Creature comforts.. gosh.. what day is it?

Can this be only the second blog entry I’ve written since I arrived in Sheboygan? Lemme see. Tommorrow’s my last day at the arts center, then I fly back to NC on Sunday. I’ll have a bit of down time with my family and then I head back to camp on Wednesday. I’ve written my campers two rounds of postcards. I hope it wasn’t overkill. One of them asked if I’d bring everyone something from Sheboygan but I likely will only bring myself. I can’t go lugging souvenirs in my backpack all the way back to camp. They’d get broken or stolen the moment I handed ‘em out.

So what’s on my mind today as the residency comes to a close? Nothing really. My brain is kind of mud.

Here’s what’s been going on. The John Michael Kohler Arts Center has a Connecting Communities program which exposes community members to many different art forms by inviting established artists to lead workshops in or related to their areas of expertise. Yvonne Montoya heads up this department. She plans years in advance for projects that will serve various charities or purposes in the Sheboygan area. In my case, since the center brought me on board before to make sock monsters, they asked if I’d come back for the Creature Comforts project. Yvonne asked me if I’d develop a stuffed toy pattern using socks to make tummy pillows. Patients of abdominal surgeries use tummy pillows to press against their incised areas when they need to stand up, sit up, sneeze, laugh, cough or wear a seat belt. Otherwise there’d be heaps of pain and maybe a ruptured suture. I’m guessing.

Each creature is different, in typical Stupid Creatures style, but the directions people followed were pretty much the same. I typically don’t follow patterns, and I only teach from patterns if people need some direction and suggestion. In the case of Creature Comforts, the primary reason I insisted people follow the pattern I made was to ensure that the resulting creatures were flat and pillow-ish. We tried to avoid tummy pillow creatures with a row of plush spines down its back, for example. They had to stay flat and basically featureless so that no patient with an abdominal incision would press a lumpy area painfully up against the tender spot. You know?

Anyway, here’s what the tummy pillow creatures look like.


Over the course of two weeks we’ve held workshops with the general community, STARS (a program for at-risk teenagers), Friendship House (a group home for more at risk teenagers), the Hmong Association, TLC (Together We Live with Cancer), a senior activity center, Safe Harbor (for victims of domestic abuse), and group of adults with special needs. Each of these workshops produced heaps of sock creature tummy pillows which the arts center will donate to local hospitals and clinics for their patients in recovery. Tomorrow Yvonne and I will staff a booth at a Hispanic convention, not just to represent Creature Comforts but to put the Arts Center out into Sheboygan’s Latino population. We’ll be at our booth stitching creatures and talking about the arts center. It should be cool. Maybe people will want to make a creature, but we don’t expect anyone’s gonna sit with us long enough to do that.

It’s been a great experience working with the arts center again. I really, really miss a studio artist’s life. But the workshops we hosted kind of confirmed my commitment to the kids I work with at camp. There are so many populations in need of help and support in every community. Right now it appears that service is my station rather than the typical self-service that comes with being an artist. The recognition, attention, fan letters, et cetera, are all great, but my skills can be used to help rather than to self glorify, and that’s what I’m doing now. I’m a camp counselor. Granted, there’s appeal to going home every day and blobbing on the sofa (I’ve enjoyed that tremendously throughout the residency!) once the day of work is done. Instead, I will live 24 hours a day with my campers until further notice. Anyway, lunch is over. I’ve got loads of photos to post and such.. I’ll get around to that soon.