Monday, December 20, 2010

Holidays - Tradition, story and memory

Holidays are a time of tradition, story and memory.
I love hearing tales of special foods, activities that
families share and how they choose to decorate their home
during holidays. Our family bakes two special breads for
Christmas morn - a brioche usually shaped like a Santa
(photo above)and a Norwegian julekage. Both recipes came
fromSunset magazine in the late 60's...and we've been making
them every since. One tradition associated with the julekage
is to make the dough, divide it in half and bake two loaves.
Then one is given to a friend or on Christmas
you are sharing the very same bread. One year we tried to
send the bread to my brother in London. Only it took too
long to arrive, so became we stick to sharing
with folks nearby.

That same brother in London started us on the tradition
of Christmas crackers....the British poppers with paper
crowns, silly jokes or riddles, and tiny toys. They guarantee
that Christmas night is filled with laughs and giggles...
and recognition that life needs levity as well as seriousness.

We as many families have a Christmas cactus..which if we
are careful blooms in late December. But our Mama
cactus has been passed down through the generations..
My husband's great aunts found a small Christmas cactus
discarded by a flower shop in Roseburg, OR around
1910....They "rescued" it and its been growing and
producing cactus generations every since. The original
"elder" resides in our kitchen with an offspring nearby.

I enjoy Christmas trees, especially for all the memories
stored in the decorations and the stories that are shared
in a family as they are placed on a tree. However,
now that we tend to travel to be with our children, we skip
or only have a small tree. There is one decoration that
continues to get more elaborate in our home - our nativity
scene. I made the original figures when I was about 10.
We always set up a small scene as I was growing up. There is
something about the scene that has always appealed to me -

Then in 1994 we traveled to Ecuador for the wedding of one
of our daughters. We were introduced to the tradition of nativity
scenes in Cuenca, Ecuador. Some which filled whole backyards
including mini volcanoes, living plants ,etc. Each scene was
clearly a labor of love by everyone who set them up. Ever
since then, our scene has expanded in both concept and items.
It covers the top of our piano.

Every piece in the scene is a story shard..connecting to
travels of friends, our children, ourselves. Others were
gifted for special occasions. Some are new, some old. Each
represent connections to people and times shared. The
tiny animal band I made of clay when I was around 11 is there.

The three kings of the original scene long ago disappeared, so
in our present version, these three musicians (gifted to us from
Peruvian friends) are the "kings".

When one of our daughters traveled to Greece, she didn't
find a piece for the brought back a few rocks (from
Atlantis perhaps?)

For me,our scene represents family and the hope and joy
which should be celebrated at the birth of each and every child
in the world. Some infants will grow to be extraordinary
individuals whose stories will impact the world in major ways
But every child has the potential of offering his or her unique
gifts and our job is to nurture possibility.

May this season however you celebrate it, be filled
with warmth, family, friends, tradition and lots of story sharing!!

Peace, Wendy

Thursday, December 16, 2010

American Craft NYC show Nov. 19-21

It's a busy holiday time of year for all of us..but I wanted
keep my promise of talking about the new NYC show
I participated in Nov. 19-21:
The image above is my booth.. Snarval and Wudaineon
welcomed customers into my space. My set up was simpler
than usual in part because the show provided black pipe
and drape for us. This meant I could use less of my set up
materials. I kept the focus on my figures for this show. I
plan on using a variation of this booth for ACC Baltimore in Feb.

For a new show, I thought it went well. There was
a wonderful eclectic mix of fine art and craft with an equal
spread of very established artists and emerging artists.
Live musicians set up in various areas to perform, large
paintings were painted on the spot, ceramic demonstrations
pulled in customers, and there even were live professional
models in an area dedicated to figure drawings complete
with chairs and pads of paper. (The figure drawing was
the favorite part of the show for my niece's 8 year old
daughter!). All in all the show had a rather funky, fun
New York City edge to it which I rather liked.

I have less images to share than usual since I forgot my
camera, but was able to borrow one to take a photo
of my booth...and that of Valerie Bunnell, a good
friend and awesome figurative artist:

I met Joanna Gabler who exhibited her photography
at the show: Joanna
writes: "Art is and always will be a sacred gate
between the invisible and the visible". I was
especially drawn to her "gateways and passages" series
dedicated to a friend who died recently. Check out
that section of her website...the second image is the
one that invited me in!

Since I was staying down in New York to celebrate
Thanksgiving I had a few days to wander. When down
in Chelsea I happened upon the Rubin Museum of Art
on 17th street between 6th and 7th Ave:
The museum is dedicated to the art of the Himalayas
and surrounding regions and is a breath of calm in
a bustling city. I spent the afternoon there
looking at its various exhibit..check out the website..
and watching a group of school children sketching
objects in a Tibetan altar and talking about why they
selected a specific object.

Then went over to the Lyons Wier gallery to see
the exhibit by Jan Huling:
who describes herself as a children's book author
and beadist!...Yes, beads, beads, beads..with humor!

I also spent some time at the Museum of Natural
History and its exhibit exploring the similarities and
differences between the brains of humans and other
animals and went to my favorite area of the museum
which has masks from the Pacific Northwest. The
creativity and humor of the art enthralls me.

Returned home bustled for a local holiday show,
finished up some orders (including a new journal cover...
with a phoenix!...stay tuned..may be a new series!),
worked with after school children and community
on a First Night Project (images on a future blog post)
and finally am doing some holiday baking.....

I hope your holiday preparations are filled with
lots of sweet scents and fun!

Journey on! Wendy

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Creating Sacred Spaces - Medicine Wheel Productions

I'm just back from the American Craft Show NYC and
will share sights and impressions...but first want to
lift up Michael Dowling's Medicine Wheel installation
for World AIDS Day, December 1. Michael is an
artist of vision who believes in cooperative work
and community involvement. Medicine Wheel Productions
website gives a glimpse of his extraordinary vision and

For the past 19 years Michael along with many volunteers
has turned the Boston Center for the Arts' circular brick
building into a sacred space for a 24 hour vigil of memory,
sharing, and offerings of music, dance, and poetry.
The installations rotate focus on the four elements, earth,
air, fire and water. This year was fire. The image above
shows what greeted you as you walked up the stairs into
the cyclorama this year: self-portraits (of Michael's students)
carved into plywood, red ribbons, and shrines.

Each year the main element are the 36 pedestals with
shrines arranged in a large circle. Visitors are encouraged
to add photos or mementos to the shrines which are put
into the pedestals at the end of the vigil. The pedestals
contain 19 years of such memories and thoughts.

This year removable gray walls assembled inside the brick
walls were covered with black 1" mesh. Buckets of red ribbons
were set around as well as piles of red ribbon arranged
in the center of the space for people to cut into lengths.
Designs were started on the walls...but were added to
over the 24 hour AIDS ribbons shimmering
in the light holding the circular space.

Anyone could add their designs to the walls.

Over the 24 hours artists, musicians, and performers
share their work, food is served, and quiet conversation
and meditation takes place. I've attended the vigil every
year I've been in town since it began, have helped when I
could. Last year, I spent the entire 24 hours there. This
year I was there only a few connecting as always with a
small group of friends who celebrate another year of survival
of the daughter of a friend born HIV positive 21 years ago
and remembering my brother and so many other friends who
did not survive.

Michael works with many youth and in particular with
a group of young men in recovery. This year they created
these full clear body sculptures. They performed
with them early in the day - something I wish I had seen.
The sculptures are made of clear tape.. body part, by
body part and then taped together with some red ribbons
inserted inside. Simple materials, amazing result!

In our busy world it is often difficult to find venues
to share, stop and just breathe. Thanks to Medicine Wheel
Productions, I find a moment every Dec. 1.

Next week - New York show and New York moments.

Journey on! Wendy