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ONE ARTISAN VILLAGE

ONE ARTISAN VILLAGE

I think that in every Maker’s heart of hearts, there is a dream of being surrounded by others like them who live their lives working and dancing to their own heartsong, trying to do their own best  work and cheering each other on to greater effort.

We dream of a place that supports us in our journey while letting us find our own way to our own best life.

AN ARTISAN DREAM

One of the oldest established “artisan communities” in America is the village of Sugar Loaf, which is a small hamlet roughly six miles long and five miles wide, in the town of Chester in New York’s Orange County.  It’s been around since the 18th century.

The village was originally a waypoint along the King’s Highway, providing supplies and horses for the travelers along that road.  It was a busy place and went through many changes as the world moved through and then past it.

Back then it was likely that every tradesperson was some sort of artisan, if the definition of “artisan” is someone who makes things by hand.  (There wasn’t any other way to make useful things.)

Sometime around the middle of the last century, the village had become little more than a forgotten bit of the landscape between crowded metropolises.  Transportation routes had changed and it was no longer a hub and hive of activity.

There gathered a group of artists and artisans who took up residence in Sugar Loaf and began doing their work in the old falling-down buildings and barns that had endured for a couple of hundred years. These Makers found a place with room enough and time enough to do the work they loved.

In the course of things, a core group of these full-time working craftspeople opened up their independent artist’s studios to the public, selling the works of their hands to support lives they found meaningful.

prophecy-untold
Prophecy Untold” by Henry M. Diaz via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
For an interesting history of the early days of the Sugar Loaf artisan community as well as some of the trials and tribulations as the community went through assorted economic and other changes, click on the button below to check out an old Sugar Loaf Guild site by one of the leaders among these early artisan-residents, Bob Fugett.

(I have to warn you:  Bob is a bit cantankerous.)

click-here

As Fugett points out, some of the early artisans continued to develop their skills in their chosen work to a high level.

Over the years other Makers joined in as the earliest of these creative people and their neighbors made a community that was centered around producing locally made, one-of-a-kind, high quality creative work.

The people who appreciated the quality of the work they produced came in droves from all over the world.

THE CHANGES DO KEEP ON COMING

But, the Way of the Creative is never an easy road.  In his musings on his website, Fugett mourns the lost shape of the community he helped to build.

sugar-loaf-sign
“Sugar Loaf Sign” by Kafziel Complaint Department via Wikimedia.org [CC BY-SA 3.0]
In one of the riffs on his site, Fugett quotes James Lynch, the founder of Fforest Camp, an eco-living retreat in West Wales:  “It’s my experience that artist communities are almost always camps because they appropriate space that nobody else wants (at the time), but by virtue of a creative progressive view of neighborhoods they create a demand from others that ultimately marginalizes them, so they are forever transient.”

It’s a pithy commentary on what happens after the Makers have made Beauty in some abandoned place, which then becomes a “destination,” and then gets made over into something else as other folks move in.

This YouTube video, “Artists and Artisans,” was published in 2017 by Sarah J. Burns.  It’s a mini-documentary featuring interviews with some of the artisans currently living in the village and focuses on how their livelihoods changed with the recession.  It also offers a glimpse of the village itself.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The future is never certain, but the village continues anyway and it will grow into some new shape that better reflects the Makers who now live and work there in these very different times.

One of Bob’s salty comments that is spot-on nevertheless is this:  Talent is bullshit; work is the thing, and of course it is all for naught, always has been, always will be, but that has nothing to do with the doing of it.

Here’s a poem:


CHANGE

That things will change is a given

There is no argument.

Established constructs will be riven

And much will fade of past efforts spent.

 

Still and yet and ever more

The world keeps turning in its place.

Still and yet, there will be joy,

There will be rainbows and always grace.

 

Change comes, change goes

And so do you and I.

The only things we get to keep

Are the ways we walk and fly….

by Netta Kanoho

Header picture credit:  “The Work Never Matches the Dream….” By Kendra via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]

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KEEP WHAT YOU LOVE

KEEP WHAT YOU LOVE

It’s the new “thing” — Letting Go.  Everybody who’s anybody keeps telling you that the only way to move forward is to let go of all that baggage you’re lugging around.   “The Simple Life,” hey, ho!  Minimalism rules.

They tell you, “Gee whiz, guys and girls…you’ve got a wagon train following along behind you with all the accumulated baggage of a lifetime and you’re pulling that thing around with you.  No wonder you’re so tired all the time.”

For the most part, that is probably a truth, you know.  People who have little day-packs can scoot along hiking trails a heck of a lot easier than the guys lugging around those huge mountain backpacks that tower over their heads.

backpacker
Backpacker by dontdothisathome via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

MAKING A START

You figure that you probably do have to let go of at least some of that stuff.  As you’ve probably found already, if you’re a natural-born hoarder who tends to leave claw marks all over stuff you’re forced to release, even letting go of just one little thing might be really tough.

It’s likely that you’ll start remembering the back-story behind every itty-bitty thing or else you’ll recall the dreams you had for this thing or that.  Getting to The Simple Life could very well become an exploration and excavation into your life-story.

You may keep getting sidetracked by all those stories and perhaps you’ll never get to the part where you let go of anything.

GETTING CARRIED AWAY

So, finally, after much browbeating there you are, winnowing your way through your stuff and starting to feel good about making all that progress.  The space around you is starting to clear up and it really does feel good.

It’s a good thing to remember that some of the more enthusiastic of our wanna-be advisors ignore the truth that you do have to be careful when you start tossing stuff.   If you make it past the first little throw away and then start getting into the swing of it all, it’s relatively easy to tip into deep toss-mode.

Then it’s possible that anything or maybe even everything can go out the window.  There you are, at the height of minimalistic euphoria….

“Tossing out the bath water…heave, ho, hup!..OOPS!  There went the baby!”

Easy, there.  Take a breather.  You do not have to clear everything out all at once.

 QUESTIONING YOUR WAY TO CLEAR

Here’s a three-part exercise that might help if you really are not making any headway at all.

Choose a target area that you want to clear. It doesn’t have to be a large area. It could be a small corner of a room.  It could be a kitchen drawer.

Part One is to pick up each object in your designated area and ask yourself these three essential questions:

  • Do I need this? (Be brutally honest here.  Do you really need twelve can openers?  Do you need that tacky-   looking tattered potholder?)
  • Is this useful? (Does it work?  Have you used it at all in the past six months?)
  • Do I still have a strong connection with it? (Do I love it? Is it uplifting eye-candy? Or is it some guilt-holding like that uber-tacky hand-me-down vase from your beloved old Aunt Martha, the one that leaked all over the dining room table the one time you used it.)

Depending on your answers to these essential questions, you can stick the thing into one of three piles – the YES pile (for the stuff you’re keeping), the NO pile (for the stuff you’re tossing) and the MAYBE pile.  If you’re a real pack-rat the MAYBE pile is going to be the biggest one of all.

Part Two of this exercise is to disappear the MAYBE pile.  Ask yourself the questions again for each of the objects in the maybe pile.  Keep asking until there are only two piles – YES or NO.  The goal is to end up with only YES things in your life.

Part Three is to find places to put the YES stuff on display or in some easy-to-reach place.  Understand that YES stuff that are packed in boxes stuck on high shelves are actually MAYBE or NO things in disguise.

Then, pack up the NO stuff and — this is the important parttake the NO stuff far, far away before the sun sets on your head.

If you are a natural-born hoarder, keeping the NO stuff for the Someday Garage Sale is just an invitation to collect more stuff.  Do not do it!

Renting out storage space for the NO stuff is cheating.  It is also very expensive.

Understand that these drastic measures are just a kick-starter.  Once you get the hang of disappearing things, you won’t need to be quite so deliberate about it.

Once you’ve gotten one space cleared, it does get easier to tackle another little bit and then another until the only things left in your life are the YES stuff.

(Maybe you haven’t noticed this, but these same questions work whether you’re looking at a thing, a person, or some situation that is bothering you.)

PUTTING FIRST THINGS FIRST

Victoria Moran, in her book LIT FROM WITHIN: Tending Your Soul For Lifelong Beauty, points out, “A simple life is not seeing how little we can get by with—that’s poverty—but how efficiently we can put first things first. . . . When you’re clear about your purpose and your priorities, you can painlessly discard whatever does not support these, whether it’s clutter in your cabinets or commitments on your calendar. ”

This is another good reason for understanding the why of the things you keep.

This YouTube video of a TedXIndianapolis Talk by screenwriter and blogger Maura Malloy, “The Masterpiece of a Simple Life,” points to a balanced way to get back to simple without losing what you love.

Here’s a poem:


CHANGE

Change is going to happen…

That’s guaranteed.

With me or without me,

Change is going to happen.

 

And it’s a very funny thing:

I can affect change

One, two, three…

And it’s a very funny thing.

 

When I put my energy there

Towards nurturing the good

Then the good will grow,

When I put my energy there.

 

When I put my energy there

Towards nurturing the beauty,

Then beauty will surround me,

When I put my energy there.

 

If I grow lax, letting things fall apart,

Get all lazy, losing heart,

That’s where the change goes

If I grow lax, letting things fall apart.

 

If I lose my way, if I grow weak,

Forget my path and forget to speak,

That’s where the change goes

If I lose my way, if I grow weak.

 

Change can’t be forced, oh, no, no, no…

You can’t push the river,

It just keeps it flow

Change can’t be forced, oh, no, no, no.

 

Going where it will, where it must,

Change still needs space and trust.

Time is the essence, a vehicle,

Going where it will, where it must.

by Netta Kanoho

Header Picture credit:  Clutter by staci myers via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you’d drop a comment or note below and tell me your thoughts.

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