Beginnings and Introductions
Although my first wood/inlay creative adventure technically began in the spring of 2019 and I have worked on a number of pieces since then, I consider this (as I type now in January 2020) to be the beginning of my creative Oakenwell adventure. In addition to being a less than beginner "craftswoman", "woodworker" and "artist" (I hesitate to give myself these titles but aim to wear them proudly by the end of this year with more practice and education behind me), I'm a life partner, dog parent, New Mexican, and a student of psychology and sustainability studies at the University of New Mexico.
Every creative fiber within me is drawn to multifunctional use and a reflection of the natural world. It took me more than twenty years to find a medium that felt compatible with the styles I’m drawn to and the skill (or lack of it?) I have.
In accordance with my spiritual beliefs and personal ethics, I am also an activist for social and environmental justice (I do not hesitate to give myself this title much in thanks to Bruce Milne who created the UNM Sustainability Program and provided opportunities and positivity that paved the way to allow me to give myself permission to use this title for myself). Propelled by these positions I hold and the final capstone to my Sustainability Program minor degree, I am embarking on a journey to look at Oakenwell as a business that can be assessed through the three pillars of sustainability: Environment, Economics, and Social Justice. Also sometimes referred to as Planet, Profit, People.
I believe that what we buy and what we create has a much deeper significance than aesthetic. I aim to continue my practice in creating wooden vessels and expand my skill alongside understanding the history of my practices, the regions from which they emerged, and engage with the materials I choose to work with along with the environmental, economic, and social impacts they have in their creation, extraction, and/or distribution. I believe it matters. It matters where our things come from and who they impact along the way. The history of the aesthetic matters, the history of the land matters, and the history of the people matter.
I feel a connection to the pieces I create, I think they're special and beautiful. But beauty isn't enough, not when we live in a state of crisis. Fringe commentators and fringe data may have some believe that it is up for debate that the world is in a state of climate emergency, and I wish it were true that the alarm is unwarranted, but this is not the case. We exist within a state of climate emergency and we are in the midst of human propelled disaster that, without great change being implemented on political, industrial, and personal scales, may be paving the way for a future that humans don't get to have a part in.
Art matters. Indigenous Americans matter. The history of the American Southwest matters. Local and global economies matter. Waste matters. Policy matters. I sincerely want to believe that I matter, and since I do believe this, I have to believe that you matter too.
No matter how "good" or "bad a person is in our own eyes, we are all people worthy of decency, respect, and a right to life. Change must be made on all planes of life for us to see a future that isn't on fire. Maybe wherever a person is, whether they are a part of things seemingly big or small, we can make a difference, we can move toward a future that is more equitable for all people.
I truly hope I can use whatever creative fire that burns in my heart, strength of my body, platform large or small, interaction or menial task seemingly insignificant or grand, to be larger than itself and connect with the place I hold in the world. Because it matters.
Thanks for reading and choosing to walk with me as I move toward this new and exciting part of my life. Questions I will ask myself on this journey, questions I will ask as I grow Oakenwell are: Am I being responsible to the planet in my process? Are my materials responsibly and ethically sourced? Who is affected in the process of mining/producing the minerals and wood I use? What environmental impact do my electrically powered tools have on my ecological footprint? How do my pieces fit as products in my local economy? As a white person working with turquoise in the American Southwest, am being appropriative? What is the history of the “Southwest Aesthetic” and how can I express appreciation for this aesthetic by honoring its history? Where is the line between appreciating and appropriating? Am I prepared to change my practices and materials if I find that it is unethical for me to do what I currently do?
I know I’ll find many more questions along the way. I can’t promise I will reach definite conclusions and find answers, I might be asking myself these questions for years. Maybe I’ll never find the answers. Nevertheless, I feel it is important to be critical of my work in more than artistically critical ways. Nothing exists in a vacuum; every person and project is a part of a community that is a part of our world. Exploring these connections may be one of the most exciting and terrifying things I do.
For anyone interested in learning more about climate change data, check out https://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/. I can give other suggestions for reading, talk about some of the issues aforementioned
and adjacent topics, or just be available to talk in general. Honestly, the best case scenario is for me to be able to share what I do and care about with other people. In the worst case scenario, I type into the void and organize my thoughts about issues that are important to me, and I get to inlay and turn wood in ways that satisfy my soul. As far as I'm concerned, I'm in a win-win situation.
Check in every once in a while for more posts, I'm going to be posting once a month tackling topics from the questions mentioned above! If anyone read this far, even just one person, my expectations have already been exceeded.