I am writing to you with an invitation. As many of you know, I am in the midst of an extended project that explores letter-writing as an act of relational care, a vehicle for listening, a mode of attunement, in past present and future contexts. The correspondences have so far left their traces in a variety of forms – letterpress and monotype prints, audio narratives, artist books – and I am about to embark on an iteration in embroidery.
Taking Care will be a letter- and thread-based project of listening. I’ve seen so clearly these last many months that letters are not only a way of exchanging thoughts and ideas but also a form of active listening. As I wrote to a friend recently, I now see letters as an invitation to listen, almost a contractual agreement of care – a promise that I will listen to you if you take the time, take the risk, to share your thoughts with me. I have also experienced a clear connection between processes of handwork and labors of listening. During this last year I’ve been spending time with elders at an assisted living facility, in a weekly gathering whose attendees crochet, embroider, knit, color, and simultaneously offer care to each other through the generous act of listening, in much the style of sewing circles or quilting bees. In both letters and handwork, the invitation to listen is, I believe, directly connected to a slowing down, a taking time to take care, and this is precisely what I want to reflect in this next stage of my work.
Taking Care will focus on how we receive and remember acts of care, large and small. I invite you to remember a time when you felt genuinely cared for by another person, and I offer to listen to you. If you choose to share this experience with me, I invite you to write me a letter (or an email, if that seems more feasible to you), recounting in as much detail as you wish how you experienced this gesture of care. As part of my listening, I will embroider some of your words, selecting particular phrases that evoke the giving and receiving of care. I feel it important, along with the intimate act of listening, to make these words publicly visible in a concrete way – for we all know how often such caring labors remain unseen and undervalued. If you choose to write a letter by hand (mailing address below), I will embroider your words in a replication of your handwritten script. And if you choose to share an experience with me but prefer not to have any of the words made visible, I will honor that.
As I receive your stories of care from the past, I will also offer you, in exchange, some words of care for the future (so please include your mailing address if you wish to receive these by post).
Thank you in advance for considering this, for your time in listening to me and caring for me across time and space. I hope to reciprocate the labors.