Shamanic Connections – Facing the Shadows

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Metallic threads are couched onto the hand dyed fabric.

It was the summer of 2009, and I was still searching, trying to figure out what to do with my work. How in the world am I going to make my living? I decided to sign up for a two month prosperity circle with Julie Charette Nunn. At our first meeting, we were supposed to start with a goal and come up with steps or actions to take to achieve it. Since I didn’t really have one, my first goal became “to discover what I want to do”. Within a month, I found it – to make my living as an artist working in fiber and mixed media. It’s what I’ve wanted to do most of my life, so it was more a rediscovery, and giving myself permission to believe it possible.

 

As part of the prosperity circle, one of the homework assignments was a shamanic shadow exercise. We were to go outside at sunset and look to see what was hidden in the shadows. We were to ask what can be used to bring it into the light and to free write about the shadow. This is a very powerful thing to do, as most of us don’t want to look at the dark side of things, especially those dark parts of ourselves. A short time later, an image and these words came to me during meditation: “The Shamans stand in the darkness at the edges of the veil between the worlds providing a path/bridge to those who seek”. This became the inspiration for this piece.

I made this little sign to put up in my studio about this time.

I made this little sign to put up in my studio about this time.

After a month of being in the prosperity circle, I decided to sign up for the Fiber Arts Certificate program at the University of Washington Extension. In my last post I mentioned  that during the certificate program I figured out that I had been asking myself the wrong question. Part of that was facing my own fears about creating the work I really wanted to do. I was afraid that if I made work with a spiritual focus, I would be opening myself up to ridicule, and being mis-understood. The work would be too personal, all over the map visually and stylistically, and would never sell. I came face to face with all of this one night during class. I said what I wanted to do was figure out what I could make to sell. After some pointed comments by the instructor, and a lot of self reflection, it finally sunk in that if I want to make my living as an artist, the art needs to come first.

Dyed and painted silk fabric, beading and embroidery, 24” x 24” created in 2010

Dyed and painted silk fabric, beading and embroidery, 24” x 24” created in 2010

The following day, I got out an old bolt of fabric and as I cut off a chunk for this piece, I could feel the panic rising, all of those internal fears trying to stop me. But I kept going, washed the fabric and dyed the background the next day. There is a lot of personal symbolism in this piece. The wood beads represent humans which are sewn on with glass beads symbolizing the spirit within each person. Grouped in the center is a large cluster of wooden beads; the majority of people who live in the light of the everyday normal world.

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The beads in the outermost part are Swarovski Crystals.

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The outermost section was hand dyed and then painted with metallic fabric paints.

The beads on the edges of the outer circle are the shamans and spiritual teachers, the crystals are the spirits, angels or beings in the unseen world, and the beads in the rings are people who are seeking the knowledge of Spirit. The silver threads are the connections being made by Spirit reaching out to connect with humanity, and humanity reaching for Spirit.

 

Originally I thought of this piece as being about other people as shamans, and it was to honor those brave souls who heed the calling to look through the shadows and darkness and have the courage to face the fear to see beyond. I see now that it was also how I was facing my own fears, and looking through the shadows to seek guidance from Spirit, and to communicate what I learn through my art.

A couple of postscripts to this piece. I had decided to have 11 “shamans” or connection points between the worlds, 11 being a master number in numerology. The silver threads, connecting through those 11 points started to look to me like dancing figures. Some time later I learned about the Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers and realized that there are spaces for two more “figures”. I’ve thought about adding two more. Maybe I will someday.
And one last thing. The day I was reviewing my notes to write this post, Rabbi Brant Rosen was in town, and that evening I attended a talk he was giving about his work and new book on the Israel/Palestine situation. It’s about his journey of looking at the dark side of Zionism, facing his own inner conflicts over this issue, and his calling to seek a just peace for everyone in the Middle East. He is truly a guide who has faced the darkness and is providing a path for those who seek a new way to connect and make peace.

Finding the Patterns in the Puzzle of Life

Back in the Spring of 1987, I wrote in my sketchbook “Trying to put the Pieces together” along with some notes about using jigsaw puzzle shapes in some artwork. That idea lay dormant for about 20 years. Then in November 2006, I started wondering what would it look like if the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle were chosen randomly and painted different colors and then put together? I decided to give it a try.

Puzzle-of-Life-smTo make the process a more reasonable one, I first put together a puzzle, flipped it over and numbered the backside. After giving it a base coat of white paint and letting that dry, the puzzle was taken apart and different numbers of pieces were randomly assigned to eight different colors. Then the pieces were painted one at a time their assigned color. Now came the fun part, putting it back together and seeing the result. It was definitely interesting, I could see it had potential, but it needed something. Unfortunately I didn’t take any pictures at that point. Meanwhile, we were looking at moving the next year, so it got wrapped up and put away.
IMG_1489webThree years later, I had an idea and pulled the puzzle out. Let’s add another random element. I disassembled the puzzle again, and this time I randomly chose 55 pieces, divided them into five equal groups, and painted each group with a different symbol. The symbols used are the 5 universal symbols; square, circle, triangle, spiral and the equidistant cross. Each symbol has many meanings and associations across cultures and spiritual beliefs. An interesting book on the subject is The Signs of Life, The Five Universal Shapes and How to Use Them, by Angeles Arrien ©1992.
Puzzle-of-Life-Detail-smWith the symbols painted it was time to put the puzzle back together again, really glad I had numbered the back by this point. Hmm… the symbols were interesting, it needed something else. What if I connected them in some way? After some experimentation on tracing paper, I decided to use threads to connect them in three different ways. The bottom layer is a linear path using variegated yarn that starts at one side of the puzzle and zig-zags from one symbol to the next across the puzzle to the other side. The symbol doesn’t matter, for as in life, where you go from one thing to the next, things keep changing as well as repeating. The middle layer is made of 5 linear paths each connecting a different symbol. Each symbol has it’s own color thread, and represents following separate paths. The top layer has a radial pattern. The symbol is the primary focus for this layer. For each symbol, I picked the one that was painted closest to the center of the puzzle, and enlarged it in some way. Gold thread was used to connect that center symbol to the others of its kind. This layer became about finding focus.
IMG_1490webI was completing the first quarter of the Fiber Arts Certificate program while I was finishing this piece. One of the main reasons I signed up for the program was to find a focus for my work. By the end of that first quarter I realized I had been asking myself the wrong question. I had been asking myself “what can I do?” The answer was that I could do just about anything. I needed to be asking myself “what do I want to do?” Ah… a much more important and for me a difficult question to answer. I started this piece thinking about random elements and what kind of patterns would be created. I wound up looking for ways to make connections and create additional patterns between those randomly placed elements. Several people thought this piece looked like a road map. But I don’t think in a linear fashion. I think holistically, I see all the pieces and how they relate. Like a puzzle. So without intending to this artwork helped me start putting the pieces of my life work together. I am making new connections, looking at different focal points, and creating my own road map to find the patterns in my own puzzle of life.
Next month’s piece will be “Shamanic Connections”.

Studio Reorganization

Happy New Year all. Thought I would start off the year with a look into my studio. On Monday December 17th, I started reorganizing my studio to make room for a new loom. I started by sorting through my boxes of yarn. Sorry, no pictures of that. The process was pretty amazing with every available flat surface covered with balls, cones, and skeins of yarn. The final result doesn’t look much different than before, except now the contents are organized, and all of the boxes are labeled!!! See the last picture for the final result.

The new to me 8-harness Loomcraft loom, sitting in the living room since last Feb. (2012)

Getting started: the new loom will go in the corner against the wall behind where the small loom is now. This was actually after the first day when I sorted through all of my boxes of yarn. Note the apple crate sitting on the floor between the loom and the table – it contains a bunch of jute that I brought with me to Seattle from CA (in 1980) as well as a couple of very old projects which I actually finished in the past couple of weeks!

Day 2: The corner has been cleared out, and one bookshelf moved and the contents sorted. I won’t have easy access to this shelf, so it’s got the books and other things I don’t use often. The loom will be going where the desk is. And yes, the pile on the table to the left, is some of the stuff that was on the tables in the corner, still need to figure out what to do with all of it.

Day 2: Some of the chaos created by the sorting process. I also discovered that there is space for another IKEA Billy shelf next to the one in the corner! One of the short narrow ones will fit next to it, under the drawer unit. Something for the future.

Day 3: Books now organized by topic, not size. Note the second shelf down has almost all of my textile history, costume history and sewing books. Yup, that’s one whole shelf.
Day 4: Almost ready to move the loom, need to move the desk and the small loom, otherwise the space is finally ready. It took an insane amount of time to go through and decide where to put the rest of the stuff on the shelves that will be behind the loom. Kept getting side tracked with little projects that needed doing.

Day 4: The loom disassembled so it can be moved downstairs. This is the frame with the treadles held up on a dowel so they won’t flop around while we are moving it.

Day 4: Another shot of the loom in parts. On the left is the cloth beam attached to the jacks that raise and lower the harnesses. On the right, leaning up against the wall are the harnesses.

Day 4: My husband and son moving the frame down the stairs. The stairwell into our basement is ‘U’ shaped. You go down 6 steps to a landing, make a 90 degree turn, across the landing and then another 90 degree turn to go down another 6 steps. Plus the stairwell is only 32″ wide and the loom frame is 28″ deep, so not a lot of room to spare.

Day 4: The loom reassembled!! The harnesses aren’t in place yet, as they needed cleaning.

About 6 days later (after Xmas) The loom is all ready to go. I spent about 3 hours cleaning the metal that the heddles sit on and another 3 hours cleaning all of the wood with olive oil and lemon juice (2:1 ratio, works great). Once I decide on my first project, all that needs to be done is make sure there are enough heddles on each harness, and tie up the treadles. So many options.

And here’s the other half of the studio finally cleaned up, and ready to get started on some sewing projects. The twelve boxes in the middle of the upper shelves contain all the now-sorted yarn. Still need to figure out what to do with the small loom, that’s on the right.

My studio is now ready for the next ‘fiber-brained’ adventure.

“Homage to Eve – Amidst the Swirling Mists” – Art Story Introduction

    This post is about beginnings. The birth of the idea Ceremonial cloths. My first piece of conceptual art made after a break of 20 years. A new understanding of my process. And the introduction to my story as told through my art.
Ceremonial Cloths is Born
On November 1, 2003 I attended a Wiccan ritual for the first time. It was a dedication ceremony for my niece who was about to begin studying Wicca for a year and a day. It was a ritual about beginnings, starting on a new path for my niece as well as for the rest of us attending. It was lovely and meaningful, and I was surprised when I woke up the next morning  to a flood of insights that came throughout that day and the next. (It turns out that November 2, 2003 was nine years and one day before receiving the Best Proud Past Award. Hmmm…) The biggest insight was that I now knew what I needed to do: Ceremonial Cloths, custom made with love and reverence, and a need to serve the Divine through this work. Wow, was that an enormous order to fill. It has been a long, slow process to get to the point where I now feel truly prepared and ready to do this work. And so I begin my story…
The next five years were very busy on a personal level, which included my father dying, moving and joining Kadima in 2005 to start our son’s Jewish education to prepare him for his bar mitzvah. And finally on December 11, 2008 I finished my first piece of conceptual art in almost 20 years. It just so happens that I’m writing this on December 11, 2012. Another ‘interesting coincidence’?

“Homage to Eve – Amidst the Swirling Mists”

Homage to Eve - Amidst the Swirling Mists

Homage to Eve – Amidst the Swirling Mists — Mixed media; wood, silk threads, paint, 5-3/4” Dia. x 4-1/4” – © 2008

    This small sculpture features a female figure in the center of a spiral of small dowels. The threads coming out of her ‘feet’ swirl around her but don’t touch her. That’s partly how I felt at the time. It was like I was caught in the middle of these swirling mists where nothing was tangible. There was nothing I could touch or get a hold of. I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my work. There were so many options and possibilities but it all felt so vague and out of reach. The only thing I knew was that it would be something to do with my art and spirituality. The ceremonial cloths seemed like an impossible dream hidden in the mists.
    “Homage to Eve ” was directly born out of my explorations of my spiritual path. Along with attending Jewish adult education classes at Kadima, I’ve been studying various Earth-based religious practices and traditions. When I made this piece I was in the middle of studying the Ogham, a system of knowledge from trees in the Celtic tradition. I was studying one tree a month, and that month the tree was Hazel which was about creativity. I had also recently received the book listen to her voice, Women of the Hebrew Bible, by Miki Raver. The challenge for that month of study was to create something in honor or in homage to to one of the Biblical matriarchs. I chose Eve. Her name means “Life -Giver” or “Mother-of-All-Who-Live”. “Eve was the first human to embody the divine process of creation.” (1) This piece gave birth to the renewal of my creativity and my art.

Several years later, I finally woke up to the fact that this is part of my process, the way I figure things out. Being a visual thinker makes verbal communication a challenge at times. I will often get an image, perhaps a few words or a phrase to go with it. Then I start thinking of ways to create a 2 or 3-dimensional representation of it. Now that I am allowing myself to go ahead and create these pieces, I am learning from them. Sometimes ideas pop up while I’m working, but often I need to study the finished piece for a while before the meaning(s) would become clear. And sometimes a piece will continue to tell me things as time goes on. This piece is a good example of that. It wasn’t until I was writing this post that I realized something very significant. When I made this piece, I knew I hadn’t been making art for a very long time, but I hadn’t realized how long, and I certainly wasn’t expecting this piece to open the door to creating again. So the fact that I chose Eve, “The-Mother-of-All-Who-Live” as the subject for a piece about creativity, and the results of that choice, seem very powerful to me.

One more thing to say about all of this, the theme that runs through this post is listening to Spirit. As I truly believe that, fundamentally, everything is connected in some way. When there are ‘coincidences’ or when things happen on an anniversary, I take it as a message from the “Great Whatever” to pay attention.

The plan is to tell my story through a series of posts about my art. Each of these works tells a piece of the story of how I have gotten to where I am today. Look for the next post in this series at the new moon in January. It will be about “Finding the Patterns in the Puzzle of Life”.

(1) Miki Raver, listen to her voice, Women of the Hebrew Bible, (Chronicle Books, 1998), 25.
paperback version ©2005

Buy Art this weekend!!!

The Greater Seattle area is blessed this weekend, November 30 – December 2, 2012 with an amazing array of studio tours and art/craft shows and other venues. I’m posting a list of the events that I know about, and many of my artist friends will be participating in them. So, go to the shows, have fun, buy art, and support your local economy and some good causes. We all thank you, and have a wonderful holiday season, from close to 250 hard working artists.

First up are the two shows I will be doing. The first is on Sunday December 2 only:The second show I will be doing is later next week.
Thursday, December 6th (5 pm – 8 pm)
Holiday Spa Party / Art Showing / Craft Fair
Essence Salon, 1415 NE 80th Street, Seattle
A great way to pamper yourself and keep looking your best while getting ready for the holiday season Join local artist Tessa Roche, as well as local craft artists for our annual holiday gift craft fair.  Spa services available. For more information and for a list of services, visit http://www.essenceseattle.com/newsletter/newsletter.pdf . To reserve a spa appointment for that evening, email admin@essenceseatt.com or call 206.523.1187

And here’s the list of some of the other shows around town.

Seattle Sampling Artists’ Studio Tour Celebrating 25th Year
Fri. 11/30 (4pm – 9pm) Sat. & Sun. (10am – 5pm)
Seattle Sampling, Seattle’s most established and largest holiday arts and crafts tour is celebrating its 25th year. Twenty-eight of Seattle’s award–winning and professional craftspeople will be showing at 9 locations throughout the greater Seattle area. This free, self–guided tour offers holiday shoppers a relaxed and intimate opportunity to meet the artists in their own environments, where they work and live.  A map and a complete listing of all the artists and their locations are available for download at www.seattlesampling.com

NEAT – North End Arts TourFri. 11/30 (4pm – 9pm) Sat. & Sun. (10am – 5pm)
“Free, self-guided art tour of 6 home studios / galleries in North Seattle.
I know eight of the 29 artists who will be selling their fabulous work.
Get a map and complete info at: http://www.neatseattle.com/

Solulumination Art saleDec. 1st (10am – 7pm) & Dec. 2 (12pm – 5pm)
Over 30 local artists will be selling their handmade creations. 100% of proceeds from handmade wreaths, raffle baskets and other special items will benefit Soulumination and at least 25% of every purchase at the sale benefits Soulumination’s mission.
Solumination celebrates the lives of children and parents facing life-threatening conditions by providing professional photgraphs of these special individuals and their families, free of charge.
http://www.soulumination.org/index.php/site/entry/2011-artists-sale

And the Big show for the weekend:
Urban Craft UprisingDec. 1 & 2nd (11am – 5pm)
Seattle Center Exhibition Hall
Urban Craft Uprising is Seattle’s largest indie craft show!  At UCU, now in its eighth year, fans can choose from a wide variety of hand-crafted goods, including clothing of all types, jewelry, gifts, bags, wallets, buttons, accessories, aprons, children’s goods, toys, housewares, paper goods, candles, kits, art, food, and much, much more.
http://urbancraftuprising.com/

And a couple of events on the Eastside:
VALA Art Shop at Redmond Town Center
Locally crafted artworks from over a dozen artists will be available to purchase through the holiday season. From pottery to painting, fiber works to jewelry, there is something for everyone at the VALA Art Shop.  The Art Shop is located at Redmond Town Center on 164th St. across from Z Gallerie and next to the 164th St Starbucks.  The shop will be open Friday – Sunday November 23 – December 23 from 11am-5pm during the holiday season.  Stop by, buy some art and help support local artists.
http://www.valaeastside.org/come-to-the-vala-art-shop

Happy Valley Arts & Crafts FairDecember 1 (10am -5pm)
My friend Beth Newfeld will be here on Saturday with her fabulous felt.
Over 20 local artists at 19720 NE 50th Street, Redmond, WA.
http://www.facebook.com/HappyValleyFair

And a lovely ferry ride from Seattle:
Bainbridge Island Studio Tour 11/30 – 12/2 (10am – 6pm daily)
The 29th annual Winter Studio Tour is scheduled for November 30 through December 2, 2012. We’re so excited to bring you this holiday tradition, and know you’ll enjoy meeting the artists and visiting our local artists’ studios and community halls! More than 70 artists will be on hand in ten studios. Mark your calendar now, and don’t miss it!
http://www.bistudiotour.com/

Happy Shopping!

Best Proud Past Award – Art Story Prologue

My story begins with a piece that was finished in 1989, nearly 25 years ago. I was truly honored Saturday evening November 3, when I found out it had been awarded ‘Best of Show’ for the Proud Past portion of the Seattle Weavers’ Guild 75th Anniversary art show. The show, sponsored by SWG is called “Putting the Art in Fiber Art, Proud Past, Dynamic Future, is at the Art/Not Terminal Gallery in Seattle, WA through November 27th, 2012.

'Gaia - The One and the Many'

‘Gaia – The One and the Many’
Size: 18-1/4” x 20-1/4” x 1” – Completed: 1989
Materials: cotton, beads – Techniques: handwoven, beading

This piece was inspired by a quote from the book The Turning Point by Fritjof Capra, 1982, “The image of the Goddess…with the one manifest in the many and the many dwelling within the one”. If memory serves, this was my first introduction to the concept of a feminine Divine energy, and the Gaia hypothesis — the earth as a single living organism.  Using modern physics as a basis, the book examines the many ways that everything is connected. My intent was to create a visual image or representation that showed the spark of divine light within each of us as separate entities and yet together they create a greater whole.

There is a lot of personal significance for me that this particular piece was chosen for the award. “Gaia, the One and the Many”  was the last piece of conceptual art I completed for almost 20 years, but was never shown publicly. In many ways it was a foundational work for me. This piece was more complex than my earlier work in concept as well as utilizing more elements and techniques. It was the first exploration of my personal philosophy that everything is connected in some way. And it shows the beginning of my now deep connection with the Divine Feminine. The timing is significant as well. I love the “coincidence” that an artwork about the “Goddess” was awarded best of show now that I am truly launching my ceremonial cloths business, dedicated to imbuing cloth with sacred intent.

The next post in this series will fast forward about 20 years (with a brief stop 9 years ago) when my need to create art finally re-asserts itself.

 

Urban Craft Uprising

Went and saw a really great craft show today. The Urban Craft Uprising now in it’s 8th year is having it’s summer show this weekend (July 7 & 8) at the Seattle Center Exhibition hall.

Several things caught my eye and wanted to share. First of course was some fabulous yarn. For you knitters, check out Yarnarchy who has some gorgeous handspun and hand dyed yarn. And equally as gorgeous were the yarns from Spincycle yarns All handspun using a lot of “Bluefaced Leicester” a long staple fleece with high luster. The ones mixed with silk were luscious. And Yarnia from Portland was there. They will custom ply your yarn from there huge selection of fine yarns. They had cones of pre-wound yarn for sale.

There were also lots of people doing upcycled crafts. Muluk does some very fun things with neckties. And Bella Sisters take old wool coats and jackets and embellish them into some very fun wearable art.

Lots of wonderful jewelry, letterpress cards, pottery and more. And my one purchase was a book called Recipe for Press the diy guide for being your own publicist. The author Amy Flurry was there signing books. Had a great chat with her.

Definitely glad we went today. They have a show the first weekend of December. I’m thinking about applying for it. If you can’t make it tomorrow, put it on your calendar for December 1 & 2.

I Did it!!!

    It may not seem like a big deal to many people but for me this is huge. I finally signed up for my website/blog today. The process itself wasn’t difficult, it was making the necessary decisions that was my big stumbling block. I’ve been stewing over this for nearly two years now. First choosing a domain name and how to structure the site. What did I want to put on it? How much to include? Then getting over the technical hurdles of the platform, hosting and a certain amount of techno-phobia. All of which required a bunch of new knowledge. But now, with a lot of help from my friends, I’m here!

I want to thank all of the people who made this possible. Paula Ward, who teaches business classes at Seattle Central Community College, in a month of mentoring you have helped me to move forward faster than I ever thought possible. Without your coaching I’m sure I would still be stewing over this, so Thank You!! She has a great knitting blog. http://easyknittingdesign.com/

Mary McKenzie, a good friend and spiritual guide, thank you for your always well timed input. The copy of Deepak Chopra’s Laws of Detachment you gave me last night was most helpful. Her blog is at http://miniaturewytche.blogspot.com/. And I found another website today, a Jewish meditation site http://www.awakenedheartproject.org/. They have a series of meditation talks, just the title of one struck a chord with me: “I think, Therefore I am in Tsuris”. Tsuris is Yiddish and means troubles or trials and tribulations. Hmm… So if thinking about this for two years hasn’t yielded a decision, try something else? Meditation perhaps? Let go and follow my intuition, ah, finally, success.

A special thanks goes to my husband, Kevin Cain, for listening and putting up with my dithering, for your help with all of this tech stuff, and all of your love and support. Kevin’s blog is at http://artwritingandgeekingout.wordpress.com/. And to the rest of my family and many friends who keep encouraging me, Thank You! Your support means more to me than you can ever know.

This is the beginning of a new adventure for me. It is obviously a work in progress, with only two pages and one blog post, there is a lot of work to do. I still need to choose a theme (appearance) for the blog, and there are a number of pages yet to come. But earlier this evening, after the first two pages were up, I was feeling almost giddy. I did it! I made the decisions and acted on them. I am vanquishing my foes!

Choked by Fear
Bound by Doubt and Worry
Sinking into Indecision
and a pool of Procrastination
——
It takes Courage to
Gain the Confidence
To rise up with Hope
And attain the Certainty
To move forward with
Decisive Right Action

You can read more about this piece on my etsy site.
https://www.etsy.com/listing/72091968