Valuing Process over Product: West Seattle Library

very special yarn

very special yarn

It was a quiet day at the West Seattle Library a few weeks ago, which gave me some insight into what it means to really value process over product.

Robin with her yarn

Robin with her yarn

Robin stopped by with several balls of wool she had spun and dyed just for the project!  How incredibly lucky I feel to get to work with this stuff, and I’m giving a ball to my husband Paul Margolis for a new ‘crocheted second skin’ project he’s working on.  Robin and I worked and talked for four hours about the pleasure of figuring things out and making things ourselves (and the many uses of Youtube for the autodidact), from roasting coffee in her backyard, to butter making, tatting and making cheese.  It was a conversation I probably wouldn’t have had if 15 people had showed up, and I really don’t know if I would have ever met Robin if it weren’t for this aspect of this project,  to create a space for people to come together, work with our hands and allow the slow and meandering flow of conversation to happen.  It’s not about some preconceived notion of what dialogue or discourse about art should be, or even community.  I have to begin with why on earth I’m there, how this piece came to be, what it is about for me the artist, and then something just begins to happen, sometimes slow, sometimes hard.  And then, like making butter (really), it turns to something harmonious.   The process has opened me up more to taking people as they are, and allowing this work about creating conversation to mean a little something different each time.  DSC_0179 Meeting Robin also  gave me the opportunity to get a bit more earnest about this project being about ‘process’  rather than ‘product’.  Admittedly, I am a person with a drive and a particular amount of ambition — it’s just how I have been able to get things done  — and there is a certain part to ambition that views things in numbers, and ‘how many’.  Is the project a success if I don’t have hundreds of hundreds of people participating?  The last three weeks of meeting many, many people, and the huge spectrum of interactions from 2 minutes of describing the project in a coffee shop, to sitting and talking with a stranger for four hours — this stranger giving up four hours of their time to contribute to something I deeply care about — has made me come to understand that I also have to accept the process of making this River as it unfolds, rather than what ambition might have wanted.  One person showing up at an event allows for a different sort of interaction, just as important as feeling like a lot of people have made space in their lives to join this project.  Community is a word used to describe a group, but that group forms around the tiny moments of connection that happen between 2 people at a time.  I feel much more energized, moving around the city, more appreciative of the small moments of this project.

Robin's yarn in a system of pools

Robin's yarn in a system of pools

7 thoughts on “Valuing Process over Product: West Seattle Library

  1. Have you heard of a book by Barry Stevens about gestalt therapy called ‘Don’t Push the River: It Flows By Itself’? The title says it all, but this entry made me think of it. The metaphor of the river has a lot of aspects to it – I’m sure you will be feeling the effects of this project for years to come.

  2. No Tina, I haven’t heard of it, but with that title I’m going to need to look into it. Zoe Scofield and I had a great meeting today at our site, and talked much about both the allure and fear of water, because of its very real danger. It reminded me of recently going to Snoqualimie Falls and climbing down to sit by the fast moving river, churning around, it hit some kind of fear nerve with me. The metaphors of the river, a river of people, is also kind of frightening, something to get lost in, to disappear…I love the duality, or multiplicity of it. It feels like to me a recurring theme for my work, being drawn to and also afraid of the natural element or deep wildness of ourselves. Also, I actually am beginning to really love the first moments of awkwardness of meeting new people at an event, I try to really feel it, so often we/me try to run from this with chatter. I am starting to just let it sit there, and let things unfold a little more naturally as our hands work. I am sitting and talking with people much longer than one would ever get to do at a party with friends or a potluck or something, it’s wild.

  3. i just had to comment on how beautiful Robin’s yarn looks and how excited I was to hear about the date & place of the unveiling of ‘Mater Matrix Mother and Medium’!!! I am only bummed to be on the other coast. Truth be told I did look into flights from Boston to Seattle – i would love to be there for the big day. will you need help during that time?? maybe I can write it off as a business trip :). peace, Virginia

  4. Your thoughts on the project, your work, and all that it means are very moving! It’s everything I always want art to be, this project, this community. Thank you for sharing it with us so eloquently!

  5. Thanks Sharon. The whole thing is ever unfolding to me, as well. I don’t know EXACTLY what it will be installed or how Zoe will interpret where I’m coming from, or even if people on the street will feel compelled to join in. But I have been hearing that people are really appreciating being invited to be involved. The public aspect, community aspect, isn’t really about getting the work made, very little ‘mileage’ is happening from community involvement, but the work is about opening up myself to viewers in process, talking and teaching something. I actually find it to be really awkward standing in front of finished work, and talking about it, but this is something different, more prolonged and nuanced than ‘opening’ banter. Hope to see you soon, Sharon.

  6. Virginia!
    No promises, but I am potentially bringing this to a city a bit lower than you, but on your coast. And hey, if you want a right- off, I can put you to work …..

  7. I actually find it to be really awkward standing in front of finished work, and talking about it, but this is something different, more prolonged and nuanced than ‘opening’ banter.

    Ha, I understand this completely. Talking about art is so much less awkward and makes so much more sense when you’re making it with people.

    Mandy I’m hoping to make it up there today with some of that yarn I’ve been promising! It’s blue, and fuzzy!

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