Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Making cuddly pillow to process grief

  Lately, local, national and world events have made me do a lot of
pondering about how we  process grief and help others do the same,
especially children.   It seemed an appropriate time to write up the
pillow project I led in February.

  How to help the after school group of children understand and process
the the grief of losing someone who had been such a consistent
presence in their lives for so long?  That was the challenge when Sam,
director and surrogate grandmother/friend to all of us died in February.
We had told them she entered the hospital and explained it was serious.
They all wrote her sweet cards of love and appreciation with favorite
memories which we took to her. We reported back to the kids how
pleased she was to receive them and how it helped the hospital realize
how much Sam was loved. We didn't encourage get well quick cards.
We then  moved on to letting the kids know that she was not going to
be coming back....like so many other times...and yes was dying.  Then
told them  when she died.  We let them be sad, show emotions, show
grief as they all needed to. My challenge was to help them process in an
additional  way.

  Zina Worley( Z's Fashion and Accessories) had donated lot of  fleece
scraps to the center and I had picked up additional textile materials at
the  Extras  for Creative Reuse Center  in Lynn when I went up
gathering  materials for the First Night workshop. Making large
pillows seemed a  good way to go....lots of soft materials to handle.
Just laying  them all out on the table the day Sam died seemed to help
even the most emotional of  the kids.

  As with most HYCC projects, we did not rush...worked one day a
week (or a bit more sometimes) The  project took about a month -
planning, choosing colors, designing, and hand stitching. It is
informing to see how many kids have never worked with a needle
and thread and which ones have. As they were working, they
continued to talk about Sam and process the loss.

As you can gather from photos the final results varied beautifully.
The only consistency was general size.  I had purchased 20x20
inserts to put inside the pillow covers the kids made...so we had a
basic shape and size to aim for.  I figured an insert was definitely
the way to go. We machine stitched three sides with kids involved
in that as well; then each learned to do a blind stitch to close up the
fourth side.

It was sweet to get reports back from the kids and their
parents after they finished and took the pillows home. A few said
they slept better than in a long time.  In retrospect, I wish we had
extended the project to adults - board members and others who were
processing Sam's loss.  It might have been useful during this difficult
period of transition. Often kids are a lot more resilient than adults.

Next post....back to art and shows.....

Adventure on.   Wendy

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Resurfacing after a long winter and neglect of blog

Last weekend I participated in the Paradise City Arts Festival in
Northampton.  A young woman came by to make sure I was still
alive and well...She'd been  checking my blog and saw it had been
a very long time since I posted -Dec. 2014!!!  I apologized to her
and now to everyone else who has been wondering just where Wendy
was wandering...and in what universe.

I'm happy to relate that I didn't disappear under the 100+ inches of
snow we had in Boston this winter, nor fall to some dreadful disease.
My life just became complicated by an extra job. Sam, the long time
director of Hawthorne Youth and Community Center  where I was
teaching art workshops once a week went into the hospital in January
and died in  early February.  She had led the organization for over 40
years, working  often 80-90 hours a week up to the day she entered
the hospital. Needless to  say the sense of loss to the organization
and community at large was significant.  Processing  loss and grief
on the part of the children and adults was difficult. Someone who
knew the after school children was needed to fill in every afternoon
from 2-6. Since I live only a couple blocks away, I was the logical
choice...especially considering the conditions which prevailed in this
record  breaking Boston winter.  There certainly have been snowy
winters before, but usually the snow melted between storms.

It has been good to be there for kids and adults, but has impacted the
time I've  been able to spend on some  aspects of my art business like
my blog.  For the next few weeks I'm going to try to catch up  on that
front....reflect on some of  my art making, the art of others, and some
of the projects I've done with the after school children.

Now that it is actually warm in Boston,perhaps I can look back with
a smile  at  this winter... and what emerged from under the snow.
I created the traveling  librarian pictured above during the February
blizzard names "Juno" - thus their title "Juno and Julz".  It seemed a
bit like we were living in Alaska. Juno's snout was one of the stones
I picked up in the caves of the Bruce Peninsula - see my blog post
from last September 19

I continued my series of traveling librarians this year and printed up
a small 8"x8" book with images of  them, a couple poems and
description of our daughter and son-in-law's library and literacy
non profit From Words to Wings. I sell the book  on behalf of their
program in Ecuador. ($25 paperback,, $30 hardback).

In February, I participated  in the Baltimore American Craft Council
show.As always I was inspired  by the creativity of exhibitors...
including their creativity of finding ways to actually make it to the
show.   An example of the extraordinary work at the this show is this
sculpture by  Jeffrey Raasch, title "Brick Treehouse". It stretched
my concept of tree houses.
I've been in awe of Jeffrey's work for many years.  Be sure to check
out his website: jefraasch.net to see photos of his spectacular work
and his story.
    One of my favorite puppeteers, Don Becker was also there:
Don was going to participate in the New Orleans Jazz Fest this
spring.  Have to check in with him and hear reports.  I'm sure
his sales were spectacular.
    Sometimes connections are made at shows via folks who see
your work and are sure who else will like it.  That happened for
me this year at Baltimore.  A couple came by and immediately
thought of a friend of theirs who is a dragon collector and gave
me his contact info.  Turns out he has more than 20,000 dragons
in his collection - but only two leather ones.  I said we had to do
something about that....This spring I made him up one of my
Dragon Names books - with now 465 different names of dragons
in it:
Understandably he doesn't have room for my 4 foot or 10 foot dragons,
but has ordered a 12" leather dragon sculpture.  It's still in the hatching

    I'm continuing to work with children after school until the school
year ends, but don't have any more spring shows so hope to be able
to post on a regular basis...catching up for this year.

   See you back here soon...and thank you for your patience.

   Adventure on.    Wendy