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.
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.
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.
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.