This past weekend I spent time with some of the most talented minds in the creative, academic, and business, areas of quilting, when I attended the Quilt Alliance board meeting in Grafton, Connecticut.
Hosted by my friend and fellow board member, Frances Holliday Alford, the feeling of being surrounded and inspired by creative people was such a welcome change to my day-to-day life. Here’s Frances and me.
With that said, that’s the reason there was no Slow Stitching Sunday yesterday.
The Quilt Alliance Board of Directors (a portion of): ( l to r) Emma Parker, Lisa Ellis, Meg Cox, Allie Aller, Mark Lipinski, Nancy Bavor, Janneken Smucker, Leslie Tucker Jennison, Frances Holliday Allford, Amy Milne, Fritz Maassen.
And Speaking of Sunday…
Yesterday was the first ever Slow Stitching Salon, hosted in the beautiful New Hope, Pennsylvania, home of quilt maker/designer, Liza Prior Lucy (www.GloriousColor.com). As many of you know, Liza, Meg Cox, and I spend time together on a fairly regular schedule, and it was with Liza and Meg that The Slow Stitching Movement began.
Coming off of our Quilt Alliance high (combined with the terrific opportunity to include crazy quilter, Allie Aller, in our salon who was getting a ride to the airport shuttle from Meg), Liza thought yesterday morning would be the perfect time to introduce us to another Slows Stitcher, the extraordinarily talented, Chawne Kimber (of whom I’ve been a blog follower for a long, long time — before I even knew who Chawne Kimber was!).
What is a Slow Stitching Salon, you ask?
According to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, a salon is simply “a gathering of people under the roof of an inspiring host, held partly to amuse one another and partly to refine the taste and increase the knowledge of the participants through conversation.”
The philosophy of holding a salon, most commonly associated with French literary and philosophical movements of the 17th and 18th centuries, is “aut delectare aug prodesse est” which just means “either to please or to educate.” And that is the very philosophy that Meg, Chawne, Allie, and I, adopted for our Slow Stitching Salon conducted in Liza’s home yesterday — Our goal was to create an intimate place where a small group of like-minded, slow stitching creatives, could exchange our ideas, show our work, give suggestions, discuss recent inspiration, debate issues within the creative industry, suggest the best tools and notions, etc.
What our Slow Stitching Salon was not, was a mini quilting guild, nor was it a sewing circle. No needles, thread, or projects came to the table unless it was for the purposes of Show and Tell. There is no president, budget, or busy-ness that takes place within a giant group of creative guild stitchers. Again, intimacy and intelligent, creative, and supportive conversation are key and the very reason small Slow Stitching salons are to be created.
Salons in History
The world has a long, long history of salons that have supported writers, artists, actors, and creative people of all kinds. There have been so many creative salons throughout history, that upon closer look, you will find that they are even categorized by historians into salon periods! Recent history of the salons has been documented by Juergen Habermass’ work, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere (Translated to English from French in 1989), which argues that the salons were of great historical importance.
So, we, as Slow Stitchers, are in good company.
Some of the more famous salons throughout history:
Coco Channel’s arts and literary salon in her Paris apartment.
This is the room Coco Chanel’s salon was held in, at 31 Rue Cambon.
For some forty years, the Gertrude Stein home at 27 rue de Fleurus on the Left Bank of Paris was a renowned Saturday evening gathering place for both expatriate American artists and writers and others noteworthy in the world of vanguard arts and letters, most notably Pablo Picasso. Entrée into the Stein salon was a sought-after validation, and Stein became combination mentor, critic, and guru to those who gathered around her, including Ernest Hemingway, who described the salon in A Moveable Feast. Wouldn’t you just know the Gertrude and I share Pittsburgh as our hometown? Here’s a pic of Gerturde and her companion, Alice B. Toklas, in the rue de Fleurus apartment.
I think you might get a kick out of this New York Times piece called, ‘In Soho, Salon Is a Salon, In Homage To Gertrude Stein.’ It Is about the re-creation of Gertrude Stein’s famed Paris salon in an apartment in SoHo in 2012. Here’s the link: http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/10/raising-the-curtains-on-an-homage-to-gertrude-stein/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0
How about this image of Molière reading Tartuffe at the literary salon of Anne “Ninon” de Lenclos in the 1660s, as depicted by Nicolas-André Monsiau in 1802. I might have had to pass on this one.
In traditional salons, women played the most important role as they influenced, often powerfully, who would attend and decide the subjects that were to be discussed at the meetings, whether they be of a creative, political or even social in nature. Also, during the 18th century in Paris (where apparently all of the fun stuff was happening), the idea of a women-only salon really took off. Paris was full of salons hosted and attended by influential women, and they were extraordinarily popular.
In the 1970s, New York, women-only and feminist salons sprouted up around the city. Here is a photograph of American feminist and advocate of nonviolent social change – Barbara Deming, founder of the Herstory Writers Workshop -Erika Duncan, American poet, essayist and feminist – Adrienne Rich, and Gloria Orenstein – Professor of Comparative Literature and Gender Studies and founder of The Woman’s Salon for Literature, at a New York Women’s Salon in the ’70s.
Of course, the most famous salon in American history was the Algonquin Roundtable, hosted at the Algonquin Hotel in New York City (another coincidence is that The Algonquin was the hotel I stayed in when visiting New York City for the first time in the 1970s).
This salon was composed of a celebrated group of New York City writers, critics, actors and comics. Gathering initially as part of a practical joke, members of “The Vicious Circle”, as they dubbed themselves, met for lunch each day at the Algonquin Hotel from 1919 until roughly 1929. At these luncheons they engaged in wisecracks, wordplay and witticisms that, through the newspaper columns of Round Table members, were disseminated across the country. It literally made Dorothy Parker a household name!
The newest kid on the block, and clearly destined to be the most famous salon at all, is the newly formed New Hope Slow Stitching Salon ( I hope you’ll become excited about creating your own salon by the time you get to the end of this blog).
New Hope Slow Stitching Salon: (l to r) Allie Aller, Chawne Kimber, Liza Prior Lucy, Mark Lipinski, Meg Cox
Why You Should Create a Salon…
Without having to engage in a lot of flowery prose, creating salon is important for your creative development. Why? Because creativity depends on community and it is very important to your continued creative development that you create and participate in your own artistic and inspirational community.
Yes, we have guilds for needlework, and stitching, and quilting, but those are just giant clubs – disseminators of information. A salon, by contrast, is a place where people meet with creative intention, not unlike The Slow Stitching Movement, which asks you to create with intention and dig deeper into your creativity and creative process.
A Slow Stitching Salon is a time for creative reflection as well as a time for thoughtful and helpful discussion. It is not a coffee klatch nor is it a place to learn technique or to finesse your work.
The purpose of a Slow Stitching Salon is to spend time with creative people, like yourself, to share in a very intimate and inspired way, your slow stitching process and progress with like-minded souls. It is around these Slow Stitching Salon tables, and in these Slow Stitching Salon rooms, where you will find the creative fellowship, disagreements, concepts, and understanding, that will not only clarify your place in slow stitching art world, but will open up yet another layer of creativity and inspiration within you as you share your own journey with those who will recognize themselves in your story, and vice versa.
A Slow Stitching Salon will offer you a nurturing place and solace in a world where being tweeted, texted, telephoned, and emailed while you walk is commonplace. A Slow Stitching Salon gives you respite and a time to unplug from the world, while plugging into the creative psyches of your peers.
Liza’s Slow Stitching Salon
Our first salon was very informal. Liza invited us to her home on an early Sunday morning and served hot coffee, bagels, cream cheese, amazing lox, whitefish spread (OMG I died and went to heaven), fresh raspberries, and all of the sides to create a relaxed and unstuffy environment where we artists were free to be ourselves.
While Liza, Meg and I knew each other, only Meg and I knew Allie, Allie did not know Liza or Chawne, and Chawne only knew Liza. That sure didn’t stop any conversation! We were all excited and happy to be there and to help figure out what this salon was going to be.
We began with getting to know each other. Soon, a debate began regarding fabric quality. Then the topics of patchwork genre, style, design, and generational quilting, etc. took right off. That, in itself was both motivational and inspirational. We discussed scissors (specifically Perfect Scissors by Karen Kay Buckley – of which I am a major fan as is Liza. They are wonderful).
Next, we participated in show and tell which opened up whole new areas of intentional and creative conversation.
Chawne Kimber began her Show & Tell first . . .
This cross stitch project, a self-portrait in a series that Chawne is creating, is stitched on 40-ct LINEN and literally contains thousands and THOUSANDS of stitches! I had to move away from the table — as a cross stitcher myself, I was drooling all over the place.
To see more of Chawne Kimber’s incredible work, visit her blog by CLICKING HERE
Next Allie Aller showed a quilt she made completely from vintage fabrics, handkerchiefs, with added embroidery and broderie perse, etc.
Allie also shared an embroidered flower framed project on fabric that she teaches
Liza showed some of her slow stitching from past years, as a professional knitter. She kept the most meaningful knitting she had done for both sentimental reasons and for reminders of the technical ability that went into each sweater that she knitted for her daughters.
She also shared a national Torah Stitch by Stitch stitching project she is involved with
Here’s What We Discovered
How to Start Your Own Slow Stitching Salon
- Keep your group small. As Liza had mentioned, no more than 10 — and less is better.
- Consider wrangling someone willing to be the Slow Stitching Salon coordinator. She is the person who will schedule the dates and times of the salon meetings, be the communicator within the group, and keep the discussion and format on track, and the salon moving. Maybe that’s you.
- Schedule your salon meetings more than several months in advance, trying to make sure that all of your members will be available on those dates. If potential members of your salon want just a creative-type organization where they can show up or not at will, they would be best served joining the large local guild and not your Slow Stitching Salon. Each of the members will only grow creatively if everybody shows up and participates. Again, your salon, like the Slow Stitching Movement, is about the process of creativity — Engaging 100% in the process will afford you the benefits of more creativity, financial responsibility, plus any emotional, physical, and spiritual experiences that come with your work.
- Each Slow Stitching Salon should be autonomous and responsible for creating their own creative and inspirational intention. Figure this out as a group, perhaps creating a one or two-line statement of purpose.
- Set a parameter as to whether there are hors d’oeuvres involved, or meals prepared, or whether it’s only BYOB cocktails — or maybe just coffee, tea, and cake. Some salons, like book clubs, could involve a potluck dessert. What you don’t want is that the salon is so focused and planned around food, entertaining, eating and imbibing, that the creative conversation and benefits of the salon are completely overshadowed. It’s not a party. It’s a creative exchange.
- Set a time limit. 3-4 hours is plenty of time for discussion and opportunities for growth.
- Create a schedule. Start with a half hour of fun ‘catch up’ time. Move into the discussion for a certain amount of time. Next, Show & Tell. Maybe discuss products, notions, etc. , next. This format and discussion guidelines are all up to the individual group.
Always choose a topic that is relatable to your stitching genre. Of course, you don’t have to stick to the topic throughout the salon time that you are spending together, but having a topic in advance will get the ball rolling and generate a discussion.
See? This isn’t so difficult, is it? You’re just answering the Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How questions that you learned in the 4th grade:
- What is the vision of your Slow Stitching Salon?
- What kind of Slow Stitching Salon will you become?
- Who can be a member of the Slow Stitching Salon?
- How many Slow Stitching Salon members should you allow?
- Where should the Slow Stitching Salon meet?
- When and how often should the Slow Stitching Salon meet?
- What should you bring to the Slow Stitching Salon?
- What should you serve, if anything, at the Slow Stitching Salon?
- How do you communicate with each other outside of the Slow Stitching Salon?
- How will your Slow Stitching Salon support each other in following the tenets of The Slow Stitching Movement?
- How can your Slow Stitching Salon give back to your community?
The Benefits of Starting or Belonging to a Slow Stitching Salon
- It reinforces our individual commitment to our stitching and fiber art.
- It keeps us engaged and focuses our individual creativity as we pursue our stitching and fiber art.
- It can provide each member with positive feedback from a creative point of view, rather than a ‘personal taste’ point of view.
- It motivates us toward excellence in our slow stitching projects.
- It helps us overcome our creative blocks and stumbles.
- It helps us clarify our creative vision.
- It motivates us to continue on our journey rather than set our projects aside out of frustration, time limitations, or disinterest.
- It encourages dialogue between creative personalities who otherwise can become very isolated in their workspaces and studios.
- It broadens both our appreciation and understanding/motivation of the work and process of our fellow stitching artists.
- It creates the perfect environment to share ideas and learn more about the art.
- It helps us reflect on our own stitching, stitching art, and creative process as we continue on our journey between salons.
- It helps us recognize and confirm ourselves as artists and not merely hobbyists (not that there is anything wrong with that).
- It helps us identify our place on the creative spectrum, our place within our local stitching community, and also in a more global sense.
- It forces us to think in more divergent ways, outside the box, in terms of our ideas and creative process.
- It helps us to be able to communicate, in very tangible terms, what we do and who we are as creative stitchers.
- It allows us to safely compare our skill-sets and ideas with other creative stitchers.
- It can build our credibility as a stitching creative.
- It builds both friendship and community within creative circles.
- It’s fun!