"Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark. 
In effect, the people who change our lives the most begin to 
sing to us while we are still in darkness. If we listen to 
their song, we will see the dawning of a new part of ourselves."

Rabindranth Tagore

Existential Intelligence is the sensitivity and capacity to engage questions about human existence – how we got here, whether we have a purpose, and whether there is meaning in Life. Existential intelligence embraces the exploration of aesthetics, philosophy, religion and values like beauty, truth, and goodness. A strong existential intelligence allows human beings to see their place in the big picture, be it in the classroom, community, world, or universe.

First proposed by Howard Gardner, existential intelligence is one of nine theorized intelligences and is considered to be amoral – that is, it and the other eight categories of human intelligence can be used either constructively or destructively.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Donating to a Cause

Summertime in the northern hemisphere, and it’s darn hot in the studio. I only go up there to feed the cats. Pretty Girl and Marshall lounge around on the printing tables. Stretching out in the pool of morning sunlight is a winter activity. Right now they prefer a table near the open window, where there is at least some semblance of a breeze.

Teaching occupies my days. I am away for weeks at a time. Never are May, June or July productive studio months. I laughed recently when a student asked how much time I spend in the studio and was visibly surprised when I reported that months go by without a single day of making. Summer is about money in the bank. Without resources, studio days couldn’t exist at all.

A book proposal is occupying any time that isn’t spent preparing for classes. I think I’ve finally got a handle on ideas I’ve cultivated for ten years. Maybe I just had to grow up; or at least get a little older. Perspective isn’t automatic. You have to live long enough to establish distance before perspective is relevant.

Mixed in with thoughts about writing and making are a few thoughts about sharing, because I’ve been asked to contribute work to two events this month.

Giving art to an auction or other good cause is dicey. A long time ago I donated a hand painted shirt to the local public TV fundraiser. I went to the station the evening the shirt was going to be auctioned and when it was time to offer it for bidding, the hosts made fun of it. A ha ha, wink, wink sort of fun, but it felt demeaning. I never donated anything to the station again. I took it personally.

What I realized once I got perspective was that the hosts didn’t understand fiber/textile work. To them it was just a weird shirt. This was proven out at another event, where my darling darling bought the piece I’d donated, rather than risk the embarrassment of not getting a single bid the entire evening.

By then it didn’t feel personal. It was just that no one got it.

Fast forward and here’s my theory and a piece of advice. I do support good causes – not all of them; that would be impossible. But I like to get work out there. It’s a good feeling. I don’t think much name recognition actually comes from it. You should never donate your art to a cause because you think it’s going to get you something. That’s a deal breaker. Donate because you believe in the cause and it’s the right thing to do.

And be selective about what you donate. It has to be good work. You don’t want something crappy out there with your name on it. You should be proud of what you’ve given. It’s helped me to think about my audience. If I am fairly certain the audience won’t relate to my serious work, then I do one of two things. I pass up the request to give art, and instead I give money. If the piece only brings in 25.00 or worse, doesn’t get any bid at all, then a check is a pragmatic alternative.

If I want to donate a piece of work, I choose something that I believe will be salable. This is practical, but it also gives me a chance to play with some materials or processes I might not use all the time. So I expand my range and abilities, which keeps things interesting. Photographs are a good choice, for instance. And one of my favorite organizations always provides the artists with a wooden box. It’s good – the exhibit is integrated by the similarity of the materials, and the artists work with limitations that challenge and inspire them. The photos included today are of my piece for that event. It’s titled Hail, Hail….and the day of studio time it took to make it was a gift I wouldn’t have otherwise gotten.

San Francisco artist Jane Baker demonstrates the ultimate expression of generosity through making donations of art. Granted, Baker doesn’t need the income generated by sales of her work. Remember, we each have a singular path and hers isn’t mine, or probably yours. But hers is a good path. Baker donates every penny of her sales to charity, and allows the buyer to participate in deciding where the money will go. This is just another example of how we can move past institutional structuring and do good creative, generous things because we see the need and choose to meet it.

And have some fun at the same time. When I teach at Quilting by the Lake next week, I’ll get to be part of the annual apron auction. Each instructor embellishes a QBL apron and those are auctioned to support the scholarship fund. (By the way, there is still room in one of my classes there.) Two years ago Laura Wasilowski and Katie Pasquini vamped it up while I sang Honey Bun from South Pacific. This year I can’t divulge the whole plan related to the bidding on my apron, but I can say it will involved a hula hoop with lights. Sometimes you just have to cut loose and have some fun while you’re raising money for a good cause.

And isn’t it great that we can? Because we can do anything we want; we’re grownups.


  1. This is the most meaningful blog I have read today... Thank you for taking the time to write it. I donate as well, and have had mostly positive experiences, but I am young in my trade (but not in years!), and appreciate hearing your thoughts and wise perspective.... And you are correct.. It IS the right thing to do.

  2. very good thoughts on donating to causes that request work - I hadn't thought about giving a check in lieu of agonizing over creating a piece that might or might not sell well!

    QBL sounds like so much fun.......I should go now that I'm footloose and fancy free!


  3. First of all - I was there that night you decided to let you hair down to sell the aprons - I laughed till I had tears! You are such a tease about this year - now I can't wait till the auction!

    Secondly - a few years back a woman who admired my work was hosting a very hoyty-toyty silent auction. She asked me do a piece - I tried to get out of it knowing that the general public wouldn't appreciate it. She twisted and twisted till I gave in (although I told her I would gladly take back the piece if nobody bid the opening at $300)- I did a piece that was a little prettier than good design and you guessed it - no one bid - until she finally bid the minimum and took it home! Funny - though - she never asked me again (grin)!!