The Story of The Enso Circle

Creative work is rarely done by a lone genius. Artists, writers, scientists and other professionals often do their most creative work when collaborating within a circle of like-minded friends. Experimenting together and challenging one another, they develop the courage to rebel against the established traditions in their field. Working alone or in pairs, then meeting as a group to discuss their emerging ideas, they forge a new, shared vision that guides their work. When circles work well, the unusual interactions that occur in them draw out creativity in each of the members.

Michael Farrell, Collaborative Circles: Friendship Dynamics and Creative Work (2001)

After six years of hatching, percolating, and polishing this concept, Michelle Belto and I are (at last) introducing you to The Enso Circle, our Invitational Online Artists’ Residency program. When we previewed the new website to several artist friends, here were their reactions:

  • “I just read your note on the class/residency that you and Michelle will be teaching and just wanted to let you know that this sounds truly amazing. Love both of your artwork and this sounds perfect! I have been creating art for over 50 years so I think it’s time I joined your tribe.” Bosha S.
  • “Brilliant idea. Brava!” Jean D.
  • “What a fabulous idea!!! Love this! This is a BRILLIANT venture!” Christine S.

When we began talking about what has ultimately become The Enso Circle, we wanted to create a structured, collaborative community that we ourselves would want to belong to.

This community would offer a supportive space in which to both expand and focus our present art practice, and to offer us a safe place for sharing ideas with like-minded creatives. It would have a starting time and an ending time, and be long enough to be meaningful but short enough to keep the energy going.

We knew from experience that we both need certain guidelines to make this work for us. Among those are:

  • A time-defined goal to motivate us (an art show submission, an article deadline, a workshop design, a group exhibit)
  • Private time to generate or refine a creative concept
  • A concrete plan to reach our goal with focus but flexibility
  • Group time to get feedback on where we are, where we were, and where we are going with our project
  • A collection of resources, always available, that can give us both technical and aesthetic advice and answers
  • Input from mentors outside the community who have expertise and objectivity
  • Small-group opportunities to brainstorm and problem solve the small steps in the process that sometimes get us stuck

Why did we name our community The Enso Circle? Because the Enso is a manifestation of the artist at the moment of creation and the acceptance of our innermost self. It symbolizes strength, elegance, and one-mindedness.

The very imperfections and hand-created contours are exactly what makes the Enso beautiful.

If you want to cut to the chase and learn more right this moment, just click here.

(And here’s what I know that you’re wondering up front . . .the program costs $325, it’s 12-weeks long, only 12 people can be accepted, and yes, it’s absolutely worth it)

But there’s more, and it’s important – and unusual – read on:

The Enso Circle is based on the idea of an Artist’s Residency – a twelve-week commitment that results in a personal body of work, large or small, conceived and completed through goals that you set with the support of the community throughout the process. You do need to apply and have a goal in mind, although that can change over the course of the term.

The Enso Circle is a unique experience for several reasons.

  • It has all the advantages of an in-depth workshop: resources, technique videos, handouts and printables.
  • Like an academic residency, it allows you to select your individual goal and work toward it with peer and mentor support.
  • It has the power of a critique group through frequent informal Zoom meetings and discussions in our private Slack space.
  • It is led by nationally known teacher/artists Michelle Belto and Lyn Belisle, who will model the process by working toward their own goals right along with you during the three-month program.
  • And it culminates in an online exhibition.
  • Lyn and Michelle plan to offer three twelve-week Residency terms throughout the year. The first one will start on March 2nd, 2021.

Here’s an up-close and personal invitation from both of us, via our Zoom recording. Just click on the video image.

VIMEO LINK

We hope you choose to apply to be one of the first twelve residents of The Enso Circle!

HERE’S THE LINK TO THE ENSO CIRCLE CLASSROOM./RESIDENCY WEBSITE WITH ALL THE INFORMATION AND THE APPLICATION FORM FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION

Thanks for reading – you’ll know if it’s right for you, and if it’s not, thanks for learning about our Enso Circle story!

Take good care,

Lyn

Shards, Scrolls, and Synchronicity

The concept of “Shards” is a foundational inspiration in all my artwork – an idea that helps me trust the creative process and follow where it leads me.

To me, Shards are synchronistic fragments that hint at a story, make a collective connection, or suggest a direction. Shards can be objects, or an intangible occurrences. A Shard can be a brief glimpse of something, as well, something that helps you find a direction.

For example, last week I was taking my usual pre-dawn walk in our wooded neighborhood when I saw what I could have sworn was a Nativity creche scene in a distant yard. It was so clear that I could see the roof of the lean-to shelter.

As I got closer, I saw that it was just a string of Christmas lights around somebody’s front door, partially concealed by blowing branches. But the illusion of the creche-like shelter seemed so significant in its clarity. Why that illusion at that time?

I followed that thought-thread as I walked back towards home, considering the whole idea of shelter for travelers, of people who go on journeys to freedom and safety, of how fortunately I was to have a safe destination and a home to return to. I thought about pilgrims and wayfarers, about what it must be like to carry all your belongings with you.

Then came the memory jog. That whole pilgrimage concept reminded me of a series of clay assemblages I had done five or six years ago called “Peregrinos” (Spanish for Pilgrims). It was an age-old theme  that I had I wanted to go back to at the time, but had pushed it to the back of my mind.

Peregrino Series, Earthenware assemblage, Lyn Belisle 2015

Now, though, this Peregrino theme inspired by the mistaken illusion directed me straight to my studio to begin the mixed-media fiber piece I’m working on now. Its working title is The Pilgrim Scrolls. The form is a triptych of canvas scrolls that contain pictures and small relics and memories that represent things we take with us on our journey.

The triptych (so far) has photo transfers of my original Peregrino clay assemblages along with other images and components. It will have smaller scrolls, patches, stitches, and pockets. It speaks to homelessness, but not randomness.

Phototransfer on canvas in progress

Part of the techniques I’m employing, particularly the phototransfer on fabric, came from my recent Prayer Flag workshop, but I would not have been given the Peregrino/Pilgrim theme without the “synchronistic Shard sighting” that was not even what it seemed. I’m really looking forward to completing this work, to seeing where it takes me and what I learn.

During Covid-time, I’ve had more time to think about sources of artistic inspiration, and I want to explore more about my “shards” and other kinds of synchronistic fragments that seem like a secret handshake from a deeply collective and timeless source. There’s always something surprising to discover, and something to say about that discovery.

I’m re-reading a book that I keep coming back to over the years called The Tao of Psychology: Synchronicity and the Self by Jean Shinoda Bolen.

She’s written many books, but this is one of her first, and my favorite. You’ll like the way she explains synchronicity and why sometimes it seems as if we are meant to be in a particular place at a particular time to come across a particular “Shard.” Here’s a link.

UPDATE!

If you’ve read this far, perhaps you’d like to know that I finished Pilgrim Scroll last night – here’s how it turned out – I’m very happy with the way the shards led me!

Fat fiber and skinny holes – Carolyn to the rescue!

Just because I call myself a “mixed-media artist” doesn’t mean I am good at everything. On the contrary.

When I took a seed-beading workshop a few years ago, I got so frustrated trying to threading those microscopic devil-beads onto a hair-thin sewing needle to attach them to a piece of felt, my table-mate finally said, “Honey, why don’t just just try hot glue?”‘

Threading stuff is not my strength. If you’ve watched my workshop videos, you may have noticed that I often have to change course after try to force a piece of fuzzy thread through a little hole in a clay face.

Fortunately, one of my online workshop participants, artist Carolyn Congrove from Tucson, took pity on me and just sent me this great video that she made to help me out! This is very cool.

She shows three easy approaches to threading wiggly big thread and ribbon though little holes without causing the threadee to have a nervous breakdown. I asked her if I could share it with you guys, and she said I could.

Her daughter April shot the helpful video. The floss-threader tip, as she says, is a game-changer.

 

This isn’t the first time Carolyn has helped me out – she sent some great photos of her lotus books that I used in one of my recent posts about giving gifts of art from your heart during this pandamic.

Carolyn Congrove

I have met so many nice (and helpful) people like Carolyn through the online workshops on my Teachable site. Don’t forget there are free workshops for you there, including the Lotus Book.

And if you want to trim your Lotus Book with some little-bitty beads on some wiggly fuzzy thread, Carolyn has come to our rescue.

Take care – stay cool!

Lyn

 

 

For Love of Leonardo – a fiberart sculpture

That’s the title of a new fiber art sculpture I (almost) just finished. Where these ideas come from, I’m not sure, but I was looking at some of Leonardo da Vinci’s anatomical drawings and thinking about insides and outsides and metaphors, so I photocopied some of his drawings and notes onto linen fabric.

Then I started building a form with no real plan . . . I use sticks and sinew and gauze and all kinds of things to engineer the armature.

At this point, I just go happily along with no idea of where this figure might be going, but trusting the process. It’s like reading a book that you can’t skip to the end of to find out what happens, but I knew it would have something to do with the Da Vinci notes on linen.

The big step is finding the face that helps tell the story.

Now the “it” has become a “her,” and I look at her in different light and different places to get to know her better.

The linen layers are in progress, and I’m refining some of the details, like skewering her headpiece to add sinew. I got so engrossed at this point that I forgot to take process photos!

Her linen-wrapped legs are anchored into a wood block covered with faded Turkish carpet scraps.

The plot thickens – there are pieces of stitched linen with hearts and babies and love letters . . . it’s complex, and a bit disturbing, but terribly intriguing!

She has an ivory silk braid hanging down her back.

Here is the (almost) completed piece – she’s 20″ high.

For Love of Leonardo, Lyn Belisle, 2019, Fiber sculpture with mixed media

I borrowed a lot of techniques I developed for last year’s “Boro Horse,” (below) which I love, but the Leonardo piece feels more personal somehow.

Next up – a wall piece that celebrates the complexity old fiber rugs and weavings.  I plan to incorporate some of the found objects I’ve collected in the last couple of weeks for the Collage Challenge.

This piece is just barely started, but we shall see what we shall see –