paper madness

Altering the Dark-Dreaming of Grief Today

Dreamingspines

Yesterday I focused my studio time on the Lunar Annal I've committed to documenting and sharing in a step by step way.  But the resulting 'steps' were largely a matter of walking into various walls of my own making.  Need to synthesize how and why that happened before I can explain it coherently to anyone not-me.  Also my significant results were largely internalized in nature.  More needs to actually occur in an outward manner before there's any point in sharing with a dedicated post.  At the very least I need to reach a couple of firm conclusions rather than opening more and more doors of possibility.

***

Above is a picture I took this morning of my first altered book project which I began back in the mid-aughts.  Its thematic nature leaves it perpetually incomplete but I'm honing in on a shrinking number of blank pages.   Sooner than later the book will be filled even if the topic remains a work in progress to me.   Back when I started I was following through on the curiosity and interest raised by studying blogs that were devoted to various forms of master-class level collage as well as altered books.  It was clear to me that I would not be able to truly embrace such a project by choosing a theme and then finding a book and everything I felt needed to put in it. 

Such a format didn't interest me long enough to gather basic art supplies I already had on hand let alone ring my chimes enough to consider doing something with them.    Recall, if it's relevant, the kind of projects "everybody" was doing during that window of time. I had/have zero tolerance for even thinking about flea markets let alone 'haunting' them in search of the perfect vintage this and that.  And back then there seemed no way OUT of - let alone around - the rigorously exalted Vintage Fixation. 

Still - my hands and mind itched to alter a book my own way.  So I readily forgot what I knew about altered books that was based on what I'd been reading.  What did I actually want to do?  Landscapeofculture

For starters I needed to select something that was personally meaningful from my own bookshelf.  It would need to be a book that held great meaning for me - something I'd read more than once with sustained interest but felt certain I wouldn't have a need to read again.  Time after time I came back to my copy of Dreaming The Dark.  It had a glued rather than a sewn spine - which absolutely everybody on the internet strongly advised.   After a week of cogitation I decided to ignore the looming shapeless form(s) of Everybody saying (and then making ...) the same thing.  The first picture in the post illustrates why people stress the importance of a sewn spine and removing at least one folio per sewn signature.  It's because creative choices - just like elections - have consequences.

Crystalsstars

When my book began to fall apart I took it in stride once the initial reality check hit home.  It honestly didn't bother me and still doesn't - although for the record I've altered a number of books since then and they've ALL had sewn bindings.  When the spine split for the first time it broke my favorite spread in the book in half.    My fondness for the spread centered on the fact that it's the point in the book where I chose to begin the active alteration process in a "fun" way.  Prior to that I'd been focused on prepping all the pages by gluing three together with Yes paste and then pressing the results under a stack of books with the glued pages separated from the rest of the text block with sheets of wax paper. 

Now I'd start a lot differently but I'd undoubtedly make other mistakes because that's how I learn best and most quickly in the creative sense.   It's also the way I'm happiest learning.  And that's something I didn't know until this particular project fell apart right there in my hands.  Now I know why a sewn binding is important in a way I'm unlikely to forget.

Matrix spread

All told it's been a far easier lesson in releasing attachment to outcome than most others have been.   A book I was changing into some new thing fell apart and that's pretty much all that happened.  Then it fell apart again and yet a third time.  

but before any of that occurred

I picked a theme:  The Sisterhood.   I envisioned filling the pages with various impressions and conclusions I've reached about primarily positive and empowering female relationships.  It didn't occur to me at first to actively include things from women who had that kind of bond with me but I quickly caught on how invaluable it would be to make that shift.

Completingthespectrum

The page above is a good example of such incorporation.  There's a laconic note from Jude and two tiny rune cards from a deck I received from a friend in the UK.  The Tibetan Wishing tree is a photocopy of a postcard I received from a friend in Berkeley.   The batik fabric is from a friend who, for a time, lived close enough that we regularly exchanged fabric and paper scraps as well as plants and seed packets.

Turtlebirch

Some pages, like the one above, are tributes to women who shaped the woman I've become.  This particular page relates to my Grandmother - Pearl Margaret.  When I was young I used to spin out a lot when things were overwhelming and impossible for my mind and body to process gracefully.  I've written before about her practice of reading aloud to me from Walden Pond until I was calm.   When I was still too young for that to work - she used to put us both in the car and drive me to a certain rocky river bank a few miles from our home.  It was nearly always crowded with a large colony of snapping turtles.  She'd read Guidepost magazines while I observed the turtles.  Quietly because those were the rules.  After a certain vacillating known-only-to-Pearl block of time she'd announce that if I could that for the turtles I could do it for her and myself back at the house.  

(if whatever made me spin out involved my mother we wouldn't go right home.  We'd go to a fast food hamburger place pre-dating one of the big chains that now dominate.  I would be ordered a plain hamburger which I ate in dainty bites while Pearl inhaled most of a large order a fries with a few here and there doled out to me because there I was, after all, stuck with my mother and her many terrifying guises.  This is how I learned it was possible to leverage dysfunction and unhappiness - and more to the point, that others would willingly do that for you in ways that gave you access to things normally denied or outright forbidden.

When we eventually got home from the kind of thing I to this day mentally visualize when somebody says the words pity party - I'd be allowed to look through Pearl's curated clippings of sales throughout the region.  Depending on what level of awful my mother had been, I might be awarded a pair of shoes that were never as cute as anything full price, a new hat I didn't (ever) want, or some type of educational book on a subject important to me.  This, unfortunately, is how I learned that if somebody causes you disturbance or emotional pain you could always bribe yourself past it with Something New yet sensibly priced)

Also when I was super young Pearl and her sister Grace used to construct booklets out of birch bark.  one of my older cousins tried to "help" them one time and it turned into the kind of fracas that to my mind should have piled us all in the car to view the turtles for a good long while.  I smile as I type all these things.  I smile a lot any time I look through this book.  

Nocirc

I also add to it any time I see something I feel belongs to The Sisterhood as I've experienced it.  Above a photocopy of some gifts I received from a French friend who traveled to India.  We've lost touch but I always hope she might find her way to my main blog or this one.   I included a sticker that was further embellished with a different sticker by Jeannine Parvati Baker.   Many years after her death, the first time I saw a selection of Social Justice Kitten postcards, I thought of her with great longing.  I wanted so badly to send her the version I wound up including in this spread.  Any time I look at it I think about how deep and wide-ranging our friendship became BANG! just like that once I introduced myself to her in an email.

Emilydimnobody

And of course there are also pages dedicated to other people who are "gone" whom I never actually knew but feel deeply connected to nonetheless.   Emily Dickinson is right at the head of that list for all kinds of reasons.  Once I was describing my kinda unusual relationship to my written output in terms of how little I cared if I ever became 'known' for any of it. I happened to be talking to Jeannine who kept making appalled and disbelieving noises the more I warmed to my theme.  Finally she interjected in a scandalized voice.

"You - You're - You're just some sort of Emily Dickinson aren't you.  You probably have a WHOLE TRUNK (actually at the time I had two but there's been a lot of burning and other forms of shedding since then...) full of writing that nobody's ever SEEN! -" and when I said yeah maybe she positively exploded with a specific type of frustration that wasn't new to me.  Various people have gone through the but think of the recognition!!  Don't you want it?  Or at least feel you deserve it?? shtick with me many times but nobody's ever come close to saying what she said.  So that I wound up feeling seen and heard and understood - if only through a back door way In to that - rather than alienated and lonely and very much wishing to scream why doesn't anybody ever accept a person who has a whole different orientation towards Meaning and Success?  Why is it assumed we have some kind of 'problem' that must be fixed in the same way everybody else imagines it ought to be fixed or else an individual's life will have no true meaning or value?

For once I was not inclined towards such inward screaming.  In a very back-of-the-mind kind of way it occurred to me that perhaps we were having our own unique version of an argument.  Should that concern me?  Before I could answer the inner question Jeannine brought out her really BIG guns.

I mean you might as well be Emily's direct reincarNAtion!!!

Despite how affronted and rebuking this very unique and irreplaceable friend clearly felt - I fell over sideways on my bed in pure delight.  There was no higher compliment/soul recognition a person could have offered me.  When I told her that she made a final noise of complete vexation and informed me she hoped this would be the very closest she'd ever have to come to feeling she had no choice but to hang up on me.  This ... was revelatory on a whole other level.   Levels of levels because that's how she was and how I am and damn do I ever miss her still to this day.

The Sisterhood is eternal and never-ending.  Grief only feels that way.  Addressing the conclusion of something that doesn't ever end while beginning something that sometimes doesn't know how to begin let alone finish feels - and I'm gonna say this sincerely rather than cynically as I usually do - very much on brand for me..  I hope the combination and juxtapositions will inspire you somehow.

Who's your Emily?   What friendship lives eternally within a longing to have it last just a few more hours or days?   If you had to pick one book from your shelves that you loved and learned from in more ways than you can even remember - what book would it be?

What way(s) are you happiest working?  Were you taught to work that way or did you cobble it together for yourself over time?


parrots are swirling in my studio

Redandyellowparrot

fire lilies are also blooming.  when I made one of my first flower essences from this plant back in '99 I was guided to name it Glowing Mystery. 

Firelily40420

This week my alternative to an annual early summer stock up shop at Blick in the Fenway or Central Square arrived as an online order.  I'd been contemplating stocking up on some of my most-used creative staples for almost a month now.  Finally went ahead once I got an email notice that all the brick and mortar stores were closed until further notice. 

In the time I was filling my cart (I cogitate endlessly when I shop for just about everything - either in person or online)  other artsy types were panic buying all the things you'd want plenty of if there were children stuck in a house.  Hence I had to pinch hit with my first choice of glue sticks.  Everything else I sought was in stock although the larger amount of hinged linen tape only had 2 boxes left before I purchased one of those. 

Newpencilsblg

Need vs. Want - the art supply edition.

 The only two I really 'needed' above (and even by loose definition need here is really right at the line of adamant preference) were the coloursoft mid-terracotta pencil and the inktense sienna gold  The latter pencil is chronically sold out over the winter holidays.  On this far less celebratory occasion the other artsy people who reflexed the way I did after they got the flagship email turned the only 15 left into Hurry! just three remaining! by the time I'd completed my deliberations.

the other pencils I didn't need just felt like an enjoyable spring drawing palette to me.  I didn't know much about the particular product lines of most of them.  And it was a relief to be curious and a little preoccupied about something that didn't in some way have to do with our viral commonality.

Theroundcollagebits

One of the living adjustments I started embracing week before last involves going to bed around 3:30 a.m. and getting up between 10 and 11.  This has been my ideal sleep and waking schedule since my mid-teens and as I readjust and feel my body relaxing into the compatible shift I'm deeply grateful it was a workable option.  The hour between 1 and 2 am often feels especially switched-on and kinetic.   This makes sense since I was born at 1:29 and have noticed we often seem to have a special energetic affinity for our birth time of day or night. In the past week I've been finding myself immersed in things I've been meaning to do for a long while but something about the plan was problematic and so I put those ideas off to one side.  In the case above I spent the wee hours of this particular day deconstructing a personal power shield I had glued to a 4 foot diameter circular wood table top a neighbor put out for the trash back in '92.  I saw him rolling it to the curb and was there to roll it over to my house before he was back up the steps of his porch.

I want to remake it as a garden mandala that's more paint than paper based.  For now I just pried-off the things that were willing to be pried-off.  Most items I re-claimed are paper-based.  Many are more ripped than I would have liked because in and around the collaged paper images there are many jagged fragments of a broken mirror.  I had to make a choice on the spot - to wait until the other side of sleep, don work gloves, and try to pry the mirror pieces loose before removing the paper beneath it. 

The visual idea I got for re-using the paper elements suggested the ripped bits will have far greater eloquence.  I felt truly excited by it and more like a pre-pandemic Acey than I've been since mid-February.   When I woke up it seemed as if I was already thinking about it.  Also enjoyed replaying the imagined tape of what I must have looked like down in my basement determinedly prying paper and shells and small clay concretions off an enormous wood 'shield' studded with sharp jagged pieces of mirrored glass.   When I was doing it I called out softly to all the other sleepless creatives: 

I see you! I'm here too!

Rattleandrock

Yesterday I brought my turtle shell rattle up here in order to shake out some grief and high wired anxiety residue.  It's so powerfully obvious that we're all evolving at a rapid enough pace to leave ephemeral shed skins all over our environments.  This week has brought me an ongoing sense of more active sea changes that are part of a collective evolutionary integration. Guess that's another way of saying I'm learning how to step out of my internalized subjective reality enough to get back to plugging into something larger - something I believe in with all my heart. 

This is a relief.  And saying as much is one of the bigger understatements of my personal world during the past month.   Every day is its own learning curve it would seem.  Speaking of which - I'm showing up for jude's Large Cloth presentations every day for as long as it goes.  Giving the experience full focus and ongoing consideration.  Making my own large cloth of choice the Young Girlhood quilt I've been stitching off and on since I brought it out with intention of finishing it.  I like working on it in the later afternoon.  So that's what I'm going to do right now ...

Redyellowparrot


balancing. sorta.

Mama030720

A lot of my studio time during the second half of this week felt like one long practical application of all the times I've stayed awake far too long running through various mental lists and scenarios related to emergency/disaster preparedness.   A lot of people I know in the walking around world started doing this as a feature rather than a bug after 9-11 or Katrina.  I've been doing it - with long offs and then painfully intense on cycles that feel like they'll never end - since an exceedingly boisterous fireman came to my 3rd grade class.  Grinning as wide as Dick Van Dyke he enthusiastically described all the things we must do to keep ourselves and our families safe in the event of a fire.

Fast forward to the now in which J. and I reflected on our past while taking a break from inventorying and collating/date-coding our amassed non-perishables.  I reminded him of whatever hurricane it was that roared all the way up the east coast when T. was quite young back in Boston.  We'd barely had enough extra money to get the duct tape we needed to put on our windows as per neighborhood watch request - plus extra ice for our battered cooler and a gallon of water each for the three of us.

We spoke of how many hundreds of millions of people are in that place now.  

************

As far as leading with a kitty pic on Caturday - Mama detests the survival assemblage making havoc of the usual mudroom arrangement and she also had a little hissy fit knocking things over upon discovering there was also a lot of other stuff scattered  throughout the kitchen and hallway floors.  Obviously most or all of these full throttle irregular activities are by default a feline ordeal.  While I was taking her picture above I told her the story of everything we'd gathered especially for her.   To me her expressive gaze says: I don't care why or how I just want it to stop.

Todaysfodderadds

After partially digesting this morning's news cycle I felt a renewed need to rip apart and consolidate a few more text blocks and part of an old calendar.   

Stashbaggie

Tomorrow I'll start a new daily collage week with a greatly amplified stash baggie.   It will be a great thing to have all ripe and ready to go because if life keeps throwing us enormous things to be processed ASAP we'll all need to maintain a super reliable brainwave fulcrum.  Stitching and gluing pieces of paper to each other - plus hopefully maintaining my morning reading routine and yoga practice - may have to be suffice in scattered pieces throughout the day.  "morning" pages in my writing journal may need to take a less expansive form depending on what any given morning brings.  In earlier portions of my life that were largely structured around the overlapping structures of my husband and son I embraced evening pages.  In the most maxed-out stretched thin portions of the past I've kept lists of Five Beautiful Things at the end of every week.   This eventually funneled into keeping an ongoing gratitude journal with morning and evening entries in the brief but hugely rewarding and clarifying method described by Angeles Arrien - more than likely within her book Living in Gratitude.

Woolnfelt

Also accomplished this morning:  folding up my strewn wool and wool felt collection and putting it away.  Before we got our catastrophe game plan mapped out and task lists divvied-up I was cleaning out a cloth-based storage drawer.  Whittling down and streamlining.  As I was examining the wool I understood I should make sure to savor the afternoon's slow and unpressurized pace.  Knew once J. got home from work our regularly scheduled Friday evening programming would be overwritten.  All the energy we didn't need to expend since we haven't been dealing with extreme winter weather or its aftermath (or J.'s mother having an anticipated but so far not-yet health crisis) kind of exploded out of both of us all at once just as I thought it would.  Have consciously chosen to live with the strewn pile as a sanity beacon/nurturing promise to myself: when everything has been as solidified as it can get for now I'll come back to this and relish the experience of colors and texture

which I did.

Flamingheart

Within my storage drawer excavation I came across a stack of WISPs I'd thought were in a completely different place.  Am now hoping my indigo stash I was sure was in the drawer is actually located where I thought I'd stored the WISP's.  Remembered the above without recalling I'd layered raw-appliqued scraps of silk velvet to the base heart in order to give it some depth and texture.  Oftentimes when I re-connect with something still undone that I haven't seen in awhile I'm pleasantly surprised at how much farther along I am than I'd estimated from memory.  In this case I was shocked at how little I'd accomplished.  I thought this was ready to bind but it's nowhere close. 

Flamingheartexpanded

Practically a blank slate.  Due to the frail antique kimono scrap and the looser weave of the silk taffeta behind the heart I elected not to baste or pin into shape.  Consequently I will need to quasi-block the piece as you would a sweater only I'll use in the ditch quilting to ease the piece back into shape.  Have done this many many times and am confident of pulling it off  but it requires mindfulness and care, same as blocking a sweater.  This project will be a good foil for whatever the next week (or hour) will reveal in terms of both world wide crisis and one of the species' biggest ignorant mendacious assholes ever born being 'in charge' of this particular country and the condition/scope of it readiness/response. 

Right now the big quilt feels too overwhelming as a stitching process.  Am quite near the end so it's not that.  It's a physical sense of being boxed-in right on the edge of claustrophobia by the size and physical weight of the quilt.  But it's comforting to have it one hand so for now I've spread it out on the couch for the classic hippie slipcover effect.  Only I did it specifically for the cat. The quilt is her comfort object and she is mine.   Just watching her blissful sleep posture warms my heart and evokes tenderness.

Botswanaagate

When not inventorying non-perishables, towels, sheets and first aid supplies - I've been inventorying my tarot card collection.  This process has led me to realize that I don't have many tarot decks (3) at all.  But I do have a number (11) of oracle decks.  Oracles of all kinds fascinate me.   While inventorying and whittling I found the above loitering with clear intent to be found just then. I love that the white "moon" has a slightly more opaque waxing crescent shape within the circle.

Firstbud

The first narcissus bud is fully emerged from the group's protective sheath.  So far there are ten emergent flower stalks.


need more of this

Bookcoverslices

Yesterday I called a wildcat strike due to week two of the flu being just as draining and unpleasant as the first and, also, people/politics/unsolicited personal opinions overload.  Wasn't up for much but definitely felt capable of dismantling a book or two and some magazines.

 I began with the cover of a book about wreath making.  Got it at the library book sale maybe six years ago because I liked the smallish square size and originally intended to alter the contents.  Now want the covers for a sketchbook filled with a backlog of paper cutoffs that's gotten out of hand.  Two birds/one book.

Morningcollagepile

Moved on to ransacking the removed textblock and also a brochure about Chinese dancers.   Went over to the house to rustle up a low key flu-lunch.  Let the cat in and out a number of times and then returned to my day all the way Off.

Tableoffodder

By mid afternoon I'd gone through a number of other magazines, catalogues and brochures.  Also started ripping up a brightly illustrated book about songbirds throughout the world. Tomorrow I'll have time to sort and begin gluing down items from the stack of cut-outs that seem just the thing for inclusion in a modest variety of art journal projects.  Will store the rest with the projects they evoke or my general fodder collection. 

Sewingoriginaspouch

Also stitched a tarot card pouch for a deck containing my favorite card image to date:

Originsmagician

plus found an attachment weaving sampler I made during Jude's second round of cloth-to-cloth.  Loved making this.  Attachment weaving has remained my favorite technique learned in that class.  Took the big light blue glass butterfly bead off and steam pressed.  Hanging it in place where I'll see it a lot and smile.

Attachmentweavingsampler


Day 30 - results

Trustyourself

(because that's where and why and how all the creative magic happens)

I'm really glad we all did this together.  I hope you are too.

  EVERYBODY did outstanding work - not just in the scope of their collage creations but also in terms of quickly establishing a challenge-based working style and dedication to their personal process development.  Despite the initial uncertainty any challenge brings it was truly remarkable to see how quickly everyone adapted to their freshly personalized relationship to this expressive medium.  By reviewing each other's efforts the way we'd all look at something together if our virtual situation was happening in the walking-around world - we each insured that every single one of us "got" something about collage that we hadn't quite put together before this time of sharing.

  Everyone - including me -  willingly trusted I'd guide them to a stationary end-point while also digging deeper into their private stashes of emotion and life experience as well as their paper collections.  Now - going forward - there's only one barometer/compass rose to be followed:

trust yourself

keep speaking truth to and FOR power

from the center of your creative soul

and every corner and crevice you discover

where true power resides

*~*~*~*~*

My faves from these days:

Dee

grace

Joanne

Liz

Marti - curendera (make sure to scroll down or click for her response to our final prompt)

Nancy

[For those who like statistics - this blog has averaged 82 unique visitors a day for the challenge time-frame.  Including myself and everyone actively involved - 35 people have let me know they're participating/following along as a somewhat regular part of their creative experience. 

The most unique visits to a single post (328) happened here. oof.  Typepad is going rogue on me right here at the end!

For reasons unknown all the [listed as published] posts aren't appearing on the blog right now.  At least not in what I can see of it here on my laptop or phone.  The post with the most unique visitors was the Day 16 results page for the garden Crone totem.  Quite a skyrocket!  Somebody somewhere linked, obviously, to significant effect.  Perhaps it's fitting that my first studio-based intention once I've scheduled this post is to paint that totem's background layer.  Last things first, as I like to say!

Not at all by design but I'm very grateful it's working out this way - I don't have to be/go anywhere that requires me to be all the way ON until Thursday morning.  Between now and then I'm planning to stay paint smudged and considerably more powered-down than I've been since ... before Thanksgiving, actually.  Yikes.  No wonder I feel so ready to shift from extro to intro mode energetically.

and I still don't have a clue what I might post on this blog going forward.  or why ...]


a guest post from Marti

Ojomarti

For all of my collage companions,  I offer this simple collage filled with images, some of my dyed cloth and an important word in Spanish, Ojo.  Ojo means eye and Acey, you have given us the ability to go deep within ourselves and see in a new and connective way.  Rather  than offer up  a stepping stone, I give you an old archway, next to an old door, open the door and glide through this portal, this opening so that we  may all continue with the discoveries that we have made,  both outward and inward in working with scraps of paper, scissors and glue. Imagine that this archway contains these carved words:  Continue to find your sense of personal discovery.  Find solace and quiet joy in nature. Know that rainbows always come after storms. May you have candlelight to soothe the darkness.  Most of all, thank you all for stepping along the path of collage with me, for being a part of such an illuminating time, a deeply moving and connective way to begin this year of 2020.  Love, Marti
 
 
 

Day 30 morning post

Prompt #30:

Imagine our shared challenge experience has been a literal path marked with stepping stones - one for each person who participated in whatever fashion.

What does your stepping stone look like?

(hint:  what would you wish us to receive as a gift related to what you most enjoyed about collage?)


day 28 - results

 

Seeddream

My response for today's prompt references a truly gorgeous never-forgotten dream I had when I was 14 or 15.  Hadn't thought of it until I was focused on working with a very different seed representation/color palette.  While looking for something else I found some of my very first deli paper prints.  Both examples in the above's background layer reference one of the dream's key visual elements.  So does the lovely white marble sculpture, the shape and scale of the seed, and the Florentine mirror.

For the moment this collage is serving as an art journal place-marker.   Have three or four different ideas of what to superimpose on the mirror.  at this point I believe any additional layers - beyond that mirror - will be made with ink and ink-on-ink  OR ink and designer's gouache.  

As the challenge winds down I've begun wondering what I'll choose to share here on this blog once I re-calibrate on the other side of this thing I apparently did during the month of January.  I have a lot of options, really...