Tag Archives: rima staines

On Midwinter

Solstice dawns bright and beautiful.  I head outside with a hot cup of coffee and three eager dogs and marvel at the pink light on a lovely sycamore across the creek from us.  I snap a little photo with the ever present phone, as you do in this day and age.

Just after capturing the image, I hear crows calling and they fly into the frame with the same sycamore and I think that would have been a nice photo as well, but I merely stand and watch them fly and listen to a snippet of their airborne conversings amongst one another.

The dogs snuffle around on the ground, surely on the trail of deer, fox or coyote who wander in the night.

After a bit I am chilled (and so is my coffee) so we head inside.  I check the usual electra-outlets of things and am thankful for a well curated online sphere.  There will be news when I decide to take on the days’ burnings, but for this morning, which is Solstice, I opt to seek beauty for a bit.  To sift my intake through the lens of loveliness.

The Splendid Table did a piece a while ago on the country of Georgia and it’s culinary traditions.  They discussed which foods would be presented, and how they might be served (in lots of lovely small dishes), and that often, between courses, those at table might take to singing.  This morning I am once again reminded of Georgian singing via a post by a musical acquaintance.  And now, thanks to him, these lovely singers are in my ears as I ponder the still point in the turning of the world.  Somehow these minored harmonies are a fitting soundtrack to the day.

We must be so very careful what we feed ourselves just now.  There is so much work to be done in the world.   On some days, the prospect of shifting the huge paradigms which must be shifted if we are to survive, seems insurmountable.  Music, powerful art, the magic of poetry all serve to shore us up and supplement our souls during these dark days.  Nourishment.

I’m grateful for the gatherers of words who keep me nourished online.  Here are just a couple of examples…..

Shapechangers in Winter (excerpt)

This is the solstice, the still point
of the sun, its cusp and midnight,
the year’s threshold
and unlocking, where the past
lets go of and becomes the future;
the place of caught breath, the door
of a vanished house left ajar.
Taking hands like children
lost in a six-dimensional
forest, we step across.
The walls of the house fold themselves down,
and the house turns
itself inside out, as a tulip does
in its last full-blown moment, and our candle
flares up and goes out, and the only common
sense that remains to us is touch,
as it will be, later, some other
century, when we will seem to each other
even less what we were.
But that trick is just to hold on
through all appearances; and so we do,
and yes, I know it’s you;
and that is what we will come to, sooner
or later, when it’s even darker
than it is now, when the snow is colder,
when it’s darkest and coldest
and candles are no longer any use to us
and the visibility is zero: Yes.
It’s still you. It’s still you.
—Margaret Atwood

via Shippenverse over on Instagram

and….

I heard a bird sing In the dark of December.

A magical thing And sweet to remember.

‘We are nearer to Spring Than we were in September,’

I heard a bird sing In the dark of December.

– Oliver Herford

via @FintryTrust over on Twitter

The second quote was shared on Twitter by a young naturalist I follow over in Ireland named Dara McAnulty.  Dara keeps a blog of his outdoor adventures and he is passionate about the world.  He and his siblings offer a glimmer hope for the future of humanity.

I am grateful for my fellow image makers who sprinkle their visual magic around like a healing fairy-dust of sorts.

In her tweet accompanying this gorgeous image, artist Rima Staines writes, “Merry Yule to you all! Here’s to the coming of the strange masked mummers through the snow-bound village, playing music to sing the light back up out of the dark belly of the world.” Indeed. Her work has kept many of her fans, myself included, spellbound for many a season. You can find more of her work at the Hedgespoken Shop.

This past year has been a tumultuous one for much of the world.  I find myself in somewhat of a dystopic frame of mind and have had to work quite hard to remain above the fray psychologically.  (thank you yoga and the well worn running paths of this here village.) 

I wonder, how can I better be of service?  How can things change, in part by the actions of small players like myself in the great theater of the world, when our leaders collectively seem hell bent on a path to destruction on the backs of the vulnerable? 

I find myself questioning the very systems I once believed undeniable.  (I’m looking at you Capitalism.)  How can we operate in this world more lightly, how can we exchange work and energy and our livelihoods in a more just way?  There are many forging a new path and I find myself becoming a part of that conversation.  I choose bartering when I can to the notion of cold hard cash.  I read and listen to the words of fellow artisans and writers asking the same hard questions such as Amanda Palmer, Eloïse Sentito, and Ayana Young.   All the while, holding on tight to the tail of my work, even when it can feel a bit senseless at times.

It is the season of Christmas parties.  At our local illustrators gathering, a few of us talked of how the very act of making books for children is a political one.   We tuck the seeds of kindness and compassion in-between the lines and in the imagery of work for children, be that picture books, traditional fairy tales or puppetry.   Crafting beauty for the next generation feels like a radical thing indeed these days.  Perhaps they will rise up and be the leaders we need.  Kind.  Compassionate.

My beloved day-job fellows at Carroll Concertinas gathered for dinner last night and talked of the past year’s work.  On average, we produce 24 handcrafted, high end concertinas each year.  We make all of the parts ourselves and piece them together into these amazing instruments.  Our boss and dear friend Wally commended us on our craftsmanship and acknowledged the many other gifts and skills we bring to the table collectively as artists and musicians and fellow human beings.  In a some small way, to do this kind of work, at this intimate level, is also a somewhat radical notion.  I do not take the gift of this lightly and am deeply grateful.  Would that everyone in the world has work which challenges them and makes them happy and compensates them deeply on many levels.  That is a world I can wrap my weary brain around.

These are my ponderings on this day, the Solstice, the very time when we catch our breath as the world turns back toward the light.  May this metaphor come to pass in the coming months.  May we all have the courage to follow the light home to ourselves and to each other.  May the mere act of following this light be seen for the very brave thing it is.

And one more musical nudge…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Need for Slowness

azalea

It’s a gloriously frosty morning down here in this Springvalley of ours.

frost

The cold seems to have settled in for the season and it all feels a bit early, though I suppose it is November.  This week I dug out the heated waterer for the girls so they have access to unfrozen water, and we are back to our morning ‘oatmealworm’ breakfasts to keep them warm, fed and with enough salt in their little systems.  chicksThis time of year always puts me in a bit of a hibernatory place, in spite of  our culture’s Countdown to Christmas mentality.  I find myself drawn to slower pursuits and am inspired by others seeking the same in their worlds.  Since it has been a little while since I have checked in here at my online home, I figured I’d share a a few things I’ve come across which consider a slower world-view, as well as a couple of updates in studio news.  

Brew a cup of tea, or pour a wee dram of something else to warm you…..

The title for this particular post came from a quote from the above video.  “What we have is a need for slowness.”  I couldn’t agree more.  This couple and their enchanting caravan lifestyle came across my path via the interweb-wanderings and sharings from a couple of artist/writer/performer types upon whom I have recently been keeping a close watch.

Rima Staines and Tom Hirons have crafted a world full of magic and old-world style mystery with their art work, poetry, puppetry and beyond and they are fixin’ to take it on the road.  To live a simpler life in general and to share their artful wares and wonders with folks farther afield than their current home in Devon, England.

Tom and Rima created their crowdfunding video with the help of their uber-creative community of fellow artists.  Their project harkens to a world just outside of the reach of modernity, at the edges of our imagination and land of dreaming.  Hence, their new collaboration has the perfect title, Hedgespoken.  I have made it a point to share their project here and there on my own tendrils of social media because I really believe in what they are doing.  I grew up on the move myself (which is a story for another time and a longer burning fire) and have vivid and beautiful memories of time spent in my grans’ airstream trailer each summer.  Nothing fancy or romantic really, but for me, it was life shaping.

grans

People like Tom and Rima are quietly rebelling against the things that rush our world into the Land of Too Much (be it stuff, to-do lists, etc.) Their theater and home on wheels could possibly slow things down a bit for just a few people along their path, and remind us of the magic to be found in all things, if we but take the time to listen and look more closely.  Hedgespoken is in it’s home stretch of fundraising and I wish them a firm breeze at their backs as they sail on home to port with it.  If you believe in this particular brand of magic, head on over and toss a few coins into their hat.  You’ll be glad you did, as their blogs (here, here, and here) are chock full of fascinating and shadowy paths down the proverbial rabbit hole.

Another delightful bit of sweetness that has come across my path this last week is an interview of a quiet gardener in Ireland named Eimear Moran.  I found her thoughts on finding beauty and synchronicity and yes, the Divine in her own humble back yard to be truly inspiring.  She is another quiet rebel walking the path of slowing down and waking up to things that are in our reach in the day to day.  If, again, we but take the time to listen.

Eimear’s book is nearly available and I look forward to getting my hands on it.  In the meantime, you can keep up with her daily garden thoughts and meanderings at her page on the Book of Faces (I have Rima to thank for coining that lovely phrase.)

With all of these beauty-full beacons to light my own path, I am truly sinking into the season here myself.  My own small crowd-funding project to shore up my residency plans this January in Taos, NM is going well.  I too have a few more weeks to get to my goal and am so grateful for all the support thus far.  Ginger Small and her adventures have gotten the bulk of the attention lately as she is really the sparkly one of the bunch.  But there are also sheep and rabbits coming along with me on this trip.

Mona Lisa 1

Cards are being made of a number of these images, should you be interested in counting a few sheep….foggy sheep sun on foggy sheep

Or channeling your inner rabbit….bunnies

 

bunny 2

I am having great fun with all of them with thanks especially to my friend Vanessa Sorensen at Nessy Designs. She recently gave me a few pointers in photoshop which has helped me turn some of the mere sketches in my journal into things I can work with in print.  Vanessa and I get together occasionally to sketch and sometimes even to collaborate on a craft project.  The most recent of which is this little wonder of fashion…..

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Part of this notion of slowing down in my life includes activities like knitting, embroidery, printing my own clothes.  Vanessa’s cicada print, my years old skirt and a bit of embroidery to bug out the eyes makes for a wonderful one-of-a-kind fun thing to wear.  And to top it all off, it meant an afternoon spent with a fellow artist, sipping tea and sharing bits of things that had set our minds to wander and our hearts to sing lately.  That is the true gift.  Time Well Spent.

46i7xA_WxwohYaBa5ZDscc7huV-Tl0_JOlXySZ2yKf4SVou0iDfyeXQSWc62ztj8a8_y6upMnMC6tiTMJ1lRokV87f_TLRTTE5f7cHYXv-LzLDbVB7mL5YPiPAXHgtcnw

 

Speaking of bits of embroidery…..

Bogard_Leviathan_1Leviathan will be on display at the Kennedy Heights Art Center’s upcoming show Imagine, featuring members of the KHAC’s Artist’s Collective.  The show opens November 22.  If you are local here in the Ohio River Valley, do stop by and see us.  Some of my recent skull studies will also be up for grabs…..

unnamed skull study oil 1

What do you do to stem the flow of time?  How do you bring a desired slowness to your everyday?  I’d love your thoughts and links to others who might be in this same camp of Time outside of Time.

The mores and the lesses of things

Depth by bird in the attic

 

It is that time in the wheel of the year when many of us are called to be a bit pensive about things.  To consider the seasons that have passed and what they had to offer to us and what gifts we gave in return, as well as to gaze through the telescope of time, looking to what’s in store in the days, weeks and months to come.  I find it’s helpful to select a word which resonates for me in the deep pockets of my heart and to keep that word at hand through the year, almost as a keel to keep me on course as I sail on….. Last year’s word was FOCUS and I utilized it with great care and reverence. But I don’t believe we give up on a word once it has served us for a year, it merely acts as an addition to the tool box of life.  And so this year’s word, DEPTH will work with last year’s:  Depth of Focus.  I like the sound of it.

As a reminder of these chosen word talismans, those in my creative circle sometimes trade word laden gifts.  Above is one of these crafted by Michelle Blades of Bird in the Attic Studio.  Her world of whimsy and wordsmithery is simply enchanting and I am tickled with my murky depths ornament.  A reminder to go deep in all that I do in this New Year on the calendar.

Along with a word on which to focus, I like to make a little list of the mores and the lesses to consider.  Much like Ye Olde New Year’s Resolutions, but with less room to fail, the mores are all the things I’d like to add to my day to day while the lesses are things I could stand to curb.

 

 

More and lesses, a list of potentials

 

One of these ‘lesses’ is the time I spend monitoring and engaging in social media, for both work and play.   Much has been written by many about just this thing and two of my favorite blogosphere heroes, Rima Staines and Neil Gaiman have recently shared their thoughts on this dilemma.  As I consider what depth will look like in my life and work I know that the bite sized information available at the candy counters of Twitter and Facebook, Tumblr and other such temptations acts as both a driver of work and connectivity, and a swallower of precious time and productivity.  Simultaneously. Of course this can be endlessly frustrating and one could chase one’s own tail for days on end trying to come up with a solution to the quandary of it all.  But I don’t think there is a solution.  Like all complicated systems that come with good and evil, there must come a balance and we must simply ride the pendulum the best we can, attempting to know truthfully how much is enough for each of us.

Canary rides the pendulum of time

As December roared through town, swinging at my head with engagements and obligations, flurrying and hurrying, I began to think very concretely about how not to fall prey to the insanity of it all and I realized that time off from the virtual world, as much as I love so much of what it has to offer, was key to an even keel personally and professionally.  Along the same lines, I have opted to listen to music without ads to keep the screaming part of the world at bay, and this has already made the first few tentative steps down into the artistic rabbit hole easier and more successful.  I plan to keep these minor (yet major) changes in place as this new year gets underway.  As it has been for so many years now, it’s these micromovements, set to the course toward what feels to be our true north which really make for sustainable change and growth.

I wish you more mores in your lives, and fewer of the lesses which cling to your backs as well.  Happy New Year.  May your blessings be bright and bountiful.

 

 

Chicken Soup

Half of my family is down with a rotten head cold that has us all operating a bit behind the power curve.  We had a lovely Thanksgiving holiday here with my whole fam damily and then hit the ground running to Chicago for an Irish Dance Competition the next day.  It’s a funny thing, this dance phenomenon.  It would not, in a million years, even with the Irish music thing we have going here, be what I would have chosen as an activity for my daughter.  Her younger years were spent camping (and yes, pooping) in the woods, creek-walking and playing with mud pies.  She was the queen of mismatched puddle-boot couture.  It was a beautiful thing.

So riddle me this:  How did we get from here, (pardon the pixels, it was early in the digidays)

to here:

in full regalia with wig, make-up, sparkly gems and fancy materials.  I haven’t a clue.

Rachel, at 6512 and Growing, a blog I read regularly and thoroughly enjoy, writes often about her daughter Rose, and her tendency toward pink tutus and glittery, quintessentially Girly things.  She marvels and wonders at this girl child, so different from herself in many ways.  And she lets her bloom, in the way a Rose is bound to.  I love this.  And feel like maybe it’s a small nod from another mama that we have done the right thing in following our daughter into this wild and sparkly world of Irish dance.  It was what she wanted to do.  So we did it.

The cool thing is, at the end of the day, these dance kids are athletes.  They just present their athleticism behind the theatrical veil of costuming.  Like most athletes, they are a little smelly, they wear sweat pants most of the time and there is little make up to be found off the dance stage.  I used to worry about my little dancer becoming some prissy young thing, bossing us around, wearing too much make up and getting us onto reality TV.  But instead, the opposite has happened.  My daughter and most of her dance friends seem to have a healthy regard for make up and dressy clothing as Theater.  All Show.  They understand that all of that is just a costume, and that real life can easily be spent in sweats and a ponytail, especially during exam week.  They have gotten to play with all the crazy make up and have seen what it looks like on stage…. and then they wipe it all off and go curl up in a corner of the practice room like a litter of puppies to watch a movie while they await the next round of events.  All in all, this pursuit of hers, while I didn’t choose it, has proven to be a healthy thing for her.  A mix of art and athleticism that you would have to see to believe.  Still, being an indoor thing, with loads of people milling around, it wears this introvert inside out.

It was good to get away from the hustle and bustle of the hotel to take in a little bit of Chicago.  It seems there is an entrance to the Ministry of Magic there:

And a cool stainless steel sculpture that’s a bit like a super-sized funhouse mirror.  It’s Big Art Name is Cloud Gate,  but most folks just call it the Bean.

But it was good to get home.  To some quiet. To my dogs.  To some soup.  This push pull between outer and inner selves is a difficult one to navigate.  For me at least, too much time around too many people is enough to wear me right down to my soul’s last nerve and then I am good for no one.  That said, too many days on my own and I can get a little depressed.  A good buffer for this is the online community of fellow bloggers, artisans, writers and thinkers that I keep track of via Twitter, Facebook, Google Reader, etc.  Over time, I have come to rely on checking in with certain bloggers whose take on life, art and just stuff in general can shake up any stagnancy that might be happening in my own work.  I mentioned Rachel above.  Although she is years behind me in the mama-trip, she is wise and mellow and funny and I look forward to her posts about their life in the mountains of Colorado.  It is fun to follow bloggers near and far.  Near is the gratitude practice blog of my friend Julie at the Magic Beans Workshop.  And far; I have come to follow a number of artists in a village in England called Devon.  I’ve admired the work of Rima Staines for years.  I came across her work when I was delving into anything and everything that might be found in the pages of Women Who Run With the Wolves.  In art school I had trained as a sculptor and leaned mainly toward abstraction and texture and material to give any sense of narrative in my work.  But as I have written recently, narration born of imagery and collective story (the fairy tale) is where my heart is lately and where my online research is taking me.  The artists I have been reading about in Devon are all steeped in the work that calls to me.  One of my favorites is Terri Windling.  She is a writer, a visual artist, a prolific blogger.  Many people look to her as a beacon in the nebulous and difficult world of Creative Work.  I look forward to her blog posts daily with their links to magical places and people and inspiring things to consider.  Some folks even credit her writing as life-saving.

Yesterday, via Twitter, I was made aware that Ms. Windling has been experiencing some recent health and personal difficulties that have placed her in a state of financial challenge.  Wasting no time, her community, both locally in Devon, and around the world thru her virtual community, have decided to come to her aid.  They have created an auction to benefit her cause which is creating quite a buzz.  Contributing artists include Rima Staines and Wendy and Brian Froud, among many many others both well known and still undiscovered.  Reading about this auction and Terri’s plight brought me back to the fundraising we did a couple of years ago in honor of our friend Esme.  We literally heard from people all around the world.  Many we knew, many we did not.  But so many contributors were fellow artists.

It used to be, the image of The Artist was one of solo pursuits.  And in many ways, it still is a solitary life.  But thanks to online communities and the relevance of collaborative work these days, artists can find themselves surrounded by other artists who help to lift them when they stumble, who support them when they are down, who inspire them when they are in need of light.  We are each other’s Chicken Soup.  If you have a few minutes, check out the plethora of gifts and goodies on the Magick 4 Terri website and consider doing some shopping there for a good cause.  By supporting each other in times of need, we enable our own work to continue growing and changing – all above the safety net of community.

Peace.

 

 

fruit

Yesterday, with temps in the single digits, a sketchy friend and I decided to move our studios to the warmer climes of the Krohn Conservatory for a bit to draw plant forms and soak up the juicy green-ness and humidity there.  As always, this beautiful jewel in the crown of the Queen City did not disappoint.  We spent an hour or so drawing in the cactus room with thoughts of our upcoming trip to Taos

Upon leaving, I commented on the gorgeous citrus trees, heavy with oranges and lemons, wishing out loud that I might be able to try one of them.  The ladies in the front office overheard and handed me this Ponderosa Lemon to take home saying it had been laying around for a few days and I was welcome to it!  What a lovely gift!  We then got to chatting about some beautiful terrariums on display at the conservatory.  They gave me some tips on getting my own terrarium to grow more successfully.  I have plans to stock up on some charcoal and a new fern or two in the coming days.  Meanwhile I have this fabulous lemon to draw…. (Iris is fairly certain this is a large tennis ball destined to be her play thing.)

In other news, my ice box of a studio space is featured today in Terri Windling‘s lovely blog The Drawing Board as part of her “On My Desk” series.  A number of bloggers have showcased the work spaces of fellow artist/writer bloggers over the years and it’s a fun way to get a peek into each other’s spaces, if only virtually.  Terri is part of a village of artists who live and work in the town of Devon, England.  She and another web-fave of mine, Rima Staines embody the notion of Storyteller for me.  I feel a tremendous kinship with these artists half a world away.  They seem to write about the same concepts that interest and fascinate me… the blessings of an artistic community, the blissful presence of traditional music, the inherent wisdom of dogs.  Although their work is quite different from mine, the notions that drive it run along the same veins that seek truth and mystery in the day to day human experience.

Tomorrow this single-digit cold snap is supposed to break and I will again have the wax pots on…. hopefully to pop a few more works up on the new Etsy Site.  I will, of course, keep you posted.