A visual exploration of living in community.
All rights reserved. Do not copy image without the artist’s permission.
I wrote about the April 2011 collage workshop in my previous post. What I didn’t say was what else happened during that workshop. Besides making creative collages and new friends, something else happened. A serindipidous self-organizing community grew from one artist frustration with shared journals. Once her story was told, several women in the room shouted out their commitment to shared journaling with “count me in!” That gave birth to “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Journal.” *
Here’s my first entry.
Want to join the sisterhood?
From the April 17th collage workshop I presented in collaboration with Skip Werline in beautiful Washington, Kentucky. The event was hosted by Ohio River Valley Art Guild. The guild’s director, Claudia Moose is an incredible artist but when a watercolor painting doesn’t turn out as intended she takes a paper cutter to it. She cuts these long, triangle shaped strips, places the strips in a cardboard box and offers up the watercolor remains to whoever comes along and notices. I did. Claudia said it would make her happy if I could find some use for them.
After working on this collage for a while, I invited three other artists in the room to take turns adding, creating, enhancing the work. It turned out to be a remarkably joyful feeling to watch each artist add her personal touch to the piece I had started. Well technically, Claudia started it all. Thanks Claudia.
Several years ago, I found a book in my attic. It was “The Man who Moved a Mountain” by Richard C. Davids published in 1970. I have no idea how it got there. I must have placed it there myself at some point although I have no recollection of doing so. Anyway, I read the book, or at least parts of it. It’s a biography of Reverend Bob Childress of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. My mother was born in Virginia, near Haysi in an area she called Booger Bottom. I’ve always suspected she made up the part about being born in Booger Bottom but I can’t be sure. I must say that the name she claims for her birthplace works in that it gets everyone’s attention (which is rather ingenious) and my mom always loved attention. She still does at age 86. So, I ask, why not make up a fascinating name for your birthplace? Booger Bottom is much more interesting than West Union, where I was born. Perhaps, I should rethink MY birthplace. Maybe I was born in Tranquility or maybe I was born in Sunshine (both real places just right up the road from me…..really!). I’ll keep working on this storyline…..
Back to the book. I actually don’t remember much about the specifics of Davids’ book with the exception of this one phrase – “Make do, do it yourself, or do without.” This phrase expressed either a “deficit” or a “quality” about mountain people depending on how one viewed a lifestyle. But, when I first read those words, I felt as though I better understood my family, my husband and my neighbors all of whom can claim hillbilly heritage. This heritage brought with it a way of living in which folks took pride in making do with what they had and, I might add, making do with a certain individual ‘flair” , an often unappreciated ingenuity.
Maybe this is why I love collage so much? Collage is about using what is at hand to make something new. Take a close up view of “A Community of Light” and you’ll see that I used very old quilt fabric donated from the fabric collection of a dear friend, neighbor and quilt maker, Mrs. Hughes.
But, it’s more than “using” what’s at hand, it’s believing that everything we need is right before us. We don’t need more stuff, we just need to develop or trust our creativity and ingenuity and become aware of all that surrounds us.
Here’s the first thing I notice in the pamphlet description: When in the face of constrained resources, some people demonstrate ingenuity; they are able to do unexpectedly more for less.
I know some of these people. I live among them here in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains. So, besides reading this pamphlet, I think I’ll return to my roots. I’m going to call my mom, visit my neighbors and make a new collage out of things at hand.
In Community: The Structure of Belonging, Peter Block wrote that the key to creating or transforming community is to see the power in the small but important elements of being with others. Community and belonging have been at the center of my interest for quite some time and I’m learning to pay attention to and learn from present day interactions that provide keys to creating and transforming community. But, I’ve not thought much about past interactions from my childhood. When I did, my neighbors Kate and Ollie came to mind.
My visits with Kate and Ollie were filled with conversation. Each time I knocked on their door, Ollie would graciously welcome me inside even though my visits were random and unannounced. I would sit in their overstuffed chair, we would talk about our day. Kate was not well. I remember how lovingly Ollie cared for her.
What memories do you have of your neighbors? Did you have a neighbor that made you feel especially welcome? How did you connect with or get to know your neighbor(s)?