A many of you know, I had an “inspired” idea to bring the Rowland Fellows together in a gesture of friendship and hope to send out “something for Chuck” as he recovered from a ski accident. This is a brief update on that work, and some visuals that will tell the story better than my words.
Of course, it began with a letter I wrote to Chuck while he was in the hospital. The letter turned into the January 15th blog post “Weaving Strong Relationships” and then I sent the email. It is nerve wracking to send an email to ALL Rowland Fellows, especially as a relative newbie, and one that doesn’t know but half of the lot! But I did. I wrote a call to action, I let people know that I wanted to create “Something for Chuck” from all of us, to show our strength, to remind him of his. I asked people to send me a ribbon, yarn, strip of cloth that I would weave together in art. It was a way for me to do something, for us to do something. I didn’t mention that while I’m the only Visual Art teacher as Rowland Fellow, well… I’m not a weaver.
The mail came pouring in. One of my kids said “wow, that is a lot of mail,” the other finished “a lot of people must really care about Chuck.” That was an understatement. I set to work – first I needed a form to work from so I found a canvas stretcher bar in the closet, one that had been given to me. I fit the pieces together, strong. No need for staples or nails. I decided this stretcher bar was like the gift the Rowlands have given us all – the frame took on new meaning. I began by looping the longer pieces around and tying them off on themselves. Again, no glue or staples or tacks – just the cloth. I continued the process until I had a strand representing all 68 Rowland Fellows(it was 68 at the time), plus one for Marge made 69, all weaved together both strong and beautiful. But… I had a gap. Should I loosen and re-arrange the work? No! I had forgotten one. A very important one. I went to the store and picked a jute ribbon – unassuming, practical, tough – and weaved in the final piece. One last ribbon to represent Chuck. His ribbon is also what is used to hang the work. 70 strands in all, woven together on a gifted frame.
My next challenge was in the giving itself. This seemed too precious to send in the mail. Chuck was starting to recover and there was a possibility of me seeing him in late May. But I didn’t want it to wait that long. I wanted him to get our gift when he still really would need to feel our strength and caring, when it would make the biggest difference in his recovery. Then came Jean, who agreed to deliver our gift to Chuck at the Board of Trustees Meeting on March 23rd. I prepared a small book that outlined the process for Chuck, wrapped up the gift – and perfectly, one of the first Fellows delivered it on the night when the newest Fellows were accepted into the Rowland Family.
I’ll close this update the same as I did my January 25th post… Strength is what we need most in facing our challenges and without it, nothing else will be possible. As we move forward with intention, let us do so with the understanding that each strong thread builds a stronger cloth, together.
Over, under, over, under.
Abbie Bowker, a 2017 Rowland Fellow, teaches students Visual Art at Champlain Valley Union High School where she has been teaching since 2004.