Frank Boyden, Sitka’s co-founder, referenced a line from a song the other day in the office. It was one I grew up singing, and the two of us spontaneously broke out in song:
“I gave Uncle Walter a new coat to wear,
But when he comes home it’s all covered with hair,
And lately I’ve noticed there are several new tears;
I’m sure Uncle Walter goes waltzing with bears…”
“Waltzing with Bears,” (a folk song based on Dr. Seuss’s “My Uncle Turwiliger Goes Waltzing with Bears”) tells the story of eccentric Uncle Walter from the vantage point of a concerned relative.
“We told Uncle Walter that he should be good,
And do all the things that we say that he should,
But I know that he'd rather be out in the wood…”
I wonder how Uncle Walter’s family would feel about him stealing away to a Sitka spruce forest for days at a time to make art and commune with nature?
In Ruth Armitage’s recent “Native Animals of Land, Sea & Sky” workshop, Boyden Studio filled up with basking seals and grazing deer as participants worked on free-spirited paintings capturing the essence of local creatures. A sign at the front of the creative space offered these guidelines:
1. Let go of judgement.
2. No comparing your work to that of others.
3. Explore and take risks—no masterpieces.
4. Ask questions.
In Alexandra Shaefer’s “Artist’s Book Illuminated” workshop, makers painted loose sketches while chatting about giving themselves the gift of time and space to explore their creative sides. The warblers in one bookmaker’s work looked as if they were about to spread their yellow feathers and hop out of their newsprint-collaged nests.
If your missing loved one returns home this summer with pastel smudges on their fingers, a risk-taking spark in their eye and a freshly woven willow bark hat atop their head, don’t worry. They’ve probably been out waltzing at Sitka.
One, two, three; one, two, three…