An artist is a nourisher and a creator who knows that during the act of creation there is collaboration. We do not create alone. –Madeleine L’Engle
Angela Davis was my first friend in Louisville. My husband had accepted a new job in town, and the company brought us here for Derby before we made the move. My firstborn was only ten months old at the time, and still nursing furiously on demand. I had never left him for more than an hour or two. I couldn’t leave him with “just anybody”. I was a new Mom; neurotic, attached, nervous… and so I called the local Waldorf school. I figured that anybody trained in the ways of Rudolf Steiner would have a good feel for how I cared for my sweetly spoiled boy. That’s how I met Angie. She called me back and I interviewed her for an hour (can you imagine!). Even so, she agreed to take on the job. I laugh at this memory now, because these days I parent four kids and my parenting skills have, shall we say, gone way down from those days? But Angie was patient, compassionate- understanding. As soon as we met that Derby day- me in heels and a huge hat, Angie newly pregnant and emanating peace- we became lifelong friends.
Angie is a local treasure, an unparalleled craftswoman. Her fingers are always at work; painting, spinning, felting, drawing…. I can’t name all the crafts she does because each time I see her she has a new one in her hands. She is deeply schooled in the ways of Waldorf, and walks with a preternatural calm and forthrightness. She’s the kind of woman that gives birth at home, in between a few loads of laundry. In the laundry room. That’s an actual true, literal, Angie story.
Angie somehow manages to be a single parent to four kids; work full time, and attend graduate school to become a family therapist. All at the same time. That’s what I love about her. Her house is not perfectly clean; her life can sometimes be perfectly messy. She walks the path of Steiner but keeps it real. She was my son’s Waldorf teacher for some time after we moved to Louisville, and I remember the moment that our innocent baby started to become a real boy; a hitting, biting, mad, toy grabbing little boy. I was so ashamed in the beginning; what was I doing wrong? Why was my son not the next incarnation of Buddha? Angie was the one who helped me to let go of perfection in parenting and keep it real. Yes, we can strive to transmit to our children our highest values; we can strive to live those values ourselves. We can live in communities that support those values. But in the end, that community will be a cult if it does not also include the realness of who we are, the ways we slip, trip, and fall. Angie taught me that I will fail as a Mother, my son will slip into darkness as a child, and we will still be here for each other, in counsel, family, and community. And through it all, there is a thread that Angie is holding in her hands. Angie is crafting in good times and bad, making art out of the ordinary fibers of life, from sheep’s wool and tears and laughter and plant roots and watercolors. I love being a part of Angie’s community and part of the song of her art.
Angie: I can’t pinpoint a time when I started crafting. I’ve always been an artist and always had a lively interest in diverse ways of personal expression: music, writing, visual arts, sculpture. When I say I’ve always been an artist, I don’t mean it in some pretentious way. For a long time I hesitated to call myself an artist. I mean artist in the most playful, experimental, fearless way. I believe we are all born creative. If we weren’t meant to have some creative capacities, the human race would have failed by now. Creating is innate. Handcrafts were a natural extension of the artistic interests I’ve cultivated and as a way of expressing two things: what it means to be human in the world, and how to uniquely express who I am in this world. The by-product of those expressions is beauty.
Sylvia: What is your current passion as a crafter?
Angie: My current passion as a crafter is making felt flowers, painting, and spinning. I find that the seasons guide what craft speaks most to me. For instance, spinning is a very introspective process, and very grounding. Knitting is similar in that it lends itself to repetition and logical progressions. These crafts feel more wintery to me. Painting and feltmaking give you less control over the process, and are experimental and improvisational, similar to unpredictable Spring and heated Summer.
Sylvia: Why should we craft?
Angie: We should craft to connect: to each other, to our own souls, to the world. Crafting can bring out the highest in human beings: empathy, generosity, resourcefulness, connectedness, gentleness, peace. Crafting gives us a sense of the value of things and people; a sense of our place in the world. Most of us, for example, do not know who made our shirt or where it was made. Making your own shirt (or your own song, or your own hat, or your own rug) gives you an appreciation for your capacities as a human being. Sharing what you have made with others bears all the rewards of a generous spirit. Today’s world is very instant-everything. To take time to make something of use and value is the antithesis of what is expected of us these days, which is exactly why we should do it! Rushing through life gives us a lot of anxiety. Often we cannot calm our own thoughts. We worry, we spin, we read books and blogs about being happy; how to be happy. Perhaps one part of happiness comes when we are able to slow down and enjoy a long process. In this process we can heal what is tired or repressed inside of us. We are uniquely made to use our hands in meaningful ways, to connect to our own spirits and feeling life, and to connect with each other.
Reprinted with permission. Sylvia Benito is an author, investment advisor, and chef who lives in Louisville, Kentucky. Her writings can be found at the blog www.sylviabenito.com and in her upcoming memoir. Angela Davis is a craftswoman, Waldorf instructor, and singer who lives in Louisville, Kentucky. To read her writings or find her handwork for sale, find her at theindigorabbit.blogspot