Grateful Spirit

Ah, Spirit Dolls – they were the inspiration for my shard faces which solidified my return to earthenware in 2008 as my personal healing medium.

When winter days approach, there’s nothing more comforting than to settle down at my workbench and get my hands into some clay. After the clay has dried, I watch the earthenware pieces come out of the kiln, vitrified and transformed at 1900F, and marvel at the miracle of earth and fire. It never gets old.

Part of what keeps this exciting is connecting with the diverse world-wide circle of Spirit Doll makers and their creations. As you probably know, I have an Etsy shop called Earthshards, which is visited by doll makers, assemblage artists, fiber artists, and mixed media artists for the small Shard Faces that I make. Sometimes in their Etsy reviews they send photos of how they use the faces – what a delight!

Here are some inspiring pictures from the last eight month. I’ve credited them using just their buyer names for privacy, but I wanted you to see what I get to see as feedback!

Jan


Bada


Beloved Lake


Brita


Cristel


Cynthia


Elizabeth


Holle

Judie

Kelly


Metis


Rachel


Tess


Torpor


Viki


Wally


Wendy

______________________________

Thanks to all of these creative makers for sharing their work.

If you want to make your own spirit doll after seeing these and need a little inspiration, here is my free Spirit Doll instruction booklet.

Now go cultivate your grateful spirit!! Give a little spirit doll to a friend as a thank-you. It will warm your heart – and theirs – this winter!

Provenance

I’ve been negligent about posting to SHARDS for several reasons. I wanted to change the look of the blog, and work on some website redesign as well.  So I’ve been busy, yes, but that’s no excuse.

Have you ever felt that the longer you go without doing something you should do, the harder it gets to do it? My brothers and I are of the generation that got swats on the bottom from our dad when we were little and did something REALLY bad. Daddy would let us choose the time for our swat, but would tell us that “the longer you wait, the harder it gets.” Sigh. The anticipation was worse than the swat, of course. Sometimes you just have to get it done and move on 🙂

But I digress – today I want to discuss “provenance,” a word that refers to the historical origin of a piece of art, or really any object. As an assemblage artist, provenance is hugely important to me. I believe that an object’s history can be sensed in some weird way, kind of like a shard of clay gives a clue to its history.

I’ve been working lately on a series of wrapped and bundles figures inspired by the Peruvian Chancay Burial dolls. Here’s the Chancay doll on the right and my interpretation is on the left.

Part of my process involves selecting specially-curated objects to wrap into the form. Here is another example:

Below are several little objects I want to wrap into the next figure – two seed pods and a feather.

No one who sees the finished doll will know about the provenance of these objects – they could be just some stuff I picked up anyplace. But the seed pods came from my Pride of Barbados tree which seemed completely dead after the snow disaster this year, but manages to come back gloriously despite the trauma. The feather came from the construction yard at SAY Si where they are building a wonderful new place to share art with the youth in San Antonio who really need it. So all three of these objects have a special “provenance,” a story of rebuilding and renewal.

As I said, no one but me knows about the provenance of these objects, but somehow they carry an aura of their story with them, and that infuses the finished piece with a sense of inexpiable mystery and meaning. You can do this with objects, with paper, with fiber.

When you have a choice in your own work of using something that has a special provenance even though it may not look quite as bright and shiny as something you bought at a craft store, consider the source, and go with what your heart says.

If you look up “provenance” as it relates to collecting art, you’ll find that it refers to the trail of ownership of an art object, or the history that got it from there to here. But every object has a history and a story based on where it is found. As an artist, you can incorporate those stories to give richness to your work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shards and Santos, Clay and Collage

Happiness is teaching in Taos!

A week from tomorrow, I’ll be at the Taos Ceramics Center working with students in my Shards and Santos Workshop. The class takes place on two consecutive Saturdays – here’s a description.

In this workshop, we will create personal assemblages inspired by these iconic figures of Santos. In the first class, we will construct handmade textured slab-based clay components such as heads, bodies, and enhancements. We will also learn to make hand-crafted clay press molds. These components will be fired once.

Here are some examples of assorted assemblage components that I’m taking with me – honestly, working in assemblage is just like working in collage, only a bit more dimensional:

Continuing the workshop description —

The next week, we will build our figure, incorporating found objects such as bones and shells and bleached twigs into the final assemblage and perhaps include cherished objects and hidden words. We will explore the limitless possibilities of cold finishes, such as metallics and beeswax, to enhance the surfaces of the unglazed earthenware.

These santos, below, are in progress, and I’ll use them to show how the components are put together.

Since we will not be glazing and re-firing the shard components, I’ve been experimenting with cold finishes for fired clay for the last couple of weeks.

One of the most successful combinations I’ve discovered is Pearl Ex powder by Jacquard mixed with Gamblin Cold Wax Medium.  You can control the translucency and the color saturation, then buff the wax finish. It’s exciting to see how well it works on bisqueware.

 

Another technique I’m playing with is tube acrylic paint mixed with a bit of cornstarch to dull the finish.

In the sample below, the acrylic mixture mimics the look of Gilder’s Paste at about half the cost and with less potential toxicity.

This kind of experimentation is part of the fun of planning a workshop. And then I get to share with new people!

I’m grateful to the Taos Ceramics Center for inviting me – and at this writing, there’s just one spot left, so if you need a quick get-away, come on up to the mountains of New Mexico!

 

Wendy’s Nature Spirits

A weather note : I started this post on Monday morning. The post (and normal life) has been interrupted by two days of power outages and snow here in South Texas, and there may be more to come! Yikes!

So, before the power goes out again, I want to warm your heart (and mine) by telling you about Wendy Larsen of Nevada.

Normally, I’m shy about writing my buyers to ask how they are using the faces the purchase from my Etsy shop, Earthshards, but Wendy had ordered quite a few of the Celtic Forge faces and I was curious. I emailed her, and she graciously told me about her Nature Spirits.

Celtic Forge faces from my Etsy Shop, Earthshards

Wendy wrote:

“I use all natural materials, and your faces are beautiful addition to my art. I was going to create my own Etsy shop one but the works weigh a lot as I use petrified wood and agate rose quartz . So that makes them quite heavy to ship, but I do have some in a crystal shop in Lehi Utah that carries my art, and I’ve done quite well there over the past few months. I’m currently doing a few commissioned pieces.

It started when I was at a cactus nursery and saw some Choya wood and decided to use it to create a beautiful piece of art. Little did I know they would be such a success! They are inspired by nature. Everything used on them is natural except for what I used to keep them in place. They they all have an energy that lives within each piece. I use a lot of raw crystals, pine cones, living moss, and natural stones as well as the Choya wood and your beautiful clay faces. I’m typically inspired to do a piece by what the face tells me.

Here is a picture of the first piece I ever did — and it’s history from there – LOL.”

Wendy’s Nature Spirits are packed with intricate detail and precious objects – tiny silver lizards, clusters of crystal. Here are some others. You can see the care and love that she adds to each one.

Thanks so much, Wendy, for sharing your wonderful Nature Spirits with us!

Before I close (and before the power goes off again!), I want to remind you that the Early Bird pricing for Painting with Fire is still open if you want to explore a year of Encaustic techniques and processes by 26 teachers (including me!) for less than $10 a workshop — pretty cool. Or hot.

Click here to visit Essence of Mulranny .

Please stay safe and warm – and take good care,

Lyn

Barbie and The Spirit Women

Spirit Woman, Barbie Koncher

I get to meet the most amazing artists through my Etsy shop. In the last post, you read about Brita, and now – meet Barbie!

Barbie Koncher lives in Hawaii and uses banana fiber as an element in creating her Spirit Women. Indigenous materials add authentic magic to her creations. She sent me some photos of her work along with some great notes:

Hi Lyn,

I’m happy to share my techniques. I have always shared ideas with fellow artists. Inspiration and sharing is critical to artists. I am working on shaping some banana fiber for a Spirit Doll who will inhabit it. I am using this instead of a stick body, using your techniques in my own way. This banana fiber has been soaked overnight then cut to size and scrubbed clean. You can only cut and shape when wet. Then I’ll wax with encaustic before I begin to build my doll, Shaman or Spirit woman. You have shown me an entirely new path!

There’s a lot more to know about this remarkable woman:

I have been creating jewelry for 35+ years and am best known for my large bead creations and fused glass jewelry (20 years). I designed for Saks Fifth Avenue, numerous cruise ships (traveled with them as a guest artist), and my glass was sold at the Museum for Women in the Arts in Washington, DC.

But wait, there’s even more!

I also had a 25 year career with the Department of Defense and capped that career working at the Pentagon and State Department.

I am a certified Art Clay instructor and am toying with the idea of making faces with bronze Art Clay, if I can keep it light enough. I also torch fire enamel on steel beads or copper screen. I am retired in Hawaii and 75 years old but I can’t stop creating. I am an active member of the Kona Palisades Artists and the Las Vegas Artisans Guild.

I just made some lovely cheese cloth painted fabric! I’m having so much fun with the Spirit Woman series.

In this last photo, Barbie accents the Spirit Woman with a cracked glass Christmas ornament and some sea glass. There’s something mythical about it all.

I love Barbie’s work. Many thank to her for permission to use her photos and her thoughts. If you’d like to get in touch with Barbie, you can email her here: koncher@msn.com

It’s such a pleasure to see how the Earthshard faces travel around and inspire so many fantastic artisans. So, now I have the words to “It’s a Small World After All” running through my head!

Happy Holidays – and dare it say it? Happy New Year – yay!!!!

The Blanket People

Yesterday I took six orders for earthenware faces from my Etsy shop to the Post Office. They were going out to six different states – Washington, Kansas, Maryland, Illinois, New York, and Texas. As always, I wondered how the faces would be used and whether they would inspire the people who ordered them.

Every so often, I get an answer to that question from someone whose work really lifts my spirit. I wanted to share this one with you.

Brita Rekve

Hi Lyn,

I’ve been thinking about you and how your faces have prompted an whole new direction for me in my work. I have enjoyed the ride and hope it continues. It seems I started with stick figures that came with stories then there was a slight morphing into heads on a stick, very nature based and now I’m creating what I refer to as blanket people…I am so in the groove when this is happening it’s a holy experience. ~~ Brita

Brita sent some pictures with her note, pictures showing wonderful textures and colors:

Brita Rekve

Brita Rekve

I asked her if she would send the Blanket People story that accompanies her soft-sculpture. Here it is:

Blanket People
She lived with sheep and would sit for hours in the field watching them. Named them after cowboys and mountain men. Doc and Wyatt, two of her favorites came to her for chin rubs and endearments and she marveled at the way the sunlight caught in their eyes and offered a glimpse of something ancient. She wove blankets from their fleece. It was such a comfort to bring the blanket to her nose and breath in the spun sunshine and sweet grass, feel the softness of the wool, the gentleness of the animal. Wrapping herself up she felt safe and protected as if all her grandmothers had circled round. She yearned to give this very same feeling to anyone with a sad and weary heart or the suffering of broken dreams. A wrap in the offering of the animals, a circle of grandmother arms, the  comfort and peace of safety and love.
The Blanket People story makes me feel all warm and comforted, even more so when she added:
There is a backstory I will share with you. Prior to the plague I was teaching process painting in my studio.  That’s what the studio was set up for. When we needed to shut down in the spring I started playing with sticks and fiber. It was around the time of a granddaughters high school graduation and I thought I’d make her a Spirit doll to hang on her wall. One thing led to another. Someone told me about your faces. My studio is a birthing room. I’m blissed out on the people who come to me, some with stories, some without. They come alive and I feel them…  This is a spiritual walk.
PS – Doc and Wyatt moved on to the great pasture in the sky. I’ll always miss them.
Brita is from Eureka Springs, Arkansas, and if you’d like to know more about her Blanket People you can contact at Facebook her under her own name, Brita Rekve, or email her at  fourwingsstudio@gmail.com.
There are some amazing connections going on – right after Brita wrote, I heard from another artist, Barbie Koncher, who lives in Hawaii and does beautiful work using non-traditional methods and indigenous materials. I’ll write about Barbie next.
Stay warm, stay connected, and take good care.
♥Lyn

Imaginary friends, bossy inspirations

Human faces and figures, ancient or contemporary, fascinate me as summaries of life stories in the moment. The longer I work as an artist, the more focused my work seems to be on interpretations of those themes.

Clay, paper, beeswax, and fiber are my instinctive, beloved media, all of which lend themselves to representations of faces and figures as small sculptures, spirit dolls, and earthenware faces.

Below are two of the latest little figures (sticks, clay, found objects) which I just dropped off at Marta Stafford’s gallery in Marble Falls. They are called “StarSeason” (top) and “Pastime” (bottom)

Creating an assembled piece related to human form is different from creating an abstract painting – there’s still a lot of intuition, technique, and trust involved, but these small sculptures seem to function as creative “guides.”

It’s easier to tell what element a figurative assemblage “wants” than it is to tell what color a painting “wants,” at least to me. Yeah, I know, it sounds weird.

I discovered this when I started teaching Spirit Doll workshops a decade or so ago, and then re-learned it in the latest Spirit Doll workshop, now up on Teachable.

If you look at the second lesson in the Spirit Doll workshop (which is a free preview) you’ll see how a bunch of stick almost pull themselves together to become something with strong opinions and a personality! It’s really fun to be involved in that process.

I remember when I was putting this piece (below) together a couple of months ago (it’s kind of a cross between mixed-media sculpture and Spirit Doll), I felt strongly guided on what to do next. For example – when it came time to represent the hair, she wanted horsehair.

I didn’t even know I had any horsehair, but then I remembered that a friend had brought me some a long time ago at my old studio. I finally found a hank of pale, coarse horsehair in a buried Ziploc, and used it. The sculpture/spirit doll was right! Nothing else would have worked!

Then there’s Mojo Woman, who wanted everything but the kitchen sink – I listened to her, too – not sure about this one 🙂 See how smug she looks with all that stuff?

Anyway, join the new Spirit Doll workshop if you need a new imaginary best friend who can be a bit bossy. But if you don’t like having somebody telling you what to do, you may regret it!

Take good care,

Lyn

 

Workshop Update – Meow

THE MYSTICAL CAT SHAMAN IS BACK!

The Mystical Cat Shaman Workshop was first offered in 2016 as part of the Artful Gathering summer class program. When the Artful Gathering group scattered, I decided to bring this popular class back to a new audience.

The NEW Cat Shaman workshop will be available until August 1, 2020 for $39 tuition, which is about half of its previous cost. In this new version, I have updated the handouts and added to them. The videos, for the most part, are the original ones, almost three hours of detailed instruction.

You can read more about it on my website. There is a free lesson from the workshop available that might help you decide if you want to create some feline magic. Ask your cat if she wants to help. Yeah, right 🙂

Click here for the CAT SHAMAN WORKSHOP info.

And there are new Cat Face Shards in my Etsy Shop!

If you decide to take the workshop, I will show you how to make your own cat faces, step-by-step, using about four or five different techniques. That’s always the best way to do it, learning for yourself.

But if you want to purchase some Cat Shaman from my Etsy shop, great!

I’ve added some new cat faces using the mold I made in the the original workshop. They are kiln-fired earthenware and they come in three finishes. They’re $9 each and there is a limit of 2 (I have only 30 right now).

You may find that they are sold out when you go to the Etsy shop. I sent an advance notice to my private email list last night, and the cats are going like hotcakes. 🙂

However, I’m making more earthenware cat faces today and they should be fired and  ready to go by Saturday. I’ll re-list them ASAP. (And if you’d like to be on my email list for previews and updates, you’re welcome to sign up).

Last note – I’m finally internalizing the reality of these times. Sigh. It’s going to be a long summer and fall without in-person interaction.

As a social creature and an artist who cherishes the company of my circle of friends and co-creators, I miss the times we could really look at each other’s work, touch the textures, laugh and hug in person.

But if there was ever a time to count our blessings, this is it. Be safe, trust yourself and trust the process, and take good care!

Creative collaborations

Earlier this month I got several emails from mixed-medial artist and tarot maker Dawn Zichko, whose work I’ve known and liked for quite some time. I wrote another SHARDS post about her about five years ago.

Dawn has a great blog called Mental Mohair which often features a daily card from her Everyday Tarot deck, which you can find in her Etsy Shop.

Four cards from Dawn Zichko’s Everyday Tarot deck

In her first email, Dawn sent a photo with a short note that said,

“Lyn, I thought you might enjoy seeing progress on a collaborative piece.”

Here was the photo (below) – very intriguing – and some of my faces were part of the collaborative design. I asked her if I could share the photo, and she requested that I wait until they had worked a bit more on it.

I’m including that unfinished version so you can see the structure of the body.

The following week she sent photos of the completed collaborative piece along with this description of the process:

Lyn, we created the Earth Protectress in ritual space. In brainstorming at earlier gatherings, the creation of a goddess was included in the list. So we all thought of creating her. In the sacred space we chose the parts we wanted to work on by chakra.

Essie (not her real name as she would like to remain anonymous) created the head/Third Eye/Crown, Patricia created the torso/Heart/Solar Plexus, and I created the base/Root and neck/Throat (this is the part that needed reconstruction — oh, the analogies!).”

The other women let me take her home and run with the additions. The clay faces, hair, pouch, and skirt were all done by me, but the additions were discussed with Essie and Patricia before working on them. I am blessed they trusted my creative ramblings. It was truly a touching experience to create this being in togetherness and sacred space.”

I think it’s just glorious – the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, and yet each part is amazing.

Artist collaborations can be tricky – sometimes it’s obvious which person did what part, but in this case, there is a seamless sense of sacred purpose. Thanks, Dawn, for sharing this work!
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Have you ever gotten involved with a collaborative project? How’d it work for you?

I have to admit, it’s something I’ve rarely tried, certainly not recently. But a lot of my artist friends, particularly fiber artists, love the collaborative process.

Surprisingly, there’s not a whole lot written about collaborative visual artwork, but I did find this thoughtful post called Cloth, Creativity & Collaborating with fiber artists Cas Holmes and Anne Kelly.

And I also found an engaging article about a mother’s painting with her five-year-old daughter called Making a Masterpiece Together.  Here were their guidelines:

1. We would each add one color to the canvas everyday.

2. We would do our painting while the other one was out of the room, so they would be surprised.

3. We would try not to paint completely over the other persons art work.

Those are great rules! They would work for any kind of collaboration, whether the artwork is done for a sacred and serious purpose like Dawn’s was with her friends, or with an informal group and just for fun.

The trick is always going to be keeping an open mind. No fair thinking “You messed up the part I did!”  Instead, you gotta think “Look how you enhanced my work.” Right??

Photo by Ella Jardim on Unsplash

 

Convoluted combinations and creative decision-making

Have you ever gotten part-way with a piece, loved it so far, but were afraid to continue for fear of messing it up? Every artist has probably been there. I sure was this week when I worked on this earthenware “shard woman.”

Here she is before being fired – “leather-hard” clay:

After I fired her, I decided that a patina finish would look good, particularly since she has a fish design that seemed rather ancient Asian-y. I added coral and trade beads and sinew.

So far, so good. I loved the coral beads and the way the finish look both like earthenware and old metal. Then I got stuck. The proportions seemed off. Should she go on a piece of wood? Get sewn to a canvas? I tried those and they weren’t right. Argh!!

So I went to a file of photos that I keep on my desktop called “Do This Now.” It’s not a real to-do list, but rather a collection of art I like that help to un-stick me because of the way the artist solved problems in painting, construction, whatever. Here’s what part of that file looks like – no rhyme or reason to the names or selections.

I got a new idea from two of the images, one of an anonymous talisman and one by Shannon Weber:

Shannon Weber: Burnt Offerings (one of my favorite art pieces ever)

They somehow worked together to help me figure out what to do with my own earthenware piece. When this kind of process happens, you don’t copy ideas, you sort of synthesize them into your own solution.

So this is how the piece turned out. It’s finished now (I think!), and it has some nice inspiration found in both the anonymous talisman piece and Shannon’s assemblage. Can you see the influence?  But it’s still my very own creation.

Lyn Belisle
Woman Shard: Patina
2018

In his book, Steal Like an Artist, Austin Kleon writes, “Your job is to collect good ideas. The more good ideas you collect, the more you can choose from to be influenced by.”

I would agree, and would encourage anyone to start a random collection of photos of work that is NOT categorized (because labels just limit you). Save a photo because you like it, and because you never know when you might need someone else’s nudge to help you get unstuck.