• Jennifer Jewell

MAKING A LIFE, BY HAND, with MELANIE FALICK, BEST OF


Hey – Ok I had to jump in this week to say this: HAPPY BIRTHDAY to CULITVATING PLACE – we are 5 years old this month. With more than 300 episodes in conversation with gardeners around the globe growing this world better, I am so gratified to be here with you. I wanted to share some fun numbers too: I first began looking at these things back in 2018, that year the Cultivating Place podcast was downloaded 155,000 times. In 2019, episodes were downloaded 215,000 times. In 2020 – well – this is like that rule in the garden: 1st year plants sleep, second they creep, third they leap in 2020 the Cultivating Place podcast was downloaded 381,000 times. This is testament to the power of the gardeners we hear from, the power of gardens in general. I can’t think of a community I would rather be growing with. Thank you for the great gift of your listening time – gardens make a difference in our world. Here’s to 5 more years!


To celebrate - we are revisiting this best of conversation with Melanie Falick on Making A Life - because that's what we do as gardeners - we make a life we love with our hands in our soil!


Melanie Falick is a maker of many things by hand – from gardening to knitting, welding to baking – she explores the connection between what we do with our hands in our own lives and our quality of life and sense of wellbeing.


In 2015, Melanie – a maker, a writer, a creative - left her 15-year corporate career in the publishing world without a completely clear sense of what she would or wanted to do next – her intuition told her that whatever it was, it would involve engagement with the handwork – knitting, sewing, time in the garden – that she loved but that she had moved away from personal direct contact with in her career.


In the course of making many things following her retirement-of-sorts, it was after crafting a simple folded paper box, a box of incredibly basic utility, that she had an epiphany: “in a circuitous way” in all her creative making, she realized, she was "trying to connect to her own survival" – and that impulse was tied inextricably to her own sense of self, capability, and connection to others – her ancestors, her descendants, her community.


In these past few months of shelter in place, I think many of us, male, female, old and young across the globe, have had a renaissance in our own psyches of this same impulse.

Melanie and I actually chatted in February, before the shut-down, which seems prescient somehow in hindsight, and I think speaks to the fact that this growing global dissatisfaction with what we have been told/sold “success” is, has been in the making for a very long time.


Enjoy our conversation about her newest book, “Making a Life, Working by Hand and Discovering the Life You Are Meant to Live” (Artisan Books, 2019), in which she explores how others have been manifesting this impulse and leading lives of great connection and meaning long before Covid-19, and how they might be role models for any one of us in making or remaking our own lives.


"When we understand how things are made, we have more empathy for the people who make those things for us, and we have more care about the makers and the made. "

Melanie Falick, Making a Life


In this moment where our convenience society is being asked to reevaluate and re-structure, the handmade has comes back into sharp focus. In our conversation, Melanie describes her process for charting the paths of people she's admired and who've centered their lives around the handmade by choice for many years - and encouraged and taught others to do the same thing. Her section headings speak volumes as to the many layers of value in the work and what it has to teach us/how it can grow us: REMEMBERING, SLOWING DOWN, JOINING HANDS, MAKING A HOME, FINDING A VOICE. These are all embodied metaphorically and literally with others through the hand made in our lives.

You can find Johanna at JohannaSilver.com and on Instagram @jojosilver


Join us again next week for our first June episode, in which we speak to the floral creative, Philippa Craddock. June is traditionally a month in which many many weddings are celebrated with family, flowers and food. With many of these weddings on hold this year due to Covid, we catch up with Philippa, and reminisce a little about the lovely florals from epic arches to the most romantic of bouquets, Philippa designed for Prince Harry and the lovely Meghan Markle, now Duke and Duchess of Sussex.


There are soooooo many ways people engage in and grow from the cultivation of their places.


(TOP IMAGE: Sarah Jareth, Potter. Excerpted from Making a Life by Melanie Falick (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2019. Photographs by Rinne Allen.)


RELATED EPISODES INCLUDE:


- FIBERSHED,with REBECCA BURGESS


- UNABASHED GRATITUDE & STRUCTURES OF CARE, ROSS GAY


- AT HOME WITH PLANTS, LILA B DESIGNS


Thinking out Loud this week...

I wanted to share with you all that I will be the inaugural speaker for the Southern California Horticultural Society’s annual Ruth Borun Lecture series on Thursday February 11th at 7:30 pm Pacific. It will be the first time talking about the integration of the newest book Under Western Skies, due to be published in late April or early May, with my work here on the podcast and the work of The Earth in Her Hands. For me it is a really nice integration of all that I believe in: how our plants and our places grow us as people. You can register for the talk at socalhort.org.


It is amazing to me that cultivating place is 5 years old and that more than 300 conversations have been hosted with this ethos at their center: gardens and gardening are powerful intersectional agents and space of possible positive change. It is great to feel and see and know this very ethos is growing here too, not just our places, and plants, and people. 


You can always keep up-to-date on events I am taking part in or horticultural happenings on the website cultivatingplace.com/events and I included links to all my upcoming virtual events in January’s view from here Newsletter which went out on Sunday the 31st. I generally try to give a heads up on such things over on my Instagram account, where more than 12,000 of you are now in conversation with me on all things cultivatingplace.


If you’re not with me there, pop in and follow along, say hi. It’s definitely the platform on which I’m most active with pretty much daily views on place, plants, plantspeople. And who doesn’t need a daily boost of green life?


I love how in any setting, the podcast, the book, and social media can connect us , but as Melanie reminds and the stories and lives charted in her book reflect- there’s no substitute for real hand holding of other people or the materials from which we each craft our lives.

I consider it a lot like holding each of your hands in acknowledgement and greeting each time I put my hands into the soil of my place over here - knowing that you are putting your hands in and on the soil of your place over there. It’s a long distance: "oh! HEY THERE! " It's me.....;)


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