23 August 2012

In My Hands

I spent the last week on vacation. My niblets were off to their grandparents' home, and I was off once again to Saco, Maine and the In The Company of Women conference at Ferry Beach.

I began attending three years ago to find myself, and my Self. I was struggling in my marriage, knew that I was interested in women but not sure what to do about it, and all in all not in the best place I could be. It was at Ferry Beach that I found a mental respite, a spiritual home. Not necessarily in the UU (Unitarian Universalist) sense, but wrapped in the guise of understanding women all on different paths than I, but still in the same place. It was here I could hit the boundaries I knew existed in my soul and mind, and decide whether I was ready to challenge them or accept them. I could also play, and remember how to have fun.

Last year I was the coordinator of my morning track, and found myself starting another journey, which has led to being the co-coordinator of the ITCW Conference this summer. After three years, I am still a relative "newbie" and could not have accepted stepping into this place without the support of a lot of women that I had met the last couple of years. I am grateful that I had time to play once again, in ways I had not tried before.

This week found me surrounded by the opportunity to make art in many different medias. While I have enjoyed crafts at various times these last decades, I cannot remember the last time I could "create art". On a chance, I decided to drop into the Spirit Doll session offered on Monday. It was there I faced holding a ball of sculpy in my hands, and allowing myself to create, to reach into my soul and manifest something without any reference except what was contained inside me.

My Autumn Lady in spirit doll form

That was hard. To reference: I loved art when I was young. I would spend hours creating stories in my head and illustrating them on scrap paper, reams of paper. Drawing and painting in school, sketches and clay. Art was part of my life the way that reading and eating were. Then I grew older, and when you are a teen, you do not always see yourself through a clear window. My art was still there, but there were challenges. My strengths were in the literal - I was great at copying line drawings, adapting sketches of superheroes and changing their clothing. Those who surrounded me - in my mind - created. I could not do what they did, and in that, I found myself lacking.

I had lost faith: in my art and in my self. The fire that I could easily feed through my childhood was gone, doused by doubts and low self-worth.

This week I found that fire again. I found the mediums in my hands, clay and sculpy, fabric, felt and wool, all finding the visions I created in the moment. Where it really manifested itself was in needle felting.

I had heard of this project before, but seeing all the three-dimensional sculptures that seemed to be the result, I never really found myself drawn to it. This lesson ended up being "drawing with felt". At least, it felt (see what I did there?) that way. I determined that I was going to make a tree. I love trees, but as my needles pushed the wool into the fabric square, I realized it was not looking like a tree anymore. As I pulled more colors of fiber from the various balls and bags, it became something else entirely.

And like a phoenix, my faith in my artistic ability burned alive once again. Of course, the discovery of a new medium can do that to anyone, and with my obvious love of fiber crafts, this seemed likely. However, it was more than that. The images that came across the felt were more than just ideas from my head. Here, I did not set down with any real idea of what was going to end up on my wool canvas, I just knew I wanted to paint it...in fiber.

I did make a tree (or two) eventually.

No tie-dye this year, but the spray batik was just as fun.

I even did some knitting!
Another summer of discovery at Ferry Beach for me. It feeds my soul in ways I never expected - the ocean, the sand, the art, the spiritual, the acquaintances and friends I have made there - and I cannot imagine my life without it now.