a chat with Beverly Army Williams

I recently sat down (virtually) with Beverly Army Williams to talk about her teaching, her daily art, and how curiosity drives her making. I’ve known Beverly for a while and her quest for elegance based in sustainability and simplicity has inspired me for years. Her most recent hairpin lace crochet design, Unparallel’d can be found in Defarge Does Shakespeare.

little acorn:
You are always crafting, both words and fiber, how do you do it?
Beverly:
As a college professor, my year has cycles that reflect the semesters. While I continue to do day-job-related work in the summer, the pace slows, and my schedule is my own. I can carve out more time for creative explorations, and for several years, during summer breaks I found myself painting and/or drawing almost daily. I have a vision for how I’d like my journal to look, and it requires me to build my visual arts skills. I made a lot of progress last summer, but once the fall semester started, my afternoon painting sessions ended. Since I’m a firm believer that we all have time to do what matters to us if we prioritize it, I decided to heed my own advice and ensure I made time to make art every day. Around mid-November, I had a moment when I recognized that I could get accountability for this daily art project and keep it manageable if I committed to making and sending out a postcard every day in 2015. And so the #2015PostcardProject took shape.
2015-07-02-BAW-QA-PostCardProject-Oskar
little acorn:
What is on your wishlist for things students could do to facilitate your role as teacher?
Beverly:
I’ve been teaching professionally for 15 years, and the one thing I wish my students–in the university classroom, in my writing workshops, in my crochet classes–would do when they take a class with me is to bring their curiosity. Okay, another thing: also bring their beginner’s mind. I love to work with students who are willing to make mistakes. In fact, in some of my university classes, I’ve taken to calling assignments “endeavors” to reiterate the attitude of exploration rather than perfection. Whenever most of us learn something new, whether it’s a writing or a stitching skill, there’s a period when it all feels awkward and impossible. Curiosity and beginner’s mind let a student remain good natured during that period rather than feeling frustrated. And while frustration can lead to learning, I much prefer my students to be delighted as they learn.
little acorn:
When not making, you can be found…
Beverly:
Hiking my dogs in the game refuge across the street from my house, reading, plotting new courses, hanging out on the porch with my husband.
little acorn:
Please tell me a bit about your process of making. Where do you find inspiration?
Beverly:
Curiosity drives my making. Whether I’m writing, stitching, or painting, “what if” is the start of every project. What if a young woman had to hide a secret at the peril of someone she loves? (the question that drives my novel-in-progress) What if form clashes with content? (the question that drives my multi-modal poetry project) What if I stop concerning myself about the quality of my little drawings and paintings and made one, sans judgement, every day for a year? (the question that drives my #2015PostcardProject). I ask my curiosity to help me hone my observation skills, especially when I’m hiking. That focus on seeing, hearing, smelling as I hike familiar trails gives my mind space to turn my questions around and around. I suppose that is where I find inspiration, along with looking at paintings that challenge me and reading and good conversation with smart folks.
little acorn:
What part of the process provides the greatest pleasure?
Beverly:
I love the moment when I grok what form my idea should be. Call it the “a-ha” moment; I think of it as recognition.
little acorn:
What part do you struggle with?
Beverly:
I struggle with knowing when something is done. I’ve had a few postcards go from delightful to meh by adding just one more touch, and I revise my writing, especially my fiction, endlessly.
little acorn:
Kitten or puppy snuggles?
Beverly:
Despite having been raised with the world’s best cat, Norman, I’m now a devoted dog lover. I appreciate cats, but I discovered in my early 30s that I am allergic to them. I have a little 13-pound terrier, Coco Chanel, who is a bit like having a cat, so I really do have the best of both camps. My young Siberian husky, Oskar Blue, is oddly cat-like, too, now that I think about it. I guess I’m a cog or dat lover?
2015-07-02-BAW-OskarLove

Thank you Beverly!

You can find Beverly at www.pomogolightly.com.

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