At some point during my career in energy and environment, I became obsessed with the human love of place, and more specifically, the love of home.
I was no doubt reaching back to my initial motivation for entering the environmental field – the family farm upon which I had been raised, and my father and his siblings before me.
Its beauty was a breathtaking combination of undulating farmland and formal gardens, all steeped in 18th century American history. It was the deep desire to preserve such places that led me towards my future work.
Photo of the formal garden (Designed by Fletcher Steele) on my childhood farm.
When I transitioned from the corporate world to academia, I seized the freedom to explore this idea of “home” in more detail.
“The environmental causes upon which executives most preferred their companies’ focus were directly linked to each executive’s geographical location, their personal interests, or their local community. “
In other words, the “love of home”, or what British philosopher Roger Scruton calls, oikophilia, was the greatest motivator for environmental preservation.
Here I am giving a paper in February 2017 based on Scruton’s Oikos philosophy (John was 6 months old - I distinctly remember the effort it took to get into this suit!)
Our intrinsic human attachment to home, and to land, is perhaps most apparent through art. The number of artists inspired by their homes is infinite. We paint what we know, what we love.
The first artist who inspired me to take up textile design in summer 2019 was Pat Albeck, who in a career astoundingly motivated by place, designed upwards of 300 tea towels for the British National Trust and National Trust of Scotland.
“Decorative design is at is its very best when the designer actually speaks directly to the eventual customer, the consumer, the audience.”
Pat noted that she wasn’t “trying to educate people, but rather, to please them”, and she did so by harnessing their love of place.
A few of my favorite Pat Albeck tea towels.
My own home has been my primary motivator, both for my initial environmental career and my emerging artistic one. It is no coincidence that I started painting again when I moved back to my childhood home with my own children.
As is written in my 2020 Look book, my initial fabric collection was..
“...inspired by the perennial flowers that grow along the lanes of Essex County, the classical architectural elements that live in the old books and historic details of our home, the seashells and maritime flags that dot the Cape Ann coast, and the hounds and horses that race through the fields in my small town.”
My illustration of the nearby Crane Estate, Ipswich, Mass., inspired by Pat Albeck.
Similarly, I have designed patterns for others specifically based on the places they love and those to which they feel most connected.
Forsythe Park, Savannah Scarf, custom commission
Elizabeth Barlow Rogers, a landscape preservationist and hero of mine, notes,
“We are still place-bound creatures, carrying in the recesses of our memories personal histories of spaces we have inhabited and imagined. We carry “placeness” in our genes … we long to feel at one with the natural world.”
This holiday season, may home for you be one of peace, contentedness, (a bit of cabin fever no doubt!), and appreciation for the unique characteristics of the space and place you inhabit.
May it perhaps inspire you to settle deeper into how it has shaped your own personal history, present motivations, and future imaginings.
Photo of our home at Christmas.
My favorite reading nook at home.
As C. S. Lewis wrote, as quoted by Dale Coulter,
"To speak of a love of home is to conjure up images associated with a way of life at a particular place—all of the sights, sounds, smells, mannerisms, dialect, and other peculiarities associated with the locale."
As 2020 comes to a close, with most of us having spent more time at home than ever before, our senses have sharpened to the charisms of our respective homes. The comforts of its familiarity, or the longing for a home to which we are unable to return, or the task of shaping a brand new one for those you love. The importance of home is unlikely to be underestimated in years to come.