Spinning Out Of Control

I have been spending a lot of time at my spinning wheel recently.  It is a perfect way to spend a cold afternoon.  And here in Chicago we have been having a string of super cold days.  Right now the temperature is 16 degrees F and that is up several degrees from this morning.   I have also needed the quiet meditation I get while spinning.  As I shared here earlier this week, I usually choose a topic or situation to think about or meditate upon while I am spinning.  It is a bit like an extended prayer.  As I add the energy into the fibers I add the energy of my blessings out into the world to spin a yarn….

Yesterday the news cycle was filled with the vile hateful words of our current U.S. president.  He spoke of the immigrants from “shit-hole countries”.  Haiti, Africa and in the past he has referred to Mexico and Puerto Rico among other places and their people in this demeaning and nasty manner.  This is our leadership here.  This is our “role-model in charge”.

I had stepped away from this blog for a while this past year.  Not wanting to add to the noise of the dissent against this administration.  Not wanting to add anything to the negative energy around our current situation.  Not feeling it was going to make any difference anyway.  But, I can be silent no more.

So, as I sat at the spinning wheel yesterday  I questioned how will “They” (his supporters) spin his words?  Because you know they will.  They always do.  And it disgusts me. Especially this weekend as we honor Martin Luther King, Jr. who once said, “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”

King also once said,Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”  So, to honor Dr. King on the weekend we remember as a nation to honor his wisdom and work, I will be silent no more.

 

This is my yarn spun yesterday and titled, “Spinning Out of Control”.  I spun a merino single from a roving that I had dyed a long time ago in shades of teal blue with small areas of a deep purplish.  I then plied it with a cotton in that same shade of purple as a core-spun.  I added coils and “twisted-lashes” with the wool.  Our current President is spinning out of control.  And those who have the power, access and authority to act sit back and do nothing, while our country suffers.  I will PERSIST. I will continue to work to create the change I want to see in the world.  I will no longer remain silent….unless silent meditation is the best action I can take in the moment.  And sometimes it is the only thing I can do.

 

Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

For the last nine months or so, I have been focusing my time on spinning yarn (and spells, I am the Stitch Witch, you know!)  I took up spinning yarn as a way to meditate, relax and create in a new way.  For me spinning is somewhat of a metaphor for uniting the past and the future to create the NOW.  When I hand-spin yarn at the wheel I pull out bits of fiber (this to me represents material from the PAST which includes the creation, the nutrition, the experiences, the skills, knowledge, talents and qualities inherit in the fiber and in life) . I then add energy to that fiber through the treadling and spinning of the wheel to draw in the twist.  The fiber goes from being loose, weak and ephemeral to being strong and functional.  It moves from the draft (the NOW) unto the bobbin as a “potential” (the FUTURE).  What it is to become is still just a dream.  It is complete in the now and yet holds the possibility of becoming something so much greater through the art of knitting, crochet or weaving.  Spinning keeps me focused and in the moment.  I also like to put forth prayers (spells) as I spin.  Yesterday I reflected on this question….

As we enter 2018 I wonder “why can’t we all just get along?” as Rodney King asked back in 1992, it still seems to be as relevant a question as ever.   The Republicans and Democrats becoming so extreme on both ends of the spectrum hold no hope of finding middle ground.  The #metoo movement has left men and women wondering if they can ever find the trust needed to heal the wounds of past abuses.  Even in my everyday relationships I’ve experienced disharmony when there is a lack of listening in a spirit of cooperation and a teamwork approach.

And so yesterday I spun a spell.  Lavender, like the pink and blue of divine feminine and masculine coming together in Divine Unity.  Like bi-partisan red and blue joining forces to become purple.  Like a soft fine merino wool coiled around a strong core of cotton.  Soft and strong coming together to make something much more functional, beautiful and lasting.  When I spin with a core I let one of the “singles” ply loosely around the other.  For this yarn I also added in coils (the bumps in the yarn where the coil is “bundled”) which took advantage of the thick/thin wool single that I had spun previously.  The core cotton single was a yarn from my stash.

Lavender like a pale version of the Pantone Color of 2018:  Ultra-violet.  Coincidence?  No, more like synchronicity!

IMG_20180109_214205_123

If you would like to follow more of my spinning adventures, follow pamelapenneytextiles on Instagram.  I will also be adding my hand-spun yarns to my Etsy Shop very soon…..go HERE!

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.

20170816_103452
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.”

postcard-from-the-edge-2017
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!

two-gether-uni-tree
Work In Progress: “Two-Gether::Uni-Tree”

20161204_130003_hdr

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