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Ellen Anne Eddy
Author of Thread Magic: The Enchanted World of Ellen Anne Eddy Fiber artist, author and teacher
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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Musing: Art Outside the Box: Who are you?

I'm nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there's a pair of us — don't tell!
They'd banish us, you know.
How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day

To an admiring bog!
Emily Dickinson

Caterpillar: Who Are YOU?
Alice: This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. I--I hardly know sir, just at present--at least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have changed several times since then
Alice in Wonderland

Gloria Hansen, quite truly one of the quilting goddesses and a winner of many quilting contests and shows, recently posted on Quilt Art Digest a curious interlude she had at the Walmart. She met some women there who were collecting quilting fabric and told them she was going to be selling some of her fabric off and would they like some. They told her they only quilted with Quality Fabric. Essentially they said:"Who are YOU?" The sadly funny thing is if they'd known, they might have crawled  after her down the isle for her scraps. I don't use anyone's fabric but my own, but I'd spit nickels just to look through her stash by way of a cultural artistic experience. She's a brilliant quilter, who's made her amazing fabric and quilts for decades.

The quilt world is an odd and lovely place. We honor our best quilters, but to the main, famous quilters live very quiet lives outside the quilt world. Their neighbors don't know or don't understand. Their kids may not too.It's a world populated by moms and grandmothers and has a civility to it I believe unfound anywhere else.Privacy is honored as well as honesty and fairness. And, to the main, it's a place where strangers are greeted as angels unawares.

I love quilt conferences. It's one of the few places I know where you can simply sit down with strangers and they'll greet you as friends. In a way, I take it for granted. It's only when I walk outside the gentler quilt world, I get reminded of the rougher edges.

Recently I've had a small town cultural experience with my neighbors. Basically, a garden war. And in effort prove I'm not the crazy lady they've claimed I am, I've come out of my quilting closet, and shown myself.

They say it's impossible to prove a negative. It's true. I can't prove I'm not a crazy lady. All I can do is prove I'm a famous crazy lady.   Admittedly I planted my whole yard in so I wouldn't ever have to mow. My neighbors are past offended and somehow think plants bring mosquitoes and rats. I didn't start by demanding my neighbors cut everything in their yard down. But they have mine. It has been entertaining watching just how crazy my neighbors look while they're making their case. Sort of like a very sad comedy. 

Of course, the difference between comedy and tragedy is largely where the story ends.  But it's very about how we treat something other than ourselves. For them I am the stranger. And I have no idea what to do if they get stranger. So far, I've had to check the yard for rat poison and odd drugs (yes, we found those) and I find things like my car dome light on in the middle of the night (something I never do). I'm not that wise. I have no idea how to make either them or me less strange. As Alice said, "I hardly know."

My friend Rebecca Dorian Brown reminded me yesterday that all the great religions pretty much hold the same line on good and bad behavior. It's not good or bad behavior because of some rule book. It really does create the difference between heaven and hell in our lives. Almost every culture has a story about the angel or fairy out of no where who looks like a beggar, or the old woman who, if you help her, leaves you with diamonds, and if you hurt her, leaves you spitting out toads. 

The truth is the either human life is valuable in itself, or it's not. Everyone has moments of fame and moments of quiet existence. Are they different people at those moments? We start as a squalling infant. Who knows who that child will be? The kindness we give to strangers creates the kind of world that is kind. We really give it, not to strangers but to angels unawares. And in the end, it's what we give ourselves.

You'll find Gloria's amazing work at gloriahansen.com She's one of the quilting goddesses and amazing expert in the internet and digital imagery. 

You'll find my wise and lovely Rebecca's work at her site
rebeccadorianbrown.com.She's an inventive and brilliant artist with a wisdom well earned.


ann said...

Funny, I too planted my whole yard except for a sitting area I covered with stone dust. The stone dust forms a nice smooth surface, yet allows water to pass through. Do you think this is why my neighbors stay away. Sad, I never thought about it before. I LOVE my gardens. The birds, bees, squirrels, chipmonks, and other little creatures like it too.

JJ said...

Thank you for this wonderful post. I find myself on the fringes, and I really don't think I am crazy, but I can't really prove that I'm not. There is nothing wrong with doing things differently, and I wish I had a yard full of plants like yours! Keep making the world a more beautiful place, there are those of us who really do notice. God bless you.

wlstarn said...

The neighbors need to move. To a condo. Where there is no grass, just cement. Sterile and vacant, kinda like their brains.

Cindy Cooksey said...

I love your cerebral blog. And the tree with the face is awesome!

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