Eunice pauses from her work to pose for a picture.
Wow, it’s August already. The summer is flying by, and I’ve been lax in blogging once again. Well, no sense dwelling on failure, the only thing to do is try to make up for it and go forward.
One thing that was notable for me this summer was my invitation to be a visiting artist at The Gathering Place, a “refuge for rebuilding lives” located in Denver. Their mission statement is “to support women and their children who are experiencing homelessness or poverty by providing a safe daytime refuge and resources for self-sufficiency.”‘
Prior to the artist’s visit, I was invited to take a tour of the facility. I cannot tell you how impressed I am by the scope and methodology of this enterprise. Besides just the very basic things like food, shelter, and clothing, they provide so many things we take for granted: showers, hair cuts, laundry, phones and voice mail, computer/internet access, child care, and just a place to BE. They strive to maintain a community of acceptance, requiring “that everyone at The Gathering Place remains non-judgmental toward each other’s unique circumstances, and demands that everyone show each other mutual respect.” The Gathering Place operates primarily through private funding and donations.
Besides the basic necessities, The Gathering Place also provides a host of additional activities and opportunities: Yoga classes, art classes, computer and writing skills, even GED preparation. One of the art activities is The Card Project, where women can create original handmade notecards which are sold for $2 each through the Gathering Place and through various other distribution channels. The women receive 75% of the proceeds when their cards are sold.
During the month of July, the card project is on hiatus and in its place, various local artists are invited to come in and share their work and “artistic vision and journey as an artist” with the group. I was honored to be asked to participate. In preparing for what I was going to present, I knew that nobody was going to want to listen to me yammering on about myself for any great length, so I decided that it might be fun to create a project for the women to work on.
I have a body of work involving lots and lots of hand-stitching over collaged fabrics and bits of stuff – I’ve never shown it nor posted about it mainly because I don’t know if it’s going anywhere, but I work on it while watching TV or in some kind of a waiting situation. It’s a kind of free-association doodling; I enjoy it immensely and it’s great therapy for me. Anyway, I got the idea that this might be a good jumping off point for a project, so I put together a bunch of little kits with a felt base and collaged elements, with a few stitches started in with different colors of embroidery thread. I also brought a big mishmash of scraps of all kinds of things and more thread.
I thought I was going to need to do some demo about how it should be done, but to my surprise, everyone just took a kit and jumped right in without waiting for me to direct them. Most of the people I know outside of my sewing friends would rather have their teeth drilled than fix a button or a hem or stitch anything at all, so I wasn’t expecting this. But these women were right at home with the whole idea and just took to it like they’d been doing it forever. Not content to just leave it with what I’d started, they happily dove into the scraps and fearlessly made their own compositions.
Top, left to right: Eunice, Ricki, Gloria, and Tracey
Bottom, left to right: Janet, Madaline, and Madaline’s work
My only regret is that the time we spent together was too short. I didn’t get the chance to get to know anyone as much as I would have liked. I hope to have the opportunity to see the finished projects at some point.
My intention to post about this in a more timely fashion didn’t materialize due to other stuff getting in the way (as usual), but yesterday I received a reminder about it — a beautiful thank-you card from the group. This card was done by Eunice, who loves quilts.