I’m OK to go

You know how some weeks you think you’re being told something? This is one of those weeks. I am being reminded to remain open, to be curious and to have courage.

Now this is partly because I have stuck post it notes strategically around the houseimages reminding me but I did this in response to getting the nudges and wanting to remember them even when I wasn’t being …reflective!

And this has evolved into a mantra.  I’m channelling Ellie Arroway in Contact. Yup, folks. Hollywood. I had forgotten what a great movie it was but we watched it again this week when the I’m OK to go line became a bit of a catch phrase for various family members this week! Ellie’s not just telling the folks in control that she’s OK to go. She’s reminding/ convincing/ reassuring herself.

Courage is not fearlessness. Courage is being OK to go in the direction that seems best, even if you are afraid; even if you aren’t sure of what lies ahead or what outcomes will be. Courage is going with openness and curiosity; dropping the story lines you attach to things and trying to see things simply as they are.  Courage takes practice.

I’m OK to go.

 

 

Pods…again

DSCN2167I love pods and seeds (See my Pinterest favourites here). In funny old times it is not surprising that I am drawn to playing with the hope-filled shapes of pods and seeds and the calming colours of our wonderful eucalyptus gums…olive tinged ivories, or almost pearlescent whites with a hint of copper. Beautiful.

I have a made a few of theseDSCN2176 into BIG necklaces…the pods connected with hand shaped wire or links.  Others are a single pod hung from rich cream cords made using string and cotton salvaged from the BHRAG excess string box! I love that even the cords are hand made by me. And the metaphor of the rope, not so strong on its own but really strong when it’s twisted….

Strength, hope, openness. Good to ponder. When assembled and DSCN2169photographed, these pieces will be for sale!

 

Contemporary Craft Retreat-soothing the October soul

What does my soul crave by October? There are moments of being manically DSCN2109frazzled. Or stupefiedly overwhelmed.  My soul craves serenity. Calm. Completion. And the chance to play. My soul craves the opportunity to make peaceful repetitive movements and then unpredictably lash out theatrically and express my inner rebel.

So, in a ridiculously overambitious way (Hello! Tell me I am not alone here?) I have attempted to make my Mandala Angels class for the Contemporary Craft Retreat at Greenhills, Cotter Dam meet all those desires! Hooee!!! Why not go for it big time!DSCN2117

I had a lot of fun preparing for the class so hope those doing the class do too! Lots of other classes are available if serene mania doesn’t appeal. Perhaps I will see you there?

Art as Therapy: Appreciation

Such is the power of art: It is both witness to and celebrator of the value of the ordinary, which we so IMG_0080.JPGfrequently forsake in our quests for artificial greatness, a kind of resensitization tool that awakens us to the richness of our daily lives.    (Maria Popova, Brainpickings)

Nearly all my art is a celebration. Countless posts on this blog reveal that. More often than not, I am celebrating my good fortune at having another day to experience the miracle that it is to walk the earth. (Thich Nhat Hanh) The angel pictured (left) was created to celebrate the arrival of myDSCN2149 grand daughter.

I appreciate birds, feathers, family, colour, friends and freedom, silver hair and the darling Labrador who cured me of my animal phobia.  (While the link between the necklace on the right and that darling animal may not be abundantly clear, take my word for it. He is very much a part of it).

That’s the end of my reflections on Maria Popova’s great essay about Art as Therapy by Alain de Boton and John Armstrong. It was a fun way to make me really read!

Art as Therapy: Growth

Obviously, there is great overlap in the functions of art that de Boton and Armstrong describe.  I just DSCN2146know that if I try to make something in response to something I read, I am more likely to read mindfully and try to absorb the essence or lessons from what I read. This little exercise of selecting past work that reflects the functions has made me really think, rather than skim.

Growth.

Aaah…growth.  Often when I make art, I am practising life skills I want more of! I think that is one of the reasons I am so passionate about teaching.  Where can I practise making an intention and staying on track to bring it to fruition…make art; Where can I practise taking risks and playfully experimenting with new ideas…make art; where can I practise openness and moving beyond my comfort zone…make art.  Where can I learn to feel comfortable with not knowing…make art!

Classes with Mel Young and Ann Evers were great opportunities to go outside my comfort zone. (The necklace featured in yesterday’s post was made in Mel’s class)  At last year’s Contemporary Craft Retreat (and more exciting news about that later!) I went to a class run by Susie McMahon where I made a head. Not a speck of polymer in sight. (Mind you there’s the unmistakable presence of two favourite elements: pods and Nepal!) Signing up required overcoming a fear of the unknown and being willing to risk failure! Skills I learnt in this class have permeated MY work in a different medium.

Let’s expand the boundaries of who we are by helping us overcome our chronic fear of the unfamiliar and live more richly by inviting the unknown. (Brainpickings)

 

 

Art as Therapy: Self-Understanding

DSCN3223We mystify ourselves. Well, I often mystify myself!

This is why I related to de Boton and Armstrong’s notion that the art we surround ourselves with, and the art we make, gives us a language to communicate something about ourselves to others when words fail.  Lately for me, poetry (others’!)  more clearly expresses my own inarticulate thoughts.  Our art too can often say things about us, or for us, when the wordsDSCN5169 are not enough.

They describe the situation where we encounter works of art that seem to latch on to something we have felt but never recognized clearly before.  I sense this recognition looking at the timber sculptures of Robyn Gordon, or the polymer art by Tory Hughes and Genevieve Williamson.

Many of my pieces were journeys in self knowledge but three stand out: a filigree box which incorporated symbols that are significant to me; a necklace I made in Broken Hill at a a time of great upheaval and a necklace that speaks of the DSCN1763relationship between me and my mother-my desire to know what it is that helps her to live well.  At least jewellery is more wearable than inchoate attempts at self expression!

Art as Therapy: Rebalancing

So…part four already in my little series reflecting on Maria Popova’s Art as Therapy.

For me both the process of making art and the final product, is re-centring for me.  Picking up a lumpThree breaths of polymer, rolling it, twisting it, allowing something to emerge stills my monkey mind.  Going down the stairs to my making room truly is my oasis. Here I wrote about making a necklace that reminds me to choose; here I write about an amulet that reminds me to be grateful and playful.

De Boton and Armstrong believe that we want to be good, but sometimes lose the plot (my translation!) At these points, they say, we can derive enormous benefit from works of art that encourage us to be the best versions of ourselves.

DSCN2121What a wonderful thought! I could make something that encourages someone to be the best version of themselves! (I have to confess that part of me recoils at the vaguely new-agey ring to this overworked phrase but I choose to ignore that to hear deeper truths!)

In my art I do try to express or consolidate what I am learning about how to live.  I make altars, amulets, talismans (talismen?) and jewellery to encourage, remind, comfort or nudge.  I wrote here about creating a piece with my mother based on a book by Jan Chozen Bays to help me cultivate mindfulness in my everyday life.

De Boton and Armstrong say that: Art can save us time — and save our lives — through opportune and visceral reminders of balance and goodness that we should never presume we know enough about already.

Not sure that my art is life saving, but some of my art reminds me, at least, of a goodness and balance that I can attain to.

Art as Therapy: Sorrow

The third function of art as defined by de Boton and Armstrong and described in more detail here is sorrow.  One of the unexpectedly important things that art can do for us is teach us how to suffer more successfully…base and unimpressive experiences are converted into something noble and fine — exactly what may happen when sorrow meets art.

Less of my work expresses sorrow although it may permeate pieces and be a part of their gestation. DSCN2022 I once described this piece shown as a love song. As well as delight in the desert landscape where I had lived for over four years, it was indeed expressing sorrow. And fear. And later on was linked to disappointment. But now I pass my Desert Walking Gown every time I enter my house. I remember my tenacity and focus. I know what I can do. And what is important. And where I can feel grounded, quiet and still.

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Art as Therapy: Hope

Yesterday I wrote about remembering. De Boton and Armstrong’s second function of art is hope. Read their discussion at length here where they talk about the power of art to put us in touch with a DSCN4319blithe, carefree part of ourselves that can help us cope with inevitable rejections and humiliations.  Don’t we need that?

I am an introvert but much of my art is flamboyant, over-the-top and certainly tapping into that carefree, blithe part of me that loves to play.

 

Certainly, the “girls” over the ages, have been truly alter egos!  Mind you, I have long ago given up hope of having boobs like theirs.

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Art as Therapy: Remembering

Thanks to my beloved Maria* I have discovered some writing by philosopher Alain de Boton and art historian John Armstrong on Art as Therapy. I won’t repeat what she says here but for the next seven days I will illustrate each of their core psychological functions of art with photographs of my own work.

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The first function is remembering. They write that art is a way of preserving experiences, of which there are many transient and beautiful examples, and that we need help containing. Much of my art has an element of remembering. This triptych (detail shown) was created using the images I saw on a weekly bus journey when i lived in Nepal.

 

IMG_4098And this necklace (R) was created to remind me of the elation I felt at finally arriving in Lo Manthang, Upper Mustang; a destination I had dreamed of reaching for nearly 30 years.  The crushed tobacco tin was, to me, a precious relic.

*So much noise on the internet isn’t there? I hope I don’t contribute. Maria helps me to turn up the signal, wipe out the noise.