That's how I feel right now. Where was I? If today is Wednesday, it must be home. Right?
It's been a crazy couple of weeks. Mostly very very good, don't get me wrong (with, of course, some true lows stuck in there for flavor), but still crazy busy. I've been meaning to post these last couple of days, but I came home Monday to hundreds of emails in my inbox, having to do with fuloughs and the latest insanity that our administration is attempting to heap upon our heads, like salt to our wounds, insanity which makes furloughs look tame. I'll write about that when I'm ready to haul out the soapbox, but not this minute. Rick has been working 16-hour days since I got home, and Older Daughter started school today. It's been crazy.
But Sock Summit! Sock Summit was amazing in its size and scope, but really, in the end, what was truly wonderful to me was the people. I think you all know that I was working at the Briar Rose booth whenever I wasn't in classes or lectures. What you may not know is that I'd never met Chris (the fabulous dyer who is behind all of the beauty over there at Briar Rose), or her daughter-in-law Christy before. Note, by the way, the total leap of faith that Chris was taking in allowing me to work in her booth. That's a huge trust, when you're talking about someone's business that they've built lovingly, that's based on hard work and incredible talent and skill. But they both welcomed me in, and let me join them the whole time. They're wonderful. Truly some of the best people I know. I just spent the better part of five days cheek-by-jowl with them (I'm the only one with jowls, I should hastily add), so I should know. There are few people in the world who can work from 8-6 and still be good company over beer afterwards, but those two women are among them. Guys, why do you live 2,000 miles away? It's just wrong.
Here's the part where I admit that I took absolutely no pictures the whole time I was there. (Oddly, I particularly regretted it when everyone else started taking pictures of the poor woman who impaled herself in the calf with her knitting needle in one of my classes -- Anna Zilboorg's, to be precise -- but in the end, you probably don't want to see that.) That means that I didn't get pictures of my happy meeting with Sallee, with whom I didn't get to spend nearly enough time. How is it that we talk more by email from thousands of miles away than we got to talk when we were in the same convention center? Life is weird.
She, however, brought her camera to one of the greatest events I attended: Barbara Walker's talk. And she kindly let me share her photographic spotlight, and then forwarded the picture to me.
Note the closed eyes. Do you think it was something we said?
I also got to meet up with Ellen, which was equally fabulous (in fact, she and Sallee and I sat together for BW's talk, and all got equally teary-eyed at the end; it was nice not to have to explain to them why I was crying because I knew they were crying for the same reasons). We ended up sharing a lovely time in line together, waiting to get our Barbara Walker books signed (do we note a theme here?), and Ellen was, again, wise enough to bring her camera. She's posted the picture, so check it out. (They both also have done much better jobs of talking about the summit itself than I am going to, so head on over to their blogs and read all about it.)
There was more, much more. I so appreciate those of you who came and found me at the booth and stopped to say hi and introduce yourselves. You know who you are, and how much I enjoyed getting to meet you. Thank you. I loved my classes (Anna Zilboorg and Tina Newton on color, and Sivia Harding on beads -- I even beaded the edge of a scarf that I will post pictures of another time). I loved the lectures I attended (Barbara Walker's -- and man, is that lady bold -- and the luminary panel -- lots of data for the ethnography there, I tell you). I loved meeting interesting people like Meg Swansen. I loved my brief chats with Anne, who was run off her feet teaching (they had those teachers on a tight schedule!). I loved those beers at night with Chris and Christy and our many talks.
One thing that both Sock Summit and the retreat really made me think about a lot was a single word and its many meanings. That word is "craft". I think that for many people, that word carries connotations associated with summer camp crafts. With the easy making of little useless things for the amusement of children. When used in that sense and applied to the beautiful work of hands that I saw at both of these events, it's an insult, and one that many people rightly refuse to have applied to their art.
When I first heard people stating their strong preference that people not refer to their work as "craft", I was surprised, though, because my own associations are so entirely different. To me, craft is what is required to move a vision of beauty to a state of reality. It requires skill, and wisdom. Craftiness, thus, is not only the knowlege and vision needed to bring art into being, but the ability to craft the time and space in our busy lives to do so. Craft to me is the craft not in the phrase arts and crafts, but in Arts and Crafts; the acknowledgement that those things which are useful need not be utilitarian. That there is something vital and joyous and whole in creating things of beauty which are to be used. To me, the fiber arts are prime examples of such craft, color and life and sensuality and texture and beauty and function all in one object, one expression of the maker's art.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines the noun "craft" as (slightly edited for brevity): 1. Strength, power, might, art; 2. Intellectual power; skill; art; 3. Skill, skillfulness, art; ability in planning or performing, ingenuity in constructing, dexterity; 4. Human skill, art as opposed to nature. And it defines the verb "craft" as: 1. To make or construct skillfully; 2. To use crafty devices; 3. To exercise one's craft.
I certainly see within our community the exercise of strength, power, might, and art. The results of manipulating fiber strike me as definitional of art as opposed to nature. And if a spindle isn't a crafty device, heck, I don't know what is.
I understand and support the reasons why it is important to insist that the public acknowledge the art in the work of our hands. I admit, though, that the part of me that loves the underdog, that is a sucker for lost causes, wants to reclaim the word "craft" in all of its deep acknowledgement of the humanness of its exercise. I want them both back, and I want them with capitals and fireworks.
Look at what you're making right now and see in it both the art and the craft, and be proud.