Saturday, July 13, 2013

Crafts and fellow craftsman

 Meet Wendy. She and I have been designing new necklaces for SHAPE even though she is blind. (She lost her sight as an adult.) She threads fishing line onto a standard sewing needle by herself and makes necklaces and bracelets, sometimes alone and sometimes with a partner. When she works by herself she has beads chosen for her and placed in containers on the table and she works out patterns based on the colors she is told they are, their tactile quality and what she imagines in her head. I find myself tuning into "sketching ideas in my head" so that I can think more like she does and find the words to explain things in such a way that she can create pictures in her head. 

Wendy wearing a necklace she strung using beads that I made and the matching earrings.

On Monday she came up with an intricate new pattern where she creates a circle of small, wooden beads alternating with larger paper beads - I dubbed it "The Wendy necklace".

 Her partner, Sylvia, is mentally disabled. So when they work together the trainer, Tracy, or I lay out a necklace on a bead board and Sylvia hands Wendy the beads in order. It is certainly a lesson in patience since Wendy needs to do everything by feel, but is mentally sharp as a tack and Sylvia is often hesitant and seems unsure of herself and sometimes struggles to follow simple instructions. Yesterday felt like a real triumph - Sylvia strung a necklace by herself while Wendy worked independently. And I taught Susanne, another client, the beginnings of wire wrapping techniques which she took to straight away. 

On Tuesdays I am taking a condensed version of a flax weaving class which usually runs 12 weeks. I feel pretty comfortable with it even though fibers/textiles are not my strongest suit. Flax is strong and forgiving and bracelets take about 45 mins. on the first go and give an feeling of success. My teacher is excellent and classmates are encouraging. We are all at different stages of learning. One of the woman just finished a gorgeous 2 strap, flat bottomed handbag. 
My classmate, Olive, hard at work using plain and dyed stripes of flax. 

Front right is my bracelet. I purchased the square one which was made by one of my classmates (for $8...that TOO cheap don't you think? The bracelets in the back were made for me by my teacher, Wanda. 


  1. Genevieve, I'm just catching up on all your posts, I didn't realize that you were blogging from your trip. Very interesting trip reports, looking forward to more. Let me know how I can help to spread the word about your efforts and the craft-making of the local makers. Are you able to take more photos of the paper jewelry makers and talk more about their design inspirations, etc? I may be able to help get some international attention for their project via an art/craft magazine.

  2. I loved reading this, Genevieve, especially about how Wendy and Sylvia are enabling one another by sharing their strengths. I bet they would love to hear about Oregon maker Cindy Peterson, who describes herself as a "blind artisan creating Polymer and mixed media jewelry as her passion". Cindy sells her jewelry at her local Farmer's Market AND her own Etsy shop. Here is her FB jewelry page:

    Irrepressible artists like Cindy, Wendy and Sylvia inspire and humble me. We love to whine about how our Muse "abandons" us, but they just reach out for that next bead and keep on creating. Thanks so much for sharing, Genevieve!