by Artisan in 1996. And, in some ways, this feels like a homecoming. I wrote a book 20 years ago, and that book opened up all sorts of opportunities for me and led me to my job at Abrams. And now I am returning home to the publisher that believed in me first, to a subject that is dear to me and always has been.
Thank you, Nigel. I am, indeed, looking at my hands.
A big new project begins. . . with a big pile of books (and a few magazines) to read. Dare I hope that the wifi conks out for a few days to help me focus and get immersed? Would I panic and head to a cafe or library or friend's house with internet service? Or would I be able to revel in the peacefulness of a few days of disconnection from the world wide web?