Why did you start coming online? When you discovered that there are [large] communities that connect via the Internet, and some of them connect about things that you care about, how long did it take you to join?
Once you joined up, did you post right away? Or did you hang back, getting the feel for the community before you dared to add your voice? Did you watch from the sidelines, taking note of who is who and how the community moves, or did you step up and say “HERE I AM!” proudly?
Did you feel, as you started to make your place, that you needed to meet these people in person, to interact and be inspired and laugh with them? Did you finally go to a meetup, a gathering, a social event and introduce yourself to everyone with joy… or even quietly smile, hanging back but being thrilled to put faces to names?
Connecting is what makes Fiber Arts so compelling for me. I love the art, I love the act of creation. But the moment where I feel like I am in the perfect place in the world for me is when someone shares their project with me, and all my fibery friends speak up and get excited, too. Or when one of my shepherd friends posts a photo of new lambs, and we all coo and ask about the lineage. Or when we gather at a fiber festival and become elated, almost high on being surrounded by like minds, and share the things that give us joy.
A Knit in Public or Spin in Public day is the perfect example of Community in action. We gather together, commune over the craft that has our hearts, share tips and compare stash and compliment each other’s work. We weave together our strands into a greater, stronger, more beautiful whole.
It’s not just gathering, either. The Community builds connectivity by supporting each other in often non-fiber-related ways, as well. And we help each other out when someone we know is in trouble, or when someone is trying to build more community. Some of the Community-oriented things that the fiber/spinning community has done since I joined their ranks:
- Just this week, I wanted to see daffodils. I love them, and they make me happy, and I don’t have any around here. I got so many photos of my friends’ daffodil patches… a simple kindness, something they didn’t have to do, but they certainly went out of their way to share just to make me smile. It’s a tiny thing but so powerful to me.
- When I held an crowdfunding campaign, people came out of the woodwork to make pledges and spread the word about my efforts. We ended up going well over our goal, which we used gratefully to support the business further.
- Another fiber artist was in a terrible home situation, and people banded together to create a GoFundMe and also donate products for a charity auction. She was able to get to a safe, new home and is very happy and supported now.
- Another amazing artist was very ill and had bills mounting. Again, the community created auctions to contribute toward her bills, as well as direct donations.
- Prayer shawls. Traveling art shows that inspire and educate. Pussyhats, so many given out. Knitted Knockers, comfort bears, scarves for the homeless. Usually knitted or crocheted in solidarity, online or in groups in yarn shops, bars, parks, coffeeshops.
“People leave traces of themselves where they feel most comfortable, most worthwhile.”
― Haruki Murakami
Here’s the thing. I probably get most of my connectivity via online interactions – I get to see most of my fiber friends a couple of times of the year, at best. But the online interactions are just as important as the face-to-face ones, and they are the ones that thread their way through each of my days, a reliable backdrop to my online life. My online friends mean so much to me, and we share knowledge, encouragement, laughs, setbacks and achievements daily. Sometimes there is drama [oh, is there drama sometimes!] – because when you have a gathering that is so large, that encompasses so many walks of life, that has people with every level of experience in the fiber field and often a lot of confidence in their methods being the best… it will happen. It’s natural, it’s to be expected. Personalities sometimes are big, and words are sometimes not adequate for cutting through differences.
But in the end, it’s our interests that connect us, and then the Community that we’ve built around those interests and connections. Today, I’m celebrating us: students and teachers; farmers and yarn shop owners; indie dyers and spinners and those who dabble in those crafts; knitters, crocheters, weavers, felters – anyone who makes a fabric from threads; moms and dads, daughters and sons who all love fiber arts; professionals and rank newbies who just learned that yarn is seductive… all of us. We are connected, we are a community, we are carrying a legacy of fiber arts through time and space to the next generations who will keep it alive.
We are woven together, and we make a strong cloth, indeed.