THE BACK STORY: In January 2016 I launched "Well Used, Well Loved" (WUWL)a long term community art project that explores age, beauty, impermanence and attachment through a hand woven dish towel and reflective writing/drawing. Eight households from England to Oregon "adopted" a hand woven linen towel to use however they wish. Every other week I sent a prompt for reflection to be recorded in a small journal that I provided. The response to my initial call to participate in WUWL was overwhelming. Over 50 households expressed interest in taking part in the project and I only had 8 towels.

So I created a secondary project that dovetailed with the first one. This second group of ultimately 38 households (Maine to Arizona) wrote and drew on kozo paper (a special Japanese paper) to record their response to my prompts. Thru a hands-on workshop at my studio I taught local folks from this group how to spin their kozo paper into thread using a Japanese technique called Shifu. I created a video tutorial for those who wanted to learn to spin their paper from afar.

Prompts to both groups were the same. For example Prompt #6 was: "The materials for this project are hand woven linen and Kozo paper. Both are created from plant fibers, known for their absorption qualities. Absorption can also been seen as dissolving boundaries. In that light what parallels or connection do you observe between your own ability to absorb, to soak up, to empathize? What connections do you perceive between your linen/paper and the action of union, of dissolving boundaries, connection? What value do these actions have today.

In September 2017 I began to collect the 8 towels, the kozo papers and the journals to wrap up the project. The journals, the used/loved towels and the completed four panel piece woven from the community threads combine to create an installation that honors and reflect the spirit of this project.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Becoming well loved

Tea dyed paper hanging
This is from one of the Paper Team participants - sharing her process and her beautifully transformed paper ~~

"I admit I was cowed by the beautiful paper that people were weaving. I don't decorate paper....oh, unless you consider tea dying....OK, maybe I do. SO, I did. I used the paper I wrote on and the paper I hadn't yet written on. Some of the text transferred and the paper turned translucent. Still drying but I am so glad to have been "pushed" into thinking outside my own particular box. The paper is becoming, ever more, well used and well loved."

The part of her story that I really connected with is when she compares her paper efforts (her work) to the those of others.

This is the very same trap that I fall into.
I compare myself to others, measure myself with someone else's standards,  -- and guess what?? Whenever I do this - I fall short - I just can't measure up. I feel less than - unworthy.

In an effort to break this habit, I am slowly re-patterning myself.
Perhaps this will be a life long project - but I am committed to becoming well loved (by me!).

Thanks for sharing your tea dyeing story!

Friday, April 15, 2016

Our connective tissue

Towel II cools with the bread.
As a weaver and thread enthusiast, I am well aware of all the metaphors that underlie my work.  One of my current passions is thread as connective tissue between living organisms - the element that binds you to me, binds cultures throughout history, binds seemingly disparate tribes. Sort of gluten perhaps?

And yet sometimes our threads do not connect - we have different points of view on the same issue. This is where conflict could arise. But what if rather than conflict we simply nodded our head - and agreed to disagree? Then the connective tissue that binds us together is unbroken.

"Well Used, Well Loved" has a closed Face Book group - where we share our thoughts, response to the prompts and the photos. This is a safe place for our participants to be vulnerable and share ideas, opinions - each one unique. I, for one, have had my eyes opened to feelings that are quite different than my own. 

We are on Prompt #7 "The Dark Side"

For two months we have examined and reflected on different aspects of using and loving.

This week I would like to explore what might be considered the dark side of this topic. It’s a place that some might shy away from – with all good reason.  And yet, to know and understand something – we must be aware of its opposite.  In this case, what might be the opposite of “Well Used, Well Loved”?
Towel VII helps with Easter eggs

In yoga class, sometimes my teacher will have us exaggerate the opposite of a pose – for example if she wants us to relax and drop our shoulders – she asks us to shrug them up, way up to our ears.  And then we dip our shoulders back down with new awareness of both positions. As many philosophers query – how can we know sunshine without knowing shadow?
These opposites are an integral part of Yin/Yang philosophy, Bali Hinduism and many other spiritual traditions.  Perhaps the deeper we explore both sides, the less obvious is the line between “black and white". 

  • Do you see an opposite to Well Used, Well Loved?
  • Do you want to explore this opposite side? 
  • If so, what do you see is the opposite of Well Used, Well Loved? 
 As always – there are NO right answers to these prompts. And they are very personal. 
To share them is your choice – not a requirement.
I am so very grateful for your companionship on this journey of inquiry.
Here are two responses: one visual, one written ~
Visual response to Prompt #7
"I can't seem to shake the last prompt regarding opposites, darkness and light... it follows me through my day and even seems to be stalking me in my sleep. Clearly something, I have not given enough consideration to, is seeking my focus and attention. As I sat staring at VIII on my kitchen counter this morning I wondered... is she a continuation of VII and all the woven and numbered towels before her? Cut from the same cloth, but with her own unique sewn and stitched edges. That's when it hit me.... the idea and nature of EDGES is what has been insistently prodding me. Edges, transitions and the nature and power of something to be itself and at some point (visible/invisible/tangible/intangible) become/express something else. It's time to grab some paints and stay tuned to what is bubbling up from the edges and transitions of the dark woods I am about to wander through."

Thursday, April 14, 2016

So many threads

Towel V gets wet and messy with a ceramics class.
    I've been away from home for a spell - and there are so many photos and stories that I want to share about what's gone on in this project!! I will be breaking it up into a few blog posts.
    Our 8 Well used, loved towels are out in the world - living large with individuals and families, a classroom and households from England to Arizona and Oregon.
    Our 38 paper team folks had their spinning workshop
kozo paper before it becomes thread
this week. Soon I will have a tutorial for those who could not join our workshop.
   I am in the thick of writing a grant to fund this project for deeper exploration. All is well - I just need to catch up on some news here!
Towel II helps clean up.
    Many of you are contributing the our closed FB group - and I am delighted to see that the threads of connectivity are weaving a tight web.
   That's it for today - back to grant work!
I'll do my best to keep posting your images and stories.
Peace, Sarah

Towel VII helps with birthday confections!