Field Study: Natural Dye & Stitch Farm Retreat

I'm thrilled to announce a new workshop offering this summer: Field Study Natural Dye & Stitch Farm Retreat is something of a dream come true. I'm collaborating with the ever-talented textile artist, natural dyer, and quilter Jessica Lewis Stevens of Sugarhouse Workshop to offer a three-part project this summer, Field Study. This project will result in an exhibition of 10 new works by Jessica and I; it will share an ongoing dialogue of our work-in-progress through a photo documentation with the tag #fieldstudyfiber over on Instagram; and it will offer this textile retreat on Sunday, August 21, 2016.
This daylong retreat will take place on my dear friends' working organic farm, Whistle Down Farm, just 10 minutes outside of Hudson, NY in the heart of the Hudson Valley. The retreat will include technical textile instruction in natural dyeing and hand-stitching from the cover of the beautiful barn on the farm and will include ample opportunity to explore the landscape and soak in the natural beauty of our surroundings. Jessica and I are preparing all sorts of special treats for the retreat participants in addition to the bounty of workshop supplies. Imagine special booklets, handmade gifts, and Jessica's berry pies! In addition to a vegetarian farm fresh lunch that will be provided.

When I visited my friends' farm for the first time a few years ago I stood at the top of their driveway and looked over the fields and the greenhouses and the barns and the cottage and the various outbuildings they have built entirely from scratch and I thought, "My gosh, what a magical place. I'd love to build community here", and this workshop is the manifestation of that instinct. It's an honor to invite an intimate community to gather with us on this farm. It's a beautiful place that embodies the ethos of sustainable living.

As I continue down this path of sustainable fashion and the fusing of my art practice with slow fashion I am constantly brought back to the image of the farm. To our dependence on the farm. To the absolute need for our communities to support local farmers. To the beginnings of food and fiber in plants and animals that are raised on the farms. I keep considering how cotton, flax, hemp, wool, angora, mohair, and cashmere come from farms. And our dependence on these farms for textiles and fashion.

Slow Food has done for the food movement what I can only hope Slow Fashion will one day do for the fashion industry--it allows us to be mindful in our choices and to reconsider the true value of food or clothing and the many lives that touch that food or garment before it reaches our home. Enter into this conversation the idea of "slow textiles" or considering the materials, processes, and resources in textile work and engaging in handwork, honoring traditional practices, and considering ethical design.

This Field Study workshop will be firmly rooted in place. A very special place. A very important place. And a place that is very dear to my heart, Whistle Down Farm. This collaboration with Jessica is a multi-approach to exploring our thoughts on the intersection of fashion and farming; the crossing of fiber and farm; the importance of place and geography and localism; the dislodging of migration or relocation; and the pushing of traditional craft techniques like quilting and mending into a fine art medium.

In so many ways this collaboration with Jessica, this multi-faceted approach to collaboration, and this resulting workshop are the truest expression of my current work with sustainable fashion. The collaboration allows for dialogue and the sharing of ideas and the influence of form; the photo documentation on Instagram is a way for us to experiment with using social media as a core part of our collaborative project and sharing our processing with a larger community; and the daylong retreat allows us to come together in physical space to share our techniques, our muses, and our thinking about slow textiles from the location of a working organic farm.

Oh my gosh, I'm excited. Join us on Sunday, August 21 if you can. And for those of you coming from out-of-town feel free to ask any questions about lodging, food, shops, etc. and I'll be sure to answer in the comments. Hudson, NY is a magical small city fueled by arts and antiques and it has many wonderful accommodations, eateries, and special shops and spaces to crate a wonderful weekend getaway. I'm so honored to be offering this retreat to the world and I can't wait to meet the participants that will join us. I'm eager to hear your reactions so please feel free to leave any comments or questions below or over on Instagram.

Hooray for slow textiles and creative collaborations and organic farms!



Slow Fashion is a Revolution

Last week marked a very important event on social media. It marked the tremendous organizing efforts of the eco fashion advocacy group, Fashion Revolution. It marked the creation of a virtual sustainable fashion community consisting of designers, artists, makers, crafters, hobbyists, advocates, and otherwise concerned citizens looking to engage in the conversation regarding ethical fashion. These are the very best moments in social media. When online platforms are used as a tool for community organizing, public dialogue, and political advocacy. And the moments when this tool actually wants anyone and everyone to participate. People like me. And people like you.

This week marked the three-year-anniversary of the collapse of the garment factory known as the Savar building or the Rana Plaza building in Dhaka, Bangladesh. On April 24, 2013 the building collapsed killing over 1,100 people and injuring over 2,500. The building collapsed because of a structural failure that could have been avoided. It resulted in the deadliest garment factory accident in history.

From this tragedy grew an urgency in the grassroots Slow Fashion movement that was already gaining momentum with environmentalists, textile artists, and select fashion leaders worldwide. But the collapse created an urgency. An outrage. An international call for action. Slow Fashion called for a revolution in the fashion industry to better consider the welfare of people and the planet involved in the making of our clothing.

Fashion Revolution had a simple premise, to draw attention to the horrible conditions of garment factory workers by asking fashion labels one question: Who made my clothes? This question quickly inspired droves of concerned consumers to turn their clothing inside out, show their labels, and take a selfie on their cell phones that they'd post to social media outlets with the hashtag #whomademyclothes.

It was effective. It was instant. It was an inspired action to convince participants to share their labels and charge factories with a responsibility that was missing after Rana Plaza collapsed. It also humanized the movement by forcing us to consider the humans in the factories making our clothing. And remember the lives of the workers who were killed in the avoidable collapse. These images quickly flooded the Internet on the first anniversary of the Rana Plaza collapse, April 24, 2014. And again on April 24, 2015.

Along the way designers and makers turned the phrase around to declare, "I made my clothes". And from this declaration other sustainable fashion advocates and artists added their own spin on how they were not only calling for a fashion revolution but participating in one. This year at the third anniversary Fashion Revolution organized worldwide events and increased the daylong memorial to a week long event.

This year the advocacy group took a longer approach and asked "makers" or designers, crafters, seamstresses, and other fashion enthusiasts to spend the week considering the potential of a fashion revolution from seven different angles. They invited followers to post on a different prompt each day for seven days. The topics included: 1. I make my clothes; 2. By hand; 3. I mend my clothes; 4. Upcycled; 5. Second hand first; 6. Skill up; and 7. Goals.

It's impossible for me to participate in this work for Fashion Revolution without considering my own fashion fast that started three years ago. One of the goals of my project was community engagement and sharing resources and techniques I learned through the project. So this organizing effort is close to my heart as I continue to focus on these interactions and conversations outside of making, mending and teaching. It's incredible, the momentum that the Slow Fashion community has gained in the past three years since I started my project. It's thrilling to witness.

As many of you know, on August 1, 2013 I started a clothing fast, Make Thrift Mend, with the intention of abstaining from purchasing any new clothing for one year while I focused instead on making simple garments, buying secondhand, and mending. My fast was also largely inspired by the Rana Plaza factory collapse. It was also influenced by Natalie Chanin's writings on slow design and the book Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth Cline. I wanted to DO something about fast fashion. I wanted to change my shopping habits. I wanted to challenge myself to go deeper in the name of eco fashion. I wanted to align my wardrobe with my values.

Through this journey I also discovered mending as a form of art. I studied Japanese Boro and Sashiko and developed my own techniques for mending clothing. I started teaching mending workshops because it was part of my Make Thrift Mend project goals. With a background as a textile artist and an arts organizer I wanted to push myself to focus on what's known as "social practice" or community engagement or finding a way to work outside the structure of galleries and shops to engage community. I hosted mending circles, I won a grant to offer a free mending workshop online, and later I organized textile artists on Market Street in San Francisco in lunchtime demonstrations.

The first year of my project turned into the second and I shifted the parameters to include the purchase of new clothing from local brands or independent makers. The third year suddenly appeared and I included the purchase of select new clothing from ethical brands. I taught more mending workshops.

I wrote about Slow Fashion. I published an article on what I like to call, Mendfulness, and I gathered in community with other artists, makers, designers, and authors working for eco fashion. My interest in the project only continued to grow as the years gathered--I can hardly believe I haven't purchased new clothing from a big box store in three years. If you had asked me if that was possible before I started my fashion fast I would have said, "No way. What would I wear? I don't have the money. I don't have the time".

Somewhere along the line I surrendered the rest of my studio practice to my Make Thrift Mend project. I had a second baby. I bought an ancient farmhouse 3,000 miles away from my apartment and studio in Oakland, CA. And I moved my growing family from that small apartment in a beautiful urban center to a sprawling old farmhouse in the beautiful rural community of the Hudson Valley.

But somehow mending and Slow Fashion and this combining of sustainability and fashion and textile arts centered my creative work in a time when my life was arguably busier and more demanding and more chaotic than ever before. The mending practice became metaphor for mending in general. For repairing. For focusing. For accepting imperfection. For experimenting. For embracing the natural process of breakdown and reinforcing what was torn with my stitches. It became a meditation, Mendfulness.

I taught more mending workshops. I bettered my techniques. I listened to my students about what they wanted and what was working and what wasn't. And I started teaching at new venues and considered multiple requests to travel to teach in locations across the US. I admitted to myself that this one-year-project had not just turned into a three-year-project but it had turned into the core my creative studio work. And it had altered my relationship with fashion so deeply that there was simply no turning back to the sales racks of my favorite boutiques of yesteryear. Thankfully.

But this week brings me back to the catalyst for this project that quite frankly changed my life. It brings me back to the people. To the humans. To the lives lost. To the photographs of the factory collapse that could have been avoided. And to the aftermath of various mega fashion brands refusing responsibility and refuting pressure to shift their manufacturing practices.

But it also brought me back to the makers. To the designers. To the advocates. To the activists. To the community of people around the world that are so dedicated to this cause that they cannot, not do something. They are motivated to create change. And they are inspiring. They are designing, making, selling, mending, altering, plant dyeing, and otherwise creating an alternative fashion industry that aligns with their values. They inspire me to keep moving my own project forward too.

They remind us that we do have options. We can buy less. We can support independent makers. We can consider the fibers in our clothing and educate our selves about the journey from farm to factory to retail. We can decide to take a break from the fashion "trendmill". We can say, enough is enough.

We can find other outlets besides impulse shopping. We can mend our clothing. We can buy secondhand. We can even consider the design elements in mending and making to create repairs that actually add value to our existing garments. And we can release our selves from the pressure to make perfect seams on handmade garments and instead just go ahead and begin. Where we are. With the skills we already have. We can say, "I'll start right here, right now."

The three-year-anniversary of the Rana Plaza collapse, the organizing efforts of Fashion Revolution, and rounding the third year of my own fashion fast offer an opportunity to reconsider choices. To confront the system I support in my garment purchases. To stop focusing on what I can't do to support sustainable fashion and instead decide what I can do to better align my values and my closet. At the end of the week of online activity the prompt was "Goals".

I took a few moments to jot down my goals and realized that advocacy is still my number one priority as I move ahead with this project. And by advocacy I mean social practice, community engagement, public dialogue, and reaching outside of my studio and classrooms to support change. I also want to continue to step outside my comfort zone in making garments--approach sleeves, pants, and other contours I've been avoiding. And to develop a handful of projects that use castoff fabrics because let's admit it, sometimes the garments are beyond repair but the fabric has so much potential.

This week, this anniversary, this tremendous organizing effort by Fashion Revolution allows us to pause and notice our habits. That's how my fashion fast began--I wanted to notice my shopping habits by abstaining. I wanted to create a break in the habitual and this came through fasting and ultimately re-approaching fashion through an intentional lens, Mendfulness. This week allows us to just decide on one thing we can shift to better align our wardrobe with our values. Just one thing. Anything. Just a specific place to continue. Or to begin.



Upcoming: Slow Fashion Forum in Oakland, CA


I'm thrilled to announce that on Friday, March 11 at 7pm I'll be co-hosting a free, community-building, slow fashion event at A Verb for Keeping Warm in Oakland, CA. This event was recently added to my lineup of mending workshops and I've asked several of my favorite slow fashion/ sustainable fashion/ slow textile artists to join me in public conversation. This is something of my Bay Area Slow Fashion Dream Team and I couldn't be more excited to join forces with these amazing artists for an evening of community building, conversation, and sharing our projects with the public. Here's just a brief biography on each of the artist who will join me for the panel:

I'm honored to be joined by friend and fine artist/ natural dyer/ expert colorist/ slow fashion advocate/ and kindred artist Sasha Duerr. Sasha approaches natural dyeing and natural color like nobody else I've ever known. She has a sensitivity and intuition and engagement with the natural world that is somewhat spellbinding.  Truly. If you have the opportunity to take a workshop with her and the Permacouture Institute please do it! She's also an author, fine artist, teacher, mama, and community builder very active in the Bay Area creative community.

>>> Sonya Philip <<<

I'll be joined by my dear friend/ artist/ fashion designer/ maker Sonya Philip of 100 Acts of Sewing. If you're at all interested in making your own clothing and you don't know where to begin I highly recommend checking out Sonya's project, patterns, and her various social media feeds. She's taking the fear of "perfection" out of handmade clothing and providing simple, stylish patterns and so much information on fabrics, sewing, styling, knitting, and creating a handmade wardrobe. Sonya is also a writer, artist, teacher, mama, and all around dear creative.

Next is the wonderful and inspiring Kristine Vejar artist, dyer, organizer, and owner of Oakland's finest A Verb for Keeping Warm. Kristine just published her first book, The Modern Natural Dyer, and it's a treasure trove of images, narratives, and DIY projects focused on natural dyes. This book is visually stunning. Kristine teaches workshops, hosts events, advocates for slow fashion and handmade textiles all while managing AVFKW--a yarn, fiber, and fabric shop complete with a classroom, dye studio, and beautiful outdoor dye garden. Kristine is a wonderful resource and also an inspiring entrepreneur, artist, author, and sustainable fashion advocate.

>>> Alice Wu <<<

Lastly, we'll be joined by the very talented designer, producer, curator, and artist Alice Wu. I met Alice many moons ago when we both lived in Brooklyn, NY and she was in the early days of her ethical fashion label, Feral Childe. She co-founded this fashion label with distribution in over 100 independent retail shops and some of the most creative, stylish, unique, and totally awesome clothing I've seen from a small label! The label has since come to a close but we are thrilled to have Alice's insight and her added perspective. She's now working as a curator, organizer, and fine artist and she's a wealth of knowledge regarding slow fashion.

I am so honored to share an evening of conversation with these talented women. When I launched my fast fashion fast, Make Thrift Mend, nearly three years ago one of the priorities was to host community events and participate in social action and what's often known in the art world as "social practice". So organizing mending circles; writing grants to offer that free online slow fashion workshop; last summer's Social Textile Experiments in our tiny art studio on Market Street in San Francisco; and this upcoming Slow Fashion Forum all help to push realize this goal in my project. And it's an honor to share this work with the broader public.

Lastly, we've added one more workshop to my offerings at Handcraft Studio School on Tuesday, March 15 from 11-3pm. (Saturday's workshop is sold out and there are just a few spots left on Sunday, March 13.) It's wonderful to be returning to the Bay Area to engage in this work and to continue making connections with this incredible community. And for those of you outside of CA, stay tuned, there will be more offerings for you in 2016.



Exciting News: Mending Workshops in NY, CA, and Maine

Happy New Year!

I'm thrilled to announce upcoming mending workshops in three different locations. In March I'll be back in California at the beloved Handcraft Studio School teaching my favorite Sashiko Mending workshop; in April I'll be offering this same Sashiko Mending workshop locally at Drop Forge & Tool in adorable Hudson, NY; and in May I'll be traveling to Portland, ME to offer a special daylong Mindful Mending workshop at A Gathering of Stitches.

If you've been curious about modern mending inspired by Japanese Sashiko and Boro; about sustainable fashion through creative and personal repairs; or about taking a workshop with me in-person... now is the time. These workshops often sell out so be sure to register quickly if you want to attend. In 2016 I'm also hoping to offer an online slow fashion workshop complete with mending tutorials so be sure to hop on over to my mailing list to be the first to know. For daily studio updates let's connect over on Instagram--my daily photo outlet to the big virtual world.

On Saturday, March 12 and Sunday, March 13 I'll be back in my beautiful California teaching Sashiko Mending with my dear friends at Handcraft Studio School! Join me in the San Francisco Bay Area for this favorite workshop. These workshops will include a Sashiko embroidery project, sustainable fashion resources, and individual attention to mend your garments. If you're anywhere near Emeryville, CA come join me for an afternoon. This is a truly gorgeous space filled with wonderful students and it's always a lovely gathering. I can't wait to return.

Saturday April 9 I'll be offering my Sashiko Mending workshop back in the beautiful Hudson Valley in Hudson, NY at Drop Forge & Tool. The owner of DFT is a friend of mine from California and I love what she's creating to support the local arts community here in Upstate NY so this workshop feels extra special--California meets NY in the best possible sense. This is currently my only local workshop so be sure to sign-up soon if you are in the area and want to join me. I'd love to meet you! Hudson, NY is just about two hours north of Manhattan by car or train. And it's adorable.

On Memorial Day weekend I'm thrilled to be teaching at A Gathering of Stitches in Portland, ME on Saturday, May 28. This workshop has been developed specifically for the retreat sessions offered by this amazing venue. It will be a daylong workshop focused on Mindful Mending--diving deeper into sustainable fashion, mindfulness, and the creative opportunity in repair. It will also give participants a chance to spend more time considering the design aspects of repairs and the beauty of slow stitches.

I'm honored to join the line-up of *amazing* teachers working out of AGOS in 2016. Seriously, have you seen the offering of classes on their website? I want to take every single workshop. Portland is such a wonderful and vibrant city that I haven't visited in years so I'm thrilled to return. I hope you'll join me if you are anywhere nearby. Or it could be a great weekend destination too--hint, hint.

I'm thrilled to be partnering with these three amazing spaces, run by three amazingly inspiring women, to offer mending workshops in three beautiful states. I've selected these spaces very carefully as I feel they truly embody the philosophy, aesthetics, community, and professional practices of a leading contemporary craft school. They are working diligently to create beautiful spaces that not only offer craft workshops but build creative community, support artists & makers, and consider the inherent value and importance of handmade objects.

Join me for these workshops--it will be a honor to share my sustainable fashion resources, to help support you in your own slow fashion journey whether that's mending one garment or starting a fast fashion fast, and more practically to work with you to mend your clothes through beautiful and purposeful stitches.

Happy 2016. Happy mending. Happy making. Happy wintery days that sparkle and shine.



Giveaway: The Modern Natural Dyer by Kristine Vejar

Dear friends,

Today is a very special day. Today, I'm thrilled to host a book giveaway of my friend and fellow slow-fashion artist, Kristine Vejar's, gorgeous new dye book, The Modern Natural Dyer. Have you seen this beautiful book? It's been traveling through the Internet at rapid speed with guest appearances on beloved sites like Selvedge and Design Sponge and many other beautiful, virtual spaces. Each time I see this book featured in a new location I cheer a little bit, oftentimes aloud, I confess.

Kristine is a dear friend, a fellow fiber artist, a generous spirit, a thoughtful advocate, but also someone I respect SO much for the work she's done to build community and support slow fiber, slow fashion, and sustainable textiles throughout the Bay Area and beyond. She's the founder and owner of the ever-inspiring shop A Verb for Keeping Warm (AVFKW) in Oakland, CA where she sells yarn, fabric, sewing patterns, books, tools, offers workshops and special events, and where she conducted all the research for her gorgeous new book.

If you live anywhere near the San Francisco Bay Area I highly recommend you sign-up for the AVFKW mailing list so you can attend the wonderful fiber events and workshops hosted in this magical space. Not to mention, you can purchase the book, the dye kits, a dye journal, and oodles of other wonderful crafty goods from the AVFKW website. (Hint, hint Christmas shoppers.)

The Modern Natural Dyer must be one of the most gorgeous craft books I've ever held in my hands. Is that an overstatement? Well, I don't think so. It's actually that pretty. I first got an early glimpse of this beautiful book this summer when Kristine joined me for my Social Textile Experiments on Market Street in our tiny art studio on wheels--Range Studio.

I saw the cover and I gasped. So pretty! Then I flipped through the photographs and I paused at each one to notice the dye projects, the raw materials, and the incredible composition and intention in every single photograph. The book exudes Kristine's refined sense of design, beautiful aesthetic, and also her incredible insight into the natural dye world. I want to make every project in this book!

The dye recipes are fantastic, the projects are inspiring and easy to follow, and the book leaves you feeling like you've just taken a course with Kristine without ever leaving your home. Gorgeous photography, stunning styling, thoughtful writing, inspired how-to projects, and brimming with in-depth information from the author's lifelong work with natural dyes. I actually have a pot of foraged walnuts soaking in my busted-up laundry room as I type--the beginnings of a natural dye project from this book.

Now, I have the very great honor of not just reviewing this book but offering one lucky reader one free copy. Hooray, a giveaway! And, if that wasn't enough, Kristine has also generously offered to send that one lucky winner a free dye kit of her/ his choice. (Choose from the four dye kits on the AVFKW site.) Yes, that's right. You can win a book AND a dye kit just because it could be your lucky natural dye day.

You just have to go over to the AVFKW website and decide which dye kit you'd like to call your own. Then come back to my blog (or my Instagram post, or both) and leave a comment with the dye kit you'd like to win. Maybe say something else about what you'd like to dye or why you think this work is completely and totally awesome and could quite possibly change the world! (Okay, that last part is just my personal pitch for slow fiber work. Eh hem.)

Next Monday I'll announce the winner in the comments section of this post. You can enter here on my blog or on my Instagram feed and I'll choose one winner at random. It's pretty much like your birthday and this blog post rolled up into one. Trust me, you want to win this book and this dye kit too. And if you don't win, or you can't wait to see if you might win, or you just know you need a second copy for a family member or friend, then head over to Kristine's website and purchase a copy for yourself. I bet you'll find something else over there you might want too.

I couldn't be happier for the author, the book, the contribution to the natural dye world, and this very important advocacy for sustainable fiber and slow textiles and more simply some encouragement for foraging for natural dye materials, raising dye plants in your garden, or even just purchasing the dye materials from AVFKW. Hooray for this work seeing its way into publishing and textile arts.

I'm convinced, the better we understand the process of growing, harvesting, spinning, weaving, dyeing, sewing, knitting, and otherwise making textiles the better our chances to do this work in a sustainable, thoughtful, ethical, beautiful, and FUN manner. This book is all that at once. Kristine, this book is a work of genius, my friend, 1000 congratulations.



Hope, Listening Close, and Moving Forward

Hope is my motto for November. It's the word I keep tacked in my brain as I slush through boxes and home renovations and stacks of laundry that might just swallow me if we don't get our formerly-split-pea-green-colored laundry room put back together soon. As I mentioned in the last post about moving to the Hudson Valley in October, I'm so very glad it's finally November. It means the boxes have all come inside and the first round of items on our to do lists have actually been achieved. But mostly, it means the shock of our move is subsiding.

People ask me if we're settling in and I have to pause a moment before I respond. Settling in? With two small children and a 200-year-old farmhouse to renovate and winter approaching (without appropriate winter clothing) and our dearest friends and all that's familiar some 3,000 miles away? No. No, we are not yet settling in. I do not imagine it will feel like we are settling in for many months to come. Though the boxes will be unpacked and the barn will be cleaned out and the rooms, one by one, will be repainted and re-patched and repaired. Instead I respond, "Day by day". My expectations have downshifted. Just put one foot in front of the other each day. And that seems to be working today so I'm going with it. I think of that Arthur Ashe quote:

Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.

But the thing I've identified as the most important in our journey from urban CA to rural NY is not the appropriate clothing for winter, the pacing of our newly painted rooms, the long list of things we will change in our old farmhouse as the years go by, or even the pacing of caring for small children, working, moving across the country and suddenly owning a home. It's not any one of these things that pushed our October into a state of overwhelm and sadness and ache. Instead, it was the culmination of all these things all at once. The pile up.

But October is over. Forever. That's the beautiful thing about the passing of time. And November is about hope. But I think that word is so overused that it's actually lost its meaning. Hope. Love. Dream. Believe. Joy. Trust. They all read like Hallmark greeting cards that I avoid at all costs though, admittedly, I see their necessity or their appeal in the hands and hearts of many. I get it. We want to access those feelings. We want to share that sentiment. We want to connect to those feelings in our selves and in the recipients. Yes, of course we do.

But those words are actually Big Huge Life words. Life changing words. Life affirming words. Life shifting words. And we've tried to boil them down to bite-sized chunks of feeling and meaning and connection. We're busy. We're tired. We need a quick emotional fix. Sure. But Big Huge Life words and feelings and needs and considerations are, of course, much bigger than bite-size and often quite messy. They are much more important than one mouthful and they require more attention and time and consideration. Hope: It's actually the stuff that life is built on. And it can be reductive, if not offensive, when these Big Huge Life shifting words get boiled down into bite-sized chunks. Maybe we need more than a nibble. At least I do.

When I think I can tap into these Big Huge Life feelings for bite-sized amounts of time and see any true redirection I'm always disappointed. Because, of course, I can't shift my life in one bite. I have to sit with all these feelings. I have to mull them over. I have to swim in them. I have to let them flood me from time to time and just sit there with all those feelings and notice. Sometimes I don't have to do anything at all but sit there and breathe deep and acknowledge. And from this place of noticing I can start to realign to the life I want to create instead. For me this often has everything to do with fear. But it also has everything to do with trust. That wonderful Georgia O'Keeffe quote keeps playing through my mind:

I've been absolutely terrified every moment of my life and I've never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.

Yes! Thank you, Georgia. So, hope. Hope is what I've identified as the most important word for me right now. Hope that this house will eventually feel like my own. Hope that we will actually get all these old rooms patched and painted and ultimately repaired. Hope that we'll find meaning here. Hope that we'll find comfort and relief and a reflection of our selves here. Hope that we'll thrive. Hope that this place and this house and this transition will provide something we needed. Will provide the opportunity for something different. Something bigger. Something we could only imagine and now we're working to make come true. Something more closely aligned to where we see our selves headed. Something relevant and important and, ultimately, something good.

Or why else would we do it? Why would we change our locations, our relationships, our jobs, our homes, our havens, if we cannot see the shift lined with opportunity and meaning and importance? I don't think we would. I think we would just keep things very much the same. But sometimes we need to change our lives. Or our homes. Or our relationships. Or our work. Sometimes I don't just need a minor shift but an actual overhaul. Sometimes I need to take huge risks and have huge hope at the same time.

Because, I'm convinced, of the necessity of hope. Because we hope and we envision because we get down close to the roots of our lives and we see what's most needed there. We breathe slow. We get quiet. We look around with a flashlight and try not to freak out at what we find. We collect data. We gather information. We mine for details. And then we take all this important information and we try to find the direction forward. We try to see what needs to change and what doesn't need to change and we calculate and we consider and then eventually we act. I keep telling myself: Trust deep.

So with each painted room, with each patched hole, with each floor we sand or paint or oil I try to maintain hope. I try to keep my eye on that beacon of promise. I try to let all the fears and sadness and uncertainty flood me as it will. Let it come. Let it go. Let it wash in and out and in and out again. Mine it for data. Listen to the roots and try not to freak out at the findings. And then I try to keep moving onward.

Maybe because it's just my way through it. Maybe it's just the set of survival skills my particular constitution has gathered together over the decades to help me move my life forward. But maybe because it gives me hope. And maybe that's the flag I need to replace the little soft white flag of surrender I had to wave over my home in October. Maybe hope is the flag of November and maybe that's just where I need it to be. Not what I expected, but certainly, there is a life here for us waiting to be uncovered. Maybe it's just under the last room full of old linoleum, waiting patiently for its turn.



Culture Shock: Our First Month in the Country

As many of you know, on October 1st I moved to the Hudson Valley with my family after 10 years of living in Oakland, CA. The decision was fairly practical: We wanted to own our home and ultimately send our boys to a good public school. With the punishing cost of housing in the Bay Area, this didn't seem like an option for us in our beloved Oakland. So we set our sites on the Hudson Valley in 2012 and after three years of looking for a house, we purchased our 1820 farmhouse on July 15, 2015.

We were thrilled. We were relieved. We were filled with optimism about this new life waiting for us some 3,000 miles away in the country. I grew up in rural Upstate NY and went to college in the small city of Ithaca less than an hour from my hometown so rural life wasn't completely foreign to me though it was a few decades behind. When I was 22 and finished college I moved to San Francisco. And I lived there for three years. And then when I was 25 I moved to Brooklyn, NY and I lived there for another three years. And when I was 28 I moved back to Oakland, CA to start graduate school.

Fast-forward 10 years and 1 marriage and 2 children and several wonderful jobs later and it was time for a bigger place and to look further down the road towards schools and proximity to our extended family and overall cost of living and also career opportunity for two working artist parents. The Hudson Valley quickly rose to the top of our list as satisfying many of these criteria at once. Just two hours from Manhattan we could afford a 3-bedroom farmhouse with several outbuildings including an old carriage house (our future art studios) and several smaller structures. And there's a rural art community here that doesn't exist in many other rural spaces as a result of the influence from Manhattan. After a few visits to the region, we were convinced we could make a home here.

But as October 1 crept closer and closer from our July 15 house closing I felt increasingly more anxious. More concerned. More afraid. And I also felt sad. The Bay Area was such a welcoming and befitting community for us. We felt at home there. And leaving it was a big, huge, gigantic decision but one that felt inevitable.

So we packed our house, found somebody to drive our car, and boarded a plane with our two small boys to head to NY. September was nothing short of exhausting. Packing a family of four for a 3,000 mile move felt epic. Of course, many families have done it before us and many families will do it after us but it was still exhausting. Add our infant who doesn't yet sleep through the night and our very part-time childcare and we weren't sure we would make it. But, of course, we did.

But as a first-time homeowner and as the first-time I've ever moved with children, I only paced myself to that very moment when we would board the plane--much like a first-time mother only paces herself to that moment of childbirth somehow forgetting that the moment the child is born she is responsible for 24-hour care. I didn't think about the life that would be waiting for me to nurture it on the other side of that plane ride.

And so I gave September everything I had and then I got on that plane, completely unprepared for the challenges of October, and felt temporarily relieved while we were suspended in flight. When we finally arrived to our "new" 1820 farmhouse I was completely in shock. My husband found the house in January on a business trip and while we looked at 30 odd houses in this area over 3 years I never actually stepped inside this house. My new house. It was completely foreign.

Moving was exhausting but arriving was completely overwhelming. The barn was filled with mildewed cabinets the previous owners left behind. The garage was filled with old musty furniture and strange fish silhouettes on the walls that must have been used as decoration but were now just a faded fish mark on the drywall at the back of the garage.

And the house, though filled with beautiful potential and the "good bones" we saw in photographs, was one room after the other of needed updates. Some updates were bigger than others. Renovating a home with one preschooler and one infant after just moving across the country is quite a feat. Not to mention, it's even more disorienting to live among paint cans and ladders when you also work from home. We could not find respite.

I was sick five times in six weeks and twice required antibiotics. I was running on empty. I felt vacant. Hollow. Overwhelmed. Sad. Raw. Exhausted. And hinging on depressed. I felt like my body was something I was dragging around behind my head. I was so deeply exhausted that my chest was like a hollow cavity that held my heavy head on the top of my neck. Empty. I felt empty. Empty of all the things I knew and loved about my beloved California. I knew it would feel strange to relocate to a new place 3,000 miles away but I didn't know it would be so disorienting or depleting.

In addition to the exhaustion of moving, the exhaustion of an infant, the demands of a preschooler, and the need to keep nudging our careers along, we were also sitting in a house that looked nothing like us. I looked for opportunities to see myself in this new space but I just couldn't find them. I kept thinking that we had landed on a new planet and we were running a marathon. Not even to mention our new and utter dependence on our car was shocking. Though not isolated by rural standards--we have neighbors on three sides and we're only a 10-minute drive from the nearest small town--it was an epic switch from our recent life in America's big, beautiful, and walkable cities.

We only saw one solution: We had to slow way down. Down to snail's pace. One of my biggest challenges in parenting is my inability to do anything else. I've become fairly competent at using naps and limited childcare to accomplish great heaps of work with the time management focus that only parenthood can bring. But renovating a house cannot be accomplished during naps. It takes so much time to remove debris, prep walls, prime walls, paint walls, and shove boxes from one side of the house to the other. Not to mention, it's noisy.

So we started with a huge purge: Remove shag carpets, carpet pads, and the layers of linoleum and newspaper and random fabrics used as insulation. Remove everything from the barn--everything down to the drywall and the concrete floor. And remove almost everything from the garage. And then we decided we needed help. So we found a recent college graduate to help us paint 15 hours a week. And we came to the realization that our moment of rest and settling and complete unpacking was still several months away.

We made a plan: We would live downstairs and paint the upstairs and then we'd move upstairs and paint the downstairs; we'd also refinish the wood floors. We put a curtain up over the window in the full bath and pretended the chocolate tile bathtub didn't depress us every time we stepped inside it. Reluctantly, we put our dishes and our food into the crappy cupboards in the kitchen so we could make food and start some sense of "normalcy" while finishing the upstairs renovations.

We set our beds up in the living room--all of our beds--so that we could get off the cold, drafty floor and say goodbye to our air mattress.  We praised the split pea green laundry room every time one of our boys spilled something down their shirts as we could actually do laundry in the meantime. Thank goodness.

And now, four weeks later, we are still living in the chaos. Boxes line every room and furniture waits stacked in the barn. We've organized our suitcases by person so each of us can locate pajamas and knee socks and clean clothes each evening and again each morning. Eventually we'll renovate the bathroom, the kitchen, and the horrible split pea laundry room too. Eventually, we'll renovate the barn and the garage and the outbuildings. Eventually, we'll plant a garden and some fruit trees. For now, we just want white walls and smooth floors and to fill our dressers with our clothes.

But November has finally arrived. Finally! Marking our one month in this house. Marking the end of the month we moved. The end of the hardest part. The end of the very raw beginning. The end of the packing and the moving and the shifting and the arriving and the not-knowing and the shock and disturbance and sadness and grief of leaving a place we loved so intensely for over a decade.

And November marks the beginning of something new. It marks the beginning of settling in. It marks the beginning of seeing our new pace with house projects, searching for childcare, turning one eye back to our careers to secure work in this very new place, and also the first month of our brave 4-year-old and his new preschool somehow already filled with new friends.

Quite frankly, November marks the beginning of hope. Hope that we will not just survive here but that we might actually thrive here with enough weeks or months or even years under our belts. That this house and this land and this exact space on the planet have something to share with us. Something to teach us. Something to offer that we had no idea was coming. Shocking, disorienting, filled with longing and loneliness and ache this place will eventually give way to something beautiful.

Something that looks like the very hard work at the beginning of a very long and beautiful dream. The doing. The sorting. The sifting. The planning. The purging. The building. The very beginning of something that might be the most beautiful hard work we've ever done. Of course, it looks nothing like we expected. But the beginning of a new phase of growth. And ultimately, what might actually be the gateway to the next best thing.



Sashiko Mending Meets Slow Fashion and Studio Work

I've just updated my website with Sashiko Mending photographs and an entire mending portfolio. This thrills me beyond measure! I'm so excited to finally have this dedicated space to share samples of my mending work and to offer these images to other mending enthusiasts for inspiration. I've been working primarily with worn denim for the Sashiko Mending but I'm also branching out to use these same stitches to recycle denim into new garments and accessories--stay tuned. And taking note of the other garments in my mending pile that need some attention but are not made from denim.

I love this work. I'm shocked that I'm so passionate about mending two years later. If you'd asked the younger, admittedly edgier, admittedly more opinionated version of my creative self what work she'd be doing in another decade I promise you she would not have said, mending. Makes me giggle now.

But she wouldn't have been so excited about making a paper craft book for kids either and I was over-the-moon to publish The Paper Playhouse: Awesome Art Project for Kids Using Paper, Boxes and Books earlier this year. And I love this part. The part that surprises us. The part that pushes us beyond our comfort zone. The part that lets some levity and intuition and imagination into the process so we can stay engaged and activated as we work. As we live. As we move through this experience of living. As we grow.

So more mending work for me is on the horizon. Brainstorming about how to take this work to the next level, to go deeper, to push beyond what I've already learned. I want to keep creating more mending techniques--some more complicated and some even simpler--and I want to experiment with different fabrics, different garments, and then go ahead and try some recycled fabrics for new accessories too.

I love this work. Did I already say that? Forgive my repetition. It suits me. It surprises me. It excites me. It falls into the sustainable fiber arts world that inspires me the most. Using recycled materials and basic techniques to deepen our relationship to fashion and fiber and craft? Yes! Makes me cheer.

And now, I must stop procrastinating and pontificating about mending and start putting my studio into boxes. Many boxes. So many boxes. Oh my, the boxes! We move to NY in just nine days. So soon! You can follow along over on IG to see our transition from a very urban apartment in Oakland, CA to a very rural farmhouse in the Hudson Valley in NY. I won't be back here to blog again until we are moved and living among all the boxes in our 200-year-old farmhouse in NY. Wish me luck!



New Rhythms: From a Weekly to a Sometimes Blog


My weekly blog is now evolving to become a "sometimes blog". After eight years of posting here every Monday I am allowing for a more flexible schedule in the months ahead. When I started this blog eight years ago I worked in an arts office Tuesday-Friday and spent long days in my studio on Mondays. At the end of a long studio day I would post here each Monday evening as a recording of sorts. This was before marriage, before motherhood, before my current freelance work. For eight years, I let that Monday writing rhythm stay the same.

But now my studio time is more like 30-45 minutes several times a day, seven days a week, often interrupted by little boys, deadlines, emails, and the comings and goings of a busy family. My weekly schedule has changed so much. With the addition of our littlest babe in March and with the big move from CA to NY on the horizon, I'm now letting this blog evolve too. I'm hoping this will allow for longer posts with more intentional writing. And yet maybe it will allow for shorter posts with more announcements. I can't be sure. I just know it's time to let this space evolve with so much changing in our lives. To let it grow alongside me.

After eight years of posting here it feels embedded in my studio work. The beginnings of my book are in this blog. The beginnings of published articles in arts management and mending and sustainable thinking are in this blog. The beginnings of my website, my Etsy shop, and how this has migrated to my current Instagram and Pinterest accounts all started here. Many of my blog relationships have grown into friendships, kindreds, creative and supportive community.  For this I am so very grateful. I never knew the power this space would have to influence my work and my life. (Thank you, thank you, thank you.)

But while my rhythms have changed I do still want to keep this space as a space to write. A space to share. Just a different sharing from the daily short form of photos and captions on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. Instagram has stolen my heart and it's my new favorite space to connect on a daily basis. But this blog has its special tug at my heartstrings too. Somewhere in the beginnings of my creative life I found my footing as a poet and a textile artist and while my work has evolved in so many ways I still keep my attachment to the written word. So this space stays a writing space. Just a "sometimes" writing space for now.

I'll be back soon. Likely with news of upcoming workshops and last California events before our big move in October. And then, of course, with photos of a farmhouse in the Hudson Valley that is patiently waiting to be my new home. New rhythms, new adventures, new horizons. 



Huge News: We're Moving to a Farmhouse in the Hudson Valley!


I'm thrilled to finally share this news with the world! We bought a farmhouse in the Hudson Valley and we're relocating to NY this October. The house is 200 years old, built in 1820, and it's complete with so many of the details I've always loved about old farmhouses: Hardwood floors, tin ceilings, wood stoves, a wraparound porch, and a palpable sense of history from the families that came before us.

There's also a separate carriage house/ barn that will be our future art studios. And the future of a small experimental artist residency program where we'll invite artists to join us to create new work. There's one acre of land that will be our future vegetable gardens, dye gardens, and small orchard of fruit trees.

We've dreamed of owning a home for nearly a decade; we've dreamed of running an artist residency program or co-working space for artists for nearly a decade too; and it will be wonderful to be within a few hours of our beloved families scattered throughout Upstate NY. We've dreamed of this for so damn long. But like all dreams it comes at a price. And the price is comfort. And the price is risk. And the price is releasing what's familiar.

We're taking the leap from a community we hold very close to our chests and trusting that our work and our friendships and our support system will blossom in this new location. That we'll forge new friendships. That we'll build new work relationships. That we'll create and seek and grow new opportunities relevant to this new time and space. That we'll flourish. That we'll be welcomed. That we'll create a new home.

But it's incredibly difficult to leave the Bay Area after 10 years in Oakland. Oakland feels like our home. And before that we were in Brooklyn for three years and before that in San Francisco for three years too. But Oakland is a very special place that has meant so much to me this past decade. When we moved back 10 years ago I started the MFA Poetry program at Mills College and started taking my textile work and book arts work and creative writing more seriously.

Since then we've been married, had two beautiful boys, published my first book, held amazing jobs in the arts, and managed to make a living as freelance artists and designers. I cross my fingers every damn day that we can continue to make this work. Of course, we'll also travel back to CA for work occasionally too--there are already some workshops and collaborations in the works. Stay tuned for details.

So this shift forces a new beginning. And that force gave us the courage to reach outside of our comfort zone. And after casually looking at real estate in the Hudson Valley for three summers we finally found OUR NEW HOME this spring. Well, my husband found it and I scoured photos and videos and talked to other friends in the area until I crossed my fingers and held my breath and said, "Let's buy it". But the truth is I've never actually been inside of it. I've never stood on that parcel of land. I've never been at that exact longitude and latitude on our dear planet. I trust I'll love it just the same.

We'll go in October. We'll fix up the farmhouse, renovate the carriage house into art studios, and navigate a rural community that I've visited various times but that I've never visited for longer than a few weeks at once. I grew up in Upstate NY but it's been a decade since I've experienced winter. Or high summer. And it's been two decades since I had to get into my car to drive to the store to pick up a gallon of milk or a dozen eggs. It's been two decades since I've lived within a couple hours of our families and I can't wait to share my boys with my mother, siblings, niece, nephew, and in-laws.

I never imagined I'd live my life in one location. I never imagined I'd stay in one home or in one city or even in one state for the bulk of my years. So leaving CA feels less like a surprise and more like a bittersweet change that always felt inevitable. Like the end of something so beautiful and so dear and so deep that I can't really wrap my head around its impact until I'm looking in hindsight. But something that I knew, at some point, would change.

I love this CA community more than I can express. The friendships, the colleagues, the collaborators, the arts community that has taken me deeply into its folds and dusted off my falls, celebrated my successes, fed my family when we had newborn babies, and exchanged fears and dreams over coffees, whiskeys, and wines. I grew up as an artist in this community, came into adulthood here, found myself in a world of creatives and crafters and thinkers that bore deep into my heart.

But it also feels like I'm teetering on this epic new beginning. A home. That we own. That has three bedrooms and a barn for our studios. That has a yard for a dye garden. That has great public schools for our sons. And I just have to keep moving towards this vision that I can't quite put my hand on because it doesn't exist yet. It's only existed in my imagination until right now.

But I just have to keep moving towards it trusting that I have everything I need to make this work. That I have enough. That I'll always have enough. And that this just might be the beginning of the most beautiful adventure yet. This just might be what it feels like to reach into the ether and catch the tail of a dream before it's completely out of reach. Like it just might be the feeling of reaching out to catch that tail and letting it steer me to my future. 

Beloved CA, you will be in my heart forever and ever. Hudson Valley, we'll be there soon. Upstate NY, we're coming home... all grown up but starry-eyed as ever.