In collaboration with Jeni Hansen Gard
The goals of our project, Weaving Dialogues, are to allow people to connect people through shared conversation and to experience handmade objects. We collaboratively made pairs of mugs using porcelain clay. The surfaces are inspired by baskets, which were widely used before ceramics and often influenced early pottery. Basketry is something all cultures around the world have used through time, a symbol of reaching back to our commonalities. The mugs combine our respective skills—Jeni threw small bowl shapes for the bottom to which Lauren attached slabs and handles.
Before the first event, we hand embroidered each tablecloth with the starting prompt, “Describe an experience that has changed you.” When all guests arrived we set the expectations for the experience by talking about how important community is, how we should approach others with curiosity, and embrace differences as learning opportunities. Participants were paired up with someone they did not already know. Each pair chose a matching set of mugs from their respective table and were offered hot coffee or tea. The first event took place at Denison Art Space in Newark, Ohio and began with the prompt posed by us. At the end of the session participants were asked to leave a statement where their conversation left off. Future iterations will take place across the country including Portland, Oregon, and Las Vegas, New Mexico. These will build on the previous prompt, symbolically creating one dialogue between all participants. The words embroidered on the tablecloth provide a glimpse into the conversations that took place at each table, leaving future viewers to ponder what was said between the questions.
Weaving Dialogues varies as it travels to different locations in an effort to meet the needs of that community and/or hosting organization. At the Denison Art Space we focused on connecting residents of the geographically close but disparate communities of Newark and Granville. As the project evolved we realized that the tablecloth became a central component as participants immediately went around reading the prompts and labored over the words to leave behind. Through their handwritten text that we embroider into the cloth and the less planned stains that now cover the top of the white sheets, participants record their history. The tablecloths serve as a way to document the events, weaving thoughts together into a continuous dialogue.
At the end of conversations, each pair writes a prompt where their conversation left off. Their words and handwriting are embroidered into the tablecloth. The following pair will use this prompt, symbolically continuing the previous conversation.
The first conversation began with "Describe an experience that has changed you" and ended at "What in your core drives you?"
The second conversation began with that and ended with "Next steps in your life?"
This will be embroidered into the tablecloth before the next participants resume the conversation. They will share a beverage out of the same mugs.
"Describe an experience that has changed you."
"What are you committed to?"
"What event helped you to find your direction in life?"
We hope to take this event around the country with the goal of creating community through symbolically connected dialogue.