Category Archives: blog

This summer I have hosted two ‘Clothing Drive and Public Potholder Rug Weaves’ which have been well received and hugely gratifying to me. The idea came about via my desire to support and participate in community events to build awareness of creative reuse and environmental stewardship with community connection.

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My friends Alan and Nancy Timmons came up with the idea of a clothing drive at the event Alan organized for Earthday at The Great Barrington Fair Grounds.

Genius! A mutually beneficial way to support and connect!

I added the rug weaving aspect to fulfill my desire to create and eye-catching way to bring people in and participate. It works out to be pretty darn magical on so many levels. Neighbors, Friends, and total strangers spend time connecting and physically weaving an amazing rug – from trash.  All the materials used are cut from discarded clothing including sweaters, sweatshirts, tshirts, and even socks.  What symbolism! In this age of violence and disconnect we connect and become greater than a sum of our parts.

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This past weekend a Clothing Drive/Public Potholder Rug Weave was hosted as part of Becket’s Hilltown Brouhaha and it was amazing! Even in the rain people came out with donated clothing and the willingness to make what turned out to be a super beautiful 2.5×3.5ft Potholder Rug.

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Now I need to buckle into the details of making these events complete by closing the circle and selling the rug – with proceeds donated to the Becket/Washington PTO (in this case). The hard part has been figured out. We collect clothing, we cut the material into weavable strips and we construct a rug – and at the end of the day there is this glorious fruit of the day’s labor that needs to be sold.

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Now there are two of these amazing rugs ready for new homes and two amazing organizations in need of support to make their missions fly. I am looking for ways to bring in the communities and organizations invested in the project to reconnect for the sale aspect of this work. I’d love to figure out a way to run an auction with bids running for a week following the event.  Does anyone know how to make that happen?  These first two charity rug sales might be a little rough but let me gather the pertinent email lists from participating organizations and then, stay tuned! I’ll let you know when/where you can place a bid and let’s see where this will take us!

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This week’s theme is Photo Albums / Image Storage and Access.

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When conjuring up my weekly theme schedule I often list things that I would like to find time for in my week. Sometimes the suggestion works and sometimes it is just not possible for me to add another thing to my list.

Not sure how this week will pan out but even if I don’t get to organizing my printed images into the albums accumulated, the topic is pertinent this week.

This last week the United States experienced two back-to-back seemingly unwarranted police killings. As if these killings were not thoroughly jolting, a sniper murdered 5 Dallas cops and injured 7 others at a memorial gathering for the two killed earlier in the week.

It is difficult to decipher the news in an unbiased way which has lead me to research and ponder these events in the fleeting glimpses.

The data is mindblowing!

Here we are in an age of data and image capture like never before. Lavish Reynolds captured the immediate aftermath of a Minnesota cop shooting her boyfriend, Philando Castile, at letting him bleed out in front of her and her 4-year-old daughter from her passenger seat. The video she delivered was live streamed on Facebook, allowing her to call for help in real time. (Here is a GoFundMe set up to help her.)

Two videos have come to the forefront of the police murder of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge too.

Talk about Photo Albums and Image Access!

Thanks to technology for allowing widespread photo/video capture making it easy to see that the behavior displayed in these interactions is clearly inhuman. The United States has arrived at a place where we need to assess our human behavior and change it. We have to stop promoting hate, judgment, comparison and fear replacing them with calm, educated eloquence and persistent love, understanding, and patience. The path into this light will be beneficial for the planet. Without this nearly 180-degree change in our people’s view, human demise seems inherent.

Jane Goodall said

“You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, And you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”

I want to spread love and compassion – introduce the dark-side of culture to beauty in the light and welcome them in.

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Oh, and as for the Photo Albums / Image Storage and Access theme, I plan to stick printed photographs, from days gone by, into books with pages using those little sticky old-school photo corners over the next couple weeks. I like the idea of keeping some images private and accessible, the hand turning of pages and sitting close on a couch reminiscing with close friends and family members.

On Fridays you’ll find an image, or an album of images, that sums up the week pertaining to our weekly theme posted on Sundays. You are encouraged to participate by submitting an image to be included by 9pm EST Wednesday. Send submissions for consideration to Crispinaffrench@gmail.com and use 1000 Words in the subject line.  Photo credit will be given. 

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Wowsers! Sorry for the long silence.  My Limited Access social experiment continues as I work out details of how much time is needed to formulate and maintain a wholesome online presence.

My head has been stuck inside the making that happens in my studio, cooking healthy food and continued work toward simplifying our lives and reducing our belongings. While enjoying this focus, I miss my online community and the interaction with, and connection to you all. Now my search is for that precious balance that will allow me creative work time, healthy food and exercise, deep and loving family connection and the ability to stay in touch without the crazy distraction of information overload. Seems like in order for this to work, I’ll need to schedule and plan and therefore be more organized. I often laugh at the idea that I am the most organized and tidy person in my house. If you know me you understand that this means the level of chaos in our home is high. Our chaos is blessed, as open communication, genuine love, caring and harmony counter it.

Focus.

Calm the chaos.

Create.

Stay in touch.

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I got stuck on Facebook the other day. Went on for my evening thirty minute window – to update and post my scheduled engagements and was blindsided by so much and so many. Every post was another distraction and none of it could wait.
90 minutes later I found myself in tears having read a beautiful, eloquent, thoughtful, viral letter a rape victim from Stanford CA had written. As tears streamed down my face it became clear that stepping away from that arena to evaluate my experience was paramount.

90 minutes of time – my most fleeting commodity.

While pondering the vortex that sucked all of my attention for an extended time-frame, my thoughts were the following:

The news that makes it to Facebook is horrific and shocking. Events are presented in an over sensationalized manner to be sure to get our notice. It worked! It happened to me. I read all about the swimmer sentenced to 3 months in county jail for a horrible rape for which he could have served up to 14 years in the state penitentiary. Then I read that letter – so thoughtful, well worded and POWERFUL.

Without an iota of desire to diminish the beauty of the victim’s response to an unimaginable experience, I really don’t need or want to know about the world’s atrocities.

Feeling compassion and heartbreak for this victim (as an example) takes energy. For me it requires a lot of energy. On Facebook there are no many things that grab and beg for my energy and attention I feel drained yet compelled to keep on reading and clicking. Commenting, donating and sharing.

What happened to our middle of the road, thoughtful, and thought provoking news sources? You know, the ones where journalism thrived and expanded. Where research and opposing sides were presented for equal consideration?

Allowing my tears to guide me away from the all-consuming distraction was super relieving.   My change in focus was quickly followed by the realization that I can choose not to make myself aware of events far beyond my circle of affect.

The desire to want this relief – of not knowing – was followed by a feeling of heartlessness.

Oh and to be heartless!

It is so far from what is me. I care, maybe too deeply, about humanity. The idea of choosing to not know, and not show support for, what is right and good left me feeling super sad and empty. Maybe even more sad and empty that the crime I read about made me feel.

Feeling super sad, heartless, and empty pushes me in the direction of self-judgment, self-doubt and even depression. These negative feelings of despair make me want a distraction (‘better check my social media’) and the cycle flows – in an ever-deepening downward spiral.

I’m hopping off the carousel. It’d be nice to be able to step on for an occasional spin to check in with the people and places that nourish and lead and let the world know what I am up to. Maybe one day soon I will master that – a clear, focused and undistracted visit to the land of too much information and compelled empathy.

This social experiment I call Limited Access is opening my eyes to so many lessons.IMG_3115

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You know what totally ‘rocks my world’? I absolutely LOVE turning garbage into treasure, using discarded things as materials to be creative. The most empowering part of my making process, is to ascertain textile (and sometimes other) waste and find creative reuse for that discarded material. Today, most of the raw materials used in my making process come from local thrift stores and kind donations from friends and strangers. (Keep an eye out for my next Clothing Drive.)

The idea of creating with new material  overwhelms me. It is hard to imagine what would be worthy to add to the plethora of stuff in a world so full. Utilitarian recycling works for me.

Mountain of Textile Waste in Bangaladesh

My life has come to include teaching, speaking, and creating goods made one by one with discarded clothing and scrap fabric as my raw material and inspiration. As my Limited Access social experiment continues, I work to establish the most productive use of my online time, which amounts to the best way to nurture and build my business.

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This online journal is fulfilling, and the focus helpful. It is a tool for selling my wares, spreading the word about my classes, events, and engagements.  A sounding board for my wildest goals and grand efforts to change the way the world sees waste.  May my work encourage all sorts of people to support hand-makers, creatively-reuse, and teach and inspire by example. It is my hope that together we can have a shared impact great enough to be noticed.

Anyone remember my post from last summer about spending a year in Ireland? Initially we were thinking of leaving in time for the girls to start school over there in the fall. I was super resistant to my hubby’s voice of reason suggesting that we stay stateside till the end of the year and bank as much as we can in those last three months of 2016. The more I have thought about it, the clearer it has become that this timing makes a whole lot more sense. My only worry is missing my sweet Auntie Ellie who will celebrate her 98th birthday this year. I’m hoping to get a visit in with her before we all go in time for Winter Solstice.

We will be based in our family cottage in Kinvara on the edge of The Burren about 15 miles south of the City of Galway. My mom and dad spent their summers there at the end of their teaching years and on into retirement. It is a humble and comfortable tiny three bedroom stone home with all the charm of an old-school Irish cottage. I’ll work in my dad’s studio and teach a couple workshops nearby. Stay tuned for that schedule as things fall into place.

Now to get our ducks in a row for making all of that happen. I’ll visit the Irish consulate in Boston in the next few weeks and figure out where to start.

I wonder if there is a run on exit visas and passports as Donald Trump marches ever closer to presidency? Yikes!

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On Saturday I embarked on a social experiment, that I am calling Limited Access.  The idea is to limit the time I spend online to two 30 minute blocks a day – morning and night.  In addition one day a week will be spent working online.  The first two days were challenging.  By Monday I was not using the second block of time at all and had decided that on Wednesdays I would spend my workday online.

Today is Wednesday.  I am happy finishing a blanket in my sewing room and have pushed my ‘online’ day to Friday.  This blog entry is eating up both of today’s blocks.  Plans are coming together for doing most of my posting work off line – you know, write it down in a notebook with a pen!

Stepping back from my online presence has prompted an unexpected clarity to step further away from the light.  (In rereading this it seems as though my online presence is not being abandoned, but rather enhanced with intention.)  To that end, my intention is to reintroduce the role of mother, wife, friend into my weeks.  I am loving and really excited about my new-found sense of presence. Really jazzed about the idea of having a day off as fruit of my increased productivity with the time saved from building awareness of my online use.

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The idea of a focus nourishes me too ~

More on that in the days to come.

Yesterday I noticed a big fat bubble bee checking out our 100 year old lilac in the end-of-day sunshine and thought about how it must be to stick your head into that bloom in all its glory. How would it be to be that bee?

Nectar

Sunshine

Intoxicating Fragrance

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Today is my first full day of mindful internet and illuminated rectangle use. Yesterday I decided to work toward 30 minutes twice a day, a morning session and an evening session plus one full day a week of internet work.

What fun it is to really pay attention to my habits. I noticed being drawn to the drivel and opted for more meaningful enrichment. What a lovely day it was!

Findings

Spent three minutes reading news this morning while still horizontal and signed off until now.

Responded to texts from friends and initiated a couple to plan my summer schedule.

Checked my Analytics and saw that my Limited Access post blew up! It inspires me to imagine my path inspiring others to consume this commodity in a thoughtful and mindful manner.

Realized that 30 minute sessions morning and night might not be most productive for me.

Working on clarifying my plan for the rest of my week long social experiment

Most notably

My sense of relief stands – it excites me to have found lost time!

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I made amazing sugar free, dairy free chocolate. Some of you may know that I became macrobiotic in September 2014 due to an Ulcerative Colitis diagnosis several years earlier. More on that another time, for now just know that today’s batch was most notable to date!

Recipe coming soon.

We started the patio we have been dreaming up for the last couple years. Its going to be amazing! The door hearthstone we put in place today is the one my hubby grew up with – so cool.

Cleaned, Folded a mountain of laundry, sewed for a couple hours and generally felt super great not even thinking about anything happening online.

Day two of my social experiment to leave the interwebs behind for most of my day was a success. Looking forward to another wholesome day of creativity tomorrow.

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