I'm super, crazy excited to be offering my first craft workshop with Handcraft Studio School in nearby Emeryville, CA. I've loved their class offerings since they opened just one year ago and I'm honored to join their ranks of craft teachers. Handcraft is a beautiful, light-filled, modern, and inspirational classroom space in Emeryville. It's certainly one of the prettiest spaces where I've ever taught and, quite possibly, been a student either. It's that pretty. And their line-up of workshops is so inspiring. Truth be told, I've already registered for two other workshops this fall. I couldn't resist.
I'm offering a Sashiko Mending workshop on Sunday, November 2 from 1:30-5:30. This class is a new offering where we'll combine a project tutorial and a personally-assisted mending project too. Last I heard, class was filling at a steady pace so if you are interested please head on over and sign-up soon to reserve your spot. I hope to offer this class a few times, maybe even in a few locations, so I'm feeling really enthusiastic about spreading the news. I'd love to teach more textile and craft classes alongside my grantwriting and fundraising workshops. Fingers crossed.
This traditional Japanese sewing technique lends itself beautifully to contemporary crafts. Sashiko is the perfect stitch to mend existing garments or to create beautiful new textiles. In this workshop, we’ll discuss traditional techniques like Boro, Sashiko, embroidery, and quilting and their modern applications in Visible Mending and Slow Fashion. We’ll also consider “mendfulness” and the creative opportunity in repair.
This workshop will lead participants through the making of one Sashiko potholder while sharing various inspiration for continuing beyond the classroom. Participants will also have the option to mend an existing garment with my help so they can leave the workshop with greater confidence and skill. (Denim jeans, wool sweaters, or beloved outwear are great options for visible mending.) Basic sewing and stitching skills are required.
All necessary materials will be provided but please bring one garment for mending and, if desired, your fabric patches of choice. Optional: Your own fabric scissors, thimble, fabric marking pencil, and ruler. Sashiko thread, Sashiko needles, potholder fabric, and practice Sashiko fabric will be provided along with additional tools to share.
Join me if you can! For those of you outside of the Bay Area, I'm also open to traveling to your community if you can gather enough folks to cover my travel costs and my teaching fees. Just to be clear, sleeping on the couches of my crafty cohorts is usually just fine by me. Contact me if you want to schedule a workshop in your area in 2015.
As many of you know, my husband works as a video, lighting, and set designer for performance and dance. In any given year he works on dozens of productions and consults with hundreds of artists regarding the visual design elements of their live performance.
After 16 years of partnership and five years of marriage, I can tell the mood of a production by the way he talks about it. I can tell if the team was excited, inspired, frustrated, disappointed, or worse yet, somewhat indifferent. But one of the things I love the most about being on the inside of his work is the vantage point I get to another artist's career as a consultant. Long before I recently started my own freelance career as an artist, writer, and teacher I got a glimpse into the ups and downs through osmosis. And sometimes the demands he receives from his clients and collaborators is nothing short of shocking.
The shock factor has worn off through the years but every once in awhile a client or collaborator will request something so impossible that my heart aches a little for what he's being asked to accomplish. There's just no way it's going to happen. I think most of us can relate to this feeling in working with clients, colleagues, or even in unmanageable demands from friends or family. Sometimes it's just not possible to fulfill, no matter what.
On the other hand, sometimes he's pushed so far outside of his comfort zone that pure magic ensues with his collaborators. Usually because of someone's committed vision, thoughtful communication, and skillful organization. But one of the comments that stays in my mind was spoken from a young dancer a few years ago.
He was working on a dance showcase that highlighted a handful of promising young talents from the Bay Area. The show was carefully curated from a noteworthy local choreographer and tickets sold out very quickly. Supposedly the talent was amazing and the show was a great success.
That's the part we see from the outside, right? The great success. Never mind the weeks of carefully orchestrated schedules, talents, shortcomings, and hard work. But this comment made more of an impression on me than witnessing the innards of the performance as an intimate bystander. My husband sat in the technicians' booth amidst a busy rehearsal and the young dancer took her place late, unapologetic, and stared up into the darkened tech booth.
She put her hands on her hips, looked at the team of designers and directors and said, "I want you to make me look and feel like Beyonce." That's right. That's what she said. And I wasn't there but I can only imagine how the designers broke into quiet laughter filled with more authentic disbelief. Did she just say what I think she said?
Yes, she did. Beyonce. They are asked to create some fairly impossible illusions and technical feats but making any young dancer, even a very beautiful, talented, rising star, look and feel like Beyonce? We all know that's not possible. Regardless of the technical limitations it's still not possible.
It might be the overstatement of the century to say that Beyonce is simply gorgeous. Even without the makeup artists, costume designers, personal assistants, and accoutrement of talented designers working to make her ready for stage, camera, or commercial she's simply gorgeous. She's also crazy talented, but I'm going to leave her talent aside because this dancer didn't ask to perform like Beyonce, more so she asked to look and feel like her. So the first part of this young dancer's comment might just come across as naivety. Maybe pride.
Maybe that wistful longing that can only be captured by youth--the time in our lives when we actually believe for a micro second that we might just grow up to look like Beyonce. Also the time in our lives when the pressure to look and feel a certain way might just be at an impossible high. I wouldn't go back to my teens or early twenties for all the money in the world. No way, no how.
But the second part of her comment is what haunts me. She wanted to feel like Beyonce. How can anyone know how that feels? And what makes us/ her believe that feeling like Beyonce is a one-way street? As if it's lined only with confidence, happiness, and complete emotional fulfillment at every intersection. As if she has somehow not just defeated the odds in entertainment, performance, and certainly what must have been one woman's complicated career, but also in feeling. As if her feelings are also superior or warrant coveting.
It pains me, really. To imagine wanting to look and feel like Beyonce. Good grief, the pressure. But it's this desire to be somebody else, to embody somebody else, to actually feel like somebody else that I find most interesting. Because, sadly, we all do it.
We all look at our work, relationships, finances, homes, or even our leisure activities and think somebody else is doing it better. We think that if we had what they had we would feel (fill in the blank) and that would be superior to our current feeling. Maybe we aren't bold enough to admit it. Or to ask a room full of weary technicians to achieve it, but we think it.
That dreadful demand of comparison. And the second part that troubles me is that my husband and his colleagues were actually expected to make her look and feel like Beyonce. Not by the producers or curators, of course, but by the very real place in this dancer's heart that expected she be transformed. Good grief.
And this makes me think of the demands we put on each other. On our friends, partners, families, or even on strangers on the Internet to fulfill this longing for us. To play into the belief that our lives would actually be better if we just had this one (sometimes unnameable) thing that from our vantage point it seems they possess and we think we are entitled to possessing it too. This is tricky stuff. But the over simplification is that, if I looked like Beyonce maybe I'd feel like I imagine Beyonce to feel and if I felt like Beyonce my life would be better. It makes me take a very dramatic deep breath.
In making artwork, in teaching classes, or in publishing writing, but also in parenting my son, loving my husband, or engaging with my friends I have to resist this temptation all the time. I have to resist comparison to other artists, teachers, and writers, but also to parents, spouses, and even my girlfriends. I have to catch myself. Notice myself. Redirect myself. And ultimately remind myself that while it's important to have goals, to make steady progress, to be self-aware, and to try to end each day with some sense of accomplishment or insight, it's not the goal to look or feel (or work or parent or love) like anybody else. Even Beyonce.
Not only is that impossible, certainly not the way to a successful career in the arts or in writing, but it's also not acknowledging my own strengths or giving myself the chance to, well, to better understand myself. Right? And it's not the goal to ingest somebody else's longings and wantings either, should they be projected on to us. We have to notice these projections too: Not about me.
We all know the Internet can be the perfect place to solicit advice, heap on expectations, or make landslide comparisons that we just wouldn't do if we were in the same room as the recipient. I can only imagine what celebrities must receive in these departments. It's somehow anonymous but also intimate. The perfect storm for comparisons and unwarranted expectations. It requires deep breaths.
My yoga teacher often talks about mantras and she talks about her ongoing practice of loving-kindness meditation (a beautiful practice also known as Metta). She once told a tender story about the practice of engaging this meditation in the moment of difficultly with another person. At first realizing the moment of conflict, pain, or friction to actually take a moment, and probably a dramatic deep breath, and silently repeat, "May you be happy. May you be well. May you be safe. May you be full of peace." And then there's the practice of repeating this phrase to our selves, "May I be happy. May I be well. May I be safe. May I be full of peace."
I don't have any grand conclusions on the thoughts of comparison, longing, or creating fantasy lives in the arts or in our everyday living. I think that's life's work. But instead I have this very real desire to find this young dancer and offer her this phrase alongside a picture of our beloved Beyonce. Know yourself! Love yourself! Create an atmosphere for peace! Find your own strength and be nice to our fellow technicians! I suppose I shouldn't shout it. And given that I don't even know her name this would be completely impossible.
So instead I'll offer it here to the notorious dancer, to myself, and you readers as we acknowledge that this mantra is truly a lifelong practice in the arts or anywhere else. And as we acknowledge that regardless of what it looks like from the outside, even for Beyonce, we are all stumbling ahead putting one tender foot before the other doing the very best with what we have. Now then, "May you be happy. May you be well. May you be safe. May you be full of peace".
(Photos of fennel harvested along the San Francisco Bay. A meditative practice for me--combining art and ecology, collecting wildflowers for natural dyes.)
If you are planning to sign-up for my upcoming online class, Slow Fashion Style, please head on over and register before this Thursday. Registration will close at 5pm on Thursday, October 2nd for this online class that runs Oct 13-24, 2014. This class is totally free and generously supported by an artist's grant from The Puffin Foundation. Hooray!
I'll be offering tutorials on visible mending, plant-based dyes, and simple sewing techniques to preserve garments. I'll also be offering exclusive artist interviews with slow fashion textile artists; provide ample resources for slow fashion, plant-based dyes, and visible mending; and share my research and findings from my yearlong fast-fashion fast, Make Thrift Mend. I'd love to have you in class!
As of this post there are over 400 international participants registered for this online workshop. This far exceeds my expectations! I'm thrilled. Humbled. Inspired. And motivated by your interest in this class. Thank you. On the technical side, that means I have over 400 people to move through registration and assist in accessing the private class website. So I'll be closing registration on Thursday to begin this process.
Feel free to spread the word about this free class until Thursday but that's the last chance to join this Slow Fashion Style adventure. Did I mention that I'm thrilled? Okay, I'm thrilled.
By now I think my love affair with visible mending and Sashiko is public knowledge. I have confessed my love several times and will do it here once again: I love this stitch for visible mending. I can't get enough of it truly. The more I research Sashiko, Boro, and visible mending the more I fall deeply and madly and also head over heels. In love.
I can't ignore the influence of Natalie Chanin's careful stitch work, her beginnings using secondhand t-shirts, and the amazing advocacy work she continues for the slow fashion movement. I also see the quilting movement and more particularly the Quilts of Gees Bend exhibition all influencing my interest in visible mending and using patches, stitches, and an imperfect aesthetic to promote the life of our beloved blue jeans. Also, I must add the Japanese concept of wabi sabi to this mix. (That's a link to a lovely, succinct article about wabi sabi if you're new to the term.)
I think that's my visible mending lineage: Sashiko, Boro, Natalie Chanin, the Quilts of Gees Bend, and wabi sabi. Add this to my background in environmental studies, poetry, book arts, and textiles and you somehow arrive to where I'm at today with visible mending and slow fashion. Oh, the journey of our creations and interests and how they twist and morph until they arrive exactly where we are at this exact moment in time. The journey.
I just finished this visible mending project on my husband's work pants. There was a small tear in the right knee and I wanted to fix the hole before it became a gash. In abstaining from new clothing for one year for the Make Thrift Mend project, one of the things we noticed quickly was that our favorite pants grew holes in the knees almost predictably. And much too quickly for our liking. So my mending pile is not at any risk of being depleted: the tears in our knees are keeping me busy. It's another reason to consider raw denim, I suppose.
So as his third pair of pants was added to my mending pile I decided to tackle this tiny hole first. I darned it with matching thread and then used the Sashiko stitch to reinforce a denim patch from behind. (I'll talk more about the details and options for visible mending techniques in my upcoming class Slow Fashion Style.)
He went to work wearing these mended pants this morning so I think that's a good sign. I am definitely learning that it makes more sense to invest in higher quality clothing upfront so that the garment will wear longer, we'll care for it more attentively, and when it comes time for mending it is definitely worth the investment of time and handwork. I'm also learning when it might be best to use a visible patch and when it might be better to use subtle stitches. It's all part of the journey.
Mostly, I love the idea of tending to our clothing as it ages, protecting it against damage, and following its natural aging process as an opportunity for expression and preservation. Let the stitches be the wrinkles, the patches be the age marks, and the darned holes be the persistent smile lines we all deserve. If our characters are defined as we age, perhaps our wardrobes can be too.
This issue is brimming with gorgeous photographs, thoughtful essays, inspired craft tutorials, and delicious recipes that explore numerous angles of "mend". Yes, even recipes and photographs that are inspired by concepts of mend or mending. I posted about the word, mendfulness, a few months ago and I'm still so grateful to one of you dear readers for lending me this word. It manages to summarize my intentions and motivations with the Make Thrift Mend project and also with visible mending. This powerful word even became the title of my Taproot article. (Thank you, Jo.)
Some of you might already receive subscriptions of Taproot but if not you can purchase a subscription or an individual issue from their website. The magazine is totally independent and advertisement free and relies 100% on the support of subscribers. Just another reason to love their philosophy, dedication, and generosity in publishing such thoughtful and inspiring work. Did I mention I'm excited to have this article included in their magazine? Okay, thrilled might be better suited.
Thank you, Taproot! I hope readers will enjoy my contribution.
The registration platform is now available right here just be certain to leave your email address as that's how you'll gain access to the private class blog. While the class is free to participants anywhere the blog will be limited to registered students only and the only way I will be able to invite you to the private blog is if you include your email address when you register. So please leave your email address when you register. (Did I mention that I'm so excited I could squeal?)
Slow Fashion Style will operate through a private class blog that shares original daily content to subscribed readers only. This workshop will share project tutorials, exclusive artist interviews, project possibilities, studio tips, and multiple resources for sustainable fashion. Topics will include visible mending, natural dyes, simple sewing techniques, and various ways to reduce your fashion footprint while increasing your fashion resourcefulness. This workshop is FREE but participants must preregister and be available for the duration of the two-week class. Of course, you can work at your own pace and engage with the class community as you wish.
Please help me spread the word to your community as I'd love for this workshop to reach as many participants as possible. It's not everyday I can offer an entire class for FREE so I really hope to spread the word. (And please only register for one "ticket" as you can only register one email address per sign-up.) Whether you've been sewing for decades or you just picked up a needle in the last few weeks, this workshop is being created to meet varying skill levels and varying levels of expertise. I feel so passionate about sustainable fashion that I want everyone to have access to this information. Yes, including you.
For those of you who might be new to my work, please take a look through my Make Thrift Mend project website to get a better understanding of my slow fashion and sustainable fashion journey. I'd love to share this adventure with you, your friends, your coworkers and your families too. If you have any questions or experience any glitches in registering for the workshop, please leave a comment here and I'll respond as soon as possible.
Hooray! I can't wait to get started. This class is pretty much my dream class and being able to offer it for free feels like a double dream. Friends, I hope you'll join me.
PS--Registration will close at 5pm Pacific time on Thursday, October 2. If you want to join this workshop please be sure to register on the event site before October 2, 2014. If you've already registered then just stay tuned. More details to follow via email. Thank you!
I missed you on Monday. It was Labor Day here in the States and I hope many of you were lounging in a park or backyard somewhere, sipping cold beverages, and grilling veggies for what just might be the last time this season. Or more likely, many of you used this day to catch up on housework, random errands, or maybe to make a dent into a creative project that was waiting for just a few more hours. Maybe you just did the laundry and watched a movie--that counts too.
Because I missed my weekly post on Monday's holiday I wanted to add an extra post here before the week is officially done. Instead of sharing a project or inspiration I wanted to write about perfectionism and also about surrender. That's right, surrender. And about the many moments in our big, beautiful lives when we must place our carefully designed plans to the side and simply give in. Just stay afloat drifting downstream instead of sharpening our muscles with quickened swimming.
Now that it's freshly September I think I can declare August as one of my most exhausting mothering months yet. Not exhausting in the sense that he wasn't yet sleeping through the night (I'm still not sure how I survived the first 15 months of his life) or exhausting in the sense that he was very ill and I was worried about his safety (Thankfully, that's only happened twice, knock on wood) but hardest in the sense of my own expectations and unforeseen limitations. Yes, that kind of exhaustion.
As you know, we spent four weeks with family in NY this summer and when we returned in late July I had this very good set of plans for work in my studio. You know, a few weeks without a dozen deadlines when I could really "get ahead" and make "steady" progress. But then August came with her own plans and ideas. My husband opened five shows in four weeks which roughly translates to 12-14 hour days, 6-7 days a week; my 19 hour/ week nanny went on vacation for two entire weeks; and my sweet and very active toddler was sick no less than three times. Yes, three. Sleep escaped us. Work escaped me. Any sense of order escaped our entire household. I had to give in.
And so you can imagine what happened with my carefully constructed work-from-home plans, right? Right. They pretty much crawled under my desk amidst the suitcases of fabric and boxes of fiberfill and crossed their arms and closed their eyes and hid. Yes, they hid.
Somewhere in my grief about what I had planned and what I was actually able to accomplish I came to the realization that I just had to get by. I just had to keep myself and my son fed, and clothed, and in good communication with his doctors, and try to get us to sleep when we could, and keep food in our refrigerator, and completely revise my work plans to simply respond to my emails and little else. In short, I had to accept my limitations and keep perfectionism at bay.
So it's September. And I've magically enrolled him in preschool on less than a month's notice. This feels like a huge success in the Bay Area! I found two adorable schools with openings, I made appointments to visit both, and then I just picked one. I desperately needed to know that I'll have more reliable daycare and be able to meet deadlines this fall so this was my solution. Is it perfect? No it isn't. But is it good enough? Yes, it absolutely is. Actually, it has chickens in the yard and an art room and a garden ripe with tomatoes and so far we're smitten. Phew.
Now I'm preparing for a new workshop on Saturday. A new Sashiko workshop at Britex Fabrics. We'll be discussing Sashiko, quilting, Boro, and visible mending and how all these things influence the project we'll make together. It's a simple potholder with Sashiko stitching but it's quickly become a favorite item on my own work desk. I keep reviewing my Sashiko books and feeling my anxiety levels rise with each precise stitch, knot, and pattern. I marvel at the intricate beauty and perfection of each design so articulately executed in the projects in the book.
But you know what? If I'd held myself to those perfect, traditional Sashiko standards I never would have used that stitch to mend my beloved denim. And yet mending denim was my gateway into the amazing world of visible mending. I wouldn't have made this potholder let alone be teaching it to a sold-out workshop at an iconic fabric store in San Francisco.
But guess what? I love the Sashiko stitch. And I love how it's finding its way into my current work. In a way that isn't perfect, isn't precise, but fits exactly where I need it to fit. Guess what? Keep perfectionism at bay and finish prepping for tomorrow's workshop? I'm on it.
That's my mindset lately. No space for perfectionism but more space for acceptance. More space for flexibility. More space for surrender. More space for good enough. Have a great weekend, my friends! I'm thrilled some of you will be joining me for this very exciting (and totally imperfect but I promise very inspired) workshop. See you Monday, as usual.
My most recent dye experiment is now complete. The indigo garments and fabrics have been dried, rinsed, washed, and dried again. You can see the results in these photographs. The shirt and child's vintage dress were dyed by full immersion while the little leggings (my son's pajamas, I couldn't resist) and the scarf were dyed with a shibori folding technique resulting in the pattern. I also saved several strips of cotton thread that were used to tie and bind the fabrics--they were just too pretty and potentially useful to throw away.
The women's top is a silk and cotton blend, the scarf is linen, and the leggings, thread, and presumably vintage baby gown are all cotton. You'll notice that while the top and baby dress were fully immersed into the dye vat without any twisting, tying, or pattern-making techniques they still resulted in mottled color. I'm guessing this is because the dye vat was very full with garments and this didn't allow the fabrics to move freely in the dye. So some parts of the fabric might have been twisted, held air pockets, or even stayed above the dye creating this marbled or mottled look.
I'm still deciding how I'll use the linen scarf. Should I keep it as a scarf? Stitch it into a infinity scarf? Or cut the fabric into a top or tunic? Decisions, decisions. I already have a bag full of fennel waiting on my back steps for a dye vat so I'll have to move to the next project quickly. I'm also wrapping up the creations from my Make Thrift Mend project and will share the findings with you here soon. So much in-progress in the studio this month.
Hope you are having a wonderful week. And to my friends in the Sonoma and Napa areas most severely hit by the recent 6.1 earthquake in the Bay Area--my heart is with you. We woke to the shaking at 3:20am but we suffered little more than insomnia, anxiety, and a good sobering dose of reality that we do live in earthquake country. Please send an extra good wish to my neighbors just a short drive away in the North Bay.
Take one gigantic vat of indigo dye, one beautiful Sonoma backyard, and a handful of textile lovers and you get one very beautiful Sunday afternoon. That's the formula. My dear friend, Kathryn Clark, hosted her second annual indigo soiree this past weekend and it was something of a natural dyers retreat.
We each pitched in a potluck dish to pass, Kathryn outdid herself with gorgeous main dishes and desserts to die for, and we brought our light-colored cotton, linen, wool, and silk goods to her backyard for an afternoon of dyeing.
I love the community building nature of many textile gatherings. A clothing swap, a mending circle, a dye party, or the classic quilting circle--it creates such a beautiful space for community, conversation, and getting the job done. There's something inherently political in these humble and heartfelt circles.
Like our simple gathering is an act of resistance against a much bigger consumer industry that would much prefer we just go to the store and buy whatever it is we are making, mending, or designing. It makes me breathe a little easier when these gatherings occur. I do believe it matters when we take the time and attention to make things with our own two hands. Even more satisfying when we can share this making with friends and colleagues.
I'm convinced that indigo wants to be shared. Unlike some other simpler, smaller dye vats (a small pot of onion skins, a pile of wild fennel, or a few cups of coffee grounds) the indigo vat requires more in-depth preparation, calculation, and tending. There are several different types of indigo dyeing techniques--stemming from different cultures, different customs, and different times in the history of industrialization. But regardless of the method used, it seems to me indigo wants to be shared.
It wants conversation, connection, and communion. And what better way to share shibori techniques or compare folding, twisting, and tying experiments than with a group of friends? It reminds of me graduate school, or an artists residency, or more simply summer camp for adults. There is a great pleasure in learning from somebody else's experiments and also sharing what you've learned with the kind and receptive women around you. I concur.
By tomorrow they should be ready for another washing to avoid too much crocking--that's when the blue of the indigo rubs off on your skin, your light-colored furniture, or anything else it touches. It's also why our blue jeans fade with time. I'm researching techniques to reduce crocking. Thinking, a few cold rinses and line-drying should be enough.
I dyed two of my own tops, one pair of my son's pajama bottoms, a vintage baby gown, and two pieces of fabric. The dye vat was much stronger when we started than when we finished as you can see in the range of blues from very dark indigo to a pale sky blue.
You can see hints of the shibori techniques on the pajamas and fabric while the tops and dress received a full, untied dunk. (You can see the damp vintage baby gown here below, I couldn't resist.) With such a crowded vat each garment received a mottled color as there wasn't enough room for it to move freely and receive equal parts dye. I like this variation though. I'm okay with mottled.
I can't wait to add these garments and fabrics to my wardrobe and studio but I also admit that it raises my spirits each time I walk into our tiny back porch and see the indigo dyed goods strung from my tiny back steps. Like my own urban homestead is very much alive and well.