In your house, I bet – is your stash. Not just your yarn, but your books, your tools, your half finished projects, some of the things you’ve made… we all have a legacy that we keep around us when we’re textile artists. Deeply personal collections of tools, fibres and items that we use to do what we do, the way we do it. Now imagine that you’re not simply a textile artist… but that in addition to that, you’ve been a textile artist, full-time, your whole life. Imagine you teach the textile arts. Write books about them. Give classes, make videos – imagine that you are fully immersed, and it is literally your life. How you spend your time, what you do for a living… Imagine that you are the artist in residence at an arts centre, and you teach there too. Now imagine what you would have there. What you would keep in that space to show people, to help pass along what you do, and create a whole new generation of textile artists.
Now imagine that building burns to the ground. Ashes. Nothing left. The whole building, and all the stuff you had in it- gone in a single night.
Imagine what you would have lost, and how you would feel… and then know this.
On Monday, October 29th, the Rainforest Arts Center, where Judith MacKenzie is the artist in residence, burned like that. Absolutely everything is gone. Several looms. Fourteen spinning wheels – yarns, spinning fibre, a library of textile books… things Judith needed to teach both at the arts centre and at events like SOAR, Sock Summit and Fibre Festivals.
As you will be imagining now, this is a tremendous loss, both to the community, and to Judith personally. Judith is a dear friend of mine, and someone I look up to, and am inspired by, and I know that she’s a mentor and guiding light to almost everyone she’s ever taught, and I know that there are thousands and thousands of us. Her other friends know this too, and so in response to the fire, there’s a website here:
and, as I’m hoping you’re hoping… a nice donation button you can use to help. There’s other stuff there too, like the start of a wish list of things Judith needs in order to teach. That list, the site, all of this is just the beginning of figuring out how to put her textile life back together, and if you have a little money, or some tools, or anything that you think could help re-equip her, I know that her friends and I would be very grateful, and that Judith would be… well. I don’t even have words for what Judith would feel. She would never, ever ask for this kind of help. Judith is remarkable and resourceful and independent and proud and I know too, that although she would never show it, this has to be one of the most devastating losses of her life. I know that, because I know how it would hurt me, and you know how it would hurt you.
It will take a long time for her to rebuild what she’s lost – and some of the things really are irreplaceable – but this community takes care of its own, and Judith MacKenzie? She’s definitely ours.
Thanks in advance. Peace out from Oxford. Pictures tomorrow.