Zen Hospice Project
May 10, 2010 2:54 pm by Aaron Matthew McKenzie
In spring 2012, students from California College of the Arts collaborated with Zen Hospice Project while taking the “Presence and Absence” course. For this course, eight undergraduate art and design students focused their studies on end-of-life care as they worked to create an art blanket for the Zen Hospice Project Guest House.
The form of the blanket itself is an interactive object that embodies the qualities of touch, memory, intimacy and comfort. The imagery was created using a “free-form knit and crochet” technique in which small, improvisational, handmade pieces are brought together to form larger designs.
We began together with the simple image of a spiral. As our conversations about mortality, grief and loss forced us to look ever more deeply inward, the body of our spiral grew outward. Images of flowers, leaves, butterflies, swallows, and other symbols began to appear within the expanding current of the spiral.
Several of the Guest House residents welcomed us into their rooms or came to sit with us in the living room downstairs while we worked. They became part of us and their presence is imbued in our handwork.
The creation of the blanket involved an immeasurable amount of labor. In order to complete it, the class sought help from our friends, larger community and the Zen Hospice Project volunteers and staff who, when they had time, sat for knitting, crocheting and conversation.
The Zen Hospice approach is centered around five precepts that we found could be applied not only to end-of-life care, but also to many aspects of living:
• Welcome everything. Push away nothing.
• Bring your whole self to the experience.
• Don’t wait.
• Find a place of rest in the middle of things.
• Cultivate don’t-know mind
The student’s writings reflected on these precepts, on time spent with the residents, and on our imagery and process.
Categories: ENGAGE at CCA