The Ripple Effect: continuing and spreading results of an event or action.
The Butterfly Effect: the phenomenon whereby a minute, localized change in a complex system can have large effects elsewhere.
Similar concepts, just varying with implied scale. Despite that, both are applicable to explore as artists or creative people.
Art does not occur in a void.
We are both influenced by and influencers of our environment. And environment in this sense can mean both the small personal space we live in – our home, local community, friends and family – and the larger world that surrounds all of us together.
As a fiber artist, I have to consider this micro and macro effect in many different aspects. Currently, I’ve been thinking about the impact of textiles: creation and disposal of, by-products, and the environmental influence of all these things. Close to home, I worry about what’s left over from my dye vats. I consider how I’ll dispose of my waste fibers, and the clothing I no longer wear. I mend more, and repurpose. I try to buy local fibers, rather than ones that might need to be shipped great distances, whenever possible.
I note how these small changes create ripples.
Looking for local fiber means keeping money in local pockets. It supports small businesses and farmers in my close community. It builds relationships.
Being mindful of dyepot waste means protecting my tiny backyard environment, which I keep pesticide free, and where I grow food. It keeps potential runoff from getting into sewers and then into the Chesapeake Bay, which is a delicate ecosystem. I only use dyes with citric acid or acetic acid as the fixative; there is good info for safe disposal of other mordants/fixatives here.
Mindful consumption extends beyond my fiber purchases – I am also working to reduce my purchasing of garments and other textiles beyond basic needs. Before I buy any new top or towel or sheet I make sure it’s only to replace something I previously used past usability. Fabrics are broken down into other useful items – I am a big proponent of cloth rags, which can be reused endlessly! A good “rag bag” can yield fabric for many projects.
By keeping my wardrobe smaller and curated, I’ve found that I wear all my clothes, not just favorites, and I feel much less stress when it comes to choosing outfits! A capsule wardrobe is still smaller than my situation, but I definitely let this idea inform my choices for what I’ll be wearing in the future.
I also repair my clothing as much as possible before re-purposing.Many of my staple choices are 20+ years old, because I take careful steps to maintain them! Not over-washing, using less detergent and no fabric softener, and mending holes are just some of my tactics.
Same with linens and rugs – I take good care of them and squeeze every bit of life out of them. When they finally give up the ghost, they are great rags, winter plant protection, mess soppers, steering wheel covers, trunk liners… really, the options are endless.
This thoughtful approach also translates into my art.
I take my textile “waste” like snipped yarn ends and re-card them into batts for spinning or using longer pieces to add to yarn as I spin it for textural interest. Yarn ends also get recycled into my weaving projects.
Old teeshirts that have been cut into strips make great additions to woven or crocheted textiles, or of course made into rugs. Wool waste from fleece sorting can be cleaned and used as stuffing in pillows or stuffed animals. I also use wool in my compost and directly on my garden beds!
Leftover yarn from projects often gets turned into art projects like yarnbomb style pieces or things like plant pot covers. Really, the options are endless.
I know that these are small efforts in the world.
But at the same time, small efforts add up. And like a ripple effect, it can spread far and wide if we talk about the individual efforts we are making.
We are small, indeed, and we can’t make the grand efforts on our own. But with each thing we do on our own, our butterfly wings beat out the small changes that can create something really remarkable.