I have been interviewing a few customers about the towels, napkins and table runners they purchased from me. I am curious to know how they are using them and what difference using a handwoven textile makes in their everyday lives. Here is my interview with Caryn, an elementary school teacher in Portland, Oregon.
I met Caryn at the Lake Oswego Festival for the Arts in Lake Oswego, Oregon last June. Her aunt, Linda, is a friend of mine. Linda encouraged Caryn to come to the festival and to choose a towel that would be a gift from her.
You received your towel as a gift. What was it like to receive this gift?
At the end of this particular school year, I was so completely tired and exhausted, physically and emotionally. It was all I could do to keep being my absolute professional best and show up for my students with a lot of energy and love. So to have my aunt tell me about an artist that she knows and wants to share with me was in itself a gift right then.
Heading out to an arts festival and looking at someone else’s work is a beautiful experience. It was lovely to go on out and take time to select a handwoven, functional piece of art … even though I was exhausted. It reminded me of my humanity – going out and meeting an artist who is creating. It encouraged me to slow down and be present and to appreciate things.
It also got me thinking, Oh, right, Caryn, you had hobbies once and you have artistic things that you like to do. What are they? You could pursue those and take care of yourself. It’s very challenging to have time and energy to pursue hobbies (or other parts of who I am, outside of my professional life) during the school year. This visit was inspiring for me.
How do you use your towel?
At first my husband and I just wanted to have the towel folded and displayed. We just wanted to admire it, because it is really beautiful. We stared at it; placed it various lighting in our apartment. We took a photograph of our cat near it to send it to my aunt as a ‘thank you’. And we also used it on the first day.
Mostly, now, I dry my hands with it and every single time I do, I appreciate it. It is one of the truly beautiful things in our kitchen. We love it and we love the story behind it – that it’s from my aunt and my uncle whom I love very dearly.
Story is so important. When I look around this kitchen, the things that strike me are definitely connected with people or stories. Your towel, for example. Blue and yellow have been my favorite colors throughout my life. Knowing that I met the person who made it is incredibly special. It’s a reminder of my aunt, and it’s a reminder that I am connected to love in this world.
Does drying your hands on this towel make a difference in your everyday life?
Absolutely, yes. For one, I try to avoid buying things that are “disposable” – like paper towels or Ziploc bags – so I’m always eager to find alternatives that truly work and that I will really use. Functionally, I love drying my hands on something that feels good, and soft, and strong, something that I’m never going to throw away or put in the compost or landfill. I love interacting in such an “everyday” way with something so beautiful.
The towel also changes my life because every single time I use it, I think of beauty. The sheer experience of looking at it and drying my hands on it, and noticing that it’s beautiful, reminds me to notice what else around me is beautiful. The birch tree outside our apartment window, for example. It’s beautiful.
How does stopping and noticing beautiful things improve the quality of your life?
It’s a reminder to be present. Touching the towel can serve as a silent meditation to be present. For me – somebody who has spent a lot of her life struggling with anxiety and not being very present – noticing, breathing, asking myself what is actually occurring right now in the moment, makes a huge difference in my quality of life.
Is there anything you want to add?
The towel is opening up a question, consciously and subconsciously, in my mind. Because it is a reminder of beauty and connection, I get to ask myself, What are other ways that I can be inspired by this? How can I either make beautiful things or be more resourceful and creative during the school year? How can I make certain to have more beauty in my life?
I knit, I paint, I draw, I play music, and I used to write music. The towel reminds me that there are things I can do to bring beauty into my life and that I can be creative and resourceful, and build upon the inspiration I get from this lovely, handwoven towel.
My invitation to you: At the very end of our conversation, Caryn said that she is thrilled by the prospect of more and more people talking about beauty in everyday life. Please join the conversation. What is your experience? When you stop and notice the beautiful things in your life, what difference does it make? I’d love to hear.