Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Bring in the Nonspecialists

Last night, I heard Leora Raikin speak about African Folklore Emboridery. She said something that really resonated with me. When she described her upbringing in South Africa, she recalled a home where her parents encouraged her to learn and create something every day. Later, when she talked about the art of the Ndebele people, she also emphasized how everyone in that culture created beautiful things out of everyday humble materials, including other people's castoffs like soda pop cans.

The urge to create, to "make special", even in the face of severe poverty, is extremely strong. Virginia Postrel makes a persuasive case for this in her book, The Substance of Style and her article, The Marginal Appeal of Aesthetics Why Buy What You Don't Need? She wrote in the article, "In subsistence societies, people people spend a relatively large portion of their resources on adorning themselves and their environment." For example look at the woman on the left from the Akha tribe in northern Laos. A simpler headdress would have kept her just as warm. (The picture was taken by Karen Inman and used with permission.)

This brings up a related story. My daughter's first Montessori teacher told me how living in Thailand changed her life. In the western world, people tend to see themselves and others as specialists. Art, music, craft, and satellites are created by specialists, usually other people. In Thailand, she saw that creating music and handcrafts and other useful things was a part of everyday life for everyone. Similiarly, healing was done, not by specialized experts, but by other family members.

I want Iris to remember her childhood fondly and tell people how her family made things. Her father made the most wonderful noodles and salmon; he made music on the piano while making silly jokes. Her mother made the things that kept her warm and colorful. Her childhood home was full of things made by people who mattered to her. We will leave the expert stuff at the office with all the market work baggage.

Leora was the guest lecturer at the monthly South Bay Quilters Guild meeting. When I received the monthly newsletter reminding us that she was speaking, I made a note to myself to bring the finished hippo kit that I bought from her last spring. However, a last minute deadline, a road closure on the commute home, and my generally frazzled nerves of late conspired against it. I will have to post a picture of the hippo for Leora instead.

Don't miss our annual quilt show February 17-18, 2006. Our guild members are a wonderfully diverse group. We do beautiful and thought-provoking work. (We are not modest, either.) I entered a quilt made from new and recycled fabrics. Unfortunately, the guild is also a prolific group and there is no guarantee that there will have enough room to display my entry. I wonder if a plug here will improve my odds?

Another Addendum
Unbelievably, the commute home on Wednesday was even worse than the one on Tuesday. Can't drivers have the good sense not to tangle with a truck carrying toxic chemicals on one of the most congested freeways in the world on one of the busiest traffic days of the year? Interstate 405 was closed around LAX today, sending traffic mayhem coursing through the nearby surface streets.

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