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November 2019

getting things together .1

Wildrosethicketnote:  I added a new category working together to begin a thread of posts based on Liz's suggestion that we might as a group create a disembodied collage table to share together.  I also added creative cautionary tales.  Because I am full of them. 


One of my favorite parts about the long Thanksgiving weekend:  Taking breathers from group activities in order to privately inventory and evaluate my creative landscape on the brink of another calendar year's end.  Don't mind admitting it feels like six months, tops, since I last engaged with myself in this way.  A long time ago somebody who drew their intelligence from equal parts sciencey realism and Celtic mysticism explained, on several concurrent levels, why it is that time does for-real speed up mightily the more we age.  I don't remember any of it.  Nor do I tend to remember simple Organization 101 tenets as every year ends only for another to begin and commence un-spooling faster and faster.  Right about now my studio is a paper blizzard I won't share mainly because I'm self-conscious, as I've absolutely never been in the past, about how much collage fodder I've managed to amass since moving here.  So in place of gritty realism we're going metaphorical at the visual lede level.

Above is a sectional close-up of an enormous wild rose thicket which I intentionally encouraged at the edge of our little field.  Inside the thicket  are three now-deceased high bush blueberries I'm assuming somebody once planted on purpose even though they chose a location with insufficient light or think-ahead space for mature bushes to thrive.  In the metaphor - a viable and widely varied collage fodder collection would be the long-gone blueberry bushes and their unseeable skeleton forms in the image above. The nearly maniacal decade-in-the-making inter-lacings of wild rose canes would be the amount of collage fodder I've amassed over the same ten years.   During which I've had the kind of set-apart/close the door dedicated creative space that's allowed me to collect quite consciously thematically and economically but without due notice given to the eventual consequence of over-diligence in the hunting and gathering departments. Think it says any and everything else you need to know that I didn't feel the need to clock in enough to see what was happening simply because I knew exactly where all the paper is/was and not a single scrap of it was lying on the floor where somebody could slip and get hurt.  I mean, I've got eyes and so I sort of knew.  And yet I didn't let myself know why I knew.   Not until literally yesterday.


A week or so ago when I was not yet consciously aware holy crap I have entirely too much paper up in here I optimistically imagined I was pretty well sorted in both the moment and moving forward.  Above is my oversized oak desk/work table of 37 years.  The specific definition of "work" has been  flexible over time but it's always creatively based.  When I took this picture I imagined my biggest unaddressed problem was how many journals I was quite content to work in at one time.  And how it might be time to focus on practicality long enough to follow through on my completion plan. I took pictures of the evidence before me and loosely planned a post to explain the methodology standing in for madness. 

  Yesterday afternoon, before our Eating Event began, I learned what madness really is, at least when it comes to gathering over-reach because that's when I began pulling together the just-for-her cache of collage fodder I offered to create for Grace once she mentioned in comments missing her former collage supply stash.  Because she's, well, Grace I didn't just stick to what was out and in play from my own stash or the box on my desk that was meant to infuse the stashes of a few local ladies.  I also combed through several of my collections of archived fodder options that seemed most Grace-relevant. Every time I noticed how vast those options were all I really thought about that was be very careful not to create overwhelm rather than joy.

Am having the time of my life finishing up with the endeavor - slightly more than I promised Grace but still taking up roughly the space of a single national geographic at a fraction of the weight.  And a wealth of potential to keep her going indefinitely.   But not even a drop in the bucket in terms of getting my own situation modified and authentically sensible in scope.  Luckily I'm the sort who [usually] enjoys quandry resolution.  So I have confidence I can create more ... conscious cohesion amidst the inevitable chaos that is an actively working collection of collage fodder.  Meanwhile, I wanted to set the stage for a couple of intro posts aimed at detailing a you-set-the-rules 30 Days of Collage creative commitment we might embrace. The intro posts are meant to provide a bit of framework and also spark ideas about how you might want to assemble a structure that supports and inspires the very best of what these type of challenges can bring to virtually anyone's individual creative practice.


On the day I amassed and mentally organized a plan of action where my over-abundance of journals in progress is concerned I also completely cleared and wiped-down the scavenged coffee table where I do what I think of as non-specific (meaning daily as an ongoing just-for-me thing rather than technique-driven additions to an existing art journal project) collage work.   But there's actually quite a specific purpose to this ongoing part of my studio life and it means a great deal to me:  off and on for about six years I've created collages in a kind of visual morning pages fashion.  Instead of a brain dump I create a conscious healing and illumination context for what I hope to carry with me throughout the day.  Or personify some kind of emotional/reactive conundrum that's got me uncertain (as my mother's godmother used to put it) whether to scream or fly.  Or document in an intuitive flashpoint way: this is today and what I think/feel about it.


  Once the scrubbed table was dry I brought back a mix of practical, inspirational and talismanic items so I could immediately make good use of the free-moving energy this clearing-out created.  What do I want and need the space to contain?  I like to ask this question as one time frame ends and a new one begins because over the course of time in between the most relevant question to keep in mind becomes: what am I keeping close simply because I'm used to seeing/having it here in this particular space?  It's a key question for any creative to periodically ask themselves but an absolutely crucial ongoing interrogative to apply to collage fodder and its scope.

I arranged the table in a way that will allow me to see the various things I consider relevant enough that I keep them, always, on the table's top.  Right NOW it doesn't look this specifically geared towards collage endeavors.  And it isn't anywhere near this cohesively organized.   But it IS filled with things I love/find inspiring and an ample easy-to-clear-and keep-that-way central work space.  I am intent to bring a routine of weekly clearing and re-evaluating into the coming year's creative cycle.  Think I'll have to be that stringent with it as an ongoing effort for now - in order to make an engaged shift in relationship to filling space with supplies, more and more of them, simply because I've scored them for free or mere pennies and there's space to do it.  Need to stop operating that way and think instead about enough.  Like really enough instead of:  having extra is still enough of a novelty that I'm enjoying what it feels like more than I ever would have imagined possible before I found myself here with Room to Grow.

Some Suggestions Related to Getting Ready for Working Together:

Start considering the individual components of any paper troves you might possess.  

If you have a small or non-existent collection of paper: 

Let those in your first and second circles of relationship know you're on the lookout for old magazines and calendars.  This is an excellent time of the year for such announcements!   They'll be thrilled to relieve themselves of a specific and for many overwhelming yearly task of Clearing Out the Pretty Recyclables.  So Pretty!  But I'm Never Going to Do Anything With Them!  (ask me, as the coy blogging technique used to go, how I know about this methodology and how flawlessly it's quite likely to work)

But maybe it won't work even a little.  You might not know anybody with contributions to make. Or you're given unworkable magazines (fair warning:  if this happens you'll probably receive far too many of same)  In that case:

Scavenge wrapping paper during holiday gatherings. 

Look twice at any junk mail you receive.  set up a small cache of different patterned security envelope scraps

Save stamps from any mail you receive.  (Tell others you'd like their stamps as well.)

Go to a hardware store and snag a few paint chip cards in colors that look good together right there in that moment. 

pro tip:  You can use the combined palette as a guide to help you search for visually pleasing color-based choices while scanning and clipping your way through any magazines/calendars you received.

If you have a mid-range paper-stash that's a mixture of memorabilia, found paper, and carefully curated magazine/wrapping/art papers

You are perfect.  Don't ever change.  And seriously consider giving lessons. 

Dip into what you've got just enough to set aside a workable pile that speaks to you.  See what else comes your way over the course of the next month that fits the vibe and color palette you've gathered.

If you have an oversized collection; perhaps even an authentically bewildering level of choice. 

rule number one first and always for this particular kinda 30 Day caper: banish any potential crazytrain/overwhelm creative derails before they occur!

In other words set an ahead-of-time limit concerning how much fodder you're going to scan/audition with this challenge in mind. 

For example I often use a four-fold rule to keep my own scanning and audition process manageable.  I select one (and only one) sandwich baggie moderately full of previously created fodder; one magazine or catalog to jump-start fresh and frequently random visual/color palette inspiration; one gutted book's contents  (generally used over several project's span of time and frequently related to - guess what - flowers and/or birds); one loose handful of ongoing household paper-based recycling material. 

Usually I don't need more than one go-round of a QUICK all-over scan to find I've provided myself with an elegant sufficiency.  But if something about the fodder you've chosen whets your appetite to sift through more  of your stuff proceed with caution.  Remember you're only committing to doing this for 30 days not the rest of our combined lifetimes. Am not really a reflexively less is more person when it comes to creative back-up supplies but in this case more is definitely a whole lot less when it comes to the spiraling ratio between creative ingenuity/ignition and option overdose. 

Learn from my mistake concerning the drawbacks of getting out and sorting through too much of my paper stash at one time!  

Once you've done that you might well decide as I did to consolidate ASAP.  Maybe even in the impulsive manner I'm attempting to do it - as something i'd like to get partway (if not completely) finished before I feel obliged to make it a New Year's Resolution.  Am in the strategy process of taking this one right now because I know it's a decision well worth the thought time and organizational effort involved.  But say you're not wired like me and thus don't really need to have rectifying that particular reality check added to the mix at this time of year.  Particularly when it could well complicate the process of setting up something fun and easy to add to your life just long enough to know if maybe you'd like to keep going with the process as an ongoing part of your expressive life practice. 

And speaking of option overwhelm:

If you just don't know where to start narrowing things down begin simply.  Focus first on the stashiest of all your stash stuff:  that extra special cache you really love but consistently stop yourself from using 'frivolously'.  See if you can successfully challenge yourself to pull at least twenty percent of your working base for this project from the level of special For Later things you'd normally save/hoard waiting for an equally special way to use it.  Line everything up in a makeshift grid; preferably on stark or natural white paper.  Let you eye start to find the commonality points in what you've assembled.  Where are the visual themes?  Image repetitions?  Color palette suggestions?  Sort, reject, replace, refine. 

Sorry I am falling behind on my intended creation of a Beautiful Moments process/instructional post.  Getting it manifested, as I'd originally planned by this time on Sunday, involves pulling out and visually auditioning/gathering even more specific to the moment paper-based supplies for photoshoot purposes.  And I just can't go there and process smoothly - visually or more broadly - without getting stuck right now.  cannot cannot cannot.  But soon.  Definitely in time for the next set of holidays.

bring me the fripperies


Liz asked to see more of my handwork.  Am currently carrying this small piece (spring nest) roundabout our home looking for a place that feels like a good fit for short term display.  The layer upon layer of glittering and shiny beads and glistening embroidery threads are a conscious homage to my inner Crow spirit.


Have at times hung this as a backdrop for a seasonal/spring altar.  But right now I want it to be in my ongoing line of vision while I contemplate how much I want to de-construct this type of layered story-telling so it's more in line with my shifted sensibilities and things we might all create in a collective thrall of expressive call and response with our shifting species-level consciousness.


It's very true that pretty is as it does. 

Even more true:  sometimes it's just fun on rocket fuel.

this day in 2008


Was planning to post in response to a comment from Liz regarding her interest in a Beautiful Memory Jar project she could do with her grandchildren.  Like, tomorrow or the next day.  But then while editing pics for a post on my main blog I noticed this lovely image beaming up from the bottom of my screen.   Eleven years ago I was taking a wonderful embroidery class given by Sharon Boggon called Developing a Personal Library of Stitches.   The center rectangle is what I produced for one of the lessons.  We were supposed to keep things very small - 3 x 5.  But I found after the first two weeks that I just couldn't Work Small.  The compression of space makes my dyslexia go haywire.  Takes so long to untangle from a design perspective that it's far more pleasantly challenging to just work on a scale where it's easier for me to keep things looking like I know it's "supposed" to look.

I marvel at how much more stitching time I had when this was pretty much the only visually-based creative outlet I consistently allowed myself beyond photography.

live and learn, eh?  Am definitely on the Beautiful Moments trail though...

both fun & worthwhile


As we all move closer to a new calendar year I've decided to start broadcasting some creative seeds.  Maybe something I share will find fertile ground in a way that compliments your own creative/ceremonial activities.  Please note that the featured project for this post was conceived and taught by Vanessa Oliver-Lloyd.   Her method for making and filling a pair of wheels to mark ongoing experiences throughout a calendar year served as a free introductory lesson for her year-long Rituals art journaling class.  You can learn more about my creative immersion in this project via an introductory post I wrote for my main blog or by clicking on the alchemical rituals category link in the sidebar here.  Have recently decided to make a similar pair of wheels for the year 2020.  I'm going to use the same size and brand of journal so it will be a literal as well as intentional companion volume to EarthStar Alchemical Rituals. 


The teaching video for my 2018 endeavor featured Vanessa creating two 12-spoked wheels with rapid inky brush strokes.  My wheel on the left, above, embodies her specific guidance generously layered with my own notions and instincts focused on actively building an energetic year-long plan for myself BOOM all within a single art-date at my work desk. Before that, however, I thought about the project both actively and in a more passive "this is also happening" sort of way for about a week.  

note: participants were further encouraged to pick a word for the upcoming year based on individual intuition/introspective wisdom.  I'd already been chosen by this word for 2018 a few weeks before I impulsively decided Rituals would be a positive and grounding experience for me.  STRONGHOLD.  I really liked the way the word held space as a caption below the wheel on the left. Next I created a  phrase to caption the wheel on the right so the overall page design looked more balanced.  My plan was to collage free-cut branches, leaves and flowers from paper scraps.  In my mind's eye I envisioned the barest whisper of wreath-like suggestions encircling each wheel.  Something simple, to allow the wheels themselves to do most of the talking.


This was ... fun to begin constructing but I could see if I kept going with a doggedly simple evenly spaced ring of decoration it wasn't going to feel or look nearly quirky/authentically self-expressive enough.  Didn't have to think about that at all but simply decided on the spot I'd go for broke in foreshadowing Persephone in Queen of the Flowers mode.  Having quite a plentitude of flower/gardening magazines and scads of seed catalogs available for cutting and pasting, I sensed I'd have no problem randomly collaging flower images throughout the year.  Given Ritual's over-arching theme of promoting high quality ceremony infused self-relationship I further decided to save these specific mini collage sessions for moments when what I needed most was a 15 minute time-out in which to revitalize and flow my way back to a stabilized center of personal gravity.  The few remaining blank spaces will be filled in such a way - when and as




when we return


The lunar spread for the month of August was thematically paired with an exploration of what our life's more difficult harvests of the year were/had been teaching us.  For me this was one of those BAM instantaneous creative prompts in which everything fell into place quickly and without hesitation on any level. 


The catchphrase I selected to Say It All really started to sing when I thought to make collage additions from an experimental watercolor class I took via Wendy Brightbill.





Coronation of the Mugwort Queen


The August solar and lunar spreads in my Alchemical Rituals art journal were two of my most favorites to create.   This post focuses on the solar pages.  The technique of the month was botanical printing and, first, creating a rust mordant. Never did that before.  Given how (to me) unpleasant and skin-crawly the prep process was I'm unlikely to do it again.  Never say never, for sure - especially where creativity is concerned -  but all the same I'm unlikely to pursue further investigation. 

Be all that as it may last week I impulsively sent a couple of the prints I made to Grace thinking she might like to draw on them.  She asked about their significance and what I told her was accurate but not nearly as significant as this post and its not-yet-written companion focused on the lunar spread.


The month's thematic focus was Harvest.  And that worked really well for my autobiographical experiences of the time.  After a few years of non-activity flower essence preparation had reasserted itself as a primary seasonal activity.  I was also able to prepare several medicinal tinctures for the first time after patiently building up relationships with the specific plants and trees involved.  But the biggest harvest of all was good health.  During the month of August I learned I was well enough to stop taking an unpleasant immunosuppressant drug that controls the runaway symptoms of Graves Disease.  Trouble is the drug, in the process of doing its job, wreaks a lot of corollary havoc on my ability to feel mentally/emotionally balanced and in a good flow with ongoing physical process.   Quite fortunately, unlike many other pharmaceutical detox procedures, this one feels wonderful.  And so the crowning personal achievement of the season related to a 'harvest' of returning to myself on all sorts of physically intimate levels.  Spent a lot of that month, and ever since, internally yelling in exuberation I'm back, baby!!!

HarvestlionThe background of these pages has a few layers of leaf prints from plants that are very prominent emissaries in our little field.  The thin green leaves are Evening Primrose.  The large metallic leaves are a mixture of Burdock and Comfrey.  I also included two gold foil lions to represent the unseen (but strongly felt) big cat energy that's been in the mix since we moved from Boston to mid-state exurbia. My (likely impossible) dream is to somehow locate a large yet affordable stone lion that can be positioned as if it was just emerging from the woods we leave untouched and untraveled by us so that All The Others may have a little corner of private sanctuary.   Good thing I'm a bird watcher and not a birder, though.  The tantalizing variety of warbler songs from the swampy no-fly zone is an ongoing temptation to get in there and Identify.  But of course identifying on a whole other level is much more our speed and so this is how we do.


In the beginning I had no plan of including foil lions or op-art wonky stars or anything else beyond the prints and something simple and more or less not-there for the background.  It somewhat horrified me when the archangel figure lurking at the edge of my work table loudly insisted on being included.  But then I saw the image could be re-classified.  I could give it a gender and an occupation.  She could become, just like that, the Mugwort Queen.  And the page spread could therefore become a scene from her coronation.

Mugwort is an enormous presence in the field - all springing from the same tiny three stemmed transplant a friend contributed when I first arrived in this Place.  Now its original clump has formed a central presence that serves as home to countless ladybugs and also facilitates an exuberant grasshopper nursery.  A virtual wall of mugwort, all of which sprang forth in the third summer we were here, fully formed into a privacy hedge along the southern side of the garden which would otherwise be subject to ongoing scrutiny from the road.  Pronouncing this plant medicine spirit Queen was a big step in solidifying my sense of what the landscape wished to express as it continued to teach me.  This was a powerful enough experience to stop worrying about using the botanical prints "incorrectly" meaning: with more of a mixed media flourish than I'd planned in advance.  To that end, when I felt The Queen really needed a scepter, I nipped out to the field to pick a leaf.  Once I'd made a scepter print I decided to press the printing leaf, and then include it, for extra embellishment.  I mean, why not.  My impressions of this planet and what I experience here are always going to have a layer of shine and sparkle.


Another personalized rebellion against my own ideas of how things should or should not "be" in the creative sense relates to the fact that I have an ongoing block about the proper alchemical glyphs for the four classic elements.  I nearly always automatically make the air glyph for the element of fire because my brain feels pretty strongly that the same glyph that denotes the sun ought to apply to its primary element.  By the time I realized I'd been doing this straight along with this project it seemed a lot more authentic and true to myself to keep going with the mistake rather than going back and correcting it throughout the journal.  So that doesn't bother me.  It did, however, bother me tremendously that I had to cut parts of a print apart in order to make it sit comfortably in the book while closed.  Even after enough time to be used to it, I still felt myself cringe to see the gap when I first loaded the above picture into this post.  And, being me, that prompted me to not delete it like I kinda-sorta wanted to, but instead include the image where the gap is most noticeable specifically so I could talk about it. 

[p.s. although it's probably always going to be noticeable only to me - I worked at (highly enjoyable) length on shading certain elements of the leaf prints with j. herbin perle noir drawing ink and a yellow pencil just a shade or so less orange than the tumeric tracings I used to amplify the plant alkaloids' natural printing process.]

Next time I post I'll share the lunar spread companion to this coronation scene.  It's my favorite spread in the book.