A mixed media reflection on finding my tribe

A mixed media reflection on finding my tribe


“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt from the heart.”  –Helen Keller

Each month the Robin’s Nest provides its International Design Team with a quote to inspire our art projects. This month’s quote got me thinking about focusing 2015 on the “things” that are important to me. One such beautiful thing–which cannot be seen or touched–is loyalty in friendship.

The last couple years were rough in the loyalty department. When our family went through challenging times, friends disappeared. As we struggled with the heavy financial and emotional burden of serious medical care, both casual and dear friends distanced themselves. It became clear that I no longer fit in the rigid socio-economic “clique”, within which I had based many of my friendships.

Apparently, my story is not uncommon. An acquaintance I know said that when her teenage son got cancer, their friends quickly dwindled. In fact, only one teenager stuck out this friendship through recovery. I don’t know what this says about our society, but whatever it says, I think it is terribly sad.

Don’t get me wrong, I still have cherished friendships, some dating back more than 25 years. Not everyone bailed on me, and some stepped up more than I expected. However the losses still sting.

“The best part of all is that I don’t even have to get out of my grubby art clothes or make sure that I have not created unintentional pasties on my shirt with glitter glue.”

The good news is that after I ignited my passion for the creative arts, I began finding a new group of friends with whom I feel a genuine connection. Many of the women in my new tribe I met via similar interests on social media. Since they are located all across the globe, I don’t necessarily chat with them at our kids’ sporting events or at the local Starbucks. However–whether it is through Instagram, private Facebook groups or texting–I do talk with them many times a week. The best part of all is that I don’t even have to get out of my grubby art clothes or make sure that I have not created unintentional pasties on my shirt with glitter glue.

Finding my tribe is about building genuine friendships with people like myself. It is about connecting people with who like the real me and being able to let go of my countless insecurities.  Finding my tribe is about fitting in. It is about kinship, laughter and shared interests, regardless of geographic boundaries.

Time will tell if these friendships prove loyal. Some will, some won’t. There is one thing I do know: because these women share my passions and could care less whether my kids are honors students, these friendships–even the virtual ones–are far more real than some of my previous relationships.

The mixed media piece–which you can see in detail, along with a tutorial, over at the Robin’s Nest–celebrates these friends–old and new. The feathers around the girl symbolize people who encircle me with support and fun, while the feathers off to the side represent opportunities to find new friends and continue building my tribe in 2015.

It’s important to point out that I thought carefully about using the tribe and feather symbolism for this work as I wanted to be respectful of Native American cultures. While a microscopic portion of my heritage is Ojibwe, and the rest of my family has African heritage,I certainly do not have any kind of claiming rights. Recently, headdress have been popular with fashion magazines advertising and pop culture. Native American spokespersons have pointed out individuals who wear headdress may be belittling an entire culture. At the same time, both tribes and the use of feathers are not exclusive to Native Americans. For example, the Katatola is a feathered mask worn by the African Luchazi and Luvale tribes. As a result, in order to show respect, I chose not to create an actual headdress with the feathers, nor follow any particular tribal style.


4 Responses »

  1. This is a fantastic creation, and the story behind the creation is just as fantastic. I’m sorry that you have had to go through the loss of friends while dealing with the financial and physical ravages of an illness in your family. Just when you need the support the most you got it the least and that saddens me. However, I concur with you in the fact that the crafting community online is a very powerful one. I, myself, have many friends in my online community that I can name as “Sisters”. I hope you enjoy the love and support from your online friends as you continue to deal with the struggles of the illness and its aftermath.

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