Thursday, July 30, 2009

Wednesday Wishcasting on Thursday... (summer schedule)

Here's my fun little collage in response to the Wishcasting Wednesday prompt: What do you wish to remember?

I wish to remind myself, through my creations, to laugh more often.

(Note: The little characters remind me to laugh and they come from the marvelous Itkupilli! She's got an etsy shop and blogs galore where you can find free, reasonable, and I think very high quality digital material for your art work.)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

September workshop in Ohio

On Sunday, September 13, 2009, Susan Anand and I will be presenting a full day puppet and storybook-making workshop after the Buckeye Art Therapy Association symposium where we will also be presenting. We will be offering this full day (10 - 3) workshop at European Papers, a positively exquisite venue for the paper enthusiasts amongst us. But there's only room for 24, so register here today!
More about the workshop:
We will explore the subjects of puppets, stories, books, animation, resilience and art therapy in depth. We hope to provide tools and inspiration which you can use in your search for resilience narratives in your own practice. We will focus on finding and developing characters which embody strength and flexibility, creating therapeutic metaphors which can speak directly to the inner artist, and we will look at techniques for putting the resilience narratives into a format which can be easily shared and reviewed, whether that is a story book or a video on youtube. The advantage of using imagery and characters from the individuals you are working with, is that strengths and assets are acknowledged, stories are valued, and the learning is from inside and can be recognized as authentic. As a consequence, individuals are engaged more fully in their own therapy or learning (Gerity 2006).

This full-day course will include an introductory narrative with various kinds of puppets and a slide show, giving participants a range of puppet possibilities. We will provide examples of simple book structures including a book created with one piece of paper, simple pamphlet binding, and an "altered" child's board book - all of which are suitable for most art rooms and most budgets.

The first half of the day will focus on making puppets and characters, using a variety of collage techniques with card stock. Once the characters are developed, participants will create the storybook as a companion art piece for the paper puppet. Participants will experience the ease of eliciting narratives of resilience, healing, and strength, while learning how to create playful paper puppet characters and a simple book structure. Group stories will be created when the puppets and characters come together in small groups. The instructions will be fairly simple so the techniques can be replicated in most art settings and with limited budgets. It is our intention to allow for the possibility for creating short videos of the workshop and of individuals stories so that the ease of creating a youtube video can be explored.

The final discussion will include sharing creations, insights and questions about resilience, healing, and strength or technical questions about working with puppets, narratives, and video.

We have room for 24 participants and registration in through my website and the cost is $35. Feel free to bring video cameras and other filming devices.

If you can't make it to Ohio, we'll also be doing this as a pre-conference course at the AATA conference in Dallas in November. See you there!

My friends make me smile...

"My Friends Make Me Smile" Collage by Lani

This collage was created because of two things. One was reading the newest prompt over at Creative Therapy, "Tell us about your best friend or the effect of friends in your life". And the other was getting a blogging award from Lumilyon. It's the "Your Blog Makes Us Smile" award. When I think of my friends and the blogs that make me smile I realize it's the same thing. You get to know your friends through their blogs and the more you read their blogs,the more you know them, the more you smile. My friends and their blogs make me smile! So I will pass on the "Your Blog Makes Us Smile" award to my art buddies (from 14 Secrets) Swallowcliff's Art, The Altered Attic, Unshelved Words, Suska's Musings, Basia-Spirit Space, Paper-n-Soul, Nancye's Art and Beautiful Junk, Threads, Pretty Pink Tiara, Articulation, Two Blue Crows, Lore Lives To Create, (and my BFF's from ArtFest) Ellen and Kim who always make me smile and also Noreen who may be fictional and may think Nascar racing is an art form, but heck she makes me smile too!

Disintegration and Transformation

Here's my "transformed disintegration" book, a part of Seth's marvelous Disintegration Project. The original bundle of papers and books (including Wreck This Journal) looked like this in February, with seaweed and snow.

Then I released the bundle from its pile of snow and seaweed and found it beautiful in a slightly horrific way. So once the paper was dry and every last sow bug had left the bundle, many of the pages seemed to need to become a book.

Close up of the seaweed, feather, starfish, shells, driftwood, twine (from original bundle) & large mammalian molar mostly pulled up from the harbor:

I had wanted to create a photo album/art journal where I could play with the ideas of disintegration, transformation, and home. So here is an old family photo of my Aunt Doris and Uncle Wibur (missionary kids in China):

My Aunt Doris:

And that's it for the moment. More to follow as I continue to work these old family photos into the Treasure from My Taiwanese Childhood project.

I am sure enjoying the process. Once again thank you Seth!

Saturday, July 25, 2009


Collage by Lani

Jamie Ridler has this really sweet idea called Wishcasting Wednesday. You create a wish from a prompt, put it up on your blog and link your blog on Jamie's website. Then everyone visits everyone else and asks that our wishes be granted. Have you heard of anything so sweet? OK, so the prompt is: What do you wish to tell the world?

And my wish is that I could tell the world that there are lots of ways to live happy, art filled lives.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

More buried treasure - these from October 'o6

I dug around in previous posts from 2006 for these words and images for Seth's "Digging Deeper" for more buried treasure. (Do take a look at his links where you are bound to be filled with delight!) I enjoyed revisiting these and hope you will as well.

Collage of a child writing a note to the little people by Lani

I heard a wonderful Prospect (Nova Scotia) story, told to me by Ellen Ryan, who grew up here in Prospect. I suspect... er... I know she has many stories about childhood enchantments and delights, and here's one. She used to attend the local school which was very small, and run by nuns. Right around Christmas great interest grew in elves, little people, and fairy folk. All kinds of magic began to happen. The older children had certain periods of the day when they worked on secret presents for the younger children. They had also devised a way to make little notes fall from the ceiling on the little kids (at least this is the way Ellen remembers it). The notes were from fairy folk. By the time Christmas came, the younger children in the village were nearly beside themselves with magic, joy, and possibilities.

I think there is real magic here when we secretly create things for others; presents, fairy notes, post cards, messages in bottles, on pebbles... the possibilities are endless.

(Engage in some fairy magic today.)

Collage of the place where my heart first opened by Lani

My friend Diane AuCoin was reading author Sue Monk Kidd's (The Secret Life of Bees)newsletter and alerted me to this lovely quote:
I have come to love the following words by the French Nobel laureate, Albert Camus: “A person’s life purpose is nothing more than to rediscover, through the detours of art, or love, or passionate work, those one or two images in the presence of which his heart first opened.” Where did your heart first open? And how shall you find your way back to that dawning?
Ah, yes, let's go to that place of our beginnings; and remember the moments when the light broke and our hearts opened.

Another heart opened collage by Lani

Lovely! And finally there is this favorite Nietzsche quote which popped up in Eckhart Tolle's A New Earth:
For happiness, how little suffices for happiness! ...the least thing precisely, the gentlest thing, the lightest thing, a lizard's rustling, a breath, a wink, an eye glance - little maketh up the best happiness. Be still. -- Friedrich Nietzsche in Thus Spake Zarathustra

So the light broke and my heart opened when I looked at Prospero this morning (as it does most mornings; what a face).

And I looked for the "least little thing" that made the "best happiness" and there were too many to count, but I took a picture of Edward's Icelandic Poppies in the early morning light and that will have to do for now. Some days it's such an amazing thing just to breathe... Sigh.

That was true in October of '06 and it's true today.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Links and Inspiration

Collage by Lani, background from an 18th century book of Herbal Remedies found on Lumilyon's blog.

Collected some lovely links from Seth's buried treasure and various wanderings. Do take a look at his links and if you would like to participate yourself, he's doing a "Digging Deeper", a sort of round two for those who want to continue and those who missed the first round!
One of my favorite treasures, and there were so many I only picked one, was Lumilyon. I love the mystery, photos of Lapland, story-telling, photoshop activity, and her links. Here's one of them for pages and pages of 18th Century herbal remedies from the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow:

Of course old books of herbal remedies makes me think of Rima, my favorite medievalist, so I take a quick peek to see what's new over on the Hermitage. There I discover some beautiful videos created for Tui's second album, The One Two Bird and The Half Horse. Here's what David Sheppard says:
It distills sublime wood smoke folk atmosphere and pointillist digitalis to the subatomic level, until it becomes effectively the same stuff that makes brooks babble and winds whisper.
More of Tui's music is here. This video was made from little snippets of film of Rima's family and Rima when she was five. Tui took these and made them black and white and layered with old photographs, "exploiting" Rima's father's original wobbly video camera technique, creating a glimpsed evocation of childhood, half remembered, and half longed-for; The First Born Daughter of Water. Love it and the music!!!

Orla Wren - The First Born Daughter Of Water from Tui on Vimeo.

And here's what you can do (if you are Rima) with drawings and a camera and Tui's music of course!

Orla Wren - The Fish And The Doll from Tui on Vimeo.

Jamie Ridler's new website with blog, workshops, podcasts, and resources all wrapped up in one handy spot is a real delight. Here's a printable affirmation gift set, full of tremendous kindness just waiting for us to download. Thank you Jamie, Brandi and Rachelle!

Totally unrelated but fun, for the fontaholics amongst us, a list of 51 Hand Drawn Fonts. I might just create my own affirmations with some of these fun fonts.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Buried Treasure uncovered

Over on Seth's blog there was an invitation to participate in Buried Treasure. What was involved was participants were to dig in their blog history and find one of their favorite blog postings and re-post them. Then everyone can go to Seth's blog and go hunting for treasure! Don't you love a treasure hunt?

One of my favorite posts was back on December 02, 2005. NYU had hosted a symposium to honor Edith Kramer (one of the grandmothers of art therapy) but I had previous commitments. So I sent a letter to be read there, and I posted it on the blog. We've all had teachers who have guided us in ways which in retrospect were exactly perfect and I have to say Edith Kramer was one of those teachers for me. (Although at the time I was studying with her I did not appreciate the experience fully, of course.)
At the time of this Symposium I was working on collecting material for a book on her (which has yet to be written). So I had the luxury of being able to look through old photos and notes and in retrospect I discovered I'd learned quite a lot from Edith. I believe there is a great deal of buried treasure in thinking about what our teachers have given us. But enough preamble, here's my former post.

Dear Edith,

Sometimes it's good to know what your students learned, so I would like to express a deep sense of gratitude and inner satisfaction for the many things you have taught me.

One of the more important thing I learned was the idea of story-telling in the art room, and how appreciative the people we work with are, when we can furnish their minds with inspiring, challenging, sometimes scary and ultimately reassuring stories like Selma Lagerlöf's THE WONDERFUL ADVENTURES OF NILS.

I loved hearing about how you told the story of the little boy, Nils, and his struggles to become human in your art studio at the Wiltwyck Boys' School. I can also understand how the boys identified so strongly with the character Nils and all that he was learning from the old, gray, lead goose, Akka, that they begged you to tell them more stories about Akka. She was probably helping them to become human, too. How satisfying it must have been for them to paint with you and hear these stories.

In looking through the slides of your work, your home in Austria, and photos from your family, I realize another thing I have come to value is history, and the idea of being a part of a lineage; that we could learn the things you learned from Friedl Dicker, and that others could learn these things from us.

One of the best things I learned from Friedl through you, was that you don't have to wait until your analysis is complete to do good things in the world. Friedl told you that she thought that something was wrong when she felt most alive while she was imprisoned, that this must be masochism and should be analyzed. In actuality, her ability to remain fully alive under extreme adversity served her and the children she worked with in Terezin. I find this comforting because I doubt that a perfect analysis is anything I will be able to achieve in this lifetime, and if Friedl could do good things under such impossible conditions, then surely I could do some good, too, with conditions that aren't too bad.

Another aspect of appreciating history and of being a part of a lineage is the sense of community this engenders. I learned to appreciate that so much when visiting you in Austria. The sense of history and community is so very alive there. You aren't just Edith Kramer there, you are "their Kramer", in a way held by them, as if they create a transitional space for you and each other with this feeling of history and community. This feeling is more deeply satisfying than any extrinsic reward I could think of.

And finally I believe that you sparked in me the desire to search for things that provide inner satisfaction (more art, more puppets, more beauty and puppies) and to search for the part of the super ego that is kindly and care-taking, the inner-Akka, or even, perhaps, the inner-Kramer. The search for these things has been the best adventure of all. It must surely compare with Nils' adventures with Akka, and I have learned everything about being human from this adventure.

So for all of these things and for so much more, I would like to say thank you, Edith!

Your loving student,
Lani Gerity

PS - Here's a quote from the end of The Further Adventures of Nils, when Nils has become human and tries to say good bye to his friends and companions, the geese:

"He sat down on the sands and buried his face in his hands. What was the use of his gazing after them any more?

Presently he heard the rustle of wings. Old mother Akka had found it hard to fly away from Thumbietot, and turned back, and now that the boy sat quite still she ventured to fly nearer to him. Suddenly something must have told her who he was, for she lit close beside him.

Nils gave a cry of joy and took old Akka in his arms. The other wild geese crowded round him and stroked him with their bills. They cackled and chattered and wished him all kinds of good luck, and he, too, talked to them and thanked them for the wonderful journey which he had been privileged to make in their company." -Selma Lagerlöf

PDF version here.
Edith Kramer with her mother

Edith Kramer carving in her loft in NYC

Edith Kramer in Austria

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

More on Art and the Gift Culture

Morning pages collage by Lani
In hunting down our further expressions of Art and the Gift Culture, I've come across some wonderful examples. I've been on a virtual-meander through the art installations and theories of Luke Jerram on YouTube and on his own website.
Whether you take a virtual hot air balloon ride, at dawn, over Bristol, UK, or listen to Luke Jerram describing the experience with the appropriate music in the background, or perhaps participate in a sound/dream experiment you will find the effect is his work is quite beautiful.

I've looked at the generous art of Michelle Ward's friends who created an art journal for her after the death of her sister, on her website, Seth's blog, and flikr. And I revisited "Never Forgotten"the book of art created for JoAnnA Pierotti after her mother died suddenly.

And finally Keri Smith is coming out with a new book, the This Is Not A Book book. It quite a bit of on line preview, and it looks as though its going to have the marvelous potential for learning, creating, wrecking, and playing as well as interactive potential that Wreck This Journal had and continues to have for many of us. Can't wait!

It seems to me that when art is employed to bring people together, to simply play and enjoy each other's company, or when art is created to soothe someone's suffering, it's all a part of the "gift culture". And what is growing in my mind is the idea that the gift culture promotes our creativity, flexibility, and resilience.
Someone's party balloons floated ashore at Prospect, Nova Scotia.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Buried Treasure

More collage fun from Lani

Over on Seth's blog there's an invitation to participate in Buried Treasure. Well, I love buried treasure, so I'm in. What is involved is we are to dig in our blog history and find one of our favorite blog postings and re-post them. That way we can all go to Seth's blog and go hunting for treasure, as he'll have all our blogs listed there. Can't wait!

Wild orchid on High Head, Prospect, Nova Scotia

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Gift economy and "wreckage"!

Morning pages collage by Lani (totally influenced by my Wreck This Journal experience)

I am SO enjoying the wreckage over at 14 Secrets, I've started to think it is a wildly creative, generous, and generative activity. Actually, I've always felt that there was something extremely satisfying about mail art. I've learned so much from my fellow players but these Wreck This Journal RR's are really marvelous, uniquely creative. I'm beginning to see more clearly that participating in this way, in a group with other people, sharing insights and techniques as we go, working in each others' Wreck This Journal is all a part of the whole amazing "gift economy" or "gift culture". We are giving to our fellow players, but something is growing and transforming in us as well.

Dave Pollard has a wonderful essay on The Gift Economy, very much worth reading! This is a perfect quote from his essay where he is describing what happens when we participate in a "gift economy":
...we open up possibilities, we begin to feel and realize our own power, capacity, and mastery, we recognize that generosity has nothing to do with charity, and we sense the movement and strength of collective understanding, will and passion. We realize that together, collectively, collaboratively, we know more, and know better...

I feel as though this quote describes the mail art process itself, but most especially the "wreckage" process over at 14 Secrets. Here's how one of our moderators, Gena Lumbroso, describes it:
The excitement for this crazy project is so contagious. I think this wrecking project has been delightful. I liken it to rebuilding an interior... tearing down walls, ripping off old paper, washing walls, all the creative undoing - usually done with people close to you (the type that you can always call on, the ones that see you through thick and thin...) who chip in; it creates a special bond and lots of laughs and moments of joy. Yessiree, I feel like this project is like a remaking of 14secrets, shaking it in its very foundations, bringing out all that is good and fun and colorful, wacky, spiritual, delightful, loving, crazy, exalting, joyful, hilarious, new, old, inventive, lively, bubbly, exhilarating, exuberant, lovely, funny, rich, creative, happy, thoughtful, provocative, enriching, empowering, outlandish, adventuresome, self-discovery, relational, prosperous, fantastic, high vibrational, (now add your own).

But some non-virtual cultures are based on this "gift economy" like this video illustrates how it works in Mali. (Very inspiring.)

And if you like Keri Smith's Weck This Journal, and you feel intuitively there's a connection between generosity and helping our creativity grow, then you might like her book Guerilla Art Kit. It's full of subversive seeds of generosity. Your art will never be the same.

Morning pages collage by Lani

Friday, July 10, 2009

Morning Gifts - Sunlight at last

Morning pages collage by Lani

Finally the sun came out yesterday morning, shining through Edward's strawberry rhubarb jam (strawberries we picked the day before yesterday, rhubarb from his garden). Color is more intense in the sunlight.

The Bergamasco Boys were delighted with all the sunlight.

The orchids looked more beautiful in sunlight.

And art making was more fun in sunlight as well!

Here's my contribution to Christine's Wreck This Journal, more about that over on 14 Secrets Blog.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

A little adventure yesterday, picking strawberries

Morning pages collage by Lani

A little adventure yesterday, took the Bergamasco boys picking strawberries. Lovely fields of berries as far as the eye could see. We stopped at the Tangled Garden for a quiet walk through the garden and to replenish our Cassis supply.


Prospero and Edward

Every corner has something lovely to discover. Sort of like life.

You never know what will be around the next corner. Today I worked on art exchanges and played with some old drawings. This one has a medieval recipe for joy, drink celery juice frequently. Hmmm. Sounds easy enough!

Another morning pages collage by Lani

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Do you remember the Guardian Angel Swap back in February?

Several friends were going through extreme hard times then. Fellow art therapist, Carol Lark was struggling with leukemia at that time. Today, oh happy day, she was given the official IN REMISSION all clear! I'm sure your healing Guardian Angels helped as did the Healing Tags that the 14 Secrets artists sent! Thank you so much, all who participated in these two art swaps!

Monday, July 06, 2009

Wild Orchids For Carol Lark

Here you are Carol, orchids and more orchids just for you.

And a photo of Bruzzi the Bergamasco among the orchids, just for perspective.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Art as a Gift

Morning pages collage by Lani

Thinking some more about Erika's question (see comments on previous post) about making art as a gift for her father who may have early onset Alzheimer's, I revisited the sites I suggested Erika visit. Then I thought they deserved better links in a real post. While exploring these sites I also visited Kate diCamillo's journal where in April she made reference to visiting her mother in the hospital before she died. She wrote about needing to mark those special times when she felt her heart open or stop because the love and beauty was so intense. Kate uses words to mark these moments... very beautifully. And I think as visual artists, we can mark those moments with our artwork. And we probably even should do so if we can.

So here are the links for the gift that Leslie made for her mother, a beautiful memory book based on what she had learned from Judy Wilkenfeld. The beginnings are here, then there's more, and even more, and then finally the gift and her mother opens it. Beautiful and exactly one of those moments in life where you need a marker of some kind.

And here are Judy's links to Red Velvet and Visual Anthologies. Here you will find art as a gift and marker for a cultural history. This also needs to be marked. If you can take a class with her, do!

And finally, here's a link to Lynne Perrella's Altered Portraits, tributes to regal female fortitude and stature. I think we need that. We need to remember our fortitude and stature, maybe even mark it with the gift of art work.

So thank you Erika, for leaving your question on my blog. I've enjoyed the search for the answers very much. Now I'll go do some art work.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

How do you live a life of freedom and simplicity?

Collage by Lani from morning pages and photo from friends on
I had a delightful conversation over on facebook. (I sometimes go over there, if a sibling or friend has left a message, and sometimes I get caught up in a silly game, but mostly I stare at this prompt: "What's on your mind?" So on impulse I typed out "I used to have a life filled with drama. Now I study happiness." I was thinking that might be a really nice, short autobiography. Two sentences. Anyway my friend Nicole Brandstrup left a message.
"How did you make the change? What benefits have you noticed? What was key to let go of? Did you need to change the way you make a living, if so, how? i have always been interested in your journey...."

So I answered:
It's a process. I suspect working in mental health helped create a lot of drama. Going from a precariously funded large mental health agency in Manhattan to private practice in Canada and workshops where ever they are needed, was a big shift away from drama. At some point I was googling endorphin release and creativity and stumbled upon the field of positive psychology. That was a real eye opener. People were actually studying our positive emotions and what we can do to encourage them. Makes very good sense. As for changing the way I make a living, yes, that had to change. Becoming my own boss, although not as secure, freed me up from lots and lots of drama.
I've talked with many artists who have taken this plunge into the unknown, and started living by their art and wits, and NONE of them regretted the move at all.
That would make some fun research. Talk to people who have made a choice towards simplicity and freedom, and ask them if they have any regrets!

Nicole answered back:
very very helpful. i think i am in the transitional space between agency work and being self-employed. i usually hold tight to pragmatism and yet, i am finding that something is not fitting. i am for sure in the "what is next phase" where do i go from here? how do i get there? your snippet is helpful. and I like the idea of interviewing others. thanks for the boost.

So I've thought about this a little more, and I wandered over to Kindness Girl's blog (Patience Salgado), oh my, what a fantastic inspiration! The perfect way to continue this conversation. I'd scrolled down to George, the farm and living your values... where I read about a baker of flatbread who lives his values in Vermont. Wonderful to read. I immediately wanted to pack my bag for a road trip. Here's some of what she wrote:
I ate his flatbread, I slept in his inn (in a room named Kindness), I talked to his staff and friends, and I soaked in all of his values…and I was blessed and renewed. It reminded me that I too can hold to what is most important to me. There is no rush and each time I follow what I know to be true, I can create something beautiful. I wake each morning with a new day inviting me to create, to listen to myself and the world, to speak and be heard, to act in grace, kindness and love.
I came home and thought of all the places and tiny ways we fall away from living the life and way we want. And I asked, What Would George Do? He would probably write a little note telling himself and the world what is most important to him. So I’m writing mine now…signed by P. You can write one too. Let’s trade tomorrow, shall we?

OK, so here's mine:
I once had a life filled with drama. Now I study happiness. It feels free and simple.

Collage by Lani from morning pages and photo from friends on