My soulsister, Maya Donenfeld recently birthed her first book, called Reinvention: Sewing with Rescued Materials, (Wiley, 2012). In the process, she discovered a few lil gold nuggets...
Pour some tea and eavesdrop on our chat?
Maya, I wanted to share some aspects of you with my spirited readers who may not be acquainted with your magical ways. Reinvention shares so much of your fine work and innovation, and I appreciate your designs infinitely. However, the deeper synchronicity of your work are what have moved me most. This book is filled with behind the scenes alchemy which few will know about until they meet with you in one of your workshops.
I had always dreamed of writing, but this book took on a life of its own and continues to shape me in ways that I could never have imagined. I've discovered that the very same way that I listen to rescued materials to discover what they want to become, is key to understanding how to connect with my own strengths and challenges to actualize my true potential. There are so many deeply moving metaphors in the world of textile manipulation and design. I began to recognize that the ripping of seams to reconstruct a pair of jeans into a hammock was not so unlike the transformation that was taking place inside me as I went from dream seeker to dream maker.
Mmm, I love that. There's a shift that happens when we manifest a creative project, and it's not limited to the new entity that now exists. It's like our cells literally change when we're aligned on our path of growth.
I see you as a luminous teacher: women come out of your classes lit up and chanting the names of their projects, which I've heard when working next door to you! What are some of your brightest memories of teaching your designs? Which experiences have left you illuminated? Tell us a story, if you can.
I love hearing that... that is my greatest hope when I teach- that folks will leave full and glowing from their own handiwork. At the beginning of each new class, many walk through the door with some sort of anxiety about their abilities or their lack of experience in one area or another. We all know that feeling of vulnerability... that tender place we go to when we desire something new so badly, but don't trust that we are capable. My goal is to meet these fears head on, by creating a space where there is so much love and acceptance that self-judgements don't have a place to land... they simply fly out the window. One of my favorite moments when this played out was with a lovely woman who seemed confident in every way, but was terrified at the thought of sitting down at a sewing machine. The day before our sewing workshop she confided in me that she had decided she just wasn't ready and was going to drop the class. And since she had intentionally not brought supplies, it seemed in her mind "meant to be" to not come. I listened and invited her to come anyway and just watch. No pressure. I had more than enough material for her if she changed her mind. The next day I could see how much courage it took for her to walk through the door. As she watched me do a demo, she asked "is this like baking (precise science) or cooking?" I told her the way I sew is definitely like an improvised meal. From that point on she was ready to jump in... she was ready to get cookin'! By the day's end, she was blissfully creating with fabric and calling herself a sewer. Feeling capable is quite powerful.
That you create such a safe space for women to explore, improvise and fall into a trance seems unusual for a sewing workshop! This is why your students connect so deeply with you, Maya. You make it safe for them to bring their emotions in the door, come as they are...and see what happens. You know I'm all about this. Textiles stirs a lot of history for me, and for others, I've seen.You midwife your students so gently, and the book has the same kind of gentle care and encouragement-some sewing books don't draw me in-they can be a bit...precise. What I love about your book and your workshops is how well they lend themselves to not just the beginner, but to she who is just setting out on her heart-meets-hands journey.
Your aesthetic is impeccable, it goes without saying. You've become known as a rescuer, and yet, your designs come across as very refined (even those Tyvek pouches, which will be my first project from Reinvention). Has it always been this way for you? When did you commit to your love affair with repurposing?
I've always loved the alchemical process of taking something humble or useless and giving it new life. My family was extremely creative and resourceful, so this was my model as a child and teenager. It seemed only natural to continue repurposing for own family... for both economical and ecological reasons. As far as my aesthetic, having a mother who is an artist definitely shaped my desire to create lovely surroundings... even the artful arrangement of everyday objects. She showed me that it is precisely those items that we use and see all the time that should prove to be inspiring, as well as useful. My aesthetic has grown out of that desire for simple, utilitarian beauty.
I am so grateful for your work, for your beautiful light in the world, for your passion for the Earth and her creatures, and for the blessing of calling you friend. Seeing this book come to life from the sidelines, and witnessing your process, has been a magnificent honor.
5/3- Resurrection Fern
5/4- Apartment Therapy
5/7 Whip Up
5/8 elsie marley
5/11 Pink Coyote (you're here!)
5/14 Betz White
5/16 Sew, Mama, Sew!
5/18 Wiley Craft