Wasp Paper

Writing from the Writers Group this week. We’ve been doing this, but I can’t find the piece I used as inspiration.

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What would a wasp say if it could write its little heart out on that huge scroll?polistes_may_2013-2

I’ve never liked bees. Honey bees are ok—almost cute—but the rest of the beekingdom have always terrified me. Maybe not bumble bees. They are miniature winged golden retrievers, following too close and bumping accidentally; curious and furry. Hornets, wasps, yellow jackets; they are all evil.

The girl scouts had a giant hornet’s nest in the corner of the room where we met. It was something to do with North Carolina or Mecklenburg County. I never paid attention to that part. I had nightmares about it; swarms of these evil creatures would pour out of the bottom of their paper castle and come for me, vengefully pricking me to death for daring to cast my eyes in their direction, their fury unstoppable, their wings like a machine of war propelling them towards my vulnerable face.

But they…make paper! They have probably been making paper since well before humans ever did. What if a little wasp took her stinger, dipped in my fresh blood, and wrote on her paper. What would she say?

“Keep out! No trespassing,” big jagged letters around the belly of the nest. “Private Property!”

“You wouldn’t believe what I saw this morning! The sun made tiny round jewels on the ivy leaves round the old tree stump,” careful, precise holes poked, needle stitches for each letter. “You should pay more attention to the great world.”

“Yay for circles!” Big, punched out letters. “Circles are best!”

“My life is so brief and fast,” tiny bloody cursive, her ink from the well of my arm. “I must be fierce and powerful before I die, for it flies to meet me quickly. Then, I am no more.”

To read the nest book, one layer at a time, peeling pages from an enemy’s soul.

 

Note: that is NOT my photograph. I would never, ever get that close. The photographer is excellent and can be found here. 

Creative Impulse

Often, we seem to think that creativity is an uncontrollable impulse. It seems that all kinds of creative endeavors, from photography to painting or fabric arts to sculpture or writing to metalwork, are dependent upon the fickle and capricious appearance of this impulse. It comes and goes as it will and we are at this muse’s whim.

However, this may not be exactly as full an understanding of creativity as we might think. I’m not convinced that we are utterly at the mercy of creativity’s impulsive nature. Ray Bradbury’s book, Zen In the Art of Writing,  gives many good ideas on how to tame the muse or, put another way, find ways to stimulate creativity and not be continually at the mercy of its appearance (or absence).

A recent post on a chainmailing blog I follow has some fantastic ideas as well. Actually, they are ideas that come from some seasoned artists. The post summarizes the various suggestions and recommends some good books to read. It’s an excellent post and well worth the read! And these are good ideas and suggestions whether your vocation includes a creative component or if you need creative sparks in any area of your life.

For me, the very best things that have helped me remain creative personally and professional are simple: write every day even if it is a seemingly uninspiring journal entry, read both fiction and non fiction as much as I can, put intentional focus on the details, patterns, colors, people, animals and natural elements of the world around me, and when I realize I am stuck with a project(which usually occurs about 3 hours into stuck-ness) I get up and do something completely different for a while.

Of course, sometimes creativity simply won’t flow. There’s a reason why people sometimes equate a time when they cannot get moving creatively as dry and desert like. It seems that these times are a little like the times when people come to see me for pastoral care. In a crisis, even a mild one, our vision becomes narrowed. We see fewer options, see less support, help, and connections to our world around us. It is as if we are seeing, thinking and feeling with blinders on.  We remove those, or at least shift them out a bit, when we move out of ourselves and broaden our vision. The same is true for creativity.

Got ways you spark your creativity? I’d love to hear about it!

Oh Savannah

Oh Sa Vannah! Oh don’t you cry for me!

Wait, I think that’s wrong.

Anyhow, photos of the loveliness that is Savanna, GA.  It was very good to go earlier in the spring because it was not so hot you melted into the ground and it wasn’t so humid either. Yet still full of all the pretty!

If you go to Savannah  you cannot avoid all the ghost stories and the fact that everyone insists that where they live or work is the most haunted place in America. So, of course a visit to one of the many historic cemeteries is in order. This bird was on a branch of a tree at the cemetery. The tree itself was nearly dead and covered in Spanish Moss that was a soft, powdery greywhite cloud around the tree. Like a ghost of what was once the green moss virtually dripping with life. What would have been a rather ordinary looking bird in some other context was just so beautiful sitting there. It is, perhaps, my favorite shot of the whole trip.

One of the things Savannah is well known for is all of the beautiful ironwork. You find it everywhere and I must have taken dozens and dozens of photos of ironwork doors, fences, railings and other details.

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Hidden gardens are pretty much everywhere all over the city. Peering over a wall, you can see all kinds of things, even a petrified lion!

And sometimes, gardens escape over the wall and into the alley!

No trip to the city is complete without a visit to the big fountain in Forsythe Park. I am amazed that I was able to get this shot without people in the background because this is a major congregating place for people, both locals and tourists.

I love trees and Savannah is full of them!

This was a particularly unusual tree. I have no idea what kind it is but it looked like one of those statues that has been carved with drapey fabric. It was very strange!

And the big bridge! With a storm right behind it. So it was time to go home. Farewell Savannah! Until we meet again.

New Blog and New Mini Obsession

Oh Instagram (and associated apps) where have you been all my life???

Well, I think it and they have been on all the i technology which I have avoided like the slimy plague. Recently, however, I got an Android phone and have been inducted into the world of Instagram and Pixlr-o-mat and I LOVE it!

I would have seriously turned up my snobbish photographer’s nose a few years ago at the idea of using a camera in a cell phone much less using digital manipulation software to distort images making them appear, in some cases, of lesser quality than they actually are and, occasionally, in some state of decay. Yet, here I am! And I’ve even added another blog to my blogset: The Mental Instagram Scrapbook.

For some time, I’ve had The Mental Scrapbook, a location for my photography. Even with my new found love of the gram/mat style, it didn’t seem to be quite right to add these new images to that blog. A bit like eating salt and vinegar potato chips alongside a piece of chocolate cheesecake. Both yummy in their own way, but somehow inappropriate on the same plate.

So, visit if you wish and here’s a little set of some snaps:

Chainmail

In April I finally got a chance to do something I’ve always wanted to do: learn how to make chainmail*.

For most all of my life I’ve had a fascination with warriors and particularly the warrior girl/ warrior woman archetype. Some day I will have my own suit of armor! Unfortunately, for all kinds of logical and rational reasons, that day is not today. However when that day comes, I can now make the chainmail portion myself if I wish!

Actually, chaimail is a bit more than just that. Historically, it played a significant role in warfare and the survival of battle participants including dogs and horses as well as humans. It’s also the grandfather of Kevlar and other kinds of modern day body armor used by military and police.

And it’s awesome.

Tiny rings of hard metal woven together into something fluid and as flexible as cloth. Little insignificant round bits that are worth next to nothing alone become strong and beautiful together. There is something a little magical about it. There are tons of different kinds of chainmail and all are based on the small jumpring; a little link of metal.

When people think of chaimail, they usually picture something they’ve seen in a movie. Think Lord of the Rings, Kingdom of Heaven, A Knight’s Tale, or even Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Usually (though not always) this is traditional European 4 in 1 mail. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg!

These are images of things I’ve made. On the whole, it’s jewelry and I’ve really enjoyed making it. There’s even a little bit of scale mail! By far my favorite piece is the dog collar! Doesn’t she look like a regal little warrior girl? I’ve even opened an etsy shop which can be found here.

The thing I like the best about the chaimail is it’s interdependence. That’s its strength. Remember that old saying about how a chain is only as strong as its weakest link? For the most part, that’s not true for chaimail. With so many rings linked, no single ring holds the piece together. There’s always a back up link. They always work as a team and so the strength of the piece is greater than the sum of its parts.

The guy who taught the class I took at the Jackson County Green Energy Park was Brock Martin. Brock is a blacksmith and all around awesome person with infinite patience even with people like me. He owns WarFire Forge and makes amazing things! If you’re interested, there are often chainmail classes at the larger craft stores like Michaels or A C Moore and a search on their sites will point you to classes in your area. Also CG Maille and Maille Artisans International League are both full of great information and The Ring Lord is the best place on earth to buy supplies.

*Or you could say chain mail or chainmaille. It’s all the same thing, just different spellings.

Folk School Week!!

This is the week of Folk School! I’m attending the John C Campbell Folk School and taking a class on woodturning. In the multitude of crafty things I have dabbled in over the years, woodturning is not among them.

Plies of fine sawdust like angel hair lie in heaps on the floor. Every shade of blonde brunette and red. Some are ringlet Shirley Temple curls, some little more than dust. Like some strange beautician with unfamiliar tools used for wooden angels, we trim and trim down bit by bit.

Just a little off the top, please!

All of the Folk School seems other-worldly in some way or another. Some of it is a bit of time transport to another age when people were required to create things “by hand”, one at a time, each piece bearing an intended (or unintended) signature. Blacksmiths and woodturners, jewelry makers and quilters, wood carvers and woodworkers. That is something I have learned here. Many crafts that we assume go by one heading are very much not the same.

Woodcarving, woodturning and woodworking are not the same thing at all. My suspicion is that the relation is like knitting and crochet. Same materials, similar looking tools, very different skills and very different craft. Metalworking, blacksmithing and jewelry making seem to share a similar relationship.

It also feels otherworldly because of the rural setting. I live in a semi rural small town, so it isn’t too out of the norm to be far away from the closest Target store. Still, there are fields of gold and green, purple and white clover, cows in the distance and behind them rise this edge of the Appalachians. Wooded areas are dense and protected here. Birds abound.

Ultimately, the otherworldliness seems to come from the whole notion of learning from a crafts person face to face. A master of their craft. Not just a you tube video or a demonstration at Michaels or a website or even a book. All those things are great! Don’t get me wrong here, I have learned or taught myself many things in those very ways. But the whole concept of this is different. Here, we are working with someone who has mastered the craft.

There is something arcane about it all.

It is more like a classroom, obviously, but no assumption is made that you’ll know it all in a matter of hours. Here, a craft and its mastery are taken quite seriously. Of course, there is also the assumption that you are not going to master the craft in a week either, but it is a unique experience to learn and create something, gain the beginnings of a skill and do so within the watchful eyes of someone who knows massive amounts about the work and who is there to correct, re-correct and refine your work.

And yet, there is no sense of arrogance or an insulated or unattainable knowledge, which makes it all the more amazing and hypnotic. You are drawn in to what you are doing in a manner unlike any other.

Most of the time, we don’t do things this way. We want flat abs in 15 minutes, fast food, weekend warriors and one-day workshops. We want on-line classes so we don’t have to be bothered by other students or actual professors critiquing our work. We want to reach black belt status with minimal time investment. Above all else, we don’t want to disrupt our daily lives, our regular commitments, our precious schedules.

But this place is all about interrupting the regularly scheduled program. It is nothing if not separate from what most of us have as our daily lives. Here, there are no commitments BUT here, and for a few short days, we live as though all that matters is this learning and this project.

Perhaps there is something to that very thing, even apart from the actual skills gained. Over the past couple of years I’ve tried to intentionally live in such a way as to make space for creative things. It started with Tuesday knitting group and has grown quite a bit. It seems that my life is better and less stressed than it could be. Regardless, I’m convinced I feel my life more deeply and enjoy each moment more even when I’m not engaged in a specifically creative activity.

I’m certain that when I return from this mysterious otherworldly place, I will not be a master wood turner. I will also, most likely, not be missed nearly as much as I might think. Rumor has it that the world is still turning out there beyond the boundaries of field and workshops and forest. And that’s not so bad, really. It is quite possible that a good number of things that get in the way of this very same mysterious and amazing life we get a taste of here at the Folk School are not really that much in the way after all. Perhaps this is one of the best crafts here; crafting life.

For now, I’m going to soak up this fantastic place, take a million photographs, walk a lot (which I almost never do), try new things and have an all around wonderful time!

Here, There Be Dragons

Folk School week as begun and it is an amazing place. I am loving it here but it is overwhelming in its different-ness and in the newness of the craft I’m learning.

I am convinced that dragons live here. In the night I imagine I can hear them breathe and move around the grounds; fly above my bed by the window, high in the air, circling. Breeze through the room is their downdraft as they lift off. Lightening is the flash of their power; thunder is the roar of their mystery. For this is a strange and new land, peopled with mysterious creatures made from unknown wisdom.

Round and spinning lightning fast with teeth of pure steel make sport of cedar, devouring a thin strip and spewing a plume of dust in perfect dragon-breath style into the late afternoon gold-light. Sharp and deadly is its high pitched little roar.

Small dragons are still dragons.

There is both precision and wildness in this dragon who consumes a fine, perfect line of wood, cleanly severing into two what was once a member of a whole forest family. Ruthless. Fearless. Powerful. Beautiful.

This is only the little woodshop dragon. A wonder of wonders must be the one in the blacksmith’s fire!

Here, there be dragons.