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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, September 7, 2010

Musings:Art Outside the Box: The Joy of Dyslexia

"Perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave. Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us."
Rainer Maria Rilke
I've been writing a blog thread on Practical Thread Magic about doing bobbin work. While I've been discussing bobbin tension and machine makes and all kinds of practical mechanical issues, there's always a fear issue that needs to be addressed. Yup! It's upside down.
I've taught this for over twenty years. There's very little new about bobbin work except for the threads available and the fact that it's much more accepted.In over twenty years in a classroom, I've heard almost everything anyone is going to say about it. One woman always says, with fear in her eyes,"It's upside down. How can I know where I'm going? What I'm doing? "
It's always a bad classroom moment. There's a fervent urge to put your hand over her mouth and/or offer her chocolate. Hysteria is as contagious as pink eye.But everyone is thinking it. It must be addressed.
Actually the answer is quite simple. A lock stitch leaves a line of thread on both sides of the work. You can see where you're going from either side. And all you're doing is filling it in backward.
The word backward takes us to that wonderful gift, dyslexia. I'm not being sarcastic.
I'm quite dyslexic. No one knew until I studied it as a teaching student. They knew I couldn't spell or write well. They thought I was lazy.
Well, they were somewhat right about that, but the truth is that d's,b's,p's and q's are identical for me. I learned to read through context and configuration.It helped that my school teacher mother made me study and read an extra 4 hours every night after school. She wasn't trying to fix my dyslexia. She had no clue. It's simply what she thought you did with kids.
I still can't really read a map or a calendar. They move on me, and I can't hold numbers in my head. How do I deal with this? I hire someone who can do those things, and I do what I do well myself.
But here's the upside. I can read stories in any configuration, beginning, middle and end, in any order, and it makes sense to me. And I can read and write backwards and upside down, cursive and printed.
Dyslexia is simply an ability to see the world differently. If you can make the translation to the rest of the world, (read and write, speak and hear), it gives you the ability to show a world something they've not seen before. It's a gift.
So when I'm looking at my drawing, I'm simply looking at it as I would look at a backwards slide. I know it's facing the other way on the other side. That doesn't matter. Instead, I fill it in with gentle shapes and change my color on top when I change it on the bobbin. There's no mystery. Simply a different point of view.
Fear is a dragon. Perhaps a princess dressed up as a dragon who's really waiting to see us be brave. Besides, everything worth doing is worth doing badly. If you want to do anything well, you need to be willing to go past the worst fear we have as adults: that we might not be instantly perfect at something. If you want to do it badly enough, you can do it. I know. I'm dyslexic.


Levada Pendry said...

My son (he's now in his 40's) somehow not only saw the letters backward but also upside down when he was trying to learn to read. I bless the heroic efforts of Special Ed teachers! He reads just fine now.

It was lovely to read how your "disability" has transformed into your greatest strength. Your art is fabulous! I am sure it is an exquisite "ah ha" moment for your students when they sew completely opposite of how they have ever done sewing before...and it works!

You are an inspiration, keep up the good work.


Levada Pendry

hayesatlbch said...

" d's,b's,p's and q's are identical for me. "
" They move on me,"

Those are visual dyslexia symptoms that can be easily removed with See Right Dyslexia Glasses. You may not want to as you seem comfortable with how you have learned to compensate.

You can find more information about visual dyslexia at http://dyslexiaglasses.com/visualdyslexiasolution.html

Judy said...

Hi Ellen, I have tutored nmany Dyslexic students over the past 10 years(just recently retired),and I learned SO much from my students.I tutored in my own home after school hours, and they worked SO hard to overcome their difficulties.All the kids were extremely Creative, and I Had to be equally creative in order to get them to see things in a different way. When I went to Art School (part time) several years ago, most of the students were Dyslexic!!All brilliant at ART!!!Like you are!!
Through Tutoring I overcame my fear and poor Maths ability, and learned all sorts of Creative Writing skills.I used to ask the kids if they thought I was a good sewer.They always said "yes", then I told them about my ACTUAL sewing abilities, and what the teachers said about my sewing....I could often see a little light go on behind their eyes when I told them that.

Heather said...

Hi Ellen, I took a class with you in Las Vegas a couple years ago I think- wow it has flown by. I still have the thread painted face I started on my design wall- a UFO at the moment. So happy to find your site. My daughter is dyslexic and an amazing artist. I love how you described it and encouraged others to embrace it. We fought with the schools for years and now that she is a grown married woman I am so proud of her and all the ways she found to embrace it and flourish.

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