Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Wouldn't It Be Easier to Buy a New One?

Working on creating a sustainable garden environment, and the many successes we've had with this project has emboldened me to hold our indoor environment to higher standard. Meaning that by insisting on sustainability and consideration for the larger web of life outside, we are able to do it inside more easily.

And, I think we have learned the secret to making this transition both inside and out: learn about process, where you fit in, and choose to cherish some processes over others. How is your food produced? How are your goods produced? How are garden spaces produced? How do the systems you are part of as a producer and consumer work? What is your role in them? So for example, as a student of a local eco-system, I've learned how to work with its processes to create our gardens. As consumers, we are lucky enough now to consume ethically and sustainably produced food exclusively, having researched the processes through which food is produced.

So I wanted to share a recent success on this front that I am really proud of: Recycled Couch. My brother rescued it from a friend's parents' garage in the mid 1980s (no one remembers when, exactly). It was then my couch when my brother's girlfriend moved in with her own couch (1990-ish). All through grad school this was my couch, and even though it was tattered and frayed and the cushions all replaced with blankets and pillows, it was still my couch last year when my mother said "you know, this couch has a hardwood frame".

My mother took a class in recovering furniture in the 1960s, and has recovered every single piece of reclaimed furniture we ever had as a family. But even better, my mother is brave enough to say 'yes' to crazy ideas-like 'I want to make my own cushions out of reclaimed textiles'. Because now I want this couch to last, to honour, in a sense, its inherent durability and sustained utility (it has a hardwood frame remember).

So here it is, a testament to my mother's abilities, her willingness to help and teach (we even used reclaimed and second hand tacks) and to her encouragement that 'sure, you can make your own cushions'. And to the fact that everyone else has raided their stashes of worn out blankets, tattered jeans and ancient fabric swatches to get me started making the cushions. And it has become a product and a testament to a workshop given by some of the Gee's Bend Quilters I took in August, where I learned a lot about blending form and function working with textiles, and more about both trusting my own design judgment and taking risks with fabrics.

Yes, a thousand times yes it would have been easier to buy a new couch as a friend asked. It is, however, more satisfying and livable, and way more FUN to have this couch as an on-going project- each cushion is a 25"x74" pad that can be tossed in the wash and dried on the line- so we'll need many, and each will be an opportunity to practice more work. More process.


  1. This is me testing comments to see if it works.

  2. Oh JOY of JOYS....YES YES YES it works!!!!!

  3. Grace, my first follower, and the first comment! Thank you for both, and for letting me know the comments didn't work before.... Sheesh, too much attention.

  4. oh, relief! i was having second thoughts,
    thinking maybe you were happy in the quiet
    of no comments and then i came bursting in
    wanting to this is good.
    now i am going to go re-read all your posts
    and put a "real" comment.
    thanks for all this...g

  5. here i am again.
    so i have read all your thoughts, from the
    beginning and am amazed at "meeting" you at
    this particular time.
    i have questions arising about what i have been doing here, in New Mexico, particularly in the last 6 years. it takes time to see
    the Big Picture of your imprint on a place
    and also, for me, the gift of circumstance.
    i will take a little time to arrange my
    thoughts in an orderly fashion...being as i
    didn't imagine finding your, it's
    just in fragments....but it is about the
    concept/reality of
    and sustainability from all points of view..
    mine, as the human being here, but more,
    sustainability for all the living beings that
    i have drawn here because of my actions as
    well as those who were here before me.

    so...thank you !!!!!! this is just Perfect...
    and thanks for the word: hibernaculum

  6. Thanks so much Grace, for your attention, and for your promise to share ideas from your own practices of sustainability. Your blog has been a favorite of mine for awhile now, as I so enjoy seeing others' creative paths.

  7. so, first, before i backtrack to thoughts
    about the land, i need to say some things
    about this beauty Full couch. a friend of
    mine up the mountain has just such a couch,
    with hard wood frame. the construction
    is amazing when you look at newer things.
    care was taken at each step. your couch
    is elegant. period.
    and the work with Gee's Bend quilters?????
    i would LOVE to hear about that. i have the
    i think PBS movie of their beginnings of
    "coming out" as artists...that bus trip
    to the opening. i have watched it over and
    over, over the years. so, if you are ever
    inclined, please tell.
    and then...your cushions, into the wash and
    on the line to dry: i had not thought of that with the denim futon cover...because
    it is a futon. but...if i make thin seat
    cushions, more like the same way
    as the larger cover is done, these could
    be used in the same way as yours!!!!
    remembering that here, this is the 4 dogs
    futon couch 99% of the time. but...they
    seem to be noticing how nice the cover is
    and not scrunching it up so much.
    next, onto my dilemma about the meaning
    of sustainability in the desert southwest
    thank you for this place to entertain these

  8. Geez, Grace, thanks so much for your comments; you have no idea what a surprise it is to have Followers! And for saying such amazing things, I am blown away.

    I am, like you, a big big fan of futons. I have one that is over thirty years old, on a bed frame and 1920s bedspring we found. I still use it every night, and found out a couple of years ago they were once MEANT to last a long, long time. In Japan there are still companies that refurbish and mend them, a tradition that is currently being revived it seems (see for an intersting story). So I am envious of your futon couch, which, like our couch, is going to last a long long time!

    It strikes me that futons have this possibility of renewal and rejuvination built in- just like your futon cover. I like it so much because you have made sure it looks like it is MEANT to be used, mended, extended, carried on.

    And, on a final note Grace, I can't imagine the challenges of life in the desert- and want to know more!

  9. hello, came here through grace

  10. Hi Jude- you will be pleased to know I came upon Grace's Windthread through Spirit Cloth...thanks for stopping by.

  11. me too. through grace, that is. grace is leading us in all kinds of good directions. i like your couch cover. i've been planning to make one for my 25 year old couch but can't seem to find the time. i look forward to reading more of your posts.

  12. Hi Deanna- thanks for stopping by- and Grace has been such a force of networking. I imagine your 25 year old couch has lots left to offer judging by mine.


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