Monday, November 16, 2015

Emerging from my Chrysalis

A few months ago, a stranger called me on the phone and asked me to teach her fiber arts.  She said she found me on the Internet.

What would you do if a stranger called you out of nowhere and asked you to teach them something?

I invited her to my house.

The upshot:  I was recruited to teach a sewing class at the Chrysalis Center, , a multifaceted nonprofit organization, on Hommestead Avenu in Hartford's North End, which serves  people living in poverty, veterans, women and children, young adults and individuals who are struggling with mental health, addiction, HIV/AIDS, and those returning from incarceration and homelessness.

Is that all?  Did they leave anyone out of that enormous mission?

Am I intimidated by that?

It's true, I have been looking for a way to give back.  I'm so blessed, SO blessed.  Since my last freelance work ended in June 2015, I've been able to devote as much time as I want to art.

 I'm acutely aware of the enormous privilege which enables me to do this.

And fiber arts are my passion,, so much so that I love sharing them with people, such as my neighbor Grace, who comes over and does art projects with me once a week or so, and the people who participated in my recent felted labyrinth workshop.

Now I get an invitation to teach fiber arts on a regular basis to people who are receiving services from the Chrysalis Center.

I said I would give it a try, knowing it would be an adventure that would take me way outside my comfort zone.   Here's an image of my house.

And so I'm emerging from my own chrysalis.

Not the least of which is learning to use a different kind of sewing machine.  The fact that I'm a competent user of my Viking Lily does not mean I'm comfortable with every machine in the universe.  I'm the kind of gal who needs an instruction manual.  Good thing instruction manuals are downloadable from manufacturers' websites now.  So I downloaded the manual for the Janome Magnolia, the type of machine available at the Chrysalis Center, and am learning to use it.  Because a teacher who can't use her tools is no teacher at all.

The first week I went there to teach, I didn't have much idea what to expect.  I brought materials for making simple potholders.  When the participants got there, they all wanted to do something different.  One person told me that the last teacher had told her she would teach her to make a skirt, but then the teacher stopped coming. Another person started working on an apron, another on a pillow.  Only one person made a simple potholder.

The number of people and the variety of their projects was unmanageable.  I left there after an hour and a half, wondering how I would ever be effective.  Especially if I didn't know how to use the machines.

I spent the intervening week putting a lot of energy into major angst around this and bouncing ideas off friends.  One idea emerged:  have everyone work on the same project.  Start them with something simple, like a felted pincushion.  Once everyone has a pincushion for their pins, then people could start on a second simple project.  Everyone doing the same one.  As soon as I could figure out what it would be.

I went there today with felted pincushions in mind, and folks who were there were all about them.
I want you to know that I got everyone's permission for these photos.

This is Vivian, making a heart-shaped pincushion on red fleece with white roving.

This is Kenny.  Last week he told me that if he were going to make a pincushion, it would have to be in the shape of a football.  I felted a little football shape and brought it to him today to be stuffed.  Kenny has actually constructed and stuffed a teddy bear, which he named Patches, and which he intends to give to the CT Childrens' Medical Center.  I'm sorry I don't have a picture of him holding Patches.

This is Gregory.  He only has the use of one hand, but he picked up that needle, and he's felting a leaf-shaped pincushion.  He really liked the felting.  I showed him the most recent felted landscape I'm working on, and he liked it, and said he would like to try something pictorial.  I'd like to set him up with something like what happened to my plan to have everyone on the same project?

This is Lisa, who chose to make a pincushion with a paisley shape.  I left her and everyone with a felting needle, a sponge, and enough materials to complete their projects.  Next week, maybe we'll sew them together and stuff them.  

This is Danovan Andrew Rhule, who is an ordained deacon who would love to become a minister and have his own church.  He's working on that by singing and eventually producing CDs to sell.  He's holding a copy of a hymn he wrote, "O Lord You Are the One."  I wish him the every success.

So that's the report.  Diane, emerging from her own chrysalis.