Well, that was a long pause.... Forgive me for being so absent this last while. Breaking down, divesting, and packing up the studio took all my bandwidth, and then some. Now firmly ensconced in my Biddeford studio, many (but not all) boxes unpacked, I am able to sit down and take stock of what has happened to A Gathering of Stitches. More pleasingly, I am able to see the path forward, and put plans in place to make a lovely future for Makers. More will come as I adjust to the political landscape and the chaos it is causing.
A Gathering of Stitches was my lovechild, and an expression of a very specific character trait I have come to recognize in myself. When I see a task that needs doing, an opportunity unrealized, a void, I step up. I am not one to wait for someone else to tackle 'that' idea. There is a quote from Goethe that resonates for me. "Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it." I am all about the bold. But as my Father's Doctor says, ‘as we age....’, as I have matured, and come to recognize patterns in my actions, I see that some choices, some bold directions, may have been a bit misguided. Please do not hear defeat, or self-degradation in this statement. This is more a recognition of my evergreen human ability to learn from my mistakes. And perhaps in the future, use some of that understanding to color my boldness....
Four months ago, at the conclusion of the Slow Stitching retreat of 2016, I had a flash of insight that laid out a new path forward for AGOS. I love those retreats. I know I’ve said this before (see my previous post), and the reason I conjure up those sentiments right now, is because much has changed in our landscape since August. It is hard for most of us to see our new political administration with anything less than anxiety, and often with sheer panic. I am quite scared, and shaken by this turn of events. Not because I didn’t see it coming, but because of the deep divide these results expose. I do not have a huge desire to politicize this forum, but I honestly see no way to keep those events from intruding on our collective Making. Makers are by nature problem solvers, creative thinkers, forgers of new paths. There is no way to look at our current political landscape and not want to fix it, no matter how disenfranchised we may feel.
Perhaps we will all become much more prolific, channeling our fear and pain into our creative output. I would certainly like to hope so. For some it may have the exact opposite effect, paralyzing them with dread and dire possibility. I have found that Making is the only thing right now that calms my agitated psyche. I have not yet figured out what form my activism will take. I have tried volunteer work, and at the moment it is only magnifying my anxiety and panic. I am hoping that that feeling will change over time. But right now, other than contributing what we can to both Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, and calling my MoC's regularly, my actions have to remain within my private sphere. That may sound passive, but for me at this moment, unfortunately it is what I can handle. As Meryl Streep so eloquently said recently, quoting Carrie Fisher, ‘Take your broken heart, make it into art.’
This week when I realized that my activism needs to take a different form I blissfully stumbled upon a website that led me to all sorts of actions (some quiet, others not) that work with my introverted nature. I share these resources with you here, because I know some of you are probably feeling similarly. There are others out there who are much better at outspoken activism than I am, and I am truly grateful to them for their enthusiasm and boldness. I found most of the below links through Eleanor C. Whitney (Killerfemme) who is a fierce and creative soul, Maine born, Brooklyn based. Check out her website for a shot of hope and possibility, or at least some movement in that direction. Other websites that I foundthat speak to my need to be involved on my own terms are here:
I urge you to find some action within these options (or others that you have found on your own) and take them! If you have others to share, please leave them in comments. Let us be bold in our forward thinking actions, and good to one another in these difficult times.
So that takes care of the political activism. But what about what you came here for, the Making? That too will be imbued with new meaning going forward. This is not a radical shift, by any means. If you have been following along with me here, you know that I believe that making your own clothing is inherently a political act. Taking control of how you clothe yourself is a rebuke to big business and social norms. Perhaps I have not spelled it out previously, but now it seems so much more pertinent. If you have not yet watched The True Cost, please take the time to do so. It is available to stream on Netflix. This post is already getting long, so I will save a list of resources for the future. I will begin to populate this site with resources. My intention in 2017 is to change this format to a blog. If you like what I have to say, you will get more of it. If not, I will still have all the necessary info about my retreats here. You remember that flash of insight after the Slow Stitching retreat? It had a lot to do with the future of AGOS no longer being tied to a physical location, hence the move out of the Portland studios. But it also had to do with a recognition of my interests, my leanings, my skills, and my temperament. Inspired by Karen Templar’s Herculean effort at provoking conversation and information around Slow Fashion with her month of prompts labeled #slowfashionoctober (search the hashtag!), I seek to create a static location to house some of these resources. I will compile as many businesses, brands, stories, and links around the mindful, responsible consumption of fashion in one place as I am able. This undertaking will be monumental and slow (appropriately) and I will welcome any input and discovery you, as the community this site will serve, are able to offer up. This is the political action I feel most suited to. To offer an alternative to the mainstream, big business, environmentally destructive practices of the ‘fashion’ industry (for lack of a better inclusive term) that encourages consumption simply for the act. That is my goal. Wherever possible I will encourage you to find an alternative to mass-produced clothing, either by making it yourself, or for those without those skills, to seek out responsible producers. This will be my little F-you to the business world that cares not for the ramifications and consequences of their actions. Small, and barely political, but still, to me, important. In the same way that Slow Food (the movement from which Slow Fashion has borrowed a title) seeks to rescue, sustain, and celebrate heritage foods and foodways, I believe that Slow Fashion can help save the traditions and culture of a way of life that celebrates craft, sustainability, respect for the natural world, and expertise gained through history, technique, and the traditions of our ancestors.
This process, compiling all this information, will take time. Please do not expect a fully formed site to pop from my head. You should start to see changes around the time the retreats are announced. And anyone who wants to share resources they value will be greatly appreciated. But right now I feel the need to state my goals, to explain my shift, and to offer up another way of looking at where we are as a community. Last year I produced ten retreats, while running the studios in Portland. Oh my, that was thrilling, exciting, expansive….. and utterly exhausting. I loved all the people I met, all the experiences I had, and helped to create, and the making I was privileged to nurture. I saw so many beautiful things made under my nose. It was thoroughly inspiring, and set me on this path. I do believe that Making, using your two hands and skills that have been passed down, and along, through generations, is at once a creative soulful act, and a political one. Taking back how you look in clothes you have made, or how you and your loved ones live through quilts from your hands, is empowering, while being incredibly satisfying for the soul and the psyche. So much is better when we make. We have empathy for those around us, patience for ourselves and for others. We have the satisfaction, however labored it might be, of completing a task, and making a tangible and useful item. Bringing something fully formed into the world, from raw materials, with skills you have learned. How can that not be a good thing?
Further to that end, in 2017 I will produce two retreats both with the theme of slowing ourselves down and focusing on gaining or expanding knowledge that feeds our souls. I will continue the Slow Stitching week, which focuses on celebrating the quilting arts and traditions. This year I will add a Slow Fashion event that will offer similar attention to the garment arts, to the AGOS line-up. I promise I am not trying to tease you with this announcement in this form. The full explanation of these retreats is coming within the month. I fully intend to share with you all of the whys and wherefores, and all the pertinent details about teachers, scheduling, locations, and costs, soon. I am still nailing down some niggling details and want to be sure what you see is fully actionable when it becomes public. It is coming, please bear with me. I can tell you that the Slow Stitching retreat will continue at the same location, Medomak Retreat Center, and in the same month, August. The Slow Fashion addition will take place in July, and at a new location on the beach in Southern Maine. I am holding such peace and joy, and hope, within these two retreats, I am eager to share them with you. Soon….. In the meantime, click through on some of those links above? Call your MoC's, and keep Making, it will help keep us all sane.