Namaste and Crochet
At Dressember, we believe that everybody has a role to play in bringing justice and peace to the world. Today on the blog, we are hearing from Dominique Calvillo, the founder of Namaste and Crochet. Dominique is using her knack for crocheting to shed light on the importance of art therapy. Conversations with Dominique will leave you feeling inspired and empowered to breathe a little deeper and love a little more.
I grew up in Los Angeles, part of a very large and creative family. My father’s mother who bore twelve children was a highly creative and talented woman. Being one of the youngest of 30 grandchildren, I did not get to spend much one on one time with my grandparents, however, when I was about 6 years old, my grandmother taught me to crochet and welcomed me into her crochet club famously named “The Happy Hookers.”
I fell in love with crochet and was mesmerized by the beautiful patterns, textures, and rhythms of the art and my young mind was determined to understand how they were made. I crocheted all the way into adulthood usually around the holidays and came up with a few basic designs to give to my friends as gifts.
In 2013, I was invited to go to India with International Princess Project (IPP.) IPP is an organization that works with women who are being reintegrated from human trafficking and need a way to support themselves and their families. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to work with these beautiful and resilient women and decided to sell crochet products in order to fund my trip.
Being in India absolutely changed my life and I discovered a deep love and calling on my life to work with survivors of human trafficking. I had always thought that human trafficking was too big of an issue for me to make a difference in. I assumed that I did not have the education, skill set or even physical attributes of someone who could confront the issue. While in India, I discovered that I could change a life with something as “small” as teaching others how to give haircuts or offering sewing lessons.
One day, my team headed out to spend a day playing in the Arabian sea with a group of women. I brought a small crochet project to work on during the journey. One of the women saw me and, with much skill, took over my project. Tears filled my eyes as I watched a woman from across the world, with a story I will never quite comprehend, start to make the same pattern with the same rhythm. Just like my mother, my grandmother and myself, she understood this ancient magic that women all over the world share. It was a moment I’ll never forget.
I continued my work in anti-human trafficking through my travels to various countries in Southeast Asia. In 2015 I began a month-long trip to Cambodia and Thailand where I taught cosmetology to young girls who had been affected or were at risk for human trafficking. Upon arrival, my team and I visited torture camps and killing fields where thousands of people had been killed during the Khmer Rouge genocide. The genocide was so recent and so devastating that the country is still cleaning up the aftermath. Wherever you go, you can see cases full of human skulls, bones, and skin. Sometimes walking in certain areas is off limits because of the remaining landmines. I was devastated by what I had seen. A heaviness and deep depression overtook my heart as I continued my month working and being confronted with the ugliest parts of humanity. During that trip, I witnessed slavery within the coffee industry, the brutal child begging system, and was a part of the rescue of a three-year-old Thai girl who was being sold for sexual acts by her mother. I came home with crippling anxiety about war.
Anxiety had never been a part of my life or experience before so I had no idea how to cope with the obsessive and fearful thoughts that possessed my thinking. I had always been a “can-do”, independent person but suddenly tasks would terrify me to the point of shaking and crying. Some days I was unable to get out of bed. During my first therapy session, my therapist asked me what I’d like to talk about. I’ll never forget his face when I promptly answered his question: "genocide." I was encouraged by many to take antidepressant medication and while that is helpful for some, I knew that this was not apart of my usual make-up so I sought to overcome homeopathically.
I found solace in crochet. It had always been a very peaceful and calming activity for me and the meditative aspect of it was quickly becoming crucial to my mental health. I started to learn new stitches and designs because counting and focusing on patterns pulled my mind away from the destructive loop it was trapped in. Most days I spent 2-8 hours meditating with my crochet, lost in the beauty of the stitches instead of dwelling on fearful thoughts.
I started to make dream catchers, blankets and pillows and then attempted to turn a skirt I’d made into a dress. I had no expectation of creating anything wearable and unraveled multiple attempts but as my skill improved, I was able to assemble my first dress. By the time it was completed I had been working on the design for two years. I was shocked by the response I received from friends and family who saw the dress. I decided to continue to attempt new designs.
Being that I do not know how to read crochet patterns, I have designed all of my pieces through trial and error. It usually takes several attempts before I am happy with a design and have become accustomed to unraveling hours and hours of work to try again. In the design process, I constantly remind myself that the goal is not the finished product but the time spent in meditation with my art. It seems that with each new design, I learn a bigger truth about myself. I love that each stitch becomes a mantra, which is then a part of the bigger beautiful picture. It has taught me so much about peace, patience and being in the moment.
As I share Namaste and Crochet, more than people seeing the products, I hope that they see the power of meditation and art therapy. Amidst the daily hustles of life along with constant stimulus and distraction, It’s easy to forget to take a moment to center the mind and spirit. It’s no wonder that depression and anxiety run so rampant in our society.
Sometimes we are diverted from pursuing the art and passions that are in our heart to create, for fear that no one will understand, that it will be poorly received or that it isn’t important enough to make. It’s easy to belittle our gifts and place them low on the priority list. I hope to encourage others to let go and let themselves be healed by their creative expression. It is my personal belief that if God has given someone a creative gift, not only is it a gift to the soul of the creative, but also to those who will experience the creation. Sure - not everyone will resonate with your art but you never know how your expression could speak to someone or remind them of their own connectedness to the divine.
My hope is that Namaste and Crochet will one day be a clothing line that will benefit the lives of women affected by human trafficking.
Photography courtesy of Dahlia & Finch.