Sunday, November 29, 2009

More on Abundance

Collage by Lani

Still thinking about Dr. Dirt and this idea of abundance (see previous post). At first sight this little town of Edwards is not a place you to which you would associate the word abundance. But if I've learned anything in this funny old life, it's that assumptions serve no one and if you dig below the surface of where ever you may be, there's treasure right here, right now! Abundance is here and in Dr. Dirt's garden. He had traveled far from his home and then returned to care for his ailing mother Millie and began to care for the acre of land that was attached to his home. And in the caring for the land and all that grew there, he found abundant treasure.

Maira Kalman tells a similar story in her most recent "And the Pursuit of Happiness" column in the New York Times. She wrote, drew, and photographed a lovely essay about abundance, Alice Waters, the Edible Schoolyard program, and other particularly culinary delights in her colorful, animated way. She describes school children caring for the crops in their school yard, harvesting, cooking, and eating together while sharing philosophical ideas with each other. Read Maria's column but don't stop there! Visit the on-line Edible Schoolyard, see how an abandoned school yard was turned into a very rich source of edible treasure! If you live in Nova Scotia you can see what the province is working on here. And here's a lovely website, a Canadian resource page full of school gardens and useful links.

Finally there's an abundance of art related links over on Seth Apter's blog, the Altered Page! Oh, my word, I hope you have some free time, because he's got the links for every kind of art inspiration that you can imagine. Sundays are now Secret Sundays and don't forget to check the previous Sunday here. He's got an inspiration button on the right hand column of his blog which will take you to Robyn Gordon's blog, Art Propelled, and specifically to the posting Tied Up with String. Whew, it took my breath away! Such abundance and treasure and inspiration! And since we started this with a garden I had to take a peek at the Art Propelled link to the gardens of Saint Verde, both the inspiring film and theses gorgeous images. About the images, Neville Trickett says:
Look to the natural world for inspiration. But look closely. Individual composition that takes away all the preconceptions of what is right or wrong has its roots in ethnicity. Welcome to Africa my friends.
Isn't that perfect? Look closely at the natural world and release all those completely useless preconceptions... Quite an abundance of things to think about here!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

On the road trip to Dallas and what I learned...

Abundant light in Mississippi

The adventure began with a search for a response to Diane's response "light" to Chrysti and Susan's {Echo} prompt Abundance. What a lovely way to begin a new adventure, looking for the perfect expression of abundant light. And then once that was found to continue to look for expressions of abundance.

As Susan Anand and I headed to Dallas for the 40th annual conference of the American Art Therapy Association we found Leon Goldsberry, better known as Dr. Dirt, of Edwards, Mississippi, a delightful gardener/artist with abundant plants, humor, history, plant lore, and kindness. Pictures of his garden can be viewed here and here. Steve Bender had this to say about Dr. Dirt in Southern Living:

Doctor Dirt's influence is literally growing. Seeds and plants shared from his garden are popping up all over town. Folks in Edwards are rediscovering the joys of a garden, which, to Leon's way of thinking, is a journey home.

"In the beginning, God put us in a garden," he observes. "That is where we all come from."

I loved this little side trip in Edwards. You can read more about Dr. Dirt on his website but better yet, if you are in Mississippi, do visit Millie's Gardens and Leon Goldsberry. I intend to go back one day!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Puppet & Story-making Workshops...

Photo of Glenda "the very good!" by Susan Anand

For those of you attending puppet and story-making workshops with Susan Anand and myself, there are some useful links here. For an interesting collection simple book structures to use with puppet making, you can see Susan Gaylord's work on her blog and also her "Lulu Storefront". She's also got a wonderful instructional video on how to make a Word A Day Journal (among other videos) here.

And if you are interested in a delightful series of simple animation and puppetry techniques then check the 14 Secrets Blog! Very cool stuff here! For free 'zines and downloads see this page of my website. Any questions, you can contact me any time at lanipuppetmaker at mac dot com!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Creativity takes courage... and some other stuff!

Collage by Lani

"Creativity takes courage..." - Henri Matisse

I'm working on some new art challenges, trying to find artful ways to be here now (more often), to create the recuperative flow state that is so essential to art and life, and of course ways to create art retreats for my inner artist. I'm liking what I'm reading in the realm of developmental psychology as well as positive psychology and of course neuroscience. Blend those three fields with a lot of art making and you have some major restorative "be here now" activities.

So I was looking at the Greater Good Magazine (WINTER 2009 Volume V, Issue 3) and I came across this article which I include here as it's short and to which I added live links to the various researchers mentioned because I had some real coffee this morning and it seemed like a great idea!:
Everyday Art
Christine Carter reveals six steps for boosting kids' creativity.
A lot of parents believe that their children are either born with artistic talent or they're not. But research suggests that artistic creativity, along with other kinds of creativity, is more of a skill than an inborn talent, and it's a skill parents can help their kids develop.
Many researchers believe we have fundamentally changed the experience of childhood in a way that impairs creative development. Toy and entertainment companies provide an endless stream of prefab characters, images, props, and plotlines that allow kids to put their imaginations to rest. Children no longer need to pretend a stick is a sword in a game or story they've imagined; they can play Star Wars with a readymade light-saber, in costumes designed for the specific role they're playing.
But researchers have also identified steps we can take to help kids tap into their own creative potential. Drawing on that research, here are some ideas for fostering creativity in kids.

  1. Provide the resources for creative expression. The key resource here is time. Kids need a lot of time for unstructured, child-directed, imaginative play—unencumbered by adult direction, and independent of a lot of commercial stuff. Research by Kathy Hirsch-Pasek of Temple University, among others, has found that children attending academic preschools show no advantage in reading or math achievement over kids who go to play-based preschools. But they do tend to have higher levels of test anxiety, exhibit less creativity, and have more negative attitudes toward school.
    Look for resources that help kids create but that don't tell them what to create. I've been amazed by some of the things my kids do with art supplies, cheap cameras, old costumes, and building materials.

  2. Make your home a Petri dish for creativity. At dinnertime, for example, brainstorm activities for the upcoming weekend, encouraging the kids to come up with things they've never done before. Resist pointing out which ideas aren't possible, or deciding which ideas are best. The focus of creative activities should be on the process—generating (vs. evaluating) new ideas.
    Another way to nurture a creative atmosphere at home is to encourage kids to take risks, make mistakes, and fail. Yes, fail: In her book Mindset, Stanford researcher Carol Dweck shows that kids who are afraid of failure and judgment will curb their own creative thought. Share the mistakes you've made recently, so they get the idea that it's okay to flub up.

  3. Allow kids the freedom and autonomy to explore their ideas. For me, this means not always being so bossy! External constraints—making kids color within the lines, so to speak—can reduce creativity in thinking. In one study, when researchers first showed kids how to make a plane or truck with Legos, kids showed less creativity in their own building than when they were just let loose to make whatever they wanted with the same Lego set.

  4. Encourage kids to read for pleasure and participate in the arts, rather than watch TV. Studies by children's health researcher Dimitri Christakis have found that TV viewing before the age of three can harm kids' language development and attention spans later in life. Studies by Dutch researcher T.H. van der Voort suggest that watching TV might reduce kids' creative imagination, and violent TV shows are associated with a decrease in kids' fantasy play and an increase in aggressiveness. Less screen time means more time for creative activities, like rehearsing a play, learning to draw, or reading every book by a favorite author.

  5. Resist the temptation to reward kids for their creativity. A study led by child development researcher Melissa Groves has found that incentives interfere with the creative process, reducing the flexibility of children's thinking.
    Instead of trying to motivate kids with rewards and incentives, we parents sometimes need to back off so that kids can work on the creative activities that they're intrinsically motivated to do. Instead of rewarding a child for practicing the piano, for example, we can encourage her to do something she enjoys more—maybe draw at the kitchen table or dance around the living room.

  6. Try to stop caring what your kids achieve. I think this is one of the greatest challenges we parents face in today's ultra-competitive world. But Dweck's research is very clear that kids gain confidence from an emphasis on process rather than product. This can be hard advice to follow when our kids come home from school with just the end product of an art project. But whether they're working at home or at school, we can emphasize the creative process by asking questions: Are you finished? What did you like about that activity? Did you have fun?
Perhaps most importantly, research shows that fostering creativity in our kids will help them with more than art: Creativity is essential to science, math, and even emotional intelligence. Creative people are more flexible and more successful problem solvers, making them better poised to take advantage of new opportunities. So when we nurture the artistic lives of our children, we give them the tools they need to thrive in our rapidly changing world.
Christine Carter, Ph.D., is the executive director of the Greater Good Science Center. For more parenting tips, visit her blog, Half Full, at
Now what would all this have to do with me, you might ask, who's kids are all the four legged type. Well, I'm thinking that what is good for helping your children develop and their creative skills must be good for me developing and encouraging my creative skills. So here's what I propose to provide myself:
1. More resources for creative expression, like time! Have I given myself 20 - 23 min. of creative time today? I will be sure to take workshops that give me creative tools, but that don't tell me what to create. (Excellent!)
2. I will make my home a creative Petri dish and try brainstorming more often. Use my Mondo Beyond skills here, write wildly creative, marvelous wish lists, the wilder the better.
3. I will allow myself freedom and creativity in my work, and try not to boss myself too much with should's and ought-to's. (Even thinking about this makes me smile!)
4. No TV. That one is pretty easy since we have no cable and no reception!
5. I'll do more of the things that have intrinsic rewards for me, the things I love to do!
6. I will focus more on the process and less on the product. I will ask myself if I'm "having fun yet" more often!

There, that's a very short, satisfying, creative and doable to-do list! Just reading it over feels nurturing of the creative process, and best thing about that is when we nurture our artistic lives, we are give ourselves the tools we need to thrive in our rapidly changing world.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What I like about Clarissa Pinkola Estés...

Morning Pages Collage

"Promise me you'll always remember: You're braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think." ~ Christopher to Pooh, A.A.Milne

Listening to another installment of Clarissa Pinkola Estés' story-telling event over at Sounds True, around the virtual camp fire, there is so much to think about. First of all it's lovely to have this virtual camp fire, it feels so accepting and warm. Clarissa has a way of creating a space in which we can be comfortable with ourselves and with our virtual friends around this campfire.

But she also describes quite clearly how easy it is to create the opposite sort of feeling, when people start to feel wrong and alienated, when we feel at odds within our family or the dominant culture. She told us a story about a childhood event where she saw a vision of a beautiful lady that made her feel so good she wanted to wade through the waves of Lake Michigan to be with her. Although it really sounded like it must have been a lovely vision, at some point she was in a bit of danger. Her family had a very stern reaction, understandably. They were probably frightened to see their child wading in the freezing water in midwinter. They told her there was no beautiful lady, that she was dreaming and that she should forget about it. Of course she didn't forget, she still cherishes the memory, and part of her memory is of being made to feel wrong within her family. (I'm thinking there must be other ways to tell children that we just want them to be safe and stay with us for a while longer, without making them feel that their dreams, visions, and selves are wrong.)

So that's what I like about Clarissa Pinkola Estés, how she creates an inclusive environment where many points of view are welcome, including my own. After all if you are sitting around a camp fire, is there only one direction from which to view the fire? Is there only one point of view? Last I checked on the world population we are creeping up to 7 billion, so I figure 7 billion points of view around the campfire. Why should my point of view be any more or less right than any other point of view?

Campfire collage by Lani

Monday, November 02, 2009

Decoration: Offering

Decoration: Offering
So here's Diane Cook's and my response to Susan Tuttle's and Chrysti Hydek's prompt {Echo} Decoration. Diane's is the left side, a picture taken in Santa Fe, N.M. layered with offering candles taken in the Loreto Chapel. Layered with texture from les brumes. Don't you love it?

Mine is Ganesha (on the right) dancing. At first I was stumped with "decoration". My house (like Chrysti's) can be a bit of a disaster, mostly with my little disheveled zoo dominating (2 cats, 2 largish dogs). Not too many froo froo decorations survive here, I can tell you.

But then I thought of the use of decoration in spiritual practices in my Asian background, decoration as offering to the spirits, gods, or that which is greater than us. I looked around my house for that kind of thing and sure enough, larger than life, there's plenty of decoration as offering. So Ganesha dances happily with his flowers and squash.

How would your "decoration: offering" look?

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Simple Book Structure Instruction and Inspiration

Collage by Lani

I got an email question this past week about making simple book structures for art therapists and art educators, so here's my list of favorite instructional videos and inspiring artists.

Top of my list is Teesha Moore who even runs an Art Journaling Retreat out on the left coast. (Wow, would I ever love to attend!) Her blog will be featuring more videos now, because she's purchased a video camera! I can't wait.

I've also uploaded the entire series onto the 14 Secrets Blog so head on over there if you would like to see them in order.

Here's Samantha Kira's Easy-Peasy Journal part one and two. These are really easy to follow instructions. Very nice, simple and cheap. I followed these directions with dollar store items (Under $5).

And here's Rice Freeman-Zachery's easy Kinko solution to creating an art journal. She's a little manic here, but her ideas are great.

And here's Suzi Blu altering a child's board book.