Altered Attic

Thursday, November 1, 2012

They say cats have nine lives. I believe humans experience endless lives in the brief span of a lifetime. Especially for us creatives willing to remain open to truth, be vulnerable with fragile wings that, like a miracle, are strong enough to send us into flight.
There is risk involved but the generosity of rewards makes it oh, so worth the occasional scrape, the deeper wounds even that cut through the sheer cloth of courage. Little protection is offered but then again not needed, for the layers we paint, weave, wire in our studios build our hearts into a fortress of faith.




















It is possible to walk the bridges we stumble upon without owning the tools to judge their stability. That is faith, and, in stepping out onto the wavering boards it becomes evident that many have already traveled there.







I tapped into that and found myself headed to the inaugural Red Thread Retreat, fully aware that I wouldn't know any of the other 14 women - yet - or the instructors. That I would stay in a rural, isolated retreat center and share a house with this group having only gender and the love of art in common.

I got lost within minutes of leaving the airport in DC, of course, but thanks to several incredibly nice folks at different points on the hour drive, I found my way to Knoxville (Maryland). My karma bank must have been full, because I'm still in awe of the kindness I encountered throughout the trip. 
After passing through the lovely Leesburg, VA, I stopped at this lovely market for some supplies.


























I only wish I'd been a passenger to afford much more time drinking in the incredible autumn scenery along the drive. Fortunately, after the third "Road Narrows" sign, just when I thought I couldn't possibly wind up anywhere, I arrived at my destination tired but looking forward to the coming days.




























 We spent many incredible hours in the workshop building art using new techniques and bonding in the way that is only possible in this setting. Lesley Riley, artist and teacher extraordinaire, created the retreat, she must have known that the red thread was what wound through each of us, secured by the end with a tight knot! 


























The chance to live in my version of Heaven - usually Vermont, the lake, now Knoxville Maryland - was almost surreal. The quiet that we don't ordinarily experience... hearing leaves shimmer with color then scatter in the breeze wakens all senses. The rich smell of beeswax melting, the dripping of (caffeinated, thankfully:) coffee, even though it was 7:00 am. 
I shared a room with a perfect stranger. I say perfect because Rachel Stewart ended up being not only the best possible roommate but an amazing new friend (I miss her already)! We both have two kids, love horses and creating. Her jewelry, photography and writing... her blog, Blue Finch Jewelry, pure treasure - well, you'll see.





Claudine Hellmuth led us through the delights of beeswax collage on Friday. Along with looking just like her photo, she just sparkles for lack of a better description. I made several pages, though I didn't have the ideal photos to work with, and being a Clear Tar Gel kinda gal made it awkward at first but what an amazing tool to add to the repertoire! I'm pleased to report that there were no fires, smoking irons or major burns.











Though my workstation did have a 'fire hazard' quality about it, I managed to stay organized enough to plunge into Nina Bagley's Over the Edge class on Saturday. Nina Bagley... sigh. I've been an admirer of her art for so long that to finally meet her was incredible (I hope she doesn't read this because she'll get 'that look' and say she's just human:) 
I got a chance to explore wire-wrapping techniques and a zillion ways to use millions of eyelets and there are two new things on my wishlist - a Japanese screw punch and manual drill - must haves!


























To say that I 'fell in love' with Nina sounds a little creepy, but I'm not sure how else to put it... Her warmth, wide-open generosity and humor and talent, well, you get the idea. Where else did I think the depth and range of her beautiful art came from? I wish I could pour her coffee every morning. And when I saw her pendants I knew I had to have one, along with an amazing chain that is a work of art on its own. I have worn it every day since and I'm glad that the beaver-gnawed stick, scraps from treasured fabric, beads and metal go with absolutely everything I wear. It was a talisman during the long trip home, made a day early; instead of dropping the car at the airport I drove it home to Lexington leaving a hurricane and blizzard behind me.



























Missing Lesley's class was more than a disappointment; however, given the horrendous nature and destruction of the storm that still has the eastern US coast in a state of emergency, safety first. So I'll look forward to a next time. I'm so grateful I experienced the power of the Red Thread, now safe at home with my family - with power.
For now I'll consider unpacking and getting back to work in the studio!


5 comments:

Jill Zaheer said...

What a wonderful and amazing experience Patti. I can't believe I almost signed up for this retreat but had family responsibilities I couldn't leave. So, I am living vicariously through your post and am in awe of your experience!! Hope you are well through Sandy- and that you and your loved ones are okay. Makes you see the fragility of the world- both outside and in! hugs, Jilly

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

What an amazing post. The photos are awesome, and your narrative is always appreciated.

I can appreciate how you felt at that market. I was driving the other day thinking I wished I could take a photo of something I saw, but since I wasn't a passenger, I had to let that idea go.

I found an alternative to Japanese Screw Punches, even though there are less hole sizes available. I use my crop-a-dile and it does everything I ask of it.

So glad to know you are safe from Sandy. I was truly impressed with all the big names this retreat gathered. I'm sure you had a great time, and look forward to seeing more of what you learned in the near future. BTW, I LOVE that necklace.

Corinne said...

I'm about to nag Lesley to send out contact information for everyone at Red Thread. Your blog is awesome! You put into words the thoughts I had about the retreat. I'm glad you did, because I am guilty of letting all the busy prevent me from doing just that! Get those pictures uploaded to our secret facebook group! Hugs, Corinne

Bluefinch said...

You are amazing! The pictures of the retreat are great and I will agree with Corinne that your words say it all, and far much better than I ever could.
XO Rachel

Caterina Giglio said...

sounds as though that the time you did have was wonderful and you experienced so much... I will check out the new link and glad to know that it was a wonderful time... x

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