Thursday, December 05, 2013

Earth Stories

Last year, about this time, (maybe, a tad earlier?), I got the news that my proposal had been accepted for Earth Stories, an exhibit by SAQA.  Normally, when I enter my work into a juried show, I am so excited to find out that it got in!  This time was different.  I was selected based on my past work, and I would be making something entirely new for this exhibit.  There is a certain amount of stress and pressure to live up to expectations and I felt anxiety. 

The theme of the show was to make a work that celebrates some one or some project that is making a positive difference on the earth.  I selected Annie Leonard who put together a website and animated videos called The Story of Stuff.

I made an art quilt in 2011 based on one of her videos and I called it Planned Obsolescence.  Here is a photo of that little quilt.  It is currently on exhibit at the Gallery at the J, Austin, TX.  You can read the story about this quilt here.
Back to the Earth Stories project... I was visiting Annie's website (, and saw a new video!  It is the Story of Bottled Water.  A new concept emerges....manufactured demand.
It tells of the role of advertising to make consumers believe that they need items.  I don't believe there are any real villains here.  Someone creates a novel idea, they want to sell it, advertisers help them, and the consumer buys it, and if they like it, they will keep buying it.

The only thing is that sometimes I feel like I am drowning in too much stuff.  I feel resentful about the amount of time it takes to put stuff away, or get rid of old stuff, or find some lost item in all the stuff that is neatly stuffed into little pockets of space, drawers and closets.  I started to wonder how much stuff do I have?  And, do I really want to know?  I fear the answer.  And I fear the process of finding out the answer.

I wondered how much 'manufactured demand' plays in my consumer habits.  So I launched into Phase one of a whole new game plan, count all the stuff.  And then I would use the information to create an art quilt for this project.  And, I am curious that if I actually know how much stuff I have, will it influence my buying habits?  And, I have, on more than one occasion, regretted submitting this proposal. This has been yet another example of wishing the creative muse would just be quiet so that I could do fun stuff instead.  Because counting all my stuff....was not fun.  Not even close to it.  And, almost every one that I told about the project thought I was nuts.  This didn't help.

Meanwhile, I thought I would share my project with you. Now.  During this holiday season.  It is a perfect time to consider the intention behind the frenzied determination to get and give more stuff.  And, I LOVE Christmas, but now that the year has passed, and I finished counting all my stuff, and I know how much stuff I have, I really don't want any more of it.  I have emerged from the piles of stuff, a changed person.  It was transformative.
My perfect Christmas?  More time with the people I love.  Real.  Simple.

Wishing you a wonderful holiday season!

p.s.  I hope you will continue to visit, as I continue to blog about my Earth Stories project. 


debbi d-w said...

I am fascinated to follow you on this journey, Kathy. I have been purging much "stuff" from my life, but also value tremendously beauty and things that remind me of places, people, and events. I am a committed fair trade supporter as a means of reducing poverty on this globe and also support those sales. So, it will be interesting to read more as you reveal this project more fully. I admire your willingness to tackle it.

Kathy York said...

Yay! Thank you for sending such a kind message! Glad to know that we are on parallel paths!

Kay Koeper Sorensen said...

although I have almost finished with my goal of getting rid of 5000 things in 2013 (202 to go) I would not even want to try to count my "stuff" I still have. Yes, I it is a goodlighter feeling, but I do love some of my stuff and much will be passed along to my family at Christmas as I usually do.

DonaleeK said...

Kathy, you amaze and inspire me! Now I understand a little more behind your award winning quilt "you are what you eat". I loved it the first time I saw it, and it means even more now. We EAT STUFF.... I love (most) of my stuff. But I've been feeling guilty and heavy with stuff for about a decade! I feel this story of stuff will not so gently push me into doing something about it. We reuse, upcycle, and recycle most of our household and business stuff, but my husband calls my art studio.... "art supplies arriving daily" which isn't too far from the truth. Thank you for shining a light on this subject.
Also, you mentioned SAQA in one of your posts a while back, at the time (I'm a newby) I was unfamiliar with them, I've since joined and so happy. Thank you for the continued inspiration in many forms!

Kathy York said...

I've been thinking of you all year while working on this project! Every time you posted about getting rid of more stuff, it motivated me to get back to my project. Thank you! I also got rid of stuff, but I didn't keep count.

Kathy York said...

So glad to hear that you have joined SAQA. I really should be more descriptive about them when I post! Thanks for your compliments and encouragement.

Martha Tsihlas said...

Hi Kathy, I love to read your posts because there is always a very interesting story behind them. About "stuff". I moved to the US with a couple of suitcases and a couple of pieces of heirloom furniture and the "stuff" I have accumulated in the last 23 years has become to overwhelm me. Especially after reading the book The Joy of Less, a minimalist living guide. I'm working on purging stuff but it took me many years to accumulate it so I expect the process to be a long one. Picture frames for free, any takers??

Kathy York said...

Great story! Now, I want to read your book too! Regarding the picture frames...thank you, but no thank you! :)

Anonymous said...

Good stuff! ��