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A participant in the “Befriending Our Shadow” e-course described a dilemma she was facing in choosing a theme for her doll. She said, “I have some ideas but nothing feels right.” I asked her to describe one of the ideas that didn’t feel “right,” and she said, “one aspect of my shadow is ‘feeling like a couch potato’.” But she thought that idea was too superficial and on one level, maybe this was true. She didn’t want to settle for the “easy” thing, she wanted to get to something more real and meaty.
You may be facing something like this in your day-to-day life….you have a big project that you want to attempt, but every time you start, something keeps you from taking the first steps. You just can’t figure out the “right” way to approach it. After careful consideration, you have enough self-insight to realize that your search for the right thing may be a way to avoid getting started. But then it occurs to you that the very most important next step is to take a very long nap. Most likely this means you are dealing with some aspect of the shadow. Nothing wrong with naps of course.
First thought, best thought?
There is a saying, ‘first thought, best thought,” and in the example above, the participant and I discussed how even though “couch potato” could in one way be seen as a superficial theme, there may be something deeper, if she became willing to delve below the surface. We are dealing with shadows here and they can be notoriously trickster characters. They can hide in plain sight or they can morph into the opposite of what you think they are. We can spend endless time searching for the “right” way to do things, yet sometimes we do just need to jump in. Sometimes the first thought is the best thought. Sometimes you have to be willing to do the dance with the shadow, to hold it lightly.
Are you a planner, comfortable with detail, or are you a jump-in-feet-first kind of person?
Another challenge for this participant, a gifted and highly skilled artist, who is especially good at carefully planning out her artworks, might have been that her planning skills were getting in the way. Because we are in the realm of the shadow, a place where planning can go out the window, where our highly skilled and experienced left brain mind has absolutely no idea how to proceed. What to do then? People who are more comfortable jumping in head first and without a plan may have a slight advantage here, but maybe not.
The shape-shifting shadow has a way to get at the non-planners as well, leading them into a path of confusion, with idea after idea piling in on top of each other, higgelty-piggelty. Someone who “usually” approaches problems without a plan, when facing their shadow, may most need to learn to set up parameters, structures and boundaries. Take a moment and consider which is your habitual way of approaching problems? Neither way is better than the other-they’re just different. Side note, what I have noticed in myself is that there are areas of my life where I tend to be the feet first jumping in kind of person, ie with art-making, especially doll making. But out in the real world I tend to be more of a planner.
Maybe this idea is the start of something bigger but you just need to chip at a small piece of it to start?
I don’t know yet what the end of this story was for this participant. Was the couch potato idea the way to go? Maybe this idea was a non-starter and yet maybe it was instead a doorway to something more profound. The idea here is that we have developed strategies for dealing with the usual problems in our life, the things and tasks that occur with regularity. But when confronted with something completely new, we have to start from scratch. And at first it can look like just one big huge couch potato weighing down on us. How to get started? Maybe we just have to start with one tiny bite out of the potato.
Starting where you are
What would that look like? In the class we did an exercise where we looked at the layers of the shadow. You may have tried something like this yourself, a dialogue with your ideas.
1. Use your dominant hand to ask questions and respond to the question with your non-dominant hand.
2. Write down one layer of your "shadow"-a part of you that you are wanting to ignore and ask, "why does this bother me?"
3. Keep going with "why" questions to see what is underneath the shadow.
4. Eventually you may get to some sort of "gold" some insight into what your shadow might be hiding from you.
This is best done in a spirit of lightness and without any expectation of definite answers. Eventually you may get to a place with new information and even possibly a place where you feel a sense of connection and ease.
“What is meant for you cannot miss you…what is not meant for you cannot hit you”
I am participating in a program that is led by a Sufi healer, Mark Silver and he recently shared with us an idea from his Sufi lineage. The idea was profound and yet simple, “what is meant for you cannot miss you, and what is not meant for you cannot hit you.” This idea resonated with me deeply and I have been thinking of it ever since. We spend so much time trying to figure out what the right actions might be, to take this path or the other path. To focus on one area of a problem or another? To work with this person or someone else? ad infinitum. But instead, what if we can just rest into opening the door right in front of us? What if we just trust that we will be guided as we take the steps along the path?
This doesn’t mean throwing away our thinking mind, or planning mind. This part of our brain is extremely useful. But it does mean using our thinking mind in conjunction with a pretty good relationship with the mysterious and the unknown. My highly visual mind sees an image of someone walking hand in hand into the sunset with a very large but strongly grounded on two feet, potato. I wish them well.
Goal is wholeness
Because ultimately the goal is wholeness. That’s what we really want. What a gift it ultimately is to be faced with new paths and new problems, because if we didn’t have that, how would we grow? I have a couple new ideas for e-courses in the works but I’m not ready to talk about them yet. The Befriending Our Shadow class that I talked about above, will be offered again in the spring. I have had several people ask me about in-person classes but those aren’t happening any time soon, with the levels of infection going up across the country. Sending love to all of you and hoping you are able to stay safe and comfortable but that you are also finding ways to challenge yourself with new experiences. Lots of love.
Transformative Healing Dolls
Fall is a time of new beginnings...
...and of immersing yourself into new learnings. Time to learn new or brush up on new subjects, such as languages or if you are creatively inclined, to take art classes. Engaging the mind, body and soul in learning can be a way to cope with the challenges of these strange times.
Everyone around me is struggling with the endless feeling strangeness of life under partial lockdown and of the current political chaos. Feelings can run high and become magnified in these strange times. This time can also be an opportunity for an internal cleansing, working through of the powerful feelings that can arise in the face of frustrations and challenges that our current climate provide.
The Befriending Our Shadow e-course is a way of combining both practical learning and internal cleansing. The class is a deep dive into the shadow, which is a powerful and ultimately liberating process. Note: the early bird pricing ends September 15th.
One of the participants in the previous Befriending Our Shadow class, Marie Sepe (see two sides of her flip doll above), graciously offered to share her intense process of working through strong feelings about cancer as she created this flip doll. I especially loved all the creative choices she made in order to adapt this process to her own, including finding a doll pattern that she adapted to make a flip doll, converting the skirt into a cape which allowed the two sides of her doll to hold hands and choosing to make a third separate doll to witness the entire process.
Here are Marie's detailed comments about her process:
"I initially took the "Befriending your Shadow Self" class to spend time creating with a friend; I wasn't certain what part of my Shadow Self needed befriending. At the time I took the class, I was a 1 year survivor of breast cancer and the emotional turmoil of that journey quickly surfaced. I had spent such an extended amount of time either determinedly staring down death during the path of treatment or just placing one foot in front of the other while pushing through the fatigue caused during and lingering after chemo that the explosion of emotion shouldn't have surprised me....though it bubbled to the top and churned for weeks while I created my flip doll and meditated on the meaning of the emotions.
I decided on impulse to sketch out and explore the "Before Me" and the "Cancer Me" in the doll, and was shocked by the brutal honesty of the "Cancer Me" particularly in contrast to the "Before Me" doll. I shared this initial sketch with a long time close friend, who immediately recognized the importance of creating this doll, and not only encouraged me to explore the depth of rawness in the "Cancer Me" but also tasked me with creating a final doll after this flip doll that represented the "Me Now" for closure. The "Before Me" doll was the easy part; I have always had a positive attitude, and I came to call that side "Sunshine Girl". I selected a meticulously detailed, beautiful doll pattern because of Sunshine Girl, which meant that I used the same doll pattern--but defaced--for Cancer Me.
The anger over cancer and its journey that lashed out and created scars and ugly adjectives--along with an explosion of profane epithets--on the "Cancer Me" side surprised me. It should not have. Publically I had kept my ever-sunny attitude in the face of death saying funny things to keep my cancer team laughing and moving forward in good spirits with me, but privately I had stitched up a small handful of "fuck" sentiments going into the mastectomy; I had laughed wildly while I stitched them and kept them close to me even through the chemo portion of the journey. I gathered up the fruits of these profane epithetic stitchings and collected them on the "Cancer Me", whom I had come to call "Anger Girl". As I stitched the painful adjectives on Anger Girl, I also meditated on their meaning and realized that these adjectives were only added to the good adjectives that already existed for Sunshine Girl.
The good that is me still exists in spite of the hurtful adjectives that were added through the experience of cancer treatment, and that meditation helped me push through the seeming dichotomy of concurrently held Sunshine and Anger, and begin to love and heal the Anger side of me--in essence, befriending that Shadow Self. At the end of the flip doll journey, I came to be thrilled that I had bothered to undertake the complex process of making articulated, bendable fingers. The afternoon that I completed attaching the working hands/arms to the doll torsos, I played with the joints and my first impulse was to make the two hold each others' hands. I have left them that way. I delighted in giving Sunshine Girl hair--the burst of joy exclaiming "I have hair!" and waving Sunshine Girl with her wild hair around on the zoom screen for the class was impulsive and really expressed how I felt and feel, months after chemo having my hair grow back just as it was before. How alien I looked to myself in the mirror without hair--in real life--surfaced as I completed the sketch of Anger Girl without hair and then later formed the doll.
I made a chemo scarf for Anger Girl, because I wore one and I know how cold it gets without hair; I took loving care of myself throughout the cancer journey no matter how much I internally rejected it. This process helped me forgive myself for the side effects I gained from chemo; I realized that I did the very best I could to take care of my future self with the quality of life and life-sparing decisions I made early in the journey. I decided to make what was supposed to be a circle skirt (which would have divided them into halves) into a cloak that they can be safe under when they need privacy--and they can decide if they want the Sunshine side or the Anger side expressing the mood of their retreat from the world. As I finished, my dear friend who was taking this class with me suggested that I gift my flip doll with a name that brings the two sides together, since they are completed as holding hands. My flip doll is named "Sol Enojado," or "Angry Sunshine". I call her Jade."
Thank you to Marie for sharing her process here. For more testimonials, and for information about the Befriending Our Shadow course, go here.
Have you been feeling the exhaustion of these last few months?
These past months have been particularly challenging. It is easy these days to feel exhausted-to feel difficulty initiating anything beyond what is needed to get through the day, especially as a woman. On top of that, when you are carrying feelings of loss, grief and trauma, personal and collective, these can weigh you down. It can feel like daily challenges that were simple at other times, can now take on larger proportions. If you are working from home it can be difficult to find a daily structure that makes sense, without those external anchors to structure your day around. And at the end of each day, it can feel like the day was spent on the surface, with nothing meaningful achieved.
Maybe you have tried listening to podcasts, educating yourself about how to be a better person in multiple different ways. Maybe you have found ways to cook more or to reach out to family and friends through Zoom. These are all wonderful and worthy pursuits. And yet, the exhaustion and frustration remains. It’s easy to see the time we are living through as a struggle to be avoided and endured, and sometimes it is, but there is also an opportunity for deepening.
Finding nourishment from spiritual mentors, Thomas Moore, Sandra Ingerman, Hildegarde von Bingen...
I remember reading and appreciating the spiritual scholar Thomas Moore's 'Care of the Soul: Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Daily Life," back in the late 80’s when I was in graduate school for art therapy. Moore described recently how in a way we are all monks in contemplation at this current time. In our isolation and solitude, we are forced to be alone and with that comes an opportunity to be with ourselves in new ways. We are called upon to use our inner resources to grow through this time. Sandra Ingerman, another of my virtual guides and mentors calls this a time of initiation and an opportunity for deepening. She connects this time with other times of loss, trauma and tragedy when we go into deeper into darkness, enough so that we can discover love, light and meaning that rests at the other side of that darkness.
This deepening can be as simple as listening to meaningful music that connects to the soul. As I write this, I am listening to Hildegarde von Bingen’s beautiful monophonic chanting. As I listen, I am reminded that she was a mystic and scholar who lived at the cusp of the turn of the last millennium, a time that had some similarity to our time now. There was unrest, illness and also doomsday prophesies when the year 1000 came. And Hildegard was an unusual woman for her time. She not only heard and followed the words of spirit from inside, she also found a way to lead her community of women through art, music, meditation and work with nature to celebrate life and find ways to be hopeful. She also found ways to effect political change and had the ear of powerful male leaders but that is another story.
However, you may want to go deeper than listening to music to have an experience of your deeper self through doll making. Read more about what the experience of what such a workshop was like for a participant in a doll making workshop this June.
Last June, I led a workshop for creative women from many different backgrounds, artists, art therapists, fiber artists, doll makers and some women who hadn't had any experience with this kind of art making before. This amazing group of women created dolls that reflected their shadows, those hidden sides of the self that can be scary to look at but that ultimately reveal hidden strengths.
In these blog posts I am going to feature various women from this workshop and their amazing dolls. Last month, I shared the work of Naomi Zow and today it is Angela Roberts. Please enjoy taking a look at her doll and some of the fascinating details of her process, below.
Angela Roberts, featured flip doll artist from the Befriending Our Shadow e-course June 2020:
Angela's doll is named "Mary Frances" and is about how, "wishing for control twists one’s head sideways, as portrayed by the doll. Images decorate the skirt, representing personal lessons related to lack of control…On the other side of the doll, there is comfort with ambiguity, speaking to a willing heart, a spirit open to guidance. This flip side of the doll reflects this knowledge, and the shine of these small things.”
She said about her process, "I never made a doll before. I never imagined making a doll before this class. I focused on a lifelong personal challenge as my theme-the driving need to be in control. Even when I know it is a pipe dream, I still craved control at all times. Making my doll-deciding on images of both light and dark-forced me to think long and hard. To experience many different emotions and conclusions. In the end, the process helped me to find a modicum of peace and acceptance."
Below are some of the details from her amazing doll. She used detailed embroidery and applique details, bringing in previous considerable experience from stitching and embellishing, though as she said, she had never made a doll before. In viewing these dolls here, I am struck by the similarity between some of her organic symbols and shapes and the work of Hildegard von Bingen above.
She describes below how some of the embroidered elements came from some Dia los Muertes fabric which she has transformed in ways that capture personal meaning for her. The two (or four) sides to her doll, represent opposite sides of her experience, on one side, control and on the other acceptance. Yet there is also a unity among all the elements of the doll reflecting the way in which the flip doll has the capacity to contain opposites..
Read below about the Befriending Our Shadow e-course which is again on offer, this time starting in October, through November. And click the link below to sign up for the early bird pricing!
Befriending Our Shadow
A doll-making e-course about befriending our shadow, using tenderness and compassion to connect with all parts of ourselves. Flip dolls are two sided dolls connected at the waist. These two sided dolls have the capacity to capture divergent views of reality, dark vs light, joy vs sorrow, love vs alienation. In this course you will have the chance, through exploring and befriending your shadow, to discover hidden strengths within. And at the end of the course, your doll will represent and unite both shadow and light. And, important note, you do not need to know how to sew beforehand. This class is open to those at all levels of sewing ability.
Through this course, you will:
Note: The image above and the one below are from altered books that I have been working in over the last year, inspired by a class, The Down Deep, with Fonda Clark Haight. This method of working with goache, water color crayon and collage, has been a wonderful balance to doll making. These drawings have also become my way of downloading feelings quickly and of getting warmed up for the doll making process which usually happens more slowly over a period of weeks and months.
Is your brain racing to try to cope with this crazy world we live in?
Are you feeling these thoughts racing around your brain these days, like I am feeling in mine? Protesters and Black people getting targeted, threatened, injured and worse. Rollbacks seem to come up every day on environmental guidelines that had been protecting our living earth. The pandemic seems to be worsening and its management seems more of a distant reality. Are you feeling, like I am, a pressure to act, along with a sense of helplessness?
A fundamental dichotomy
I can only speak as a white person, with all the limitations that my viewpoint implies, to say we do need to examine ourselves and question our beliefs and take a stand on structural racism. We need to take action steps that are real, such as donating to causes that support activism and joining in protests if we are able. And we need to take care of ourselves and our families during the pandemic, and make sure we are wearing masks, practicing social distancing and staying home as much as possible if we are able to do so.
But what if along with all of that, and underneath it all, we were able to believe that we as human beings are enough? By this I mean that, yes, we are flawed and yes there is a lot to do but also yes, and at the same time, there is nothing wrong with us. It is easy to lose sight of this truth in the face of such scary and catastrophic events.
When we don’t see this truth, there can be a tendency to take actions out of a place of panic or out of a sense of unworthiness. Sometimes this leads us to forget that we are enough, on a deep level. I’m not saying we should ignore what needs to be done. But it is about taking these actions from a place of love and care. And allowing ourselves to rest if we need the time to rest.
An extreme and tragic example of what can happen when we lose sight of this
There was a story the other day in the news about a white emergency room doctor who committed suicide. She had been in charge of an ER, seeing COVID 19 patients every day and as the situation in the ER became more unmanageable, she became more hopeless. The situation was made worse when she contracted COVID 19 and then felt pressured to go back to work before she was fully healed. She became so overwhelmed by the situation and her inability to manage and contain it, that she killed herself. What a tragic story on so many levels.
What really stood out in the article was that this was someone who had always been able to triumph in her life by using her intellect and skills to cope with challenging situations. Yet somehow this situation was beyond anything she had ever faced before. Her previously reliable skills were no longer of use here. She couldn’t power through something this big. She was left feeling alone and isolated, even though there were sources of support around her. And so she became another victim of the pandemic.
What if we are all loved?
So many of us are being faced with overwhelming situations that can lead us to feel alone and unloved. Yet, even if we don’t have a belief in something outside ourselves, like God or spirit, we can find a source of comfort within our own brains and bodies. I’ve been reading and listening to podcasts about ways of using specific and warm language towards the parts of ourselves that find it harder to trust in our own enoughness. We can begin to discern which words to use to comfort the scared or overwhelmed part of our brain. These new studies are showing that we can create new neurological pathways in our brains, which can light up and provide us with comfort. And when action comes from this connected place, connection to the self and others, it is more likely to be sustainable and powerful action.
Doll making as another path to self love and acceptance
Another way of connecting to that nurturing side of ourselves is through doll-making. A few weeks ago I finished teaching the online class, Befriending Our Shadow. It was an amazing experience to witness women making flip dolls, while resourcing a place of kindness within. Some of what they said about this experience was; how surprisingly intense and deep the experience of working with their doll was, how they felt a sense of trust in themselves, in each other and in my leadership, so that they could come to creative solutions and feel safe, empowered and warm. They felt a deep connection to their flip dolls and what the dolls revealed to them. They confronted and sat with the darkness of their shadows, and were then able to find a way to connect with and unlock the strengths within their shadows.
What I love about teaching these kinds of classes is that I get to learn along with the participants and to benefit from the group wisdom. I am still processing the experience. I was able to get a lot of useful feedback in the end which will help me to structure the class the next time I teach it. Two of the biggest takeaways were that the groups were too large and that there were not enough sessions, so I will be adjusting the next series of classes accordingly.
To give myself time to process and also to plan for the fall, I decided to take a break for most of the month of August-probably means a lot of studio time, since we won't be able to go anywhere. I’ll also be revising my website over the month of August so not all of it will be visible during that time. I plan to bring new energy to September, no matter what is going on in the world, and to be on track to offer the next Befriending Our Shadows class in October. So please stay tuned!
Featured doll maker from previous Befriending Our Shadow workshop:
Over the next weeks, I will be posting images of dolls along with stories, created by participants in the previous Befriending Our Shadow workshop. The dolls created in this workshop reflect the wide range of interpretations of the topic and the many ways of making a flip doll. This week I will feature the work of Naomi Zow. What I especially loved about Naomi's doll was the way she invented a way of using strips of cloth with words written on them as hair. She at first didn't like the idea that the "hair" from the other side could be seen at the bottom of the doll. But then she embraced the idea that each side holds elements of the opposite. I also enjoyed witnessing her discovery about the "light" side of her doll, but I will let you read that yourself...
Here are Naomi's words about her flip doll and of her experience of being in the class. See images above.
I have enjoyed sewing since I was in middle school. I make clothing, quilts and home decor and have loved making cloth dolls for almost 25 years. I have loved taking all sorts of doll making classes and to see how different all the finished dolls look. I believe each doll reflects their creator in some way.
When the pandemic hit, I found myself feeling the stress and anxiety of the time. I started looking for projects to do to fill my time and that used materials I already had on hand - and would help me focus on something else than my fears. When I read about Erika Cleveland’s Transformative Healing Dolls, I signed up for the class the same day.
I loved the idea of bringing the psyche into the doll, consciously and intentionally. As i thought about my flip doll I pictured putting all my negative thoughts and fears and anxiety into the Shadow side of the doll and then putting that all away, under the Light side of her. Perhaps I could face my fears and then put them away.
Erika began each class with a meditation - which I loved. Her sample dolls were inspiring….seeing all the different “pairings” of consciousnesses. The focus of the first few classes was on the Shadow side of our dolls. This was easy for me to envision. In fact, I had so many things to say for this side, I felt the need to make the doll bigger than the original pattern so that I could include it all. I put pictures and quotes on her dress. Her hair is yarn mixed with many of my negative thoughts and quotes, printed on fabric.
And then I turned to the Light side and found my vision was quite sparse. This troubled me. This was where I wanted to live, and I had little in the way of a vision for it. It took some time to understand that my Shadow side was full of negativity (imagine a hoarder’s house of stuff, all yucky stuff). My Light side was open and spacious, allowing for spontaneity. Part of my goal is to be okay with that much space and the unplanned moments. Just “being” - happy, joyful, curious, observant - requires much less baggage and lets in much more light. I created for her a garden, each flower being supported by those things I want to welcome more of into my life. Her hair is filled with supporting thoughts and quotes, allowing for my imperfections and my joy.
I found I loved the hand sewing - it let me think about what I was creating and my intentions for the doll; helping me to cement the ideas into my consciousness.
I really liked having live classes and being able to see others work, which inspired and impressed me. I was amazed by those who had never made a doll before. The dolls were all so astounding and so individual, such unique styles.
The live Zoom classes also gave me deadlines to complete my work, which was motivational. I can't tell you how many unfinished projects I have sitting in my sewing room! I also thought the readings, poetry and philosophy shared in the meetings were quite thought provoking.
Thank you to Naomi for your thoughtful words and for being willing to share your doll here.
What’s in my studio right now
Here is some of what I am working on in my studio right now:
This is a flip doll I am calling Living Earth, that I started along with the first Befriending Our Shadow class. It is still in process but so far it is about (on the first, light side) the ways in which we as a human race have damaged and taken advantage of the earth. On this side, there are garbage-filled oceans, sea creatures dying and skeletons in underwater caves.
On the other side of the doll-the darker side-is the living earth which regenerates itself and still heals us even when we don’t reciprocate. On this side there are both whales and elephants going along the “ley” or energy lines of the earth. I recently learned from an animal communicator, Anna Breytenbach, that whales and elephants go along the ley lines of the earth as part of their migration patterns, and by doing this they are essentially reinforcing the strength of the earth. I am working on a skirt to be added to this doll. You can also follow my progress on this doll and see more drawings on my Instagram page.
I hope you were able to get some inspiration from this post, and especially from the featured flip doll by Naomi Zow. Please stay tuned for the next Befriending Our Shadow workshop in October, if that piqued your interest. And I hope you are getting to have some creative time and also that you are finding ways to be kind to yourself in all your 'enoughness.'
It feels like everyone is writing about the pandemic, racism and the protests against police brutality, so it feels like I have nothing new to say about it here. And yet, it feels wrong not to mention it here, to ignore what is affecting all of us every day. What I am doing is trying to educate myself, to read books, attend workshops, and to talk to people about what I am learning. There are so many resources out there. Beyond learning about the ways in which I have been blind to my own racism, and trying to figure out how to do things differently, I am learning how to support black owned businesses and figuring out what actions I can take to fight racism. It feels very small but I am learning and taking it a step at a time.
The other part of what I can try to do is to offer ways to be kind to ourselves during this trying time. In the face of such horrible news every day, it is hard not to get overwhelmed at times and to feel hopeless about the future. Yes, there are people out there on the front lines fighting every day, both against the coronavirus and against all the ways in which racism shows up in our society. We have to do what we can to witness them and support them and where possible, help them to take care of themselves. But even if we are not on the frontlines, we need to take care of ourselves, so that we can show up for those around us in the best way that we can.
Sneak peek at a new flip doll I am working on, along with the Befriending the Shadow class. This one is about the earth as a living being and the impact of human exploitation of resources. I'm working slowly on this doll, using meditative stitching....
In the Befriending Our Shadow class that is currently ongoing, I am blown away by the courage of this group of women as they confront various aspects of the shadow, both internal and in the world around us. And as always happens when I offer workshops, I learn so much from witnessing the growth of the participants. It’s not easy work-just like the shadow of racism in the world outside, internal shadows can be sneaky and slippery and hard to pin down. There is a sort of trickster quality to the shadow because in looking at the shadow, we are threatening its very existence. Self-care, self-compassion and kindness become paramount. And taking time to rest and just be.
So here are some small steps that I can suggest to help in being kind to yourself while dealing with the shadow aspects of the current world situation-whether you are on the front lines or at home trying to care for yourself and your loved ones.
1. Take time to do nothing, much harder than it sounds. Maybe that nothing is lying down on your yoga mat in savasana or “corpse” pose. Maybe it’s looking into your child’s eyes. Maybe it’s staring at the clouds in the sky, from a window or if you can get to a park safely, lying on a blanket on the ground.
2. “Visible mending” this is something I have learned from my friend Julie Booth, intrepid stitcher, fiber artist and teacher of all sorts of stitching methods. This can be quite simple, requiring just a torn pair of pants, a torn shirt or some other piece of clothing, a needle, scissors, some thread and patches of fabric that you have in the house. There are all sorts of stitches that you can use out there-look it up on You Tube and you will find a great variety. I tend to mostly do something called back-stitch. This kind of slow, mindful mending can be very soothing and meditative. And the benefit is you get to repurpose clothes that you might have otherwise given away or thrown out.
3. Listen to audible books. A few years ago, I discovered a free app called Libby, where you can download books to your phone from your local library. You can listen to books while walking, doing dishes, and any other task that might otherwise feel tedious. I have kind of gone overboard with this, and also have been able to listen to some books about racism (see my comments above) with this app. I just finished So You Want to Talk about Race by Ijeoma Oluo. Very powerful and accessible. And I attended this townhall called REIMAGINING SMALL BUSINESS: A town hall to listen, learn & commit to building equitable, anti-racist organizations.
4. Interview a parent or grandparent about their story. I just finished interviewing my mom about her life and now am figuring out how to get it printed. This is just for our extended family. It has been a wonderful experience talking to my mother over the last year or so, in weekly calls on FaceTime and sometimes on the phone. I started with a list of questions from a resource about Oral Histories but then kind of just followed her lead as she talked about what meant the most to her about her life. I learned so many new things about her and we also deepened our relationship.
5. Make a simple flip doll (for yourself or for a child.) Sorry, I had to put that in here. It doesn’t have to be very complicated. I have a pattern available on my website, along with a brief history of flip dolls. But you don’t have to buy anything. You can make a flip doll out of a wooden spoon or a sturdy stick, and attach heads (made out of rubber balls with holes cut out, or stuffed socks, or sea shells-use your imagination!) to either end and then use found fabric cut in a circle to make a skirt. Consider simple themes such as light and dark, happy and sad, earth and sky. Do it quickly without a lot of thought. Or take your time.
Thanks for reading. After this Befriending Our Shadow course is over, I have to decide about next steps. I have missed being able to focus on being in my studio as much as I would like. I notice that when I am teaching a workshop, most of my energy seems to go there. But at the same time, my art is enriched and inspired by what I experience in teaching workshops. They do feed each other. I want to offer more on-line classes, that’s for sure. I feel like I have something to offer that is of interest and that can help people. But I also want to get back to a body of work that I had started last year and get it organized for a show. The dolls that I make are also a kind of service, but in a different way. I will keep you posted here. Stay tuned.
Gabrielle Motter, from Unsplash
“Wildness…it is perennially within us, dormant as a hard-shelled seed, awaiting the fire or flood that awakes it again.” Gary Snyder
I’ve been thinking a lot about resilience in times of difficulty, given the current situation that we are in. I’ve been trying to understand what resources we have to survive this time. Usually I write about and make dolls that reflect how outer circumstances affect our inner world. Being an introvert by nature, I tend to take whatever the external situation is, and bring it down into the cave of my imagination. There I mull over it until I can transform it into writing or into a doll. Lately I’ve been looking more directly at the dark state of the world. Here’s a question that I recently read, “what if, by chance, our time in evolution is a dark night time, a time of crisis and transition that must be understood if it is to be part of learning a new vision and harmony for the human species and for the planet?”
In Limbo, Goauche and stitched panel
Dark Night of the World?
Constance Fitzgerald, writes this question in her article, Impasse and the Dark Night. She suggests that we are currently experiencing a dark night of the world. This isn’t something that has suddenly come upon us, of course, with the current pandemic. She is referring to problems on a world-wide scale that have been building up over time. These include (you don’t need me to enumerate them) the state of our environment, our political situation, poverty and abuses in so many parts of the world, and more. These problems are all dark and scary. Yet there is something hopeful in her question. She challenges us to find a “new vision and harmony for the human species and for the planet.” What does that mean?
Fitzgerald mentions how, in a “genuine impasse,” our usual way of looking at the world is completely shut down. None of our usual routes to resolution are workable. We look to the left and it is a dead end. We look to the right. Another dead-end. And so forth. We are completely stuck. But what if there is a silver lining to this impasse situation? Our left-brain solutions don’t work any more and the impasse “forces the right side of the brain into gear, seeking intuitive, symbolic, unconventional answers so that action can be renewed eventually with greater purpose.” This is such a hopeful way of looking at our minds, believing that we are capable in extremis, of making a U turn. Really looking at our situation in a new way with the potential to bring lasting change.
Guardian of the Sacred Garden side of flip doll
Artists hold the key
I believe that the arts, writing, poetry, dance and art hold the key to a solution. Those who delve into any one of these creative pathways described above, know about those “intuitive, symbolic and unconventional answers.” And in doing so, the artist (and I mean this in a very inclusive way) comes to the place of wildness that is “perennially within us.” In doing so, the artist unlocks both, his or her own hard shell but also opens a window into the healing darkness of nature. By this I mean to emphasize the ways in which the creative process connects us to our inner wildness. And that wildness opens us to nature in all its forms, to wide open skies full of endless stars, to the deepest ocean and to the teeming world that lives under our earth.
The Shadow, from Inside Us to Outside in Nature
I’ve been really enjoying putting together a new e-course called “Befriending Our Shadow” and as I’ve been preparing, I’ve been thinking of the different meanings of the shadow. The shadow can have a very personal and individual meaning. Carl Jung thought of the shadow as the hidden side of one’s personality, holding the potential for the full realization of the self. But the world, the living earth can also have its own shadow. For the e-course I am planning to make an alter ego flip doll along with the participants. For this doll, I am thinking of making a doll that reflects the state of the world. I have no idea how it will look yet or exactly how I am going to make it. I haven’t cracked the “hard shell” of the seed of this idea yet. But there is something about this early stage of an idea that is enjoyable. The not-yet-knowing. The dreaming.
Befriending Our Shadow starts next Tuesday
There are one or two spots left in the Befriending Our Shadow e-course. I want it to be an intimate experience where participants can share their process as they work on their alter ego flip doll. So, after next week I will be closing the doors for this e-course. If you are interested in diving into your own doll-making experience or if you want to learn more, take a look here. And if you feel ready to sign up take a look here.
Here’s my little spiel: I'm so excited to share with you a brand new doll-making e-course about befriending our shadow, using tenderness and compassion to connect with all parts of ourselves. Flip dolls are two sided dolls connected at the waist. I have been fascinated for years with their capacity to capture divergent views of reality, dark vs light, joy vs sorrow, love vs alienation. In this course you will have the chance to explore and befriend your shadow, through making your own doll. And at the end of the course, your doll will represent and unite both shadow and light. And, important note, you do not know how to sew beforehand. This class is open to those at all levels of sewing ability.
Does everything feel magnified in this strange time?
Suddenly personal quirks and habits in yourself can seem exaggerated and if you live with others, you might see their quirks magnified as well. It can feel like everything is under a microscope. That can leave you feeling isolated and lonely. You may feel drawn to escapes like binge-watching Netflix or silly animal videos on YouTube. Or you might feel tempted to blow up the next time your partner questions your cooking methods or when that family member in a Zoom call monopolizes the conversation one too many times.
Annoying as it may seem, there may be something here for us to learn
Maybe this is a time to learn to befriend our shadows. By this I mean those feelings that come up in those frustrating situations like that Zoom call. But not all at once and not without a lot of self-kindness and compassion. It takes a while to develop the patience and self-compassion that is needed to tolerate what comes up. All I am saying is that if we treat ourselves with the utmost care and kindness, there may be a silver lining to all this time of the pandemic. This is not to diminish the experiences of all those on the front lines or without basic necessities. There are many whose situations are dire and in need of our help and attention. But for those of us who have our basic needs met, perhaps this pandemic can be a gentle nudge to do some compassionate self-exploration.
Mary Miseracordia/Hell Mouth Alter ego flip doll about facing the shadow...
Pema Chodron and her struggle with a nun who hated her
One of my mentors, Buddhist teacher, Pema Chodron talks about a particular nun, who seemed to hate Pema for reasons she didn’t understand. I think this is in one of my favorite of her books, When Things Fall Apart. Living in close quarters in a monastery, similar to our lives now in quarantine, she had nowhere to escape from the situation. She had to work closely with everyone in the monastery, including this nun who seemed to hate her. Pema would have to interact with this nun several times a day. In any other world, even a traditional work world, she would have been able to ask for a transfer or even get a new job. But like us now in this pandemic, these options were just not available. She just had to live with it.
Releasing into the struggle
So what did she do? In typical Pema-style, honest and direct, she describes feeling sorry for herself, being down on herself and wishing she could escape the situation. And yet at the same time, she turned to prayer and tried to figure out how to release the situation to a larger power than herself. She knew that she couldn’t face this challenge alone. Ultimately, after many months, she finally had a sort of breakdown, a release into surrender. She was able to come to terms with the difficult feelings in herself that this situation aroused in her. Because the struggle in its essence didn’t have to do with this other person, but with parts of herself that she couldn’t accept.
Dragging the burden, goauche drawing with collage
Upside down world
I hope I’m not coming across as too preachy. I’m not trying to say that you have to be spiritual or find religion in order to benefit from this story. But what I get from Pema’s story is that, in a no-exit situation like this, sometimes the only thing we can do, even kicking and screaming, is to finally face and befriend those parts of ourselves that we don’t like.
I’ve been really interested in this sort of no-exit scenario lately, as it is kind of what we are facing right now, both during this pandemic but also in the world situation at large. I’ve been interested in the question; what remains when it seems like there are only dead ends? Because sometimes when all seems hopeless, we are forced to dig into the deep soil of our inner life. When we start poking around in there, we can begin to unearth some unexpected treasures. This is the realm of the shadow, an upside down, Alice in Wonderland kind of world, where nothing is as it seems.
The upside down tree
In the shamanic tradition there is a story of an inverted tree, whose roots become branches and branches become roots. The image of that upside down tree fascinates me. It has stayed in my mind for a lot of reasons, but I want to mention one of them. The upside down tree shows how when we turn a problem on its head, sometimes we can start to see strengths where we may have only seen problems. Following the rules of magic, the branches of the tree, having received nourishment from the light of the stars and sun, can bring that star/sun energy deep into the earth. And the roots, having soaked up food and water from the ground, can release those into the air. If we can imagine ourselves a bit like these uprooted trees, we can begin to see those quirks and annoying qualities in ourselves and loved ones as unexpected strengths. And the shadow becomes light.
Tree of Life, felted panel and The Importance of Trees: Topsy Turvy, felted panel
Befriending the demon
There are so many books out there now about the idea of accepting and befriending our darker side. If you’ve been reading me for a while now, you will know that this is a fascination of mine. In an earlier blog post I mentioned one of these books, Feeding Your Demons: Ancient Wisdom for Resolving Inner Conflict by Tsultrim Allione and an article that summarizes this technique.
A very brief example so you can try it out if you want…
Here is a brief meditation adapted from the first two steps of the process of feeding your demon in case you would like to try it. I'm calling it "befriending your demon," though in the original meditation it is called "feeding your demon." The first step of the process is to “find the demon in your body.” And the second is to envision it as a living being. I am going to use an example of a meditation that I did recently on this topic.
Sitting or lying in a comfortable position, take some deep breaths until you feel a bit more relaxed. Then when you are ready, scan your body to see if there is any point of pain and discomfort that you want to focus on.
I noticed an uncomfortable tightness in my left shoulder. It comes up during times of stress and even during yoga, this spot doesn’t seem to relax.
Bring your attention to that place and see if you can visualize more of the shape of whatever it is that is bothering you. You can use images or physical sensations or just colors to try to describe what is there.
I saw that the tightness was sort of horizontal, with two flat parts and a sort of lump in the middle
Next, try to imagine that shape or color or tense sensation as a sort of demon. What would it look like if you could imagine it as a living being?
When I looked closely, I saw that it was a figure lying down, a male figure, with stick legs and arms and a big protruding belly.
Stay with this image for a few breaths, just allowing it to be, and then release it
It was interesting to see this figure lying down. It seemed less uncomfortable somehow, because it was kind of helpless in the lying down position. Later it occurred to me that it could represent a family member with whom I have sometimes had a difficult relationship.
That is enough for now. But in the further steps of this exercise you would then begin to learn what your “demon” is asking for. You “feed” it until it is satiated. And finally though the process of accepting the demon, giving it what it needs, it often changes form into a sort of ally. This ally can be revisited and can even offer you guidance and assistance in future meditations.
Here is an article that gives a quick summary of this the whole process of feeding your demon. You can try it now if you are interested. https://www.lionsroar.com/how-to-practice-feeding-your-demons/
Offer: Befriending Our Shadow: A Doll Making online workshop
If you found the stories of Pema’s release into acceptance or the upside down tree intriguing, I want to tell you about a workshop that I have coming up, where you can meet and explore your own shadow. This online workshop should be available by the end of May. It will encompass some of the themes that I talked about in this post. I am excited to share these techniques with you, both how to befriend your shadow and how to make an alter ego flip doll that can help you uncover your inner star/sun energy.
There is something about the process of envisioning and then bringing into reality a creation of your own that can be very nourishing. The stitching process itself can be meditative. The weaving together of your own story into a doll of your own can feel empowering, And once you are done, you have a reminder of the process that you went through in the form of your finished doll. You can put this doll on your altar if you have one or some other place in your house where you will see it and remember what you have learned.
Click here or onto the above image to learn more about the workshop. Stay Tuned!
“If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.” from the Gospel of Thomas
Your life is a unique creation
Whatever it is that you do that brings you alive, is of value, especially in these times of upheaval and confusion. I am here to encourage you in whatever that new path might be. It might be changing something about how you wear your clothes, or how you arrange the furniture in your living room or it might be making up a song and performing it in a video It’s all good.
A little bit about my own path…
When working as an art therapist in a Harvard affiliated hospital in a big New England city, I used to sit in team meetings, feeling frustrated. What I was thinking didn’t seem to fit with what was being discussed in the meetings. Too often I would sit mute, listening to all the words but not adding to the dialogue. Or if I spoke, I felt like I had to use my patients’ art as examples of pathology. The clinical language of finding their pathology, labeling it and then figuring out how to fix it felt wrong. In those discussions, learned as they were, and as compassionate as many of the other therapists in the room were, it didn’t seem to me that they were listening for the true voices of the patients.
Nowadays, the narrative in the world of therapy seems much more positive and patient focused.
Art school, pregnancy and then exploration…
As I felt more and more that art therapy wasn’t my path, I returned to art school. I got pregnant, then moved several times to different states, following my husband’s work. After that many years of inner exploration followed: writing, experimenting with all kinds of healing methods, art making and, almost a decade ago, doll making. When I first started making dolls, I experienced truth and resonance in what the dolls were expressing. And when I showed my dolls to others, it seemed they too felt witnessed by my dolls. Even though a lot of what was being expressed in my dolls came out of a deep place inside of me, it seemed to also connect to something deep in others.
Can doll making save your life?
Can doll making save your life? I make this provocative statement, believing it is true, as doll making saved mine. They gave me a voice nothing in my life before had ever done. When I started leading workshops, participants often developed their own voice as they made their dolls.
Creating something new can feel scary, (like a path forward in the time of this pandemic)
Many of us are scrambling to try to find a path forward in this crazy time. We are all challenged to create our lives anew. Recently, a post on Facebook I read about a lecture by a Native American wise woman said, and I am paraphrasing, that we have a choice of either sinking into the void of fear or rising to the challenge and using it to grow. This is a lot like the creative process.
Sometimes when starting a new doll, I can at first have that feeling of muteness that I remember from those clinical meetings. What is trying to come out is different from anything out in the world and at the birthing stage just feels alien and strange. But that is because it is alien. It is something alien and new and there is not, as yet, something in the world that exactly matches it.
Just because it feels alien, doesn’t mean it isn’t of value
Creating something new, whether it be a work of art, a new recipe, a new career path, a different path in life than your childhood and upbringing has led you to, can feel scary and threatening. It can feel like there is no path forward, like you are going to fall off the edge of a cliff. But that isn’t true. Just because something hasn’t existed before, doesn’t mean it isn’t a viable being. It’s just new. And though new can feel scary, it doesn’t mean it’s not valuable. That isn’t known until it is out in the world and gets a chance to speak its voice.
New offer on my website, flip dolls…
And if you would like to experiment with doll making, I am putting some offers on line, starting with a mini book about flip dolls to get you started. This would be the first in a series of mini books and teachings about flip dolls. Flip dolls are uniquely suited to the theme of this article because of their capacity to hold opposites. Those therapists back then were not wrong in trying to understand what the patients suffered. What was missing was the ability to see the patients’ strengths in balance with what might have been wrong. The magic of flip dolls is that they are uniquely suited to hold both the pain of an experience and the hidden strengths that experience might reveal.
If you have some extra time, are not out on the frontlines, having to care for children home from school, or otherwise committed, and this sounds compelling to you, please take a look at the offer and stay tuned for more.
This image came up recently in an intuitive painting and it looked to me like a monk standing below a snake, possibly an animal guide. I don't know yet who he is or why he is talking to the snake. Maybe you have an idea. In any case, he seemed to connect with the theme of monks and saints that I talk about below...
This can be a time alternately of contemplation and relaxation…
Hello again. I hope you have been able to find ways to stay centered during this crazy time we find ourselves in around the world. For me, it continues to be an up and down time. I am grateful that I am still able to make it to my studio and that all of my family is safe. (Making it to my studio, which is a quick walk up the block, may change over the next couple weeks if a more severe quarantine goes into effect.) But at times, especially at night I do find myself falling into a rabbit hole of worry about all the uncertainties and possible dangers that may be ahead of us. I am amazed at the variety of resources that have cropped up in my in-box from all of the wonderful healers and guides that I have been following.
Many of them have been helping me to cope and so, I picked a few of them to share with you below. Maybe some of them will resonate with you too. In addition to guidance that directly addresses ways to cope with the current crisis, I also decided to share some fun resources that I have also been enjoying. This externally imposed retreat can be a time of reflection and contemplation, but there is also time for fun and relaxation. I know that there are still some of you, like my husband who is working directly on a response to the corona virus, who aren’t really in retreat mode and still have to go to work. Yet maybe there are some elements of retreat that you can use to balance the stress of having to navigate this strange situation.
Peregrinatio, contemplative pilgrimage…
I am going to refer often to one of the resources that an artist friend of mine directed me to, a series of talks called a Novena, that address these difficult times. In the Novena talk that I listened to today, Christine Valters Painter describes the Celtic tradition of Peregrinatio. Monks and mystics are celebrated as having taken pilgrimages in small boats called coracles, boats without oars or any form of navigation. The idea is that they were to let the current take them, and that wherever they ended up would be their place to set down roots and establish their ministry. Valters Painter connected the journey of these early saints to our journey right now, trying to navigate the daily uncertainties of life in the time of coronavirus.
One of my favorite stories was the one about St. Brendan, who was guided to take a trip in a coracle. He received guidance that his trip would take one day. Instead it took seven years and took him and his small crew in a series of circles across the Atlantic Ocean. According to the story, on one Easter day, he and his crew landed on a small island, celebrated Easter, only to discover as they were leaving that what they thought was an island was actually the back of a whale!
Over the past week I have been creating a series of painted cards, possibly oracle cards or possibly mini paintings. In a few of them, an image of a small boat showed up, or an image of a waterfall or river and it seemed connected to the story that Valters Painter was telling. Could it be that my unconscious was trying to remind me to let go of control of the things I can’t control right now? (and there are many) It helps me to think that this time could also be an opportunity. Once we are able to take care of the basic needs of having enough food and emergency supplies (not to overdo it!) and that everyone in our family is safe, then there is nothing left to do but just rest in place. And potentially turn inward to our own source of strength, however we would describe it. Valters Painter shared the following poem.
As swimmers dare
to lie face to the sky
and water bears them,
as hawks rest upon air
and air sustains them,
so would I learn to attain
freefall, and float
into Creator Spirit’s deep embrace,
knowing no effort earns
that all-surrounding grace.
List of resources:
Stuff to help deal with the current time of uncertainty:
All free and accessible on-line.
Novena for Times of Unravelling-I didn't know what a novena was before a friend referred me to this wonderful series hosted by the Abbey of the Arts. Wonderful contemplative series of talks on coping with the current crisis.
Tara Brach, Buddhist meditation teacher and scholar. I had been volunteering at her weekly live meditations near where I live but they are of course not happening now. A link to her series of free web-streamed talks and meditations:
Rick Hanson, another Buddhist scholar and wonderful resource: Fear in the Time of the Corona Virus.
Fun stuff if you need a break from reading about coronavirus:
I apologize for some of this only being available on streaming services. But if you have these services, they are definitely worth looking up. True confession, I do spend a lot of time watching movies on-line as a way of relaxing! A guilty pleasure. But there are some other resources here that are easy to access and are free.
Visit 2,500 museums around the world, from the comfort of your sofa. Google has partnered with multiple shuttered museums around to give you an on-line tour of their exhibits.
Podcast, Finding Fred- about Fred Rogers of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood by Carvell Wallace. Wallace explores the way Fred Rogers has had an impact on many of his younger generation friends and colleagues, in a series of interviews. Also the two movies about Fred Rogers, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (on Prime Video, even though it just came out!) and Won't You Be My Neighbor (HBO). I've seen them both and they are both great.
Podcast, Reply All, especially “The Case of the Missing Hit”-this one is just a fun diversion if you love puzzles and solving mysteries, The hosts of this podcast, PJ Vogt and Alex Goodman, are approached by Tyler Gilette, who has been searching everywhere for a song from the late 90's that cannot get out of his head. The search, documented in this podcast, had me laughing out loud, something much needed these days.
Movie The Freedom Writers on Netflix with Hilary Swank, as a beginning high school English teacher at a public school in Los Angeles after the riots. Based on a true story of a teacher who inspired her students and transformed their lives.
Movie The Intouchables. It’s on iTunes now but I know I saw it somewhere else. Much better than the American remake that just came out. Here is the description: “A Parisian aristocrat, quadriplegic since a paragliding accident, hires a young man to be his live-in caretaker. Although very different the two men bond and develop a close friendship.”
Series Outlander on Starz, (sorry if you don’t have this streaming service. The first seasons are also on Netflix now.) I am obsessed with this series about a World War II nurse who somehow falls into mid 1700’s Scotland before the Scottish rebellion. She discovers her true love and has all sorts of adventures. Based on the book series by Diane Gabaldon.
Joyful side of alter ego flip doll, with image of myself at age seven-ish. Doll at left has a girl riding a sea turtle on the skirt. Doll at right has altered image of me with sisters and a family friend.
Greetings all! What surreal times we are living in, at least in the US right now. I wonder how you are all doing? Every day seems to bring new challenges, new opportunites to either collapse into fear or frustration or to rise to the challenge. I have found myself in both places off and on over the last days.
The last post here was about a flip doll workshop that I was excited to share with local followers. Last Thursday afternoon, I was sitting in my studio ready to sort through the wonderful fabrics, embroidery threads, and some enticing new fabrics I had ordered from India to get ready for my alter ego flip doll workshop. Then I got a call from Erin at Halcyon, saying, "hey, Erika, I just came out of a planning meeting and we have decided to put off all events for at least the next month. Do you want to reschedule your workshop to May?" Well, I had just come from a meeting at the Jackson Art Center, where I have my studio and we had decided to put everything off until the fall. No Spring Open Studios, no talks, of which I was going to give one on Flip Dolls, none of that until the fall.
So I said, let's switch it to September. The new date for the Alter Ego Flip Doll workshop is the weekend of September 12 and 13, a Saturday and Sunday. We didn't decide anything about the April self compassion wrap doll workshop but I have a strong feeling that one will be put off as well. Halcyon, as many institutions including schools and art centers are doing, is addressing this one month at a time.
What are you doing with this unexpected time?
Instead of putting the final touches to my handouts for the Saturday workshop and getting supplies together, here I was on Friday, making a video of myself painting in an altered book. This has become a daily practice as of late. Below are a couple videos, showing some of the pages I have done so far and also the beginnings of one of the altered pages in process. The videos are a bit rough as of yet. This is one of my missions lately-to learn videotaping and start to offer more videos here, mostly about doll-making but just as a way of trying something different, I am sharing this painting process here. Stay tuned for more videos, hopefully of doll making as well.
After I finished this painting, I finished the flip dolls, shown above.
There is something very therapeutic about this way of painting intuitively. It seems to tap into whatever is hovering or maybe lurking under the surface emotionally, waiting to be expressed.
What got me started on this process is an online class I took in January with Fonda Clark Haight called The Down Deep. I strongly recommend this class as a way to get your creative juices flowing. She only offers it in the beginning of the year but you can get on the mailing list for next year.
Here's the second video. It's already about 14 minutes long. Sorry so long. And it stops abruptly. Below is the finished image. This just gives you an idea of my process.
The finished and as yet, untitled image. I am amazed at how this process is like the Rohrschach, which is a psychological testing technique in which someone is asked to view a series of ink blot images and name this images that they see within the ink blots. Supposedly the answers reveal all sorts of truths about what is going on with that person psychologically.
So, what's this about? This image probably has a lot to do with the fears that are coming up for me around the corona virus, the uncertainty and all the media coverage of the dangers that we are facing. Perhaps this is an image of the lurking virus? Curious to hear what you see here?
The video cuts off just when I am starting to talk about these flip dolls. What I was about to say was that the "petulant" side of the flip doll shows two different aspects of one of my inner demons.. Dark times can trigger inner demons, for instance, that greedy, grasping place of not enough. On the left, a hungry, angry mouth swallows up the joyful image of me, my sisters and a family friend. Someone on my Instagram where I shared this image said, "it looks like she is so jealous of that happy group that she decides to eat them up." Sometimes that demon of not enough can be so strong that even joy is swallowed up. On the right is that same greedy, grasping mood, this time shown in the figure at the top grabbing at the bottom figure's heart, while also grasping at some gifts with her other hand.
This side of the doll is counteracted by the joyful side, seen in the above images of the other side of the doll. There, in one of the dolls, the little girl on the skirt rides joyfully on her sea turtle companion. On the skirt of the other doll, she participates fully in the companionship and joy of her sisters and friend.
In this crazy corona virus time, as I was saying above, we have the choice of collapsing into ourselves with worry and fear or of rising above it and seeing whatever joy there is available. Joy in having extra time with family members, being home together. Time to rest. Time to experience nature. But not at all to judge the scary feelings and the fears, just to let them coexist with the good.
Sorry, this was kind of rambly today. Next time I will go back hopefully to my normal kinds of newsletters. I think today I just wanted to say, I am here. I am thinking of all of you. To those of you who were going to come to the workshop today, I am thinking of you too. I hope you consider rejoining in September but I understand if that doesn't fit into your schedule. Hopefully these videos are of interest and maybe they inspire you to do some explorations of your own,
I'd like to hear what you are up to during these challenging times. What is helping you to stay calm? What are you finding to be therapeutic?
Love to all!
I've been making dolls for about ten years now. I believe that dolls serve as representations and reminders of the best part of ourselves. I am excited to share with you here my learnings about new methods and techniques for doll making and healing. So glad you are here!