Creating Indra’s Net ~ a Community Art Collaboration

Indra's Net

Creating Indra’s Net ~

A Community Art Collaboration

Ironton Studios ~ Denver, Colorado

January 10, 2016

Indigogo campaign is launched!

December 19, 2016!!

indra's net sisters

first generation of Indra’s Net, Deming, WA 2013

The story of Indra’s Net

“Our word ‘clue’ is derived from the Anglo-Saxon clew
meaning a ‘ball of thread’.
The most famous ball of thread
in Western culture belonged to Ariadne…
(Anthony Stevens, Ariadne’s Clue, 3.)
“In the Upanishads, for example, the thread (sutra)
is described as linking ‘this world to the other world
and all beings’. The thread is both
atman (self) and prana (breath) and is
linked to the central point
in the cosmos, the sun.”
(Anthony Stevens, Ariadne’s Clue, 4.)

DREAM ~ October 2008

There is a large body of water, both R and N are already swimming. I want to go in but hesitate because the water is very cold and black. Deep and black like a bottomless pool of ink. There are two guardians at the shore who say it’s okay, go on in, the water is called ‘Hermes’. I find myself in the water, instead of being cold it is warm and I look down to clear, beautiful water – I can see to the bottom of the sea. I look out and see N swimming along the shoreline towards R, R is floating on a raft, they are both happy.

I am in a house, an old friend M is there. (M recently died of a heart attack in her sleep in Bellingham) I am talking to a man who is traveling far by bicycle, he is fully clothed and loaded with gear and a backpack. He wants to carry a net on a pole but can’t figure out how. I say I know how, I will show him how I carry my net on a pole in my backpack and I proceed to do so. He is grateful. M is still near by.

I am in front of this house near the road, separating garbage. The food into compost, the plastics, cardboard and glass into recycling and the garbage separate. I wonder who takes out the trash all the way around to the other side of the house? I see the mailbox on the roadside. It is full of small seedlings in pots. I wonder who waters the plants to keep them alive?

I am not afraid, everything seems just as it should be.

I am in the house, it is bright with sunlight and white walls and everything seems to be covered in sheets. I know that a number of people have died here. M is standing somewhere nearby. I see an opened window, on the sunlit window sill are a number of lit votive candles flickering in the breeze.

I make a phone call to someone but do not speak. I know that I have just made contact with someone to let them know that I have not died, that I am okay and they should come and get me. I sit down and wrap up in a blanket as I have gotten cold and I wait.

Far away in the heavenly abode of the great
God Indra, there is a wonderful net
which has been hung by some cunning
artificer in such a manner that it stretches
out indefinitely in all directions.
In accordance with the extravagant tastes
of deities, the artificer has hung
a single glittering jewel at the net’s every node,
and since the net itself is infinite in dimension,
the jewels are infinite in number.
There hang the jewel, glittering
like stars of the first magnitude,
a wonderful sight to behold.
If we now arbitrarily select one of these jewels
for inspection and look closely at it,
we will discover that in its polished
surface there are reflected all the other
jewels in the net, infinite in number.
No only that, but each of the jewels
reflected in this one jewel is also reflecting
all the other jewels,
so that the process of reflection is infinite.

From The Avatamsaka Sutra


~ threads and clues

Sometime later J sends me the Buddhist text
The Avatamsaka Sutra. She asks me to create a net in collaboration
with our dream circle in this coming year. The year goes by. I am attached
to the idea of using wool, the wool that I am spinning, that reproduces in magical abundance on our small flock of six sheep. The wool has been lovingly washed, carded and spun. I spin in the
evenings while I wait for O to drift into sleep. The tap, tap, tapping of the
wheel. For so long the fiber breaks and pulls, uneven and wild. I hope
to use this wool to bring together the net. I have a hoop made by a women
at the market who weaves beautiful baskets of willow from her farm.

In a circle we begin; laughing and talking, listening to music, knotting and
unknotting, realizing the tension must be just right. What is right?
How big, how long, how come?? It sits, I don’t like the way it looks,
the way if feels, it feels forced. I am trying to bring together two threads
in my life but it is an uncomfortable fit. And it sits. I talk about the net,
what it means to me. It is a metaphor for the infinite connection between
all beings. In the sutra there is a reflective jewel found at each node, each
reflects the universe in all it’s complexity and diversity, as above ~ so below.

Will this net be infinite in its size and infinite in the reflective
jewels? I struggle with the knotting, should it literally mimic a “net”,
S is visiting her Nana in Austria in the spring, before leaving her Nana comes out
and says, S, you wanted this? She hands her a special netting needle.
S had not even mentioned my project, she brings it back to me.
I decide that a simple knot is right but with the wool and the hoop it
looks too much like macrame. I see some beautiful recycled silks, stripped
into ribbons in the yarn shop. I tie to my bamboo pole (how do I tie my net
to my pole?) and take it to the circle in the fall of 2010. In the meantime
I am at an apple orchard in the fall with my family, we find ourselves further
out on the land and walk across a beautiful small bridge. It is a salmon stream
restoration site. A proverbial light bulb goes off and I know that I want to
photograph this and the sites, to learn more about the salmon here in
this region. It’s history to this culture, to place, to an ever more crowded
and polluted ecosystem. How is it being protected? I think about the
river sutra work and want to photograph again and walk this river,
these creeks. Then I think of the Lummi reef net fisherman and think
again about a net.

My friend D from Hawaii visits, I talk about the net project and
show her. She brings down a beautiful but somewhat worn silk scarf


from India that she wants to contribute to the net. We strip it into ribbons and knot it into the net with my fabric. now I know that Iwant the net to be fibers, fabric already worn, maybe gifted, found, abandoned and stripped together, knotted together into the net. Will
there be many nets or one infinitely large net? I see my beaver sticks sitting in the corner of my room this morning, I am going to begin these nets on these sticks, eventually bringing them all together.

A quote I found that inspires and affirms Indra’s Net, again:

One merges into another, groups melt into ecological
groups until the time when what we know as life meets and
enters what we think of as non-life: barnacle and rock,
rock and earth, earth and tree, tree and rain and air…
And it is a strange thing that most of the feeling we call religious,
most of the mystical outcrying which is one of the most prized
and used and desired reactions of our species, is really the understanding
and the attempt to say that man is related to the whole thing, related
inextricably to all reality, known and unknowable. This is a simple
thing to say, but the profound feeling of it made a Jesus, a
St. Augustine, a St. Francis, a Roger Bacon, a Charles Darwin,
and an Einstein.

net on floor

Each of them in his own tempo and with his own voice discovered and reaffirmed with astonishment the knowledge that all things are one thing and that one thing is all things – plankton, a shimmering phosphorescence on the sea and spinning planets and the expanding universe,
all bound together by the elastic string of time.

(from Sea of Cortez, by John Steinbeck and Edward Ricketts, 1941)