After many months of not posting anything, Tim Minchin's 2013 commencement address has inspired me. Minchin, I've just learned, is a famous Australian musician, composer, songwriter, actor, comedian, and writer.
In the space of seven minutes Pema Chödrön offers a reassuring perspective on faith, love, hate, awakening, peace, kinship, perfection, sanity, suffering, meditation, and happiness. Powerful ideas to contemplate in these hurtful times.
Back in September I spent a week in India with Land of Nod. It was an amazing experience that I am still processing. More than anything it compelled me to think deeply about how the role of making by hand in our lives differs from place to place based on our history, culture, and economy. Our group included Land of Nod's managing director, members of the Land of Nod design team, and a photographer and videographer. I was delighted when I checked out the Land of Nod blog this morning and saw that it included this video, which brings me right back to that bright, sunny, colorful, delicious, friendly, energizing, exotic, exhilarating week of a lifetime. Throughout the video you'll see talented artisans creating many Land of Nod products, including dolls, bedding, and rugs. (And If you don't blink at the 33 second mark, you'll see me trying out block printing.) I also posted some photos of the trip here.
It was Day 4 of my first week at Chateau Dumas, woad-dyeing day, so a Wednesday. I woke up early that morning and decided to finish hand-stitching my Alabama Chanin/School of Making Long Skirt before breakfast. I had finished sewing the pieces together a few weeks earlier, but hadn't yet found the time to attach the waistband. I reviewed my instructions for herringbone stitch, threaded my needle, and more quickly than I expected, I was done. Having stitched waistbands like this one before, I knew that to get satisfying results, I needed to baste it on first. I actually worked slowly and methodically, but because I didn't rush, I didn't have to spend much time untangling thread or reworking uneven stitches.
I began this project back in the summer of 2015 when I started learning a computer graphics program in order to design a stencil to be spray-painted onto the cotton-jersey fabric (and then serve as my guide for the reverse-applique embellishment). Last October and January I wrote about my progress on this blog, about the patience and vulnerability learning something new required. And today I am writing about how good I felt when I finished. I was lucky to be in France at the time. I was taking two workshops at the chateau and feeling so happy. Immediately upon tying my last knot and snipping the thread, I pulled on the skirt and went down to breakfast.
I am not usually eager to have my picture taken and, like so many women, I am always very critical when I see myself in photos, but after breakfast on this day, I was relaxed and comfortable. And I was excited to be wearing a skirt that held so much meaning to me. I managed a selfie of the skirt over my legs and then asked Lizzie, Chateau Dumas' kind host and proprietor, to help with a more complete shot. We started near the garden steps, then made our way to the courtyard and then the front entryway. It was fun and funny to play photo shoot and it reminded me of the joy of playing dress-up as a child.
When I look at the photos from our short session now—three of which I share below—I see how flattering happiness can be. I was happy because I had completed a project I really cared about and that required learning something new, because I was in a beautiful place with other women learning something else new, and because I had made time in my life for all of it.
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 hosting another group July 19 - 23, 2017. 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."