October 2011: Cathy Coulson-Keegan & Bill Wright,
Touch The Earth
I love walking by Cathy Coulson-Keegan’s booth. I am fascinated by the fact that it is overflowing with items of all sizes on every surface and dangling all over, yet it exudes pure calm and an invitation to step in and take a deep relaxing breath. So instead of merely walking by last week, I took the invitation and stepped in to proclaim it a Beautiful Booth. I’m intrigued by the monochromatic nature of the products. I’m not usually drawn to black/white/brown things. Maybe the lack of bright color is why it all works so well, it’s essentially a lot of white space punctuated by delicate drawings and calligraphy, framed in beautiful bamboo. There’s a lot of depth there to draw a person in, both in the way the hangings are displayed, and in the content of the imagery. It’s even more beautiful at Holiday Market, when the walls are dark and the lanterns are all lit up and glowing.
Cathy says that the essence of her vision in the artwork is to express her feeling of living on a very fragile planet, and that we are all so very lucky to be living on it. We are all one family, sharing one beautiful home. She has always done pen and ink drawings of wildlife, and her approach to art became more balanced, meditative, and Asian influenced through her years-long study and practice of Tai Chi. Cathy does all the drawings, and writes some of the poems that accompany them as well. She also does all the silk screening herself. Her husband Bill takes care of all of the fabrication of frames and lamp bases and some of the sewing, and takes care of their presence on the world wide web.
Stepping lightly on the Earth is not only an essential aspect of the message of their products, but an essential aspect of their business practices. The flags and banners are all made from raw silk. This silk is made from the cocoons after the silk worms have emerged, which is more eco-friendly than finer silks made from unhatched cocoons. The bamboo for the framing and hanging is also Oregon grown. Some of it is actually from the lush bamboo garden that surrounds their Veneta home. In the typical Market spirit of collaboration, Cathy has her neighbor Marketeer Mary Flowerday make silk origami cranes from the raw silk for her silk origami crane mobiles.
One more little thing I love about Cathy is her joyful personality and sense of humor. I noticed that the label on one of their lanterns says “Made by old hippies in Oregon.” “We should change that to Very Old Hippies, Very Very Old Hippies!” she says, laughing.
If you’d like to see these old hippies in their native booth/habitat, surrounded by their beautiful work, you can usually find their booth in the neighborhood west of the stage, or by asking at the info booth. You can also find photos of their work and their bamboo garden at www.earthsteps.com.