Sunday, January 09, 2022

a creative treasure trove and a reminder to live life to the fullest

one of the members of our local creative group posted on our facebook page that she was giving away her batik supplies, including a number of cantings (tjantings), which i've long been looking for (they're the little "pens" with a vessel to hold the hot wax). i wrote to her and said i'd love to have them. lucky for me, i was first. she lives only about 10 minutes away, so i arranged to stop by this afternoon to pick them up. i took a bottle of wine, since she didn't want to sell the supplies.

i had met her a few years ago at one of our exhibitions, but she's not a super active member, so i didn't know her well. stepping into her home, i loved how creative it felt...the entry hallway was covered in a collage of wallpaper samples. it's always wonderful to step into a creative home. next up, was a wall of book shelves and two comfy chairs. so inviting and wonderful. she had the things all out on the table and invited me to sit down. 

like the treasure trove another friend gave me last year, she had her extensive notes from her art education, with all the exact formulas of all the colors. she had highlighted some of the most key instructions for me. and it seemed important to her that i could read and understand them. i felt, like i did last spring, so privileged to be given this treasure. i also fear that there is no longer such an education, where you really learn everything there is to learn about dyeing fabric. 

she also gave me her color samples, on which she had carefully noted her exact formulas for achieving the colors, sometimes with multiple color baths. when i look at them, what i see is a quilt. a beautiful, rich, colorful quilt. 

she looked different than when i last saw her. her hair was very short, but i hadn't realized that it was because she had been through chemotherapy. and that that was why she was giving away her batik supplies. she has an aggressive breast cancer and at her last appointment, her doctor told her to think about how she wanted to use what time she had left. what that must feel like. it takes my breath away.

it was sobering to talk to her and her husband about what it's like to have a terminal cancer diagnosis in the time of corona. and even though we only scratched the surface, all of us with tears in our eyes, it was very moving and intense and i felt privileged to be part of the moment, even as i can't even imagine how it must feel.

i can't imagine what it's like, but there, in the moment i could, for just a second, even though it isn't my story. and then i understood the feeling i got that it was so important to her to share her notes on the colors. 

we all want to leave something behind. we want to have mattered. we want to create something lasting. and i want to create something lasting from the fabric she dyed and from her supplies. so i'm going to learn how to use them, even though they require learning about caustic soda. i have her carefully-written instructions and i can ask her for help, as she only lives about 10 minutes away. 

we have to live our lives while they're here, seize the moments while we can, and not waste a single one and leave behind all the beauty we can.

i am so grateful to have her samples and her supplies and i will think of her every single moment as i use them to make something beautiful. it's the very least i can do.


celkalee said...

What an amazing opportunity to have met this woman and for her to share her knowledge and her instruments. I believe, strongly, that each of us with creative pursuit has the obligation to share our work and our process with anyone who wishes to learn. Teaching the younger generations in artistic mediums has become a quest of sorts, if we do not assume the task it will be lost. I currently have two quilt-making students. They inspire me!

Molly said...

Knowing that her supplies have gone on to someone who will respect and use them will be a comfort to her. I'm sure she's pleased that you answered her FB post first. How heartbreaking though. Fuck cancer.

julochka said...

@celkalee - I am so inspired to make a quilt using her supplies, it's filling my actual dreams when I'm asleep. Our coming exhibition has the theme "Color Pop" and I want to make it for that and hopefully she will be able to participate as well, so it will actually be a collaboration.

@Molly, I hope she feels that way and yes, fuck cancer. It feels a bit strange to benefit from someone else's misfortune, but it also makes me feel an obligation to do something meaningful or at least beautiful with the gift she gave to me.