• Sue McDowell

Same, same, different


I have to say that one of the wonderful things about getting older is that I've had time to really get to know myself - both my strengths (lol, who wouldn't want to focus on that?) and my foibles (yup, got 'em, still learning to acknowledge them). A challenge I have now, with my work in fiber, is knowing that I really don't know enough. In the past, I'd try to solve this gap in knowledge by taking course after course at various locations around the planet. That's not a bad option...but I always felt a little guilty about this wanderlust way of training. And I had the nagging feeling I should spend more time on task - figuring it out and documenting my own learning without all the travel. So this time out, with a new medium, I'm trying to pay attention to this insight into myself and spend more time on the loom; minimizing my time watching others. That said, I crave learning. So when I came across Jane Stafford's online weaving guild I was very excited. Three years of videos starting from beginner basics, moving through color theory and then delving into weave structures. I couldn't resist joining and I have enjoyed Jane's teaching style and the knowledge that I'm getting at just the right time - while I'm in the studio working away on product for this year's holiday sales. One of Jane's stock phrases is "same, same, different." And that's suddenly resonating in all sorts of places in my life - not just with my scarves which are, at a basic level, an example of her mantra - same yarn, same pattern, different color!

The mantra resonates with my commitment to doing holiday sales in the first place. It's hard work making enough product to feel confident selling, even if it's only for a few days. This year, being asked to sell both glass and fiber has special challenges in time management. Same (making), same (selling), different (two shows? two mediums?).

And just as I question my sanity, the polar bear season in Churchill begins! I was able to attend the opening PBI/Explore.org video while I kept weaving at the loom and I found myself reflecting on my initial impetus for this site - selling my work to create more revenue for arctic research. It's so easy to get busy making and forget the why to what I'm doing. But making scarves, or plates, or holiday ornaments isn't, for me, about adornment. It's about raising funds to give to a cause I feel very strongly about. Same (making), same (selling) - different (giving).

The kickoff video was also the start of my new role as a volunteer camera operator for the explore.org polar bear cam. I'm giddy to be able to spend 2 days a week scanning the horizon outside Churchill Manitoba for the bears that will be wandering about until the ice freezes in Hudson Bay. But being on this cam also signals that I'm winding down on my time as a cam operator for the

Mpala research center in Laikipia County, Kenya. Today was my second-to-last shift viewing this amazing place for this year. When I logged in my local contact said it had been a very quiet day.....and then, 30 mins into my shift...elephants! Eventually I was lucky enough to observe a mother and calf. As always with wildlife viewing the scenery was......you got it, "same, same, different!"

So now it's back to the cams for my shift with the bears. It will be similar to my shift in Africa - same camera controls, same communications with colleagues - but very, very different - the polar environment is stark this time of year, the viewers are many and passionate, the bears are elusive and we all get very excited when they appear. I'm hoping that my time on task with these cams will be even more motivation for my art work and that once I've moved past production and sales this year I'll be able to focus on bringing forth complete new work - same same different!

Back to the studio and the cams!


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