Knowing Me

The pool outside the guesthouse were we stayed
The pool outside the guesthouse were we stayed

I laid on the brick patio like an alligator sunning herself on the edge of an Everglade swamp.  The warm brick under my bare legs and shoulders, the sun making yellow and black patterns on the insides of my eyelids, my mind restful in a way that only happens when I’m away from home.  Jon was napping in the guest cottage where we would be staying for the next couple of days.   A four room, art filled house you might find on one of those TV shows or in a magazine.  Outside the tall glass doors that opened onto the patio and pool, it had the same smell as when you walk out of the Florida airport escaping a long Upstate NY winter in the middle of February.   Warm green leaves that never seem to die and flowers that bloom all year, it smelled like paradise.

I don’t know if it was being away and exhausted from everything that came before, or being in such a different environment, surrounded by wealth as exotic as the trees and flowers, but lying on the edge of that brick-lined pool, something shifted inside of me.  I suddenly knew I needed to be able to talk about my work differently.  I knew what I was about to encounter, I had been to these types of events before.  Flown out to Florida or the West Coast, having dinners and cocktail parties with wealthy, well educated, smart, successful people. Me, with my thrift store clothes and state university education. I make things out of recycled clothes and fabric I would tell them, quilts, pillow, potholders.  I draw with my sewing machine. What I really felt like  I was saying each time these words came out of my mouth was,” I don’t do anything important, I’m not worth talking to.”

So I thought of my work and how I would describe.  I came up with a great answer, describing how my work was influenced from the feminist idea of the personal being political.  The role of dreams and affirmations and the traditional necessity of quilting.   Naming my potholders Message Potholders and talking about the recycled materials I use.  But then I realized it had less to do with the words I used to describe my work and more to do with how I felt about my work, and myself.  This whole thing is really about self worth.   And it’s true that what I put out there is what people will take in, but if I don’t believe it, if I don’t know it, then it doesn’t matter what I say or how I say it.

Understanding and knowing this made me feel different.  So when I went to that fundraising dinner the first night, I may not have gotten all the words right, when someone asked me what I do,  but I was able to have some meaningful conversations and actually enjoy myself.   Because it’s not so much how I talk about what I do, but who I am and how I feel about myself and what I do.

31 thoughts on “Knowing Me

  1. I am willing to bet you impressed many are one of those people that people want to be more like after they meet you.

  2. Maria, Maria, how could you possibly think “I don’t do anything important, I’m not worth talking to.”? That breaks my heart and brings tears to my eyes. There are so many people in the world that are not creative and could never do the things you do. I’m one of them. I brag to people about going to your open house and meeting you, a Fiber Artist. I share with them the wonderful things you make. I think it is amazing what you can do with old fabric and a sewing machine. My mother-in-law sews quilts. When I told her about what you do, she said you are gifted and wonderful and she could never make what you make. She buys patterns and takes classes. She does not create. I love your uplifting spirit and I missed your blog and Jon’s too. I’m glad you’re back home and creating and writing. Thank you for your many gifts!!

  3. Extremely interesting: you are beginning to know yourself I do believe.

    When I bought one of your amazing pillows I was expecting something less professional–sweet and cute maybe? I was astounded by its beauty and perfect sewing. Its message is with me every day anew.

    The two potholders–one for myself and one for my daughter were therefore not a surprise although I gasped with pleasure when I unwrapped them.

    You are indeed an artist and I suspect that one day your sewing creations will be in museums.

    Modesty should be a thing of the past now. I see you up with the designer of PEACH Kaleidoscopes. We came across him when we were both graduate students at the University of Texas at Austin. He was selling his first kaleidoscopes in a students’ street market. They were made of cardboard and paint and dime store beads, sequins etc. They sang to us and how right we were. Years afterwards my husband had to pay over $300 to buy one of his simplest ones in beautifully polished and veered woods and , yes, they are in many International collections and I have been asked more than once to sell the set he made for us to a museum, which we will eventually do.

    All my best wishes to you,

    Erika W.

  4. So well said. I also allow these negative self criticisms about my choice of career, teaching, to taint this calling I have. I allow myself to feel inferior next to my peers who chose to be business/legal/banking professional women and men. Yet I know in my heart of hearts I am doing the right thing for me. I must stop demeaning my calling, my gifts. Thank you for your wise words.

  5. YOU GO GIRL! It is wonderful to see and read about you coming into your own Power! I am sure you gave the California crowd something to think about. Tess

  6. Good for you Maria! The fact that you are different from the people you encounter at cocktail parties is not a negative thing, although I completely empathize with your intimidation. You live a simple life full of value, because it is different from being able to buy everything you want. I am glad that the people you and Jon met were so willing to give to that beautiful animal shelter, that they had the means to do so. But they could not create what you do, and they have no idea how much you touch the people you come into contact with through your lovely work.

  7. YES! Love this post. You are an artist with much to say. It comes across loud and clear in your work. May your ideas keep flowing and your spools of thread never run out.

  8. Bravo, Bravo, and another Bravo Maria….I am so happy that you experienced this time of clarity. From first seeing Jon’s pictures of your guest house in Atherton…I have withdrawn from it.

    I grew up in a similar environment…my grandparents had friends who lived in Atherton…nice people, very nice people. We visited often. But I never felt as if I belonged there or anyplace like it.
    You are genuine and substantive…not that wealthy people can’t be too (sometimes)…it is just sometimes harder to identify, I think.

    Thank you for who you are, it is so lovely.

  9. You’re right about that, Maria, it is not what you do but how you feel about what you do and you will reflect that yourself. But it sounds as though you were in pretty heady company out there in Paolo Alto. Wealth such as that has a way of intimidating one.

    I remember when I went into Art College at age 43, I did not tell anyone that I was a quilter (“just a quilter” to my mind)yet, because of a class that I took in my first year (one semester drawing flowers for wallpaper designs), I came up with an ongoing still popular quilt design that I shared with a national magazine in Canada. They featured it in their craft section, made $100,000 in paper patterns in the first year (this was in 1984), I received a commission of $10,000. I never mentioned this to my instructor of this particular class until after I’d graduated. I met him at some function some years later and told him. He was astonished and said, why didn’t you tell me about this, it would have been inspiring to the class. But you see, to some degree, I still felt that I was “just a quilter”. I’d seen some beautiful art at the College, much of it historical, much of it current, it was never in cloth but in another medium.

    I suspect most people who met you knew what you did as it’s shared so beautifully as part of Jon’s website. But still, I know what if feels like sometimes to meet people who mightn’t even know what a thrift shop was or that you had to dress up and ‘be somebody’ while there…country clothes are very different to upscale city clothes, aren’t they. A very different life but one that must have been pleasurable for those few days. Jon’s pictures of the state of the art Humane Society building are very inspiring. One could only wish it could happen elsewhere.
    SandyP in the country, in Canada

  10. Very well said and beautifully written! Maria – you have SO many talents and now you can add writing to that list. I am so glad that you both got to go experience the “high life”. Even though money is nice, I think I would prefer to have the wonderful life and love of each other that you and Jon have!
    Thanks for writing and sharing this – it made my day!

  11. I think you’re a pretty damned talented fiber artist. I hope I can someday draw with my thread and machine half as well as you do.

    mary ann

  12. Maria, I am in the same boat. It’s hard for me to think of my creative projects as work worthy of anyone’s praise. I wasn’t raised to feel comfortable when I talk about myself. If I did talk about myself I was quickly put in my place and compared to someone just a little bit better.
    Good for you, for talking up your “recycled” art. For putting your values into your work. And standing up for what you believe. For loving you enough to have a good time.

  13. Thank you for this thoughtful comment. Your ability to express yourself is a comfort to me. I always feel more connected/centered to myself after reading what you felt. I have no doubt there are so many of us. xo

  14. I can relate to this. I’m constantly trying to define my work. Am I a writer? A visual writer? A photographer? At the end of the day I usually just say ‘Oh screw it.’ I see you as a vintage artist or a tactile artist. Your scarves are about feel and texture to me. There is a comfort in this. Like blankets around someone’s shoulders. Your art is warm and inviting and I’m sure it is an expression of this aspect of you.

  15. Laying directly on the bricks says all we need to know about you. Authentic is the word I would say describes you. Brave would be another. Kudos!!

  16. Message holders, talking pillows
    Worth more than one could know.
    Your work speaks volumes from the heart
    Makes me want so much to sew!

    We left the land you visited
    To remain on an even keel
    No amount of gold and glitter
    Can keep a person REAL!

    And you are so very talented and unique. Something money can’t buy. I’m honored to have watched your gift unfold; you need not to explain anything!But you do it so honestly.

  17. “I was able to have some meaningful conversations and actually enjoy myself. Because it’s not so much how I talk about what I do, but who I am and how I feel about myself and what I do.” Bravo!

  18. This is beautiful, Maria – your words and the well-deserved comments. I come to Bedlam Farm and Full Moon Fiber Art to remind myself often to live my genuine life, and am always so inspired. Thank you always. It is nice to have the CA experience, briefly, but oh so much better to come back to your honest life.

  19. You captured it perfectly, Maria, in your last sentence: what matters is what YOU think about you and what you think about your work. These are simple words to write yet sometimes hard to remember. Your gifts of being open, thoughtful, honest and sincere come through loud and clear in your work. On many levels, you are inspiring. Susie

  20. Maria,
    This was such a beautiful, heartfelt post. There are SO many of us who feel this way. Why is that, I wonder? What you wrote is absolutely true, it IS about how we feel about ourselves and about what we are drawn to, in terms of what we “do”. Maybe it just takes practice. I will start now. Other Human: “What do you do?”; Me: “What do I do? I pull ticks off of dogs. I mow my lawn. I help my kids become good humans. I write. I take care of my Dad and Mom-in-Law. I love. I live a little and write a little and discover who I am a little each day. What do YOU do?” (Clearly I need a GREAT business card (hehehe!))

  21. Maria – you are such an inspiration to so many. I think we all have that nasty little voice in our head that says things like “you aren’t of value” We have to tell that little voice to hit the road.. You are of value. Your work is inspirational. I wouldn’t be a budding fiber artist today if I hadn’t met you and saw your work. We flew several thousand miles to be at the Pig Barn Art Gallery show that year. I was absolutely tongue-tied when we walked in and you were so warm and enthusiastic about your work and those of the other artists. And when I managed to get the words out about what I wanted to do, your eyes lit up and you didn’t say the usual. You said – you can do it – get to it or words to that effect. And I did. So when the rich and famous ask what you do – Tell them you inspire others to reach for the stars. And you are also a Master Fiber Artist whose works affirms women everywhere.

  22. Maria, I love being a witness as you unfold as an artist. You inspire and amaze me with your gift. I am honored to have your art in my home.

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