Sunday, September 30, 2007

Changing Perspectives


There are periods in your life where change is all around you. In fact, when you stop and think about it, there are probably very few times when nothing is changing. But this weekend made me realize that in addition to things changing, your perspective must change to accept it all. For the most part, I am liking my new perspectives.

Some of the changes in perspective are very big - like the cottage, which continues to evolve into the full-time home it will be one day. The ongoing changes that are turning it from a rustic cottage we grew used to over 16 years to a more comfortable house are definitely changing my perspective about it - and to the good.

The picture of our front door is a good symbol for the new perspective, since we didn't have one before - a front door that is. We didn't have a peak over the door, we didn't have stone steps or a retaining wall and we didn't have a garage. Instead, we had a not-so-gentle slope from where we parked the car to the side porch door. We also didn't have a foundation under the cottage, so the rain and melting snow ran down our not-so-gentle slope and under our cottage. Not a good thing for a home - hence the retaining wall, steps, etc. Hopefully, we can convince Mother Nature to change her perspective too.

On a smaller scale was my trip to the R.U.G. hook-in in Barrie on Saturday. Rather than stay in the city on Friday nite and drive up to Barrie on Saturday, I drove south to Barrie from the cottage on Saturday morning. It was a stupendous trip! There was very little traffic, and what traffic there was moved at the speed limit. As I wound past those incredible masses of Georgian Shield that mark the north, I would go past lakes that were covered in morning mist, looking like so many ghosts emerging from the water. All the low lands shared this cool morning phenomenon. And I had a front row seat. I arrived at my destination feeling elated, not tense from a terrible drive north. (Many of those who made the trek north were stuck for 25 minutes - and the highway was closed - because of another accident.)

Changing perspective was, in fact, a topic at the hook-in. One of the hosting branches made their presentation on how their group interpreted the same pattern. We must have seen 25 examples of different colour pallettes, hooking styles, floral treatments, sizes of piece, types of finishing. Everyone's perspective on the same pattern was a wonderful presentation for those presenting and those watching.

On an even smaller scale, I realized that my current project is also changing my perspective. I have started a name sign for friends' third child, Lindsay, born last week. I decided to try to use the old wool blankets that I bought at the Teachers' weekend, since they were perfect colours for this project. I was a bit skeptical, since they seem so big and thick in blanket form, but once cut into strips, they hook beautifully. And they give an antique look and feel to this baby gift, which I am determined to finish this week.

Perhaps I am being a bit too introspective about connecting all these things, but I did realize that if you stop changing perspectives, things could become pretty boring pretty quickly. I know that it will take time to adjust to the big-scale changes in perspective. Turning our cottage into a home that feels like ours will be a work in progress for some time. Once we are there full time, that new perpective of leaving from there to go wherever will only feel strange for a while. And I think I will enjoy getting used to it.

As far as the small changes like hooking in old blankets, I think the litttle changes are the easiest to try, embrace and enjoy.
Here's to changing perspectives - and the freshness that they bring.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Power of the Thank You note.


In the past few weeks, I have been the lucky recipient of several thank you notes.

It's strange to have received so many in such a short time, as they are usually few and far between, but they really made me stop and think about the effect they had.

Each and every one of them made me feel good about myself, not just because of the words, but because of the gesture made by the sender. And they made me realize, once again, how powerful a simple note can be.

Don't get me wrong - I am a firm believer in any expression of gratitude. A telephone call. An email. A hostess gift. A hug. They all work for me. And I use any and all these methods on a regular basis.

But when a person takes the time to choose a card, think of and write a personal note in their own handwriting, dedicate a stamp and trek to a mailbox, it's a pretty big deal these days.

The funny thing about thank you notes is this: often what I am being thanked for was just as enjoyable for me. Whether it was a dinner party, a weekend at the cottage, help with a special project, or an unbelievable hooking workshop (for which I have received a multitude of amazing thank you's), I know that I could just as easily be the "sender" as the "receiver".

For me, these event-based notes are even more special than the "gift" kind. With gifts they are expected (though sadly, I feel they aren't always sent). So I save these cards and keep them in a special box. I sometimes find myself re-reading them if I come across the box they are in. And they make me feel special all over again - which is a pretty powerful thing. They also remind me to keep sending special cards with special messages more often.

Some people think that I send notes for everything. I think that's a bit of an exaggeration. But thanks very much for reading my blog.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Teaching the Teachers - The Afterglow


For the past 18 months, I have been part of a committee of 7 rug hooking teachers who came together to lead the annual continuing education workshop (START) for the teachers’ branch of the Ontario Hooking Craft Guild.

Our preparation began 18 months ago when the committee came together and we loosely defined our objectives and what we wanted to achieve with this program. We wanted to do something that was outside the box of conventional rug hooking - something that would challenge us as individuals, teachers and artists.

It turned out to be a journey that taught me far more than I ever could have hoped for; about myself, about my fellow committee members and about the teachers who became the students. Throughout the 18 months, we worked incessantly. We were in constant touch via email. We worked on individual projects and group challenges as well. We got together for numerous all-day sessions to share our challenges, review our work in progress, massage our workshop content and agenda and marvel at the learning we were enjoying.

The journey culminated in an amazing workshop weekend where we got to share what we had learned with 18 eager students, many of whom just happen to be the ”best of the best” in our art form.

Our committee was comprised of very talented women who ranged in age from mid-fifties to 80. Our experiences levels, both in rug hooking and in teaching, were as diverse as our age range. Everyone’s creativity was celebrated, each voice was heard, and we walked into our course on Friday evening with clearly defined roles and responsibilities - not necessarily an easy thing to achieve when you put 7 strong women together on a project.

The reactions of our teacher students could not have been more enthusiastic. They were as excited about the challenge as we were and they rose to meet and exceed our expectations. Each student was asked to hook an expressionist face - not a portrait - during the weekend.

The 18 faces that began with a set of lips on Friday were proudly displayed, in various stages of completion, at “show and tell” on Sunday. There were 18 pieces of incredible work - each one truly unique. Some teachers' faces had turned into people from their past. Others had become masks to give strength. Some had become celebrations of survival - both physical and emotional. And every face challenged the creativity of its creator. Best of all, each and every student experienced the same exhilaration that the committee had - something that we were so fervently hoping would happen.

As one of our members said in her closing comments to the class:
“We had 18 months to make this journey. You have had two days and one evening. We pushed you to the edge of a cliff and pushed you - and you jumped willingly, bravely without a single scream.”

I can’t imagine how the weekend could have been any more successful than it was - for either the teachers or the students. Every hour I spent on this during the last 18 months has come back to me ten-fold.

I feel very proud not only of my own personal growth, but also of the contribution we have made as a team to the teachers who came to our workshop. At the end of the weekend, I am in a state of bliss.

Monday, September 10, 2007

A Kitchen to Dye For


Here is a picture of my favourite dye pot on my brand new gas stove in my newly renovated kitchen at our still-being-renovated cottage. The kitchen isn’t quite finished yet (in fact, it recently took a giant step backwards as my upper cabinets had to be taken down for window trim) but I was able to do my first dyeing, which was a major milestone for me.

Unlike several of my hooking pals, dyeing is still not a passion for me - yet. But I am becoming more confident and certainly this venue should inspire me to experiment more in the dye pot. I hope someday, in this kitchen, it will give me the same thrill as it does to my much-admired mentors.

The wool in the pot is being dyed a light Taupe for a workshop next weekend, and I’m sure there are a number of variables in the formula that may not be duplicated elsewhere.
First is the lake water. Although I think I did some dyeing before the renovation started, I can’t remember whether or not I had to recreate the formula in city water, or how much difference the lake water makes. (It certainly does when you shampoo your hair.)

The second variable is the wonderful new gas stove. I’m convinced it is faster and hotter than my city stove. (It is certainly faster and hotter than my hot plate.)

The third variable, which probably doesn’t factor much is drying the wool outside, without the aid of a dryer. Sure, it takes a little longer, but I’m sure it smells much better, like everything that dries outside.

My studio downstairs in the very unfinished basement is still a long way off in the next year or so. I’m sure there will be many rugs hooked and much wool dyed before it is a reality. But my first dive into my dye pot did give me a glimpse of what it will be like to dye here when we live here full time.

It reminded me yet again how amazing it will be when my two biggest passions come together. It will surely be to die for.