Confluence Day 3 & 4: Let’s Get Moving Into Action

Don’t believe that you could have been bored for even a moment at #Confluence – because wherever you go you are immersed in fiber art by participants, demos, vendor booths or trunk shows.This provided opportunities to buy fashion or art from our peers and get to know their work even better. Laura Foster Nicholson and I chatted about lace for a good chunk of the night during her trunk show. As a new lace maker, I have much to learn about the regional lace. Along with her fine art projects and popular prints with LFN Textiles, apparently she also collects antique lace! She turned me to on to creative lace artists, including Luba Krejci.

With new people to meet, art everywhere, and things to do all over the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, it was easy to stay busy and difficult to find time for quiet reflection. Throughout Day 3 and 4 I was finding it difficult to micro process what I was seeing, feeling and learning. I allowed myself to take step back and let the conference experience set in a bit more. After 2 days of building artistic vision and talking inspiration, it was time to focus on final pieces of my experience and take action in my work. In the end, the vision, and ideation mean nothing if I don’t go home and create something out of them. At times I was awe-stricken by the amount of work some artists can accomplish. It was asked around the dinner table in hushed tones: How do they do it all? How do they manage art and family? How do they find the time?

What I came to understand through the examples of India Flint, Natalie Chanin and Barbara Lee Smith, is that there is no “finding time” or “fitting in” for the artist. Instead the artist weaves a cohesive life that combines fiber, family, work and play.

India Flint stands out as someone who is able to do this effortlessly. There is no division between her art and her lifestyle. She seems to have woven her family into her artwork, into her farm, into her downright hysterical, dry sense of humor to create a seamless life that is careful and conscious to tread lightly on the world.

Natalie Chanin had the tough job of speaking to #Confluence attendees on the last morning of the conference, when tired eyes have turned into short attention spans. If I tell you she spoke at length about labor laws and business models, you might think she did a poor job of captivating our artist audience. It was, in fact, just the opposite. By honestly sharing her experiences (both good and bad),  giving us down and dirty advice, and simply being herself, Natalie Chanin kept us all in our chairs; entertained and well informed. Through her business Alabama Chanin, Natalie works with hundreds of hand-sewers to create limited edition fashions while staying focused on slow design and sustainability. You will not be left guessing how Natalie Chanin got something done. Not wanting anyone to recreate the wheel or repeat her mistakes, she was an open and honest book. She has dared to bring people together and organize her team so that her dream could be bigger than her own two hands.

There couldn’t have been a better way to close #Confluence conference than the lecture by Barbara Lee Smith. You know I’m having fun when I take notes like this:

Barbara focused on keywords; clear ideas that she wanted to be sure we took with us when left the conference: Ask, Change, Share, Play. I appreciated her strong emphasis on play as work and work as play, which she explored through an anecdote that ended “There is always time for play”. I admire Barbara’s collected and respectful tone. Her advice and wisdom allowed me to find my breath, and reenter the world with a quiet understanding of what I must do next.

So how do these heros of the fiber art world do it all? I am beginning to build myself an answer:  Stop putting on the pressure to do it all. Instead, feel the incredible lightness in your heart that comes from doing exactly what you love.  If allow myself time to play, I will find pleasure in the labor of making my art. By learning new skills and collaborating with artists in fiber and other mediums I will keep myself fresh. I will not be able to stop. I will create vast bodies of work, learn, and improve my craft. After all, I fell in love with fiber art because I could not imagine being happy doing anything else. When I sat down at the loom for the first time, I felt at home and ever since fiber art was the right thing to do.

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