There was a time when my mother used to remove the collar from my dad’s old dress shirts, flip them and sew them back on again. The worn out shirts then looked like new. I thought my mother was very clever and resourceful. She said her mother (a seamstress) did the same thing at home with a family of six. Now I find myself mending a pair of old jeans so they last longer, because they are favorites, but also because I can. Perhaps it sounds silly but it gives me a sense of pride: to be resourceful and not wasteful in the sense that I’ll try my best to make a garment last if it fits well and it’s made of quality material such as denim.
Many of our art pieces are made with one or a series of recycled garments too. We try our best to use every inch of a shirt, skirt, pants, linen, etc. so that nothing goes to waste.
The year we lived for four months in Buenos Aires, we borrowed a sewing machine and collected old clothes from friends to cut up and use as fabric. All this in order to have enough material to create some art work. We also went to the garment district and picked through bags of remnants from factories. The result was eclectic and piecing together our designs was a challenge, but I remember the two pieces we made there fondly and perhaps, among my favorites. One was sent to, exhibited and sold in Australia. The other one was left behind with friends in Buenos Aires because it was too big to travel back to the States.
There is so much excess clothing that can be recycled, refashioned, or just plain worn again by another generation. When I walk into a second hand store I see so much potential. First, I see the clothes that look like new and we could add to our wardrobe, then I have fun finding a circus ringleader jacket and holding it in my hands like a precious treasure. How many stories that jacket could tell! Then I think about the project at hand and the kinds of fabrics at my disposal. I don’t see clothes anymore, the place turns into a source of materials. Even old cushions come home with me where I put them through the washing machine to use as stuffing.
Trying to do more with less is a challenge. We do it with our art work and with our home lives. We are surrounded by excess but are consciously making decisions we can live with. I guess you can say it all goes back to intentional doing.
*Just as I was drafting this post, I came across several articles (lots of interesting articles) under the Ethical Style section of GOOD about repurposed fashion, salvation army, excess consumption, etc.
Love is a seeking for a way of life; the way that cannot be followed alone; the resonance of all spiritual and physical things. Children are not only of flesh and blood — children may be ideas, thoughts, emotions. The person of the one who is loved is a form composed of a myriad mirrors reflecting and illuminating the powers and thoughts and the emotions that are within you, and flashing another kind of light from within. No words or deeds may encompass it.
Friendship is another form of love — more passive perhaps, but full of the transmitting and acceptance of things like thunderclouds and grass and the clean granite of reality.
Art is both love and friendship, and understanding; the desire to give. It is not charity, which is the giving of Things, it is more than kindness which is the giving of self. It is both the taking and giving of beauty, the turning out to the light the inner folds of the awareness of the spirit. It is the recreation on another plane of the realities of the world; the tragic and wonderful realities of earth and men, and of all the inter-relations of these.
It’s as if we were locked up, this is practically a jail,” says Yergo, a third-year student. Camilo, a second-year student, is happy not having to wear a uniform. “It’s like a military doctrine, everyone with their crew cuts, their little ties, shirt tucked in. Don’t do this, don’t do that. And now [that the students run the school], you can just be who you are. You can just freely express yourself, you come here to be educated, not to be militarized.”
“The assembly is the control center,” Cristóbal explains. “All students participate and at times it’s open to teachers. We have watch duty and volunteers come in to make meals. Teachers teach, but they also learn from the students. At the beginning we had classes subject by subject, but later we saw that parceling out knowledge wasn’t the real way to learn, and we all got together for each subject. Some [students] explained to others, and the education became cooperative. That changes the way you relate to the subject and to the school.”
Just as workers who take over a factory change the way work is organized, students who took over their schools changed the “curricular boundaries.” Students need to know their rights, says Cristóbal, so they offer classes on the Constitution. “Philosophy, for example, lends itself to analyzing mobilizations and what is happening in the world; we begin to see that students work better if they are more interested.”
Juan Francisco, a philosophy teacher, agrees with his student. “All the student discussions have led them to reflect on the structure of power in Chile.” That’s why they analyze the constitution in his classes. Often they hold workshops, which furthers participation. Weekly assemblies have been incorporated into the curriculum.
The relationships between students and teachers have shifted. As hierarchies melted, relationships became more cooperative and supportive. In the classroom, they sit in a circle. The teacher is someone who helps, but is not above the rest. Eliana Lemus, a teacher of biology, chemistry, and physics, and principal of the school, maintains that discipline is much greater than it used to be, perhaps because it is not imposed and there is a desire to be together and share the experience.
Kitchen Tool Lending Library (and a thought about collaborative consumption)
It just occurred to me that I would like to try a fondue, but don’t want to own one. It would be great to have a Kitchen Tool Lending Library. I can think of a few things we (and other people) could borrow. There’s no need to accumulate gadgets that we’d use only once in a while.
- waffle maker
- pasta machine
- pitchers (for a birthday party)
- big pasta pot (for a pasta party)
- juicer (for the couple of times when we bought tons of oranges)
So I googled “kitchen tool lending library” and of course I found out that Portland, OR has done it already (had in the back of my mind the Portland Tool Lending Library I heard of years ago). I found a Treehugger article tittled What’s mine is yours. What I’m looking for it’s called Collaborative Consumption, and that takes the weight of our shoulders from the pressure of buying all these tools. Of course, you can choose to do things the old fashion way and figure out how to solve your kitchen dilemmas. I can do without fondue but there’s already an inventory of tools out there that people have sitting in their kitchens. They could donate those to the Kitchen Tool Lending Library in my town (there isn’t one yet) so they don’t just sit in a crowded garage.
More importantly, after reading (and watching the video by Rachel Bostman) about Collaborative Consumption, I like the idea that “technology is taking us back to old market ways of trading, bartering, sharing and lending”. I think it is possible to create more community connections by sharing what you have and your knowledge of it. I’ll show you how to use a pasta machine and we can have a pasta party at the same time. Then you can do the same with friends. I have a few vintage tablecloths that are just sitting in my closet. I can’t use everything I own, but I can barter with it or share it with my community. Food has a way of reaching people (and their tummies), gathering interest, jump starting conversations. Everybody eats, we have that in common to begin with. In this post I went from wanting to make fondue to thinking about ways to reach into our community and creating meaningful connections. Perhaps I just need to go on Twitter and ask for a fondue in exchange for a loaf of bread or something.
Decades ago, when the Finnish school system was badly in need of reform, the goal of the program that Finland instituted, resulting in so much success today, was never excellence. It was equity.
“When President Kennedy was making his appeal for advancing American science and technology by putting a man on the moon by the end of the 1960’s, many said it couldn’t be done,” Sahlberg said during his visit to New York. “But he had a dream. Just like Martin Luther King a few years later had a dream. Those dreams came true. Finland’s dream was that we want to have a good public education for every child regardless of where they go to school or what kind of families they come from, and many even in Finland said it couldn’t be done.”
Clearly, many were wrong. It is possible to create equality. And perhaps even more important — as a challenge to the American way of thinking about education reform — Finland’s experience shows that it is possible to achieve excellence by focusing not on competition, but on cooperation, and not on choice, but on equity.
The problem facing education in America isn’t the ethnic diversity of the population but the economic inequality of society, and this is precisely the problem that Finnish education reform addressed. More equity at home might just be what America needs to be more competitive abroad.
Felt the need to write some notes about intentional doing after reading Kathreen's post. Intentional doing: thinking about how we do things and why we do them is always present in our lives, if not the minute we act, surely in our reflections. Our kids don't do school so we have the time to enjoy the process in everything we do. We find a way to get what we need without just being handed to us. Learning without schools requires motivation and there's plenty of it, so are the resources. We don't go around seeking knowledge as a goal, but as we engage in any activity like baking, reading, creating, etc. we reach for the tools required for the task.
Of course, there are times when there’s no time or patience to accomplish something, so we opt for the fast route, a shortcut (a staple instead of glue, canned beans instead of slowly cooked dry ones, etc.). Sometimes the world goes fast and won’t wait for you to hop on. So we hope on running, do what needs to be done, and hop off. Knowing how that feels, and needing a break from it, takes us back to finding new ways of intentional doing.
I told some friends last weekend when we were baking several loaves of bread throughout the day for an unconference, that given some quiet time, my favorite moment is when you first take the bread out of the oven and listen to it, cooling, making crackling noises. Of course the smell is amazing and the warmth makes you rub your hands together. All your senses are wrapped in this simple food item.
Slowly but surely. We’ve thought of designs to make ourselves t-shirts that say “slow-learners” or something of the sort but know that the gesture might be misinterpreted. We are not the kind of people that wears a logo to make a statement: “yes, we do take our time to learn something, how about you?”. See our work, read our words, or eat our meals. Take the time to know us and you’ll get us.
We gather all sorts of ingredients and take the time to learn how to make dishes that we’ve eaten or seen somewhere else: a salad with interesting ingredients from Kcet, a cuban sandwich from a blog, fresh oven bread from a article in a magazine. If it works for us we add it to our meals and we treat our friends to them as well. We haven’t been able to grow an edible garden but it is in our to-do list.
So we look back and evaluate our work. Sure we like to see results, a product sometimes, but always looking at how we get there. Sometimes it’s fun, sometimes we fail, it’s disappointing, rewarding, or none of the above. If you look closely, you’ll notice that your to-do list should include items that take you from one to the other. In order to accomplish one task, there are materials to be gathered, research to be done, mundane tasks to get out of the way, etc. It’s not about quantity but quality, we try and remind ourselves. Time flies when you are reading a good book, just one book. You might have a long list of books to read, but instead of worrying about getting to them, just enjoy the one you have in your hand right now. Sometimes there is time to take a snapshot of what you are doing but often it’s just a memory, a smell, a full tummy. Something in the process of reading, writing, doing will stick with you.
Change is an ongoing theme in our lives as well. We have to be willing to change and adjust. Things that worked one way in the past, don’t necessarily work or are needed in the present. I like to see a paper calendar on my wall for quick reference but my Google calendar is much more efficient. Working with a group of people who aren’t willing to try something different requires changes on your part, or for you to move away from them. Although change is part of life, we get stuck in what is comfortable, known. Intentional doing things, we’ve discovered that challenges can be exciting and there’s always something to learn from in trying. No, we don’t have everything figured out yet, and that’s the beauty of it. Let’s see what else is there to do, play with, try, experiment with, talk about, learn, see, read, share.