Thursday, November 22, 2007


Becca lent me a pair of hi-top sneakers that have skulls on them, and have laces of burgundy, red and black variegated yarn. The yarn has bits of tape on the ends to keep them from fraying. Her name is written on the inside tongue of each shoe in pink marker. Pink marker also outlines the rubber attaching the sole to the upper of each shoe. Becca is 13 years old, and again there was the question of whether or not her shoes would fit me. She told me that this pair is big on her, and as it turns out, they actually are a bit big on me, too.

This morning I left in a rush, toting a large red suitcase on wheels. There was a craft show at the university that I had signed up to vend at months ago.

Today was the first really snowy day (where it was snowing most all day, and it was mostly all sticking to the ground). The laundry that wasn't quite dry on Tuesday became wet (again) on Wednesday, and was frozen solid today. I am waiting for sublimation to do it's thing, but until then, laundry in the breeze looks far less graceful, and more jagged and erratic.

I figured that wearing Becca's shoes in the snow wouldn't be much of a problem--I was planning on being inside much of the day. Unfortunately I was waiting at the bus stop for 40 minutes (delays due to snow, I think), and I began thinking that this was all a very very bad idea. Like the other converse-type shoes I've worn, there isn't really much between feet and ground, and my feet soon became quite cold to the point where it hurt. Ugh. I tried standing on one foot, then the other, to give my feet breaks from the cold concrete and snow. In all this strange dancing about, I noticed that Becca's shoes make pretty nifty footprints--they have circles inside of squares at the toes and heels.

Other reasons this all seemed like a bad idea: the awkwardness of dragging such a cumbersome load on the bus, me nearly taking several people out in the process, and spending a bunch of the day thinking about all the work that I should be doing instead.

I was selling silk-screened (recycled) clothing at the craft show. I was thinking early this morning when I should have been sleeping about how a year ago I was way more enthusiastic about screen printing, and had even formulated a name for a possible company, and had envisioned a website. I was thinking about how I tend to be really into one thing for awhile, and then not so much at all, but that each time the sense that my enthusiasm will be lasting is really convincing. I remember a conversation I had once with a fellow who had been a printmaker, and was at the time working in pottery. He said that he thought that some people just have to make things to feel right in the world, and that maybe, for him, it doesn't matter what he is making, or how many times he changes the media he works in, but that he just keeps making. It's easy to feel like I should choose one thing and stick with it. But thinking about it, I've had the same pattern around a bunch of things ever since I was little: puppet-making, pop-up books, pottery, mold making, developing photos, printmaking, jewelery making, collage, paper making, natural dyes, knitting, screen printing, soap-making, poetry, bookworks, painting... I used to almost every time think THIS is IT. But actually, although I don't think I've ever developed a lot of skill in any one area, it's kind of interesting to amass a bit of knowledge about how to (sort of kind of) do a bunch of different things. That's my story.

One more story about the sale...Erin overheard me explaining to a craftsperson that I "just have some silk screening." She said, "Just have silkscreening? Aislinn, you have some kick ass art. Just silkscreening is like saying I'm just a volunteer, or just a worker, or just an artist, or just a woman." She was wielding a pair of rather sharp looking needle nosed pliers, so I thought it best not to argue with her. But it really highlighted (a) language I wasn't aware I was using, and (b) my own discomfort with the word "artist" and "art" in describing what I do. I feel like those words are too much to live up to.

Back to shoes:
Besides noticing how they behave in the cold, I noticed that I was really aware of the rubber sides and toe of Becca's shoes at the beginning of the day, and how they felt against my feet, but that really quickly (especially after my feet warmed up), her shoes were very much in the background of things. While I didn't quite recognize my feet as I walked, at the same time Becca's shoes didn't seem so much out of place.

It's funny, I felt a little frustrated that they weren't so much in my awareness--like I was doing a really bad job of wearing other people's shoes. I also find myself now fearing that I've somehow become desensitized to unfamiliar footwear.

But I think that part of my relative lack of sensitivity had to do with the fact that it just felt like a hard day. I felt really sad for no reason--and every reason. Maybe you know the feeling, too. I could try to explain why it was there, but actually I really have no idea. I was most aware of it after a conversation I had with a friend who told me that her good friend was moving far far away. She told me that this friend was the first person she had met in Guelph who she could be soft with. That her friend was so soft in and with the world, that it made her realize that even when she felt absolutely soft, absolutely the softest, she could be softer yet. And somehow this story, and her choice of words really touched me. Soft. And I kind of felt like crying, and wasn't sure why, and normally I'm really good at crying (as in, it comes about as easily to me as laughter), but there are times when it just seems like a bad time to cry. Like when you're selling t-shirts. And then it was like the confusion of the world was right there on my shoulders... and I couldn't even blame it on my period.

I went to classes, thought about how surprising it was that my feet were staying dry, thought about how I'm going to do what I need to over the next few days, had a few of those "what am I doing with my life again?" thoughts, and so on.
My studio prof handed me a book to look at. It was a collection of artworks that had to do a lot with noticing small daily things, and reactions to these noticings. I wrote down the epigraph:

"If you will cling to Nature, to the simple in Nature, to the little things that hardly anyone sees, and that can so unexpectedly become big and beyond measuring; if you have this love of inconsiderable things and seek quite simply, as one who serves to win the confidence of what seems poor: then everything will become easier, more coherent and somehow more conciliatory for you, not in your intellect, perhaps, which lags marveling behind, but in your inmost consciousness, waking and cognizance."
Rainer Maria Rilke

Anyhow, it somehow had a bit to do with my sadness and my "what am I doing" questions, this idea of sensitivity to small things. I get overwhelmed sometimes thinking about how I really ought to be tackling larger systemic problems, that I don't really do enough of what matters, but the truth is that the little things tend to grab me, and here I am outlining woodgrain and taking pictures of the ghosts of leaves and trying to be gentle in this world.

Erin came around to my table later and told me that I should read my own shirts. We didn't even have a conversation about any of the above. I think she was referring to the "know your worth" shirt, but the one that I like best says, "we're all doing our best to navigate this world, and that is enough." Cecilia told me that when she looks at this shirt, it makes things seem better. Those weren't her exact words, but it was something close.

Anyhow, at the end of the day Erin and I traded shirts--she took one with buildings on it, and I took one of her leaf shirts. My sister came by as I was packing up, and took a picture of me in it. I asked her to make sure the shoes were in he shot.

A girl I just met today offered to give me a ride home, and this was really helpful. At home the laundry was still frozen, and the driveway was a bit, too. The suitcase pulled snow along with it like a snow plow.

Dinner, school work, tea and looking forward to sleep.

Becca's shoes are fun and kind of spunky with their combination of skulls and yarn. I, however, wasn't feeling either of those things today. Today was a bit of a practice in just being with how I was feeling, and being with the possibility of being a bad wearer of others shoes, being with the possibility of making not the best choices (wearing sneakers on a winter day, selling t-shirts when I could be editing video, making things / being in school when I could be contributing to the world in more useful ways), it was a bit about being with myself feeling a bit mixed up, and being okay with that. Becca's shoes were there on my feet doing their job while all this went on in my head and heart and all the rest. So I suppose they could also be described as steadfast. And reliable. And friendly. And perhaps soft.


Tara said...

i love you. and i love becca. and i love soft. soft will save the world.

Becca said...

YAY AISLINN!!! great post!
i remember getting those shoes for christmas and thinking "omg santa, what were you thinking?! i'll never wear these!" but then it turns out i quite liked them, although- as you could tell- i had to personalize them with some marker and crochet laces :)

your just so so so awesome !

aislinn thomas said...

becca--I'm glad you like the post, and thank you so much for sharing your shoes ;)
It's funny, just this morning I was looking at them again more closely and wondering if the laces were crocheted...earlier I was puzzled and didn't look hard enough to figure out if it was really sturdy wool, or how you had managed to make laces from yarn. I really like that you made them your own! Yay!

aislinn thomas said...

...soft will save the world.

I certainly hope so, Tara. I think that soft is all I've got. Except when I don't :)

let the soft revolution begin!