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 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. 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.