Making Connections – Near and Far

During this strange, once-in-a-lifetime (hopefully!) ordeal, I find myself thinking about some of the experiences and interactions I have had during the pandemic, especially online. So much of the world has also been at home, and many of us turned to online activities and connected with each other via the Internet. These personal connections include individuals from all over the world as well as those friends and family members I used to see regularly.

For me, some of this has taken place in Facebook groups. For example, I joined a couple of needlework groups that post “challenges” and the group members post photos, ask questions, and offer opinions and encouragement., opens a new window started a group with a Community Stitch Challenge, opens a new window.  Fiber Artist, Yvonne Fuchs, started a Slow Stitch group, opens a new window. Group members are from a multitude of locations across the globe, with different needlework styles and different materials. So it is fascinating to see how people interpret each challenge. Needlework is a wonderful contemplative activity. If you haven't tried it, you could visit one of these groups online to get some great ideas. And the library has some good books to help you get started:

The Hand-stitched Surface, opens a new window

The Hand-stitched Surface (ebook), opens a new window

Slow Stitch, opens a new window

Another Facebook group is View From My Window, opens a new window, in which group members post photos from wherever they are. I’ve been a little weary of seeing photos of beautiful landscapes, sunsets, cityscapes, and carefully manicured lawns. I was hoping for a bit more diversity - and to be fair, there is some. (At the same time, I found myself thinking maybe I’d submit a photo after my garden was weeded, hahaha.) But what I’ve enjoyed most is that people say where they are and what their situation is. So I’ve seen photos from hospital rooms, photos of brick walls, photos with backgrounds of fire damage in Australia, and lots of photos of animals and plants that I don’t see here in Kansas. Others comment on the posts saying where they are from, and there are many instances of people offering encouragement to each other - which I find very dear.

My favorite online experience was a fiber art workshop called "Eco Print Meets Sculptural Felt Pods" that I took from an artist in Ireland. While I took the workshop “with” a couple of my local art friends, there were many people tuning in from different locations around the globe. My local friends and I would meet on Zoom (usually with a glass of wine…Zoom happy hour has become quite a thing!) to compare notes and discuss our experiences and progress. The teaching artist was very engaging and helpful, and she provided the workshop digitally from her home/studio. So we got to meet her dog, and we got to know each other a bit through forums and yes, a Facebook group.

Along a similar line, we have taken the library’s Mindful Crafting programs and moved them online for the summer. We focus on techniques/projects that you can do with materials that can easily be found around the house or at a grocery store. For most sessions, we will connect with each other, have a presentation/instruction, and discuss and ask questions - but most of the hands-on artmaking will take place afterward with participants sharing their results - you guessed it - in our LPL Mindful Crafters, opens a new window Facebook group (which you are welcome to join!). Here is a link to registration and info for Mindful Crafting Online, opens a new window (We also record the instructional portion of each session, and we make it available in our Facebook group.)

The Corona Quilt Project, opens a new window is another opportunity for connection (local and international) that is provided by local folks, Kellogg Sisters Feed & Seed. Participants can submit a "quilt square" - either tangible or digital - that expresses their experiences with the COVID-19 pandemic and/or their dreams for our collective future. These squares can be made of anything - not necessarily fabric - and they will be joined together to make a powerful statement (similar to the AIDS Quilt). The website describes the Corona Quilt as "a collective, tangible voice of disruption and hope, loss and possibility, grief and new beginnings." 

This pandemic is an extraordinary experience - on both individual and collective levels - that is being shared by the whole world. And almost every day I see more and more that reminds me that we all belong to each other. I treasure the individual connections I have made during this time, and the awe-inspiring worldwide support for Black Lives Matter gives me hope that we are realizing the depth of our connection as fellow citizens of the Earth. Dare we hope that this is the beginning of a new era in which we all work together to tackle shared challenges?

-Jill Mickel is an Information Services Assistant at Lawrence Public Library.