Weaving…. (Part I)

August 19, 2015 § 1 Comment

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About the time we were given notice to vacate our old home, I began this weaving. Almost every evening during the intense six week period of packing and procuring a new home, I could be found sitting on the lounge, hot chocolate beside me, weaving.

I made the frame myself from some simple planks of wood, some nails and a lot of string. At first I envisioned a simple blue/green theme, but then green led into yellow and the weaving itself began to lead me into unknown territory. The soft glass piece comes from one of my favorite places in Sydney to visit: Reef Beach. The leaves come from some awesome trees on the side of the road where I park to visit the chiropractor! Not so special in location, but more for the fact that for me they embody Sydney and the sandstone landscape that shapes it. This weaving is now incorporating the elements: two stones are next, from the garden of our old home, and then hopefully some feathers that will lay in my path one day.

I love the depth of weaving. The lines, the warp and the weft, the repetitive action going back and forth, back and forth. I love it that as I was weaving this piece, I was also in the process of weaving new elements together in my life….elements that even I did not know I was dreaming into existence back then.

I knew the weaving was to have pride of place in our new home. I had hoped to finish it before moving, but of course that did not happen. It is now six weeks since we have moved, and it sits, still unfinished. In those six weeks I have been in despair, feeling that the creative part of my life would have to be packed away as my physical crafting materials were. I could not see the path ahead, as our new home situation quickly made it clear to me that the way I was operating before was now redundant.

I was sitting fallow. Not knowing what to do, so doing nothing.

But as the cycles of life continue unabated, so my own cycles kept turning too, and I began to catch some new threads – so different from what I expected out of my life at this time, but so rich and satisfying.

The weaving is calling to me, ready to be finished now that the shoots of my new life have sprung.

To be continued…..

Easter Traditions

April 5, 2015 § Leave a comment

As time goes by, and as my life experience accumulates, I find myself in an interesting space in regards to religion and spirituality. I have moved on from the religion to which my mother introduced me as a child, and find myself gradually moving still further from any expression of organised religion. However my spirituality runs deep, and is intertwined with nature, in which I increasingly find the purest expression of the divine, but despite this depth of feeling I do not yet feel fully immersed in any other category of spirituality, which sometimes leaves me feeling a little adrift.

These issues are on my  mind right now as it is Easter, and this Easter finds Sydney a somber, rainy, dark place to be (kind of fitting really, if you follow the religious meanings of this time).  Frankly I find Easter confusing: with the Christian version of Easter, the Pagan roots from which the Christian version supposedly arises, and the seasonal aspects which are woven into this holiday too.

It is not Spring where I live, it is Autumn, and the time of the Harvest. We don’t normally have pumpkins here at Halloween time in October as is traditional in the Northern Hemisphere; they are in abundance now as the weather takes its turn towards to the colder months. It feels strange to celebrate with eggs, a symbol of new life and new beginnings.

In previous years, I played along with Easter and all its stereotypical accompaniments, planning an Easter Egg hunt for Easter Sunday but adding a homemade, soulful touch with handmade bunnies for the children to keep, to become part of their daily playthings.

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In recent years my enthusiasm has waned in sync with the waning of my connection to religion. Our children learn about all religions both at home, at school, and from their extended family, but I was not keen to play a part in something that lacked meaning for me. For years now our family members have been asked not to give us chocolate eggs, and the holiday has passed with us camping, or staying close to home and treating it as some special family downtime.

Now that my daughters are getting older, they bring home an awareness of these festivals and the dilemma has arisen again for me. This year I plan to straddle both the fun of Easter (for fun’s sake!), whilst somehow acknowledging the themes of renewal that Easter carries, as well as the seasonal Harvest time we find ourselves in, and the imminent descent into winter.

To accomplish most of these ideas in one go, I use the Nature Table. In Steiner Education, the aptly named Nature Table is a point within the home that holds a connection to the seasons and happenings of nature outside. I recently made space for a rather large nature table, right in the middle of our living space, and as this weekend progresses it will display the bounty of nature at this time of the year, here, where we live in our place on this Earth.

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We will acknowledge the season and its gifts with some eggplant lasagne and pumpkin soup. We may talk, as a family, about what new beginnings we are facing, as well as the gifts in our lives for which we are especially thankful. And the table will hold, on Easter Sunday morning, the bounty that magically occurs at Easter. No matter my own spiritual dilemmas, I am determined for this Easter to hold some energy of reverence, and depth, and just that little touch of magic.

 

Yonis and The Seven Sisters.

April 1, 2015 § 1 Comment

Six months of dreams and applications, and six weeks of intense preparations and discussions culminated on this weekend past with two Crafting the Sacred Yoni workshops held at the Seven Sisters Festival.

It was my first time attending this festival for women. Over 1500 women converged in a wild and somewhat remote location south of Melbourne. When my companion and co facilitator, Yia, and I arrived, we emerged from the car to a frigid and powerful wind that made setting up my little tent tricky, and had us both wondering how we would manage to craft successfully in such conditions.

The energy of this gathering gradually gathered us up in its movement and by the time of our first workshop the weather was all but forgotten. Forty women came, crafted and left with their own unique Yoni. I always suspected this workshop had the potential to be both powerful and healing, but I was deeply moved by the depth of creativity and journeying that each woman took in the ninety minutes we spent together.

I found it extremely interesting how the Yonis were influenced by both which life cycle stage a woman was in, as well as a more subtle influence of her monthly cycle point. By the time of our second workshop, the last time slot of the entire festival, the process felt deeper still as the participants seemed more deeply opened to themselves through other workshops and events they had attended.

Yia and I facilitated just over eighty women crafting their own Yonis this past weekend. It was exhilarating, exhausting, deep, tender, raw and so powerful. Not sure what is next for this little workshop idea but I am already so filled with wonder and gratitude for the journey so far.

And now, for some snapshots…..

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Crafting a SacRed YONI!

March 16, 2015 § 2 Comments

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IMG_1080In my burgeoning professional life, I wear many hats. I run a Playgroup, craft groups both for children and women, make and sell items for women and children, and blog for http://www.mothering.com as well as for this humble personal blog.

An increasingly large part of my role as Craft Teacher for women has been the project depicted above: Crafting a SacRed YONI! Yes, Yoni refers to the vagina. Yes, this project is about crafting a vagina art piece to hang on one’s wall at home.

Really, this project is the perfect fusion of my crafting skills and passion for women’s mysteries and empowerment. It began as one humble Yoni fibre art piece, made for a dear friend for her Harvest Ceremony. I don’t really know why I chose the Yoni, it just seemed relevant for this Wise Woman and mentor in the realm of women’s cycles. Of course she loved it and soon another wonderful woman asked me to make on for her.

And so something began.

Like all good ideas, the idea to make this art piece into a workshop was one that simply floated into my consciousness one day. I needed a co-facilitator, and Yia, for whom I made that original piece, excitedly stepped into the role. We have been fastidiously gathering all the elements needed to make the Yonis unique and creative. Pictured above are some of the results of the trial run we did for this workshop at a Red Tent event last week.

Now we are ten days out from the Seven Sisters Festival, held in Melbourne, Australia, where the workshop Crafting a SacRed YONI will be experienced by up to one hundred women. To say I am nervous is rather an understatement. I know I will rise to the occasion and that the workshops will be a success – the nervousness has many levels, from leaving my children for four days, worrying about how they will manage without me, to wondering how I will manage by myself, in a totally new setting and experience. I am sure there will be lots to write about when I return!

 

The Tree of Life

January 29, 2015 § 1 Comment

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 Photos by William Price.

I’ve long been fascinated by the Tree of Life – an ancient image that is sacred in many religions and cultures.

The tree reaches both down into the earth, and up into the heavens. I have read that for some, the branches represent male, and the leaves female. The Tree of Life symbology also incorporates the four directions, as well as the Milky Way.

It can represent the spiritual realm, where the dualities of light and dark, or good and evil do not exist. Think of the Bodhi Tree, under which sat Buddha until he attained enlightenment. In Christianity, the tree can represent the cross, and the blood of Jesus Christ is referred to as the Fruits of the Tree of Life. And of course there is the tree from which Eve plucked a forbidden apple to eat, thus finding herself and Adam banished from the Garden of Eden

Probably the stories that I am most familiar with involve the Norse legend of Yggdrasil, a most sacred tree that is at the center of all life. It reaches far into the heavens, as well as below the earth, therefore connecting it to all nine realms. Gods would regularly visit the tree, and it is from this tree and the tales surrounding it that other trees, such as ash or oak, have come to have sacred meanings and uses.

I first became interested in crafting my own Tree of Life some seven years ago, whilst living in QLD. We bought a good friend of ours an Egyptian representation of the tree on papyrus paper. The accompanying description of its meaning intrigued me deeply, as this was the first time I had seen birds present.

In the Egyptian Tree of Life, there are four or five birds depicted, representing the different stages of life from infancy through to adulthood and death, or for me more personally, the four stages of womanhood: maiden, mother, magii, and crone. All but one bird faces the East. In the Egyptian telling, the East, being where the sun rises, represents life. The West, embodied by one bird facing this way, looks toward eventual and inevitable death. I often look at the birds and think of the stages of womanhood I have passed through, and those I have yet to meet.

My husband, being a very talented artist, helped me draw the first template of my internal vision. Then, taking felt, my preferred textile, I created. The very first Tree of Life I made went to a dear friend, wise woman and mentor, for the occasion of her own Harvest Queen Ceremony. Since then I have made four more: one for my own mother, one for myself, and two sold – not to strangers, but to women who I know or know of in my community. Because of this, I think the pieces have remained highly meaningful, and indeed have become even more powerful in their symbolism and beauty (at least I hope so!).

Each Tree of Life is slightly different in leaf colour, in bird positioning, and of course through the normal variations that occur when making by hand.  In this final piece, pictured above, I have tried to reflect the seasons through the changing color of the leaves. Every aspect is made by me: the felt, hand dyed. The leaves and bird shapes, cut by hand. And everything hand stitched in place. After seven years and five different variations, the Tree of Life still remains one of my favourite creations.

The Crafting Minefield

August 18, 2014 § Leave a comment

I began my crafting journey years ago, in a small community centered around the local Steiner school.  My teacher was known for her dyeing skills and simple toys – dyed clothes, felt and rest bags (among other things!), little wooden figures dressed in beautiful felt clothes, and a huge assortment of tiny gifts for tiny people: treasure bags, crystal bags, craft kits, and on and on. And other people were known for other skills: wonderful cloth dolls, or wooden items, or hand sewn clothes.

Anyone who has followed my blog or knows even a little about Steiner inspired crafts knows the very distinctive visual elements that mark it out. Rainbow colours in soft or bright, pure colours that invite the eyes to drink them in, natural materials, wool felt and fleece and wooden toys, along with an overall sense of great quality and beauty. Within the ideas that form the Steiner philosophy, there are a million things to create, and of course even the same hand sewn pouch doll can look radically different depending upon who sews it.

When my teacher moved away from the school, I was so excited to have the opportunity to step into the crafting space (so to speak) she left behind, as dyeing and working with wool felt were (and still are) my particular passions. As a young mother who chose to stay home with her babies, crafting (and selling) was the one thing I could do to bring in a little spare cash, all in the name of helping to pay for my children’s wonderful schooling.

Over time my own style has developed, and evolved into the items I now think I am ‘known’ for – hand dyed wool felt in solid colours or rainbow painted, felt pictures (hand embroidered by me), rainbow dyed clothing items and doona covers, and more recently hobby horses.

one of my purely original designs.

one of my purely original designs.

rainbow spiral cape - an item many people make, but always  original to each maker.

rainbow spiral cape – an item many people make, but always original to each maker.

heart decoration - made original by the use of hand dyed graduated felt.

heart decoration – made original by the use of hand dyed graduated felt.

Felt crowns: not an original idea but the use of felt and decorations unique to me.

Felt crowns: not an original idea but the use of felt and decorations unique to me.

A few years ago I became aware of the issues of copyright and originality in the crafting world.  As a semi-professional crafter, I have deep respect and wonder for the amazing products I see being created around me. I now aim to produce items that are my original work -and if they are inspired by something already in existence – I put my own style and ‘stamp’ on it.

However this year I have felt disillusioned with the crafting scene. From reading in magazines about small time professional crafters having their designs taken by a major retailing chain, to what I have observed on a local level: people copying other people’s work (to then sell for their own profit), sometimes anonymously, sometimes shamelessly. I support a diverse market, and I support everyone’s right to produce items similar to mine, but sometimes I feel frustrated with the lack of clear boundaries in this area.

I am left protecting my ideas and designs until the last possible moment, knowing that once an item goes on sale, it is fair game. I once had two women talk in front of me at a market about how they were going to take my original felt picture and turn it into a craft project for their own community, and another person ask me if she could photograph an item of mine so she could copy it at home! I suppose that is a complement in a way, and I have copied someone else’s work in the past – although I buy the item in question, and as mentioned before, make it my own.

I would love to hear your ideas on this issue. Am I being too ‘precious’ to think that I should be the only one in my community doing my ‘things’? Or is this area open game for everyone?

Meditation with Hands.

June 5, 2014 § 3 Comments

Back in 1998, soon after I met my now husband, we went travelling together. Just us, a tent, some spiritual books and a stereo in a little red car.

Our interest was in intentional communities, and we planned to visit as many as we knew about. On the list was Chenrezig Buddhist Monastery up in the hills of the lower Sunshine Coast. After a couple of nights there I applied for the volunteer program, and was accepted. I had a little hut to sleep and meditate in, and did four hours a day of work around the centre.

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I also got to experience the teachings, translated from Tibetan, originally spoken by the awe inspiring Geshe Tashi Tsering. Rumour was it that in his cabin, the highest on the hill, the wooden floors were worn away into a depression from him doing so many protestations (I think that is the right word!).

Many of the tasks I did were menial – gardening, weeding, sweeping, washing up or chopping mountains of vegetables in the kitchens. However I was taught a Buddhist approach to these tasks that has remained with me: meditation with hands. If I was weeding – then I would have mindfulness with the weeding. Every weed pulled was a distracting thought pulled from my mind. If I was washing up – I would have mindfulness with washing up – as every plate was cleaned, so too were the thoughts in my mind cleaned and purified. It was the easiest form of meditation for me, and one I still practice all the time.

But I have also applied this to crafting. When I sew….it is with mindfulness. If my monkey mind is really distracted or throwing up unhelpful suggestions, I bring myself back to this stitch, and then the next stitch. Each stitch is a second of being totally present, and then before I know it I have stitched together something beautiful….transforming the busyness in my mind into another kind of beauty.

When I run craft workshops I love seeing women or children get into the ‘zone’…where they leave thought behind and simply create. It is calming, rejuvenating. It is meditation with Hands.

 

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