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.

 

 

Relax.Enjoy.Create

Hot tub time machine. Tonight. Takes me downstream (no more going upstream to work out old karma, unless I want to paddle against the current). So, I go with the flow. Toward a beautiful waterfall. (I’ve had this lucid dream before. The first time I had enough faith to go over the edge, was quite an adventure. But now it’s easier. No more clinging to the rocks at the top, in fear.) When I land in the gorgeous pool at the bottom of the falls I notice more souls than ever before are there. (It is so lovely you all could join me.) It is peaceful, yet exciting. And the pool has seemed to expand to contain so many of us, without feeling crowded. AHHH. Well, back to the message….

I ask, What have you got for me tonight?  I hear it LOUD. Repeated. “Relax, Enjoy, Create”…”Relax, Enjoy, Create”…”Relax, Enjoy, Create”.  Then, “R.E.-create”… “recreate”…”recreation”…”RE-creation”… “Get it?”  Yeah I get it.

Now let me explain so that you can “get it too”. My thoughts the last few days have been on setting my new moon intentions for November. I scanned through my journal from the last few months and a word jumped out at me. “Productive”.  As in, “I wasn’t very productive today” or “I really accomplished a lot. It felt good to be productive”.  But a month ago I made a major life shift for myself, on purpose. And it is giving me an opportunity to take a new look at what it means for me to be “productive”. So, that is what I am setting as my intention. Re-define what it means to be productive. (Does floating

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My new studio

in a hot tub, talking to the stars counts as “productive”. Well, yes I think so. I just need to get used to thinking of it that way!)

I moved my art studio/gallery out of a public location (the last 13 years) into the privacy of my home. I moved from a 800 square foot space to a 7 ft. x 12 ft. space. Yet It feels more expansive as I can look out continuous windows on three sides from a second floor space. I call it my treehouse. I am adjusting. I am settling in and getting ready to get “productive” again, but in a new way.

So, today I also “played” in my new studio space in a way that was relaxing, enjoyable and creative.  I salvaged a pile of old cashmere sweaters that I had washed, and cut apart. By stitching them together, I RE-created a new “up-cycled” cashmere afghan, throw blanket. This is a technique I have used a lot in the past. But, it has been awhile (because of the studio move) since I’ve had time to enjoy creating and have fun. Soon I plan to get several of these cashmere blankets posted to my Etsy Shop. They would make a lovely holiday gift for someone. Something to snuggle up in and Relax, and Enjoy! Something a Stitch In Time Saved!

 

 

A Void Dance or Avoidance?

Here it is the end of summer.  Labor Day here in the United States.  As I reflect back over the last 3 months I can say I spent a lot of time in both avoidance and a Void Dance.  I believe it is ok to spend time in either, the important thing is to know which place you are in.

Avoidance:  The act of avoiding something.

A Void Dance:  Time spent in the quiet space between the “stuff” of life.

I have recently decided to relocate my business and my art studio after many years in the same location.  It means sorting, clearing, organizing and packing the “stuff” of my life.  I have spent much of the time between other work obligations this summer doing just that.  Sorting.  Cleaning.  Organizing.  Packing.   At times I’ve been doing it to avoid doing other things I’d rather not be doing and sometimes I am doing other things just to avoid doing the difficult work of deciding what to “do” with the stuff.   But either way, it’s been a therapeutic process.

As an artist you learn to appreciate the voids or negative space.  It’s not always the matter that matters.  (a good thing to remind myself of, as I purge and de-clutter)

20160903_202301The voids are where the fertile earth feeds the roots.  The voids are where the flames lick and spit between the burning logs.  The voids are where the oxygen is.  The voids are what make the beauty of the antique lace.  The voids are what lets the soft breeze come through the screen door.  The voids are the blue sky between the clouds.  The voids are where the damp sand squeezes up between your toes on the beach.  The voids are where you run your fingers through soft hair.  The voids are where the sun peaks through the branches of the tree canopy.  And the voids are where and when we dance.  

I hope as you enjoy your last days of this summer you find time to Dance in the Void.  It is this space and time between the stuff of life that is important.  It is different than avoidance.   It is this fertile space that feeds our creativity and our souls.  It feeds what matters.

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“A Void Dance” artwork by Pamela Penney (c) 2015

 

 

 

Dead Wood Metaphor

20160601_142841One of my first thoughts this morning as I was putting clean dishes away in my kitchen and frustrated that I didn’t have enough cabinet space for everything was, “You must sacrifice some things in order to have other things that you want or would like”.   Whoa, where did that limiting belief come from?  Yes, I know it’s been hiding in the dark corners of my thoughts for at least 3 decades, possibly all 5 decades of my life!  Why is it there?  Why can’t I believe that “I can have it all”?  It may feel like my truth.  But, it isn’t a TRUTH.  How do I shift that into a thought pattern that serves my highest good, changes my personal path to abundance and is aligned to the belief that as a Spark of the Divine I am worthy of “having it all”?  No sacrifices needed.

Yesterday a fast-moving thunderstorm moved through our community.  Many branches and even whole trees came down around town.  They called it a microburst.  A tree came down across the street from our home landing on the neighbor’s house, severed at the base of the trunk.  Today the village tree service is making fast progress to clear the debris.  As I was meditating this morning and listening to the wood shredding going on nearby I realized that my limiting beliefs are like “dead wood”.  They need to be blown away periodically.  Sometimes it takes a pretty strong microburst to do that.  We may inspect our thoughts and “prune” little bits of beliefs that are no longer needed, no longer feel TRUE.  Ideas that may have served us well in the past, but are now holding us back.  Thoughts that may have kept us safe, or were commonly held by our family, friends, community.  But now they no longer work for our current situation, our continued growth.  Pruning can lead to better health, greater vitality.  But still, like the tree across the street from me, we miss the fact that the trunk has a huge portion that is rotting.  And until a strong microburst comes through, it stays hidden.  Buried deep.

Yes, we can prune and blow away the dead wood, but there is one more hidden lesson here and it came from the humming of the wood chipper.  You must transform that dead wood.  Mulch it.  Make it something new.  Something that aids and nurtures the “further growth”.  Make it block the weeds.  Make it feed the roots of new growth.  Rotting wood is necessary.  Don’t just blow it away and pretend you don’t need it.

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Work In Progress:  “Can You See The Forest for the Trees?”  (c)2016-Pamela Penney

So, today as I work to finish a piece I’ve been creating for quite a while I contemplate what needs “pruning” from my thoughts and where, if anyplace, am I hiding “rotting wood”.  (My maiden name was Wood, so this feels “real” to me)  How can I examine and transform the thoughts that no longer serve my continued growth?  How do I use them to feed the change and transformation of my life?   What needs a bigger storm to push it out? The “working title” of this piece has been “can you see the forest for the trees?”  How do my little thoughts keep me from seeing the big picture?   How do I mulch my little thoughts and beliefs to create fertilizer for my growth?

I believe that I will weather the storms and time will tell.  

New Belief of Transformation:  I am Worthy and Can Have It ALL!

A Case For Pillow Talk

20160511_094018In his heart he said: 
     I love her so very much

In his head he said: 
     I hope she loves me too.

From his mouth he said: 
     Can we eat dinner early tomorrow? 
     I have an evening meeting.

And then he fell asleep.
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In her heart she said: 
     I will love and care for him forever.

In her head she said: 
     I hope he will always care for me.

From her mouth she said: 
     Early dinner tomorrow?  Sure!

And then she fell asleep.

A Case For Pillow Talk
©2016 Pamela Penney

 

Inspired by a recent Broadly article, Mark My Words: The Subversive History of Women Using Thread as Ink, I transformed a couple of vintage pillow cases I acquired from my grandmother.  I am pretty sure she did the decorative stitching with the rick rack trim.  I created this piece for the group exhibit, “She Said | He Said” which opened this weekend at the new Groshek Art Gallery in Chicago.  After 30 plus years of sleeping with my husband I can attest to the fact that what comes out of the mouth is rarely the “important stuff”.  I thought the use of grandma’s pillow cases was perfect for this sentiment.  My grandparent’s were married over 70 years.  I wonder sometimes about their “pillow talk” over all of those years.
I also coincidently came across a New Yorker article from a 1996 interview with the Obama’s.  I found it sweet that our current President once said this about his wife, Michelle…..“but at the same time she is also a complete mystery to me in some ways. And there are times when we are lying in bed and I look over and sort of have a start. Because I realize here is this other person who is separate and different and has different memories and backgrounds and thoughts and feelings. It’s that tension between familiarity and mystery that makes for something strong, because, even as you build a life of trust and comfort and mutual support, you retain some sense of surprise or wonder about the other person.”

Tonight, before I “fall asleep” I think I’ll try to express something more important than what is planned for tomorrow, or what happened today.  I will  share from my heart, even if I can’t find the right words….