Colorado Art Ranch artposium: Dwellings

You don't have to live in Colorado to go to a Colorado Art Ranch artposium. I do happen to live in the state, but it's not a requirement. You just need to like good company and fascinating conversations, and to entertain the idea that looking at something from all sides will reveal more than a single view from a fixed position can show.

The Colorado Art Ranch has no fixed location. It was "founded on the belief that the arts are an agent for change." It organizes and hosts events in parts of the state that are outside the metropolitan areas. In Colorado, that gives the catalyst-organizers a lot of options. They decide on a topic, find people from a variety of backgrounds and perspectives to talk about aspects of it, and then we all get together and stretch our brains in delightful ways. I have left every artposium with a changed perspective and bigger ideas. And I've met a lot of terrific people.

The artposium last week took place in Salida, a mountain town southwest of Denver, and the topic was Dwellings. That last link leads to artist Sherrie York's more comprehensive post about the artposium. This next link will go to the Colorado Art Ranch information on Dwellings information now, but soon it will instead feature the next event, which is . . . 

Hardrock Revision 

The next gathering has the intention of using both art and science to figure out what to do with an inactive silver mine and its associated town site. That's a significant problem, involving historic buildings, economic difficulties, and the complications of pollution.

Hardrock Revision has four main objectives:

  1. Stimulate open and productive discussion about possible uses for an inactive mine in Hinsdale County.
  2. Foster dialogue between the mining and the environmental communities.
  3. Develop guiding principles for choosing solutions to the inactive mine site that are consistent with the community’s values and goals.
  4. Test a model for collaboration among artists and scientists to address an ecological and social issue.

Using "the arts as a tool for creative problem solving," the project will address "the community’s needs through stakeholder participation, an art-science collaboration for envisioning uses for the mine site, and a public forum of the team’s collaborative recommendations."

I can't attend that one, but I look forward to hearing what happens!


Meanwhile, I did get to be part of the Dwellings artposium last weekend. In a way characteristic of Colorado Art Ranch's definitions, "dwellings" included bodies, solutions to homelessness and refugee situations, affordable housing with dignity, being at home in words, an anthropologist's view of the importance of habitations in culture and environment, photographs of the spaces between houses, and more. This particular event was given continuity by the poetic and musical contributions of the River City Nomads, a group of five poets (I can't find a link for one of the poets) and a musician who interpreted the shifting themes in their six individual voices, which gathered to create a sort of dwelling for the event itself.

When I reviewed the offerings, I noticed that the planners had missed a dwellings concept that I consider important, so I prepared my brief presentation to repair the omission.

Here are my slides:


Time was short and I needed to focus on one aspect of the situation, so I chose:


We've got three generations of my family represented here, and the five images on the left represent clothing we've made for ourselves or for each other. The blue sweater in close-up is my daughter's first complete knitting project, for which she chose the yarn, planned the design, and worked every stitch. She's wearing it in the adjacent photo. At upper right, my sister and I are in another type of portable dwelling: protective clothing for biking.

I discussed the idea that clothing doesn't need to be ephemeral, and can be passed around among the generations.

Then I shifted to three examples of specific items made to serve as spiritual, as much as physical, portable dwellings.

First, I showed a piece made with handspun yarn from Gulf Coast Native sheep—a rare breed that offers an interesting contrast to the synthetics that many people are choosing instead of natural fibers. I'd rather have sheep on the Gulf Coast than an oil spill. The fiber came from Spirit Trail Fiberworks, dyed by Jennifer Heverly. I knitted the scarf, "for a friend who needs some serious frivolity," using the Helix pattern by another friend, Stephenie Gaustad. Stephenie was inspired by nudibranchs, a fact the intended recipient would appreciate.


Next I looked at locally sourced yarn. For Jared Flood, who imagined this yarn and then did the work to make it exist in the world, "local" means U.S.-sourced. For us in Colorado it has an even closer relationship, the fiber having been grown in Wyoming, our neighbor to the north. Jared calls the yarn Shelter, which certainly fit the weekend's theme, although I would have used this yarn no matter what name it carried. It's great. I knitted a hat from Jared's Fortnight pattern, and those are his photos on the model (used with his permission). This was made for a friend "who needs bounce and brightness."


(Note for the fiber folk: although I put locks of Targhee and Columbia wool in the photo and talked a bit about different qualities of wool, the fiber from which the yarn is constructed is grown by crossbred sheep, Targhee X Columbia. The blend is produced in the animal, not the mill.)

Finally, I turned to the use of yarns that support communities on other continents, using Frog Tree's Merino yarn to make another of Jared's Fortnight hats. (It's a great pattern and I have it memorized now.) This hat is for a friend "who needs softness and serenity." This friend and the person for whom I made the previous hat are partners; there's a bit of yarn from the first hat incorporated into the brim of the second one.

There's a lock of Merino wool in this slide, too, and I talked about how many Merinos there are in the world (it's not a rare breed) and how crucial it is in the current economy of wools. Yet I also talked about how being aware of where one's Merino comes from—for example, from Frog Tree's community-supporting program—makes a difference.


And with those combinations of physical and emotional shelter, manifested in the form of a few small knitted items, I said my piece.


One of BK Loren's workshops on Saturday was especially productive for me. I've spent the subsequent week writing several types of things here, all with deadlines, and the approach she suggested fed into my process and freshened it for me.

One more note. In preparation for the weekend, I had read BK's The Way of the River: Adventures and Meditations of a Woman Martial Artist. Excellent. And that comment comes from someone who (as you'll know if you've been here before) is far more interested in fiber arts than in martial arts. Recommended (except for the font the publisher used on the cover; not the author's fault, and once you open the book you don't notice any more). Check it out.

As fragmented as this view of the weekend has been, I do have a few more souvenirs to share in another post.


6 thoughts on “Colorado Art Ranch artposium: Dwellings”

  1. Marvelous post!
    I think my absolute favorite bit was the use of the yarn in one partner’s hat for the brim on the hat of the other partner. I got a little verklempt.

  2. Thanks for caring about the Cowichan sweaters book. Priscilla and I are still working on it. It's a labor of love. Priscilla has had other things she needs to do, although part of what she's done is add even more material. I've been writing the big book for Storey (published last week). We don't get paid anything for the months, sometimes years, of development on a book. I keep looking for a magic way to get the bills paid in a way that will let me concentrate on it and get it done soon {wry grin}! I have done almost all the charts (a huge job) and some of the editing and layout. There's probably only about four months of full-time work left (plus figuring out how to finance the print run). So it's close, but it won't be out tomorrow.

  3. What, no yurts as shelter?

    Hi Deb, just rec’d my copy of your book this week. What an amazing work!! I love it.

    Also, thanks for the book recommendation (The Way of the River). Just finished reading The Gift of Rain which has a martial arts theme to it. Am amazed at the parallels with yoga as a discipline.

  4. Hi, Valerie! Actually, yurts showed up in some of the other folks' presentations. I was watching for them–! 

    So glad you like Fleece and Fiber.

    Yes, I saw many parallels between yoga practice and what BK Loren discusses in The Way of the River. She talks a bit about some parallels with meditation practice (alone) toward the end. Will check out The Gift of Rain.

  5. Thank you for the update on the Cowichan sweater book. I’m excited to hear it’s still going forward, and with even more material to boot! Maybe by the time it’s out I’ll have enough wool washed, carded and spun to design a new sweater from the new book. 🙂

    The work you’re both putting into it is greatly appreciated!

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