well, crap. or, possibly a plan.

alrighty, so. i think many of you know i've been struggling with grad school for ages. i imagine that some friends are really so, so tired of me talking about it, talking about quitting, talking about topics, blah blah. i finished everything except my dissertation, so i've been ABD since 2008. then i went on a leave of absence, but came back and have had a series of false starts. the program is interdisciplinary but something like cultural studies. my advisor is a visual anthropologist.. she makes ethnographic films. my interests have centered on folklife, usually in the u.s. south, and usually related to rural skills, and especially animal husbandry and related practices. at one time, i wanted to be a professor, but i'm an artist at heart, or at least a wannabe. so that's one reason i haven't been motivated to finish - because i don't think a ph.d will help me be an artist. but i haven't been able to quit, either.

but so recently i've learned that my school will accept a dissertation that consists at least partly of an art work. it's not an MFA program, but since it is interdisciplinary, they have been talking about nontraditional dissertation forms for ages, and apparently they are now starting to accept them. so i'm told that i could do an art work and then write about it. presumably the art would fulfill a chapter, and then there would be a chapter contextualizing it, and maybe a chapter analyzing it... or something. did i already tell you all this? i feel like i have.

so what about having this elder cloth be part of my dissertation? the subject of it, i mean. i have a glimmer of how this could work. everything from the materials to the process to the story. and situated ... somewhere. historically, and within stitching (and perhaps spinning, weaving or farming) communities and now online art communities. within the slow cloth movement. among women who are also making.

there are some parameters. it has to fit within my previous areas of study. otherwise i will have to re-do my comprehensive exams. then it has to fit within my advisors' areas of expertise. and then it has to fit with what the graduate committee has already approved for me. it's possible to change or shift some of these, but not ideal. i think all this means that i need to conversate with academic work in visual anthropology, memory studies and animal studies. so that it's consistent with what i've done before, it's important that it be related to animals, not just that the cloth is 'for' elderberry, but probably that some of the materials derive from animals. i *think* it could fit... but maybe not, i'm still reaching.

if i could do this in the context of my current program, i think it would be great. i'd be motivated to work on it, because it's work i want to be doing anyway. i'm inspired, of course, by jude. not that i should try to do what she does, i couldn't possibly, but i can imagine some sort of a slow cloth journey being documented and all of that forming the basis of a dissertation. why not?

so now i need to brainstorm, refine, and convince.

i've been tasked to map out my plan by August 31 and so i am overdue on the getting-with-it. here are the questions i need to answer:
Describe your research question/hypothesis or research objective? What will the focus of your investigation be?

How does your research build on your existing dissertation research and what fields/disciplines will it draw upon?

What evidence/materials do you need to collect to answer your research question and how will you go about collecting it?

What skills and training are required for this work and what has prepared you to do this research?

What is the significance of your project? What fields/disciplines will it contribute to and how?

so i'm going to take some time and think on these questions and brainstorm. this is all very early, draft-y and provisional. i don't want to self-edit too much here or be embarrassed for trying. i don't feel like i can do this alone.


  1. wow. sounds like you have a good plan. how wonderful to be able to make a piece of art as part of your dissertation. i never went as far as a phd--didn't see the need for it. i find this very interesting. wish i could help you but all i can give you is support.

  2. every morning. two hours. start with the first question and write.

  3. this has got my brain spinning.

  4. this sounds like a very exciting and more fitting direction! good luck dru!

  5. It sounds fantastic, I can't wait to hear more! :).

  6. thanks everyone... i'm not sure how or if the school plan will evolve... but i'm so glad you're here with me through this.

  7. dru...YES. you have Continued albiet half heartedly some times for some reason. why give it up now. and also, i think, reading this through only the first time (i will read again i am sure, many times) you are being given a really surprising opportunity to create your own standard for them. it just has to be good. that's the trick. you need to make them WANT to see how you accomplish this.
    i am interested in the small reference to
    community, the formation of community, based
    on traditional, even age old ways women worked
    with lifeArt. would this appeal to them?
    What if you either focused on that or had it
    be significant in some way. What if you were to gather some of the women that are connected to Spirit Cloth....on SEW, from SEW for instance. Cloth is not "animal", so i guess it would have to be those who work with wools??
    but there are many in this group...
    but then, i'm thinking, WE are animals. and
    we are animalwomen re evaluating how we
    see ourselves in this socioeconomic times.
    i was reading the Black Mountain Manifesto on Rima's blog......and to me, we are slowly and
    maybe not even consciously turning toward ways and means to spiritually deal with a changing planet.........
    i love reading all this!!!!!!!!!!!!

  8. oh, and also, i just rinsed out the 3 elderberry dye cloths. they are hanging.
    Sun still to intense to photograph, will probably need to wait till morning,...but they are typical for the results i can rely on. will blog the pics. and would be happy to send you any of it you might want for your cloth...........? xoxo

  9. grace, thank you so much for such thoughtful encouragement!! i would be thrilled to have a bit of your elderberry cloth!! i'm still looking for an elderberry bush around here - i know there must be some, but i haven't found one yet. plus it would be so lovely to have a bit of cloth that was yours, that you dyed in elderberry partnership...

    i think the animal part could be addressed through silk too, and wool, and then maybe extended through plants and human animal women... and yes the community of all of us. but now i am feeling that i don't want to mesh these two worlds, my very precious world of art and craft and spirit, and the academic world. i'm not sure if the academic discourse (and politics) would feed my work or would more likely infect it. although i would love exploring the world of SEW and dialoging with all of you about it, and it might give my work more direction. but i suppose i could do that anyway :D

  10. I was very excited reading this. Just the idea of doing something you LOVE and have passion for and that being related to school and the academic world. It sounds like you are approaching this so thoughtfully, whatever you decide...I hope you share it with us. Your posts are so interesting!

  11. Good luck Dru. Call me when you're done with your proposal.