Friday, April 27, 2012

Wind, Texture & Dream Bowls

As I write, the wind is shaking the house and creating harmonics as it whistles 
through the forest. It feels much more like mid-February than a few days from
May. Snow flurries and below freezing temperatures are predicted for tonight. 
Already this evening, Pasha has captured two young mice. One was put outside 
to no doubt make her way back in, the other was dinner. (Pasha's dinner, in case
you wondered) Pondering what I wanted to share with you this evening, 
I came across the tree photo above and was reminded of the painting below. Its from
a series of forest paintings that live in my Etsy shop - or have been living there - 
someday I hope they'll go live somewhere else! I'm so eager to revisit this series 
when I carve out some painting time in the future. At present I am continung to work 
on the new web site, promotional materials, and dream on what classes and retreats 
to offer this summer. Its getting down to the wire, but I'm almost there, phew!

"Green Light", V.Claff, watercolor, 2011

With so much of my time focussed on the screen these days, I find I'm craving 
texture. I'm bursting to create with something other than the computer, though 
I've learned a bit more of InDesign, which is very helpful. I can now do what I
need to create the brochures for the new studio program, and yesterday I made 
an advertisement for a local paper. As much as all this is exciting and I love the 
results, I NEED a different sort of sensual experience when creating. I need the
fibers of paper, the liquid glide of paint or ink on a surface, the pull of a pen 
scratching paper. So it seems this craving has led me to to photograph things 
that share a strong textural quality. 

A while back, I was inspired to photograph my collection of leaves 
while still inside a jar - almost watery at times. 

Even further back in time - years ago - I made a Dream Bowl from a gourd
using a wood burning tool, beads and feathers. I was offering a retreat and ritual 
to make Dream Bowls and use them in ritual to speak ones dreams and later to work 
with as focusing tools for intention work. I hadn't made a gourd bowl before, so 
I thought I'd better if I was going to be teaching how to! My bowl is very simple, 
with a drawing of a bear and a winged being. The ritual process was quite 
powerful for people, so I filed it away to bring out again in the future, and I 
continued to use my own bowl now and again to hold dreams, intentions and 

Last weekend I offered the Dream Bowl ritual again, this time to the group of 
young women I've been working with. Once again it was a very powerful 
process - harder than you might think to invite women to claim their dreams 
and set intentions to manifest them.


It was a warm, beautiful day, and we sat outside to sand and cut the gourds to 
ready them for decorating. All three of these gourds were sent to me last year 
from Grace over at Windthread who can grow nice, strong gourds in the warmer 
climate - thanks again, Grace! I wish I had gotten more photos of the finished 
bowls, they were really nice. One had a top with a dreamcatcher woven into it. 
You'll just have to imagine.....

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Walking Inside my Dream

"Mountain", watercolor, 2012

I wonder if there is anything quite as rewarding as feeling oneself deeply aligned 
with the work one does in the world. As the weeks roll gently and swiftly by, the
studio has become more and more a place of sanctuary and inspiration. Three 
groups have now gathered here, the young women, my blessing circle, and last 
weekend my Myth & Symbol class. I am now walking inside the dream of this space
held for so many years, and I am expanding into the possibilities of the work here. 

There are weeks when I am not yet able to spend much time making art, but I know 
this is the fallout from the continued work on promotional materials and web site 
and all that goes in to setting up shop. With the end of school just a few weeks off, 
I will have more time for painting. I catch a few hours here and there, enough to 
keep the cauldron brewing and to feel the stirrings of what might be next. One 
morning, stressed and in a dark mood, I entered the studio and felt myself instantly
lighten with the simple beauty of the space. 

My pinboard is filling up with work, and even with only short moments to give to my 
process, I am getting somewhere new with the distant views. I think growing up in 
a home filled with Chinese and Japanese paintings is important for the work I am 
doing now. I saw something in the way I painted the mountain in the top image in 
this post that reminded me of those paintings. Its a particular way of seeing and 
depicting volume and space with minimal detail. Its something to strive for again, 
I've been more obsessed with tree lines and mists than the distant hills, but this 
painting demands that I pay close attention to the mountains. (the color is really off 
in that image, I need to take work outside to shoot, I'll be back with that 
sometime soon!)

I continued with the book of spirals, inspired by the 
bleedthroughs as much as the spirals.  

The book is now full, but another one will probably start soon. 
Outside, trees that gave themselves to make room for the studio 
call to me to notice their rings and rays.  

I know I've shared this before on this blog, but its worth repeating. Before I had 
this camera, I didn't understand the flower paintins of Georgia O'Keefe the way I 
do now. I've always loved her work, but I never SAW flowers the way she did - 
until now. There is something wonderful in knowing a person's work for many 
years and then one day understanding it on a much deeper level. She must have 
had macro lenses in her eyes... really, she saw such fine detail, astounding. 

Living here at RavenWood, I am just as much engaged in the contemporary world 
as everyone else, though choices like heating with wood and living on the edge 
of the wild keep my toes in a faraway world. But there is an unmistakable mystery 
in the forest, and magic is everywhere, if one has eyes to see it. Maybe as O'Keefe 
had her macro lenses, I have lenses to see magic and mystery. One day, shortly 
after I moved here, I saw a stone man looking at me from the moss hill. He 
comes alive when the light is just right, and speaks to me in low whispers that 
tingle in my bones. This is my one hundredth blog post, and also a day when the 
light is perfect to share some magic with you....

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Foggy Mornings & a Studio Full of Blessings

Its seems that summer tried to steal March as one of its months, but winter bit back 
with wind and fog and freezing temperatures and the poor blossoms that had 
begun to peek out were reminded that they really should stay bundled up unitl 
sometime in April. With the strange see-saw in temperatures came many mornings 
draped in gray fog and a mysterious, filtered light. I haven't minded much, as the 
fog invited me to see the landscape with new eyes. It looked as if the branching tree 
patterns were drawn with ink on paper washed with gray. 

Such beautiful blue-gray fields of color and delicate, reaching lines. 

The melt brought with it the challenge of navigating a dirt road in spring. Some
days the quarter of a mile from pavement to my house was quite a ride!

Cozy in the studio one day, I loved the contrast of inside and out. 

Not all days have been gray, and the moisture invited the mosses to sing 
their glowing songs. This stump keeps calling me back to photograph it. 
I'm enjoying seeing the mosses grow here and there across the rings -
like a small, mossy labyrinth for the insects.  

There hasn't been much time for painting the last two weeks, but my creativity was 
put to use in other ways. I am working on the new web site for the studio - it is still 
under construction, but you can have a peek at to read 
a bit about what will go on here in the future, and to get a taste of some of my other 
endeavors. Just a few pages are complete, and I think there will be some changes in 
the color somewhere to bring in more mossy greens. 

The first retreat happened in the studio last weekend, a Young Women's Retreat. 
I had the opportunity to work in a deeper way with women I teach at the university. 
It was a day of shedding, dreaming, sitting with the land and speaking intentions for 
the growng season. I was so grateful to be able to begin the work in this studio with 
this particular group of young women. They were open, willing, vulnerable, authentic 
and craving connection to each other and the more-than-human world. I was moved. 

A small group of close friends came yesterday for a blessing ritual in the new studio. 
These friends have witnessed and supported me over the past few years in countless 
ways. I called the circle to speak my gratitude for the many ways they have shown 
up for me. Both of these gatherings have filled the studio with drums and many 
singing voices, with the sharing of dreams and the speaking of gratitude. The studio
is now like a bulging cauldron filled with blessings and many seed-dreams for the 
growing season - and so is my heart.