It takes a while to settle a routine as an artist in residence and its hard to let go.
I miss my family yet they just keep movin’ to their usual beat.
First I want to do it all, and then I don’t know what to do.
But I have so much to do.
I need a rhythm, a rhythm.
I went to Winding Bay last July with 28 kids from the Cultural Center but this time I am alone. This time I follow the “public beach access” sign and turn left instead of right to take the sandy road all the way to the end.
At first I am annoyed, I am still annoyed by the pedestrian e-mails that came in from life back in Miami, like a client who’d promised to send a wire last week and now tells me that she sent a check by mail. Bullshit stuff I don’t want to deal with, but it’s the jostling and jousting we all do for our lifestyle, from health insurance to school acceptance letters and 2011 taxes.
I am annoyed that the local public beach is half a mile up a potholed dirt road whereas private vacation homes are conveniently dotted all along the easy access paved road to the right. I know it’s silly but I still feel controlled by the powers-that-be back home. I am so not in the here and now. I am allowing negativity into my life. I’m not feelin’ the island love. I am grumpily thinking that I have no freedom no matter where I go.
After much bumping around I make it to the end of Winding Bay beach. I park the car and get out. The wind swishes through the Casuarinas, they may not be indigenous, they may kill other plant species, but I do love them for their sound, that gentle hush through their long thin needles. A rhythm. I walk across the burning sand to the water’s edge, it’s high tide and perfectly clear. Tiny waves lap back and forth. A rhythm. I notice a small turtle swimming a few feet away. I stay very still and watch her. A tiny head breaks the surface and she glances at me while taking a breath.
That’s when I forget about wires and threatening e-mails from Bank of America. It all dissipates as I stand knee deep in water and watch and listen to the harmony of what happens around me. I hear the chorus of birds in the trees behind me. I see two more, mature, turtles who also check me out. Their perfectly round heads pop in and out, black and glistening against the aqua marine water. A rhythm.
I take out my camera and change the lens to macro. This forces me to really look, drawing me into my environment and out of myself. I notice the texture of a bleached branch rather than just a dead tree, the repetitive patterns in the sand, the sharp edges and chiseled surface of the rocks and their shadows. The color of water, sand, wood, rock, shell, seaweed, plastic, all become part of me as I shoot frame after frame.
I sit down to draw the patterns of the sand. I am happy. I can stay here forever but a big fat black fly comes at me with persistent rhythm and eventually drives me away.
I had a restless sleep in my tower. The myth in the village is of course that Gordon MacMillan Hughes’ spirit still haunts his castle. Never mind that he died in Ireland, about 4000 miles from here, a mere practicality the spirit-world does not recognize. I went to bed with my windows open. I needed to hear and feel my first night in the settlement. As soon as the sun went down and darkness settled the town had become quiet. No more children shouting and laughing. No more passing cars. For a while there was the shrill pumped-up engine of one lone motorbike, a rebellious teenager with a new toy I imagined, going back and forth crisscrossing the small streets until he got bored or hungry or his mother finally pulled him inside.
I fell asleep in silence but sudden random noises woke me. First a dog barked, then a woman cried out. I’d drowse off and a lone car passed by or a drunkard sang in the distance. It was too hot, a mosquito had found me, I dreamt that my husband and my teenage daughter were smoking pot together and I shouted is this is what you do as soon as I leave? They laughed at me. Throughout my dreams I wasn’t wearing my contacts so everything was blurry. Only people with very bad eyesight can appreciate this dream, when the powerlessness of our disability becomes full-blown reality.
Just before dawn the dogs started their ferocious chorus. In rural towns all over the world stray dogs herald daybreak before the rooster. Maybe they are the ones who wake the roosters who get all the credit for waking us humans.
I got up and closed my windows, turned on the AC, took a Claritin for the mosquito bites and slept till 8am when the sounds of the settlement grinding into action drifted past the humming air conditioner. A group of girls in crisp white shirts with little bow ties that matched their tartan skirts walked by on their way to the elementary school that lies a few hundred yards from the castle. They played loudly in the schoolyard until exactly nine when all went quiet again. Next I heard the teachers starting class, their voices drifting up the hill and from the roof terrace I could see right through their open classroom doors to the bright turquoise water of the Caribbean.
view from the roof, the settlement, the elementary school and the Caribbean
I made my morning cup of PG tips tea and turned on my shower. It sputtered and a grinding noise came from the pipes but nothing happened. I was not surprised. To expect perfect plumbing at a castle would be unreasonable. I called Metta, MacMillan Hughes’ daughter and the castle’s keeper.
“Columbus will come over to check it out,” she said.
He was short, wiry and ageless. His once-white skin had weathered into almost black and was deeply grooved yet his dark brown hair didn’t have a strand of grey. His legs were short and bandy, and his back was bent but appeared strong under his dirty white tee that advertised the name of a marine supply store. When Columbus and I crossed the roof to my turret chamber (and shower) he lamented the fact that he couldn’t see both oceans from this highest vantage point in Tarpum Bay.
“Only you would care,” I said and Columbus laughed like we were both in on some cosmic joke.
Yes I am here and voila, I am Barbi scissorhands.
I arrived at the MacMillan castle yesterday afternoon for my tenure as the Tarpum Bay artist in residence.
I’ve never been an artist in residence before.
I’ve not been a princess in a turret either.
I’ve been a model and a designer and a wife and a mother but never a damsel in a tower in the Bahamas (beats London). Can I handle it? Alone for the first time in god knows how long (sure I’ve been away from my family but somehow it doesn’t count when I have to show up for breakfast, lunch and dinner with a client.)
I just figured out that if I stand on of one of the towers facing the tiny library on the next corner I can get a good enough signal to upload my pictures and first daily blog….
I am woken up at 6.30 by my fifteen year old daughter. Depending on her teenage mood she either wiggles my toe or mumbles a sullen “wake up Mom”. Sometimes I’m already awake and, waiting for her to open the door, I’ll call “I’m up” before she enters the room. Occasionally she has to search and finds me on the sofa because there are times when a queen is just not big enough for her fretful viking parents.
After sliding my contacts sideways into sleepy eyes I pull an outfit from the closet that could attract the attention of roadside assistance on the Alice Tuttle Parkway. I don’t brush my teeth until after my first cup of tea, two bags of English PG Tips, super strong, lots of sugar and milk, and sipped as I make the next three lunch boxes out of the 4982 lunch boxes made thus far and the 2400 or so left to go. I like making lunch boxes. I refuse to iron, I hate washing pots, I’m not strong at patiently explaining home work but I do get into assembling lunch boxes. First the sandwich and its variations: white bread, whole wheat bread, cesar rolls, ciabatta rolls, bagels and wraps, turkey and cheese, ham and cheese, tuna, cream cheese, egg salad, hummus tomato lettuce, and occasionally for the unexpected and I’m out of everything, peanut butter. An apple or satsuma or grapes or melon. A large chocolate chip cookie from the Fresh Market and finally the salty element; chips or pretzels, crackers or Pirate Booty. Iced tea in the three canteens. Its the first creative act of my day.
By 7.15 Iona and I are in the car. By 7.30 I drop her off at the railroad tracks that run along DASH – her high school. We talk along the way. We catch up. There’s always something. A teacher. A test. A pesky text from an ex-boyfriend demanding back some gift bestowed in the early days of his mad passion. I curse and scream at the Miami drivers, justified in my agro by a recent report that Miami drivers REALLY are the worst in the country. Its not me. It’s been proven and I attest: They don’t move at a green light, they slow down for orange so they can check messages, but do run every red light, they change lanes randomly, pull out of parking spots without looking, never use a blinker, speed in a slow zone and do 25 miles in the outer lane of the highway. They drive around speed humps as if that’s actually an option and mothers make u-turns on the school crossing almost running over the carpool of kids they just unloaded, all while texting.
Once I’ve dropped off Iona I have 12 minutes to make it back home. 7.42. The school bus for the twins arrives around 7.50. They are never ready and always in a wardrobe-induced flap. Amber hops impatiently through the hall, hyper at the knowledge that she’s next on my roster. The three of us run to the light, press the may-pedestrians-cross-soon button, ensure we don’t get run over by a red-light jumper and wait on the opposite corner. Alton Road rush-hour traffic zooms by. The same thousand cars every morning. The same yellow Fiat with the redhead, the same black mini Cooper with the fat woman, the same tan man on his bicycle, the same white Range Rover turning onto Allison Island. I wait with my girls until they get on. Ever since a black Cherokee almost slammed into the back of their school bus I make sure they do not enter until all cars behind have stopped. I wave at the driver, a friendly grey haired woman, the girls hiss back at me “she only speaks Spanish, Mom!” as if I waved in English.
I press the pedestrian light again, check the traffic exiting from our community gates for the black Porsche Cayenne that came so close to hitting me a month ago that I actually screamed FUCK and saw my life flashing while the driver, her face a few feet from mine, remained unimpressed and did not even mouth “sorry”, something I would definitely have done had I almost run her over, just in case I’d meet her by the pool later.
By eight I’m home. I thank God for sparing me and my family yet again, clip the leash on Amber, grab a poopie bag and am dragged around Aqua for the next ten minutes, fresh on the trail of the Airedale terrier – Zoe from Zoe Way (coincidental or intentional one wonders.) Amber, who ignores all dogs, has decided Zoe is da meanest bitch of Miami Beach and needs to be taken out. We pee, we shit, we pick up the shit because cameras are trained everywhere (in the last condo meeting there was even talk of D & A testing un-bagged left-behind turds in order for appropriate fines to be imposed.) Not I. I am proud of my own goodness every time I pick up, and when the security guard passes in his golf cart moments after a shit has been taken I hold up my baggie and call out “I got it” as if he’s driving by just to check on me, which is not altogether unlikely.
studio aka garage
I return a disappointed Amber home and grab my swimsuit that hangs from the doorknob in my studio, also known as the garage. I change, wrap the mandatory Aqua towel around my waist and ride my bike along Indian Creek to our pool. It’s invariably a gorgeous morning. We’ve been in Miami two years and four months and I still notice the luxury of the weather. It is sunny, warm and the air has a hint of salt from the ocean two blocks away. I look for dolphins or manatee in the creek. A heron flies close to me, checking for fish. I admire the tall palm trees on the other side of the water and the mansions with their tropical gardens and jetties with million dollar yachts. There is no one at the pool except for the Aqua grounds keeper preening for the day ahead. I wade into the Olympic sized body of turquoise water and start my thirty laps. The water is warm. Too warm. A ridiculous waste I think every morning as I pull a bunch of bougainvilla flowers from the filter. I start to think as I swim through more fuchsia bougainvilla. The sun is just coming around the tall apartment blocks of Millionaire Row along Collins, the avenue that separates the creek from the beach. I think of the day ahead. I lay it out like the lane I’m lapping up, with each stroke I run my list: Finish taxes, call Blue Cross Blue Shield, balance my check book, mark up the next BHS folder, send e-mail to John about the wine sponsorship, order 200 tee shirts, did the Botanical gardens respond yet? And why not? I think of the BIG list. The list of things to do with the rest of my life. My ambition list. I think of how I felt those first few months I was doing laps here. How I was unsure, insecure and off-kilter. How in the second year so much turned around, how doors opened and how I passed through them. I imagine I am exactly in the middle of my entire life. Its been eventful so far and I look forward to what’s coming. I think of the 120 or so pieces I have to make for my new collection. I anticipate what it will be like when my routine goes upside down and inside out when I’m leaving all this behind for three whole weeks.
I’ll be alone for the first time in 16 years. Alone in a house. No actually, a castle. I shall make dinners just for me and 45 less lunch boxes in the big scheme of things on my to do list.
99% of the art at Art Basel Miami was for the 1%, the remaining 1% was for the 99%.
You get the math?
Global capitalism at work! Consumerism in overdrive, showcasing the trickle-down effect to a select few formerly starving artists (most now dead) and their Prada clad uber dealers. Selling masterpieces or rather masturbation pieces to the super rich.
But where is this irony reflected? Is a Picasso still a radical challenge to the status quo? Where is the new rage?
This commodification of status art is boring. The endless (and I mean endless) rows of mind-dulling booths with static canvasses, photos, installations, sculptures and hangings is so overwhelming that it’s impossible to recognize the good from the bad from the new from the old.
Picassos, three in one booth, look blah, Calder, Delaunay, Miro, feel like so what? An entire gallery filled with about 200 original Warhols, cute but can we go home now…
To present art, some great art, as interior decorating like an all-you-can-eat art buffet to binging collectors in the same space that held the car show just a few weeks ago and the boat show next month diminishes its cultural and historical value. Just because the creamiest 1% of the 1% cream have agreed to agree, leaving nothing to chance. Their millions safe within the vaults of big brand investment art.
intertwined tires made from black marble
Design Miami was nestled like a co-dependent snooty mistress in a tent alongside the massive convention center.
Design Miami used to be in the Design District, where this year the Buckminster Fuller Dome and Dymaxion car where re-created by Sir Norman Foster making an inspired statement for inventive design that reflects past and future. Art Basel Inc. has taken over Design Miami and keeps it close to their all-encompassing police-state-of-the-art campus, with Schwarzenegger-esque guards who look like they will pepper-spray anyone that does not meet the humorless Swiss code of conduct.
photo: Alastair Gordon
Design Miami houses designers. Or rather galleries who sell the work of furniture, jewelry, lighting, life-style designers. No art allowed in this building. Just design. One booth had two blank walls with nails where their fifties wall weavings would have hung had it not been for the style police deeming them to be art and forbidding the gallery to sell them.
So, you may wonder, what happened to art that says fuck you to all this monitoring, keeping track and bourgeois judging of what should live and what should not?
Where is the To Create Art is To Burn Alive spirit behind this snob spectacle?
Where is the devil-may-care, I have the urge to get lost, give me a piece of wood, a canvas, a block of clay and I’ll see you next year, spirit of the artist?
Sanitized! Lobotomized! Exorcized!
Even the satellite shows with younger and edgier work were eager to register on the luxury radar, and attract those god-like collectors who spread the magic gold that makes or breaks careers.
Still there was the upside that the remaining 1% of art was for the remaining 99%
This 1% was getting dirty in Wynwood where another set of walls had been given up to artists who painted manically, obsessively grinding and wielding their cans, sprays and ladders.
Beach plastic necklace. Crosses made from crate embellished with seed pearls
Today the ether is atwitter with quotes from Steve Jobs to “think different”.
Everyone is encouraging everyone to think different.
(A paradox I think)
The TED movement is based on this Steve concept, in fact TED has branded thinking different with “Ideas Worth Sharing” and encourages people from all over to share their ideas, their ways of different thinking, around the globe.
Many people are asking about my TED talk, “How did you get in? How did you do it?”
To be honest it had not occurred to me until I was invited by TED to share my recent work at their next event in Miami.
The evolution of my relationship to what I find on the beach and what I do with it has been organic and compared to the speed of my previous life on 7th Avenue where a new collection was due every six weeks, it was slow.
Slow is good. Slow gave me more time to think . But, because the thoughts happened over an extended period of time, they no longer feel different. They have become part of who I am.
So when I talk about my passion for beach plastic it does not feel like I think different.
Different may well be in the eye of the beholder and it’s in constant flux.
Sixty years ago plastic was a “different” material. It was introduced as the material that would give nature a break because we were depleting wood, bone, ivory etc. Now there is not a moment in our life when we do not interact with it. The entire planet is awash with plastic. Oceans carry plastic particles around like cells in a bloodstream. Plastic has been found in tens of thousands of living species, including us. Single use plastic is no longer giving nature a break, it is suffocating life.
In the past I put my creative work out there, but not the thought behind it. I have always been more interested in the outcome rather than the explanation of the creative process and believe that authenticity resonates on its rightful frequency. But because my work now has an element of activism I succumbed.
I’d hate to preach. I am not here to make any individual feel guilty. I can inspire but I cannot tell you what to do.
(Corporations, hell yes, I’ll make them guilty all day long, as well as government and policy makers).
But as individuals we have free will. We are in charge of our own destiny. We can inform ourselves and choose to act. We can decide to bring our own bags to the supermarket instead of using 20 plastic bags instead. We can recycle, reuse, repurpose and refuse. We have the choice to take responsibility.
in between the lines
My personal transformation started in Eleuthera 8 years ago.
On my first beach walk I noticed, in between the lines in the sand, bright flecks of color. My initial thought was how pretty but then I realized these specks of plastic were not supposed to be there.
By the end of that first walk I had encountered everything that mankind had ever made in plastic.
Crates, chairs, brushes, lids, containers, barrettes, flip flops and sneaker and endless lengths of nylon rope.
Even on this remote “pristine” beach I realized that we live in a man made world.
Being a designer I look at almost everything as shape, color, texture and inspiration and what I saw that day I’d never seen before.
The beach plastic had been tumbled in sand, salt and coral. and was bleached by the sun. It had been in nature for so long that it had taken on a natural patina. Some pieces looked like stone, like little colored gems.
I started picking them up.
My love hate relationship with plastic started in that moment .
Back home I tried to find out more.
I learned that we each consume roughly 300 pounds of plastic a year of which a mere 7% is recycled and 8 million pieces of plastic find their way into the ocean every day.
What could I do?
I had an ever increasing “collection” of beach plastic in my studio and I started making earrings.
Eventually I had an awakening to the possibilities of this material that was never really owned but had been thrown to the mythical place called away.
To make jewelry was a transformation, not just for me, but also for the material.
Think of a water-bottle top. Does anyone ever feel that they own a plastic bottle top? It just keeps the liquid inside the bottle, right? Which you don’t feel you own either. Does the manufacturer of your water feel he owns that bottle?
Nobody owns single-use plastic.
I like finding weathered bottle tops. They make great earrings, and I love selling single use plastic, beach plastic, into ownership.
If plastic is made to last forever then maybe, like diamonds, it can be loved forever.
I got this comment yesterday:
“Keep cleaning up the beaches lady.. but what are you gonna do with all those balloons with the plastic string ties and can you make something with all the garbage those people in Miami leave on the beaches while you’re at it???”
He does NOT think different!
I am not cleaning up the beaches for him or anyone. I do it for me. Creating beauty with beach plastic makes me happy and by getting your attention I implicate you in the tragedy of our single-use throw-away culture.
That uber message we look for in our otherwise boring Inbox.
The one that says:
We have been following your work with beach plastic pollution, we love it, would you be interested in being featured in a movie we are planning?
Looking for a hidden sales message? Like the next line would say: If you take part in this short questionnaire you too can be captured on film.
You bet! I did not trust it. I proceeded with caution.
It was not until I had spoken with all the makers of the film, the creative director Sean, the producer Michael, the director Jason and had signed a non-disclosure with Barefoot Wine (to keep it all hush until the premiere, hence no previous mention here at BDM) that I became excited.
They wanted to shoot in Eleuthera, where I find all my beach plastic, and so I sent them the limited list of places in Governor’s Harbour. Three low-key hotels, Cigatoo, Pineapple Fields and Coco Di Mama, and a handful of rentals that have 5+ bedrooms.
Squires Estate, Toad Hall in foreground, Main Russell House beyond...
I had always wanted to stay there, ever since it had been restored two years ago. Alastair and I even looked at the main house when it was on the market. Its a dream property, on the hill, a 120 year old Victorian House, overlooking Cupid’s Key, walking distance to Club Med Beach – the most beautiful beach I know.
They booked me for four days early June. Two travel and two shooting.
“Bring your tools and your favorite designs, we’ll do the rest.”
If the camera added ten pounds then it was the time for a diet.
I did a two-day fast, a nine-day shake/powder regimen and swam a million lengths of the pool.
I departed, lithe and pre-tanned.
First to arrive, I chose the ground floor bedroom of the main house because it was the most private, like a mini wing, overlooking the pool and the Caribbean sea to the west. Everything was new, done by an Italian designer with exquisite taste, who’d mixed old with high-tech, quirky with traditional.
I got my old red truck from the garage.
I was already happy.
A few hours later the crew arrived. Curt, Sean, Jason, Michael, Scotty and Tyler.
Six surfers from California.
Had I died and gone to heaven?
OK. Yes! I am happily married. I’m a mother of three. I’m not young as such.
But hey, I’m still a woman!
lunch at the Beach House
I had an eery feeling – after years of being a service-driven mother, feeding, cleaning, chauffeuring, organizing and wondering (within the safety of my own head):
What about me?
A dawning sense that maybe someone (who can hear beyond the safety of my own head), had been listening, that somehow I had been good enough, that getting attention was actually allowed when you try your hardest to be a good wife and mother and employee and world citizen…
And I let go.
This was going to be about me (and my obsession with beach plastic) and it was OK.
Those six guys were awesome, I don’t know much about them beyond those four days, but they were easy going, considerate, creative, charming, talented, professional and funny, so funny…
They made it possible for me to be me. To do my work, make my stuff, tell my message without ever making me feel self-conscious or insecure. At least three cameras captured me at work for at least 24 hours. It felt natural. It felt great. I felt beautiful. They helped me believe that what I was doing was worthwhile.
I wanted it to last a bit longer.
Last shot, left to right, Tyler, Jason, Barbi, Curt, Sean, Michael and Scotty
Still, we dispersed. They went on to do the next “innovator”, Tim in Australia, and I was just a tad jealous.
But I mainly felt empowered. Things were falling into place. back home I was asked to apply for the Miami TED talk. I went on my teaching trip around Eleuthera.
Last night I saw I Don’t Know How She Does It with my three daughters. I had read the book at a time when I identified with the author, when I was the overcommitted mother of three little girls who felt she had to do it all, or else…
Leila wanted to know if I had ever felt like Kate did in the film.
You mean, like, I Don’t Know How I Did It?
Kiki and Leila @ 2 years, by barred stairs in Milford.
My daughters are now eleven and fifteen. I asked if they remembered when I was the Mother with a Career in NYC.
They don’t remember that I went to Hong Kong for two weeks over Christmas when they were six months old, nor being in day care at age two because the latest nanny had disappeared without trace while I worked on 7th Avenue three days a week (living in Milford,PA). They don’t remember my equivalent of Kate Reddy’s bake-sale angst amongst the zealous fundraising stay-at-home mothers of the Homestead School.
Its great to find out that it it did not matter. That they are fine. More than fine. That I can forgive myself for those perceived shortcomings, that getting off the fashion merry-go-round to have more time at home with them was a good choice too. That feeling out of it and disconnected and fat and dumb maybe was just a cocoon, a small, limited space, where the next incarnation of me could shape itself.
Of course we always are exactly where we should be.
This is easy to see with the gift of hindsight, like looking at an old photograph and wondering why you did not really enjoy the way you looked back then.
When I first saw One Beach I felt that I was exactly where I should be in the big picture of life.
Thank you all Barefooters for making this possible.
Sean O’Brien for his creative foresight and green spirit that gave birth to the idea of One Beach.
And of course the entire Barefoot Wine team in California and New York that worked so hard to pull it all off in time for the premiere in NYC last week.
We were all there.
In New York.
The team that made One Beach and the people it featured, called The Innovators in the film.
Kevin Cunningham, a surfer from Rhode Island who incorporates beach plastic in making surfboards from recycled materials.
Richard Lang and beautiful Judith Selby Lang, the king and queen of beach plastic, fell in love on their first date while combing Kehoe Beach for plastic debris. They incorporate beach plastic in their art from installations to photography and jewelry.
Left to right: Stephanie Gallo, Kevin Cunningham, Sean O'Brien, Barbara de Vries Jason Baffa, Judith and Richard Lang, Elizabeth and Anne. Lying in foreground is Tyler from Smash.
We watched the first screening together, wept at the end, and were all amazed at the synergy between us, four people who have never met, in three different parts of the US, who collect and work with beach plastic and whose dialog and message has evolved in an eerily similar way without ever speaking to each other.
We also had beach plastic envy as we drooled over pieces in each other’s collection.
The premiere was at the Helen Mills theatre in Chelsea, with a live feed to our own Facebook app where over 5000 people had signed up to watch the film and subsequent Q and A online.
Sitting in the director’s chairs, below ground in NYC, taking questions that Tyler, our MC, received on his Ipad from Facebookers all over, had a surreal sense of opportunity, the feeling that when we all connect we can make a difference.
Below is the One Beach film, which we hope will help raise awareness of beach plastic pollution. Numbers just released estimate that six million tons of what becomes “marine debris” (non organic material that does not break down) enters the oceans every year. One Beach has a positive message, it is upbeat about creativity and possibility, but none of us have the illusion that just selling up-cycled beach plastic into ownership can significantly reduce what washes up on our beaches every day with every tide and every wave. We want to connect to people through beauty, and our message is to for everyone to reduce our plastic foot print (300 pounds per person every year) NOW by saying no to single-use plastics.
Tip: Start with refusing bottled water and plastic shopping bags, relatively easy steps, then pick an alternative material every time there is a choice…
Here are Sean’s pictures of the making of One Beach in Eleuthera: link
I am procrastenating ( I need spell check) writing this new blog.
Its been a while and I have much to tell you.
Like I have been less than fair to those who may have wondered whether I did get picked to be one of the eight speakers at the TEDxMIA talks on September 13th in Miami’s New World Center.
between the lines
Yes! YES I did.
Maybe I did not post this jolly news sooner because I was kinda in denial.
Like getting it was one thing, doing it another.
And when I write now, I have to be serious and write about what I’m gonna talk about. Fifteen minutes is apparently only 1500 – 2000 words and thats not very much. I have a lot to say. I want to be poignant yet funny yet serious yet positive yet convincing.
I think too much about it, get dizzy with info and ambition and then I start loitering around the internet .
nature paints with trash
I visit HuffPost to feel manipulated.
Like this trash story about a woman, Sandy McMillin, who was evicted from Walmart for wearing a string bikini that she had bought there a year earlier (and visibly worn 24/7 ever since).
“Dress code”, was Walmart’s defense.
I have an opinion on the Walmart dress code. A strong opinion in fact. I’ve had this opinion for a while, like ever since I’ve had the opportunity to shop at Walmart (which opened in Milford circa 2000.)
You see, if Walmart really had a true customer dress code then I’d be applying for the job of enforcer (or counselor while I evict).
Call me a snob. Call me shallow. But before you do check out the link to the tattooed/leg-braced/shaven headed Sandy McMillin, who was spotted shopping for sour cream in the clothing aisle (was she looking for a new top, and decided on sour cream instead?) and her 15 mins of fame interview and then check out an entire site devoted to the standard Walmart dresscode, link.
Now I dare you to be saintly yourself.
BTW, can someone explain to me why the story of this year’s “celebrity inspired” bikini trends, where the fashion reporter chirps: “Kate Middleton and Pippa looked white hot and we loved their sporty chic style” earned prime exposure spot right under poor Sandy in her once turquoise threadbare bikini top?
Is HuffPost merely cheering me up?
Or is this a novel guerilla tactic to sell the masses a new bikini? Like, “Well, my last year’s bikini is a lot like Sandy’s and I’d rather look like Pippa diving in that white little number so off to the mall I go….?
Another reason for not writing sooner was that I went to Eleuthera to teach two workshops. (See ,I’m not such a bad person really, just a Walmart bigot for personality texture).
The first one was at the Tarpum Bay Cultural Center (The Prep) which opened officially with my beach plastic jewelry making event. Twenty-three local kids, teenagers, had signed up and on the first morning we went to Winding Bay for a beach clean up and to collect plastic that we’d turn into jewelry. I had brought the necessary tools and trimmings, aka findings, like wire and earring hooks and stretchy string.
The inauguration of The Prep in Tarpum Bay
I displayed my jewelry and showed a slideshow of my work so far for guidance.
It’s hard to describe what happens next, but it feels like a breeze of inspiration enters our space and sweeps everyone along to a level of awareness where creation comes naturally.
Like a spell almost.
After lunch the next day I strung a (recycled) fishing rope between the porch columns and everyone, in turn, dispayed the collection they had created. I made a short film of each workshop and here is the first one:
This landmark building was first built in 1897 but was ready to be demolished when Michele Johnson, local superwoman, and her friend Ros adopted it about two decades ago and carefully restored the ruined site to its former glory. To me it is the most beautiful library anywhere. It sits on a slip of land with Caribbean sea/beach on either side. Every summer the library runs programs for the local kids and this year I was invited to be part of the recycling program.The video below tells it all.
Since I taught these two workshops I’ve answered questions about where to buy tools, supplies and findings to make more jewelry. Michele, Shaun, Toni and others have brainstormed about opening a retail outlet, or maybe just have stalls that sell beach plastic jewels to the tourists who leave their artificial floating environment, i.e. cruise ships, to sample some “local” culture.
Now that would be poetic justice, since those floating cities are one of the worst polluters of Eleutheran beaches.
Sabrina from Haiti and beach plastic star at the Haynes Library
Away is Here I wrote as the title of my TEDxMia talk application six weeks ago.
Two weeks ago I heard that I was on the shortlist of fifteen applicants out of almost seventy and was summoned for an audition.
Through the stage door at the Adrienne Arsht Center I went, up the elevator and into a quiet and impersonal office where I sat and waited, straining my ears trying to hear the genius inspiration on the other side of the door.
All I heard was muffled voices.
I checked my check list like I was cramming for an exam. My key words and new statistics like the plastic industry employs over 1 million Americans, is the third largest US industry, generates about 450 billion annually, and each American consumes and disposes of about 300 pounds of plastic per year, ten times more than in 1960, and that we have produced/consumed as much plastic in the last decade as we did in all of the 20th century.
Then the door opened and two TED potentials (male variety) walked past me, looking ever so pleased with themselves.
I wanted to run. Like in the other direction from the judges, three female and one male, who were left behind in the room. But they invited me in and told me to sit at one side of a large conference table while they faced me across the great teak expanse.
You have fifteen minutes, they said, to tell us why you should be a TED Miami speaker next September.
Wow, this is a first for me, I thought. Like a huge fucking first.
J Lo, Steven Tyler and Randy Jackson came to mind while I worried about flubbing my well-practiced spiel.
See, I’m not a natural performer. At least not historically speaking. Yes I’ve done public speaking, to as many as 300 people, but I never sought it out.
I didn’t seek this out either. This TED audition American Idol style. I applied because I was given no choice by two enthusiastic friend-fans who sent me the link to the TED application form, like daily for two weeks, and kept asking whether I’d filled it out yet. I did not want to disappoint them, and also my approach to Plastic is Forever has been to go with the energy that is generated by the project itself. Which means say no to nothing, and trust that the path is right and unfolds as a I move with it. ( A Zen approach that’s also very new for me and has come with age and a better understanding of the way expectation can screw with process).
Anyway I’d filled out the application with the integrity beach plastic pollution deserves. Putting into words my passion to take this orphaned material and introduce it to the design world as something new, something desirable and create a new way to approach beach plastic ownership.
So I did my spiel. Or rather I started with it and then, as happens with this project, it took its own direction. It speaks for me as if the message is so burning, so urgent, so real that my simple mind has no control over it. Really! I know that sounds ever-so New Agey, but what I mean is that I engaged the people in the room, they became curious, started asking question and then the subject just directs itself.
Next they asked to see my images, and when that was over my fifteen minutes were over and I got a wee appreciative applause.
Well, I thought, at least I did not hear any applause for the two guys who left before me. Ha!
Now I’m hanging in suspense, checking my e-mails several times a day, while I tell myself that I really do not care, that I am fine without it, that getting it will just be fabulous, but but but…
Of course I want it. Once I put my name in the hat, my spiel in the ring, myself on the line, there is no going back emotionally.
I LOVE TED talks.
They are awesome and I must be a TED talker.
I have entire arguments in my head convincing whomever why I SHOULD be a TED talker. I put my imaginative competitors ( I have no idea who they are) down for having old and stale ideas (I have no idea what these might be).
I am now of the age where, when faced with a photo of myself, I cringe and only see the wrinkles, double chin(s?), roots etc. You know what I mean, and I think maybe I’ll like this one in ten years time, as my mind is forever a decade behind my appearance.
So when dear Gina Rudan from Practical Genius posted this video of our interview last week I watched with my eyes shut until Kiki said, “mom you look really pretty.” It was the surprise in my daughter’s voice that made me look.
So, here some anti beach plastic pollution advocacy that I do not mind sharing, and thank you Gina for making me watchable…