The light has to be just so and your viewing angle must be perfect to see it. The labour of a spider, the web of entrapment is a mesmerizing piece of detail and finery that humans cannot reproduce.
Today two friends from childhood visited me in my studio. It was a sudden unexpected visit. My favourite kind.
Shirley Pomroy and her sister Moe lived three doors up the hill on the other side of the road. After school Shirley would come to my house for French fries. We would play.
On quiet grey Sunday afternoons I would go to her house and we would eat thick slices of homemade bread smothered in cabbage water. She was one of about eleven kids who were all still at home.
I was the youngest of seven, six who had moved away. I remember her mother with her dark Irish hair and fair skin leaned over a Singer treadle machine, sewing. She made tailored suits for my sister who would bring out grey pin striped wool cloth from St Johns where she worked in a bank.
We grew up on a hill in clapboard houses that shook and lifted in the wind. Our windows rattled and we ate porridge and corned beef and cabbage and salt fish. We were soaked in culture but absent in the knowledge of it. We had everything we needed but we had nothing at all. Forget me nots grew in the ditches outside our houses and our yards flowed down to the sea. We walked across gravel paths, and threw rocks, and caught Caplin in white buckets.
Our lives were so simple. Today as we talked, things we had not thought about in years came flooding back. The things we never knew or understood. The beauty that surrounded us, that we loved and took for granted, at the same time.
My show of hooked rugs called The Very Mention of Home was hanging on the wall when they came. As I look at it now every rug is connected to our stories. They are the symbols of what we left behind and of what we found.
Neither of us think daily of what we had there as a lament. But as we said good bye, our eyes filled up, and I think it is because when ever you find something new there is so much lost in the old. There is so much lost in what you left behind. So much so that you cannot remember unless you see the others who were there and knew what you knew, and heard what you heard and saw what you saw. We know each other’s stories.
So our eyes filled as they left, not so much for each other but for some kind of beauty and innocence that has been lost and forsaken for what we now have and what we know to be blessings. For none of us would go back there to that place and time but neither would we forsake those long afternoons of not knowing about the big world outside of the bay we lived upon. Of sitting on Sunday afternoon with nothing to do but look out upon that bay and wonder what was beyond it.
Visiting cousins and nieces and sisters.
And bicycling and swimming and walking.
A summer of writing down everything you can remember about what you are thankful for.
And then writing down everything you know about making rugs so you can teach another how to do the same.
It is a summer of harvests from others’gardens. Little farm stands on the roadside and big greenhouses on back roads.
It is the summer of friendship. Long evening walks with our faces pointed toward the marsh as the sun goes down upon it.
It is a summer of bounty, family and friendship.
Swimming with and against the tide. Walking half a mile just to get wet.
A summer of letting your hair down,
of walking into the wind,
And getting messy.
A summer of waking up and thanking God for the pleasure of the day,
For the beauty of the wooden beams above my head and the shiny boards under my feet.
This morning I marvelled that the winter could actually come as I filled my table with fresh eggs and tomatoes.
I could hardly believe the truth in the seasons.
That there would be snow and ice when now summer is just so strong and precious.
Simple suppers eaten outside.
Full moons and meteor showers.
The smell of roses in the air and dragon flies all around.
Summer, every year we fall in love again.
When the light hits the queen Anne’s Lace that way,
the way you know is sudden and special,
it is time to stop and breathe and just look.
When beauty lays itself before you,
simply and quietly,
it means to be taken in.
The walk might be the same every day,
but the light is never the same twice.
The sky does not have a way of being
that makes you accustomed to it.
I have never said, “oh there it is again, the sky.”
The sun rises every morning and transforms the same
road sides, fields, and shores that I passed yesterday,
making me feels as if I have never gone done the same road twice.
That is the power of light
as it shifts and paints
and makes me believe what I might have thought impossible.
The other day a woman peeked her head into my tiny studio and said “Thank you for making beauty in our world.” I smiled and thanked her . She said, “No, I really mean it, the world needs beauty. ” I nodded to her that I understood.
And I really did. I knew she valued what I did. I knew that she was intentional about creating beauty herself.
It is important. More important than ever perhaps or just as important as ever. There has always been turmoil. We need the simple, the lovely, the kind in the face of all we hear in the news.
When she left I thought about her comment and for just a minute I let it sink in. Creating beauty is important work. It is needed work. It is good and valueable work and the world needs more of it.
As makers, crafters, artists , we have a responsibility to make the world a better place. Perhaps it is only a stitch at a time. Maybe a few brushstrokes every day. It is cumulative. One hand over another, making, creating. Anyone who has ever made things knows that when you are making you are a better listener. When you are making a warmth flows through you. When you are making you are kinder.
So , you out there, if you are finding a way to create beauty everyday you are making the world a little gentler for yourself and maybe even those around you. You are doing something worthwhile. Don’t forget it!
There are lots of weddings today around here. I know these things now because we dress people for them at 30 Church Women’s Clothing across the street. It is a lovely thing to help people get ready for big important days in their lives. Who knew I ‘d like it but I do.
I am midway through a project of 51 small squares that combine landscape and abstract. It has been so lovely. 51 because I am 51. I take small square pictures on my walks and then hook versions of them. Sometimes I still think I am 50, When I hang them I might make myself 49 because that would be 7 by 7. I am one of seven sisters and I like symmetry, so I’ll be 49 when I hang them if hang them 7 by 7. I think I will actually have to make 60 or so to get the right combination, but I’ll not be sixty for nine years. It is fun to talk nonsense isn’t it? A little foolishness is good for ya.
Yesterday Tanis from Tanis Fibre Arts , a beautiful knitwear designer and dyer came by the studio. If you are a knitter you should visit her site to see some great designs and colour ways. While she was there she gave me some great tips on doing My instagram is….
I think Instagram is a great way to get inspired. I use it like a magazine with a cup of tea, and scroll through it following people who post beautiful images. Tania also showed me how to edit my images. I thought you could just do filters but you can also highlight, lighten etc. She showed me quickly and now I am instagram happy. You can see some of the squares on my instagram. I encourage you get the ap and follow Deanne Fitzpatrick Studio and Tanis Fibre Arts.
I think what I loved about Tanis visit is her willingness to teach and to share. I also loved that someone who surrounds herself with colour on a daily basis was inspired by the colour we create in the studio. She really got me thinking about pallettes, about making things even more beautiful than they might already be. You see beauty has no limits, it is like love. The more we share with each other the more we become aware of our own possibilities and those of others.
Summer shots below, and my rugs of the Pugwash estuary…..
Mary who works with me on Tuesdays laughs because it is sometimes a day that I hardly work! Well I work but I don’t hook that much on Tuesdays. My work, honestly, is a pleasure. I heard her once refer to my office and say, “If you can find her there.” Somedays I am there , hook in hand , all day. Other days I am on the floor at the women’s clothing store we have across the street. Either is a pleasure, just a different pleasure.
Today at 30 Church Women’s Clothing we did a makeover on Lisa, a customer and that was so much fun. So I was in and out of the studio like a cuckoo clock. I loved that she was so willing and open to whatever we had in store for her. She just let the morning unravel. You can see pictures soon on our 30 Church Facebook page.
I love how the women’s clothing store and the rug hooking studio balance each other out. They are two different kinds of work but yet they require many of the same skills. You need to be good with colour and composition whether you are dressing a woman or designing a hooked rug.
I sometimes wonder myself how I ended up doing both. The only answer I can tell you is that they both happened because I open to the mystery of what is next. Like Lisa, I was open to the process. It is easy to let what you have always done define you. But the truth is we should always be open to a makeover.This carries through in my rug making as well as personally.
If you want to be good at making rugs you have to open up to the mystery of what might happen if you use that wool, or throw that dye in. In life I try to be open to the opportunities that surround me so that life will remain interesting and creative. The more I hook, write, and bring ideas to life the more I see that art is a constant metaphor for life. I believe that to live well I need to live artfully, and this just means opening up to the goodness and wisdom that is around you.
As you hook this summer, try to be open to the process. Allow new ideas to refresh you. Change your habits. Invest in yourself. Strengthen your intuition. Take charge of the rug in front of you and make it beautiful, and remember that this is just a metaphor for life.
As I worked this week on some abstracts with some of the retreat participants I also worked on two other things at the same time. I created a rug for myself and thought a lot about the October workshops in the fall. Everytime I help some one create an abstract or work on one myself I think about teaching others the same.9
That is how my work is. One thing is always blending with another. Ideas meld and merge .
What influences one thing effects another. It is like a chemistry experiment in some ways. Though the ingredients are different.
My ingredients are wool and people and linen and nature and the simple everyday things around me that make me stop and listen and look.
When I hung the rugs I made this week I thought about the people in the retreat. How far they came in a few days. The work I saw them make is just one element. What was exciting for me was the work I could see that they could make in the coming months and years. I could see their discoveries, watch their confidence grow. I was able to assure them of their ability simply by showing them their progress.
Years ago, Ed Colqhoun a local educator was on the board of a community organization that I worked for. He told me that there was no teaching self esteem or self confidence. He said, people naturally gain it by doing things and being successful. You do not teach self confidence in art or rug hooking. You just have to enable people so that they can prove to themselves all they are capable of.
This week I saw that in everyone who came to the retreat. They already had lots of it but I like to think they left with a little more. I saw them grow in their artistic confidence.
I know that I did. Every time I make a rug that creates a little sense of wonder in me I am grateful. Everytime I grow a little as an artist I am thankful for the ingredients I have to work with… The landscape, the people, the wool, the linen, and so many things of which I might not even be aware.
For every rug I make, every time I work honestly with a group of people to teach them what I know , it is a prayer. It is carried out in hope and faith, with love, and sometimes it is answered.
This week it was answered for me. Thank you to those of you who came to this weeks retreat for allowing me to work along side you.
Just so fresh and delicious , an easy meal
I pack linguini cooked
2tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic
1 small white onion
2 thinly sliced chicken breasts
2 cups baby spinach
1 cup water
2 tbsp sour cream
1/2 cup grape tomatoes
1 tsp basil
Parmesan freshly grated.
Pan fry garlic and onion in oil. Add chicken and cook. Add basil over chicken just before it finishes.
Toss with hot cooked pasta.
In the pan you fried chicken throw in one cup of water and bring to boil to get pan juices and flavour.
Mix in sour cream to form sauce. Toss spinach in with pasta.
Take the sauce and throw it over pasta. The spinach will wilt a little.
Recently a neighbour thanks us for something that in most cases would go unnoticed. She said she liked to let people know when they had done something good.
Imagine if we took that approach with each other all the time. Picking apart the good in each other. Spending time thinking about the littlest things someone had done for you. It is so easy to fall into the other side, picking apart our faults.
Staying positive takes a community. We need to boost each other up . Mend things, create things, inspire each other to be better, stronger.
In a good marriage, we become more ourselves because we have the other person to give us some extra buoyancy. We stay afloat because someone is giving us that extra push. We sail because they give us room. A community is much the same. We live in community because we need each other. We thrive in that community because we are good to each other.
This week I will try to remember to pick apart the good in people.
One day a friend was listening to one community member complain about another. He said to the person complaining that the other person was ok. In fact he said, “I like them. I find them alright.”
The person complaining said, “You love everybody.” My friend responded, “Maybe but it isn’t easy.”
I loved this response. Just like I loved my neighbour’s desire to pick apart the good in people.
Nurture. Sow. Mend. Make.
Whether it is a garden, a rug, a relationship or a community, let ‘s make it beautiful.
Great day last Saturday when Georgina and I went to the Rug Hooking Museum of North America in Hubbards. We had a great lunch and book signing all under the direction Suzanne. She had done a besutiful job on the museum, especially in collecting antique mats and aquiring the tools of The Garretts patterns.
We had a beautiful day with about sixty rug hookers.
As I sit quietly with my morning coffee, sunlight is streaming through the kitchen window. It’s summer sunshine and the first full day of the season in which we place so many hopes.
We make plans for places we’ll go, day trips we’ll take, visits we’ll make to friends and their cottages, books we’ll read, deck barbeques we’ll plan, beaches we’ll walk, hikes we’ll take…. And the list could go on.
How much can one squeeze into one short season? How much time will we give ourselves to be at home or at the cottage and just BE in that space, in that place, and allow ourselves to enjoy the greenery of the yard, the flowers on the deck?
So while my mental to-do list is long, it is made of similar plans that I made last year and the year previous. My season will be a success if I accomplish time, time to be, to relax at home and enjoy the greens and the breezes provided by the beautiful Bay of Fundy.
No matter where you live, may your summer be good for you.
Thanks to Georgina who painted all our dark wood cupboards to make them more studio like. Now they are lime and yellow.
This spring we spruced up the place. The walls get tired from rugs being put up and taken down and a place, much like a person needs nurturing.
I am always conscious of thespace around me. A room can be cool or cozy. I treat the studio like my home because I spend so much time there.
For some it might not matter but I am keenly aware of my surroundings. Occassionally something remains unrepaired…like the books holding up a couch at home. But truthfully I even chose what books I would use to hold up the couch. Silly. Yup. But if I have to look it I want to like it.
On Saturday morning my friend Katherine and I headed across the Eddy Road, an old road that goes across the marsh, from downtown Amherst. Once we got to Fort Lawrence, we turned right and then a left on the Mount Whatley Road which took across to the New Brunswick side of the marsh. It was a great ride, challenging at time as it was a dirt road and the Mount Whatley hill is quite steep. We made it, turned around and came back the same way, it was so beautiful. It was a gorgeous ride.
I captured a picture of our bikes across the river that divides Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. I also got one of Katherine with her camera…as she really is. She loves her camera and posting her pictures on Facebook. Our ride has already been posted there no doubt.
It is quite nice to think you rode across to provinces, even if that is not exactly the truth. It sounds so good! The dirt roads are a little rough but there was hardly any traffic so you could ride really comfortably. Mostly all we saw was cows, flowers and fields. Along the Fort Lawrence road you could smell the lilacs in the breeze as you rode by people’s gardens.
Overtime I go down on the Tantramar Marsh, I am amazed by the simple beauty. On the way back Katherine pointed out a hawk in the sky that was flying over and watching us. The sunlight was filtering through the tips of his wings. It was a great way to end the trip, a reminder of what waits for you so close to town.
I just pretended I was writing for Fodors Travel Guide
I still like to pretend the way I used to when I was a kid. I used to pretend I had a little newspaper sometimes. Sometimes I would play house or store or post office. So last week I pretended I was a writer for Fodor’s about this area. I created a little travel guide.
It is a work in progress but I created a little travel page about our area….Cumberland Westmoreland. It is a work in progress and I am just getting it going. Katherine from California just came to our Spa Retreat in May and she said she had a hard time finding out about things to do in our community. I know there is lots to do because I am out and about lots. I decided to create my own little guide to the area. It is just things I like to do, or things I think other people might enjoy ( for example the golf course…the only reason I go there is to get one of Janie’s cinnamon buns).
I will add more things. In fact I just remembered another. If you have someone come to visit the area give them the link to this page. I think it is worth reading. If you are planning to visit yourself then yippee! ….you’ll find lots to do!
I hook rugs the way I do because of who I am.
I have never wanted anything perfect.
Perfect bothers me a little, makes me uncomfortable.
The other night I looked at my overgrown garden.
It is not perfect but it is beautiful.
The rhubarb gone to seed.
The forget me nots from a long time ago
Reminding me of childhood.
The dandelions past their prime yet caught at their most beautiful time, when they are almost finished.
I think of my community in a broad sense.
It is anywhere with in a forty minute drive I guess….maybe beyond that.
It is the people I see shopping in my Studio, at Mansours or Thirty Church.
It is my online community at the studio
It is the people I sit on community committees with.
It is people who contribute, who give back to their community.
It turns out my community is more about people than place.
The town next door is part of my community.
The road to Parrsboro is part of my community.
What goes on in these places can matter to me
as much as what is happening on Church Street.
I love it that my studio is fifteen minutes from a Unesco World Heritage site.
That is an amazing thing.
300 Million years ago something was happening here.
Then think about how small you are in the scheme of things.
You cannot feel self important and look up at those cliffs.
We might be small in one sense but there is no room
to think small anymore.
Y ou can think local.
You can think about the importance of independents.
But you cannot think small because the world is too big and too vast.
There are too many ideas that are easy to access now.
We can all do so much more because there are so many tools.
You can produce a movie.
Make a music video.
Just with your phone.
You can sell to China. It is possible.
The limits that I feel are mostly my own. That might be true for others too,
Our small local economy is part of something bigger.
I have learned this from my work.
This morning I had a note from a woman on the west coast of Ireland
about my last blog post. It resonated with her an ocean away.
I have learned from doing business here in this community.
People come from away because they like it here. They like it HERE.
Years ago watching a little black and white tv in my parent’s mobile home
I saw Katherine Hepburn starring in a movie and she said, “The key to happiness kid is wanting what you have.”
To want it you have to find some ways to appreciate it.
You have to seek out the people and things you can appreciate,
You have to ignore the idea that to be hopeful is to be foolish because the nay sayers and fun suckers want you to believe that so you’ll join them.
Misery loves company but so does happiness.
Happiness loves company too.
Lately our small town has taken some serious hits. We have lost some jobs and some important businesses. We have some hollow spots and there is a lot to be done.
I keep reminding myself that it isn’t Amherst that is experiencing this, it is small towns all across North America. Staying positive and hopeful takes work. It is a choice. Staying hopeful is much easier when you are doing something about it. When you contribute and choose to be engaged you automatically surround yourself with other people who are also engaged and lively. This squeezes out some of the negativity.
Do not get me wrong. When you hear people complain and whine about government continually and focus on what is wrong in a community it affects you. Even the most hopeful and engaged citizens sometimes need to sit in a room and vent to each other like I did today with another usually positive friend. We ranted. And rants are good as long as after the rant you get back to work to do something about what you ranted about.
Otherwise the rant just needs to stop. Shut it down, sister, pack it up brother. I am tired of listening to it. Enough is enough. I want to make things better one sweet little thing at a time.
I have had enough of the ranting and whining about what our community has lost. Don’t tell me anymore about what we lost.Start talking to me about what we could gain. Listing the businesses that have folded is not as helpful as listing the businesses that have started or still exist. If you want me to listen start talking to me about how to make the best of what we have. Tell me what you are going to do tomorrow, next week, next year to make your community a better place to live.
We are not alone. Communities across the continent have lost jobs. Populations in lots of places are aging. People from across North America will read this blog post and it will all sound familiar to them.
If you want a good community you have to be part of the solution. Recently a woman who was considering moving here wrote me a note to see what I thought of the place because she had read something on Facebook that was negative about the town. It really made me see how negativity spreads like a virus. She may or may not ever move here but wouldn’t it be a shame
for all of us who are working hard here if she did not because of something negative said on fb? What if she , the potential citizen was part of the solution for the community but because people were spreading negativity posts and comments she changed her mind? It happens all the time. We lose out because of our negative attitudes and outlook.
I am not a pollyanna. I run two businesses in a downtown that has been struggling for at least twenty five years. Together they employ 14 people part time and full time. I know that if we want our community to flourish we need to turn our focus away from what we had and towards what we have, and onwards to what we could have.
Just because you take a hit does not mean you have to go looking for another one.
Change is constant and real. Because this is our time and place it feels really personal but these kinds of changes have always happened in small towns and they will continue to.
As a community member I know that this town is full of strong minded , hardworking people who care about their community and those are the people I choose to believe in.
I choose to plant geraniums outside my door.
I choose to continue to try and make things better.
What do you choose?
I have been dying wool fabric pieces here for a while with some success and much personal satisfaction. It makes me feel like a witch getting ready to mix up a brew, (a good one, ..ahem). So when Deanne recently mentioned to me about possibly dying some yarn I barely let her get the words out of her mouth before I said “YES!!”. Now I have a new passion, (I needed another one like a hole in the head) and its branched of into my “need” to learn how to knit socks. Why socks? I should actually say sock because once I have mastered one sock, why would I want to be bored knitting the other sock? I taught myself to knit mittens and the fruit of my efforts is still sitting in the basket all by itself waiting for the day its mate might appear, (possibly after I finish knitting this sock-but not likely). Brenda says I should knot two socks at a time and I think she might be right.
Today I will continue to dye and brew up some new mixes for all of you who might want some hand-dyed yarn to add to your hooking or knitting and Georgina and I will have fun naming them too!
Have a colourful day!
“Sou’wester ” Hand-dyed 100% wool, 2-ply
“Blue Jay” Hand-dyed 100% wool, 2-ply
“Fundy Fields” Hand-dyed 100% wool, 2-ply
“Raspberry Jam” Hand-dyed 100% wool, 2-ply
Friends from different parts of my life have been wanting to try rug hooking so recently I gathered them together and hosted a Wool and Welsh cakes Sunday brunch at my house. Even my sister dug out her rusty hook and joined us along with the her friend Linda, the Welsh Cake Making Queen. I set up one buffet for good eats and another for hooks, hoops and wool. The day was a play session to see if rug hooking sparked anything for them to take further. I showed them how to pull a loop and then gave them as little direction as possible. It may sound stingy but I didn’t want to hamper any mad science impulses by filling their minds with arbitrary ideas about the “right” way to hook. Sometimes, the best way to teach something is simply to set the stage.
I loved seeing their experiments unfold in front of me. It made me think the more proficient a person becomes at their art and craft the more they need a dose of the unbridled impulses and playfulness of newbies. I was so taken by their random patches of rug hooking the next day I started a new piece with my own random patches hoping to capture some of their precious naivete and fearlessness. Working on it has led me back to a forgotten experiment from my early days. Funny how my friends’ baby steps brought me back to one of my own. It’s like I discovered a seed waiting for more experience to germinate and it’s already blossoming into a new direction for my work.
Reflecting on our day also made me realize how long it’s been since I’ve rug hooked with a regular group. I really enjoyed attending a small weekly rug hooking group when I first started, however, there came a point in my journey when I needed to focus my time to work on my own. I’ve never felt the need to be part of a regular group since but suddenly the Wool and Welsh Cakes gathering has brought out a desire to keep this thing going. It feels special to have people you already love to laugh and spend time with interested in sharing a creative passion and I’m glad to be in a place where I can embrace that. I think an artistic path is ever shifting and it’s important to always keep moving towards what feeds your soul.
I’m happy to say everyone is inspired to do more rug hooking and Wool and Welsh Cakes Part 2 is in the works. Apparently a few friends hit a Value Village before they even made it home and there’s been a lot of mad science brewing all around since. I can’t wait to see what they’ve been blowing up and I’m not sure who’s going to be teaching who!
Wherever I am , I need a few things around me. The bits of your life that sum things up and make sense to you. My office is the perfect place for that. I bring here what is important, what matters in some way. It might be a picture or a notebook, but I can sure you if I put it here I want it, at least for a while.
My phone is always around so you get out of the habit of using a real camera for pictures. When I took out my Canon Rebel again after a year of relying on my phone I had forgotten how to use it. I had to spend hours just getting to know the knobs again. I know the word knobs is from sometime in seventies but I still understand that term.
Once I did I realized that there is a depth to my camera that I cannot get with my phone. People always look flat with the phone. Yet that phone is so slim, and light, and convenient. It is hard competition.
As I start preparing for the abstract workshop next fall I know I need a viewfinder. I need a new set of eyes to see things differently so I am going back to knob and tube….well not quite. Here is the first round.
Every once in a while I like to review the library of rugs I made. I did that today and found a few of theses I would like to share with you. Everything I have made influences what I am now making. Sometimes I cannot see it, but I know it is there. It is good to look back at your old work and review it because I think it can renew your current work in surprising ways. Sometimes you might even forget what you did really well.
I have just finished a series of houses and we have decided to have a party here in early June to celebrate it. Stay tuned…The details are coming.
In the words of John Donne,
“No man is an island,
entire of itself;
every man is a piece of the continent,
a part of the main…”
Almost daily we are reminded of how important it is to be part of a community, how one can thrive in a group, find purpose, yet still be singular and individual.
All around we see effective teams working on significant projects or causes. Individual roles are given, supported by the collective group to create, to perform, to assist others.
Here in Amherst, my church community recently suddenly lost our leader, our priest. But there is evidence all around of the strength of so many individuals and groups within the parish to keep us connected as a strong and vibrant faith family.
Chop one Mango into cubes, toss with 1/4 yellow pepper, 1/4 tomato, 2 green onions all chopped.
Dress with half a lime, a drizzle of olive oil, 1 /2 teasppon of maple syrup and 1/4 teaspoon of balsamic fig vinegar. Toss.
Serve salsa on chopped fresh uncoooked spinach.
Pan fry salmon fillets in 1 teaspoon of butter and one teaspoon of olive oil. I use mediumhighheat and cook about 5 min on each side.
Put salsa as a side with the salmon.
I don’t travel to teach but next year I will be speaking at the Atha convention in Cleveland , Ohio on the invitation of Katie Allman who has brought groups to my studio many times and been a friend to me for many years. I just wanted yo let you know that this is an exception to my general rule of staying home! I will not be teaching at Atha, rather just giving a talk.
The reason I always teach from my studio in Amherst is that I need so many supplies to teach. I also really like to bring people to Nova Scotia, it is a magnificent place. And thirdly, I am basically a homebody who loves her routine.
So don’t go looking for me in a bunch of unfamiliar places because I’ll be here in my studio, and across the street at the women’s store just doing the same old things, but a bit differently each day!
If you think it can’t be done than you are absolutely right.
If you are sure it can’t be done then it will never happen.
I am always thinking about where I will take the rug studio in the next few years.
Metaphorically that is.
What direction? What is the next project?
And I need to remember that if you believe it can happen, then it will.
This sign on the highway is a great reminder of that.
Last spring, Laurie Glenn, who works with me said,”You should have one of those signs on the highway.”
I answered, “I tried to do that but I could not get it. So I am not going there.”
Then I came into my office and I thought. If you think it cannot happen, than it won’t happen.
I decided that it had been years since I tried. I called the Department of Tourism.
I learned that maybe I could have a sign.
Then I did a little dance.
I thanked Laurie for pushing me.
Then I did a little jig…just another kind of dance.
Then I waited for weeks and months until I heard that yes I could get a sign.
Then I waited for months for the sign to get put up. As soon as it did I had oatcakes delivered to the highway garage for the guys who put up my sign. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Then I danced again.
Then a few weeks later I went out and had my picture taken under it. I looked so small…like a little fairy girl standing beside it.
Then the little fairy girl did a little dance, and her little fairy friend took pictures as cars zoomed by wondering what those fairy fools were up too.
Then the fairy girl got in her truck and drove back to Amherst and on the way she turned into herself again and she realized something.
She learned that if she had to keep thinking that she could not have that sign then she would never have. She realized that if you think something won’t come true, than it won’t.
But the big thing she realized is that you have to work at it.
And that when you try, magic happens.
Sometimes that magic might not be exactly what you imagined it to be but sometimes it is just what you thought or even better.
So this little revelation is one I am carrying with me today and into the future.
Because if it can happen for me, it can happen for you.
It can happen for the people we love.
It can happen for our communities.
It can happen.
You have to believe it….but you also have to work at it.
On Wednesday I came to work. Denise had sent a message to say Maya had a cold so she could not make it in. This what I found when I headed to the back studio to make my coffee.
The mess was so striking I had to stop and take a picture.
Denise had been dying wool the day before. She was halfway through putting it all out when the day ended and she headed home. Leaving it to finish for the morning.
Even her leftover cup and glass looked good in the midst of it all.
Another reminder that beauty is everywhere. You just have to be in the right frame of mind to see it.
In the first day of spring my husband and daughter joined me for our annual walk into the Sugar Woods. It’s a Cumberland County thing to do.
The road was packed smoothly with snow on that chilly day and it was busy with people of all ages, families spending the day together, children, lots of stollers and dogs too, all going in and out of the woods. Many returnees were enjoying some taffy on a stick or a maple leaf.
There are three camps along Maple Lane, two were boiling that day. The furthest one in is ‘off the grid’ and features an old homemade waterwheel. The ice formations around it were pretty interesting.
We bought treats at each camp as their products differ in darkness. I am told that it has to do with altitude and the sun. Nonetheless, all are yummy.
So again this year, we have Cumberland County maple syrup right out of the woods, to marinate our salmon, add to dressings and baked beans, to top our pancakes, and yes, to sweeten our lives.
I am two things, actually, like all of you I am many things. People are this lovely combination of many interests, ideas, values, loves and passions. That is what makes them so interesting. What makes them so beautiful. For most of us though a few things stand out.
Myself I am an artist and an entrepreneur. I like creating, whether it is a rug as art, or a job for a woman in my community. It is still making. I can see it. It is real.
Sometimes people wonder why I started a woman’s clothing store. They ask it like it is oddest thing I could have done. This morning I came up with one of the answers. It is about beauty. I think that most people like to feel beautiful. They like to feel good about themselves.
I have loved clothes since I was a little girl and they came second hand as my cousin’s hand me downs in bags from my Aunt in St. Johns. I have always enjoyed picking out what I was going to wear “where”. I remember my life in outfits, my polka dress that I wore to my sister’s wedding when I was three, my gold knit suit on the first day of school, my navy paisley skirt for the speech contest in grade seven, the tan jacket I was wearing the night I met my husband. It goes on. You have your own list I am sure.
Clothes to me are more than just stuff. They can help transform the way I walk, the way, the way I hold myself, the way I feel. Call me shallow. I don’t care. I love a pair of high heels and a bit of lipstick. They are another layer of ornament and decoration, another way of creating beauty. I love working with women and reminding them to reframe the way they speak and feel about themselves as they buy clothes. At 30 Church Women’s Clothing, there are no saggy arms, or fat arses, instead they just part of us, the way we are, and none of us are perfect. We are built for beauty if we want it. We just have to choose it.
I feel that this love of beauty is no different than my love of beauty across the street at my studio. At the rug hooking studio I try to make the wool the best it can be. When I come up with some little sketch, I dress it up with ornamentation and colour and texture. I try to make the most of what I have just like I want the woman who is getting dressed across the street to make the most of what she has. We all have something, we just have to see it and make the best of it. Beauty is what I seek.
So these two things I do, one across the street from each other are really not that different after all. My belief that beauty matters carries the same weight in either place. I am not foolish enough to believe that clothes make the woman, but I am certain that the woman can make the clothes.
I know that the birds in the trees and the flowers in the field are dressed more beautifully than any of us. Yet I believe that I was put here to create beauty everyday, in any way that I can, and that sometimes two things that do not seem to belong to each other are really very integral.
So I cross the street over and over again each day because I believe that beauty matters and that it needs to be redefined, so that as women, and as artists, we can own it.
March is the slowest month, they say.
You can begin to honestly look forward to summer.
Spring is around the corner.
Every year it is the simplest of things,
Maple sugar in March.
I wait for it expectantly.
A long walk in the woods.
The sap boiling,
Wood smoke swirling.
Maple cream, syrup, all from the trees
Making good on their promise of sweetness, year after year.
Making light work
And work light.
Fostering a home,
Stitching a quilt,
Working a garden,
Knitting for others,
Hooking for fun,
For relaxation therapy.
Hands are for helping,
Motto for school,
Hands of the elderly
Teaching hands of the young,
All working to build,
To create, to produce
Why do you do it? Why do you live in a small town?
It is not a question I ask myself because the honest truth is I just found myself here. I never decided to live in a small town. Life does not happen that way for many of us. We live where we live for all kinds of reasons. It might be love, it might be family, it might be work.
Myself I just responded to what came up, love and family then turned into work, which turned into art, then turned into business.
It was never written in a journal. It was never dreamt up. It just simply happened.
There is so much pressure these days to plan out a great life. To seek abundance, to be more, to seek out your dreams, to be the most you can be.
Yesterday I saw a chalkboard that said, “Do something amazing every day.”
Really? How about “Do your dishes everyday.” or maybe “Pack your lunch everyday.”
Maybe just, “Be kind to others.”
I get a lot done but there is no way I can do something amazing everyday.
It makes me think about our studio motto, “create beauty everyday”…let me assure when I say that I mean that a sandwich can be a beautiful thing. I also mean that tidying your sock drawer can be too. Don’t take any pressure from me, beauty is surely in the tiniest of things.
I keep seeing journals with things like “Live your dreams ” written on it. They scare me. I’d rather a blank one so I can write in it things like…”I made macaroni for supper. We were out of cheese so I just ate it with butter. Yum.” I don’t need pressure from inanimate objects around the house.
Even my “think” sign sometimes gets on my nerves.
No one tells you you can end up being an artist and business person just by responding to what comes up. No one seems to say that if you live in a place where the people you love are then you will feel safe and comfortable and you might take a few more risks. People don’t seem to like to say that you can carve an opportunity out in any place.
We so easily forget the little things, that really are the foundation for the big things. You can’t just “dream” cause the cover of the book tells you to. The conditions have to be right.
Everywhere I look there are quotes telling you to seek, to shine, to grow.
Yesterday I saw a box that ” Stuff I pretend is important.” I was tempted to buy it just because it was honest. I didn’t.
Believe me, I love change and growth. I think it is important to dream. I just don’t want pressure to do those things because pressure to do those things is exactly what can stunt it.
“It is okay to flounder.”
“Say your prayers.”
“It can happen anywhere.”
Don’t forget to take notes
To make sketches
To keep track of your ideas
The very mention of something
Could spark a years worth of work
Could keep you inspired for months
Don’t miss the possibility
Or the promise of something beautiful
Because you did not take a minute
To put a few words to paper
Or draw a few lines
Make time for possibilities