The Birth of “Walde”
My personal evolution from frenzied, enthusiastic consumer to environmental consciousness has steadily come full circle over the past 35 years. When I was a teenager in the 70’s I fell in with a lovely, lively group of “hippies” who enjoyed traipsing to the north Georgia mountains almost every weekend. There we often back-packed up the beautiful Appalachian Trail to N.C. and camped at Bly Gap. Sometimes we hung out along the banks of Moccasin Creek, camping in tents and swimming in a waterfall you could only access if you were brave enough to cross a very slippery tree that had fallen across the water. On one infamous trip over winter break we barely made it to a cabin belonging to someone’s parents before snow made the road in or out impassable. The cabin was very primitive with gaps between the logs allowing the cold to continuously seep in unmolested and no indoor plumbing. We cooked our meals in the stone fireplace, gathering wood from the ground when our supply ran out, positioning it to steam near the flames of our existing fire until dry enough to actually burn. It was the hardest work for survival I have ever done, but the act of making my way through the snow looking for twigs, vines, and fallen logs, cemented an appreciation for the beautiful fierceness of nature that has never left me.
Not too much later I married and began a family, birthing my children at home hippy style. My husband was in school and we had little money, since I chose to mostly stay at home with my babies. We did not own a T.V. for the first 10 years and entertained ourselves with books, music, walks, and trips to local parks. Real consumerism did not hit me until we joined a church attended by some of the more prosperous members of the community. I felt somehow less than other members, our car was 15 yrs. old, we did not own a home, and my children wore second-hand clothes. In retrospect, I realize my immaturity and lack of self-confidence was the real problem, however, I focused at the time on what we did not have materially. Then came a brand new local Wal-Mart! At the same time, my husband received a promotion and I was able to stretch our dollars to cover newer accoutrements for the home like never before! Drapes, pillows, dishes… all sorts of decorative items to make me feel more like ‘them’. Did it work? Sadly, no. In the long run we ceased to be a family, going our separate ways.
Eventually, my oldest daughter, Sara, became my teacher. While attending University of Az. studying political science, she began to discuss the ways in which our economy and community are affected by a capitalist economy’s approach to consumers. She spoke of one business in particular, Wal-Mart, as being a “big box store” and decried their abundance of “practically useless junk” as being especially harmful to the environment. Since I often shopped at Wal-Mart, I began to refer to “the store that must not be named” when mentioning a purchase. When our class was assigned the trash project I began to think of all the ways my own habits were contributing to the ongoing problem of too much trash. I started out by collecting all of the plastic and paper leftover from one week in my household. I have been recycling for a long time, but I seldom take the time to really pay attention. Usually, I sort leftover packaging as I go and then throw the bags and boxes into my car once a month and take it all to the DeKalb Farmer’s Market. While exploring themes for my sculpture I returned to the eyes that I had used in my previous work. Suddenly, BOING! it hit me, and one quick sketch later I birthed “Waldemart”.
“Retail Therapy” resulted from my focus on my consumer habits. I have never responded well when told I “should” do something. I normally follow the example of people I admire and care about, like my daughters. Usually after bashing my head against a brick wall for quite some time. So I wanted to make this about my change through personal growth. It would take hours to tell my whole story and I really believe most of it pretty boring and predictable. Instead, I wrote out 12 steps for recovering from “over-consumerism”. I hope to someday be like my daughters and inspire others. I also hope to find peace within myself. A process I believe is well begun.