I mention my 2002 reading list in pretty much every article I post on Fridays but I wanted to make space for it here.
February 15th is known as Discouragement Day, the day when all new year's resolutions die so I decided to share the amazing books I've read so far and which have motivated me to keep experimenting with arts and crafts, and which have taught me about the experiences of people whose culture, stories and work I'm not yet familiar with.
How I choose the books I read
Since 2017, I've vowed to only read the work of authors who do not identify as male. I've succeeded until now and it really hasn't taken any effort on my part. There are so many talented writers who are not middle-aged white men whose voices deserve to be heard (the only exception to my resolution so far is a gardening book that has been recommended by Nancy, my amazing veggie growing mentor).
My tip: Every time I hear or read about a book I think I'll like, I add it to my online library dashboard or suggest the purchase to my library if it's not available yet (I always feel like I'm cheating the system when I do this!). Then, as I progress on my reading, I put a book on hold and wait for it to be available to borrow. That way, I have a constant supply of amazing books to read. I also sometimes randomly grab a novel from the "Hot Titles" section at the entrance of the library (I never say no to a beach read for the odd summer road trip).
Some of the following books have been on my list for a while, others randomly grabbed my attention and one was a suggested purchase to my library (can you guess which one?).
1. Make Your Art No Matter What: Moving Beyond Creative Hurdles by Beth Pickens
"If you are an artist, you need to make your art. That's not an overstatement - it's a fact; if you stop doing your creative work, your quality of life is diminished. But what do you do when life gets in the way? In this down-to-earth handbook, experienced artist coach Beth Pickens offers practical advice for developing a lasting and meaningful artistic practice in the face of life's inevitable obstacles and distractions. This thoughtful volume suggests creative ways to address the challenges all artists must overcome - from making decisions about time, money, and education, to grappling with isolation, fear, and anxiety. No matter where you are in your art-making journey, this book will motivate and inspire you. Because not only do you need your art - the world needs it, too."
I'm always full of hope and motivation in January, so I kicked off my reading list with big creative projects. Dubbed "The Artist's Way for the 21st century", this book helped me convince myself that everyone is an artist - including me - and that we need to make space for it.
2. This Long Thread: Women of Color on Craft, Community, and Connection by Jen Hewett
"In early 2019, the craft community experienced a reckoning when crafters of color began sharing personal stories about exclusion and racial injustice in their field, pointing out the inequity and lack of visible diversity within the crafting world. Author Jen Hewett, who is one of a few prominent women of color in the fiber crafts community, now brings together this book as a direct response to the need to highlight the diverse voices of artists working in fiber arts and crafts.
Weaving together interviews, first-person essays, and artist profiles, This Long Thread explores the work and contributions of people of color across the fiber arts and crafts community, representing a wide spectrum of race, age, region, cultural identity, education, and economic class. These conversations explore techniques and materials, belonging, identity, pride of place, cultural misappropriation, privilege, the value (or undervaluing) of craft, community support structures, recognition or exclusion, intergenerational dialogue, and much more.
Be inspired by the work and stories of innovative people of color who are making exceptional contributions to the world of craft. The diverse range of textile artists and craftspeople featured include knitters, quilters, sewers, weavers, and more who are making inspiring and innovative work, yet who are often overlooked by mainstream media."
I would have liked this book to keep going forever, and it definitely could as there are many stories by crafters of color that still need to be told. I was so happy and excited to read the interview of Ellie, the founder of Klumhouse, who's taught me so much about entrepreneurship and also taught me how to sew the most awesome bag I own.
3. Getting to Center: Pathways to Finding Yourself Within the Great Unknown by Marlee Grace
Picking up where How to Not Always Be Working left off, Getting to Center is an empathetic offering to those who are looking for a roadmap for finding their way back to equilibrium. This book meditates on endings, grief and joy, ease, hope, addiction, and beginnings, pairing Marlee's own experiences and wisdom with practical exercises and tools for creating balance and understanding within the natural changes of life.
In their own constant shifting, improviser and entrepreneur Marlee Grace has found ways to pivot within their career, while still maintaining constant threads throughout. They have developed practices that have supported them through opening and closing multiple businesses, a divorce, several cross-country moves, choosing sobriety, and more.
Essential for anyone who feels overwhelmed and anxious about these unpredictable times, this gorgeous, thoughtful book is a hand to hold to feel less alone, and a guide to cultivating resources we can replenish and depend on in ourselves.
I've followed Marlee on Instagram for years and have the honor to own a poem they wrote just for me as part of their "a sacred shift: personal practice year one" project. This book has been a little hard to read as some aspects have deeply resonated with me, but I'm glad I made it through and will hold its wisdom for years to come. I've now signed up for Marlee's weekly newsletter to keep the inspiration going.
4. A Burst of Light: and Other Essays by Audre Lorde
Winner of the 1988 Before Columbus Foundation National Book Award, this path-breaking collection of essays is a clarion call to build communities that nurture our spirit. Lorde announces the need for a radical politics of intersectionality while struggling to maintain her own faith as she wages a battle against liver cancer. From reflections on her struggle with the disease to thoughts on lesbian sexuality and African-American identity in a straight white man's world, Lorde's voice remains enduringly relevant in today's political landscape.
Those who practice and encourage social justice activism frequently quote her exhortation, "Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare." In addition to the journal entries of "A Burst of Light: Living with Cancer," this edition includes an interview, "Sadomasochism: Not About Condemnation," and three essays, "I Am Your Sister: Black Women Organizing Across Sexualities," "Apartheid U.S.A.," and "Turning the Beat Around: Lesbian Parenting 1986," as well as a new Foreword by Sonia Sanchez.
I knew I would have to start reading Audre Lorde's work one day. I stopped counting the number of times it's been referenced in one of the feminist podcasts I listen to. I don't know why I've waited so long, I won't stop until I've read it all! The relevance her words still have today is as mind-blowing as it is disheartening. The fight for justice never ends, one crime or injustice just always seems to be followed by another. The first interview about sadomasochism was, for me, a weird introduction to Lorde's work but I'm glad I powered through it to get to the soft and profound telling of her activism and illness.
5. Mending Life: A Handbook for Repairing Clothes and Hearts by Nina & Sonya Montenegro
This beautifully illustrated handbook will show you how to mend jeans, socks, sweaters, down jackets, and leggings and other common repairs. Mending Life encourages us to cherish our things by repairing them rather than discarding them. Filled with heartfelt stories that celebrate a sustainable, intentional lifestyle, it also encourages us to change our consumption habits so that with small mends here and there, we extend the life of our garments and other household items. Encouraging readers interested in slow fashion and craftcore, this handbook is for beginners but also offers more advanced techniques to those with some experience in mending.
You'll learn basic techniques such as patching, but will have options to take it a step further with decorative sashiko stitching; you'll also learn how to darn socks and mend sweaters, as well as things like a tear in a bedsheet or down jacket. Along the way, Nina and Sonya Montenegro—creators of TheFarWoods— share how the powerful act of mending strengthens not only the object we are repairing, but ourselves as well. Vibrant, full-color illustrations are woven throughout this timeless and practical guide to cherishing and caring for our belongings.
Mending is an art form and I stand by it. My admiration for the work of sisters Sonya and Nina knows no boundaries. I tell a funny story about the first time we met in my ode to darning socks that you should go read. This book is a work of art in itself and I'm almost mad I take such good care of my clothes because I want to use up all the beautiful shibori thread I got for Christmas!
There are so many books I want to read this year for which I really try to make time during my workday or at night when I plug my phone in the office and head to my bedroom, where technology isn't allowed. I'll keep adding them to my 2002 reading list, feel free to share your recommendations in the comments below.
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