The Art of the Art Community

Saturday our  writing group met at my house.  We had all been looking forward to this for weeks and even months, and there was no way I was going to miss seeing these people.  But when an invitation to a friend’s Origami Days celebration appeared on my Facebook page, I felt more than a tiny bit of conflict.

Leyla Torres, a gifted illustrator had recently revealed on her long-time interest in Origami on her Facebook page, and she joined the community of Origami users in their global, on- and off-line celebration of the art last weekend.  But writing group is now sacred to me, and I contented myself with the hope that I would see the results on Facebook on Sunday.  Fate and my family had other plans, however.

The Big Guy took command of the kids for the afternoon so that grownup talk could happen at our house.  I expected them to return about the time the group ended, but it was getting dark by the time they bounded in the door.  The Big Guy usually finds something fun for them to do – hardware stores, Lego exhibitions, and welding shops – and today was no exception.

This man who has avoided Facebook like crazy had discovered Origami Days as he was driving by our friend’s studio in Arlington, VT.  He took a chance and dragged the kids into the tiny gallery, and they emerged an hour later brimming with a different kind of energy.  Their excitement still showed by the time they glided in the door, pockets full of Origami swans and toys.  In two minutes, Thing 2 apprised me of their day, of the entire history of origami, and of the generosity of their hostess.  The Big Guy then told me that she was holding the gallery open just a little longer, so I grabbed my keys and out the door I went.

The gallery was in an old carriage house behind the big stone Church in Arlington. Petite with a sometimes soft-spoken demeanor but a feisty spirit, Leyla shares gallery and studio space with her husband, John Sutton, a multi-talented artist and gifted photographer. Heated by an old wood stove, the simple rustic gallery was decorated with John’s black-and-white photos (in frames he built himself).  But it was the riot of color on the table at the center of the small space that grabbed my attention and held it.

Strewn across the table were dragons and roses and butterflies and intricate boxes made of folded, interwoven pieces of paper. Some of them seemed (deceptively, I’m sure) simple; others clearly had taken hours and years of practice to learn how to construct.  Leyla cheerfully shared the history of her interest in this craft and in a community of paper artists dedicated to sharing peace through art.  But it was the colors that caught my heart as they reminded me of a gift/prize I had received from another artist earlier in the day.

Maria Wulf, a fiber artist and the wife of our group leader has been joining our sessions, and she serves as a gentle sounding board and resident joyful spirit.  That spirit is evident everywhere in her art.  She designs quilts that are colorful and somehow contemporary and traditional.  She had created a giveaway contest on her website, and I was the lucky winner of two colorful potholders.

My prizes were, like Leyla’s origami, a marvelous combination of connecting shapes and colors.  But they were each reflections of their creators, spreading happiness and peace.  I knew the two of them should meet at some point, and I told Leyla about our group and about my potholders.  I asked if I could link to her site (I’ve linked to Maria’s site since I’ve had this blog), and I could see her excitement rising. We talked about art and writing and encouragement, and, suddenly, she stood up and went to the basket full of origami art at the end of the table.  She started rummaging and pulled out seven or eight flat pieces that could be easily carried home and said, “Here take this to your writing group as a gift from me.”

I thought about the other gifts she’d already given my kids this afternoon. They were bits of paper, and they were art, but they were also trophies of a world made just a little wider in the space of an afternoon.  And when our group next meets to widen it’s world, I’ll bring these trophies, and, with them, (I hope) the encouragement that feeds not just the artists but the communities they nurture.