The Woven Community of Artists

Aimee Lee: Washed duck (2018). Indigo, onion skin and brazilwood dyes on corded and twined hanji. 3.5 x 6 x 2.5″.

One of the great things about doing creative work is that you get to see tons of other smart, obsessive people doing creative work. Tomorrow is another of the sporadic Google Hangout discussions our writing group holds, reading and commenting on one another’s work from our vast distances. Me in Vermont, Tamar outside Boston, Nathan in North Carolina, Annie in Malmo, Sweden, and Christine in Sydney, Australia. (Managing the time zones is its own creative exercise.) Tomorrow, we’ll be talking about one of Annie’s stories, a beautiful exploration of the temporary insanity that grief can bring.

Last week, I worked with fourteen faculty members from Stevenson University to help shape their work. And I got to read about historical photography techniques, and about the phenomenological philosophy that underlies this scholar’s interests. I got to read about the design of computational experiments in organic chemistry, got to read about the uses of big data in studying writing pedagogy, got to read about the history of piracy in the Chesapeake region. I got to read an overview of a novel about medieval crime-fighting nuns, and the overview of a screenplay about a bluegrass musician. I brought them some writing techniques and a fresh pair of eyes, but they brought me the world.

Nora is at the Marshfield School of Weaving this weekend, speaking as I type this to an audience of fiber enthusiasts about the construction details of the spinning wheels of Samuel Morison. She has loads of friends at this weekend’s conference, most of whom she originally met through the fiber web community Ravelry. They’re staying an extra day after the conference for a workshop by the Scottish-American master weaver Norman Kennedy, now in his mid-80s, who teaches not only the hand crafts but the songs and traditions that form them.

Through the discussions about my book, I’ve been introduced to the writing of Andrew Kay, the Black intellectual life of Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee and Books, and the musicology of Suhnne Ahn. But today, I want to introduce one colleague in particular, the paper artist Aimee Lee. One wouldn’t think of Cleveland as the hub of Korean papermaking in North America, but Aimee does her work there, from raising and harvesting mulberry for fiber, to the creation of pulp, to the screening of the slurry into sheets, to an innumerable array of forms and ideas that grow from that finished paper. Aimee is one of those people who seem to have been allotted extra hours in her day; the scope of her knowledge and her practices (which also include yoga and violin, along with a lot of paper-crafts teaching and writing) is awe-inspiring for us mortals.

We are everywhere, us artists. We are in garages and sheds, in poolrooms and kitchens. We are hidden away behind our laptops, or on stages with audiences of thousands. We are scattered across the landscape, scattered across history. And we search for those moments when we can be woven with others, to make new forms that no one of us could ever have done.

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