“Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.” This quote by E.E. Cummings reflects the woman I have come to know, in spending time with my aunt Lynda at her home in California.
I looked forward to reconnecting with people I know, who live abroad along the route of our journey. My aunt Lynda married my mom’s brother, known affectionately as ‘Uncle Pat’ since we were kids. Lynda and I met once when I was about 10 and we had spoken via phone or email over the years, such as at the time of my mom’s death, then more recently when we also lost Uncle Pat. Lynda’s work as an artist is legend in our family, so as a prioirty I wanted to get to know her during our time in California.
As we chatted two themes emerged for me within the story of my aunt’s life – ‘serendipitous encounters with significant people in our lives’ and ‘the incredible value of bravely being open to new experiences’.
At 15 Lynda had to choose an extracurricular class at boarding school. Her choices of car mechanics or casting silver were unavailable to her, so she “begrudgingly settled” on weaving…she fell in love with the craft and art of weaving and over 45 years became known as an accomplished artist, teacher and master weaver with pieces hanging in government buildings, hotels, corporate offices, exhibitions and homes across the world.
I wanted to know what it was about weaving that captivated Lynda. She used words like ‘texture, slow rhythm, meditative, solitude’ and the mechanical and mathematical aspects of creating a piece were challenges she thrived on. She liked that: “You can create a wearable or useful art piece, as opposed to something that merely hangs on a wall. It’s an art form which connects you with history, every culture in the world has weaving.”
Lynda’s initial exposure at school was to Navajo weaving techniques, which are focused on story telling, symbolism through colour and mythical designs. At 18 she spent a year in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico learning tapestry, batik…and also Spanish! Lynda returned to the US and opened a gallery in Aspen, then bought Craft House in New Mexico, expanding her reach.
An invitation to sail in the Cape-to-Rio race was a chance opportunity she did not want to miss, so she set off for Africa, resplendent in an outfit befitting such an ‘Out of Africa’ experience. It was in Cape Town where Lynda met my uncle Pat in the 70’s and she describes her experience as an artist in Apartheid South Africa as “… one of the most creative, artistic places I’ve ever been…” Lynda attributes the racial and gender bias of the time with unleashing such creative energy and describes how art was the perfect medium for human expression both politically and spiritually – art as a form of communication and a means of being in touch with an inner spiritual journey. Lynda firmly believes it was a case of ‘how do we speak through art’ but also of ‘how does art speak to us?’
Lynda’s belief in herself and her openness to new experiences is obvious as she recounts the events in her life which eventually brought her back to the US and expanding her art. Her passion as an art teacher is guiding people how to respond to art through contemplation, reflection and communication. I ask her about people who fear they are not ‘artistic’ or creative and Lynda laughs, responding with: “You don’t create it, it creates you! It’s about welcoming art as an experience and in the finished product you can see your experience…in a way your art piece is a snapshot of your experience.” She adds: “…what you have planned may not work out in the final product. Isn’t life like that?” Her eyes are twinkling as she continues: “Despite our plans, life enfolds. We make mistakes. It’s how we accept that or try and change that which is so akin to art.”
Paul and I are enrolled to attend the next workshop being held at Lynda’s home in the beautiful countryside in Moorpark, California. It’s over the weekend of 24 & 25 June and will teach us multiple techniques, like marbling on fabric, stencilling and batik on fibre. We’re also looking forward to meeting and learning from Indonesian Master Batik Artist, Ferris Nawir who partners Lynda for this particular weekend workshop.
So often we balk at new experiences, for fear or prejudice about what they may bring. Yet research supports the notion of new experiences enriching our lives, inspiring us with confidence and appreciation for what we discover we are capable of, connecting us more deeply with others and ourselves. I’m hoping the art pieces we create as gifts for our respective daughters will become cherished mementos… for them as well as for us…
If you would like to know more or attend a class, contact Lynda Brothers: