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Augusta

Think of Augusta, Georgia when someone says that name? I’m sure that’s common and unavoidable with the city’s proximity to major destinations and claims to fame like James Brown. But if you’d grown up in my part of West Virginia, you’d know it as a name for this region too. In fact, when the leaders were voting on a name for the new state they were creating by seceding from Virginia, Augusta was one of several proposed names. I’ve always been a little sad that “West Virginia” won the vote by such a landslide, actually. I understand why they chose it since many of them still felt close ties to Virginia which had been their birth place. However, after a life time of people asking me where I’m from only to have them exclaim, “I LOVE Virginia Beach – we go there all the time!” or introduce me as being “from Virginia” from then on, I do wish we had a more unique name.

Names are powerful; they create a sense of place, of home. The men who voted for West Virginia didn’t want to loose that sense of home. Even before them, the name Augusta was chosen by people who wanted to feel close to a past home that was very far away. The county of Virginia and the region west of there where I’m from were named Augusta after the Princess of Wales, Augusta of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg (there’s a name for ya’). So, even though I couldn’t love my state any more if it were to be named something like Kanawha or Allegheny (especially since those are appropriations…but this isn’t a post about that!), the names we have for places we call home are super important and meaningful. And for the past year, every time I hear the name Augusta, I think of an additional place that has become a very special part of home to me, the Augusta Heritage Center at Davis and Elkins College.

Last summer, I was so incredibly honored and thrilled to teach a week long weaving class at the Center. And despite all good sense, they have invited me back for another class THIS summer!! As I’ve been preparing for the class, I suddenly realized I’d never posted anything here about it. Crazy given how much I adored everything about the experience. If you’ve never heard of this fabulous place and all the amazing learning and celebrating going on there, treat yo’ self to a wander around their website and facebook…go ahead, I’ll be here when you get back…

https://augustaheritagecenter.org/

https://www.facebook.com/AugustaHeritageCenter/

Right?! Amazing! Not only did I get to talk about weaving all day with some absolutely delightful and phenomenal students (that’s weaving by my student at the top of the post), but I also got to hear (and dance) to world-class blues and old-timey music all night IN a beautiful gorgeous setting. This was my view as I walked to class EVERY day.

Yup. Superlatives fail me. But I can say that I am incredibly proud that this place exists as part of my home – Augusta. West Virginia. If you have nothing better to do July 22-26th (and really could you have?), consider joining me for another week long (pretentious to say “life” long, cause it’s gonna stay with you) learning experience! I’d love to see you there!

https://www.facebook.com/AugustaHeritageCenter/

Meta-Makers

I asked a friend last summer if she wanted to read my blog.  She asked in return how often I posted. When I rather apologetically replied that it wasn’t very often, maybe twice a month, she seemed totally relieved and said that would be ok then! It made me laugh out loud because I knew exactly what she meant and didn’t take any offense that she seemed so happy not to have to read much of my writing!! We’re all so busy in our speed of light world that it can be hard to add one more thing to the daily to-do. Finding time to read blogs, let alone write them is a nutty idea. Needless to say, she’s been my blog’s BIGGEST fan for the past several months as I have found no time to write.

Finding the time to make things. Nutty. The other day, my husband was sharing with me a new service where you can order product photos to be create for you in a completely automated way. You place the order on-line. Mail in your “whoziwhatsit” and when the package arrives, a robot unpacks it, takes photos of it and automatically sends them to you digitally. It was striking to me because cameras already seem like a step away from human involvement to me. Even though I love and study film for a living, I have always been aware that a whole world of illustrators and artists were affected by the invention of a camera wielded by a photographer. With such a service as this, not even a live photographer needed.

And it occurred to me that we don’t make much anymore except the machines that will make everything else. We’ve become really good at making things that make things for us. Meta-making? Which is one way humans are set apart from other animals. We use meta-cognition (we can think about our thinking), we have meta-language (we can talk about our talking) AND we are meta-makers…we can make things that make things.  I don’t just mean the use of tools, we’ve done that forever, I mean tools that then take us out of the process entirely. And I’m not bemoaning this! Life is much better because of it. Automation holds much promise for helping the world to be a better place for more and more people.

Still, me, the non-Luddite, urges find time to make things with your own hands.  End products from your own hands.  It’s not lost on me that I’m making this plea via a machine that makes connections with people for me.  But if it weren’t for this machine, I never would have met Laverne Waddington (Laverne’s blog) in person and learned such amazing weaving from her hands.  She was here last Spring and I was completely obsessed with band weaving for quite awhile (I’m putty…).  She returned last week and once again, little tiny bands are all I want to do…why must it coincide with semester end grading?  It’s not right…hey…where’s that machine that grades student essays for me?! Get on it meta-makers.

And now for something completely different…

I can’t seem to stop tatting these little leaves!!  And I don’t even like tatting.  I’ve known how to tat for nearly 20 years and did it a lot in graduate school, but since I learned to spin and weave, I’m usually not drawn to it.  Lately, however, my Guild has been just crawling with tatters and they keep proselytizing others.  I hate to believe I’m giving in to peer pressure…just want to hang with the cool kids!…but here I am!  My husband keeps walking by saying, “but I thought you hated tatting.”  And I say, “I DO!” and then I make another leaf.

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I’d rather think this obsession is a result of the excruciating 95 degree weather…EVERY DAY…in SEPTEMBER!! These little leaves are my plea for Fall to please fall soon.  My fingers finding something completely different to do is an attempt to get the weather to now do something completely different…

(even made a little acorn, although that is not as fun since despite the weather, my deck is still constantly full of acorns, if I have to fight acorns I should be able to do it without heat stroke:)

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Two Hands

I just finished weaving a bunch of sweet dishtowels.  They need hems and a good wash/dry before they are ready for their close-up but I’ll post them soon.  It’s nice to be back at the big loom again.

As I woven off the last towel, I was listening to the album Two Hands by Leon Fleisher, one of my favorites.  In 2016, I actually had the privilege to see him in concert (he played “Sheep May Safely Graze” and I thought I’d explode from happiness).  I’ve been an admirer since my husband was a student at the Peabody where Fleisher taught for many years.  If you don’t know the story, Fleisher was a child prodigy, playing with the New York Phil at only age 16.  He was called “the pianistic find of the century”.  Then at age 36, he suddenly and mysteriously lost the use of his right hand.  For the next 40 years, he played the repertoire for left-hand only while searching for an explanation and a treatment.  In 2004, some new experimental injections lead to regaining the use of his hand and he released the album.

I was immediately taken with it because at the time, my husband was still striving through graduate school and his doctorate.  There were times when I really didn’t think we’d make it and when I didn’t know what the other side would even look like if we did make it.  Fleisher’s album was so beautiful and so hopeful that I would turn to it for reassurance that one could persevere.

But let me be clear what the album means to me.  It isn’t about hanging in there until you finally get what you want, it’s about hanging in there even when you don’t think you’ll ever get it.  It’s continuing on even with loss.  We live in a world of loss and getting older is defined by it.  When the album was released and everyone was so amazed that he could play with both hands again, I just remember thinking, “it is wonderful, but it’s not like he hasn’t always been a pianist.”  In a way, it hadn’t really changed anything about how I saw him.  The profound part of the story to me isn’t the album with two hands, it’s the 40 years with one; it’s that he continued to do what he loved even if he didn’t actually “fit” the definition of that activity.  It didn’t stop him from being what he wanted to be.

I use two hands to weave and like piano it might seem like a necessity.  But as I wove and listened to Fleisher play, I knew it wasn’t my hands that make me a weaver and if tomorrow I were to loose the use of them, I’d still be a weaver.  My love of doing fiber and the friends and community it has created in my life wouldn’t go away.  Some day, even without some traumatic event, I won’t be able to weave any more.  I’ve noticed my hands starting to look old and feeling achey way more often than I want to admit.  Beethoven wrote music long after he could hear it, Fleisher played piano for years with only one hand, and I will dream color and texture and pattern long after my hands won’t be able to do it.  I will still be a weaver.

5 out of 5 Points

I did a pop-up Market in the 5 Points neighborhood this afternoon and loved every minute of it, from the awkwardly interesting location inside the UPS Store to the sweet folks who stopped by to say hello!  The organization who put the event together had all the artists/makers inside local shops and restaurants.  It was a fun idea although I hadn’t expected my booth would end up next to packing supplies and copiers!!  Can I get a Jim and Nick’s embed people? Can you say cheese biscuits for jeekeehoo?!!

Despite the distinct lack of snacks, it was still a really fun experience and I’m excited to do the Market again on Sept. 15th!  Come on out…no one can stop you from getting biscuits…and bracelets!IMG_8641.JPG

grommets

I have nothing to show at the moment. Nothing. to. show! One of the reasons I love handcrafts so much is that it actually creates something you can show. A real, tangible result you can hold in your hand, wrap around your body, snuggle with on a cold night.  All that seems very far away on these record-breaking hot summer days.  Everything basically grinds to a halt this time of the year because I serve on a committee that organizes a July 4th Celebration in my little home town and there is much work to be done. But as I’ve been doing my jobs this year, I realized that there is an amazing connection; both my fiber work and the work of putting on this celebration are “hand-made”. The marks left behind by the hands that have come before me are incredibly precious.  The instructions they’ve written, the decorations they created are all the markers, the material culture, of the folks who created these jobs and who did them for years and years as part of the generous, patriotic, community spirit that drives this little town.

This celebration has been going on for over forty years and many of the original committee members are no longer with us. Many jobs that were once done by others have fallen to me.  One of the recent tasks I’ve started doing is placing bunting on the outside of our 1930’s era Town Hall.  It’s made of local stone, sits on the side of a hill and hanging bunting on it is more of daunting task than you might believe.  The system that was devised to make the work possible is something I marvel at every year. There are wooden frames that attach to the build by fixed bolts; the bunting attaches to the frames with little screw eyes through the grommets in the bunting.  Each frame is labeled and each piece of bunting is too, so that the right bunting goes with the right frame.  I never thought it made much difference if I matched them up, but this year I noticed that one of the frames had an extra little washer on one of the little screw eyes.  I almost took it off but thought, the people that came before me weren’t the kind to have an extra washer if it wasn’t needed.  And sure enough, when I got to the bunting that went with that frame, the grommet was gone.  Without that washer, the little screw eye would be useless and the bunting wouldn’t have stayed on.

 

IMG_8237.JPGI know it’s silly, but I was so moved by that little washer!  I loved seeing the handwriting of whoever had labeled that frame and that bunting as both belonging to the “up creek, back town hall” (only in a town this size could you indicate which side of the building by referencing the little creek that runs through town:) because without those labels, it wouldn’t have worked. On an incredibly hot day, when extra work was the last thing I needed, I was so appreciative of their amazing system.  Everything they did was always so precise.  That little washer was a tangible mark of the folks who came before, their whole story and the legacy of what they have left for me and this town.  It isn’t even something that will show.  Their legacy is in the small, unseen details that make everything work.  I’m thankful to them that they cared about me and this town – that they wanted to celebrate the ideals that this country tries (and often fails) to live up to – that despite challenges and obstacles and imperfections, they kept going forward.  Some of these folks are still in town but aren’t doing well, some I see and hug on a regular basis, and some have passed away; I could list all their names here to honor them but I think, for me, that perfectly placed little washer in the absence of a missing grommet says it all.

design and disruption

Summer is lovely and beautiful and we are extremely blessed to spend it in the old farm house surrounded by the people we love.  Every morning I light the stove (luckily that means just light the gas burner with a match and not actually build up the wood fire from the day before!) and make my morning tea.  This is my morning view.

IMG_8183.JPG You can’t quite see it but out of that flower box clad window is a cellar house and on it is a little bird house where a tiny wren builds a nest every summer. As I make my morning tea, it is usually perched on top of the box singing its happy, sweet, “this is my place” song (and sometimes, more forcefully, fighting off starlings twice its size that somehow think they could get through the tiny little hole to the nest!).  The little wren’s joy (and ferocity) really resonate with me.  We’ve come here every summer for four years now and it is a disruption, a happy disruption, but a disruption.  It comes at a cost of leaving our house and sweet friends to be here; it takes some work on our part to fulfill our responsibilities from here (and on my aunt and uncle’s part who do so much work to give us a home in the farm house each year); I guess it asks a little ferocity of will.  But most mornings I just want to join the little wren and sing from the rooftops my joy at being so blessed to be here.  We do it freely by design and the benefits and rewards far outweigh the disruption.

It all got me thinking about design and disruption. We make plans in our life, think things will work a certain way by our design and then find that the disruptions that occur are potentially more joyful than our plans. I had never anticipated living a life split between two states, but it happened. Design and disruption happen in so many ways in my life, especially my fiber life. How many times have I planned something only to have the plan go wrong and realize that the disruption was actually something better than my design.  Or that by setting out to do a particular task, I’ve disrupted other things that also needed done or were also good but that now have to be put on hold.

Recently, I finished two coverlets for my cousin.  I freely planned to do them and the whole experience has been nothing but wonderful, absolutely wonderful.  It also took me far longer than I had planned and disrupted some other plans for weaving I wanted to do before I left my big looms for the summer.  Oh well! Design and Disruption!! I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Here they are!  I finally found the time amid the disruptions to post a picture of them here.  I can’t wait to give them to her.  And I get to spend the summer dreaming of all the fabric I’ll weave when I return to the big looms in August.  (In the meantime, I’m designing and weaving on the most portable of looms – ME!  As we all know, I’m in love with back-strap weaving.  Again, there have been many disruptions to getting any of that done, but at least I can do it here with no other loom.)

Back strap weaving in the rocker on the porch with the barn and pet horse in the view…pretty hick.

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AND, I’m spinning like crazy.  I realized when I began to write this post that while I had designed this to be a blog of my spinning and weaving, I’ve never posted anything about spinning!  Weaving is such a disruption!!

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Or maybe, flyer photos just aren’t all that interesting.  Oh, look, a flyer with yarn on it.  woop.

I am actually knitting a project out of some handspun yarn I just finished last week and it is very pretty and much more photogenic, but every time I go to take a picture, I get interrupted by something…maybe when the 38 year old pet horse isn’t asking for his afternoon cookie or my daughter isn’t catching fireflies or my family isn’t getting out the guitars and banjos to play music together…maybe when all these “disruptions” stop I can get a picture…or not:)