Saturday, 19 January 2019

Word for the Year

Choosing a word for the year was on the list of topics to think about a few weeks ago, when I was doing my retreat. Last year’s word, SUBTRACT, was based on the quote by Meister Eckhart:

And how did subtract work for me, you may wonder. It was a good word – I thought about it and lived by it when I decluttered my clothing shelves, my book shelves, my art supplies. Marie Kondo, the decluttering queen, would have been proud of me. I noodled on it when my life was too busy. The KISS principal (Keep it Simple, Stupid) saved my bacon more than once. It reminded me that life was way, way more than just an accumulation of more...more things, more experiences, more production, more commitments, and yes, even more creative ideas to explore. The essence of life is a gift, but it’s easy to forget that when I am distracted by a pile of clutter. How can I grow spiritually, when I am so preoccupied by material things?

But now it was time to think of a new word. For a while, I thought about the word REFINE, with a view to setting down, once and for all, what my values and beliefs are, writing a personal creed by which to live. If I typed it up and printed it out, a creed would be so handy to refer to when I was puzzled or indecisive! But somehow that word just didn’t seem to tickle me, to make my heart sing. It was too much of a cerebral exercise!

It was while I was working through the second day’s retreat objective – Taking Stock – that a lightbulb began to flicker on and off. I was creating an art piece around the following idea:  what if there was a box under your bed full of treasure to discover this year? what might it contain? As I filled in the empty spaces on my fabric background with symbols and pictures of those things I treasure, I was overwhelmed by the bounty. But I also realized that there are so many boxes of treasure that I haven’t even opened yet. They’re all sealed up, gathering dust. Subtract, refine: they’re good words, and we can learn from them, but there’s a whole world out there, and once we’ve subtracted the non-essentials from our lives, we might just discover new treasures to enjoy.

And so, this year, my word is ... TA DA! ... Explore. 

Checking out the dictionary, I read this: Explore means to travel in or through (an unfamiliar country or area) in order to learn about or familiarize oneself with it (Wiki).

Yes! I like it. To explore means to set aside your preconceived perceptions and be open to new ways of looking or thinking. To explore means that I can immerse myself in a creative process without knowing if it will work out. To explore means I will try things I might not have tried before – travel to new destinations, eat different cuisine, communicate with people I might not have a lot in common with. To explore means I will open those boxes that are still all sealed up, to see what might be inside. The corollary, after all, of Explore, is the word Discover.

Wait a minute, wait a minute. I’d better count the cost of making Explore my word of the year. It means that even when something new frightens me, I at least have to explore my fears; I will have to jump over that border wall into foreign territory where signs warn, “There be dragons here.”  Or, I might decide to try something I really don’t like at all (pole dancing, anyone? Maybe I won’t open that box quite yet!) I may have to listen to someone saying things that I can’t agree with – and then exploring that conflict. Why do I turn off right-wing news on TV or snooze negative posts on Facebook, for instance? Why do I dismiss zealots out of hand? Oh, I can see already that this year may not be all fun and games; on the other hand, it will be enriching. It will be about enlarging my world. And there is no time like the present to get started.

for info on this art medium, google resin art
So let me show you what I have been exploring this week in the studio. The members of our small quilt art group were each asked to choose a small abstract poured resin art piece; the challenge was to create art based on what we saw. We could focus on colours, shapes, associated ideas, or just about anything that occurred to us. Explore the options, in other words, then get to work. This was my chosen “pour”:

What I saw was a crow. (Of course I would!) Was the crow sticking her head out of a hole in the tree? But crows don’t nest in holes. And trees are grey, black or brown, aren’t they? After exploring pictures of juvenile birds on google, I found one of a nest full of pileated woodpecker babies. Hmm. And maybe trees can be green with splotches of red and yellow. But how do I do that? And so, off I went, to my decluttered shelves (sort of) to find fabrics, threads, ribbons, tulle, organza, and dissolvable stabilizer.

I started working with a technique I hadn’t used before, layering all these fibres on soluble stabilizer to create a new fabric. And this is how far I’ve gotten:

Collect yummy eye candy to start with...

...layer the bits and pieces on a framed piece of soluble stabilizer...

... cover with a layer of tulle and stitch down.
Cut finished piece from frame. Soak in water to remove glue.

I think I have enough pieces to create a tree trunk, but how do I stitch these pieces together? How do I make a background? How do I create a nesting hole? How do I create a juvenile woodpecker? Questions, questions, questions...and I will be doing a lot of exploring as I attempt to answer them.

My word Explore is off and running through uncharted territory, and my heart is singing.

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