Interviewsand Articles


Editor's Introduction- Newsletter #24 : Finding One's Place

by Mary Stein, Jul 7, 2012



How can I find for myself a place that feels right, a place where work and joy and growth are all possible? It’s a question that is worth asking and one that makes connections among the pieces in this newsletter.

Bonnie Wells speaks of the long path she took in order to practice the kind of fabric art that she dreamed of. A few decades ago, when she began her schoolist, working artistically with fibers was still something of an outsider activity. Bonnie recalls how it took real persistence on her part to find ways to develop a painter’s deep understanding of color and design, line and form while mastering a craftsman’s work with fabric techniques. Now she teaches others from what she’s put together for herself.

Like Bonnie, Susan Vorbeck has long loved the rich feel of fabric and the arts connected with it that cultivate the intelligence of the hands.  For years Susan fashioned exquisite custom pieces for the homes of wealthy people in the Bay area. Now she’s bringing her love of embroidery and the quilting tradition to bear on her own creative work. That feels like a big transition, and it has led Susan to write about moments in childhood of joy and artistic expression that left lasting impressions. There’s a simplicity, childlike perspective and directness in The Canal and Making Houses that I think you will appreciate.

James Opie, in remembering his first teaching job many years ago at an Ohio high school—a job for which he felt unprepared—says something that bears on our theme: “Whenever possible, act as if you belong where the cross-currents of chance and necessity have placed you.” There’s something bold yet accepting here that speaks to an attitude that can make an uncomfortable situation feel fit to be lived in and even a bit joyful—or quite a bit joyful! Opie’s sense of humor and his respect for his mentors in that small Ohio town permeate the piece.

In Upward Mobility Ronald Hobbs has written a story about a small-town boy weighed down with poverty and class distinctions. But then he finds a magic elevator of truer verticality, right there, where he is.

Finally, John Shirley makes the point that the place that’s right for us may feel quite uncomfortable because it’s the place where self-knowledge exists. How to stay there long enough, without running away, to take in the impressions that are needed for growth, and maybe even joy? That requires real courage, as he points out. I won’t forget his description of the Orthodox priest, the kind of person who inspires such courage.  — Mary Stein.


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