I was so touched to receive this very special package of more than four dozen different crochet mandalas for the Mandalas for Marinke remembrance project. If you’re just tuning in, learn about the project here and see all of the mandalas posted so far here.
Jennie’s Yarn Shop is a local yarn store based in Medford, Oregon. The store is “dedicated to superior, personalized services, local yarns, social stitching, and fun, informational classes.” It’s run by Jennie DeBunce, who says on the site, “My goal for the shop is to make everyone feel special, cared for, and for everyone to walk away more confident in their handicrafting! I am always happy to talk yarn, or husbands, or wives, or whatever is on your mind.”
Jennie had already crocheted some mandalas herself, using Wink’s design (without really knowing that it was Wink’s design) back in March. Then she heard about Wink’s suicide and was touched by the outpouring of love in the community for her life and work. She says, “I was so happy to be involved, even a tiny bit.”
“These mandalas have all been made by myself and the ladies that frequent my shop. I offered a free class on how to make them, using some of Wink’s patterns. About twenty people showed up, which was more than I expected! A lot of these ladies didn’t crochet at all, walking through the door, and many I’ve seen struggle with new things persevered when learning got hard, determined to finish a mandala.”
“Some of these ladies have since gone on to learn more crocheting skills, and we all spoke about our own struggles with depression and how it has affected our lives.”
That particular line in Jennie’s letter really grabbed me, because it’s so in line with the hopes I had when I started this project – that people would come together, craft together, make something beautiful and also share their struggles and help support each other by decreasing the stigma of talking about how hard life can sometimes be. I am so touched when I think of these women crafting together using Wink’s patterns, and I am so glad that Wink’s legacy can live on in this way.
Jennie also shared,
“I myself take medication, and all I can say for advice for anyone who is struggling that there really are people who care and can help. See your doctor. It’s not weakness to admit you don’t feel “right” or “well”. That was hard for me to accept. It’s okay to have a sad day or a sleep day or to say, “I can’t do this right now” but don’t let that be your response every time. Fighting is hard but it does get easier.”
I definitely agree with Jennie’s advice. It’s so important to be gentle with yourself when you can’t do as much as you’d like, and it’s equally important to recognize when that’s been going on too long and you might need a little extra help in the form of medicine, therapy, exercise or some other type of support. Wherever you are is okay and if it’s too hard to do it alone then it’s important to seek out help.
Yarn stores like Jennie’s are so important to our communities. They are more than just places to buy yarn; they are places to find community. Sometimes it can be intimidating to go into a new local yarn store and try to forge relationships there, but if you push yourself to talk to the people who work at the shops and ask about craft groups, and find out what the community there is doing, then you can open yourself up to a whole new world of friendship and creative support.
I also think collaborative community art projects like this one are important, because they give us a “reason” to work on something that we might not otherwise try. I know that a lot of the people who participated in this project had never crocheted a mandala before, although some had considered doing it, and this project was a way to take that step and branch out into something new, knowing it would be part of something bigger than just that one piece. You can see from just this single group contribution how powerful the mandalas are when placed all together.
Art can be such a powerful way to introduce difficult topics, whether through individual or collaborative efforts. Just today a friend from school pointed me to her friend’s art project in Alaska that is about raising depression/suicide awareness. It’s Sarah Davies’ project 100Stone.
She met with people who have lived with depression, chronic illness and other life difficulties, learned their stories through the physicality of their experiences, cast their bodies in plaster and then installed those art bodies in natural locations in Alaska, where they are impacted by the elements. The photos of the work are stunning; I encourage you to take a look.