Monday, May 4, 2009

Needle Felted

Bellow, writer and creater rutabega talks about her craft, her controversial and acclaimed book and her philosophy on parenthood.

1. How does one become a needle felter? Is there a system involving sage teachers and years of hard work? Is it something you taught yourself one rainy Tuesday?

One day I was reading a blog and saw a needle-felted tapestry. I had never seen anything like it and I was curious, so I emailed the artist. She was nice enough to explain the basics. From there I just bought some roving and needles and started poking. That artist, Julie Persons, has an etsy shop as well Her work is beautiful.

On the left, "Ada May's not as young as she used to be, but she's on friendly terms with her gray hair, having met every one with a smile."

2. I know it should be almost impossible to condense the work of your book into such a small space, but for my readers who are unfamiliar with "Unschooling" can you spell out a few points of basic philosophy and understanding?

The term unschooling was coined by John Holt in the 1970s. He was a teacher who, in observing his students, first began to believe in and advocate for school reform and later came to the conclusion that no amount of reform could solve what he saw as the problems inherent in compulsory schooling. Some of the basic ideas behind unschooling are that people are naturally driven to learn and that, with the support of their parents, kids can best learn to live in the world by living in the world.

What are the most important differences between "unschooling" and home schooling?

In general, homeschooling parents have some sort of agenda for what they think their children need to learn and unschooling parents don’t.

Dozens of definitions of this idea exist, what is your own?

In very simplistic terms, for our family, it’s living interesting and interested lives together.

In your experience, how do children learn so socialize frequently and happily in "Unschooling"...

My kids (who are 16 and 12) make friends in much the same way adults do. They do things they are interested in, meet other people who share their interests, are introduced to new people, meet people as they’re out and about, etc. They had (and have) support from myself, their dad, and lots of other people who love them as they learned to navigate social situations.

List three of the most important questions answered in your book....

Three points I hope people will take from my book are:

1) It’s ok to be nice to your kids.
2) Learning is natural and fun and not something you can or should or need to force.
3) Parents and children can live in partnership.

3. Please talk briefly about the experience of writing, and publishing....

I’ve always loved to write, so it was pretty natural for me to explore the philosophies and day-to-day realities of unschooling through writing. I started out writing just for myself, moved on to writing on message boards and email lists, and then had some articles published in various magazines. Eventually a friend suggested I write a book. It was a long process for me, in large part because I wanted to be sure my writing about unschooling didn’t interfere with my time with my kids, which would have been some weird irony.

4. I love the song too, but why don't you like pina coladas? And tell a joyful story of getting caught in the rain...(This question refers to the artsist's profile)

I can’t stand coconut. And you know how everyone who likes coconut says, “But this is different – it’s coconut but it doesn’t TASTE like coconut”? Always a big fat lie. Yes, even those Girl Scout cookies.

I think we can choose to find joy in any moment, rain or shine. One thing I like to do when it starts to rain is to tip my face up and feel it rather than shrink up into myself and try to hide from it. (In that I was inspired by a character in Another Roadside Attraction, by Tom Robbins.) I try to meet everything in life that way – to feel it, experience it, find some joy in it.

5. What is the item in your shop right now that you were most tempted to keep for yourself?

I have a hard time letting go of the jewelry with vintage components. I search hard for those pieces, and know I may never find anything quite like them again. I wonder who made them and who wore them. This one, for example----------------------->

"Fresh water pearls pair prettily with this intricate vintage sterling brooch.

Your head is heavy.
Why not show your neck some love?"

6. If you could relive any part of your childhood, what would it be and why?

I have so many happy childhood memories that I couldn’t possibly choose. I come from a big family with lots of love to go around. Listening to my dad’s stories, racing my mom for the mail, big family dinners, gardening, refinishing furniture, throwing a ball over the barn roof, falling asleep to the sound of the hockey game on TV, spending long days at the beach, painting, sleepovers, lying in the grass – I’d take any of it again, even the not so perfect moments. But I’m just as happy to see what comes next.

For more about this artist and writer see her blog at

1 comment:

Angie said...

Nice write-up. I really like the felting and jewelry.