Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Striking a Balance Take 1

Someone asked me recently: "Why did you choose the name "Striking a Balance" for your exhibit?

Have you thought much about the balance in your own life? As I live my way through a day, I find myself at the nexus of many continuums: action/inaction, giving/receiving, cleaning up/making a mess, teaching and learning. I'm always in search of the balance, and like the see-saws of my childhood, I seek the miraculous middle.

Recently, I had the opportunity to work with a young woman of 20 who had been in treatment for cancer a good part of her life.  She was referred to me with the thought that I could offer her ways of expressing all of those inexpressible wishes that fill the heart and mind of one with such a diagnosis. When I receive a request like this one, I rely heavily upon the balance between my intuition and my years of training, trusting that both are there to support me.

An article I'd read in the latest Oprah on Vision Boards sprang to mind. I explained the concept to Sarah (not her real name), and talked about how to look for pictures that could paint a picture of her deepest desires. It was absolutely alright to hope.

As Martha Beck noted in her article " To really work, a vision board has to come not from your culture but from your primordial, nonsocial self - the genetically unique animal/angel that contains your innate preferences." I explained that by choosing images and creating a collage, her choices would impress themselves in her mind, helping to guide future choices.

She understood all this and quickly went to work. I scoured the pediatric floor, collecting magazines for her inspection. With the help of several volunteers her own age who supplied companionship, she created a board beyond my imagining.

Framed by a narrow border of leopard print which she had painstakingly drawn and painted, lived the images of a future life: a rose garden, a husband, her present and future family and the words "Love the Divine Life."

The board astonished many of us including her doctor. There is always a delicate balance in these rooms. Will the treatment work? Is it o.k. to talk about one's dreams?  How do you strike a balance between the turbulent voyage of treatment and the possible outcomes? How do you create value and meaning, when to the person in the hospital, their room seems to contain anything but that? This last question often means uncharted territory, but the board broke that wide open. For all of us who work with Sarah, the collage became a doorway into her soul. And, for that moment, she had helped all of us strike a balance.

Balanced Rocks Photo courtesy of: Michelle Meikeljohn,
Photo of Red Rose courtesy of: Image:

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Fateful Meeting at the Pence

The Scene: Downtown Davis on a Saturday afternoon. We had just raided the "money machine," it was a lovely spring day, and I needed to use the restroom. "Oh Mom!" my daughter kvetched, "really?" "Really."

We headed despite complaint into the nearby Pence Gallery where I ran into my artist friend Chris Beers. "Hey, Hannah, long time, no see, what's up?" Now I couldn't just rush past him to the bathroom, so I told him about my upcoming exhibit at the USE Credit Union  and asked his advice on e-mail announcements.

As a designer for the Pence, he has a lot of experience. As he explained the details, he suddenly said "Why don't I make one for you? If you like it, then you can hire me next time." A moment of grace I couldn't turn down.

You can see his lovely announcement above with all the details about my show. I'll be sharing some more about the title of the show "Striking A Balance" in my next two posts.

Monday, May 17, 2010

May Days in the Studio

"The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.

Is it that they are born again
And we grow old? No, they die too,
Their yearly trick of looking new
Is written down in rings of grain.

Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh."

-   Philip Larkin, The Trees

 There is nothing like the days of May, blowsy, mild and open like a peony bursting into blossom. I have to step around the alstromeria and creeping hyacinth growing around my studio stairs. As I walk up, I feel a giddy sense of anticipation. I'm  'beginning afresh' in the studio; larger collage works on panels (12" x 24"), letting myself loose after a series of tightly composed smaller works. The colors in the new work echo the garden colors: red fingerprints the color of cyclamen, bits of sari fabric capture the glow of alstromeria and paper strips the inimitable gold of California poppies.

All this in preparation for an upcoming exhibit as part of our town's monthly "ArtAbout", a festive occasion that takes place once a month. Local artists take over different businesses for an evening and fill them with art. Musicians congregate and the town echoes with the sounds of blues, jazz and the occasional outburst of loud rock from nearby fraternities. It all adds up to a lot of people on the sidewalks, moving from one venue to another, eager to see the night's offerings. I'll be showing my work June 11th at the USE Credit Union, which serves the local universities.   I wish you all could be here so I could meet you in person and talk of art and all things visual. In lieu of that, I'll keep you posted about more works coming out of the studio heading towards the ArtAbout.

Pictured above: Pattern Redux, © 2010, detail and Red Chrysanthemum, ©2010, detail

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

How To and How Not To: Setting Up a Workshop

Have you ever wondered how to set up a workshop? At the end of a recent SoulCollage® class in my studio, my students asked to extend the class. I wanted to keep my Sunday afternoons open. What to do? I remembered what Alyson Stanfield had said about collaborating and asked for suggestions. One student who worked at a cancer center suggested using a space there. What a divine idea! I thought. "And you could offer it to cancer patients and their peer navigators." she continued. 

 Discovery #1In need of new ideas? Collaborate with others.
My friend spoke to the outreach coordinator at the cancer center and soon, I had a meeting set up to discuss the possibility. 

Discovery #2•Follow up on ideas pdq/asap/stat.
The next piece was a bit trickier. I planned to offer the class free to cancer patients and their peer navigators and charge a fee for other folks. Win-win: I would be paid and the cancer center would be able to offer a brand new service. The tricky bit: could I use their facility (which opens you to great publicity channels) and still charge a fee? 

Discovery #3 (similar to #1)If in doubt, ask until you get an answer with which you are comfortable. I ended up calling their compliance office and discovered exactly which policy allowed me to offer the class and charge for it.  I also e-mailed all the students to find out if they were still on board. Here I met my first whoops. I'd assumed
I had enough participants so I had not done much outreach.

Discovery #4 Always do your outreach, no matter what. Seek out all possibilities for spreading your word. Even if, like me, you are an introvert who would sooner crawl under a rock than pick up the phone. So what to do now? I read Rebecca Crowell's post about an entire day spent working on upcoming classes. I flew into action, collaborating with my husband and other colleagues to make a great flyer. Ready to go? Well, almost...
At the same time that I created a flyer, I'd written an article for an on-line newsletter and now I heard from the newsletter editor telling me about an error in my dates. 

Discovery #5: Check and recheck your dates. So now here I am, flyers corrected (and recorrected), article published, word spread and grateful for all the help I've received. We'll see what next week brings, but for the moment, I'm staying with this thought from Jack Canfield:"When you are in a state of appreciation and gratitude, you are in a state of abundance. You are appreciating what you do have instead of focusing on and complaining about what you don't have. Your focus is on what you have received, and you always get more of what you focus on." (p. 357, The Success Principles) Now I'll start working on my curriculum...
Top photo courtesy of Lynn Cohen

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Mother's Day at the Hospital

My department, Child Life and Creative Arts Therapies tackles holidays, planning the best way to make them celebratory for both the kids and the parents. Each holiday presents (no pun intended) its own special challenges and Mother's Day is no exception. When I think about Mother's Day in the hospital, I think about sacrifice, sacrifice that is made without thinking. As a mom myself, I spend a lot of time observing the mothers I work with. They sit all day with their child, forgoing food, sunshine, showers and the rest of the family. They often sit for so long that sometimes the rest of the family has to pull them away. How do you acknowledge the greatness of this love? We're going to try this Friday. In addition to a spread of chocolate muffins, savory croissants, and a variety of coffees and teas, the volunteers and I have created this tray of paper corsages. Each colorful twist of tissue paper, carefully layered, represents a child for whom the mother is caring. As I printed this picture, I noticed that it divided along a diagonal line into light and dark. It speaks to me of the task of motherhood, that implicit promise to stay with our children through all of the darkness, shepherding them, we hope, into the fullness of life. On this Sunday, I honor all mothers, everywhere.