Craft-A-Way Camp 2017: Sunshine in the Shadows

Craft-A-Way Camp is so silly. We’re adults, playing a children’s game in the forest. We wear matching caps, and toss them in the air. We sing half-remembered songs around a campfire. We laugh, loud and long, at jokes too raunchy and absurd for civilization. It looks like fun, and it is. Some say it’s the most fun they have all summer. But if you look a little closer, you’ll see that Craft-A-Way Camp has a serious side as well.

For example, Camp gives us an opportunity to take a serious dive into the depths of the creative process. In everyday life, there are so many distractions and interruptions that keep us from reaching those depths. But at Camp, they all seem very far away. We’re free to sink into our work, and savor the experience of making by hand.

This summer, our campers got so caught up in the experience that they couldn’t stop crafting! The sun went down, the workshops paused, but campers stayed at their tables, feverishly unrolling yarn from an overflowing basket. Light fell from rustic chandeliers, handmade from sticks and hung inside our canopies. Music came from the nearby fire, where fellow campers strummed a guitar, played a violin, and shook a tambourine. The crafting continued, far into the night, and when the sun came up, the tents were hung with a lush bounty of pom-poms and tassels.

Camp also allows us to make some serious emotional connections. We all remember summer camp as a place that fosters close friendships. And each year at Craft-A-Way, we see it having the same effect on adults!

This year’s campers were a strong example. Some were returning to Craft-A-Way for the fourth time. Others, venturing there for the first. Some were reuniting with a circle of old friends, and other brave souls arrived knowing no one at all. But from the open-hearted introductions at the start of Camp, to the spontaneous group hug at the end, it was clear that all were united as one.

On the second morning of Camp, we gathered for a yoga class, taught by Jen Husted-Goss. By this time, we had all grown to know and trust our fellow campers, so we did not hesitate to line up our mats and try some yoga together. It felt so good to play in the grass, moving freely without judgement or concern. As our practice came to an end, Jen led us into Savasana, a welcome moment of rest. We lay on our backs, sunlit and silent, as the birds sang through the sky, and the wind sang through the trees. All around we felt the presence of our friends, quietly sharing a perfect little moment. Then we slowly sat up, smiled, and returned to our crafts.

We enjoyed a lot of fun crafts this year, thanks to our wonderful instructors.

Marcy Davy had us capturing leaves, flowers, and other natural materials as sun prints. The prints were then applied to glass pillar candles. She also helped campers screen print her beautiful Craft-A-Way logo onto shirts tie-dyed by Small Craft’s Ethan Cronkite.

Katie Whitehouse brought her boundless energy to a beaded Morse code jewelry workshop. And she had felt merit badges for us to make!

Amanda Schott taught us Sashiko stitching, with her accustomed enthusiasm and attention to detail.

Val Willer teaches a popular workshop at every Craft-A-Way Camp, and this time she showed us several techniques for making beautiful faux feathers.

Katie Bramlage brought a lovely aesthetic and inspiring attitude to her workshop, along with countless handmade ceramic pieces that could be strung onto hanging talismans.

Small Craft’s Amy Cronkite taught a pom-pom and tassel workshop, causing at least one camper to shed real tears of joy.

We’re grateful to our instructors, and to everyone who plays a part in shaping Camp. Craft-A-Way is made by many hands, and that supportive community is the source of its magic.

For the hosts, this year’s Camp came with an awareness of the condition that makes life serious: mortality. We’d had to cancel the previous year, after losing a mother and a brother. And as we were planning this year’s Camp, we said goodbye to a father. There was a moment when we questioned whether we could really continue. But in the end, we’re sure we made the right decision. It was soothing, to be back under clear country stars, singing and crafting with our friends.

We shared this at Camp, and some seemed to find it helpful. So we’ll share it here as well. In mourning our loved ones, we’ve acquired an acute sense of life’s swift passage. As we see and hear the world around us, we feel it rushing off into the void. We don’t say this feeling is pleasant, or worth the cost. But it does help us to appreciate each fleeting moment.

Camp was here. It was beautiful. Then all too quickly, it was gone. There will be other Camps to come, but never quite the same as this one. There’s something unique in every moment, that disappears and never returns. So we make the most of these moments while we have them, and we urge you all to do the same. Share your visions, embrace your friends, explore the world. Leave without regret.

At Craft-A-Way, we don’t draw much distinction between the serious and the silly. At a certain point, they’re one and the same. Shadows move through the sunshine, sunshine moves through the shadows, and together they give us a glimpse of the passing scene.

Consider, for instance, our Camp handshake. This greeting emerged organically from this summer’s camp, and was well practiced by all who were there. We won’t reveal its secrets, but we will describe it as elaborate and hilarious. On the one hand, it’s a joke: a caricature of a camp tradition. But on the other hand, it’s on its way to becoming a real tradition: one that will take on new meaning each year. And more to the point, it’s a real expression of love. Camp friends love each other. We may have some silly ways of showing it, but we’re completely serious about that.

Silly fun is growing scarce these days. Loving friendship, even more so. And Craft-A-Way Camp has both in abundance. If that’s something you’d like to be a part of, we hope you’ll consider joining us next summer.

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