Thursday, January 18, 2018

"Memories that Linger", a Commision for Camp Newaygo, Part 1: Introduction

I am embarking on a highly personal journey with this project. It interweaves deep themes of friendship, girlhood, family, memory, and love of place (This last is especially important to a Taurus like me.) It's the most meaningful artistic challenge I've undertaken in my life. I intend to blog about the creation of the wall-hanging I am to make for Camp Newaygo and where it takes me--both inwardly in my heart, and outwardly in the sewing room.

"Memories that Linger.." is such an apt title. (It's a phrase from a favorite camp song.)  This journey is about the memories we make, and how we deliberately refine them as we age...It's about the ones we want to keep and nurture, and the ones we need to nuke into oblivion. It's about how we can choose how memories linger.....Do they rule us or do they sustain us? Do they define us? Do they propel us forward or hold us back?

But don't worry, this will not be À la recherche du temps perdu....just simply a story of growing up, told in fabric and in thoughts, and how "you can take the girl out of the Mitten, but you can't take the Mitten out of the girl...."


Annie, one of my oldest and dearest friends, and her sister Ellen commissioned me to make a wall-hanging for the newly renovated and expanded lodge at Camp Newaygo, in Newaygo County, Western Michigan, near where we grew up.

 The mitten

The newly renovated and expanded Lang Lodge, Camp Newaygo.

Camp is very important and dear to Annie and Ellen--all the women and girls in their family for three generations have gone there. Thousands of girls who have attended since its founding in 1927 feel the same strong love and gratitude for camp as they do.

I myself went to a similar camp north of Newaygo, called Camp Arbutus. This cabin, Slide Inn, was my perch above the lake as a complicated 12 year old who found peace in the woods, and also as a much more complicated college-aged counselor at age 19.  Camp was my refuge from family drama back home; it was my joy in being outside and up north; it was where my heart got broken by mean girls but mended by sweet ones. Camp was also where I learned to sail, tie knots, shoot arrows, sing in 4 part harmony, and sneak cigarettes in the outhouse.  But I digress....

 Slide Inn, Camp Arbutus, Mayfield, Michigan   photo copyright Don Harrison

Camp Newaygo has reinvented itself over the last 20 years or so, becoming a year round conference, event, and community center, as well as maintaining its girls' camp programs in the summer.  

Aerial view of Lang Lodge, Camp Newaygo

Until Annie and Ellen hired me for the commission, I was oblivious as to how this reinvention of Camp Newaygo was made possible. I certainly didn't know how much it involved my own father.
Nor did I anticipate how my old friendship with Annie would be reinvigorated with such beautiful love by this place and this project.

This plot is indeed a thick one!....

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