Looking for Hope

This is not the post I thought I was going to write.  I had something in the works last week to update what I have been up to all summer.  But then the protests in Charlottesville, VA happened.  And our current president’s words took the wind out of my sails.  I am deflated and with a loss of hope.

20170816_102103It’s like this cotton thread my puppy Fiona got yesterday.  A tangled mess. She loves to chew cardboard and although I try to keep it away from her, she is a sneaky 10 month old pup.  I found the cone destroyed and the cotton discarded under my bed this morning.  I could just toss it. Give up. The value is little, the amount of thread is small.  And yet, I love the bright green color.  It is often the perfect shade to stitch my textile tree art with.  I’m not sure if this is the best use of my time, but I am hopeful it won’t take long to untangle.

Today I read the despair and anger in my Facebook feed.  I know my friends are hurting, feeling unsafe, unsure who to trust.  Do they wonder if they can trust me?  What can I do to help fix this?   Today I have feelings of hopelessness.  I feel almost like giving up.

Peace Camp Quilt
Peace Camp Quilt

In June I spent a week teaching art during “PEACE CAMP”.  A friend reached out to me to see if I was interested and available to participate in a program coming to our community to promote peace and nonviolence through a children’s camp.  I jumped on the opportunity.  Little Friends for Peace has been working for over 35 years to “disarm violence with empathy”.  They travel around the country teaching children ages 4-14 listening and empathy skills. The children learn about other races, religions and cultures, with invited guests coming in each morning to share their stories of their beliefs and of the places they lived in as children. This is an effective way to eliminate fears and misunderstanding of others.  It was such a joy to work with the kids to create a Pieced Peace Quilt in the art sessions.  The quilt made of salvaged denim and the kids imaginations will hang in our community as a continuing reminder that we must unite to create peace on earth.  This gives me hope.

Over the summer I also taught at other art camp programs both through the Oak Park Education Foundation and the Oak Park Art League.  The OPEF Base Camp provided me the opportunity to teach 3rd – 5th grade students how to create their own “Story Quilt”.  As the first step in the “design process” I assigned the students the task of pretending to be journalists and to interview another student.  Through this they were able to quickly learn things about the kids they didn’t know and find things in common within the group.  It gave me much hope to observe the children sharing their personal stories, listening and supporting each other as they learned new skills like fabric dying and hand stitching.

OPEF Base Camp Story Quilt
OPEF Base Camp Story Quilt

I do not share these stories of what I did this summer to give myself a pat on the back, that I should be congratulated for doing my good deeds.  No, I share them to try to pass on a little of the hope I am still trying to hold on to, too.  I also need to document the “good” I see and am a part of to bring me out of the despair I am feeling today.

And so, like Elizabeth Warren, I persist.  I do not get angry, violent or punitive with Fiona for causing the tangled web.  She doesn’t really know any better.  When she knows better, she will do better.  And that is how I see it.  I must keep sharing my message of hope, and nonviolence.  When others know better, they too will do better.  In the meantime I will do what is within my capabilities to fix the mess I see.  And I hope that like the “butterfly effect” the small ways I can help create peace and nonviolence will ripple out into the world.  My now neat and tidy hank of green embroidery thread is a reminder to me that we can each do something everyday day to repair the wrongs of our past and do our best to fix things for the future.  This is the little thread of hope I choose to hold on to.

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A little thread of HOPE

 

 

Nasty

A Special Sort of Snowflake. Penney. 2017
A Special Sort of Snowflake: (she won’t melt if you grab her) Pamela Penney (c) 2017.

Inspired by the mandala pieces I’ve been working on since the start of 2017 I created this piece “A Special Sort of Snowflake:  (she won’t melt when you grab her)”  It was accepted into the Nasty Women Art Chicago Exhibit and Fundraiser.  All proceeds from the sales at the May 5th, 2017 event will go to Planned Parenthood, whose services have been under-fire and in threat of losing federal funding under our current administration.  If Planned Parenthood loses funding 2.5 million patients would lose access to care.  Another interesting fact from the Planned Parenthood website: “Barring Planned Parenthood health centers from Medicaid would result in a net cost of $130 million to taxpayers over 10 years due to increased unintended pregnancies without Planned Parenthood’s contraceptive care, projects the Congressional Budget Office.”

Once again I hope A Stitch In Time Saves…..because women’s health matters. Because awareness is important. Because it’s just one way to help.  If you would like to help too, here are several more ideas! Go HERE and Stand with (me &) Planned Parenthood.

STITCH + MEDITATION = INNER PEACE

STITCH + MEDITATION = INNER PEACE

It’s really a simple equation.  And I find whether it’s knitting, crochet, embroidery, or mending it holds true for me (unless I’m under a deadline!)  For me, finding meditation time is not just a desire, it is a necessity.  It is how I deal with the world. It is how I stay sane.  It is how I find answers to everyday questions.  When I’m stitching, answers come to me like some people find them in the shower.

When I saw a post about A Year In Stitches a 2016 endeavor by Hannah Claire Somerville, I was smitten with the idea.  Just a few days later a friend of mine created a Facebook group and invited a few friends to join her for A Year of Stitches 2017.  Of course I hopped onboard.  (I’ve recently joined a larger group on Facebook for A Year of Stitches. I’m looking forward to seeing more ideas and sharing there.)

I started on January 1, 2017.  In order to make this project “my own” I made a plan to create stitched Mandalas with a different thread color radiating for each day of the week. Each Mandala would represent a week with seven colors each. At the end of the year I would have 52 Mandalas.  My thought was that this would be a great way to ease into the studio each day. It would give me a “no pressure” way to get the creative juices flowing. I have completed week 11 as of today.  Here is the progress:

What I’ve learned so far:

  • I don’t always do my stitching each day.  For whatever reason I miss some days. So, some days I do several days worth of stitching.
  • Some days I do the color for that day and I would really like to keep going.  It feels like I just get started and I have to stop.
  • I have always finished up each week on time!
  • It has opened up some other creative ideas and projects.  You will see some of them soon including this….

Large Mandala

This is going to end up filling a 12 inch diameter embroidery hoop.  Right now it is just over 6 inches diameter. I am stitching this on a piece of ivory silk.  This project gives me the opportunity to keep going on the days I get on a roll and don’t have other deadlines to meet.  I’ve always been interested in taking on a “daily art practice”, but have either failed in the past, or hesitated taking on the challenge.  This one has been perfect for me.  Low pressure, stress reducing (not inducing!) and it has inspired my regular art making practice. I will keep you posted on my progress throughout the year. (Now that I’m almost 3 months in, I’m not so worried about “failing” my committment again.)

A New Beginning

It’s finally here. I can feel it. It is palpable. I felt it in such an amazing wave on Saturday at the Women’s March in Chicago where I walked with friends and strangers. Over 250,000. The peace and love and optimism in the crowd was medicine. And that medicine spread out to even those who could not attend. I had lunch with a friend after the march and the waitress thanked us for being there for HER!  And that is why I marched. For all of my SISTERS. And their children. And for RESPECT (which goes both ways and is earned, not demanded) And their access to affordable health care. And their right to choose the best options for their own bodies. And for protections to our natural resources. And for funding and support for our Humanities and Arts. And for the right to worship. And the right not to. And for the right to free speech. And especially for the right to gather in peaceful demonstrations, to express the beliefs and issues we find important as individuals and as a collective.

photogrid_1484963966407The positive energy for the Women’s March came in early December when a friend of mine who lives out east sent me a message that she wanted to know if I would make a pussyhat for her and her daughter, as they would be going to the March in D.C. Of course! I also made one for myself as I knew I would be Marching in Chicago and one for my daughter who would be in Minnesota.  And then I just kept going. I put a message out on Facebook which led to many more requests for the pussyhat. I loved the grassroots enthusiasm of that project. Women using traditional women’s skills and craft to make a statement. A statement of unity, feminism, and “can do” spirit. It is exactly the call out that I expressed in my RESISTANCE post that I will continue to use my talents and actions as my voice to support what I believe in and act against what I oppose. I also spent an afternoon knitting with a friend of mine and wished I’d had the time to participate in more of the pussyhat knitting meet-ups that were occurring around the Chicago area. I ended up using up all of the pink yarn I could purchase or scrounge from my own stash and made 20 hats in total. One friend asked if I was making them all “by Hand”. Yes, that is how I get things done…ONE STITCH AT A TIME (SAVES!) Each one was given away with a tag that stated: “In appreciation of this gift please consider a donation to the ACLU or Planned Parenthood. Several of the hats traveled to our nations capital (I saw a photo on Facebook of my friend’s husband wearing her hat on the bus ride Friday and it made my day!) Many stayed in Chicago and I saw some at the March and almost all of them in social media posts. Some even stayed “home”, but helped those wearing them feel they were a part of the historic event.  My favorite was seeing the text from my daughter in Minnesota with her pussyhat on and the message, “hat made it to the MN rally”. I had wished we could have been marching together, sharing this historic event. And then when she sent that text message I realized we were. UNITED.

So now we march forward. When I wrote this post RESISTANCE right after the election I felt at that time like this was the best or only answer to holding our elected officials accountable and to protecting the rights of ALL citizens. But after a couple of months reflection I have come personally to the conclusion that Carl Jung was right when he stated “what you resist persists”. And when I wrote my post on resistance I discussed the options that were put forth in the Dutch Resistance Museum, Resist? Adapt? Collaborate? or Persecute?  In their displays the option of collaboration meant collaborating with those you disagree with for the sake of “moving forward”, to keep the peace and make progress even if not in the direction you would like to see it go. But today I offer another option. The option I am choosing to move forward with. One of Collaboration with those who do hold your vision for the future. With those who do cherish the hard-fought battles for Civil Liberties we have established as a nation. With those who do believe in the scientific studies that have proven that what has been done by corporations and big business in the name of economic development and prosperity for a few, is actually harmful to our resources and to our WHOLE.

And I see that action coming together in my small circles and my larger community. And for the skeptics who say the Women’s March was a one day effort and we will all go back to our kitchens and computer screens and televisions (and our knitting!) and our privileged lives, I say “what YOU resist, PERSISTS!”  ***We will persist*** You obviously were not one of the Millions who attended the March on Saturday January 21, 2017. Because you would know the joy and enthusiasm and HOPE that is medicine. It is the drug of CHOICE, for me. And I am NOT ALONE, as you can see the Women’s March website has already transformed to 10 actions for the first 100 days. The first action: “Write a postcard to your Senators about what matters most to you – and how you’re going to continue to fight for it in the days, weeks and months ahead”. Get ready, I make beautiful postcards. Really great postcards. The best postcards ever. And I am ready to use them.

1.26.2017 UPDATE: And now this from my favorite local coffee shop BUZZ CAFE. The collaborations begin!

Postcard from the Edge

About a week ago I got an email from a friend and fellow artist, Gina Lee Robbins. At the end she posted a link to a call for artists with the comment: “a challenge for anyone who has time and needs a distraction in the coming week”. I am always looking for a creative challenge and needed either a distraction or an inspiration to get into the studio this week.  The Visual Aids 19th Annual Postcards from the Edge Benefit was the perfect little project to jumpstart me.

And in looking for worthwhile projects that are “a Stitch In Time Saved” this called out to me as worthy. From their website:  “By participating in Postcards From the Edge, artists and collectors support the mission of Visual AIDS to utilize art to fight AIDS by provoking dialogue, preserving a legacy of those we lost, and supporting HIV+ artists, because AIDS is not over.”

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My Postcard from the Edge: “Ginkgo”

So if you happen to be in New York City on January 13, 2017 think about attending the Preview Party. For just $85 you can own a piece of original artwork and give to a worthy cause. Sometimes that’s all that is needed to motivate an artist to get to work in this crazy world.

And once I got rolling in the studio this week I found myself well into the process of a larger work.  Earlier this week I painted and did the free-motion machine stitching on this piece (working title is) “Two-Gether :: Uni-Tree”.  I like where I am headed with it and that motivates me to get back to work on it. Today I am starting my “french-knot” therapy. I find the repetitive hand stitching soothing and theraputic. Perfect for today this first snow day/Sunday!

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Work In Progress: “Two-Gether::Uni-Tree”

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My View from the Studio today:  The (first of the season) Snow Day Inspiration!

Resistance

Exactly two years ago I was traveling Europe through Paris, Belgium and Amsterdam.  On November 16, 2014 I went through the VerzetsMuseum (Dutch Resistance Museum). It was an enlightening experience. The permanent exhibit space is laid out in a chronological path through time from the 1930’s to 1950’s with a focus on the 1940-45 years during WWII and the Netherlands occupation by Nazi Germany. From the Museum Website: “The Resistance is not about heroes and villains, but ordinary people who found themselves in a time of scarcity and oppression (with) dilemmas and had to make choices.”

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Concerns of the 1930’s -Display from the VerzetsMuseum, Amsterdam.

The displays are made up of everyday artifacts from the daily lives of the Dutch people during that time. The exhibit lays out a story of difficult choices that had to be made in the face of fear of retaliation, hunger and scarcity, and societal pressure. I walked into the Museum believing I would be one who would resist Nazism at all costs. I walked through the exhibit with a realization and a new understanding of what that would truly cost an individual. I was also surprised to find that many of the same issues facing society in the 1930’s could describe the current climate we are still experiencing. Issues regarding the separation of church and state, issues of racism, issues of severe economic differences between the haves/have-nots. Issues of what it means to be patriotic. Issues of what certain choices can mean in the long story of history. How decisions to resist, adapt, ignore or collaborate all play out over time when faced with policies that oppress any segment of society; be that a certain race, religious faith, gender or even a free press.

 

One of the displays struck a particular chord with me, as a textile artist.  It showed the simple everyday embroideries of Jacoba Maria Blom-Schuh of the Hague. She refused to give money to the Winter Help fund until the queen returned to the Netherlands. Because of her refusal she was imprisoned for three months. During her time in prison the SS guards gave her their socks to mend. She played ignorant and sewed them shut! In reality this was her form of further resistance to the Nazi cause. She later embroidered imagery from her time in prison onto these textile pieces (I call them artwork!) that are on display in the museum.

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The Story of Maria Schuh- Display at the VerzetsMuseum, Amsterdam

I found that reminiscing about my experience at the VerzetsMuseum (Dutch Resistance Museum) to be very cathartic today, one week following our 2016 Presidential Election. This past week the media has been filled with many differing opinions on how America will move forward following this contentious campaign season. Many questions are being brought to light. I return to my experience of walking through that museum, being offered choices and questions along the path (through time): Faced with different situations would you Resist? Adapt? Collaborate? or Persecute? You may think you know the answers, but when faced with pressure to Adapt by your family and friends and even the leadership of your country, it can be difficult to hold your ground for what you truly believe is Right. You may find that in the face of severe hunger your Will is broken. You may find that is seems more loving and unifying to Collaborate with others who hold a very different View of what they would like to see their world look like. You could find that to get what you want or Need, it is easy to turn a blind eye to the Persecution of others. Or worse, you could find you are the instigator of that abuse somehow justifying it as a means to the end you would like.

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Display of the Resistance Embroideries of Maria Schuh

This is a wake up call for me as I step into each day going forward, to be aware that my individual choices have an effect on my community and country as a Collective. I intend to take off my blinders to the plight and ideas of those who may not share my vision. To realize what I can do as I am faced with tough choices. To ask myself the tough questions:  Am I ignoring the oppression of a segment of our society, and making light of it? Am I looking to find answers that work for all of us, or just for myself?  Am I adapting to the new normal because it seems to be the peaceful thing to do, despite the concern that it could be causing others pain? These are the questions and many more that I (and All of US) will be faced with in the coming days and years. I know from walking through the Resistance Exhibit they are difficult questions to answer in the moments we are faced with them. These are difficult decisions to make. It is always easier to say in hind-site what should have been done. It is also easier to say in advance what you think you would do walking into a situation, than what you would actually do faced with the real consequences of your decisions.

One thing I know I will continue to do is use my Voice. My Voice comes in many different Forms. I will use my Words, speaking and writing freely as my U.S. Rights as a citizen allow.  I will use my Dollars, as very often speaking with the wallet is one of the most effective methods of communication. And I will primarily use my Talents and Actions (they speak louder than words!) to speak up when I see something harmful and/or hateful to others. I encourage you who would like to hold on to the good in the world and continue to make it better for All to also use your voices and your dollars and especially your talents to call out and continue to shine the light on situations that do not resonate with that vision. Make your daily actions and choices speak to the vision of the world you want to see. We are all an aspect of the Great Creator, what we envision is the first step to what we create here. We can not turn a blind eye to what we see as abusive, mean, selfish, divisive, or inhumane on an individual level or as a collective. We can not “be ignorant”, but just like Maria Schuh’s example we can all “pretend ignorance” (or use other methods) to resist wrong doing, and use A Stitch In Time (to) Save.

Please Note: I personally do not define resistance as a way to obstruct or protest any actions or ideas of the new administration just for the sake of hatred of “the other side”. It is a method of standing up for the protection and against the persecution of the Rights of All others (no “sides”).  I do not equate the election of Donald Trump as U.S. President to the rise of Hitler and the Third Reich. I am only making observations and pointing out a way of assessing personally how I choose to move forward as a citizen. History (and herstory) is only as helpful as what you learn from it.  Other than that, I tend not to look backward (unless I am reminiscing about a lovely European vacation), but aim to go forward doing my best to create a society that protects the Rights and Freedoms for ALL.