Today I Received a Gratitude Journal

I just got back from the gym.  I’ve started working out at the gym again this year because, you know, your body adapts to whatever activity it’s used to and you need to shake it up some.  In my case, my body was adapting nicely to sitting down hooking rugs and working at my desk.  This is an unacceptable state of affairs for a person who was a certified personal trainer and avid runner in another life, and who, for the past four years or so has poured almost every spare moment in to building a business.  For 2017 I have decided I need to crawl out of that metaphorical cave and take care of other aspects of my life, one of which is my fitness level.  To say that I’m grateful to have a nice, clean, pretty quiet gym in town is an understatement.

Last week I saw that the Squam Art Workshops, for whom I had the privilege of teaching in 2015 and 2016, was having a sale on their gratitude journals and the cherry on top of the offer was that all profits were going to a non-profit organization that I am a member of, will be volunteering for, and strongly support.   This seemed like just the right offer at just the right time, because I’ll be honest, I’ve been feeling a bit pessimistic lately.

This morning on the way home I stopped by the post office to drop off today’s shipping and, lo and behold, the journal arrived and it is lovely.  The cover, as you can see, has a dew laden spider web on it, which is a familiar and beloved sight to me when I actually get up and outside early enough to see these in the grass, on my apple trees, or in the nooks and crannies on the outside of my barn.

Contrary to what you might expect, for me gratitude arises less often when things are at their very best, but more when things are not perfect.   Maybe it’s the contrast of what seems very dark with what is light.  Just as in rug hooking we are unable to clearly see an element we have hooked if we put too close a value next to it in the background, in life I think we see the bright spots especially when we are faced with darker challenges.

I plan to put this journal in my 1840 Farm tote that goes almost everywhere with me, alongside my rug journal, and use it spontaneously to record those flashes of light and gratitude that can arise at any moment if we’re really paying attention.   I can see cases where the gratitude journal might feed ideas for the rug journal, and vice versa.  When it comes right down to it, I’m a writer at heart – someone who scribbles down everything from random thoughts, to to-do lists, to sketches of what I just saw in my head, to sometimes rambling blog posts like this one.  However, you don’t have to have that continual urge to document to just take a notebook or a scrap of paper and write down what you’re grateful for each day.

I am grateful for many things in my life, from my ability to go to the gym and run or lift weights to everything I have learned in the world of fiber art over the past five to six years.  I am grateful to you, the people who read my blog posts and support my business.  I am most grateful for my family, my husband, my four sons, and my sons’ girlfriends.   I am grateful for the Parris House and Sunset Haven, these quintessentially Maine spaces I call home.  I’m also grateful to live in a country where my voice can be heard and my actions can make a difference, whether through my donations to the lives of young women, my volunteer work for civil liberties, or my faith community’s commitment to our local refugee population.

One of the tag lines I use for Parris House Wool Works is, “Hook what you love.”  Maybe this year our challenge could also be, “Hook what you’re grateful for.”  I know I will be thinking along those lines as I design this week’s new pattern.  What are you grateful for today?

Happy hooking! – Beth

 

And the Universe Said, “Yes.” – Squam Art Workshops, Spring 2015

Chalkboard1

I am rarely at a loss for words.  I’m an avid writer of blog posts, and an even more able chatterer (unless the context is public speaking…then all bets are off).  Words are my thing.  I usually choose them carefully and aim them true, but here I sit finding it difficult to find the right ones to convey everything I experienced at the Squam Art Workshops last week.  The last time I was this verbally lost over an experience I had taken my oldest son and fellow Thoreauvian, then 17, to Walden Pond. The blog post that followed that trip was called, “Speechless…for a change.”

For months prior to teaching at Squam I had been contemplating what my proper direction in this craft really should be.  Like all big decisions, the answer was right there all along.  You know how this feels.  The answers are located right in the center of your being, it feels almost like they’re sitting at the center of your body, and therefore the old turn of phrase “gut feeling” applies.  We treat these gut feelings like heartburn or hangovers.  We ignore them when we’re very busy doing whatever it is we think we should be, or when they don’t seem convenient.

But at Squam, you’re living in that space where the answers are, and the pressing and influencing expectations of others, or even of yourself, fall away.  You are encouraged to be in the present moment, to be attentive to process, not product, and to shelve your preconceptions and let the retreat unfold for you as it will.  As it is said at Squam, this is where the magic happens.

DreamCatcher
The lacy dreamy dreamcatcher at the Squam Art Workshops. We were encouraged to write our dreams on a feather and pin them to the bottom. I actually pinned the dream of a dear friend on to this, because at Squam, you feel as though all of your own have come true.

Squam feels magical, but I would be remiss if I did not say this:  the magic is made in part by the vision and hard work of Director Elizabeth Duvivier, her assistant Forrest Elliott, and every single person who helps her, including the staff at Rockywold Deephaven Camps on Squam Lake.  While I am a true believer in the manifestation of dreams, I believe equally that none of that manifestation takes place without the hard work behind the dream.  Elizabeth and everyone involved do that hard and heartfelt work, and to them I am so grateful.

Of course, I went to Squam to teach rug hooking at the beginner level.  I owe this to Elizabeth’s generosity in inviting me, on taking a chance on someone and something completely new to Squam, because my friend, poet Sarah Sousa, called my work to her attention last year.  As I was explaining to my own teacher and mentor yesterday, I learned so much from my students that I am still processing it all.  At Squam, students are uncommonly open, adventurous, and filled with energy.  They are also collaborative and incredibly kind.  I’m not sure there is another teaching experience quite like this.   There are those that are as good, but Squam brings together artists and artisans with a unique kind of creativity and camaraderie, and to teach them is really an honor.   I hope I lived up to it.

ClassCollage1
Zodiac, the home to our class, Modern Heirloom, at Squam.
Classroom1
I brought a little wool for my students…

I want to apologize for not getting pics of my first of two classes.  To my students in that first class, you are every bit as dear to me as those in the second!  I was simply very focused on running that first class for the first time and did not break out the camera.

Here are my amazing and beautiful students from the second session.  Every student I had, from both classes, picked up this craft in a heartbeat and immediately started making it her own.  Some had stories to tell of how their fore mothers had practiced rug hooking, and of the hooked pieces that had been handed down.  Since part of our mission is to keep this heritage craft alive and thriving in to the next centuries, it was so rewarding to see the enthusiasm and creativity at work in these wonderful women.

ClassCollage2
We hooked inside…
ClassCollage3
We hooked outside…
ClassCollage4
The variety of interpretations of the pattern was really fun to see.
ModernHeirloom
This was the prototype design, but every student created something very unique to her own aesthetic and style.

Why did I choose a dock and dragonfly for the prototype design?  Well, this is Squam lake, our venue…

Lake2

LakeCollage1

LakeCollage2

Having grown up summering on Little Sebago Lake in Gray, Maine (see a previous post on this here), I really feel at home and in my element in this kind of environment.  It centers me in a way no other space can, and this contributed to the magic I felt at Squam.

Also contributing to the magic?  Great lodging and great food.  I shared our cottage, aptly named “Bungalow,” with Sarah Sousa.  We had a great time catching up, having not seen one another in person in almost two years.

CabinCollage

DiningHall
The food was amazing. Whatever your dietary choices or restrictions are, you are well taken care of.

RDCCollage1 RDCCollage2

And then, of course, there was yarn bombing.  Lots and lots of yarn bombing.

YarnBomb1 YarnBomb2 YarnBomb3 YarnBomb4 YarnBomb5 YarnBomb6 YarnBomb7 YarnBomb8 YarnBomb12 YarnBomb13 YarnBomb16

And the chalkboards…every day at the dining hall…

ChalkboardCollage

The Squam Art Fair and Ravelry Revelry, held on the last evening of the retreat, is a hand made paradise.  The amount of talent and creativity in that one room is humbling.  It is open to the public, and I highly recommend you visit it – and shop! – whenever it is held.  I did not get many pictures of the fair because I was a participant with a table, however, there are many pics out there on the net.

ArtFairCollage1 ArtFairCollage2

I went to Squam not knowing exactly what to expect.  I was a bit nervous about teaching for the first time there.  Would I be good enough?  Would my class be engaging enough?  After all, this was a very accomplished group of students who had already worked with some very well known teachers.  Would I be enough?  What I discovered was two-fold.  On the one hand, I was enough.  I received the sweetest feedback on my class from my students, and I want to reach through the screen and hug every one of you.  On the other hand, I have so much to learn and so many directions in which to grow.  I was enough, but I can be so much more.  This is one of the primary lessons of Squam.  We are enough.  Right here and right now, in this moment, we are enough.  And yet, we are filled with potential at every point in our lives to do more and be more and catch our dearest dreams.

In the midst of these lessons, I gained clarity.  Questions offered up for weeks and months were answered resoundingly in the affirmative, and that’s a gift.   I do not believe my experience is unique.  I think this was happening all around me, in the lives of my fellow “Squammies.”   If we give ourselves the space and the freedom, the answers come.

The little fairy village below was on the wooded path between the dining hall and my classroom.  Literally and figuratively, love and spirit can be found along the paths at Squam.   Hope to see you there next year.  In the meantime, happy living and happy hooking.  – Beth

FairyVillage

On Goats and Gumption

GoatMilk

I’ve had two recurring themes on the brain this week:  goats and, for lack of a better term, gumption.  Gumption is one of those funny sounding English words that leaves you wondering who first came up with it.  It is described by Merriam Webster as:

1 –  chiefly dialect:  common sense, horse sense

2  – enterprise, initiative

Sometimes events just bring us recurring themes.  For example, that beautiful Ball jar of milk in the top picture is not from a cow.  Nope.  That milk, with the delicious cream on top, is from the goats of a new student and member of our Tuesday group, Terry E., who generously brought it to hooking along with some fantabulous homemade goat milk mozzarella.  The Saturday before, during her hooking lesson, Terry and I had talked about goats and their indefatigable ways.  Terry has way more one on one time with goats than I do, but I’ve spent a little time with them as well.

One thing I know about goats is that they are born with that bouncy, LOOK AT MEEE, nothing is impossible nature.   When Jen and I went out to Sharon Springs, NY a little over a year ago to present our hooked wares to Beekman 1802 (something that in itself took all the gumption we could muster), Josh and Brent were incredibly kind to send us with their right hand woman, Megan, to see Farmer John’s new baby goats at the Beekman farm.  The instant we walked in to the barn the babies were clamoring to see who was there, what was going on, and how they could be part of the action.  They were so sweet, so affectionate, and so off the charts charming that Jen and I left there vowing to have goats some day.  Will this ever happen?  I can’t speak for Jen, but as the empty nest imminently approaches for me, I’m thinking that after 25 years of raising kids, I may not want to dive in to raising “kids.”  Terry’s goat milk is great.  I may not need to add goats to the big flock of chickens already living in my barn.

I’ve been hooking a lot of goats since we joined the Beekman 1802 Rural Artist Collective.  I’ve been hooking Faintly, a goat born on the Beekman Farm several years ago…

Faintly

And I’ve been hooking Baby Goat (in fact, I shipped another one today), because well, it’s spring and baby goats happen…

BabyGoatFront

And I’ve been hooking Grown Up Goat, because you’ve got to have those to make baby goats, right?

GrownUpGoat

We even have a goat design in our Etsy shop, independent of Beekman 1802, called Goat Go Round.

GoatGoRound2

We clearly have a thing for goats.

But where does gumption come in?

Well, goats have gumption.  Try telling a goat it can’t do something or go somewhere.  Try telling a goat not to love on you while you’re trying to get something else done in its presence.  Try telling a goat not to eat something…you know, anything not nailed down and sometimes things that are nailed down.

That’s gumption.

I’ve been seeing a lot of gumption this week, along with all things goat.  The aforementioned Terry, as a new student, is tackling one of our most challenging designs, A Murder Among the Magnolias.  When she left here on Tuesday she had the first crow finished absolutely beautifully.  If you aren’t familiar with this pattern, this is Jen’s completed version of it:

I’ve also been part of a business coaching group on Facebook listening to the stories of other fledgling women entrepreneurs as they navigate their way to their true callings, and sharing our own.  Inspiring and loaded with gumption.

An artist friend of mine told me this afternoon about how gumption and listening to his inner voice landed him a significant sale, but then this man’s entire existence is about gumption…and faith.

And then the newest issue of Rug Hooking Magazine landed in my mailbox.  There’s an article in there for hookers who want to design their own patterns, but believe they can not draw.  The article promotes using stencils to create rug designs for the drawing challenged, and I confess, this is not a bad idea.  Stencils are fun and easy and produce pretty rugs, especially when combined in interesting and unique ways.  But…I never accept it when a student tells me she can’t draw.  I just don’t.  Stencils may be a good confidence builder and learning tool, but at some point you’ve got to just fearlessly grab an art pencil, a LARGE eraser (I’ve got a big eraser here and I’m not afraid to use it!), a metric ton of gumption, and start drawing.  Yes, yes, you can.

Recently Jen got up the gumption to start sketching out her own patterns.  Heretofore she had successfully partnered with our go-to realistic style artist, Dan Rosenburg (who is still doing custom patterns for the Maine hookers when I know the style requested is more his than mine), and together they created some absolute marvels, including A Murder Among the Magnolias, 1796 House, Southern Elegy, Victorian Rose & Bluebird, and our WWII and Atomic Age patterns.  (To see all of our patterns, please go to our shop section, “Patterns.”) What she is coming up with all on her own now is absolutely fabulous, and I can’t wait until we can get them up in the shop for all of you to see, and to hook.  You will not be disappointed.  Rather, you will be enchanted.

One of the questions in the business coaching group I’m part of this week was, “What fear or limiting belief is holding you back from something you really want to do?”  Or, in the context of this blog post, “Where do you need to apply gumption and simply do whatever it is you really want?”

Maybe you really believe you can’t draw and therefore can’t create a pattern that’s really, really you.

Maybe you think you can’t hook in 3s and 4s or do fine shading.  Or conversely, maybe you think you can’t hook primitive.

Maybe you think you can’t break out of a style box you’ve been in for a lot of years now. (If this is the case, see the inspiring articles in this issue of Rug Hooking Magazine on steampunk, portraiture in bright colors, and more.)

Maybe you think you can’t make a career or business out of something that’s an absolute passion for you.

Maybe you think no one would be interested in your craft if you set out to teach it, or maybe you think you don’t know enough to teach it.  Try it out on an 8 year old.  Having taught a few children now, I can assure you that there’s a future for this craft if we all apply gumption and spread it around.

Two weeks from today I will teach my first class at the Squam Art Workshops.  Am I nervous?  Absolutely.  But I have the love of our craft to steady me.  The attendees this year were so very interested in rug hooking that my class was one of the first to sell out.  That’s not about me; they don’t know me yet.  That’s about our craft, this craft which was born of gumption (remember? enterprise, initiative, horse sense?) as a way to decorate and cover cold New England and Canadian Maritime floors.  Our foremothers and forefathers in the craft used what they had, which turned out to be burlap sacks, repurposed wool clothing, and lots and lots of gumption, to start a heritage we still enjoy today every time we pick up our hooks.

And, I’ll bet they had a goat, or two, or ten.

Let’s be like them, and like their goats!  Let’s apply our gumption to our craft and to our lives.  Let’s try new things, believe in ourselves, and make beautiful rugs along the way.

Happy goats, happy gumption, and happy hooking!  – Beth

Beth Will Be Teaching at the Squam Art Workshops, and Is She Ever Excited!

For those of you who have not heard of the Squam Art Workshops, directed by Elizabeth Duvivier and held both on Squam Lake in New Hampshire and in Providence, Rhode Island, I recommend you click HERE and watch the video, less than a minute long.

I’ll wait…

Did you watch it?  When I first watched that video earlier this year, my first thought was, “This is me.  This is who I am.”  My New England soul immediately connected with the lake, with the women lost in creative endeavor, with the natural surroundings, and I thought, “I have to go there some day.”

Imagine my delight and surprise when I was presented with an opportunity to teach there!  And that is just what I’ll be doing for the Spring Retreat, held June 3rd through the 7th, 2015.

I will be teaching a class, suitable for beginner hookers, called Modern Heirloom.  The pattern shown at the top of the page will be our foundation, but you can bet not a single one of them will look exactly like that finished, and if I’ve achieved my teaching goal, each one will reflect the inner heart and creativity of the individual student.  I will provide a wide variety of hand dyed and as-is wools, as well as a plethora of more unconventional materials for experimentation and expression.

If you’d like to know a little bit more about me, my teacher profile is here.  But be sure to read about all of the other wonderful teachers too, including my amazing friend Sarah Sousa who will be teaching a workshop called Found Poetry.

I will be teaching two classes of ten students each, so if you’d like to join us, please sign up soon!  Students come from all over the country and many describe the retreats as life changing.  Registration information may be found here for the Spring Retreat.  I hope to see some of you there!

Happy Monday, Happy December, and Happy Hooking! – Beth