I watched the new PBS series on Craft in America the other night. Since my first degree is in textiles, I spent a number of years living in the world of craft. I did exhibits and craft shows, and made stuff. Some of my favorite work was the underwater scenes I made out of painted and stitched fabrics. Anyway, because I spent a number of years immersed in the world of fine craft, I have met many of the people who were featured in the series. It was fun to see what has happened to people in the last twenty years.

The third segment is about community. Penland School of Crafts was one of the places featured, and is a place I lived and worked for three years. I lived in a house owned by Cynthia and Edwina Bringle, who are featured in the program talking about the history of the school.

Penland was a magical playland. There are fourteen craft studios and while I was there I worked in many of them. I allowed myself to play with a whole gamut of materials, and as a result created some of the ugliest stuff of my whole career. It was a time of deep healing, immersed in a dialog with the materials. After this time, I pretty much stopped making stuff, instead discovering it is the process not the result that I crave.

Living in artist communities is an interesting experience. There is magic yes, and then there is the drama. There are parts of it I do not miss at all. But the part I do miss is the community engagement. In the community segment of the Craft in America series, potter Sarah Jaeger talks briefly about the community potlucks. It’s the essence of what I miss most. Wonderful healthy homemade food, lovingly prepared, and presented in beautiful handmade dishes. Somehow I’ve lost this. I grab food from the upscale health food supermarket, and I forget to go to the cabinet and take out the handmade dishes.

Photograph © Christine Martell

And so, in the midst of this overbusy life, I want to remember those engaged communities I once lived in. Remember to stop and take the time to lovingly prepare things. Remember to take the time to tell people I appreciate what they do. Notice the little things as well as the rest.

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1 Comment

  1. Wow, I never knew that Craft in America. That’s pretty interesting…


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