Superstring theory CoverArtist/Book: Stitching a soulful world is the goal of "Peace Fibres" author Karen Lohn
'Art created by your homeless neighbors'
The "dancing for joy" pin-the artwork on this month's cover of the Women's Press-was created by a member of the Minneapolis nonprofit, I Love a Parade founded by Sandra Haff and featured in "Peace Fibres." The mission of the organization is to employ women who have been chronically homeless to create high-quality art from recycled costume materials donated by local theaters and parades.
"It's another beautiful example of the 'C' qualities of the feminine archetype that are in all people, not just women," Lohn said. "We need to honor and value those 'C' qualities-care, compassion, creativity, community, cooperation and contribution." FFI: www.iloveaparade.org
by Norma Smith Olson
Can the act of working with fibers serve as an avenue toward peace within an individual? Could little threads offer a great unifying model for developing a more soulful, peaceful world?
These are questions that Karen Lohn asks-and answers-in her colorful, textured book, "Peace Fibres." Lohn believes that women's work with threads and fabrics can develop harmonious relationships to one's self and others in the larger world.
"I really see the book as a starter, not an end point," Lohn said, hoping to raise awareness and inspire awe and appreciation for the importance of fiber arts all over the world. "I believe that fiber work has been so discounted." She hopes to trigger action along with awareness.
"I first was inspired toward the idea of our connection to fiber and personal growth," Lohn said. "As a psychologist, I really come from a holistic approach. I wanted [the book] to be experiential-to center ourselves, be in ourselves, be present. I tried to incorporate that into the [book's] activities."
The book's model is to start with the center of self and radiate outward. Each of the 12 chapters starts with a peace prayer from a different tradition, then shares a personal connecting story, gives "threads for thought" and has action-oriented projects.
"The 'threads for thought' [sections]-that's the psychologist coming through." The projects are symbolic and simple, Lohn said. "Anyone can do something that pleases, whether they consider themselves artists or not."
Lohn doesn't consider herself a fiber artist, but a dabbler who yearned to make a contribution.
"One of my goals is to be a connector," Lohn said. As a public speaker, "I typically talk about peace within. A lot of people say that's what fiber work offers them-a meditative, centered [place], where all cares and concerns around them are absent."
The manifestation of peaceful connections can happen in many ways, according to Lohn, from women's cooperatives around the world to simple fiber projects in communities where people gather to make things.
An example of a local/global fiber arts project happened last December in Grand Marais. Lohn invited people in her community to come and knit baby booties for a Peace Corps project in Burkina Faso, Africa. "Knitting for Nutrition" gives hand-knit booties to mothers who come to seminars to learn about nutrition.
The hope is to reverse the starvation problem in Burkina Faso through education. Lohn set a goal for the Grand Marais knitters to make 100 pairs of booties. People came twice a week for three weeks. They exceeded the goal by over 30 pairs.
"To me, that's a single example of how fiber work is not only a metaphor [for peace], but it's also a very real manifestation of peaceful relationship," Lohn said. "We sat in community, laughing and talking." People came who were new to Grand Marais. People came who had never knitted before. The knitters did not all know each other. "We were building community right there, as well as sending these booties off with notes of love and building community with those moms in Burkina," Lohn said. "That's the beauty of fiberwork. It's just the perfect avenue to action."