Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Knit One Purl Two

For our granddaughter Gabriella’s second birthday, we bought her a beautiful three story wooden dollhouse. Our son (her uncle Scotty) gave her a set of people, an instant family. But the big old house was so very empty, so my daughter Melissa and I made the drive to Olympia where we purchased the necessary accoutrements to outfit the bathroom, dining room, living room, and one bedroom. Viola, it was beginning to look like a home in miniature. Well, any true home would have throw rugs, so Melissa dug out her knitting needles and some fun yarn and whipped out a little rug for the bedroom. The clicking needles conjured up memories of learning to knit when I was in 4th grade 4H and I was itching to give it a whirl after all these years. Melissa cast on a series of loops, refreshed me on the mechanics of knitting 101, and then set me free. “I’m knitting, I’m knitting,” I cried as I got into the rhythm of moving the needles through the yarn. It was actually quite meditative and I kept at it, making a very large area rug for Ella’s new home.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Mirror Mirror on the Wall . . .

I facilitated two final Matchbox Shrine workshops at Serenity Lane last night, ten patients in each. I think my favorite imagine was in the first group, where two men, whose arms were covered in tattoos, were working away on their shrines. The imagine touched my heart, but, of course, due to confidentiality I couldn’t snap the photo. The imagine is tucked away in my memory.

I’ll lump comments from the two groups together to just give a flavor of the work and play that was accomplished last night.

The inside of my box represents my old self, illusions, and secrets. The inside represents what I want for my future.

Referring to a box covered in little square mirrors: It used to be that my nose was in mirrors all the time and I never saw, but now I can look in them and see myself.

The red circles on my box represent red eyes and my past life as a stoner; on the inside I glued a compass, which represents finding my way.

The inside of my box represents 15 years of hell, and on the outside I chose objects which represent hope and light. I like that I’ve not forgotten my old life, but I’m glad I can close the box.

When asked about the process of painting and gluing, everyone agreed it was fun. One person said it was better than I anticipated. A couple of others said it was nice not to think, just to pick items and glue, which was peaceful and relaxing.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

"I Gotta Have Geegaws"

I continue to be amazed at the creativity and willingness Serenity Lane patients have when they are informed they will be making a Matchbox Shrine. In many instances, the patient has been in their addiction for years and all parts of their life have suffered: family, social, recreation, art, and most of all self. When patients finally reach treatment and healing begins, their lives are transformed. I am the lucky one who gets to step in with a fun project. For some, however, it can seem overwhelming or a daunting task, the very idea of being creative is scary. I try and set the tone that we are going to spend a couple of hours “playing,” and that was the case last night when I walked eight lovely ladies through the process of making a personal Matchbox Shrine. Last night’s group was a women’s group at the Albany Serenity Lane. Of course, the guys were interested and kept poking their heads in the room as I was getting set up. One guy said, “I wanna be a woman, I wanna do art.” He told me if one of the ladies left, to call him in!

Although there were a couple of women who expressed anxiety or resistance to the project, all of them were at the tables gathering embellishments before I even told them what we were doing – they intuitively began hunting and gathering. It didn’t take long for me to give instructions and they were off and running. By the end of the evening, the two women who had expressed a lack of enthusiasm admitted they had enjoyed themselves, going so far as to say they had fun. Some of the other comments:

“My shrine is directed toward my sobriety and since I am a word person, I chose words to reflect my recovery: change, new, live, feel, can, and positive.”

“This project has been awesome. It has been three years since I’ve done anything artsy and I loved doing this.”

“This box represents me and my recovery. I want to be fearless. I want to dream. I want to laugh.”

“I’m kind of a hippy chick and my shrine is a hippy chick thing, I’m calling it my Hippy Chick Box.”

“I made my box for my mom who has been sober for over two years.”

On a lighter note, one woman commented that she loves purple and loves sparkles (and her purple glitter encrusted box reflected just that). My favorite? "I gotta have geegaws."

Cute Michele, counselor at Serenity Lane (and friend), who invited me to do art with her patients:

Let the fun begin:

Ta Da:

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Art in the Afternoon

I just spent a couple of hours with friend and artist, Destree, doing what we’ve coined: “Art in the Afternoon.” We’ve been trying to get together once a week to work on whatever project has burbled to the surface. Today, I was making some decisions about what embellishments to include on my “By the Sea” inchie swap, as well as what background paper to use for the October “By the Sea” fatbook swap I’m in. Yes, both have sea themes and both are for October. Why? Because that’s when Art and Soul lands in Portland and the theme is (drum roll) “By the Sea.” I made some headway on both swaps (no early peeks, I’ll have an unveiling later . . .).

Destree brought a large canvas project she is doing as a surprise birthday gift for her Dad’s 60th birthday. Since I knew he wouldn’t be reading my blog and spoil his surprise, Destree said it was okay if I wrote about the project. Anyway, Destree arrived with her canvas and a cute little cigar box painted yellow and filled with copies of old black and white photos of her Dad as a child. Her quandary was how to attach the photos but still allow the beautiful paint to show through on the canvas. “Transparencies” I cried! Unfortunately, I had seen them demonstrated but had never done them myself. I remembered enough to know that clear packing tape transparencies are pretty easy peasy, so I jumped online to get more specific directions and googled “packing tape transfer.” Viola! We were in business. I even took a photo of my 2-year old self and and gave the technique a try; it worked! Beautiful little transparencies for use in all kinds of projects and it was just what Destree needed for her canvas. We got a big bowl of water and started floating little miniature photos of her Dad. Here's one of me on the left and Destree's Dad on the right:

While the transfers soaked, we nibbled on a big bowl of freshly picked cherries and three kinds of summer berries: rasp, boysen, and marion. Maybe we should rename our gathering: Art and Berries in the Summer.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Garage Sale Extravaganza!

I went to a garage sale today at the home of Sam, the owner of the fabulous vintage and costume store Lil Gypsy. Given Sam’s quirky personality and unusual taste (to be taken in the highest regard), I knew I would be in for a treat. Sam graciously invited me to come early, which I most certainly did. Hubby and I arrived about an hour before the grand opening (and we brought three sturdy tables with us, so we felt like we were contributing in a small way) and as we drove up I let out a squeal when I saw this:

I let out another squeal when I saw a flying pig, telling Hubby that I’d been wanting a flying pig. He said he never knew that I wanted a flying pig and I told him “There’s a lot you don’t know about me.” Ha!

Being the early bird, I didn’t have to fend off too many other shoppers and I began a pile of wonderful things, big and little. Here are some of the bigger items I went home with, photographed in their new surroundings:

There was more, so much more, but I'll let these photos give you a taste of the goodness I came home with. Thanks Sam!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Matchbox Shrines for Recovery - Once Again

Once again, I had the honor of guiding Serenity Lane patients through the process of creating a Matchbox Shrine. This time there were seven patients and I had them begin the evening by describing what came to mind when they heard the word shrine. One person thought of a roadside memorial, another has a sister who has a room set up with deities, candles, and bowls filled with rice. One man said that for him, a shrine is when we take what’s inside and represent it somehow on the outside. It wasn’t a trick question and there are no right or wrong answers, but I wanted to explore what came to mind for them as a starting place for our project. After introductions, the patients got busy, no hesitation whatsoever.

When the shrines were completed, we took a little time for show and tell. One woman commented: “When I’m not loaded, my art turns out so much better.”

Another woman said her shrine represented what she was working on and what she is grateful for. A man described the outside of his shrine as representing his “heart inspired, soulful, happy self,” with the inside representing the things he is pursuing: writing, the right partner, games with his family, building computers, and music.

One woman was tearful as she displayed her beautiful, fully embellished shrine, saying the various pieces she chose represented the three children she never had.

Finally, one patient summed it up so well: “I’ve always loved to explore and now that I’m sober, I can explore the world and universe again.” Amen and thank you for the opportunity to be a tiny part of that exploration.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Book Group Bookmarks

My book group met this evening at The Beanery. The book under discussion, The Friday Night Knitting Club, brought the consensus that the story was a bit trite and definitely ripe for a Lifetime movie, although we’ve heard rumors that it is being made into a movie with Julia Roberts. Guess it will be in the vein of Steel Magnolias.

Now I’m not a knitter, but I thought it would be fun to do something with yarn in honor of our reading a book centered around friendship and knitting. I am an avid fiber person and I use yarn and fibers in many of my art projects, so I do have a lovely collection of brightly colored and textured yarns. For our meeting this evening, I lugged my basket of yarn, a tin of scissors, and pieces of black chipboard, which I had punched with an eyelet to hold the yarn: we made bookmarks! I also brought along a handful of colorful words, words such as Sassy, Friendship, and Joyful. After a discussion of the book, we got busy snipping yarns and choosing words. It was sure fun.

I have heard of a book group that in addition to reading and discussing books, they also do an artistic project as a way of responding to the book. I didn’t mention this to my book group tonight, but based upon their enthusiastic response to making bookmarks, I suspect they wouldn’t object if I showed up next month toting paper, scissors, glue, and a little bit of glitter!

PS After our book group, I came home and added a few embellishments to the two bookmarks I had made. One bookmark is for a fellow book group member who could not be there tonight because of her father’s illness and the other is for a friend who lives in Astoria and is homebound due to a broken ankle. I added jewels to their bookmarks and a charm at the end of a dangling piece of yarn. Shhhh, don’t tell . . . .

Waterfont Blues Festival - The Whole Shabang

As I write this, I am sitting on the upper deck of our boat listening to Linda Hornbuckle and Janice Scroggins singing at the Blues Festival and the title of their set is “Old Time Gospel Hour.” The sun is intermittently peaking out, our guests have all left, it is just Hubby and I resting and listening to music. It is a good time to reflect on our three weeks at the Portland Waterfront.

I read four books while here: The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs (two words: Lifetime movie); My Sister’s Keeper by Jody Piccolt (thought-provoking and well written); Sober Truths: The Making of an Honest Woman by Jill Kelly (warm memoir), and Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindberg (sage wisdom). Making time to read has become a struggle since I’ve discovered the fun of art, so it was a treat to have my face buried in a book much of the time.

Early on I tried to do artwork, but I found myself too distracted by my surroundings and the many visits I had from my kids and grandkids (lucky me). I managed to prepare the bases for an Inchie Swap I’m in (I've just chosen a random link to illustrate what an Inchie is, but if you google the word "Inchies," you will get hundreds of hits!), and that felt good. The theme of the swap is “By the Sea,” so I used an old nautical chart for the background and I ordered 60 miniature anchor charms from SkyBluePink, an excellent resource for embellishments, doodads, and whatnots. When I return to my studio, I’ll attach the anchors, add a word, and a small image, either of my cousin in a sailor suit or an old-time bathing beauty.

During the Blues Festival, we hosted dozens of friends (and quite a few strangers!). On the 4th of July, we had 35 people on our boat. And over the course of the three weeks we have been at the waterfront, 119 people have stepped foot on our boat. Some were strangers that Hubby invited on board for a tour. One of my favorites was Eric Lindell, a musician and performer from Louisiana who played at the festival. He had just completed his set and was walking on the dock with a band mate. Hubby said to him: “I like your music,” and Eric replied, “I like your boat.” Hubby of course invited them aboard. His band mate stood in the pilothouse, his hands on the big wheel and summed up his feelings about the boat: “This is the shit!” They both joined us on the upper deck for a short time, and were gracious enough to allow me to snap a photograph of them. When Hubby and I went into the festival the next day, we headed to the Music Millennium booth and purchased both of their CDs.

Today Hubby invited two couples on board for a quick tour and before we knew it, all of their friends were on board, too – all 10 of them! They were a group of artists and potters from Bend and in town for the Blues Cruise aboard the Portland Spirit. About 2:30 p.m., as the Portland Spirit motored by, there were 10 friendly faces standing at the railing eagerly waving at us. Howard tooted our air horn (the “boat clap”) two blasts as we enthusiastically waved back.

I tried to snap a photo of everyone who boarded our boat (not the strangers), and I encouraged everyone to leave a message in our guest book. Here is a sampling of the comments that were written:

Blues Festival, great food, perfect weather, fun people, awesome yacht! Feelin’ ritzy titzy that I got to be one of the chosen ones. Thanks for a great day. Jasmine.

Sun coming thru the clouds, lull of the river on your beautiful boat . . . music . . . yet a fun, peaceful day. Thanks. Claudia and Mark

Thank you so much for your warm hospitality. It’s not often you meet people with genuine intention. I appreciate everything and look forward to continuing to get to know you both. Thank you again and God speed. Mark and Lori

Thank you so much for your generosity to accept complete strangers and make us feel as family. Your grace, generosity, and acceptance are awesome. Thank you. I am incredibly touched by your kindness. Maggie, friend of Jill