I can remember sitting in the den with my daddy when I was 6 or 7 years old… he was a hippy, Robert Crumb/Marshall McLuhan style, a meditating/heavy drinking gypsy man who could sit for hours listening to the Doors ‘Riders on the Storm’ or Mike Oldfield’s ‘Tubular Bells’ while it rained torrents outside on a musky summer night… My mom & I used to sit & read album liner notes together and tear cool pages out of Rolling Stone magazine, Sage & Dhoop Stitcks swirling smoke around us. I was always surrounded by artists sketching, or dad teaching me to play chess, or mom painting and quilting… HEAVEN!… I am hard wired to go a bit trance-y when I smell Patchouli or Frankincense (witness my bedside table below…) Whichever way my parents manifested the true bohemian lifestyle, there was always always the tribe. I know the word has become a bit airy-fairy and overused these days, but I have a blood right to use it as MY word: my paternal great grandmother was a bonafide Cherokee. My mom was a mother to everyone she met, always gathering people around a meal, taking in strays. Today, my father is the shaman for the Sac-Fox-Osage Cherokee Tribe in Southern Missouri and actually married me to my Husband. I feel my artistic leanings are inseparable from my heritage, my upbringing, and the (for better or worse) gypsy style of my rearing. But in spite of that, I always felt I was waiting for something “out there” to choose me or give me some sort of super secret sign of approval or permission to DO my thing…
Though my parents relationship was quite rocky, I do appreciate having been instilled with a deep respect for both art & creativity, and a native/nature spirituality. I wish I’d trusted it sooner… (this is your cue to learn from me, people)
Workwise, It’s no surprise I turned my attention to Roots when I decided to tackle a big project (Discover the roots Diary). I have always reached way down deep to a rich well of earthen rootedness, ancient mystery, and universal truth to find wisdom, strength, guidance… all those things that always made me “different”, “quirky”, or simply weird to my peers. (As an adult, I’m holding on to engaging, with an option on eccentric) But those are also the qualities that made me a poet, and artist. I was taught early on to honor creativity — in the tradition that “art” is not a separate thing from “life”. Every artist should eat a bowl of “my art IS my life” for breakfast. My Mom taught me to grow, harvest and use herbs — or to press and preserve flowers as a meditative, artistic exercise — all of it treated as sacred, valuable, and important work. I also learned that “Creating” is never separate from “Being” — moving artfully in the world and tending the day-to-day mundanities are threads in a singular cloth of “being” that simply flows through and back into and between each moment to make the circuit of creative you-ness. But in spite of having been raised in this atmosphere, and having the luxury of “creativity” as a valued pursuit I STILL didn’t embrace it or honor MY assertion of it properly. Forest, trees. You know the story…
For me, my creative juciness really began to ooze when I finally embraced the WHO of who I am and threw out all of my “mom” clothes (sweatpants, sloppy jeans, sensible shoes) and the stupid constraints that I had put on myself associated with it (solitude, June Cleaver-isms, self sacrificing silliness that left me depleted and resentful) and pulled out the things I LOVE – floor length sari fabric skirts, brocade and suede dresses, capes, boots, 4 inch platforms and wedges… and HATS HATS HATS!!! Never enough ways to wear great hats. I ran TO my art, in all ways, instead of holding back. I let my inner gypsy out, and the cascade effect was explosive. Granted, it contributes that I’m a 6 foot tall redhead, but I decided after surviving cancer that I am NOT going to wait, wait, wait for an “occasion” to wear satin, or long flowy embroidered skirts, I’m going to wear WHAT I want, WHEN I want, and HOW I want, I’m going to paint-draw-stitch as I see the necessity. And then, I had an epiphany…
My gypsy wears Ruby Slippers – and YOURS should too. With a capital R and S. What I’ve most always sought after – to cultivate an honest communication, build an authentic place to teach from, find a selfless way to SERVE my students (and audience) with something inspiring and relevant and useful for their journey…IT’S BEEN IN ME THE WHOLE TIME!!!! Click 3 times, BLAM. My existential Ruby Slippers. I didn’t need the right platform, the best venue, the perfect supplies, the appropriate permission or endorsement, the well developed plan, or on and on and on. All I needed was ME. The real, honest, reach way down and be brave enough to BE the me who was always IN here in order to teach what others seek. I had it the whole time. POW. Cosmic lesson.
So how is this stitchy, you may ask? Because: all this bohemian, spiritual, creative energy STILL fills me to the brim… and it compels me (in spite of my introverted nature) to send my energy into the world of mere existence and stitch things up — make messes — make stitches — and most of all: hand pick the kindred spirits of my creative impulses to begin the important work of heart-by-heart, soul-by-soul, building my tribe. I cannot deny I am a leader, an instigator, a deliverer of wisdom and light to anyone who wants to be turned ON by the possibilities of creativity.
No need for any other word – we CREATE – we experience, and process, and turn the whirling world of senses into something of value, something that informs others of the how-to of this amazing journey. And so… WHAT does this all mean? You must channel your inner gypsy. The wild wo(man) who drives your need to create and manifest your vision. And then, when you’ve invited that divine s(he) to have tea, offer the Ruby Slippers!!! Allow the genius of artistic gypsy wisdom to wash over you, fill your senses, and drink it in. Then, after you’ve basked in the luscious inspirational goodness of your muse, chant the universal truth: what I need, what I want, what I am striving for, is already IN me. Soak up the dreamy possibility that you already have the idea, the answer, the plan, to manifest what you’re dreaming.
Now. Go. Get. It.
Collectively, as we share and learn from our gypsy, and allow for the inner wisdom that we can bring to the table, we have a deep well of delicious arty mojo to call on whenever the storms of life threaten to sink our sanity ship. And even cooler, as long as we have a needle and thread our voices will never be stifled.
This week, I’m channeling the ghosts of stitchers from way back in history’s past and seeking out brave renegades from the present to write a feature for Needle magazine: Needles on the Record – embroidery as documentary. I’m allowing the threads of all those who have captured their truths in stitch to wrap me in stories to share with you — I want you to KNOW deep down that we with our needles and threads stitching out our passions are part of a long rich heritage.
I’ve also started a design board with sketches and loose paintings to visualize the LOOK of the entire collections: I feel it’s really coming together, though I still haven’t had the right conversation with Rosary Pea, Angel’s Trumpet, Water hemlock, or Snakeroot to really get their personalities. I must make some time in the coming month to sketch and stitch in my diaries to discover what their legends and folklore are, and see how they want to be manifested.
Last night I answered some hard questions about my mom’s death, my brush with cancer near-death, and how Sinister Stitch is not just an art project — it’s a story of creativity triumphing over the BIG challenges that threaten us as humans. It’s a great story, and a lesson I’m proud to share. VisitTheChronicles
Dont forget, May 1st I’m setting off on one more Stitchers Garden Book adventure — and actually am lucky enough to have a local student so we’ll be meeting up at the needle arts shop to work some of the exercises together (which I’ll photo and film as a reference for you). We’ll also be developing some NEW exercises and techniques to add as extras to the SGB tutorials — you can jump in anytime through June 15 and have plenty of time to work the sessions with us. VisitTheSchoolhouse for full info & registration
Thank you for joining me — Now go expose yourself ;o}