Peace Fibres – Insights to Stitching a Soulful World an Interview with author Karen Lohn
We had an opportunity recently to interview Karen Lohn, author of the wonderful and interactive book, Peace Fibres. The focus of the book is the multidimensional role that fiber work plays in developing relationships across cultures, generations, and in personal relationships. The book itself came about quite organically as a result of Karen’s personal observations during international travel, and as a result of the manner in which she wove her newfound insights into her work as a clinical psychologist.
The book is colorful, engaging, thought provoking and truly interactive. The words that came to mind as I read this book are: Inquisitive, Connective, Suggestive and Explorative. As you travel through the pages, the stories, the activities and the ponderings, you will find it encourages connection to Self, to family, generations, community, culture, economy, politics and the earth.
I am sure you will enjoy projects like The Rapunzel Scarf of Friendship, Weaving Diversity, and the Threads for Thought throughout the book. It is not a work you read from cover to cover, but one you can pick up over and over for a new adventure in just a page or two. Of course you will also enjoy the many vibrant photos of fiber art creations from many cultures around the world!
“Joining, connecting, unifying. An image. An intention. One tiny sizzling thread joins another, then another, until a form emerges. A canvas. A garment. A scrunch ball. Making beauty. Warming. Comforting. Inspiring connection. Inviting contribution. Instilling peace. Fibre work is both metaphor and manifestation of harmonious relationship to self, others, and the larger world.” P. 169
We hope you take the opportunity to pick up Karen’s book, and perhaps to take one of her workshops.
You can get the book on Karen’s website, and also see her workshop schedule there.
Everyone who comments on the Peace Fibres Spotlight feature in April 2012
will be automatically entered to win an autographed copy!
Karen Lohn is a licensed counseling psychologist who is passionate about the tapestry of life. For more than 20 years , she has taught classes, workshops and college courses focused on integration of self through metaphor and experiential learning. Lohn lives with her husband, Bob, in Grand Marais, Minnesota,
where she rises before dawn to savor each new day.
We asked Karen about her experience in fiber arts, how the book concept came about and more details about her journey and discoveries in writing the book. I know you will enjoy her telling of it,
and that you will enjoy the book just as much!
Not a fibre artist, just a dabbler, I began to notice how warmly connected I felt when I would look down on any given day, asking myself, “Who dressed me today?” Almost always, I would be wearing something handmade for me, gifted to me, or inherited as a hand-me-down; my day would be one of loving entwinement with that person, even if they were gone from Earthly life.
In 1994, my sister and I traveled to the Far East to experience a variety of cultures there. Neither of us had any goal of focusing on fibre work, but in every visit, that is what we did.
In Hong Kong, we caressed slinky, elegant silks and purchased yardage to gift to friends and family. In Bangkok, after motoring up the Mekong River to the Hill Tribe villages, we discovered the significance of the back strap weaving women there were doing to feed and to clothe their families; jackets and table runners remind us still of that powerful experience. In Jakarta, Indonesia, we witnessed the community of women working in a batik “factory” while they talked and laughed and counseled one another. My gorgeous tablecloth and napkins attest to the art they created as they also earned an income.
I was awed by the awareness that, from intimate relationships to indigenous villages, fibre work connects. Both metaphor and manifestation of peaceful relationship, fibre work expresses the “C” qualities of the archetypal feminine: community, compassion, creativity, cooperation, contribution. It connects us to the natural world, to our inner selves, to one another interpersonally, intergenerationally, and intercultually. What an amazing avenue to developing peace personally and politically.
A counseling psychologist, I developed a group experience for clients entitled “The Fabric Series.” It was a hands-on, holistic approach, including meditation, yoga, discussion and activities, and simple symbolic fibre projects. The series was powerful. I repeated it many times, each time finding that working with tactile fibres accessed significant response for many. Peace Fibres: Stitching a Soulful World began as a project intended to offer the series as a model for other therapists. Once I began to research the vast role of fibre work, it became clear that this was not sufficient and the book became one intended for anyone, whether or not they might ever have stitched a single stitch.
Interviewing fibre artists internationally has been a learning experience for me. The fibre work is such a non-threatening way to converse, to appreciate, and to take action. My favorite story took place on a trip to indigenous villages in Chiapas, Mexico; there, the women embroider two huipiles, blouses that are identical as each village has an identifying pattern; one for Sunday best and one for the hard work they must carry on daily in this desperately poor community. In Amatenango, the pattern includes wide horizontal stripes of orange and red. When I noticed that some of the huipiles also include brightly colored vertical stripes, while others have none, my inquiry was met with laughter. The vertical stripes are removed after menopause. Prior to menarche, girls do not wear the huipile. So, when one encounters a female, one can immediately identify her village as well as her age and life stage!
Peace Fibres is intended as a starter, not an endpoint. My hope is to raise awareness of the powerful role fibre work plays, to inspire awe for the beauty and warmth offered throughout the ages, and initiate action in service of marginalized people through myriad organizations working toward empowerment. Those three words—awareness, awe, action—are my hope for readers, both individually and in groups.
I enjoy offering hands-on workshops and retreats along these themes. As we laugh and talk, we usually do some felt-making as a focus on self, then a needle-felting project such as blankets for babies, chemo-hats, scarves or shawls. These are donated to shelters, care centers, crisis nurseries, or any organization that the participants choose. Longer retreats include meditation, yoga, and additional projects.
May 12-13: Shepherd’s Harvest Festival, Lake Elmo, MN
May 17-20: Weave A Real Peace (WARP) conference, Boulder, CO
July 29: Ripple River Gallery, Aitkin, MN
Much, much appreciation to Marie at Living Felt for supporting this project!
For more info: www.peacefibres.com