Nothing in our lives has prepared us for what we are living and navigating right now. Every day is filled with constant change alongside inertia. We find ourselves constantly having to make decisions while monitoring COVID-19, as we would a tornado or hurricane headed toward our community at a snail’s pace. So, we plan and do and organize and also sit and watch and wait.
At Alabama Chanin, we are grateful that we are still able to work—from home and socially distanced (and sanitized) at The Factory. Our shipment pickup person commented yesterday that we are one of the few businesses on their route that hasn’t slowed down. We’re grateful for this; we are very, very grateful to everyone who is choosing and able to support our work. Our fabrics and supply chain and factory and all the things we’ve invested in for two decades has brought us to this moment—and we continue to make.
In December of 2010, I wrote this for a blog post:
Did you know that sewing, cooking and all acts of hands-on making stimulate happiness and over-all well being?
From Catherine Newman:
“Lambert shows how when you knit a sweater or plant a garden, when you prepare a meal or simply repair a lamp, you are bathing your brain in feel-good chemicals and creating a kind of mental vitamin. Our grandparents and great grandparents, who had to work hard for basic resources, developed more resilience against depression; even those who suffered great hardships had much lower rates of this mood disorder. But with today’s overly-mechanized lifestyle we have forgotten that our brains crave the well-being that comes from meaningful effort.”
Thanks to Catherine for sharing Kelly’s work: Lifting Depression: A Neuroscientist’s Hands-On Approach to Activating Your Brain’s Healing Power.
I keep coming back to this over and over again these days because it is so easy to feel frozen. While the question of woman and man as maker has been a philosophical question through the ages, there is so much more that has been discovered in subsequent years about the connection between making and mental health. Homo faber (Latin for “Man the Maker”) is the concept that we, as human beings, are able to control our fate and our environment through tools. I am enamored with this idea—these days more than ever. We all want, and need, to believe that we can affect our environment, affect our world.
Over my five-plus decades on this planet, I’ve come to understand intrinsically that, for me, my mental and physical health are tied together and go hand-in-hand. And my mental health is so tied to making and creating that I cannot separate them. While I am a natural introvert and gain energy in times of self-reflection, I am still a “doer” and my overall well being is tied to doing, making, and creating. While I try daily to sit in order to find peace, my truth is also that I find peace in doing.
In these times of great change for our society, and my family, I’m searching to find our new place in this space. I don’t have answers but here are a few of the things that I find helpful and a few things I think we, as makers, can do.
I’ve loved this conversation between Krista Tippett and Ann Hamilton since I first heard it in February of 2014. Ann is a “visual artist and self-described maker.” She talks about the dual act of concentration and making as rhythm:
“…And I think there’s something about the rhythm of the hands being busy and then your body falls open to absorb and concentrate on what you’re listening to, but not completely, because you have two concentrations. And then from that, that sort of cultivates a kind of attention. That is the rhythm of those two things together. So the unfolding of the voice in space, and then the material accreting under your hand, and they have really different satisfactions…”
I find this sentiment true whether I’m making with someone or simply with my own hand and mind. It’s as if the act of cooking or sewing cracks open spaces in my mind that I’m not able to access in any other way. This space brings me peace and peace is what I need today.
Here’s a small list of things to create, read, listen to, re-listen to, and make in this extraordinary moment:
Make face masks for health care providers in your community who are running low on supplies. Use our scraps or scraps from your own stash or cut up t-shirts. Our friend Joey Leavitt sent this article along, which has very good information about materials and masks. As this post goes live, we are pivoting our manufacturing in Bldg. 14 to produce masks and much-needed medical supplies for hospitals and health care workers during this crisis.
Embroider words on these masks to inspire our health care workers and friends when they feel that they can’t go on because embroidered words can inspire a revolution.
Read about Ruth Clement Bond and the TVA Quilts. These acts of making show the role of craft as an avenue for activism.
Think about living from Love and Air because ABSURD TIMES CALL FOR ABSURD AMOUNTS of LOVE (via SwissMiss). We reintroduce our Air Love Tee today. Read back about the history of the tee here. For more love (and more tees), our friends at imogene + willie make The Love Tee. We need all the love we can get and give right now.
If you have supplies, bake a cake because a cake CAN change the world. Learn more about Georgia Gilmore from The Kitchen Sisters.
Listen to Glen Gould’s The Idea of North because this is what life feels like at the moment and because this is a man who got on a train and just listened. May we all start to listen more. You can also read the transcript here.
And while we are on Glen Gould, The Goldberg Variations are playing often in my new kitchen these days.
Re-listen to Ross Gay and Krista Tippett talk about Tending Joy and Practicing Delight. You can also listen to Ross Gay read his collection of essays, The Book of Delights.
Make good and be well.
This is such beautiful information and I am grateful to be able to to read your words. Thank you for sharing your inspiration, for I am a creator and doer of many projects and this is so helpful during these uncertain moments in time.
Sharon, thank you for your support of Alabama Chanin and I am glad that we could bring some comfort during this trying time.
Thank you for this journal entry, Natalie. It touches on so many aspects of our work with fabric and color, creating art that affects body, mind, and spirit. I, too, seek peace and joy through work with my hands, and encouraging other women to do the same. I look forward to following your links in the coming week for continuing inspiration!
Thank you so much for your kind words, Sharon!