Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Crowning Glories

Lydia. Found in NV.
     I have a weakness for antique photograph's of women, especially for unique and different ones. "Lydia" was the only information written on this striking photo. I love her strength, her intensity. No shrinking violet this woman. She wears this hat with confidence. A natural beauty.

Elegant woman.
     This photo had no name nor even a photographer's logo or city as some do.
This is an elegant woman in an amazing hat
which I would tentatively date to the 1890's to turn of the century. Her chapeau is complete with adornments, velvet and feather plumes. A lovely embossed leather clutch bag as well.

Postcard photo of lady.

     This photograph is a postcard which dates it after 1907 when Kodak made postcard backing available. This new concept made taking affordable photo's more accessible to rural America as keepsakes to share. On the back of this one, never mailed, written in pencil, it says, "from Mother to Huldiu. Was glad to hear from you once again." A day in town or perhaps on a holiday, purse in hand. Ever so slight smile on her lips. Her hat looks as solid and practical as she is.

Modern 1917 woman.

     This striking young woman was in-fashion as she posed for a profile shot of her wide-brimmed, floral embellished, sheer haloed hat in 1917. This  closer fitting
Hat did not need a hat pin and was easier to wear. This too is a postcard but has no message, name or city.

Mother & daughter.
     No they are not wearing hats but you must agree these are impressive, matching hair styles. Truly "Crowning glories"! I just had to share them in this post. No names, city and the photographers mark is too faint to read. Now that is some "big hair"!


Thursday, September 7, 2017

Beauty in the Light

"My Sea, My Sister, My Tears by Ntombephi “Induna” Ntobela.

I recently had the opportunity to see the exhibit Ubuhle Women-Beadwork and the Art of Independence, at Dayton Art Institute in Dayton, Ohio. To say that their beadwork is dazzling, exquisite, or beautiful is an understatement. Words don't do it justice, nor do my pictures do these pieces their just do, but I had to share because I made a connection with them. Something spoke to me on an energetic level, definitely an emotional one, perhaps even a cellular level. 

The Ubuhle artists community was begun in 1999 as a way to empower women living and working together in rural KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Working with traditional skills they produced a new beading style on  a black cloth called ndwango. Many of the women are single mothers and their art goes to help support their families. The name Ubuhle means "beauty" but specifically the "shimmering quality of light in glass" which also has special "spiritual significance." As someone who also has had a long love affair with the way light reflects through glass ( a childhood memory, see my earlier blog post "It Takes a Village) I totally understand. There is a quality of light that I find meditative, and these brightly colored, swirling designs of tiny glass beads mesmerized me this day.

The playful colors, the textures and patterns, the memories interwoven through out, like this one "My Mother's Peach Tree, speak of the simple joy of life and living. It is exuberant, it is hopeful. What strikes me is that women, even dealing with extreme poverty and illness still see and feel the beauty of life and nature and are desirous to create and share that beauty forward with others. Women always strive to make things beautiful for their loved ones. 

Each woman in the community works in her own style and an average panel can take up to 10 months to complete.

There are a number of beaded works of Bulls and it was explained that each woman spent time with that animal, getting to know it and taking pictures of it so that over the many months of beading work they would be able to remember its characteristics.

As I walked through the first room I read a quote from one of the woman who had since passed away from HIV/AIDS, a disease that has taken 5 women artists now from their collective and has devastated their villages. She spoke of beading throughout her illness, how it helped her get through her days, how she believed she was weaving her Self, her essence, her memory into her art, into the very fibers of the textile she was creating. Something of her to leave behind as she knew she would not survive and for a moment I felt her and all of the women. I saw their collective beauty reflected back in the shimmering light cast from the thousands upon thousands of tiny glass beads. I connected with their joys and sorrows in every flower, animal and bird.

At the conclusion of the main exhibit we were directed to go upstairs to see this final, massive piece entitled "The African Crucifixion" which is 15' high and took over one million beads, and a year to complete. Seven artists made the panels and cross that make up this work. I found that when you moved out from the piece different images came to life that you didn't see up close. Birds suddenly appeared in trees, the stars in the sky above twinkled and patterns came alive in the swirls of space.
It was magical, it was beautiful, it was alive with memories and it radiated love.

"The African Crucifixion."
Thank you for sharing your art, your lives and your dreams with us. You are all truly women inspirit.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Preparing for Transformation

     Before we set off upon a new journey, whether it be a physical one, a fresh course of study, starting a new job, moving to a new city, or even pursuing a new spiritual path we need to spend time preparing ourselves.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Moving with Focus into a New Existence

     Earlier this year I was inspired to create an art journal based upon the "Sufi Book of Life, 99 Pathways of the Heart" by Neil Douglas-Klotz. This is the next set of collages in that journey. These recent pages are concerned with the concentration and focus needed that leads to the movement of creating, with feeling the radiance of creativity working through us and finally to how we can work with this energy to design a new existence in our lives.
     Pathway 10 is entitled Concentration. Focusing in on what is important in my life right now helps me to see opportunities that I may be missing. I fortunately am good at finishing projects that I begin but I do realize that at times I take on too many projects at one time and at times projects that are merely distractions from what I should be working on; the all important lesson of learning boundaries and how to say no.

Pathway 10 Concentration.

      So this is about embodying focus and my mind immediately goes to nature and in particular gardens and flowers. We envision what we want to grow and we plan. A contained garden is a symbol of our own soul held within our bodies and at its center is our heart. Preparing this page I knew I  wanted to have a garden in the background with a lovely gate. So there is a very subtle water colored garden beyond. I found an image of this wrought iron scrolled gate in a magazine, it was an ad for a purse. Using an exacto knife I concentrated on the task of cutting it out which took a fair amount of time.  The peony and butterfly symbolize focused awareness, joy and transformation.  So this page reminds me to focus on what it is that brings me joy...yeah sometimes we forget, get off on a tangent, but that's okay because sometimes we need to explore other possibilities, gain a new perspective by stepping away.
     There are accompanying meditations with each pathway and in this one the author says to ask your self some questions as you focus upon your body and breath. I learned what wants to be expressed in my life next and how, if I listen to my body and intuition  it will not steer me wrong.

     The next pathway takes our envisioned inspiration and gets it moving, Carving and Forming, pathway 11.

Pathway 11 Carving and Forming.

     Now we are in preparation and planting stage. We are moving our passion into form. We till the soil, amend, and prepare the foundation for the seeds so that they will have the most perfect conditions in which to grow. There are no shortcuts, it takes dedication and awareness to details at this point. This is where we really get our hands dirty.
     In the background of this page you will see a geometric configuration and stars in different sizes and shapes, this represents the pieces of existence and of my life. The large arched jeweled bracelet symbolizes the art and skill of creating beauty. The hand covered in paint the creative action needed to carve out an inspired life and within the hand a magic wand to remind me of the mysteries and awe that I feel within the creative process. It is actually an image of a floor lamp!
     So we've envisioned and started working on our project, what's next? Radiating Creativity, pathway 12!
     The author writes, "Feeling the potential to create something completely new and different from nothing." So this is about the process, about the creation of movement. So naturally to me I think water, fluidity.

Pathway 12 radiating creativity.

     This process mirrors the idea that our expression is a reflection of the Divine but one that is not stationary, rather it is always moving like a breath. So to my mind when I create the movement it is as natural as swimming through water, like breathing.
So in my collage a woman swims outwards from a large oyster shell, coming out of her shell to express her light, her gifts which are precious pearls. There is freedom in her movement, she is liberated from her confines. "...being like a fountain, or a spring bubbling from deep within. When we dive into art it has the ability to transport and transform us. Is it any wonder that I just had to add glitter to this page because I so understand and resonate with this pathway!?
      Life is all about movement. What will you put in to motion today? What pearl of creativity wants to be brought up into the light of your expression? String them one by one around your neck and wear them near your heart because we all know that pearls must be worn close to the skin in order to bring out there full lustrous beauty.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Light of Support, Protection, Strength and Restoration- The Art Journal Journey Continues...

Pathway 6 Support.

     I am loving the process that is taking place within as I explore each pathway from "The Sufi Book of Life, 99 Pathways to the Heart" by Neil Douglas-Klotz, through art. As I have explained in two earlier posts I was inspired to take my exploration of this book and its teachings deeper through various mediums within an art journal. So here are the next 4 pages.

     Pathway 6- Support.  Something that my Mother instilled in me as a young child was her constant love and support and the importance of encouraging those around you. As a child I knew I was loved, that I was cherished, and that in turn gave me confidence and the feeling that I was safe. This image reminded me of her, she always had a halo of flour and bits of dough in her rings upon her hands. She guided me in life as she did in the kitchen when she taught me to cook. Her hands have always been a symbol of love to me because it was through her hands that she expressed that love, and in every thing she did. The quote is one that I came across that I felt my Mom would have agreed with whole heartedly; that it would have been "a deprivation to not be able to give one's gifts to those one loves most."

     This teaching is about trusting that the support of the Universe, of Unity, is always with you, faith. And it's funny because my Mom used to say that she always struggled with the concept of faith, yet she, to me, embodied that principle entirely.
     Through symbols I have included "amen" which this pathway translates as meaning, "We affirm that what we have just said will be the ground of our actions, the earth from which our new growth will spring." I love that definition which means more to me because it creates a living movement between the words of my heart to the actions that are a result of my intent. Sharing takes on a new level of holiness.

Pathway 7 Protection Blanket.

     Protection- Pathway 7, I immediately envisioned the Universe as a blanket so I created a collaged quilt out of blue and white papers, a color scheme that I especially love, to wrap around myself. I especially connected with the idea that we are both separate from yet a part of the greater whole. Everything comes from the Universe yet we must act our part, be the expression, create movement. We can't just hide under the blanket and hope for the best. We can wear the blanket about our shoulders for comfort and strength but we still have to do our part to care for ourselves and for others.

Strength of Form, Pathway 8.

     Strength of Form- Pathway 8 is about knowing that the strength that flows through the Universe, that is moving through your own being at this moment, is the same strength that moves in every living thing.

     I immediately envisioned this page earthy in color and texture so it is collaged in brown and rust tones, birch bark paper, stone and of course, center stage is an elephant with tusks and leathery skin, the epitome of wise and gentle strength. This is about matter, our physical form and that yes we will be scarred and bruised from our journey, our 'hide' may become thickened to feeling emotions because of it, but we must move and work with this energy to the best of our abilities. We can gather strength from the earth to help us create lives of purpose.

     Al Aziz translates to meaning "compressed life breath" which leads to strength but you must be aware that this can also lead to arrogance. So be mindful... your strength does not come from you but rather from the Universe around you.

Repair & Restoration- Pathway 9.
     This pathway, Repair and Restoration-Pathway 9, was especially meaningful for me in that I needed to focus upon healing my own heart which was broken from grief and loss. Symbolically I sewed and glued my own heart back together.

     This is a proactive pathway...meaning you need to heal thyself; do whatever it takes, gather your strength from the Universe, get creative and allow it to help you heal your self. For me art and writing, creating with my hands and being in nature have been instrumental in my own personal journey of healing. The green background symbolizes this healing energy; the pink grape paper of the heart stands for fruitfulness; the open wild roses for blossoming love; and the Bee for extracting the sweetness of life, for industry and my connection with the Divine Feminine. Love letters to myself can be found in the small envelope and tucked within my heart which I sewed together with green thread. To me this page hums with energy and hope.

Love letter to my Self. I am...

    In conclusion, Support, Protection, Strength and Restoration- all qualities that we have available to us and that we need to experience in our lives and ones that we need to embrace ourselves within our daily lives. They all ask us to embody movement. I like to think of this movement as Light- 'Support your light', 'Protect your light', 'Strengthen your light' and 'Restore your light' and in doing so you will then be able to 'Share your light.' In much love and light...

Thursday, June 15, 2017

More Pathways of My Heart- the Journey Continues

     The journey of exploring the 99 Pathways of the Heart from the Sufi Book of Life, through the expression of art, continues. I will be sharing four more art journal pages in this post.

     As I make my way through the book I find that I have the distinct feeling that I am not alone as I explore my spirituality through art. Sometimes I feel a real pull to start right in on a page and then at other times it seems that it takes days, sometimes even a week to fully prepare and all along the way I feel this presence leading me, sometimes pushing me forward. All of a sudden I know when it is time to sit down and create. Pieces seem to naturally come together.

     The Moon of Love, Pathway 2, asks you to look at how you receive love and compassion in your life. It is about creating a space within your self large enough to receive as much as you give. When I think about giving and receiving I realize that I am much more comfortable with giving than I am with the receiving and the levels of both need to be balanced in our lives, a continuous flowing stream of give and take. I especially loved the accompanying poem by Sufi Hafiz, which gave me the inspiration for the collage;
"The Sun is the wine, the moon is the cup. Pour the sun into the moon if you want to be filled..."
               The liquid movement you pour into your life fills you with ecstasy, joy, and compassion. How do you look at what you receive...are you thirsty for more or are you parched from lack? Is your heart overflowing, bottomless. It reminds us to reflect this love to help transform our world.

The I Can Power of the Cosmos, Pathway 3.
I felt like I was "diving into the depths" with this one, Pathway 3-The 'I Can Power of the Universe.' Hence my little diver preparing to jump in to the blue-green clear waters. This pathway invites you to just go for it, get your hands dirty. Be who you are, express yourself, create your life whole heartedly. Stop "playing it safe". Bloom. Be vibrant, alive, be awash in color, stand tall. Look at life with a different perspective, a unique eye.

I found this image of a model in a beautiful gown and cape with a light that made her look ethereal, ghost-like. I fell in love with the image. She is confident, radiating light. This pathway asks us to realize our own power and then take responsibility for it. We must go the distance, dive in and immerse ourselves in life if we are ever to realize our own full potential. I had fun working with watercolors on this one. The painting in the background I continued on the page with paint, letting it flow and grow, something that I am doing in my own life. Envision it. Yes, you can!

Sacred Space, Pathway 4.

     Sacred Space, Pathway 4, found me experiencing a flow of peace and serenity which I believe I caught in the feel of this page. It encourages us to step out of the flow of busyness in our lives. It asks us to look at what we take the time to create space for in our you make space for what brings you joy?

     I broke out the watercolors again and painted a peaceful and calm lake of blues and lavenders. At the bottom of the page is a rivers bank with stones to step out on to. In the center of the page is a round, focused landscape of a mountain with its reflection clear in the waters below, which to me symbolizes our connection to the Divine. This reminds me that I must have a clear vision of what I want to create in my life. I have always been searching for peace and truth. I must feel peace in my 'heart glass' and reflect that clearly outwards if peace is what I want to create in my life.

     What do I make room for in my life? I have many interests as I am curious and want to explore this life fully. So all of the things that I make a conscious effort to include are creativity, friends, family, my writing, collage, meditation, and my dear animals amongst other things. I will always have a flow of interests. There are also things that I know I need to bring more intention to, like more love and being fully mindful.  All of these things are blessings as they are sacred and need to be treated as such.
     "When dust clouds your heart glass how can the mirror clear? Remove the dust and rays reveal your real face."

Peace at the Beginning, Pathway 5.  

     Peace at the Beginning-Pathway 5. I wish this picture showed the depth of this page, the texture. It is the night sky and under the pastel colors of black, purple, green and blue there are embossed stars, stars upon stars. This was a meditation upon peace, what it looks like, feels like, how it is both changing and unchanging. This pathway reminds us that our ancestors looked up into the same night sky and believed the universe was very much like the "caravan of life". To look on the passing of time as a constant movement with the past before us up ahead and the future behind us. It gives one a different perspective into how we look at life and how we move. Does not our past lead us into our future and not always for the best? So it behooves us to look closely at what we are allowing to dictate our movements. If it is fear based we need to take a second look and clarify that what we are creating for our future is full of potential.

    This pathway reminds me too that at one time there was nothing but space so why do I waste time worrying about problems and petty difficulties? Life is a precious blessing, I am grateful. I am thankful for all of the people who have helped me throughout my life. Peace be with all of you...

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

An Inheritance of Thread

         Signe Widestrand, my Grandmother, age about 17.

      Women have always been the needle weavers, the creative 'adorners' with an eye for 'dressing up' even the simplest and most mundane of objects in order to make their homes, their clothes, and the lives of their families more beautiful. A needle or a loom, some colored threads or yarn and a bit of time and a room could be transformed from dull to extraordinary.

      My maternal grandmother Signe Widestrand Russell, 1898-1993, was quite a talented needle woman and weaver, amongst other things. I inherited her trunks full of hand made sheets and pillow cases, drapes, towels, clothes and table runners of varying shapes and sizes. As I pull the individual pieces from the trunks now I imagine her and her younger sisters all sitting together, heads bent to their intricate work, dreaming of their futures as they worked on the linens that would fill each of their own dowry trunks. My fingers lightly follow a line of tiny, fine stitches. I marvel at how the backs of cross stitched runners are as neat and tidy as the fronts. I wonder at the hours that were invested to create the geometric folk art designs on the rugs.

Cut work trim on a sheet.
      This is the decorative hem of one of Signe's sheets. In cut work and drawn thread work the linen is cut away and then the holes are bound or filled, or just the weft or warp threads are removed and the remaining threads bound into patterns. Her initials in Satin stitch are above. I have a set of her sister Margit's sheets as well.

Detail of embroidered blouse.
     The fine, light blouse, so delicate, blooms with flowers. Perfect for a warm Mid summer day.

Blouse with embroidered details.

     I didn't know of my grandmothers skill until I was in my teens. I discovered her treasure trove of handwork held within two trunks in her bedroom when we were moving her from Massachusetts to Southern California. My father's job with the Department of Defense was transferring us to San Diego.

     I remember pulling a long woven rug from one of the trunks and falling in love with the earthy tones and the geometric folk art pattern's. One rug after the other I unrolled, followed by an assortment of woven pillow covers. My exclamations brought my Grandmother into the room. She promptly rolled them all back up and stowed them away once again, her mouth a thin, straight line. These things were not to be used, nor touched. I could not understand then or now why anything so beautiful would not be shared. What was the point of making them if you didn't use or at least display them? Eventually I convinced her to at least hang a few of her weaving's on the walls and during the holidays the Yule runners finally saw the light of candles and twinkling lights, even if it was for a brief time once a year.
Signe and Lill-Sie, my Mother. 1936.

     Early on I was drawn to embroidery which was a wonder as my Mother, Lill-Sie, hated anything to do with a needle and/or sewing. She had memories of being forced to sit and sew in school and had no further desire or really any aptitude for it she admitted as she was too impatient. Somehow it was never mentioned that her mother was so adept until my find.

fragment of an embroidered runner.

     Signe used to go to museums and copy patterns. Some of the runners, now so very fragile and torn, were un-salvageable, so we saved at least blocks of designs which I hope to attach to other things. Later during the 1920's and the popularity of Egyptian designs she made a number of drapery panels embroidered with scarabs.


Cross stitch decorated handkerchief bags.
 Scandinavians used a lot of cross stitch patterns; garlands, deer, butterflies, crowns, and flowers. Runners, linen bags of all shapes and sizes to keep handkerchiefs, under wear and collars flat and tidy.

Cross Stitch floral pattern from a runner.

     Grandmother rugs and pillow covers with fringe, in earthy tones and traditional patterns.

Hand woven rugs and pillow covers.

     As for now I refold and roll and put the linens and rugs back in the trunks. I can't help but wish that my Grandmother had taken the time to pass on her knowledge and skills to me. It would have been perhaps a way for us to connect with each other on a different level as a crafts person teaches a student. And perhaps sitting together she would have reminisced about her sisters and her childhood, something she never talked about either, it was her memories and her family and she didn't want to share them either. She was the eldest of 10 children and the only one of her family to come to the United States in the 1920's. She lived in her adopted country longer than her homeland.

     Threads interwoven to create beauty and perhaps too they were the warps and wefts that kept her connected to home and family as she created a new life in a new land. Stitches in time, laid one by one, woven together with memories and now they grace my life but I will share them forward and celebrate my Grandmother's skill. Tack sa mycket.