Sunday, July 30, 2006

Coming to Ours Senses

"... as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save."
-Mary Oliver, "The Journey"

Another beautiful sense filled day in Prospect. A walk with the Bergamasco Boys and Edward, smelling wild roses and salt air, enjoying the sun and warmth. One neighbor waved hello as she puts out the laundry. (We put out our laundry when we can.) And another neighbor came out to give us a recipe for rhubarb jam. (We make jam when we can. Why not? It tastes better when you make it yourself.) When we got home we made up a batch of sourdough buckwheat and cranberry pancakes with yogurt and syrup. (The sourdough starter was from another neighbor, thank you, Brenda! I should have taken a picture!) So it was that kind of a Splendid Day!

I've also been able to change the header of this blogspot while keeping the overall template and that has been quite a serious html undertaking, I can tell you. Of course I had to get some help with it, Thank you gtd wannabe and purelocke.

"The time will come
when with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other's welcome,

and say sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored for another, who knows you by heart.
-Derek Walcott "Love after Love"

A very good day, had by all!

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Splendid Joy

Photoshop collage by Lani

While wandering around Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat's book review section of Spirituality and Practice I stumbled on this great quote.

"The purpose of craft is not so much to make beautiful things as to become beautiful inside while you are making those things."
- from "The Knitting Sutra; Craft as a Spiritual Practice" by Susan Gordon Lydon

The fog has lifted in Prospect and there's nothing better than Prospect on a sunny, summer day!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

What to do with Paper Puppet People

Lore Caldwell created a flat granny paper puppet person after my workshop in Vermont. The puppet went to live with the grandkids in Florida. Lore's daughter-in-law took these pictures of Flat Granny's day with the kids. Such a good idea!!! So here's Flat Granny on the beach.

Here's Flat Granny having lunch. Ice cream! Yum!

And here's Flat Granny getting ready to go swimming... (er... maybe swimming isn't such a good idea for paper puppet people.)

Thanks Lore. And not to worry, Flat Granny didn't really go swimming.

Happiness Challenge

More photoshop fun by Lani

Here's an idea that came from Vicki Thompson's "Life-Changing Affirmations," heavily altered to become an artists' happiness challenge rather than an affirmation. I like the idea of rolling up my sleeves and making art a lot better than muttering affirmations, but that's just me.

Here goes:
See yourself dipping a paintbrush into a container of sparkling magical multicolored paint. Sweep the brush across a canvas representing your life, see it painting over and altering experiences that need to be released. As old events and behaviors are altered or swept away, see new ways of living take form on the canvas, full of sparkle and magic. See yourself living the life you were meant to live.

So after visualizing my paintbrush altering memory experiences, I go for a walk and look for ways to live the life I was meant to live.
Walking across the headland with Edward, watching dogs cavort and catching the scent of wild roses, I feel that new ways of living which would reflect the beauty of this environment are possible. I will pay closer attention to dreams, friends, dogs, and other messengers, as they shed light on the path through this amazing life.

Post Script-

See Paper Artsy for some free pdf files with interesting mixed media instructions. Very nice stuff and FREE!!!

For more mixed media instructions have you checked Art-E-Zine lately? I especially enjoyed "Cabinet Capers" by Gillian Allen with all the photoshop brushes links! What fun!

Monday, July 24, 2006

Ann Arbor, Fairy Doors and workshops...

Photo by Gretchen Miller, fairy door at "Red Shoes" as seen in last post, photoshop collage & altteration by Lani.

Home again after a wonderful time in Ann Arbor. Had an extremely amazing, art altering, life altering experience in the Altercations conference. Well run, very reasonable rates, lots of wonderful vendors with amazing goodies. I highly recommend this conference if you can get to it in the future.
Two of my favorite vendors were Royalwood Ltd. with lots of miniature basket weaving patterns, beads, tools, findings, and waxed linen thread and PaperWhimsy with all kinds of amazing paper delights!

The participants were very enthusiastic. Many paper puppet people came into being and their little story books were well under way after 3 hours.

Nicole Brandstrup and Lani, photo by Gretchen Miller.
More photos here.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Meaning of Art and Life

One of Victoria's Dream Journals.
In one of my web wanderings, using an old Teesha Moore Studio Zine as my inspiration (a highly recommended activity, Teesha's Zines are treasure maps), I looked up one of the contributing artists whose work resonated. Much to my delight I discovered Victoria Rabinowe's website. In it she describes her journey from Santa Fe gallery owner to a artist/teacher/facilitator. Her journey began wit a dream about sailing off to sea with a blind boatman for a captain. But I should let you explore her website, art and words yourself.

One thing I observed on this website was the image of a beautiful, distressed, package with stamps on it. The title of the image was "The Muse is in the Mail." Totally intrigued, I emailed Victoria about this image and the title. She emailed back that this was a collaborative mail art project between herself, Deborah Esperanza Zane, and Gina D’Ambrosio. It was a three way correspondence that included pictures, paintings and philosophical wonderings. It became a very special way for them to get to know each other better, of having others to share deeper musings about the meaning of art and life. Their collaborative work seemed to express an invisible energy that both grounded and sustained them! They discovered what other mail artists had discovered before them: that when they were open to the creative genius in each other, the creative genius in themselves responded in ways they would never have encountered working alone.

Collaboration is just an amazing, heart opening, mind altering experience. It's the best.

Anahata Katkin's collage

Another amazing artist (see the above image) I recently discovered was Anahata Katkin. Please do enjoy a color filled exploration of Anahata's blog "Day to Day" and the PaPaYa! e-shop with the most amazing collage starters, cards, art, etc. etc. About art and life Anahata says:

"Through artwork & creative living we have the ability to transform our lives and enrich the lives of others. Change is only one brush stroke, one word, one painted chair, one cut up magazine away. Little by little we are forging a movement that reaches into the depths of our hearts and extends boldy into our culture. ... there is much work to be done..."

Yes, there is much work to be done. Create art support groups and mail art round robins and discover the joy of creative living!

Fairy folk in Ann Arbor?

So now I'm getting ready to visit family and run some Paper Puppet People workshops in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I was making a list of what to bring when Severi Glanville sent me the link to this urban fairy website! Apparently there are fairy folk in Ann Arbor and they even build doors in buildings there. It's not just rocks with keyholes leading into fairy mounds for these urban fairy folk. They like fancy doorways and little presents left outside the doors.

And there's a kindergarten teacher who's class made fairy traps, hoping to catch a fairy or two. The children decided that they needed to be very quiet while building their traps, so in order to remind themselves to be quiet they wore bandanas over their noses and mouths, like bandits. What a fantastic idea! I wonder is my niece & nephew have ever made a fairy trap?

Anyway this gives me a whole big inspiration for a new board book and paper puppet fairy and of course I need to pack some bandanas and maps!

Thank you Severi!

Friday, July 07, 2006

Creativity and Community in Mississippi

...Continuing with the things I learned in Mississippi...

My sense from the folks we were working with and from the folks that Susan Anand works with on a regular basis, is that we would all benefit from ongoing creativity support groups. One thing that became really clear while doing these workshops is that the creative process is key in regenerating hope, strength, and imagination. And that hope, strength, and imagination contribute to resilience. And of course getting together with other folks who also want to work creatively and perhaps even playfully is extremely beneficial. Community feeling develops, folks support each other.

One of the folks I met in Mississippi was Doc, a woman who is part of Susan Anand's Cancer Support Art Group. She had quite a lot to say about how this group and the projects they've been working on together have added so much to her life.

She showed me two of the projects that were begun in Susan's art group; a prayer stick and a wisdom book. The prayer stick had yarn, cloth and ribbons with beads and feathers and various other embellishments on it. Each bit of cloth or yarn had a story and a prayer attached to it. It started off that Doc was wrapping these herself but then others asked her if they might not add to her stick with their prayers and trinkets. Now the stick is full and people who visit Doc bring the stick gifts, leaving them near the stick in Doc's foyer.

Doc also had a wisdom book she had created with photos of her friends, collaged with get well cards and each friend's favorite quote, all inspiring, all very generous. I met some of the other participants in this group and they were all very enthusiastic about the benefit of the creative process but the benefit of creating a feeling of community as well.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

3 Happiness challenges

#1. This comes from Julia Cameron's The Right to Write (pg. 12). In it she quotes Henry Miller on writing. "Develop interest in life as you see it; in people, things, literature, music--the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls, and interesting people."
Julia says that when we are the vehicle, the storyteller and not the point of the story we often write very well and a lot more easily. So here's her exercise. Pretend you are resting under a large tree with your back to the trunk. On the other side of this tree there is a storyteller, also resting her back against the tree. Tell the storyteller five things you would like to here stories about.
Here's my five things that I would like to hear stories about: People living quiet lives of resilience and generosity. People being brave and true. People traveling the whole world, learning lots and coming home to find treasure in their own back yard. People learning to love well and live happily. People following their dreams and finding they can live artfully and authentically with very little.

#2. This comes from Vermont art therapist Lore Caldwell. What she likes to do when she goes to the beach is collect rocks and write words on them and then put them back out on the beach. "I then watch as people discover them! It is such a joy to do!" She's even picked up one of her own rocks by accident and found the message was BE HERE NOW. Perfect! And so simple!

#3. This idea came tangentially from "Reflective Happiness" but altered to be more art-based. Get a couple of art buddies together (and this could be mail art buddies) and think about each others' strengths, what you admire most about each other. Create art on a postcard (mail art) for them based on these strengths. You should end up with symbolic representations of what they mean to you, what you mean to them, what they give you, what you give them or what you enjoy most about them and what they enjoy most about you.

More of what I learned in Mississippi

Carrying on from the July 4th blog about the things I learned in Mississippi, another thing I learned in Mississippi is that generosity encourages creativity and creativity encourages the human spirit no end! These paper puppet people were made from the generous donations of collage materials, papper, markers, and embellishments from artists and art therapists from all over the planet, having responded to internet requests for materials after Katrina. The folks that in these workshops were truly delighted with the space, time, and materials to once again find that playful, creative aspect of themselves which they may have lost touch with in the months following this hurricane. Everyone agreed that this experience of reconnecting with this sense of possibility was much needed.

In Gulfport we did the same workshop in the morning with children and staff, and in the afternoon with staff only. In the morning each child was pared with an adult mentor. The children all seemed to blossom with the activity of creating paper puppet people and the story books that went with the puppets. With simple directives the children found an environment for their puppet, a gift or symbol of a talent of strength for their puppet, and then a foe or problem that their puppet needed to solve. The last page of the 8 page book was devoted to the resolution of the problem. At the end of the workshop there were wonderful puppets and a healing tale for each puppet. Each puppet had a difficulty that was resolved. There's something to be said for listening to a number of stories with repeated themes of strength, hope, and resilience. By the end of the work shops I had certainly got the message, we are strong, we are resilient, and hope remains alive.

As one little boy was creating his collaged environment, he discovered this phrase on the back of one of the pictures he had selected: "Wake up boys, today we climb!" He repeated this phrase several times so I asked, "Should it be in the book?" "Oh, yes," he said with glee! When it came time to tell their stories, and it was his turn to read what he had written, he started with "Wake up boys, today we climb."

And climb they did, each one of them!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Links, puppets, fonts, and photographs.

I received several wonderful emails which I need to acknowledge.

One was from Teesha Moore. I had asked about the font on their new catalogue (and what a fine catalogue it is, even if you don't do much with rubber stamps!). Anyway she said to do a google search for free fonts and "nemo nightmares" is the particular font that was used for their catalogue. I did and found it. Teesha says watch out, fonts are addictive. Like photoshop brushes, I imagine.

From Eveline Maedel I received an email about how she enjoyed the Puppetmaking 101 instructions on the Lani Puppetmaker website. Here's her puppet and for an explanation please visit Eveline.

Finally there was an email from White's Lake photographer Bob Minty. We often share some of our walks in the morning with Bob and our Bergamasco Boys are for ever trying herd him. He sent these two amazing photographs, one is of a design in the rock along the shore.

How was it created?

And the other was taken in Cabano, Quebec in October. It takes my breath away. Thank you, Bob, you made my day.

Oh and I haven't added any links lately, so here are some links to paruse at your liesure.

These came from Artella's Morning Link Latte; a totally fat free morning wake up cup of inspiration:

Neuroscience for Kids with lots of fun activity for your brain.

Katherine Bartel's Everyday Devotions. Read the descriptions of her art work and see how she creates with love.

Drawing Power. You will find answers to Why Draw? on this website, like "Drawing keeps you sane, really. It's dancing on paper. That's what it is - just dancing on paper" from Elaine Arkell, a "mature" fine art student.

These are from art therapist Lore Caldwell:
The Yahoo Group Wild Art Dolls. Wild and this group comes from Aisling D'Art who has this website chock full of free and inspiring wild art doll stuff.

1001Journals the next step after 1000 journals project.

The Postcard Crossing Project. Anyone up for a Mail Art Postcard Crossing Project? See Mail Art Postcard Exhibit or
Mail Art Projects. Actually if you google Mail Art and Postcards you could get lost for days.

Now I need to go work on dinner.

The first thing I learned...

Gulf Coast Angel from lot #817.

The first thing I learned from these workshops is that if my heart aches from the devistation around me, I need to find a way to make art. I need to create a container for the sorrow. I need to make it as beautiful as I can, to honor the past and my feelings about the past.

The second thing I learned from this experience is how I want to live, and what I would most like to identify with. If my identity is wrapped up in possessions and my job and if I feel that these things are being threatened then I might act in fear. I might try to build my walls higher to keep out what threatens me (my possessions and my job). The mayor of Jackson, Mississippi carries a gun where ever he goes. The idea of living in this kind of fear, building higher walls and bearing arms is extremely unpleasant to me.

However, if I identify with a community I will care for those in the community. I will not live in fear but rather live bravely and generously, doing what I can for those I care about. The volunteer grandmothers in our workshops embodied this, caring for and helping the younger members of their community, mentoring and sharing what they had. Being able to do what ever a person can to maintain this sense of community seems to create resilience more effectively than having the best possessions or job title. And this is how I want to live, like the volunteer grandmothers in Jackson, Mississippi.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Katrina Stories in Mississippi

Angel and cross found in the rubble of #817 along the Gulf Coast highway.

Home again and contemplating the meaning of this experience. Puppet-making workshops among the displaced from hurricane Katrina may seem like a frivolous activity... Hard to justify and yet it is the thing I do. As an artist I feel an obligation to do what I can to create light, to help others and myself remember that we are resilient.
I love watching and hearing the emergence of heroic stories filled with characters created with bread and glue or even paper.

But first the hurricaine. Every story that Susan Anand and I heard initially was about Katrina, about leaving New Orleans, being displaced, feeling like an unwelcome outsider in a new city, fighting with insurance brokers, losing work, losing family, and losing everything they had come to identify with.

Gulfport, Mississippi. This tugboat was originally left hear by Camille.

Trailer City in Gulfport.

Empty beaches.

Rubble everywhere.

Devistation was overwhelming and now it is July and there's very little evidence of recovery from this hurricane that came through here in August of last year. I find this amazing. The towns were for the most part ghost towns with some functioning fast food restaurants and box stores.

So in my next few blogs I will explore what I learned about resilience while doing the workshops. Stay tuned.