While I identify most strongly as a maker with textiles, I’m not only a maker with fabric and thread or yarn and hook or needle.
Among other things, I’m also a builder.
In my middle 20s, I spent several years building houses. Using hammer and nails to build a shelter for other humans. Albeit often 3 story cavernous shelters, but shelters none the less.
I love making a thing with my own two hands (and a crew of other humans, if possible!) that is of utility and necessity…like food, shelter, clothing. And if it’s beautiful and made with care – all the better!
Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE art for art’s sake. But in my making practice, I am drawn to make things that get used, consumed, and fill the needs of basic human survival. I say basic, but what I really mean is living a simple life surrounded by the materials and tools that are intentionally chosen to enhance our experience and to bring us joy!
So that love of utility also draws me to herbalism, preserving food, foraging, and creating household useful things, often from discarded furniture found sadly leaning on the side of the road. Honestly, I could probably start a home for Wayward, Leaning, and Lost Chairs. I could build it myself! Out of wood from old, also leaning and surely, sad barns languishing in the fields of my town. That would be fun.
But, I digress.
Several years ago I had a very clear hole in my life in terms of community and handwork.
See, a decade before, I was surrounded by community. I was just 21 when I moved to Alaska and lived in communal housing, hiked the mountains with a passel of friends, and rode my bike to work along Resurrection Bay, waving at the barking sea lions and friends along the way.
I lived there for 3 years and then I came home to Michigan and built houses with a small but playful crew and after that, I opened a bookstore in the small town where I grew up. The bookstore was all about connecting with people. About creating a haven for folks to hang their hats and to feel included and held and cared for in a space where they could read books, one of the most lovely things to do in the world, and find their community.
And when I closed that bookstore in 2007, I was listless.
Unsure of how to spend the next part of my one, beautiful life. Then I was invited by dear friends to participate in a community yurt build. We built a wooden tapered wall yurt. I don’t know, maybe there were 20 of us, and we lived on the property for 2 weeks and built with hand tools and one another and ate the most amazing, hand-grown, hand-crafted food…together.
Hand tools, you say? Yes, so that we could not only build a thing but connect and make life more beautiful!
I have to tell you it was life-changing for me. One of those experiences that create a before and after in your life. You probably have some of those. They can be dramatic and forceful or, like this, they can be a simple choice or a powerful sentence that you read, that shifts your trajectory.
(our mentor and teacher for the yurt build was Bill Coperthewaite…if this resonates at all for you, you might enjoy his book “A Handmade Life; In Search of Simplicity”, it has a permanent spot on my very curated bookshelf)
I wanted more of that in my life. I wanted more working with my hands in a circle with other humans and particularly for me, I craved working with other women and other feminine energy. I wanted that quilting-circle feel or that feeling of being held in the unique experiences of being a female in our world.
There’s a magic that occurs when you make a thing with your hands and engage that part of your body. It allows, or maybe opens the door, for conversation that maybe isn’t quite as easy without handwork putting you at ease.
Next week…how all of this led to retreats, teaching classes, a deeper love of my body, a journey to a more intentional life, and community.
Have a making story to tell? Share it with me! Please, I’d love to hear it.