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 lump 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.
What 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.
There is ecstasy in paying attention. You can get into a kind of Wordsworthian openness to the world, where you see in everything the essence of holiness. . .
In a recent Studio Mojo, Cynthia Tinapple featured the the work of Ellen Langer on Mindfulness (five points that help are summarised here). Dr. Langer says:
Beginning an artistic activity is one way to help us move from excessive mindlessness to a more mindful life…engaging our creativity more fully, giving it a a form that holds some innate interest, ought to be a part of every day life for each of us. (On Becoming an Artist: Reinventing Yourself through Mindful Creativity)
Look at what happens when Genevieve Williamson looks mindfully here.
My mindful arrangements of things on Mondays was, in part, inspired by the joy we have had in rediscovering things that have been in storage for over seven years. I am not the only one with a driven creative energy in the house and it was wonderful to unpack these lovely leadlights and to discover them (relatively) inatct. A testimony to fabulous packaging I must say. They now hang in their new sun drenched home and we are really enjoying them.
I love the two old Tibetan blokes and we are careful to arrange them so that they can continue there conversation while the young ones ride their horses and practise their archery.
The other wonderful thing is that the leadlight making gear was unpacked and bought over too so the resident glass artist is rediscovering his leadlighting skills. Without too much bloodshed.
The other reason I chose these for the week is that my Training the Elephant practice this week is to expand my awareness of light in all its forms, bright and dim, direct and reflected. How good are these for prompting me to do that? Maybe I can enlist the artist to make me a leadlight mindfulness tile….
I read my mindfulness book each week when I was in Nepal, attempted the practices and did little sketches of potential tiles but didn’t actually make any. For obvious reasons. Like I had absolutely NO TIME and no room to make any in!! So over the last couple of weeks of not going anywhere I have been catching up….mindfully of course…on my project of making a tile for each of mindfulness activities. And thinking about how to put them all together. The notion of a wall hanging of brooches on dark fabric held by the hands (and face) of a wise woman is evolving. Lots of stuff emerging from the depths of my subconscious and I am interested that when I flick through my note books that the seeds of ideas for lots of what is happening now are all there. Just waiting for the gestation to finish!
I have uploaded photos of all the recent tile here on FlickR. Some may get re-imagined (good word that!) and some already have been! Can you tell which is Listen like a sponge, Become aware of procrastination and Pay attention to the movement of air-like the wind and your breath on this page? (Hint: Remember all those years ago when people gave one another pictures of round tuits so they could do something when they got a round tuit? That was the inspiration for one of the tiles. Kind of corny but it worked for me!)
I am also thrilled and relieved to report that I am finally making progress on pieces I am preparing for an Exhibition in August this year. When I did Tory Hughes’ Creative Development manual, one of the results was committing myself to this challenge. Not quite sure what I was thinking or what particularly confident and brave muse I was channelling at the time but the dates are set and that is a great incentive to work. Again, it has been fascinating for me to see how seeds of ideas are growing after a long period of enforced dormancy. In Judy Belcher and Tamara Honaman’s great book Polymer Clay Master Class, Robert Dancik makes the comment that he often has many projects on the go at once. ( He says he usually has 15-25 projects on the go on his workbench which conjured images of a pretty impressive work bench!!!) He said he finds that when he surrounds himself with projects that utilize [hundreds of various materials, processes and procedures], they start to talk to each other. On a much smaller scale, I find this to be very true to and find that what happens with one project is enriched by what is going on with another. I love the organic-ness of this! How things I might have thought I had all stitched up in my head then grow due to something else I am thinking about. Shraddha’s Toolbox (pictured in progress here) reflects that. Ideas I had for a number of things, (none actually a toolbox!) seemed to all hum together when I just started this. I was like a pig in mud making this one and found that many of my motifs, or personal symbols and emerged, begging to be incorporated in a piece that I wanted to be both beautiful and functional!!! I put a few photos on FlickR too.
In Nepal, I am generally referred to as Wendy didi or merely didi (big sister) but the ladies have given me a proper Nepali name and that is Shraddha. It is MY toolbox, hence the name. La, back to Shraddha.
I am not going to be distracted from the task at hand by writing a long post. Lucky for you lot! But here is the second Monday vignette of composed mindfulness (for want of a more succinct description) for the year. They won’t all feature my ladies but, like last week’s, this one does. She stands in front of a beautiful glass plate by Sheryl Glassmith , one of the TARTS (Textile and Arts Collective) of Rundle Mall, Adelaide and the scene is completed by two fabulous resin clouds that I love. Her shield is made from a discarded jug doily I picked up at the tip and she was my first figure in many years. I wrote about her here. The tip shop has closed (I hope this is a temporary measure) so this scene mindfully acknowledges the contribution of Broken Hill’s tip to past creations. And I love these blue and coral colours and she seems serene. And I do think she is listening rather nicely which reminds me of my word this year.
My mindful Mondays also reading the next chapter of Taming the Elephant, but more of that another day. Now it’s back to the embellished toolbox.
I calculated that I have spent 12 whole days here in the Hill in the last 4 months. This explains the exuberance with which I tossed my battered red suitcase up on a high shelf for three months rest. And it explains a certain sense of needing to get off the bus!
The travelling has been fantastic and it was wonderful to catch up with family on our travelling road show. Not so many friends as we’d have liked because when we were down south we were engaged in a fascinating archaelogical activity called sorting out stuff that has been in storage under the house for 7 years. Ah how we laughed.
We culled, culled and reculled. We kept some things, but usually took photos and liberated stuff – often to the tip. Our lovely Jen said, when I was sad about farewelling some things, Don’t worry, you have the memories for ever. Not totally confident about that at my age baby! Still, we are practised at the downsizing and it was a good thing to do. Some non-culled things will be incorporated into art works and others will inspire revisiting favourite themes!
Here are some photos of some of my early artistic endeavours (my parents saved the painting and drawings) and a few of the earliest polymer ladies. I hope 2013 will be the year of getting back to making my girls! With a tad more refinement than these dames.
Even if it only contains the things I know about, 2013 will be a busy year so when I can, I hope to engage in a practice that acknowledges the busyness, enforces some stillness and celebrates the rediscovery of some treasured things. This will be my Mindful Monday Montage! Every Monday I hope to arrange some treasured things, some long hidden in boxes, take a photo and do some quiet reflecting. (Anything that gets me quietly reflecting this year will be a bonus!!!) Here’s last weeks and tomorrow I will post this Monday’s. Already catching up but blame travel!
More soon, including the traditional ponder about my word for the year (but it will be an untraditionally short ponder!) I will announce the necklace winner in February so you still have until the end of January to make your favourite necklace comment. Be brave. While it’s fine to email me, why not make it on the post! See here about that little offer!