Happy Jewish New Year

Happy Jewish New Year everyone.

Detail of Path to Avodat ha'Lev, the Work of the Heart.

Detail of Path to Avodat ha’Lev, the Work of the Heart.

My wish for the new moon, new month and new year: May it bring Peace, Prosperity, and Loving Relationships based in pure heart desire and intention for the highest good of all. And may we each find our way to the work of our hearts.
Shana Tova (a good year) Blessings to all.

“Pulling Spirit into Daily Life”

It was the third and last quarter of the certificate program, and time to start on our final piece that would be in our class show. After the harsh critique of my last piece, I wanted to ‘redeem myself’ and make a better one. Rather than starting with a new concept, I decided to continue working with the same subject. The second result was way more successful in expressing the ideas I had. During my meditations prior to the first piece (along with the words “pulling the threads of spirit into our daily lives”) I saw the juxtaposition of two different types of textiles connected with threads or yarn. The felt would represent the spirit world that is often only sensed with an intuitive feeling. The woven piece, with it’s gridded pattern, would illustrate the regulated structures of daily life and the human penchant for categorizing and labeling everything. Adding the connecting threads would open the possibility to begin merging the two worlds.
Pulling Spirit detail 2smOne of my goals for the certificate program was to find a focus for my work. While working on this piece I realized that I had found it. A lot of artists focus on a specific technique and/or subject matter. For me it’s the concept and ideas behind the piece not the technique that is my focus. And overall, it is the Spiritual aspect that has become the primary focus for my work.
This piece is the second in what will eventually be a triptych. The third piece will be “The Spiritual Life”. Looking back, these pieces were representative of my own journey. I needed to make “…Awakening to Spirit” first, as it reflected my past. When I made “Pulling Spirit…” it showed where I was on my path at that time. I started to prep the fleece for the base of the third piece, but that’s as far as I’ve gotten on it. The compelling need to work on it again hasn’t happened yet. I’m still pulling those threads of Spirit into my daily life. When it’s time, I’ll make that third piece.

“Daily Life Awakening to Spirit”

It was the beginning of March 2010 and the end of the second quarter of the certificate program. The major focus for the quarter was “Conceptual Strategies in Fiber Art” and looking at the creative process in general, and our own process in particular. Towards the end of the quarter, we were to reflect on an old piece, and use it as a springboard for a new piece, our final piece for the quarter. Since I couldn’t decide which piece to reflect on, I looked at two pieces, “Shamanic Connections” and “Finding the Patterns in the Puzzle of Life”. Working from those pieces and another idea that I got during meditation, I started on my piece “Pulling the Threads of Spirit into our Daily Lives”. I finished the piece the night before class, mounted it the next morning, wrote the reflection on it in the afternoon, and headed to class that evening.

For those of you reading this that have taken art classes, and have turned in work for critiques, you know what a challenging experience they can sometimes be. I had one of “those” critiques that night. In class we were asked to say whatever we wanted to about the work. I felt unprepared, and unsure of what to say. I started rambling on about unimportant details, because I couldn’t bring myself to talk about my personal angst issues which was what I had been thinking and writing about in my original reflection.

This is part of what I wrote:    “The experience of doing this piece was both fun and challenging. The fun part was doing the work. When focusing on the tasks at hand, I would lose track of time and get absorbed in the processes. The challenging part was mostly on a personal and emotional level. This program has been helping me deal with all the issues that stopped me making art 20 + years ago. Working on this piece brought up the issues I have with the fundamental value of doing this type of work. The questions of; is it worth doing, is it a waste of time/money, etc. are staring me in the face. Making this piece, or any finished work, brings these issues to the surface where I have to deal with them. I have pushed myself out of my comfort zone.”

Back to the critique that night, the one positive comment I remember is someone liked the fact that I used a rectangle instead of a square which had been part of my original design. The one that really got to me was the instructors question and comment: “Is that blue blobby thing supposed to represent spirit?” to which I said yes, and he replied “It’s not really working for me”. Right… now what.Daily Life Awakening to Spirt

So that night after class I stayed up very late, and thought a lot more about the piece. So once I had gotten done “wallowing in my emotional stuff”, I was able to look at and think about the work itself. I liked the piece and it felt right when I was done, but there was something bugging me about it as well and I was unsure what it was. The piece didn’t say what I had intended, so in that sense it didn’t work.

Visually, the woven part looked “plopped” down, and didn’t relate to the background. The felt background is very subtle and indistinct. Was it too plain? There wasn’t enough connection between the hand-spun yarn in the woven part and the felt background. The woven portion dominated the piece visually while being smaller than the background. It felt uncomfortable, tentative and unresolved. It was very unbalanced.

Then I asked myself what did this piece have to say, and this is what I came up with along with a new name for it:

“Daily Life Awakening to Spirit”
Dominating the piece is the woven portion representing daily life. It floats above the surface, removed and separate from the spirit world. The felt background resembles how spirit is viewed from this perspective. It is very hazy and indistinct. It’s unknown, you can only see things in that world if you look closely at it. The hand-spun yarn becomes spirit beginning to weave itself into our daily life but only in places, a bit at a time. The piece feels disjointed and unbalanced because this can be a very disconcerting state. You know that something is not right, that things are changing, shifting, but what and how is not known. It requires an enormous amount of trust to reside in this place and even more to continue on the journey to discover and embrace Spirit.

The following were my final thoughts about this piece and the experience of making it:
“Working on something this nebulous and intuitive requires an enormous amount of trust. I know that I’m not entirely in control of the process, and the work (or any given piece) can seem to take on “a life of it’s own”. This piece seems to have it’s own message and said what it needed to say. I need to pay better attention. So, hopefully I’m back on a productive path, doing something worthwhile.

The next quarter I did a second piece, the one I had intended to make, “Pulling Spirit into Daily Life”, which will be the next post in my Art Story.

Shamanic Connections – Facing the Shadows

Shamanic-ConnecDetail2-sm

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.

Shamanic-ConnecDetail1-sm

The beads in the outermost part are Swarovski Crystals.

Shamanic-ConnecDetail3-sm

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.

“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

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.