Finding community in the alley between the dumpsters

I woke up this morning muttering, "I'm dying," and feeling much like Cameron in THIS scene from Ferris Bueller's Day Off. In the movie, Ferris replies to his friend via telephone, "You're not dying, you just can't think of anything good to do."

Of course what I meant was, "I'm dyeing." And also, "I'm SO over it!"

This is true in the moment though in the grand scheme of my tapestry practice, dyeing yarn is one of my favorite activities. So I'm completely sure the feeling that this dye project is never-ending will pass (most likely the day I finish). 

I posted images of the dye process in January HERE and in that post I said I'd be dyeing for a couple more weeks. Three weeks later, I can almost see the end. I have about two days left. Tapestry artists often throw "cut-off" parties when a tapestry is done. I think I should throw a "tapestry start" party for all of you who have suffered through the agonizingly long process of bringing this piece to the loom.

Finding the support of community

It is so easy to focus on the negative things in life. I think this is a tough human trait to overcome. I've been taking steps lately to shift my responses to events and especially to my own thoughts. To do this requires being aware of my thoughts in the first place. I've toyed with meditation in the broader sphere of yoga practice for decades, but this is the first time I've been able to stick with a committed meditation practice for many months in a row. I attribute that to support from a community. 

About six months ago I was exiting the back side of a parking garage in downtown Fort Collins and I stopped dead in my tracks. Right in front of me, in an alley between a row of dumpsters and the back entrance to one of the downtown malls, was a gate with a sign, Shambhala Center Fort Collins. I knew about the large Shambhala Mountain Center north of town and had visited the stupa there, but I had no idea there was a meditation center just a few miles from my house.

I started going to open sits and then signed up for a couple beginning classes. The support from an engaged community makes all the difference. Now I can't help but return because once I started becoming more aware of my thoughts, positive change was inevitable.

I'm an introvert and I resist group activities. But I am reminded over and over how important being in community is, whether that is family, a spiritual home, or a group organized around a particular cause or subject.

The other area of my life where I have revelled in community is among fellow weavers. Especially fellow tapestry weavers. Tapestry can be such an annoying and picky medium.** Yet there is a committed core of people who love doing this and scores more people who enjoy the practice as a hobby that enriches their lives.

The support of this group of people, people who weave tapestry, makes all the difference some days. These are people I can learn from, share struggles with, and who are willing to offer a critique or a suggestion. 

This has extended into my online class community. When I started my online school almost four years ago now, I wanted to make sure there were community aspects to it. My own experience working as an apprentice in James Koehler's busy studio underscored the need for interaction with other tapestry weavers especially when starting out in the medium. As the person who sees all the work in all the different classes, answers the questions, and sees the interaction between students, I am humbled by the kindness and support offered between people learning this medium every day. My students have become one of my greatest sources of inspiration both in my approach to life and in my tapestry practice.

So this is a thank-you to all of them for showing up on their electronic devices from all over the world. For being brave enough to post a photo of their latest piece with their questions and their triumphs and their frustrations. For sticking with it and understanding that this medium is not something that can be learned quickly and that long commitment to the craft pays off. Thank you all for being such a valuable community for each other and for me.

Happy weaving!

Rebecca Mezoff, hand-dyed tapestry yarn 2018

What communities are important to you and why? Please share in the comments!

** Just this week I saw two committed tapestry practitioners exclaim on social media how they hated tapestry. I think perhaps this is not exactly what they meant as they both weave tapestry every day with ground-breaking results. They were talking about the flat surface of tapestry and how they were attempting to shift the look of their work in this regard. That sounds like the process of making art to me. But the frustration of getting there can certainly lead us to feel like Cameron's "I'm dying" or perhaps to state, "I hate tapestry" even when this is not actually the truth.