Wednesday, 1 July 2015

it's not business, it's personal.



every now and then there's a flurry of correspondence from folk demanding to know why i am continuing to destroy the planet by flying about in planes, teaching face to face instead of simply offering classes online.

it was the subject of lively discussion with my son this morning as we shared several portions of delicious caffeine. i wish i had taken notes as i've already lost half the words he offered (all of which were deeply insightful).


i had mumbled something along the lines of it probably being easier to stay at home ecoprinting mass-produced garments and plenishing the bank account than teaching instead except that this would go starkly against my life philosophy. and would be quite lonely. and i would miss the wandering.

and

that when boiled down to the essence, what really takes me out into the world to teach is not business, it's personal. it's the being together with a dozen like-minded souls eager to learn and keen to share. 
it's the importance of making a connection, of spontaneously reciting poetry and breaking into song, about the burbling laughter and sometimes even the tears. it's that moment a face lights up with joy at the work that has come from a person's hands, the energy that fills a room when we collectively read the aleatory poetry created by sharing gathered words, the hilarity that follows an impromptu dressing up session (and sometimes simply knee trembling awe at the intangible presence of beauty) and when someone tells you that something in their life has been bettered or even healed simply by being present in a class. *



when we go online (as my son pointed out) we are (no matter how we try) dislocated from reality. people might sit at their computers, thinking they are being deeply social and being included because they can participate by pressing a few buttons but really (if they thought about it) being very much alone, no matter how many comments buzz back and forth or how many little hearts and happy faces are pasted into the screen. (i'm not being dismissive of those of you who live remotely and to whom the internet has been a boon, just trying to explain what i'm thinking)


to me there's little that beats being gathered around a cauldron or in a cosy sewing circle, sharing cups of tea and morsels of chocolate and above all, sharing community. and  it's almost impossible to recreate the satisfaction generated by the ceremony bundle-opening in a happy group through simply demonstrating to a camera in a "virtual" class 

 
signing up for a workshop (and i do this myself several times a year) means choosing to participate in a group of people who share your interests, being embraced, as it were, in a way that is non-threatening and nourishing to the spirit. being (t)here, being present.

it's why i am working at creating more opportunities for people to gather together in places where i can also prepare food for us all (i love that the roots of the word 'companion' are from a Latin word for "one who breaks bread with you") and i think that minds and bodies function better when fuelled on food that is delicious and healthy

sharing food communally for the duration of the workshop/class/retreat gives us the sense that we are truly companions on a journey, however brief


which is why the substance of my classes has stretched, shifted and broadened over the years. sure, i could simply continue to teach "an introduction to ecologically sustainable plant dyeing" in a purely academic way, but that's not how i want to experience my work with making colour from plants.

 
 i think plant dyes are situated at a kind of crossroads, a meeting place for art, craft, medicine, chemistry, botany and ethnobotany, geography, culinaria (why isn't there a more romantic word in the English language to describe cooking?), ritual and poetry. i think that paying attention to the natural world in this way (and of course it's not the only way) makes for a richer life experience.

i see life as a glorious adventure, over far too soon and often completely out of my control. heaven knows i'm not perfect but, like Phyllis in "The Railway Children", i mean extremely well.


so i'm going to keep walking this path, sharing the delight of the ecoprint but at the same time also hoping to make a difference in people's lives and doing the best i can. i'm aspiring to do it with grace. i hope to keep learning as i go and to keep playing, because so much of what i have learned has been through play

i was lucky enough to win the interplanetary lottery, not just to have been born but to have so much choice in what i do and, with that, to be in the position to (i think) do something of use...and i'd like to continue sharing that in person, not at the click of a download**

so i'm leaving the idea of online teaching (and also classes on DVDs) to those who do them well.
you'll find me out the back, piling twigs and thistle heads, blowing a flickering flame into life, wrapping a length of well-loved string around a bundle or three,
with my pockets full of leaves and my heart full of hope.


fingers crossed i'll see you there.

 

*in the interests of total honesty i will reveal that there have been about five people in all my years of teaching who haven't liked what i offer, or have found it not what they hoped for... at least, five that were brave enough to tell me.

**making the PDF of the Bundle Book is the closest i want to come to that!


PS thank you, all of you who have been part of my journey so far. i am truly grateful.

and lastly,
if you've made it down to the bottom of the page
i've decided to give an early bird discount to those who sign up before July 22 for either of my two classes in Mansfield this year (which is a saving of $70 per class)

38 comments:

  1. I love what you do and totally subcribe to the way you do it! Even though I have never been to one of your classes (and would love that very much so ofcourse), your intentions shine through your writing, the pictures of the magical stuff you make. Art born out of the earth! It's easy to imagine that encounters and good food go hand in hand with all the other things you do. Seems only natural! So thank you for telling all of the above. It was not necessary for me to read it to get the right picture on what makes you do life the way you do it, but your words are delicious (with a little wink here) on my soul and support everything I felt about your philosophy that I like so much. So thank you for that and please live your life on your own terms. Warm and (very) sunny greetings from the Netherlands - Anja

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    1. thanks Anja...even though we might never meet it's good to know we are singing from the same page

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  2. I hope you keep going on that wonderful path of yours...........you have certainly changed my life!

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    1. and i am very happy that i have met you. fingers x'd we meet again sometime :-)

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  3. The journey is one to be enjoyed ... we only get one shot at it as far as I know.... and I am forever grateful ours crossed

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  4. I never followed one of your classes and don't expect to do so in the future. This will not say I wouldn't like that, but it is not within my reach. But I love your class stories an the way you put your words on your blog. Today you followed again your heart, by writing this post. Thank you for the nice words and most of all, never change...

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    1. thank you for visiting and for reading and for kindly leaving your words

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  5. Much to think about here, as always. I really appreciate what you can share online about your approach to life and to your work. Even through the ether it is inspiring. I am by habit and circumstance a solitary person, and this post encourages me to gather / share / journey in good company more often. Thanks.

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  6. It is interesting that often the words we hear often are the unkind words. Your heart hears the kind words. Continue doing your work. I will continue observing from my little home and attempting to be as creative as I can.

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  7. Gee, India ... it sounds as though I am no longer the only one who questions your excessive environmentally unfriendly flights, to teach around the world.
    We all need to think more carefully about how our choices today, will effect our offspring, in their future. Too many of us continue to selfishly justify our current lifestyles, without being truly honest about how we effect the future of this planet. Your son is part of the future that will likely outlive you ... what kind of world do you want to leave him?

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    1. excessive? so far i've flown to New Zealand and to Queensland this year. relatively minor transgressions compared, say, to the military operations of the Australian (and other) governments. nor do i take holidays. we've planted a hundred acres of trees here on the farm, with plans for more, so at very least I'll be leaving my children a decent forest, along with a goodly pile of leaf-print recycled blankets.

      but you're welcome to call me selfish if you choose. those who are pure can cast all the stones they like. or something like that.

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    2. You know what? The amount of flying India does is really not having a big detrimental effect on the environment. But how about the fact that we all use computers and iPads and iPhones etc? And most of us upgrade every few years or so. That’s a LOT of manufacturing, using what is essentially slave labor to build tools made with plastic and heavy metal. Tsk Tsk. I wonder, Jennifer, do you buy clothing? Bad for the earth and the people who live on it, but far away from you, no doubt. Do you use a gas guzzling vehicle in your daily life? Do you eat meat? Meat production is far worse for the planet than flying in a plane. It’s also not good for the health of the humans who eat it, not to mention the health of the poor animals who live miserable lives culminating in terrifying and horrific slaughter. I really hope you don’t eat meat. But if you do, I will acknowledge that it’s your business, not mine.

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  8. I'm online a lot, but whenever I take an online class, no matter how marvelous it may be, I always drift away before it is over. I wish that I could get more out of the online class experience, but I don't. I am one of the lucky ones who took a class with you, and it was an experience of a lifetime. Don't change what works! The critics should mind their own business.

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. was it Madeline Island you were at? the memory grows misty with time so please forgive me if i am wrong. that was a rather lovely summer...

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  9. Brilliant post, although I don't travel a great deal but hopefully I share your philosophy and the class I did with you and a great circle of women is one of the most memorable things in my life in the last few years. Being in the companionship of like minded people for a few days relieves the necessary solitude of the day to day life of my craft. Long my you continue to travel the whirled bringing companioship and your lovely self into other peole's lives.

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  10. Wonderful words and sentiment. I am one of the many who's life you have transformed. Thank you!

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  11. dito lotta. I feel blessed with the opportunity for new friendships and travel that opened up for me after attending your workshop.

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  12. i read this early today and didn't want to write the first comment...but i'm glad to return 6 hours later to see so much response. you are a gifted teacher, india, and it would be rotten to keep you tethered to the farm. besides, then all of us would then have to come there. through your teaching you change, challenge, inspire minds and maybe even hearts. i'm thinking if everyone of us carpooled to work or town with only one other person, we would change the world. your work is changing the world too. stitch by stitch.

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    1. thank you Velma...the work you do with your 'hooligans' is as valuable. it too requires you to travel from home, though not so far. i guess if we all lived in more concentrated communities then we could all walk to work but that kind of living brings other challenges.
      i'm not sure it would make all that much difference to the environment if i were to stay home on the farm as there are others only too ready to fill the gap (as i saw to my amusement when the brief talk of my going to Argentina fizzled) . and as you say, if i opened the doors of the studio it might well increase the number of visitors to South Australia!

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  13. It makes me a little sad to think people would give you a hard time traveling to teach in person. One of the greatest joys I have ever had was seeing a person I admired in "real life." Over the years I have met some pretty amazing people and it always leaves me dreaming of ways to improve myself and to try to learn how I can better express myself. Keep on traveling. It's a great experience for both the teacher and the taught. You can only get so much from a book or a pod cast. You miss the sparkle of delight and the real person when you meet face to face.

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    1. thank you for the kind words Nancy.

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  14. ooooo what a wonderful post india --- thank you for sharing --- I wanted to let your words percolate for a bit so I could offer more than just a quick, albeit supportive comment. As we've never met 'in the flesh' all I have are typed words on a screen and not the richness of eye contact, voice, body to convey meaning --- I hope my total support for your life choices isn't lost in my long winded reply!

    you see I gave your post a lot of thought overnight.... I wondered how best to illustrate what I think about things and then it came to me..... concrete.

    in environmental circles concrete is considered a wicked bad thing. its carbon footprint is massive. the cement industry is a major contributor to greenhouse gas. there's all the transport and mining (oooo this could go on and on and get very complicated) -- most folk in the know will tell you (and the world) concrete = BAD. Yet we don't hear a huge outcry about the evils of concrete.... and that's because (in part) concrete is a ubiquitous part of modern industrialised life (too hard to do away with), its also because we can see some of the benefits of concrete may justify the 'cost'... also not all concretes are the same (yet this can't always be discerned by simply looking at the end product) --- for example - here at the creek we have quite a few concrete paths and floors to sheds (and my studio!) --- we make concrete ourselves in small batches, utilising 'creek sand' (i.e. grit that is clagging up our waterways as a result of agricultural clearings of the late 1800s/early 1900s) --- our concrete thus is actually a proactive move for the environment as it alleviates (in a very small way) the destruction of valuable wetland habitats

    yup concrete shows that things that look black and white are anything but.... whenever we atomise and compartmentalise issues we risk making ill-informed judgements and that is dangerous.

    the world is complex, our actions and lives are interconnected, no one is immune from impacting on the environment.... with this in mind, I think we need less judgemental posturing - I'm all for putting an (imperfect) example out into the world for folk to be inspired by but not at all interested in telling folk how wrong their actions are.

    peace to you india --- all power to your lovely work --- one day I hope we DO get to hang out beside a warm fire xxxxx

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    1. Thanks Ronnie, looking forward to hanging out and "looking up" with you too!

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    2. and ronnie has put it well, too.

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  15. Beautifully and authentically said .. as always...

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  16. i do not think the internet can never replace human touch .
    i take a class with a teacher to hear their story if i come away with something creative all and good. to share a meal is good for the soul . i look forward to lopez ...
    great post

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  17. Hi India... I so share your thoughts. People suggest to me on a regular basis that I could "make a lot of money" teaching online and save all the commuting I do. But there is nothing like being physically present, together. There is no other magic for me with teaching. On another note, I've been mostly absent from blogging and reading blogs because I seem to have lost the ability to focus much online. After some challening years, I need to be outside or just present with real-time sensations and not in this cool, but strange cyber-world. Maybe I'll come back in winter more, who knows. Anyway, as always, thanks for sharing!

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    1. Staying away from the time vampire makes a lot of sense to me. I imagine summer in your woods must be glorious. Much better to be among the trees than being sucked dry by a screen!

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    2. India I cherish the time I was lucky enough to spend in a class with you, and dream of the day I will hopefully get to again! Please wander to NJ or PA or somewhere close again soon!!!!

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  18. You have made all your thoughts and reasons to teach in person instead of online sound poetic and beautiful... and so true... I travel and teach in person myself..all that sharing can be so gratifying and wonderful. If only there was some sort of machine that could whisk from one place to another in the blink of an eye!

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  19. *sigh* I guess we all are entitled to opinions! I am blessed to have the chance to take a class with this September near home (for a change) on Lopez Island. I am thrilled that you will be near enough for me to have the opportunity. I think that workshops provide more than the class...the chance comments, the 'little something's" that are just said in passing, the smiles and good will...those things never come across in DVD's or online workshops....as much as I sometimes wish they could. Living in the Island's does, at times, limit the traveling I can do for classes and workshops...as does my personal exchequer! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and, please, just keep on doing as you do and being who you are! Cheers!

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  20. Loved all that you wrote here, so true to how I feel, a workshop with you would be heaven I know. I don't think you come to the uk, and right now I probably don't have the time or money, but one day...

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    1. i'm in the UK at present [since July 24] and return each year to Big Cat Textiles at Newburgh, Scotland.

      http://textilecentre.co.uk/

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  21. A wonderful, articulate post as usual. All I can say is the world would be poorer if you chose to stay home and if you should make your way over to the west coast of Canada - sign me up for your course.

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    1. thanks Sue...I'll be there next month, but both classes are full, sorry
      best wishes
      india

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