During 2017 we have planned a collaborative gratitude project for ourselves. Each week we will “exchange” an artwork, publishing it via a social media post, and creating a series of visual postcards of our year. The intent is to use this project as an exercise to be present during the busy-ness of life and focus our attention on immediate gratefulness.
Our weekly work will document moments from everyday life to cultivate gratefulness and create a general common ground for connection. The subjects are connected to an experience or situation from our present lives, could be positive or negative, in which gratefulness was found. Uncovering gratefulness in the hope that steady joy will follow has been our goal in response to the unpredictable world around us.
The collaborative aspect of this project aims to focus our attention on immediate awareness and relationship. It is a call to slow our pace, thin our schedule and create intentional time for ourselves and the people we interact with (physically or virtually). Without the grateful intent, we find it too easy to speed through the day, month, and year. The results can be a very productive life that is void of joy or intention.
The global bridge created by social media is one way we can share those experiences, one way to connect with someone in a different culture, life phase or situation. It is a small way of saying, we are not so different, or beginning a conversation. It is a way for us, in partnership, to have a thoughtful intellectual exchange. We want to nurture the gratefulness in our lives so that we continue to recognize the opportunities for joy that are available to us. It is our hope that this type of awareness, when nurtured and shared, becomes contagious.
We’ll hashtag our images #rothshankgratitudeproject. We hope you’ll follow along on facebook or instagram. At the end of the year, we plan to share these works of gratitude, in a deliberate and thoughtful way.
We kicked off the #rothshankgratitudeproject 4 weeks ago. In that time we have much to be grateful for. But its also been a difficult month. We’ve experienced the final days of the Obama presidency and the beginning days of the Trump presidency. Its been a period of political unrest, division, and despair. Its been difficult to know how to demonstrate gratitude. We’ve experienced struggles with family sickness both minor and major. We’re in the midst of the annual midwestern winter weather solitude.
During this month that honors Dr. Martin Luther King Jr we’re reminded that “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Our images of gratitude this month reflect our faith, our family, nature, friendships, and our global community. As we consider our jobs, as artists, over the past month, we recognize the importance of beauty and light during this time. We are striving to put out works that support, that are beautiful, and that remind of us to look for joy in uncertain times.
“It can’t beat us!” Pa said.
“Can’t it, Pa?” Laura asked stupidly.
“No,” said Pa. “It’s got to quit sometime and we don’t. It can’t lick us. We won’t give up.”
Then Laura felt a warmth inside her. It was very small but it was strong. It was steady, like a tiny light in the dark, and it burned very low but no winds could make it flicker because it would not give up.” – Laura Ingalls Wilder
This month, we read The Long Winter, by Laura Ingalls Wilder. It was a a fitting read for us in February. As we continued the #rothshankgratitudeproject we were thinking about health, resilience, and diversity. In our family this month, someone was sick nearly the entire month, making it a dark, challenging, wintery experience. We were grateful for the “little” things: naps, kleenex, returned appetites, books on cd, the spice of life, not living in a log cabin, and light!
March was a month with themes of planning, preparing and working ahead to meet deadlines. There were lots of evening walks in the woods, enjoying the beginning of seasonal changes, and time with Ronaldo, our cat. Justin celebrated his 39th birthday. We were preparing for our annual April Fools day sale and and spring break, and also continuing the transition of our studio renovations. It was a fast month of catching up with some breaks for reflection.
Spring is finally here. Its been a month of abundance. We’ve been enjoying delicate spring flowers, green buds, time in the woods before it fills in and too many tics arrive. We traveled as a family to sunny South Florida, enjoying the sunshine, warmth, family time, and ocean. first week of the month was travel, the rest of the month felt like a runaway train. We returned home to a broken fridge, evening meetings every night, preparations for a 95-hour wood firing, along with daily needs and responsibilities. We’ve been grateful for the deliberate care of others, the importance of good communication, and small pockets of time to move Brooke into a new studio.
May brought the final month of school, and the kickoff of summer. May brought spring flowers, outdoor sports and backyard camping. We reflected on the importance of special people in our community, especially mothers, and intergenerational relationships.
We were grateful for the shifting and reorganizing of time and schedules. We celebrated 15 years of marriage! The first month of summer brought time to share with friends, and intentional time with each other. We spent time reflecting on peacemaking, dreams, getting organized, and Unicorn Week! We had lots of fun honoring the joy of making.
We spent time traveling, revisiting Pittsburgh, reconnecting with friends, and rediscovering the flavors of summer. We noticed that summer foods and fellowship were at the top of our gratitude lists this month. Bryn started confidently walking and running. We were reminded of how grateful we are to be able to make a living doing what we love.
In August we got back into the swing of things with a new school year and rekindled friendships. With the new school year beginning we welcomed back a more regular family and work routine, especially celebrating the importance of bedtime stories. On a national and global scale we were especially conscientious of the immigrant community and the important role immigrants play in our community. We were amazed and awed by the Great American Solar Eclipse.
We honored Brooke and her 40th year. Brooke’s inclusion in the Miniature Masterworks exhibition in Kansas City allowed us a trip to Missouri, and special gratitude for the tow truck driver who assisted us on our drive home. In the midst of a very busy month that also included pottery tour, we were grateful for health and exercise and a yoga practice.
Justin reflected on the enormous help that we’ve received from clay studio interns over the past 8 years. We reflected on the importance of nonviolent activism and supportive and welcoming neighbors. In preparation for a busy holiday season we were especially grateful to take a vacation, spend some time away from the studio, and with family, and reflect on the especially supportive families that we have.
In November we recognized and honored the beauty of fall. We celebrated a successful woodfiring and the importance of good tools that allow us to work and create. And, as we ended the month with the Thanksgiving holiday we were grateful to be surrounded by family.
December brought the beginning of winter and the days grew shorter. We began to reflect on our year of gratitude. We recognized ongoing themes of family support, national struggles, important friendships, and new opportunities. We spent the month honoring the season of advent, preparing for a new year, and keeping pace with the holiday season. We were struck by an overwhelming memory of a year full of abundance and gratitude, even in the midst of major challenges.