August 19th, 2019
Dear Christine and Katelyn,
I remember the first time I heard the phrase:
“You are the 5 people you spend the most time with.”
It made me think about who that was. It made me consider my own circle with intention for perhaps the first time – who was there by choice, who was there by default, who was there by guilt, or unreasonable expectation, or simply by lifestyle. It occurred to me that my time was like a cup of hot water, and those I spent my time with were like the ingredients of a tea meant, ideally, to nourish me. With time, reflection and honesty, I changed the balance of this tea. I wanted to steep in relationships that were reciprocal, growth-minded, full of laughter and unconditional positive regard.
This steeping metaphor also brought to mind the other ways in which I am surrounded by influential things: what or whom am I watching, listening to, dating, feeding, reading, working with or, perhaps more importantly, what or whom am I NOT? How is my life affected as a result?
You’ve probably been around here for long enough to know I think in flavours. Parts of my life tend to make more sense to me if I metaphorically compare them to their culinary counterparts. The women with whom I collaborate at Nurture tend to participate in their own creative lives metaphorically as well. I am attracted to those whose consideration of beauty, story, origin, quality, meaning, and craftswomanship are intentional. This is why, when I came across your natural dye and textile studio, Wild Woven Collection, I knew I had found kindred spirits.
I’m about to unapologetically slather the word ‘love’ across this post like salted butter on a hot bagel. Wild Woven Collection is a duo separated by a few Ontario cities, joined by a shared vision. Katelyn, I love how your design background and Christine’s knowledge of food combine to create a delicious collaboration, infusing old world techniques with a soft modern aesthetic. I love that you live, respectively, in Toronto and St. Catharines and run your business more cohesively than others who share an office. I love that the mix of your skill sets becomes greater than the sum of its parts. You are no strangers to the act and the art (and the aftermath) of steeping. I love that your art form includes technique, time-honoured tradition, and re-uses everyday natural ingredients.
You choose to make art from what is left over, the story of your creations taking over from what might otherwise be considered endings. I love this. I love how it reframes what kind of richness is available if I were to consider my own endings as fodder for new beauty.
The thing I love about any kind of handiwork is its ability to tangibly connect us to the metaphor and meaning behind the act of creation (and it’s inevitable partner, destruction). I love how you two start with outcasts from the kitchen or garden and literally ‘love them into’ everything from tea towels, bed linens, clothing, and the like. This loving’s first form is steeping. It’s intentionally bringing the qualities of something (in this case, everything from avocado pits to onion skins, to flowers past their prime) to a point where their essence can say the most. Where the essence of plant matter speaks in colour that transfers onto linen or silk or natural cotton to tell a new story.
Your work makes me think of ways in which natural cycles of death and decay and re-integration apply to the relationships in my own life (both creative and interpersonal) and how working WITH these cycles instead of against them can bring about beauty.
This meant I was even more moved when you agreed to collaborate on creating custom linen napkins for Nurture attendees to use throughout the weekend at our recent Spring retreat.
Our collaboration felt like an old-timey courtship through post:
First: you shipped me a big swath of linen. Swoon.
Second: I cut it into squares and sewed it into napkins by channeling everything I remembered from grade 7 Home Ec class, a sewing machine borrowed from my bestie, 3 YouTube tutorials, a frantic call to my sister, and 8,736 prayers to the bobbin goddesses. Thankfully, my prayers were answered and I then sent this bundle of plain ‘love letters’ back to you to dye.
Third: You put half in a bath of avocado pits, pulling them out when the colour reached a pretty blush like I hope you both do when you read this. The other half spent some time in a bath of onion skin, waiting till the perfect buttery yellow was reached.
Fourth: You then mailed the dyed napkins back to me, upping your cute washi tape game with each sending.
Fifth: I encircled each with an embroidery hoop, lovingly embroidering each attendee’s initials. By this time, I was very much in love both with you, with the napkins and with embroidering, my new hobby.
Sixth: their final destination was the gift bags at our Spring retreat, where they were unfolded to be used to wipe up ‘endings’ of their own – remnants of delicious meals off of mouths who spent a weekend eating and talking and laughing and creating. The fact that each attendee got to bring it home and re-use their napkin thrills me, because each now has a blush or butter-coloured piece of much-loved linen, into which this special weekend has been steeped. The napkins became a tactile portal, through which we can visit the essence of that weekend again and again, as well as the lineage of essences that contributed to their creation.
I am obsessed with the fact that these napkins both started and ended with a meal.
Christine and Katelyn, I want to thank you from the bottom of my linen-loving heart for your contribution to this weekend. Thanks to the care infused and ‘wild-woven’ into every aspect of your work, this retreat was all the richer for it, and my life all the more delicious for knowing you.
P.S. There is nothing I enjoy so much as being witness to others following their calling and creating delicious spaces for you to connect and be inspired. You’ll find a series of love letters to creative kindreds I’ve discovered whose passion, talent and depth of spirit are palpable on the blog, and who generously donated their products to the women attending our retreat. Does this describe you or someone you know? Feel free to learn more about our partnership model here for our upcoming retreats. Want to attend a retreat in person? We have our Fall retreat coming up November 15th -17th. Email email@example.com to be added to the waitlist for first access to registration!
Photo: Our Wild Woven Collection x Nurture Napkin Love Letter collab on site at Nurture Spring 2019 by Katie Benfey