A Tapestry of You and Me Together


By Amy Cheng


IMG_1985This spring I had the pleasure of being invited as a participant of the Weaving History Together: Making a Collaborative Blanket project led by Vancouver Arts Colloquium Society, which is an interactive and collaborative scheme designed to bring our neighbourhood together as a community through weaving a community blanket. Not community in the way it is used to describe a target market where conversations are only grazing the surface level. I’m talking about a real community of diverse people, of all ages and backgrounds, invested in each other. With that in mind, I spoke with the project facilitator, Debra Sparrow, an eminent weaver on her vision and inspiration for the project, and some of the other participants, like myself, on the process and the significance they have found through this initiative.


“I wanted to facilitate art that both the young and the old could easily participate in, because I believe art can be created by everyone—we are all creative,” says Debra. Of her own work with textiles, Debra describes, “The art of weaving is familiar to every culture, making it an ideal tool in creating communication. Conversations and understanding can’t help but manifest across a loom.”IMG_2996


Also inspired by the her affectionate memory of the Kerrisdale Community Centre as a child, Debra says, “I think it would be really fun to weave stories from the threads of our experience and communicate our stories with others. Binding our stories together in creating a beautiful community blanket.” She hopes to demonstrate the way our stories reflect the knowledge and wisdom that are part of every generation. “We need to listen, then listen some more,” Debra explains. “We just have to pay attention.”


“This project will do just that. As others teach me something through their stories, I may teach them something through mine in return,” she continues. “Just because we’re older, it doesn’t necessarily mean we know everything. Sometimes we don’t.”


“That’s why there’s lots to learn and to engage in from each and every intertwined story—we need to listen to the wisdom of the community,” she ardently concludes.


I then turned my focus to the other participants and posed the question, “How has this experience changed you and your idea of community so far?”IMG_1992


“The cool thing about this project is that weaving is an intercontinental tradition where people can bring in their own cultural aspects—their stories and histories. It makes me appreciate things more because of the way it connects us, where we’re able to have shared experiences and ultimately create a community,” Ellen, a youth participant, replies.


“We also get the opportunity in voicing and sharing our stories, and have moments where we can support and be the source of strength for one another through life’s experiences,” Ellen continues. 


“All this is utterly new to me and I like learning about other’s stories and histories. It is not just one thing, but it’s many things,” Robin, another facilitator, chirps in agreement.


From these conversations, you can see how our community project has developed into more than mere art. It has become a way of understanding how we get together and share skills and stories that nourish and uphold one another in our community. We all have our own ways of making and doing, learning and teaching. This is something our community project echoes—we all have unique attributes and essential contributions, across all age groups, to share with our community. In this sense, this project acts as an irreplaceable conduit in espousing intergenerational understanding, inspiring interconnectivity, and enhancing the welfare and growth of our community together.


FullSizeRenderWhat astonishes me even more, however, was the way weaving magically drew the people together in an instant. As Debra tenderly began her loom, people unconsciously clustered and hovered around the contraption—corporeally twisting and turning themselves to the perfect positions to catch a glimpse of the very act of her interlacing the distinct sets of threads at a gentle pace. With that, silence seized the room. The sound has been sucked out of the room just like that, with everyone spellbound. It was truly an enchanting experience. In that instant, everyone observed how Debra’s story materialized before their eyes. Each and every one of us tuned in and listened to the gentle introduction to her dialogue—her story. Subsequently, this acted as a reminder of the way these colourful textiles bind the community members together and allow the communities to cultivate and flourish collaboratively.


Throughout my adventure with this project, without a doubt, one theme that came up over and over again is that we are all intertwined in one way or another, with our threads and stories interlacing with one another’s. Our role as makers and creators of this community tapestry is to bind more and more of our community together. The catalyst is to show how we can weave these common stories into one blanket by crafting lives and communities of varying generations—creating a sense of belonging for both the young and the old. This is not a new teaching but one we often need a reminder of. From the first primordial makers to our ancestors, to crafters of different cultures, and now our community, we are all storytellers of palpable stories and histories.


Now is the time for all of us to realize our very own potentials as engineers of our own stories. All we need is to each find our common stories—that one thread that reels through our hearts and out of our hands, to make pieces of our stories tangible while interlacing them into a patchwork of quilts that binds us together.


From these tiny steps, we hope to build a space that genuinely meet the needs of the community we serve. Together, let us grab hold of the frayed ends of our stories and of our community and blanket this city to transcend generations in creating a stronger, beloved community that is built on heartfelt connections and collective collaboration. 

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