I just finished one of my favorite projects ever – a custom Cat Shaman for a delightful person in Spicewood, Texas. She had seen the piece, above, at Marta Stafford’s Gallery. It was already sold, so she asked if I could make one for her with her own mementos. Of course! What fun!
She mailed me a box of little treasures along with handwritten notes about what each one meant to her. There were scraps of linen and suede, pins and teeth, elephants and medals.
Putting all of these precious things together in a meaningful way was a bit overwhelming, so I started at the beginning by choosing the proper earthenware cat head.
This guy looked pretty wise. I figured he could give me advice as I went along. “Trust the Process,” he said.
It was kind of amazing how things started fitting together inside the little “heart box.”
When you work with other people’s sacred objects, it can be a bit intimidating, but it’s also a privilege – I enjoyed the stories about each piece as I progressed with the assemblage. There are a lot of memories and symbols packed inside this little box!
I kept adding and subtracting and rearranging, and through trial and error, the Cat Shaman guided me through.
He’s going into his packing box today for his drive to Marta’s Marble Falls gallery – Diana, I hope you love him as much as I loved creating him! Thank you – what an honor!
A year ago – almost to the day – I said goodbye to my studio in Carousel Court. It was a hard goodbye. The space had been a gathering place for workshops, art shows, Show-and-Tell Saturdays, poetry readings – many things to remember and cherish. I truly miss that place, but it had become a huge responsibility, too big (and expensive) for one person to keep up forever.
Here’s a look at one of the early workshops there with beloved guest artist Sherrill Kahn. It was so much fun!
A month after I closed the doors forever, I found a smaller place just down the street from my new house. It has four rooms, lots of storage space, and reasonable rent.
Some of you have been there – thanks! Because of downsizing, and new responsibilities at the Art League, my workshop schedule had to be adjusted downward. Arg!
But ironically, on this anniversary weekend, I had twoworkshops at the new little studio, both of which were delightful (and neither of which was on my website calendar).
The first one on Friday the 13th was organized by six friends who wanted to learn some encaustic basics. They contacted me, and we scheduled it at their convenience. We did a variation of the “Behind the Veil” vintage photocollage workshop. We worked with layered beeswax, oil paint, book foil, walnut ink – all the fun media that gets good results. Here’s a video of that “workshop-by-request” gathering:
The second workshop on Sunday was my old favorite, Creating Spirit Dolls. I have a group of friends who went with me three years ago to Whidbey Island when I taught with Joanna Powell Colbert. They had been wanting to learn to make spirit dolls, and so we did it! Here’s that video – it’s so interesting to see how different everyone’s turned out.
I love teaching workshops! And as I look back on this year, I’m feeling the loss of those gatherings at the old studio. In the new place, we are limited to six people in a workshop, but that’s actually a good number. If you have a group of four to six people who’d like to learn mixed-media together, let’s talk. Workshop-by-request is a great concept.
I’m also going to expand online workshop offerings through some new ebooks with videos, starting with the popular “Postcards to Myself”. I got the nicest letter from an Etsy buyer yesterday, which gave me some encouragement:
Please continue making the e-books for people like me who live in another state and want to learn and experiment…am so excited…youre such an inspiration…thanks for sharing…and with your open heart all that you share and give will come back 10 fold to fill your heart and spirit as you have done for myself and others.”
Jacque in Washington State.
Finally, I have high hopes for the studio space at the Art League on King William Street. With good luck and some anticipated financial support, that studio may become the kind of gathering place that the old Carousel Court studio was. We’re having a workshop there on the 29th, and there are still two spaces left. Join us and give us your ideas and feedback
Workshop at the Art League Studio on King William Street
Looking back, it’s been a crazy, exciting, challenging year and one that has confirmed how much I love teaching and learning with all of you, no matter when, where or what! I hope to see you soon. Thanks for your support and friendship 🙂
“The secret of change is to focus all your energy, not fighting the old, but on building the new.”
One of the nicest surprises of the summer came from the amazing Marta Stafford, who invited me to be a part of her hugely popular gallery, Marta Stafford Fine Art, in Marble Falls.
This is a dream come true – I loved Marta’s gallery from the first moment I saw it six or seven years ago.She has the absolute best in mixed media, sculpture, contemporary and traditional painting, and more. Marta will represent me and my work (woohoo), and I’ll be featured in the exhibit that opens Friday, October 6th.
I need to create some nifty new work for this show, especially imaginative assemblages, so I started digging around for earthenware body parts! Heh, heh.
It’s so much fun putting my clay shards together with found objects and watching new critters emerge. Here’s the progress so far – some are not finished, as you can see – perhaps you can see where they are going? One never knows, do one?
This is a details of a piece I really like
There is actually another face underneath the one you see. Her arm moves in a sweet, spooky way – she’s about 12″ tall.
The one below is just started, but I like the simple elegance so far.
When finished, this piece will be about 18-20″ tall
Shades of spirit dolls! This construction, below, has some hand-dyed and rusted mulberry paper.
And while I was looking for clay body parts, I found this cat head! It’s now a new Cat Shaman.
Finally, here’s one I started a couple of weeks ago and it’s finally starting to come together. It looks like some sort of ancient goddess staff.
So far, every piece is different from every other one – interesting.
There’s something about a Spirit Doll workshop that gives me goosebumps. I think it’s because in just three hours, a group of willing people trust their creative instincts to combine some sticks and clay and cloth and build the most amazing mysterious little beings. It’s really magical!
You’ve seen my Spirit Doll workshop videos before, and every group is special – this one was particularly memorable. It may have been because of the mix of people, several of whom had come from far away and had never been to the Studio before. There was a lot of welcoming and bonding before the three hours was over.
So this time, I have two videos to share with you. The first one shows the magic of the group pulling together their Spirit Dolls one by one.
And the second one is for YOU. It shows you step-by-step photos of how I made the prototype for yesterday’s workshop just in case you get inspired and want to try this for yourself. I hope you enjoy them both.
Ready to make your own? Here are the basics (especially if you’re a visual learner)!
Finally, if you want all of the Spirit Doll tips and techniques and variations that I have ever tried, I have a DVD called The Magic of Spirit Dolls from my two-hour Artful Gathering class. Just sayin’ – if you missed the workshop, you can capture the “spirit” of it on video! Just click on the image for the link. End of commercial break – have a happy Labor Day!
She Cat – created by Linda Rael, owned and cherished by Lyn Belisle
I know of no other artist whose works resonate in my heart as much as those of dear friend Linda Rael. Everything she creates makes me think, “Dang, I wish I had done that.” She incorporates animal bones and porcupine quills and rust and earth and tattered linen and other stuff that myths and magic are made of. I purely love her art!
Linda Rael – Fiber, Rust, Found Objects – 2016
It’s been a dream of mine for several years to collaborate with Linda on a show, and recently, over a long lunch, we decided to go for it! We are calling this show “Earthworks” – it reflects a direction that we’ve both been exploring,going to ground, leaving behind bright color and adding elements one might find along a stream bed or sacred path.
The works will be on exhibit at my Studio for just two days during the second weekend of September.
Many of Linda’s new pieces are fiber-based and hand-rusted with the natural patterns adorned and enhanced with hand stitching. My own pieces will be mostly sculptural, much like my neo-santo series, but less refined, more weathered.
Want to see a few sneak preview photos? Please take a look, then mark your calendar now because the availability of these works is limited to September 9-10 only. You won’t want to miss this event – it’s always fun to visit the Studio, and I am thrilled that Linda is joining me in this amazing two-day exhibit called Earthworks.
One thing is for sure – the number of faces that came into the workshops on Sunday and Monday were a lot fewer than the number of faces that went out. The energetic and enthusiastic workshoppers must have created hundreds of little air-dry clay people – and not just human faces – there were 3-D molds, insects, cats, and one persona that looked like creepy Chucky (that one became our mascot).
The object was to explore ways to use no-fire clay – to make original and iconic clay face shards and other dimensional components without the need of firing in a kiln.
We concentrated on four areas:
How to make reverse press molds with both two-part silicone and with air dry clay
How to use the molds with various kinds of air-dry clay to make a dimensional object
How to finish the surface of the dried clay faces with walnut ink and metallics
How to use those finished components in mixed media projects
The key to success is to embrace the imperfections inherent in the air-dry clay – those cracks and irregularities give the pieces the illusion of heritage and a wabi-sabi touch of imperfect beauty. You can see what I mean from our video – every picture tells a story, every little face has a secret history – hopefully not Chucky’s:
Meow — and Happy Friday. Yesterday was all about cats.
I’m teaching a class called The Mystical Cat Shaman at Artful Gathering this summer, and a group of local friends wanted to try it out. So we scheduled a custom weekday workshop held yesterday (you can do this too, by the way) and created a litter of Mystical Cat Shamans at the Studio!
The “serendipitous surprise” came as we were just starting. Roxanne was late, and she called in with a voice message, “Can you hear in the background why I’m not there yet?” We all heard kitten mews on the speaker – adorable!
She brought the newly-rescued three-week-old kitten to the workshop and we took turns holding it while we worked. Roxanne is a consummate animal rescuer – she even had some kitten milk replacement formula with her. The little guy was pretty hungry.
Of course, the kitten found a home before the workshop was over. Whether it was the kitten surprise or the group energy, the Cat Shaman creations were amazing – each one different, each one magically personal. Take a look.
So if all of this inspires you, be sure that you are subscribed to SHARDS by midnight on Sunday. One name will be drawn to win the Friday Freebie – a Shaman Cat Starter Kit complete with Heart Box body and kiln-fired earthenware head, ready to finish. Even “dog people” are eligible, so feel free to share this post. Hmmm – are Dog Shamans in my future?
Saturday’s Show & Tell was the best kind of connected circle – it seemed as if everyone had a story or an idea that made the collective group smile and even applaud. When you begin with Vicki Siptak’s beautiful necklaces made from socks (1) and end with thoughts from a poet about imagery, words, and art, what’s not to love? Join us for the next one if you can on Saturday, August 29th (2-4 pm), and connect with this creative circle at my Studio. Here’s a video from Saturday.
Another connected circle is getting really huge, as in International – that’s the Spirit Doll connection. It started for me with Joanna Powell Colbert in 2012 and her order for faces from my Etsy site. She and I both started teaching Spirit Doll classes, and the word spread. I’ve sent shard faces to many countries and just got these photos fromJo Rockendorfer, who recently taught a Spirit Doll class in Sydney, Australia – here’s here description: “The red doll is Hummingbird Medicine, the green/blue was for a friend after she did a healing ritual and the last and most recent is Sophia Goddess of Wisdom”
I love the fact that Texas clay enhances Jo’s beautiful work from Australia – and if you’re reading this, you’re connected, too, in our circle – lucky me!Circles unify, art connects – life is good. Have a great week.
Waaa-aaay back in October of 2013, I wrote an article for Cloth Paper Scissors Magazine about Spirit Boxes. This is from the intro: “Spirit Boxes take their roots from art dolls, kachinas, and other meaningful handcrafted figures. They make beautiful gifts, especially if a personal note or small object is tucked inside the box. To make your own Spirit Box, you will need just a few simple materials, and most or all of those can be recyclables.”
Six participants got together at the Studio yesterday to give it at try at our Spirit Box workshop. The results (below) are beautiful, personal, and heartfelt.
So what’s the “box” part of this construction? It’s a recycled Altoids tin (how ubiquitous – they are used from everything from mini-shrines to sewing kits). But by gluing this on to the back of a flat wall piece, you can both lift it out from the wall to “float” it, and also have a secret compartment for life’s little pleasures like Hershey’s kisses, silver dollars, and secret messages! See?
Punch holes and fashion a “handle” out of wire, then glue on with E6000
When I returned from my short trip to Colorado, Michael presented me with an early Christmas gift that he found at El Mercado, San Antonio’s Mexican Market. He said there was only one like it, and It’s definitely unique! It’s a mini-shrine to the Virgin Mary (I’m assuming) that is a concave image – but when the Christmas light bulb underneath the face is turned on, it appears three-dimensional. Check it out:
When you look at the lighted image from the side, the eyes kind of follow you – it really does look rather eerie, but cool.
But the *very* coolest part is that I can use it as a Face Shard mold. Strangely enough, the face that results from pressing into the shrine (below) doesn’t look a lot like the lighted image!Spooky.
Too bad, though, if you wanted a similar gift – I seem to have gotten the only Light-Up 3-D Illusion Virgin in the whole Mexican Market. You can, however, have a face made from this amazing object if you play your cards right.