Over the weekend, I went to a basket weaving workshop. It’s my new favorite thing to do. I love writing, and making jewelry, but there’s something so primal about weaving.
I’d actually forgotten about the workshop because when I first signed up in January, I was put on the waitlist. Consequently, it never went on my calendar. So, when I got a call on Monday that I could go, well, I almost didn’t. I’d filled my week with other things! Did I really want to reschedule my appointments and drive to Portland, get a hotel room, blah, blah, blah?
Yes, I really did.
The night before I left, I checked the website again. There was a supplies cost of $5 but what tools? Then I saw a tiny hyperlink that said, SUPPLY LIST. Not only were there tools but a long list of other things to bring! It was 10pm!
I scrambled around throwing embroidery floss, waxed linen, beads, stones, plastic bags, wire, and tools into a big bag. But I needed cloth... I went out to the garage and raided the giveaway pile. Then I remembered I had to get something for my daughter (who lives in Portland.) Might she have something in her closet? There I discovered her dark blue graduation gown. Into the bag it went.
That first morning, we learned an ancient technique of coiling but it was new to me. I’d coiled clay baskets but this involved lashing the coils (made of fabric) to each other with a cord. I’d decided to use my daughter’s graduation gown. Why not? Only I couldn’t rip it because it simply disintegrated in my hands. And it was slippery making it somewhat unwieldy. Nevertheless, I persevered.
On day 2, I added wire, wrapping the fabric around it, to firm it up and, inspired by my table mate, I also incorporated a plastic bag – molding the fabric around it and the wire, to puff it up.
Then our teacher asked all of us to share what other art we made. Groan.
Well… I had nothing. I mean, I’ve only recently begun this artistic exploration. And I was daunted as one textile artist after the next displayed their beautiful creations - from quilts and dresses, to baskets, wall hangings, hats and felted objects.
When it was my turn, I shared the realization that I’d had in 2014, when I took a printmaking class with my talented friend Ginny Piechstreet, that I was never allowed or had permission to be an artist.
As the words came out of my mouth, I welled up. Throat catching, I kept talking. I hadn’t brought any of my experiments with me except the necklace I had on.
On day 3, our teacher invited us to share what we’d made so far in the class. I looked down at my pathetic attempt at a coil basket and cringed. Then I listened to what my mind had to say:
By far my basket is THE worst.
Everyone has totally got this technique except me.
And because of that, I feel embarrassed, slightly ashamed and self-conscious.
My piece isn’t just not good enough, it sucks.
Clearly somewhere I am lacking or not smart enough or creative enough or talented enough.
And yet, here’s why it was all perfect.
I didn’t back down. I walked into that room to do show ‘n tell with all the other artists. I’m not going to tell you that I was proud but I was undeterred.
I heard all that naysaying, that chatter in my head, I allowed it to speak and then put it all to the side. In other words, I heard what was coming up for me, all the places of discomfort and I bore witness to them.
I recognized those feelings but I didn’t allow myself to fall into them or give them a lot of energy or drama. I honored them by allowing them space and not negating them or pushing them away but didn’t give them power.
I also allowed myself to recognize that learning takes time, that creativity is messy and that I have to honor that process. After all, I’ve made a total of 3 baskets! I also remembered that the last basket class I took in January, felt overwhelming. This time it didn’t (that’s progress!)
Right now, my commitment is to focus on the creative process rather than on the product or end result. That’s where the real learning takes place anyway, right?
And, as an added bonus, in those three days, I met some really incredible women, had so much fun, felt energized and creatively awakened.
See what I mean about perfection?