Monday, October 17, 2011

Vermont Trippin'

Frog and me somewhere in Vermont
Yesterday at this time we (my partner, Dan, and I) were in Vermont. This has been a lifelong dream of mine to visit that state, if not one day live there. I used to ride my LifeCycle to a VBT VHS, better known as a Vermont Bicycling Tour video. Every time I would feel my thighs burning I’d look at the TV and immerse myself into the Vermont scenery, feeling my way up the hills and around the corners, through the little villages and past the general stores. I would be mesmerized by the views. I longed to visit there.

And finally I did.

Dan and I upon first arriving in Vermont -- in the back of us is Canada

Vermont is more my place than any other. The art galleries and artisan stores were of a much higher caliber than what I’ve seen in a long while. For the first time I’d actually seen many fiber art exhibits – two places, Helen Day Art Center in Stowe and Creative Space Gallery in Vergennes – had two of the most amazing ones.

Helen Day Library and Art Center in Stowe
The Helen Day Art Center was upstairs in the library. The library was a picture postcard with sculptures out front, free books on the porch, and a gazebo in which to sit while enjoying the views. The inside was like something out of a movie with a large white front desk and an accommodating librarian welcoming us in. The walls were painted white with beautiful crown molding at the ceiling, paned windows with deep windowsills, beautifully crafted wooden bookshelves, and comfortably inviting Queen Anne leather chairs in which to hunker down and read.

Besides reading I am enraptured with fiber arts. I’ve spent most of the last few decades absorbed in the art quilt world. However, lately (since singledom) I’ve delved into the clothing side of the fiber arts world. And, the exhibit in Stowe knocked my socks off.

 Wylie Garcia spent a month on a dress for a year, and we saw her 12 dresses up close and personal.

 I was entranced with her intricate stitches, choices of fabrics, and intuitive creative breakthroughs. In the corner of the exhibit was a small display of her studio with a padded book that she used as a pincushion,

 piles of scraps on the floor beside her desk, a dog pillow

 and braided fabrics on her chair, and framed photos and artwork on her inspiration wall. Her work and ingenuity bamboozled some cobwebs still hanging onto my own creative muscle. I felt stretched, pushed, and truly inspired to do more with my own work. I studied her haphazard stitching with yarns and threads, her expansive amount of hand-sewn sequins, buttons, and beads. “The Tulle Did Her In” was the name of the exhibit exemplifying the debutante societies she grew up in while living in Houston, Texas. Once a Texas youngster myself I recoiled at the memories I have of being a charm school flunk-out and later a teenage Sangar-Harris runway model. The false eyelashes, mounds of make-up, platform shoes, walking with a book on my head, holding a teacup just so… Oh barf… I could so relate to Wylie Garcia and absolutely fell in love with her irreverent use of tulle. Wish I had thought of it.

Stowe Spoons

another Stowe sculpture
In Vergennes the owner of Creative Space Gallery spoke my language when she told Dan and me that Vermont was a mutually supportive community of the arts and the artists. It showed. The not-for-profit gallery promotes artists and their works. Vergennes is a small town in Vermont that packs a beautiful wallop with its picturesque town square complete with gazebo and white church with a tall spire. It could have been one of those towns in my Vermont Bicycling Tour videos. Even its thrift store looked like an inviting boutique.

I was told that I would notice the difference between New York and Vermont immediately upon crossing into each state. I did. Vermont is pristine. Even its one trailer park I saw was clean and inviting. As soon as we re-entered New York yesterday it was instantaneously evident. Rusted vehicles, unkempt yards, run-down houses, and vacant buildings with chipped paint and loose shutters were prominent. For the previous two days in Vermont we didn’t see any of that. There were no signs telling us who to vote for or who pissed whom off and needed to resign either.

We drove through the Vermont islands and gazed at the rolling meadows, red barns, silos, and farmhouses. The general store on North Hero Island had clocks to let you know the global times, all reading the same hour because every clock was set at one of the island town time zones. These people were speaking volumes when they set those clocks. Their worlds were right where they were, and it showed. They took pride in how everything looked. They cared about putting their best foot forward. They cared about how they did business and how it affected their community, their environment, and their state. There was an inexplicable ownership that made them silently boast.

We did meet someone from Vermont. (I mention this because most everyone we had conversations with were from somewhere else and came to Vermont later in life to live.) He owned an artisan’s gallery and café in North Hero. He and his wife worked one and a half jobs, had a goat farm, owned and ran the store/café, and made most of the items in the store. Yellow Dog Farm was the name of their farm. They had yarns made from their goats that were irresistibly named – Luigi’s Locks, Oliver’s Wisps – and the labels had pictures of the goats whose fleece was now spun for the knitter or weaver.

Businesses in Vermont were in houses with front porches welcoming me. I felt embraced every time I crossed a threshold. I’m sure there were businesses in other kinds of buildings, but apparently they didn’t register on my radar because I can’t recall seeing any at the moment. Even the little “strip malls” were two-story buildings with beautifully ornate facades with individual character for each storefront. There was an insistence on individuality with a strong sense of community. It invited me in. I just can’t seem to think of other words to use for it. It invited me in like an opened door that I longed to enter. I’ve always been in love with New England. I loved living there many, many years ago, and I’ve been enthralled with every trip I’ve made back there, but there is definitely something different about Vermont. There is something so quietly comforting. It’s the beingness, the no-need to speak-ness, that pulled me in. The pristine charm, the desire to put the best foot forward, and the pushing of the creative envelope put me in a spell. I could feel the sense of community without anyone saying a word. I didn’t need to hear that Vermont was mutually supportive. I could see it.

So, here’s to our first trip to Vermont. May there be many, many more for Dan and me to enjoy together. And, if there’s any place or person I need to be aware about, please let me know. We barely scratched the surface, and I know there are so many other people and businesses we need to friend.

1 comment:

  1. Jill,
    I have spent a lot of time in Vermont and love it. So cool that you got to experience it. It is a unique and wonderful place. I love the mountains. Trying to figure out a way to live up there in the summers eventually. I've spent a lot of time around St. Johnsbury and Woodstock. You and Dan are doing some amazing art! Say hi to him for me! Best, Daniel Gill