An initiative of the Los Angeles Count Department of Mental Health, Why We Rise LA took place in May 2021, supporting hundreds of Community Arts & Culture Projects which took place across all Los Angeles County neighborhoods, in partnership with more than 100 community groups, artists, grassroots leaders, healers and other LA County Departments. These projects and collaborations included mural making, ancestral healing workshops, a Countywide public literary art project, a Countywide chalk art program and more to celebrate the remarkable resources and communities in LA County and used arts-based strategies for healing and wellbeing.
I was honored to teach a workshop as part of Why We Rise LA 2021 in coordination with 18th Street Art Center’s Arts Learning Lab @ Home: called: Bookmaking with Self-Compassion. See the workshop HERE! Nearly 70 online participants learned to create the “Flower Fold” book structure, then added embellishment, images, and words expressing their experience of the pandemic, where they are at now, what they learned, what they wanted to share, their hopes, wishes, dreams, cares , fears, realizations, trauma, expressing the full gamut of human emotions.
I took the words generated by this workshop, and requested from the community at large, and stitched them into an Artists’ Book I made as a community collaboration, entitled, “Unfolding Possibilities“. (“Unfolding Possibilities – Possibilities Unfolding”).
The range of words submitted was wide-ranging, thought-provoking and evocative….including opposite emotions and experiences and bits of truth-telling, realizations and wisdom participants seemed eager to pass on to others in other words, humanness in its multiplicity. How to put it all together?
I had already constructed the flower fold book, comprised of 12 x 12 x 12″ sheets of thick ivory colored mulberry paper, folded and glued together to create a sequence of repeating unfolding forms.
I began with sketching and jotting down ideas, and my own emotions, as part of my morning writing practice, then developed a petal-like schemata for the words, reflecting the flower fold book structure.
I played around with fonts, settled on one, determined the sizing for the words, and printed them all out, then cut them into strips, so each could be easily seen. Laid out on my work tables, they seemed to call out for attention and consideration. I placed my Mom’s amazing half-century old (at least) sewing box on the table as an inspirational centrifuge, and set to work.
I put together words in a four point petal formation on each section, both front and back, of the structure, using the folds as a guide, and paired some words that related to each other, and others that were opposed, to express the wide range of human emotions and experiences brought forth by the pandemic.
I chose sewing thread from my Mom’s box to reflect the everyday-ness of the activity of sewing and the healing function of stitching, and mending through sewing.
Using a soft, low-tack tape, I gently adhered each word to the structure, then gave it my awl, to punch the sewing holes for each word.
Soon realizing I would be using up all my Mom’s remaining sewing thread, I invested in a set of brilliantly colored cotton threads, and combined tones and hues of each chosen color to give each word brilliance, depth and complexity, using my study, experience and practice of color associations. It was amazing to see a virtual garden of words, generated by the community, come to life and bloom on the pages of the flower fold book.
Some would find the sewing process tedious, but it is my joy…to see the words unfold and blossom, a colorful array of possibilities.
The front and back covers were stitched in gold to express the golden thread of empathy and humanity that connects us all, in spite of and perhaps amplified by the shared experience of pandemic. A golden thread expressing the silver lining of a crisis. The covers are made of several sheets of mulberry paper glued together to create a pasted paper protector, with a yellow sheet sandwiched within to subtly reflect the gold thread.
Unfolding Possibilities, Possibilities Unfolding, blooming like a flower, and framed in gold.