Our muses are people in the Holistic HQ community who are brave, creative, big-hearted and inspiring. They are ambassadors for what we strive to achieve – a thriving and joyful wellness collective, built around our shared passions for good health, a balanced lifestyle and spirited, happy wellbeing.
The beautiful Shana Dean is the Founder of Heart Weaving, a community weaving group. Shana says, “I discovered the art of weaving almost three years ago. It served me as an invaluable emotional support & continues to intrigue and teach me in many ways.
“Weaving has played an integral role in the lives of people from practically every culture and level of civilisation throughout time. Before we had written text, many communities used weaving to communicate about who they were, the environment around them and their connection to the spirit world. This practice is ongoing, but sadly in many communities it is an extinct or endangered art form.
When I discovered the art of natural textile weaving several years ago, it fed into my innate curiosity and genuine love of the natural world and the creative process. Weaving drew me into a sacred dance with nature, opening my eyes and heart with a forever deepening awareness of the world around me. It held me as I emotionally unpacked through severe grief, and supported me as I stitched my heart back together again to emerge whole once more.
For this reason I named my teaching practice ‘Heart Weaving’ … Weaving with love, from love and for the love of weaving.”
- What drew you to the craft of weaving? How has it impacted your life?
I discovered weaving through another amazing local woman weaver, Renee Bahloo, and took on a six-week course shortly after my dad passed away. I was also struggling to raise two small children and a five month old. It was a time I gave myself each week to sit down with other women and focus on feeling, connecting and just processing what that week had been like. I fell in love with it. Once you got into the pattern and rhythm of the weave, it was incredibly meditative.
Being able to intentionally take time each week to sit in circle with other open hearted women is a beautiful experience, for me it is incomparable with anything else. Weaving has me on a journey – it’s been like a best friend to me, it’s provided me with opportunities to meet some lovely people, to travel to some really special destinations. I have further plans to travel although I haven’t had the chance yet. I have also been repeatedly surprised and blessed by the community of weavers here and in places I’ve travelled to. I think what has also driven my passion for weaving, besides its deeply therapeutic benefits, is my ever growing understanding of the importance weaving has as an art form in so many ways – culturally, environmentally, historically, as a communication tool, it’s just got so many layers to it and I just want to protect, nurture and promote this beautiful art form.
- What does it mean for the women who come together for your regular weaving circle?
I’m constantly surprised by the pieces created in my workshops, it’s so diverse. Even with first time weavers, once they get going, something innate kicks in and you can see it in their eyes. They go back to memories of their childhood, their grandma, their neighbour weaving things. Or it might be something else they have ability in, but didn’t attribute to weaving, such as knitting, or crocheting, or plaiting. They hadn’t felt connected to this art form. I get to nurture and facilitate that connection, and I love seeing that lightbulb go off. I also see the community aspect of coming together being nurtured in these gatherings, this was much more commonplace in times past and it’s a positive thing to keep alive in our current busy lives, to find time to sit and connect with each other person to person.
- What’s your favourite piece that you’ve woven so far? Why is it so special to you?
I’ve got two! One of them is my sculpture mermaid. I love her because she’s big, and she’s pretty … and she’s a mermaid! But unwittingly, she’s also a representation of my journey through weaving. She’s a depiction of the Yemanja, a water goddess from Brazil where I have family connections. Just prior to my dad’s passing I travelled there and I fell in love with her image and story. Yemanja is a very present image in Bahia where I visited – she is depicted everywhere in Salvador, the capital city, even in the amazing street art graffiti.
A year later I was gifted this huge reel of beautiful pandanus fibre whilst on a weaving retreat in Nusa Penida, Bali. I used it to create her body. I accidentally made her arms different lengths, and it also happened that her slightly broken left shoulder reflected my own injuries. Sometimes you don’t consciously realise what you’re doing, but there’s always something that comes out of your weaving that helps you heal or laugh at the synchronicities.
The other piece I love is a little coil weave bowl. I used pieces from the beach that I collected after cyclone Marcia came through a while back, as well as some vibrant fair trade hemp string I purchased. It was a mixture of plant debris as well as rope that could have otherwise caused marine damage, but instead it came together as this beautiful bowl.
It was the first piece that I did where I wasn’t learning from someone else’s style or ideas, or following a particular method, but rather it is my own expression. It’s called Marcia, Marcia, Marcia. When I display it, it’s a great opportunity for discussions about what elements are involved, and the issues underpinning them – environmental issues, fair trade and other issues that are close to my heart.
- You have three gorgeous children who also keep you busy. Has it been a juggle to find time to work on your craft, or have they been involved in the process?
Yes, no, maybe – all of the above! There have been times where I have had to not weave, and put it aside because it’s just not going to happen. But I try to spend my free time well. When you are a single mum of three, and you reach for weaving in your spare moments, you know it’s a passion because in truth you don’t have much time spare! They do get involved, especially as they get older – when we’re at the park, they’ll go off on their own accord and find materials for me, which is really cute.
Lately my son is most interested in sitting with me and making his own weaving and I love that time spent together. What I do know though is that I parent better when my needs are met, and weaving just happens to fill my creativity cup till it overflows.
- You’re also studying a degree in counselling. Do you feel that this links in with your work with Heart Weaving?
Yes, I do. It definitely does. I’ve known even pre-weaving that I wanted to work in creative therapy, and I’ve found that sitting in a circle with supportive people around you – it holds a space, and a commonality. It’s amazing how it just naturally flows and you can see people overcoming obstacles, little ones or bigger ones, in their ability to create.
Sometimes they come in clearly thinking that there’s no way that they’re able to grasp how to weave. Sometimes they’ve gone through something difficult, and to come to the circle and be genuinely heard is incredibly healing. You might be creating a piece, and you go through the different stages of learning – from unknown through to understanding and as you travel that path you may get to points of frustration and these quite often cross over into other parts of your life.
Different forms of metaphors might come up through the weaving process that reflect the issues in your life – it can be ironic, and it can be humorous. I usually say to people at the start: if it’s pissing you off, that means it’s working.
- Weaving is an incredibly meditative process. Describe to us your ideal space for weaving; who you’re with, where you are, sights and sounds and feelings…
My ideal space for weaving is in the shade (because I often get sunburnt!), by the side of a babbling creek, with rock pools around me. Ideally somewhere where nature is flourishing in a balanced way, where it hasn’t been interfered with, and I can show the people I’m with how to find materials from nature. Mid-morning or mid-afternoon – I like those times. I’m not overly concerned about gender or age etc., but I love sitting with people who value the connection with the earth and with each other. You can’t get a much better spot then beside the creek, experiencing nature, seeing birds, it’s amazing how being in a space like that brings up reminisces of childhood and simpler times.
I love the blessing of elders in the workshops as well. When I was running a workshop on the Gold Coast, I had the sweetest woman who was 92, blind and in a wheelchair come up to me to share with me about her time teaching weaving in a rehabilitation home to returned soldiers after World War Two. There was a man she taught who had suffered a stroke, and she told me how she had figured out a way to teach this man who was really struggling to cope, how to weave his own basket. When he was leaving the respite centre she recalled presenting him with his basket, she told me “I still remember that he put his hands on my face and he said “very good miss, very good”.
It was the end of the day and I had hardly any materials left, but I gave her a small coiled basket I had with me to take home, just to hold in her hands and experience the memory tactilely. It was a really humbling moment. Weaving has given me moments like this of pure connection with other human beings, and I don’t think I could have experienced that depth of commonality without weaving.
- What would be your ultimate weaving piece that you dream of creating?
I’m really inspired by forest sculptor Spencer Byles. I’d love to do a big woven installation piece somewhere unexpected, for people to happen across and just enjoy.
- What was the one moment that you feel has defined your life so far?
Hmm.. It wasn’t really one moment – it was more of a five-year moment. The last five years have been incredibly testing, managing as a single mum, studying for my degree, losing a beloved parent and surviving a big health scare amongst other things. It’s been an intense journey of self-discovery, finding who I am, in all my facets. It’s forced me to reach out to my amazing friends who loved me when I wasn’t terribly loveable.
That time has come to an end in many ways. I’m not really a single mum anymore – I’m a single mum supported by an amazing partner. I can see in hindsight that it has crafted me into a much more rounded, empathic, and compassionate and real, very real person. I got over a lot of ideas of what I thought mattered. These days I just focus on my lovely kids and partner and the great team we make, and on our wonderful friends and the new path ahead….
- Where in the world do you dream of your weaving taking you to? Who would you love to work with or study under?
I would love to connect with my indigenous heritage. Throughout history, everyone wove. We wove before all this plastic, before modern technology. Therefore, every culture has their traditional weaving. I’d love to go back to Scotland, and tap into my heritage – I’m a proud Gordon! There’s a touch of Viking there too.
I’m told there’s a beautiful weaving community in Scotland, and I’d love to visit with them, spend time on that land and learn those traditional weaving techniques. I’d love to be able to bring that back here and share it with others who share that heritage and anyone else who would like to learn it as well. Because, we all have connection to land; we all have traditional weaving heritage, but all of that was cut from our history with the to-ing and fro-ing across continents. I’m sure I’m not the only the one with a desire to connect in with our ancestors in this way.
- You’ve created a safe space, a sense of community and a beautiful artistic outlet for those in your weaving circle. What are your hopes for Heart Weaving down the track?
More adventures. Meeting more beautiful people. Expanding my knowledge of the land and other cultures, of what people are willing to share with me. Weaving to deepen community connections. I’d like to facilitate more social experiences.
For instance, through a current collaborative project I’m working on with Thriving Families, the ‘Nambour Community Quilt’ we are providing an opportunity for community members to come together and weave not only artistically but socially and emotionally.
The end result will be a lovely art piece to display as well as a deepening sense of community connection and belonging. It’s also been a lovely way to document an expression of who we are as a group at this time in this place. That’s the beautiful story-telling element of weaving right there at its best.
Photo Credits: Natalie Owens, Global Pearls