Category Archives: Art and creativity

How To Nourish Body. Mind. Spirit.

If they can make penicillin out of mouldy bread, they can sure make something out of you.  — Muhammad Ali

It appears that Covid has created some psychic mould. You know, those spaces where rather than nourish my body, mind, spirit, I fall prey to activities that leech away my creative essence and dry up my inner peace.

Like falling into binge-watching past seasons of shows I’ve never watched before on Prime and wouldn’t be watching now if it weren’t for Covid’s insidious presence. Because, you know — it’s not my fault. It’s these ‘uncertain times’ and sometimes the only way a girl can cope is by losing herself in mindless images parading across her laptop screen.

It seems that with Covid’s presence, I can easily be lured from my path of daily self-care day after day. Because, you know, if I let it go one day doesn’t it make sense to repeat it so I don’t feel so bad about doing it in the first place? Yeah. I know. Repetition of what’s not good for me just makes what’s not good for me a habit I’ll live to regret.

Being in a place of the peaceful unfolding of my day, especially with the feeling that Covid’s presence is just waiting to pounce every time I step out my door, can be challenging.

There are times when all I want to do is bury my head in the sand. Because, I tell myself, burying my head in sand will probably be just as effective or even better than wearing a mask.

There are times when I want to throw caution to the wind and just pretend Covid never happened, isn’t happening, will never happen. Because, when I was a child, pretend was such a wonderful game, why not play it now?

Houston. We have a problem.

Self-care is spinning off its axis and I am falling out of control.

Time for some straight talk and radical loving-kindness to fill the empty spaces where peace, harmony, joy… created my beautiful life.

Which brings me to the things I can do today to create more of what I want in my life every day. — Peace. Harmony. Joy.

The practices and things that connect me to joy, harmony, loving-kindness are well-known by my body, mind, spirit. It’s just sometimes, my mind wants to fool my body into thinking it’s okay being left alone. And sometimes, my body wants to divorce spirit so it doesn’t have to be accountable for keeping it moving, uplifted and connected to its essential nature.

Ah… the games we play when first we try to deceive ourselves into believing life is just a game that only needs to be played when we feel in the mood for a little light workout.

Life is not a game. It is in us. Outside of us. All of us. All of all that is within and around us.

Life matters and what we do in and with life matters every moment.

So…. here’s the thing. I’ve fallen prey to the ennui of these times. I’ve given too much mindspace to the notion, “I’m so tired of all this Covid stuff. Make it go away. Now.”

Fact is, now more than ever, I need to turn up for me and all the world around me to ensure, together and apart, we have the well-being to make Covid go away. Not with death but with beautiful, healing, sparkling LIFE.

So… I’ve committed myself to a 21 Day Plan to Embrace All that Is Present when I turn up in Peace, Harmony and Joy.

That means, along with daily practice of writing here, time spent in my studio, my twice-daily walks with Beaumont the Sheepadoodle and my daily skincare routine (Absolutely essential!) I shall be consciously connecting my mind, body, spirit to the essential nature of my human condition through daily repetition of five key practices I know are good for my body, mind, spirit.

Fact is, I seem to have fallen out of the regular committed practice of these vital components of creating more of what I want in my life today through falling prey to critter-mind thinking that… it all doesn’t matter anyway because Covid is stealing my peace of mind and clouding up my harmony and diminishing joy in my world.

Fact is, Covid can’t steal any of my peace, harmony and joy unless I give into the belief I am not accountable for or worthy of peace, harmony and joy in the first place.

So, to keep myself accountable, especially for the next 21 days as I reform the habit of doing these things every day, I am sharing my five daily commitments here:

  1. Meditate for a minimum of 20 minutes every morning.  
  2. Spend half an hour reading something inspirational every day.
  3. Write in my journal at bedtime for 20 minutes.
  4. Take my vitamins. Eat more veggies every day. Cut back on carbs and sugars.
  5. Do something for my community (and that includes writing my blogs as you are part of my community).

Oh! And there’s a few other things that are essential I consciously add into my life every single day.

  • Laugh lots daily
  • Dance
  • Breathe and release. Breathe and release
  • Practice loving-kindness with myself and all the world around me

And, along with the things I will do, there are some things I also need to publicly commit to not doing. The biggest one being… STOP WATCHING SO MUCH NETFLIX and PRIME!!!!

And yes, I’m yelling that to myself because sometimes… I need to shout to be heard above the critter’s insistence it’s okay to lose myself in mindless activities.

It’s not.

And I’m not okay with and within me when I do it.

And to get okay with me again, I need to practice loving-kindness with myself. Stopping doing things that are unhealthy for me is the greatest gift of loving-kindness I can give myself today to create more peace, harmony and joy in myself and all the world around me.

Namaste.

Painting Through The Shudders

There is a world of curious ‘mishaps’ beneath this painting. A world of giving into the questions. Like, “Hmmmm…. if I do [this], I wonder what will happen?” Or, “I really like the way it looks now. I wonder what would happen if I let go of the need to ‘like it’?”

Letting go of the need to ‘like it’ is hard for me. I want my art to be pretty. To be pleasing to the eye. To not disturb.

And that’s why I art journal. To strengthen my ‘letting go’ muscles.

I like to create ‘pretty’.

This is the first monoprint – I really, really liked it.

Pretty doesn’t always serve me well. Pretty can mean I’m playing it safe. Playing it for affirmation. Playing it for the outcome – which will hopefully become something I can sell.

Art Journalling isn’t about creating work to sell. It’s about selling yourself on the idea that creating for the pure joy of creating is a form of meditation, revelation and restoration.

This page had a couple of iterations. The first one above, which I really, really liked. The one on the right, which I hesitated to share because it makes my creative nerves shudder. And then the final one which makes me smile.

The Shudders

The really, really liked one got buried beneath the shudders one because I was curious about what would happen if I painted botanicals on top.

The final piece, which is all about experimentation – and a lesson in letting go – is because I felt compelled to cover up the ‘shudders’.

The blue petals are created from the masking tape I used to block off the edges of the page in my art journal. Its patterns were made as I monoprinted on the paper.

When I pulled them off the page after the paint had dried, I didn’t immediately crumble them up and throw them into the wastebasket. The patterns that had developed as I monoprinted fascinated me so I carefully hung them from the edge of my worktable. I didn’t have any idea what I would use them for, or if I would use them for anything. They simply intrigued me so I decided to save them.

It wasn’t until I ended up with ‘the shudders’ on top of the original monoprinted background and thought, ‘Oh my. Now that’s not particularly pleasing,’ that I thought about using the saved blue masking tape.

Which meant, I had to dive in and pull another monoprint of the page and start reworking it. (The white striated background)

And here’s the thing.

How we do one thing is how we do all things.

I was afraid of ruining the monoprint I really liked and hesitated to do anything else to it. But, I also knew my hesitation was fear-based and wanted to confront my fear – which I am very familiar with.

It’s all about that ‘precious thing’ syndrome. Holding onto things because I deem them precious, or because I don’t know what I might do with them and don’t want to let them go because I fear I’ll be limiting my options later.

Like the blue masking tape. I didn’t have a really good reason to hold onto it other than that it intrigued me. Sure, finding a use for it was a bonus but if I step back and reflect on things I’ve held onto because of the fear of letting go was high, I’d find a wealth of material for personal exploration of my ‘fear of letting go’ syndrome.

Like right now. I fear letting this blog post go because I’m not sure I’ve really explored it adequately.

But, I also know this is a lifelong exploration for me. This post doesn’t have to be perfect or beautiful, or even witty.

In fact, it doesn’t need to be anything other than a reflection of where I’m at right now and how I’m navigating these spaces.

The biggest ‘fear’ to overcome right now, is my fear of showing ‘my ugly’.

And the ‘shudder painting’ is all about ‘my ugly’.

I don’t like it. I want to ignore it. I want to pretend it didn’t happen.

Life, like art, doesn’t work that way. ‘The ugly’ is as vital to a rich and beautiful life as the pretty.

Finding value in ‘the ugly’ enriches my life. It creats vibrant, unexpected gifts that keep expanding possibility into sacred knowing of the essence of who I am when I let go of being anything and anyone other than who and how I am in this moment right now.

Real. Vulnerable. Embodied in the present moment. Breathing into the joy held within the darkness and the light. The joy and the sorrow. The beauty and the ugly. The known and the unknown.

Namaste

Out Of This World – a 49 word prompt

It has been a long time since I played with one of the many word challenges online.

And then, today I read Dale’s response at A Dalectable Life…

And felt moved and inspired.

The word for today’s prompt is “Megalith” (I had to look it up.) The direction is, to create something with the word and use 49 words to do it.

The founder of the prompt is Sammi Cox who posts a prompt every week. You can find all the links to this, her 175th prompt, on her blog HERE.

To read more about the prompt, and to read Dale’s moving and beautiful response, click HERE.

My response–

Out Of This World

There is a place
where birds twitter in trees
and fish swim free
where bears wander wild
and snakes slither undeterred
by man’s intentions
to build megaliths to himself.
 
It is gone. That place.
that used to be
before man’s intentions
drained beauty and nature
out of this world.

Creative By Nature

This sheet will eventually become a ‘birthday booklet’ for a friend

Because creating a video is a very intense (read ‘exhausting’) process for me, I like to take a day in the studio to just ‘play’.

Yesterday, I rewatched part of the courseware from the Laura Horn Art course I’ve been savouring my way through and decided I’d create some botanicals.

Ah yes. You know that saying about how we make plans and God laughs?

Well someone was surely laughing as I lay down watercolour onto the page.

It became one big mess.

“What’s there to lose,” I asked myself, “if I throw some acrylic white ink on top of the areas that are really yucky? If I don’t like it I can cut the sheet into squares that eventually can be collaged into other work.”

Even that didn’t help calm the mess before me.

First monoprint over ‘The Big Mess’

So, I decided to do some monoprinting on top to ‘assist’ in the page’s development. Whether I’d keep it as one piece or cut it up was still a big unknown.

And then, I pulled the first monoprint and the muse within whispered, “Keep going.”

So I did.

I didn’t know I was making a little booklet that would become a birthday card for someone special. Written on it are the XX number of ways they make the world a better place. (X = their number of years on this planet)

Words are my love language. One of the ways I love to share words is to celebrate the people around me.

As an example, recently a young friend, my honourary daughter whom, because she is much taller than both my daughters, I call my TaDa (tall daughter — I’m her ShoMo (Short mom) 🙂 For her 35th birthday, I committed to write a song for her every day for 35 days – believe me, they’re not great but I record them and send them to her and they make her laugh (I think). They’re all very silly. (PS — I am not a songwriter)

Finished booklet – writing blanked out

Anyway, back to this card – It began as a 27.9 x 38.1 cm (11 x 15 in) piece of 300gm (140lb) watercolour paper. Its finished size is (approx) 10 x 14.5 cm (3.75 x 5.5 in) 8 pages including front and back cover.

Filling it with words, specifically, the X number of ways this friend makes a difference in the world, and my life, was pure joy. I got to spend an afternoon creating in the studio, and a couple of hours thinking about my friend and the ways they make a difference. Time well spent that felt absolutely delightful.

And here’s the thing.

I’ve never created a card like this before. Had no ‘thought’ of doing it. It just appeared.

I didn’t know this was what I would be creating when I sat down at my studio table yesterday to ‘play’.

I didn’t know the muse would whisper her sweet delicacies about giving a gift of art and words to someone very dear to me.

And, I had no idea how much joy I would experience in the process.

Front and back cover — words blanked out

And that’s the point. We do not know what we do not know until… we allow ourselves to get present where ever we’re at with whatever is happening.

For me, that meant making some ‘bad’ art to get to something I love. It meant being willing to ‘keep going’ even when I felt like throwing my hands up in the air and screaming at the muse, “This is crap! I’m going to go watch something vapid and forgettable on Netflix.)

It meant risking myself to the unknown.

One of the greatest lessons I have learned about being in the studio is that somewhere within me is this place where, inevitably, I want to quit. The critter loves to jump in at that point and tell me how non-creative I am, how bad I am at ‘this art thing’. He wants me to stop making a fool of myself pretending to be something I’m not.

I would be lying if I said there aren’t days I desperately want to listen to him. I mean seriously? I’m no Picasso or Monet. I’ll never make a living doing this…. yada. yada. yada.

In those moments, when the critter is ranting and I am leaning into his assertions of my limitations, the voice of wise knowing within me has to be very persistent in her exhortations to ‘keep going’.

In the keeping going, she reminds me there is no judgement. No comparison. No criticism. No capitulation. There is only the will to ‘keep going’.

I’m grateful I heeded her wisdom yesterday, and everyday.

In the act of being willing to ‘keep going’, to keep exploring whatever is happening, magic unfolds its wings and joy expands on streaming ribbons of fancy dancing in the air. It is always there that I find myself breathing deeply into the gratitude of being creative by nature.

Namaste.

Calming Whispers

I have been working on this two-page spread in the altered book art journal I am creating with my mother’s prayer cards for a couple of days. I’m filming as I go and the added pressure is daunting.

I get to a point where I’m relatively happy with the background, but have no idea where the page is going next. My head is calling me to ‘do this’ or ‘that’ to make it go a certain way. My heart knows I need to get out of my head so that I can intuit the creative urges calling me to let go and let be.

I do what I love to do when I feel stuck in my head. I wake up Beaumont the Sheepadoodle who is sleeping on the floor by my feet and go for a walk through the forest and grasses that line the riverbank near our home.

I am immersed in nature.

It is there I find myself letting go of thinking about the page and simply allowing what is whispering to be released to come alive.

Creating this altered book journal, My Mother’s Prayers, has been an amazing journey. It has connected me through time and space within the sacred field of grieving and remembering and honouring and healing..

There are so many moments in my relationship with my mother where pain and regret and despair rippled in angry waves creating crenellated, hardened folds in my memory banks. Over time, the folds solidified and I became stuck in believing only distance would keep me safe.

Creating in this journal has felt like standing in a gentle spring rainshower with my head tilted up to the skies. My arms are spread wide. The rain caresses my face and the breeze flows gracefully throughout my being. I am present to and within it all. I am refreshed. Envigorated. Enriched.

In the present, the hardened folds soften, the crenellations become smooth and the edges drift away. The past quietly floats out of view like a boat on the river rounding a distant curve leaving me embraced in the present moment.

And I smile.

My mother no longer visits me while in the bath. She no longer insists I ‘listen up’.

I like to think she’s having the time of her afterlife, living it up for all she’s worth in the heavenly realms of her prayers. Dancing with her brothers. Laughing at my father’s sweet nothings whispered in her ear as he nuzzles her neck. Sharing a meal at God’s table with her parents and brother’s and sisters and Aunties and Uncles and cousins who got there before her. “It took me awhile to get here”, she laughingly tells them all. “I had to clean up some business I’d left undone.”

I like to think she’s happy with how that ‘business with me’ is cleaning itself up. I like to think she too has found peace.

As I finished the final touches on this page, the quote came to me. “Her prayers were the whispers that calmed angry skies and turbulent seas.”

My mother’s prayers are like that boat. They are the sacred container carrying us all to safe harbour, in good times and in bad today. Whether she’s with us in body or in spirit.

_____________________________________________________

The following is the video I created of making this spread.

I am constantly amazed by how challenging a science video-editing is, and how creative.

I’m also sometimes quite frustrated with the technology and my lack of experience. Like syncing of the sound to video. I worked and worked to make it happen and finally had to accept, it’s not about perfection.

I also had to trust that in time, I will become more adept!

I hope you enjoy the video — sneak-a-peak — there’s even footage of Beaumont in the trees!

Thank you again Laura Hickli for sharing your amazing talent and voice. Mr. Butterfly is so perfect for this piece.

Lessons From The Creative Field

Watercolour and ink on eco-dyed cotton

If you look closely at the painting above you will see it is mostly painted on cloth.

I was having fun playing with the eco-dyed cotton I created last week.

The completed 2 page spread in handmade art journal from scrap papers

And here’s the deal. ‘Fun’ is the operative word. I was not trying to make art. I wasn’t trying to create something ‘perfect’. I was simply having fun exploring what happens if…

This is the backside of the first image and the following page.

That’s art journalling. Exploring the what if’s of what happens when you let go of needing a purpose or destination to whatever you’re doing and just let yourself fall into the pure joy of self-expression that has no agenda, no intended outcome, no purpose other than to explore your creative essence.

Front cover of handmade art journal from scrap papers and collaged leaves and flowers

Life is the art of living fearlessly in the beauty of this present moment.

‘Making art’ is just a means to access the creative core that resides in each of us through whatever medium we choose to employ.

For me, those mediums include paint, paper, (fabric too!) dried flowers and leaves (as in the cover of the handmade journal I created out of scrap papers.

Back page – includes dried flowers and leaves

My mediums also include the words I write, food I create, table settings, and a host of other everyday things I use to create beauty in my world. It’s all creative expression. My way.

Your creative expression will be different. It is a reflection of you. Your inner and outer world. Your experiences, preferences, likes and dislikes. But make no mistake, whatever you are doing, it is a creative expression of YOU! And because it is a reflection of you, it is, by its very nature, beautiful. You are beautiful just the way you are.

Make it Beautiful is both my motto and achilles heel. I struggle to keep in mind that sometimes my self-expressions aren’t so much ‘beautiful’ as much as one big beautiful mess.

Different sizes, shapes and quality of papers all stitched together.

Like this handcrafted journal I created at the beginning of August and continue to sporadically work on. It was an invitation from an online forum/art group I belong to, “Get Messy Art“.

Its pages are all bits and pieces of scrap paper. Different sizes, textures, colours, heaviness. The beauty of it is its ‘mess’.

And… confession… I struggle with the ‘mess’ of it all. I struggle to let go of my judgement of what is beautiful . I want to create pretty pictures. Not beautiful messes.

Which is why I’m sharing it here. To find the beauty in all of it… The places I judge as the good, the bad and the ugly.

It’s my invitation to ‘loosen up’. To give me the freedom of letting my not so ‘pretty’ parts show too. To quieten that voice within that likes to hiss in my ear, “What will ‘the neighbours’ think?” Or, one of the critter’s favourites, “They’ll laugh at you and not take you seriously.”

This is the two page spread after the image I shared yesterday

And that’s why art journalling is so powerful. It not only gives me a medium to express myself through words and art, it allows me to dive into those spaces within where I find myself hiding out from being ‘real’.

Being real to me is more than just ‘being authentic’. It means I allow myself to be vulnerable in my beauty and my beast nature. I allow all of me, warts and wounds and wisdom to be seen – because as this art journal so beautifully expresses for me, we are not just ‘the good’, we’re also the pieces of ourselves we want to hide. The scraps and broken places where we fear that if others saw them, they’d laugh at us, or mock us, or shun us.

A page in process — I wonder what will happen if….

We are all of who we are — not just the pretty parts we like to show off, but the dark spaces too.

Like the moon needs the sun’s glow to be seen in the dark, we need our darkness to let our true, inner beauty radiate.

That’s what art journalling has taught me. Again and again. To be grateful for the joy and the pain, the ease of passage and the turbulent seas. To be grateful and to express myself in every way my heart desires.

Oh. And to let my judgements go and simply Have Fun!

Namaste.

Watch Me Grow

I have spent much of my life trying to fit in. Trying to conform and belong, and to feel comfortable in my own skin. To find purpose. To discover my dreams and live them, fearlessly.

It’s been quite a journey!

Recently I was asked if I would consider sitting on the board of a not-for-profit. It’s in a sector I’m passionate about. It’s an issue I care about deeply.

I declined.

There are other ways for me to give back to community without immersing myself in the politics, grind and gristle of making change happen.

For many years, Kerry Parsons, my dear wise friend and amazing founder of The Academy of Emerging Women, would caution me about becoming too to ‘the pain body’. I didn’t really understand what she meant but would usually answer, “I’m not attached to it. I’m like a piece of Swiss cheese. I let the pain flow through me so I can nourish the whole.”

We don’t know what we don’t know until we step out of what we believe we know to see how much we don’t know, or don’t see, because we think we know it all. (Whew. That’s quite a convoluted sentence!)

Recently, while walking with another wise woman who was also once my boss and who is one of the most intelligent people I know, I was asked how long it took me after leaving the formal workplace to know what I wanted to do.

I laughed.

“I’m still working on that one,” I told her. I also told her that it took me a year just to get to a place where I didn’t feel like I wanted to be pulled back into the fray of the homeless-serving sector. Like my unique talents and gifts weren’t essential to ending homelessnss.

Fact is, others have stepped into the spaces I held and doing a mighty fine job of ‘the work’. Yes, their way might be different than mine. The truth is, every way makes a difference. Every way matters. And every way has value and benefits that my way could not achieve.

For me, after almost 20 years working in the homeless-serving sector and not-for-profit, I’m done.

Yup. Done.

Woo Hoo! It’s only taken me a year and a bit after leaving the workplace to be able to see that statement is my truth today.

I’ve come a long way baby.

I also told my friend that one of the things I realized about six months into my ‘rejuvenation journey’ was that I was addicted to the stress, chaos and turmoil of working in the sector. I was, as my dear friend Kerry suggested and I denied, “attached to the pain body.”

There is a belief that says you can’t get rid of a bad habit without replacing it with something more nourishing and healthy.

To replace my ‘pain body attachment’ habit, I am employing, deploying, engaging my joy muscles. I am all into attaching my body, mind, spirit, soul and vital essence to joy.

Like a wildflower in a field of plenty, I am growing wild and free. I am joyfully swaying with the winds of change sweeping through my entire being. Like a child dancing in front of her adoring parents’ eyes, I am flinging my arms above my head, leaping wildly in the air and screaming out loud in joyful abandon, “Watch me grow!”

Her Prayers Were Her way.

No matter the season, prayers dispel the darkness and open our hearts to Love. — Two page spread in altered book art journal, My Mother’s Prayers

I am an experiential learner. I love to try new things. To combine different processes. To learn and challenge what I think I know by expanding upon the things I learn along the way.

I don’t follow instructions well. I don’t walk trodden paths with comfort.

Creating the altered book journal, “My Mother’s Prayers” has been a gift and a learning experience.

When I began, I thought I’d just be using my mother’s prayer cards as emphemera on each page. I wanted to honour her and to somehow enshrine her cards in a way that would preserve them, and perhaps enlighten me as to her true nature.

I have been blessed.

The cards and the process has become so much more than just a ‘task’ or an art project.

It’s become enlightening, nourishing and healing.

I always balked when my mother said she’d pray for me. I thought her prayers were a judgement of me. I thought she was praying for me constantly because she thought I was a horrible human being, an awful daughter, sister, mother, person.

The ‘art corner’ at Num-Ti-Jah Lodge

In working with her prayer cards, in allowing myself to be present to the images, their messages and to the process of creating each page with a loving heart, I am discovering a new perspective.

Her prayers weren’t a condemnation of me. They were the only way she knew how to express her love.

It’s one of the many things I love about the creative process. An idea sparks something and from that ‘something’, new awareness, insights, understanding blossom as I deepen into being present within and with whatever is unfolding.

In this case, I feel a deep, soulful shift within. No longer do I experience her prayers as a condemnation of my human condition, I am being gifted the experience of hearing them as her way of saying “I love you and want always the best for you.”

There was a deep gulf of misunderstanding between my mother and me. One of the things she often said to me was, “Why can’t you be more like the others? [my brother and sisters] Why do you have to do it your way?”

She struggled with my experiential learning essence. She feared for me constantly because I love to push limits. To test boundaries. To challenge what is in search of what is possible.

For me, it is just my way. To my mother, I was always in danger. And mothers are hardwired to keep their children safe. I realize now how often she must have felt helpless – she couldn’t keep me safe if I was constantly putting myself in danger.

My mother’s way was scary to me. I didn’t want to walk her path. And in being so vocal and I admit, obnoxious about not wanting ‘her way’, I wasn’t able to give her what she wanted most — peace to walk the path she was on, trying to keep her family safe by engaging God with every step. She wanted to live deeply embedded in her faith. I didn’t want any of that!

And I smile.

In retrospect, (though I thought I was being pretty random) I realize that it is no accident that the book I chose to use for this altered art book journal is called, “Contentment: A guide to finding the path to peace of heart..” The closing quote is from Henry David Thoreau, “Many men go fishing all their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.”

Most of my life I kept fishing for my mother to tell me she loved me — My way.

In creating this journal with her prayer cards, by being present to their beauty and their gifts, I am discovering my mother always loved me the best way she knew how — Through her prayers.

What a beautiful gift.

Namaste.

Mystery. Magic. Musings.

Eco-dyed 100% cotton

I love to experiment, to explore, to experience the mystery of what is possible when I let the ‘what ifs’ of attempting new things be my guide.

What if I add this rusty old nail to a vat of plants in water? What if I include it in a piece of cloth I’m rolling up that has been decorated with leaves?

What if...

I have been exploring the amazing world of eco-dyeing.

According to one website I checked out, eco-dyeing is, “…a contemporary application of the traditions of natural dyeing. In eco printing or dyeing, plants are enclosed in textiles or paper, bundled by winding over rods or stacked in layers and then steamed or immersed in hot water to extract the pigments and produce a print made with plant dyes.” (Source)

For me, it’s a whole lot of possibility steamed up in a pot of mystery and magic giving rise to retrospective musings of what I’ve learned, experienced, witnessed, observed…

Did I also mention its messy? It’s that too. But so much fun the mess becomes inconsequential.

Jar of cloths ready for the sun

I started the process of dyeing these cloths earlier in the week. I laid out my plants and ephemera on the cotton, rolled and tied them up, placed them in a jar to soak in a mixture of iron water and then, put them into the sun.

Sun-dyed only.

The cloth to the left was sun-dyed only. The other two were sun dyed and steamed on the stove for a couple of hours. The only reason the first cloth wasn’t steamed is that I was curious (and impatient) to see how the process went and unrolled it when I brought the jar inside. That’s when I decided steaming was the next step.

Sun-dyed and steam-bathed

And that’s the beauty of any creative process. It puts a spotlight on the traits we possess that can sometimes trip us up.

Take my impatience for example. My beloved likes to tease me by calling my impatience ‘legendary’. I didn’t think of myself as impatient until I reflected on what ‘inspired’ me to unravel the whole role of the first cloth to check it out. If I’d tested it by unrolling just a smidgen of a corner, I’d have seen it needed steaming for a darker imprint.

That said, I like the juxtaposition of the heavily printed versus lightly printed piece of fabric.

Sun-dyed and steam bathed

Now, here’s the big question – what will I do with these pieces?

I don’t know is the honest answer. The answer to make me look a little less unstructured is, “I can use them as journal covers. I can collage them into a page. I’m sure there’s other things I can do too!”

And that is where the fun comes in.

I don’t know what I want to do with the fabrics. I do know I love the mystery and the science of eco-dyeing. I love the experience of learning something new and the way it challenges me to keep learning more.

So… I’ll keep experimenting with it just for the fun of the exploration.

And that is one of the lessons this foray into eco-dyeing has really put into the spotlight for me.

It isn’t about the ‘why’ or the outcome. It’s all about the journey. About how much joy, laughter, curiosity, inner-knowing and a wealth of other aspects of creative expression that naturally arise from the exploration of what I know, and what I don’t know about myself and the world around me.

And, as I am learning as I explore this new medium, what I don’t know is greater than what I think I know. What a wonderful mystery to explore!

Doing. Alchemy. Faith.

One of the gifts of art journalling (and there are many) is how it offers up ample opportunity to explore your creative nature without judgement interfering with your discovery.

Ok. Let me reframe that. It offers up ample opportunity to see where judgement interferes with your discovery. In the process, you get to choose to explore your discovery of its limitations, or not.

This two-page spread began differently. It was going to be a simple, uncluttered background of flowers. I was working it. I mean workin’ it hard. I had a vision. An outcome. A goal. I was going to make it so.

And then, it became a reflection of what I wanted it to become, not the flow of what it was becoming. That’s when judgement stepped in and decided I wasn’t working hard enough.

So I dug in. Worked it some more until eventually, all my ‘hard’ work became a really big messy, cluttered ‘ YUCK!’

I painted over the whole thing with a thin layer of white paint thinking I’d just ‘start again’.

And then, I went for a walk and found the yellow flowers that appear on the page growing wild amidst a grove of poplars by the river.

I picked a few and kept smelling and admiring them as I walked home with Beaumont, the Sheepadoodle.

Their smell was redolent of children playing in fields of wildflowers dancing in the sun. Their colour felt like I was bathing in liquid forest.

They were calling for me to preserve them so, I hauled out my flower press and la voilá! They became the focal point of my page.

They also became the path through which I found harmony and flow within my creative exploration.

See, it would have been easy to give into my internal critics yammering about how bad the page was and just give up by painting over it entirely.

The critter would have been happier. It likes ‘the win’.

But the still quiet voice of knowing and grace would have been saddened by my ‘giving up’. It would not have criticized me, the still quiet voice of knowing and grace doesn’t criticize. It only presents me with opportunities to grow through myself. To discover new and more gentle ways of being me.

The words for this page were always floating on the periphery. They were always about a garden of prayers, but it wasn’t until I took the photo and decided not to write them on the page and instead worked in Photoshop that they gained clarity.

The lesson being… Creative expression is one part the doing, one part alchemy and one part faith.

Doing. Alchemy. Faith.

Just like my mother’s prayers.