Yokoo: Artist Cottage Industry as Safe Space

Fiber artist Yokoo and her safe space: Silence. Quiet Bike Paths. Secretive, enveloping mist. Sunrise. Water. Solitary, early morning excursion to a beautiful location. Water. Trees. A private world carved from the quietest time of day, and a home-sanctuary where she crafts beautiful artworks. Fiber artist Yokoo has created a cottage industry that is also a profoundly safe space  that reflects, supports and ensconces her personality, her craft and her philosophy of life.

Silence is very important. Most of my ideas come out of complete silence. We all need to allow the silence. There is so much noise. You need to take the time to realize why you’re here. You are here to create. ~Yokoo

Thank you Yokoo for sharing your process, sacred spaces, and your activities with us. The glimpse into your home studio, your philosophy, your style, and your private world inspires me. It is no wonder that your artworks are beautiful and sumptuous, as you revel in the beauty of your life, every, single, day.

Massive hand-crocheted scarf by Yokoo, for sale in her etsy shop

The Snow Leopard (Massive hand-crocheted scarf) in Navy, Crocheted by Yokoo, available on Etsy.com

It’s important for people to create their own worlds…you have this world in which you live in, but I think we should create a sub-world to protect us. When the idea hits you that you are in control of your life, it’s like a window opening in a stuffy room. And if I could just say anything to anybody, it would be that you are given this life to live, and not to just exist.

This “Handmade Portrait” prompted me to think deeply about my home studio, my creative practices and intermittent productivity. I found it to enriching to hear just how many hours Yokoo devotes to her craft every single day, and I admire the spartan order to her belongings. Her crochet and knit items are so plush, textural, richly colored and generously sized that I couldn’t help but wonder at which brand and how much yarn she used per object (the Snow Leopard pictured above is 10 feet long and 8 inches wide!!!). This line of thought prompted me to ponder yarn the source of her yarn and the amounts she must use to create each piece, which prompted me to schedule spinning lessons to learn how to spin yarn. Months later, I now spin yarn on a Drop Spindle. Yokoo’s work and Etsy’s handmade portrait nudged me on the path to realize that I can make the perfect yarns for the projects I envision for my crochet and knit work.

Sliver, 1st ply of the yarn and drop spindle

My Drop Spindle featured with 1st single strand of what will become 3-ply yarn, and the original sliver that I spin from.

As for Yokoo’s last message to live one’s life instead of simply existing, well I say in response: “I appreciate you, Yokoo, for living YOUR life to the fullest. In addition to the lovely garments and accessories that you envision and carefully craft for strangers, you present the image of a creative, self-assured woman who contributes to the beautiful tapestry of the life simply by following your bliss. That said, I add your bliss to my life list of inspirations.”

thinking, feeling and growing toward my goals,


Two tone green yarn on Drop spindle

My Drop Spindle featured with first ply of a two-toned green wool yarn


Make Peace Paper from Combat Paper

My Thinking, Feeling Friends,

This holiday week in Dallas has been amazing. I’ve driven around to see the holiday lights in lovely neighborhoods, I’ve had insightful conversations with new friends, and I graduated an academic level. Two nights ago, I met a brilliant, and exceptional Doctor who works with veterans and is known for his amazing bedside manner and meaningful interactions with his clients, his patients. We had a great conversation, and one visit to his Facebook page opened my mind to new instruments, music and inspirations.

I learned of this musician Loreena McKennitt, the Celtic goddess, from the good doctor. Her song “The Mystics Dream” called to me, and the images along with her sound, her tone prompted the question: “What do the mystics dream?”. Well, I dream of teaching others to craft beautiful handmade objects like paper, books, soap and yarn, so that we may use the quiet centered part of our creative self  to recreate our sense of Self. These objects are simultaneously necessary items and luxury items. The quality of the product reflects the attention to detail, and care for the process and end result; it is symbolic of how deep we go. Only the arts and artisanal activities allow this possibility. Creativity is the key to our internal alchemy lab, the place where we create our Self.

I dream of working with people who are aware of the arc of their healing journey, and who are ready to dig deeper into the meanings of major life experience. To excavate one’s experience is to find one’s personal treasure. My dream is to help others learn to map their way to the treasures within, treasures born of intense experience, what others call “trauma”.

As I listened to this song and thought about the person who led me to it, I started to think about the ways in which I could facilitate the healing journey with Veterans. I would like to practice the alchemy of papermaking and storytelling with veterans. I envision doing this work in the VA Hospital, because it is the liminal space between the walk of the warrior and the civilian reality. The veterans are profoundly changed from walking the warrior’s way because they must now swim heart-deep through the healing process. They perceive the world through a filter that most people will never know. I would like to offer them the creative space to examine and recycle that filter to create new intent and an integrated self. The way to recycle that old filter is to recycle symbolic recycled materials to create new objects with renewed purpose and function. The way to integration will come from guided reflection on the lessons learned during their time in the service, at war, and returned to civilian life.

If I were so blessed to work with veterans, we would create paper from the pulp of their active duty paperwork (and other significant personal papers). We would then use the new paper to make bind custom books. We would fill the books with what we uncover in our alchemical laboratories. What does the Service mean to your whole self? What have you learned from your travels? We would recycle the remnants of active duty (as represented by the papers) into a blank medium (new paper / peace paper) on which they may verbally or visually explore their vision for an affirming, generative, integrated life of their own making (by hand-binding books from their paper).

The next video features veterans who make paper from their combat uniforms. This project launches from the participants stance on the war, while acknowledging the transformation of the uniform and the “negative” mememories, into paper that is a vehicle for expressing those concerns. In our project, there would be room for those types of expression alongside guided thought exercises to transform the understanding of the combat experience into a pool of wisdom they can draw from.