Threads

Help to create Abraham’s Tent: Be sure to read the Call for Handspun at the end of this blog entry. Please share the Call with friends, on Facebook, Twitter.

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back– Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.” Goethe (MAYBE) http://www.goethesociety.org/pages/quotescom.html

Let’s do it. –

Home Depot

Strand 1: Welcoming the Stranger

WILSON?

         – No

I repeat for the third time:   I-S-R-A-E-L-S-O-N

ISSALSON?

 – No. (Again with more vehemence and enunciation.

 I

S as in Sam

R

A before the E

E

L

S as in Stranger

O

N

Much of my life I have had to spell my name whenever I am ordering something or making an appointment. (Sometimes both first and last.)

In the 1960’s at Portland High School, names called out during attendance check were Irish and Italian, northern European with a smattering of Greek. Eastern European names frequently belonged to students of Jewish descent.

Today, students come from 41 countries and speak 26 languages. (I attended a graduation a few years ago. The principal should have received a special cophsmmendation for pronouncing all of the 300 + graduates’ names correctly.)

Strand 2: #Je Suis …

As part of the lead up to the Welcoming the Stranger exhibit, I wanted to blog about the history of Maine immigration. I wanted to compare the efforts of current day organizations serving asylum seekers, refugees, and immigrants coming to Portland, Maine with those efforts of the Portland Council of Jewish Women from the 1920’s.

Then there was Charlie Hebdo. Then other executions. Then mass kidnappings. Then other hash tags. Everyday, the news heralded more examples of ever increasing xenophobia around the world. Everyday, there were calls for revenge. I question what the impact of artwork would be in comparison to the horrors of the news.

Laura Blumenfeld’s father was shot in Jerusalem in 1986 by a member of a rebel faction of the PLO that was responsible for attacks on several tourists. Her father survived, but Blumenfeld’s ‘desire for revenge’ haunted her. Blumenthal book: Revenge a Story of Hope http://www.amazon.com/Revenge-Story-Hope-Laura-Blumenfeld/dp/0743463390

In her book, she travels the world learning about revenge in different cultures – and the dynamics of hate. I always return to her premise: that the willingness to listen to the other side helps to discover a third way [to resolve differences]- a choice beyond ‘turn the other cheek” or “an eye for an eye.”

In 1993, Seeds of Peace began as an idea of the American journalist John Wallach. At a state dinner with politicians from Israel, Egypt, and the Palestinian Authority, Wallach toasted them, then inspired them to pledge to bring 15 youngsters from each of their respective countries to a new camp he was founding in Maine. These 48, including 3 Americans, ranging in age from 13 to 18, comprised the first session of the Seeds of Peace International Camp. Over the past 20 years, the program expanded to include campers from other countries in conflict.

I attended the premiere of the Seeds of Peace documentary film. I was deeply touched by the willingness of these young people to share their personal experiences and to examine their misconceptions of each other’s cultures. They learned to listen. Wallach believed that these ‘seeds’ are the future leaders of their countries and will resolve conflict in peaceful ways. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4IzqD2l2nVs

Strand 3: Year of the Sheep

2015 is the Year of the Sheep according to Chinese zodiac.

For me, it is also the year of the sheep – more specifically wool.

Welcoming the Stranger: Building Understanding through Community Based Art will be an exploration of the stories of two distinct immigrant groups: the Jews of a century ago and immigrants and asylum seekers of today. As part of the exhibit, I am creating a large weaving – a kind of Abraham’s Tent.*

After researching ancient tents generally and Bedouin tent design specifically, it became obvious that I needed to learn to weave. Mary Klotz is my go-to person for fiber-related artwork (actually anything related to making stuff.) She is owner of Forestheart Studio and an artist in her own right. http://www.forestheart.com/

Ten years ago, the sounds of her loom were the soundtrack to my film: Warp and Weft. https://vimeo.com/34484173

HeddleCrossed weaving

After my day–long weaving immersion and 3 hours of warping, here are my new vocabulary words: warping mill-umbrella-lease sticks-swords-shuttles-heddle-reed hooks-pick per inchFH Warped

FH Umbrella

 

I can’t speak weaving quite yet, but at least I know more of what I am getting into – physically, fiscally and spiritually. And what I still need to learn. And how much help I will need.

Maine has a large number of fiber artists and spinners and weavers. Even my Kayak Guide’s mom is a weaver. (Seriously…YUP it’s true. Hard to believe, huh?)

So….it’s another road trip to Maine. In the winter.

Strand 4: Warp

Kraemer Yarns, Nazareth, PA is located in a large brick structure that echoes the closed mills of Biddeford, Maine. K bldg

Kraemers is still manufacturing yarn instead of converting the space into loft apartments or offices. http://www.kraemeryarns.com 

ASIDE:

In the early 1900’s, Muslim dye workers were brought from Albania to Biddeford, Maine to the textile mills. It is believed that the first U.S. mosque was created within the walls of Pepperell Mill.

At its heyday, Kraemer employed 2000 people. Now there are around 50 employees. Dave Schmidt jr. meets and greets. He is 5th generation Kraemer and so loves his work that his family left him behind as they headed for a Disney vacation. (He will eventually join them.)

Kraemer’s is now a kind of artisanal yarn factory. It specializes in custom blended – U.S. only – wool. Their wool was used in the XXll U.S. Olympic team uniform.K Olympic

My 30-minute tour extended to 2 hours. (Did I say that Dave LOVES his job.)

We walk a kind of ‘process labyrinth.’

There are rooms filled with raw wool and rooms with cones of yarn.k cones

 

 

K woolIn    between, the work happens. Some rooms house leviathan-sized machines. (I am not sure where the spare parts come from but they do the repairs themselves.) The noise is deafening.k machines

 

He asked me questions about the yarn for the project that I could not answer – what size, gauge, ply, origin and type of wool? (If I had enough friends with sheep, Kraemer’s could spin their wool into warp.)

Strand 5: Weft

I learned of Peace Fleece http://www.peacefleece.com in a conversation with Mary Walker, a Navajo rug restoration person in Arizona. http://weavinginbeauty.com

The Peace Fleece offices are in an old barn on a sheep farm in the small, rural town of Porter in the foothills of southwestern Maine.

PF House

PL barnPF horsesPeter Hagerty and Mary Tracy operate their farm using 19c equipment, VERY large horses, and produce Peace Fleece yarn. After many twists and turns along a somewhat plowed road, I arrive at their door.

Peter and Marty started buying wool from the Soviet Union back in 1985 in ‘ hopes that through trade they could help diffuse the threat of nuclear war. Since then, Peter has journeyed through eastern Europe, central Asia and the Middle East in search of farmers and shepherds who are willing to set aside historic enmities in exchange for opportunities leading to mutual understanding and economic interdependence.’

ASIDE:

In 1926, Eldar Markson (Jennie’s husband) to support Jewish Polish weavers, established a cooperative in which their products would be sold in the U.S.

The final design of Abraham’s Tent and its emphasis on community involvement evolved as a result of my ‘kitchen table’ conversations with Peter and Marty. They have invited me to speak about the Welcoming the Stranger project at their Spring Retreat. (They assure me that the road will be plowed.)

Strand 6: Twist

Finding volunteers is a necessity of community-based art. Although I have written more than 20 grants, WTS has (to date) received no funding.

Located in Topsham, Maine, Maine Fiberarts  www.mainefiberarts.org is a statewide arts nonprofit formed to support Maine fiber. Christine Macchi, Director, graciously hosted a meet and greet for me at their Center/Gallery. (I brought donuts from Frosty’s Donuts where I met ANOTHER person who loves their job. )

Frosty'sWhen it became painfully obvious to all that I did not speak weaving, three weavers volunteered to create samples using a variety of yarns for the weft and warps, various weaving techniques and to create various “hands.” (They definitely speak weaving.)

They are my first volunteers: http://bangordailynews.com/pressrelease/topsham-fiber-arts-center-will-focus-on-weaving/

Susan Perrine  www.susanperrine.com/

Sybil Shiland

Emi Ito

ASIDE:

A Greater Portland Landmark member bought one of Emi’s scarves after the City Council voted and passed historic districting for House Island.

Strand 7: Yarn

We have estimated that I will need 30,000 pieces of yarn (GASP!), each piece 42” in length, to create Abraham’s Tent. My neighbor and grant writer is a self-professed “knitting geek.” www.galaidacreative.com. She believes that we can “crowd source” on Ravelry to obtain the yarn.

Ravelry.com www.ravelry.com/about is an “on-line place for knitters, crocheters, designers, spinners, weavers and dyers to keep track of their yarn, tools, project and pattern information, and look to others for ideas and inspiration. The content here is all user-driven; we as a community make the site what it is.” (It is rumored there are 5,000,000 members.)

There are blogs and podcasts and forums and groups. I am to be interviewed by AbbyKnitz on the west coast http://cogknitivepodcast.blogspot.com/ and Kathy and Steve Elkins, owners of WEBS – on Ready, Set, Knit – on the east coast. http://blog.yarn.com/category/ready-set-knit-podcast/.

So the Call for Handspun** has begun. Our first 4 donations arrived. Only 29,996 pieces to go. Sam2

Strand 8: Weaving Hope

How do we weave together hope and reality?

Still reeling from the reports of Charlie Hebdo, I went to talk with S____ from whom I have been learning about Islam in an ad hoc classroom known as the lobby of a building.

I asked:

It is all so terrible. It is all so frightening. What can we do? Is there any hope?

He answered:

We are safe in this lobby.  At this moment, we are safe. We talk with each other. We learn from each other. We respect each other. At this moment, we are safe.

I respond:

– Inshallah.

 

** Become part of Abraham’s tent—

Hebrews 13:2

Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.

Abraham’s Tent will be installed on the ceiling of the entrance hallway of the Maine Jewish Museum. The tent-like form will be composed of 3 woven panels – each 50’ x 4’. The middle panel will be created by members of the community. The loom will be set up in various locations around Portland throughout the spring and summer. Members of the community will be encouraged to weave on the loom. Other panels will be created by members of the local weaving community.

I am seeking donations of hand spun yarn – any gauge, any color, something meaningful to you. Non-traditional fiber materials will be accepted. Your yarn and a tag with your family’s country of origin will be “woven” into the panels of  “Abraham’s Tent.”

When: February 14 – April 30, 2015

What: Yarn – 42” lengths of hand spun yarn – any gauge, any color, non traditional materials accepted. Other yarn also accepted but prefer wool.

Please include your name, email address and your family’s country of origin. $1.00 bill or check made to Welcoming the Stranger Fund a 501 (c)(3). Funds will used to defray costs of processing yarn and name tags. Mail to:

Welcoming the Stranger Art

PO Box 10419

Portland Maine 04104

 

 

 

 

 

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6 comments on “Threads

  1. Margaret says:

    I LOVE the Goethe quote! Your gift to positively connect individuals through art is needed today more than ever. BRAVO!

  2. Lynne Mason says:

    I love how you have woven so many facets of life into your woven tent – fascinating..

  3. ingridrwi says:

    I love… will continue the pattern of words woven here in the comments. I love the interplay of images and stories in this latest blog. And also, the sense that there is something small and meaningful that I can do.

  4. I’m a Portland-based spinner and knitter and I’m very curious to see your installation progress! I’ve reblogged your call for yarn here on my blog, which reaches spinners and knitters. Have you visited PortFiber, our local spinning and weaving shop on Cove St. in East Bayside? This might be a good place to connect with local spinners if you haven’t received enough yarn close to your deadline, or simply to see people making the types of yarn you’re soliciting for your installation. Community spinning meets every thursday from noon until 5ish…

    • Jo Israelson says:

      Hi Tracey:
      Thanks for spreading the word about the project.
      I’ve been in touch with Casey but I will FOR SURE come and meet folks on a Thursday.
      I am also working with some volunteers from Maine FiberArts. I will keep in touch and like the snowbirds, be in Maine for mud season.

      Thanks again and looking forward to meeting you.

    • Jo Israelson says:

      Oops Forgot to add that I have a “group” on Ravelry called:
      Abraham’s Tent. It would be great if folks posted a pix of what they are sending on it.

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