Thursday, September 3, 2015

Thank You Letters: An Alphabet of Gratitude

Letter Z travels to India

What are you grateful for?

The whole alphabet

Thank you letters: An Alphabet of Gratitude is a project that was conceived in a marine supply store in NH. I went there to purchase fishing line for the warp for my Mandala Community Looms. I love this store, it has everything from shrimp netting, to rubber lures, bait bags, ropes, and all kinds of fishing gear. While I was there these brilliantly colored, plastic flags caught my eye. These flags which are lobster buoy markers, were like a blank canvas, ready for stitching and fabric collage.
This project is still in progress. I have completed all 26 alphabet letters which is the first phase of this project. Phase two is to take these 26 letters to public places and ask people to spell what they are thankful for, taking photos of all participants.
This project is an obvious off spring of "Woven Voices: Messages from the Heart".

Monday, October 7, 2013


"W" is for Woven Voices, the project I designed and guided from 2007 - 2011. In past postings I have shared some of the lessons that this project taught me. This posting will be about how the project has morphed into something new yet truly an out growth of "Woven Voices". Here are the details:

 A community art installation guided by Artist Sarah Haskell

   Love defines us, motivates us and binds our lives together. In this hands-on activity inspired by Buddhist Prayer flags, participants will be invited to create a paper flag prompted by something or someone that they love. 

   On the front of each flag people are invited to write and draw the first letter of something or someone that they love.

On the reverse side of each flag we fill in the blank:

  _________ is for _______________________


Name ______________Date______________
Newtown CT Art Festival 9/13

   All ages and abilities of community members  are able to participate in this project, allowing for a wide variety of love letters. People are invited to create two flags, one to take home and one to leave for a community installation. 

   At the end of the day, we assemble the letters and see what we inspiring words and messages we can spell from these "Love Letters", creating a visual story of who and what we love. For example if we collect the letters P, O, H, R, T, E, N, A, and E ~ we can spell "OPEN HEART".

   The completed string of brightly colored "Love Letters" is donated to a public location in celebration of the deep love that connects the community.  
We spelled "Family".

   In late September I was invited to guide "LOVE LETTERS" at the annual Newtown (CT) Arts Festival. Over 50 people participated in creating letters, and look what we were able to spell: "Newtown, We are family."

L is for Love.
 "LOVE LETTERS" has lead to my own alphabet of gratitude. I am making 26 lettered flags, each one is a hand embroidered letter sewn on a brightly colored lobster pot buoy flag.  I have completed 12 flags so far and am having fun creating words with these letters!
Spelling foods I love!
   I'll post more images on my website soon.

Time Passes....things change

Searsport Site July 2013
   One of the foundations of  "Woven Voices" is to witness the passing of time and to honor the Buddhist principle of impermanence. It's been over a year since my last posting, and the river of time has certainly moved along.
Searsport July 2013
   Our prayer flags, these little woven squares of fabric and paper, have weathered many seasons. Some have held up better than others. Some have completely disappeared. Some are replaced and others just abandoned.
   The site in Searsport along busy Route 1, where my brother was killed in July2011, has been a place that I installed prayer flags. This July a friend who travels by there frequently offered to hang some new flags up for me. So I sent him a couple of new sets of Tibetan flags as well  as a special bird flag with a "Dear Wes" letter on the back.
   True to the nature of impermanence, within a few days, the Maine State road crew came along a did their summer mowing. In the process of this summer cutting all of the flags, new and old, were ripped down and  mowed over.
September 2013, What's left.
   Another friend who travels by frequently stopped by the site and salvaged what she could of the remaining flag scraps.
   When I was in Searsport in September, I took these scraps and wrapped them around the telephone pole. This site will no longer be maintained as a memorial.

Time passes, things change.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Weathering the storms with grace

Prayer flags hang in wind, rain, sun, snow, hail, roadside salt, grime and exhaust.
    If you ever wondered how well a prayer flag will weather the elements, the best way to find out is to hang it out doors and watch it transform.
    The prayer flags shown here were put up last summer at the site of the construction accident that killed my beloved brother Weston. These flags have been hanging between a telephone pole and the supporting guide wires. I think that they look so amazing, weathered but still beautiful, with a patina that comes only with time.
  So if you own one of these community handwoven prayer flags, I encourage you to hang it outside so that the energy of love and peace can fly free on the wind.
    I trust that you will be inspired by how the flag ages with grace.

   Thanks to all for your continued support, your kind comments and most of all your commitment to universal love and peace.
     Namaste ~ Sarah

Thursday, May 10, 2012

What goes around

You know that old expression "What goes around, comes around" ? To me this means what you send out eventually comes back to roost at home. I used to tell my kids that love is a boomerang. If you send it out, it will come back. But like throwing a boomerang, which takes practice and patience, so does sending out love. Each prayer flag from the Woven Voices project is like a little love letter. We send them out across the miles of ocean and land and eventually something comes back here to York.
Last month, I received this email:

Old prayer flag on rock in Wales
Frances reproduction of Wales prayer flag
"I live in Denmark, but originally come from Wales, UK, and often visit. I was in North Wales last year with a good friend, who took me to a deserted slate quarry - mines, ruined houses, spoil heaps, beautiful nature. He is taking part in an art project about the place; he wanted to show me something he had found, tied to a piece of slate fencing facing away from the path that passes by.

I have sent you an image of the piece; as you will see, it resembles your prayer flags to a remarkable degree.  All indications point to it being set up in the late '50's or early '60's.
We had the immediate thought that there would be a message contained in it; none is now visible - if ever there was one.

I HAD to make a reconstruction, which I did on my return to Denmark  - from a few photos and inadequate memory - I have sent an image of that too. ca. 20x20 cm. (both pieces)

The making has been inspirational for me and I have lots of plans to work in this format and with the old piece as a starting point. 
My friend turned up your blog today whilst searching for any kind of indication of WHY the original was tied to the slate.

  -  Do you know of any history concerning small woven messages? We would be grateful for an answer, even if it were negative!
If you are interested, I could keep you informed on the progress we make (if any)." Frances

WOW! I am so amazed by this email. Thank you Frances! I have sent Frances the "Woven Voices: How to Guide" so that she can continue this work in her home in Denmark. You too can receive this guide. Visit the side bar for details.

And then yesterday, this email:

Prayer flags, Emily and  friend at Amma's Ashram
"Dear Sarah,
I'm finally getting around to sending you a photo of the flags I put up at Amma's ashram in Kerala, India (  They were hung by the Western Cafe, where thousands of international visitors will see them.  They will probably get plucked by crows and battered by monsoon winds and rains.  As well, observed by many as they await their ordered food.
Kerala, India, Amma's Ashram
I had six more that were also hung on the roof of one of the buildings. A friend of mine owns a special flat (it was Amma's room years ago) on top of one of the buildings.  She (Meenakshi, a flight attendant from CA) was delighted to hang them on her veranda and enjoy the designs and the prayers.  I'm attaching an aerial view of the ashram.  Meenakshi was going to take pictures; perhaps she already sent them to you.  I had given her one of your flyers.

Thank you for all you do, Sarah.

Two instances, months after the official ending of the Woven Voices project, the love still rippling out to new corners. I am confident that these little woven love letters will be working their invisible magic for years to come. Thanks to all for assisting this journey of love.
The clamshell box open with handmade books and flags.
Thesis on the bookshelf.
     And now with a big is a peek at my completed Masters of Art and Healing! It is now official, I am a Master at Art and Healing! My thesis is a final report and documentation on this project. I created 4 hand-bound books, plus included two flags and other support materials. This final report and documentation is simply a landmark, a big one yes, but I will not stop here.I bet you knew that. I am just resting. Until next time, Peace and Love, Sarah
Text on inside cover

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The end of the beginning

the basket of messages is nearly empty
     Saturday February 11, 2012, I wove the last of the Woven Voices prayer flags. On Sunday, I sewed the edges between the final two rolls of flags.
     During the past two weeks I have been collating data and writing about this four year global peace project for my Masters of Art and Healing. As I set out to do last May, I have created an intentional ending for Woven Voices
     Woven with the threads and messages of these last few prayer flags are many emotions and much reflection. To quote from TS Eliot's The Four Quartets, Little Glidding: 
 "What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
last prayer flags on the loom 2/11/12
 The end is where we start from."
 I am keenly aware that this ending is only a pause, a brief rest before I begin again.
sewing the last prayer flags
the last prayer flag

In this space of refection I have teased out a few lessons learned while guiding this project. In the beginning, I designed Woven Voices in an effort to bring more positive energy to the world through a creative doorway. 

 Now as I reflect back, I see that in parallel with my efforts to change the world, I have changed myself.
prayer flag over traveling waters

In a manner of speaking I have embodied Gandhi's words:"Be the change you want to see in the world." 

  In my Master's thesis I have spelled out nine lessons that spiraled through the four years of Woven Voices. Central to these nine lessons is the lesson of letting go.

Implied in the act of letting go is the action of taking hold.

Like a trapeze artist who has just released one swinging bar, I am paused
in mid-air prior to grabbing a hold of the next bar.

In this mid-air space, I find faith that the lessons learned from Woven Voices will support me until I grab onto the next bar, whatever that might be.
Some Woven Voices facts ~
  • 2,214 messages received and read out loud
  • 12 public readings of messages of hope and peace  at Market Square, Portsmouth, NH
  • 1, 364 prayer flags hand woven by community volunteers
  • over 85 community volunteer weavers
  • 3 volunteer seamstresses
  • Prayer flags hanging in over 29 states
  • St. Paul MN food coop
  • Prayer flags hanging in over 30 foreign lands
There is so much to be proud of and grateful for. 
Kirpalu Retreat Center

Elementary school art room
private garden in PA

Cary, North Carolina

Vero Beach Florida
I cannot bring this project to closure with out acknowledging the many people who volunteered time, materials and finances to support Woven Voices. Thank you for your faith in my vision, your effort and energy to support the project even during the darkest hours of my life last summer.

   The Woven Voices How-To Guide  ~ In an effort to make Woven Voices available to a wider community and in a gesture to continue to ripple effect of this beautiful, loving energy, I have written
 a "how to " guide for the Woven Voices project.
private sanctuary

There is no charge for this16 page booklet. Simply send me an email (address on the side bar) and I will send you a PDF download link.

It is my pleasure to send this project out in the world so that the love and lessons may continue to unfold.

snowy peace at the well

way up high in the trees
In the near future I will post my thesis so you might read all the nine lessons of Woven Voices. For now, I am flying in the space between old and new. 

Blue skies

Eliot continues "We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time."
Yes,  "to make an end is to make a beginning".  
Namaste ~ Sarah

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

November News

Prayer flag hangs in downtown Providence RI
Gil and his peace flag in France
Here we are, one third of the way through the month of November. Mother Nature has delivered a few surprises in the past week plus including snow and now unseasonably high temperatures. The leaves on the trees outside my studio are a honey color dappled with brown and burnt orange.

Fall is characteristically a bitter sweet time for me. This fall notwithstanding, I approach the conclusion of "Woven Voices: Messages from the Heart" a project which I launched in December 2007. Over the past 4 years, we have gathered over 2,200 messages of peace and hope that have been read out loud in Market Square Portsmouth, NH. We have woven over 1200 prayer flags total with over 650 of those for the Kickstarter goal. These prayer flags fly worldwide and close to home.

prayer flag with portrait of son
prayer flags in Hiroshima Japan at the World Friendship Center
Glacier Park, Two Medicine Lake, Montana
There is much to celebrate and much to feel proud of. Thanks to each of you for your encouragement, support and effort to build and sustain this project.

The prayer flags are being sent to people and organizations from Africa, to Norway, to New Zealand, to France, to Japan and to folks close at hand that need to feel our support and love. I plan to fulfill the commitment to deliver some to Ground Zero in the late winter/early spring. I have sent some to the folks in NYC at Occupy Wall Street. The work goes on even as we draw this project to an honorable conclusion.

There are a few hundred messages still to be woven. If you are moved to come to the studio to weave, please let me know. There will not be a designated time/day for weaving, so just let me know what/when is best for you. New weavers are welcome.

Thank you for all your love and support. Blessings and Peace ~ Sarah