Archive for the category “Art”

The Unveiling of Spring

However long I follow this spiritual path, it never ceases to amaze me how each season continues to reveal different aspects of itself. Previously unseen lessons and mirrors of reflection present themselves with each turning of the wheel. This year Spring wants to talk to me about becoming visible in the world, an idea I have struggled with for most of my life. As a child making myself visible or noticeable wasn’t a terribly safe course of action.  While I have learned to overcome this to a certain extent in pursuit of my passions, the unsettling sense of vulnerability lingers, raising it’s head whenever I push up against the edges of my comfort zone.

Pursuing a creative education and career has challenged me in so many ways in terms of visibility. Anyone who has been through the art education system will know the ordeal of having not only your finished work but also all the mess that happens between an idea and that finished piece scrutinised, assessed and judged. I have often thought that art education in the western world is a kind of emotional endurance test…it asks you to make yourself vulnerable, to make your inner workings visible and manifest and then grades you. It can feel very validating if you are deemed successful, but soul destroying and shaming if you are found wanting.


Having said that, learning to separate ourselves from what we create is a worthwhile exercise. Releasing attachment frees us to look honestly at what we have brought into the world and to learn from it, to accept that the majority of what we create embodies a journey rather than a destination. It is also necessary if we are to survive emotionally as a practising creative of any kind in the world – we cannot avoid criticism if we choose to put our work in front of a wider audience. But I find myself asking what is the cost of learning that detachment in the painful way we so often do? Do we make ourselves less visible? Do we learn to hold back? Become focussed on an end product to please others rather than feeling free to take risks and explore the infinite ways to experience and express the authentic voice within us?

The structures and systems of our society do not tend to help many of us in making that deeper internal connection that open us up to living an authentic life regardless of external opinion.  Insidious messages about every aspect of who we should be and what we should aspire to flow towards us relentlessly from the modern world.  Our media, government and corporations work hard to orientate us towards external criteria as a measure of our worth.  We are not often encouraged to seek out what is meaningful or true for us as individuals and the social penalties of stepping outside of these accepted values can be difficult to deal with. It can take a significant amount of motivation and courage to walk our own path and be truly present in our life.


When it comes to creativity, many people never recover from the school system. I have lost count of the number of people I have spoken to at various events who have pointed to my work and said “I would love to do something like that but I was never any good at art at school” At some point in their early years someone measured them against a narrow set of criteria for a narrow range of creative outlets, found them lacking and defined them. The result was a belief embedded in a young consciousness that they were ‘not creative’ and did not have permission to pursue those activities. The joy and inner connection that they may have experienced through these activities was not relevant to the grading system.

I myself was labelled as someone who ‘couldn’t draw’. It took many years for me to realise that there are many different ways to draw and make marks and that they are all valid.  It was only as I came to understand that my beliefs about my creativity came from an external voice and did not speak for my heart that I was able to give myself permission to reach for what came from inside.

When I learned that it was okay to express myself in ways that I felt genuinely connected to, that made some part of me visible and tangible, I found I could tap into something that felt altogether different. Though I still sometimes have to remind myself that I am the one who gives myself permission to create, nobody else.


I guess what I’m getting at here is the way in which, for so many of us, the fear of judgement (whether from others or ourselves) and the desire to avoid the emotions that those judgements provoke in us, can send us scurrying back into our shells, our thick defensive skins, rather than risk being visible, vulnerable, authentic. However we came to take on that fear, however we came to believe that an external voice is more valid than the voice in our heart that longs to speak for itself, for many of us it’s a very real sensation. It can feel overwhelming when we start to break out of our limiting beliefs and thinking. We might even self sabotage in the pursuit of our dreams to give ourselves an excuse to run back to the comfortable shadow of anonymity. But it’s important for our own growth that we keep pressing up against those self imposed boundaries and limitations, asking  ourselves “does this belief that is holding me back really belong to me?”

The thing is…life doesn’t wait for us. Spring is shouting that message loud and clear at the moment as the wheel turns once more. Everything in nature is getting ready to unleash it’s potential, to create itself, to become visible. We too have potential to release, parts of ourselves that long to be unveiled, empowered with self-direction, given life and breath. In many ways we are no different to the seeds, filled at our core with the knowledge of who we are, with everything we need to manifest and express our true nature. The plant kingdom provides us with tremendous examples of entering into the flow of that unfolding. A dandelion honours the blueprint inside itself, it doesn’t question whether it has the right to be a dandelion or whether it should be trying to be less like a dandelion and more like a crocus! We are in the world to be visible, to be present, to grow into the fullness of who we truly are without shame or fear. And like the seeds, those hidden parts of us have been dreaming of themselves through a very long, cold winter. They have been waiting for this moment, for the return of the sun to awaken them and make them fully alive.

Spring Blessings!

This drawn image was created on the eve of the Spring Equinox this year to honour the Spring goddess and the light and life returning to the land.  It is based on an image I have previously created in ceramic, as incense holders…

…decorative tiles…

…dishes and bowls…

Finding new ways to relate to the hare goddess and her creative mysteries is something that continues to unfold for me throughout the year…though the white hare, the beautiful spirit of light that welcomes us at this time of the Spring Equinox, is especially potent…this gentle, abundant, fertile expression of the divine feminine and all the magic of ‘becoming’ that she unfolds. Wishing you all a very blessed and abundant Spring Equinox!

The Box

Over the course of my lifetime I have battled with a central issue: trust.  It has come for me again and again, challenging me to open my heart in the face of possible disaster.  I don’t always find it easy. My life has shown me again and again that open hearts get stamped on.  Innocence gets stamped on. Believe me, this has been properly rammed home…and yet…here I am, feeling the sting once again.

A recent betrayal is knawing at me and yet I am taking heart that I am  able to feel that knawing.  That knawing tells me that I am still alive.  It tells me that my heart opened up to someone enough to give them room to stick their boot through the doorway.  It tells me that far from a sign of weakness or fragility, I had the strength and courage to make myself vulnerable.  It tells me that the little girl in me who had so much of her trust and belief in humanity shattered and crushed into tiny sharp fragments, is breathing, crying…recovering.  She is still here, telling me it hurts…this feeling of rejection hurts.  It is not bouncing off a dead body that neither feels nor sees nor hears.   It hurts.

Deliberation by Mario Sanchez Nevado

Don’t misunderstand me, I am not a masochist, I take no delight in pain, but I do take delight in the fact that I can feel it, know it, experience it.  That has not always been the case.  Some wounds are so deep that from within the logical course of action seems to be amputation, to sever the part that is hurting, make it stop. People find all kinds of ways to ‘make it stop’ and we live in a society that provides us with oh so many distractions.

Sometimes though, the mind takes that decision on it’s own.  It dulls and numbs cutting off the place where the pain lives. The doorways are locked down.  People become dreams, always standing outside of the fortress, at arms length.  They can’t hurt us anymore because the part that allows us to take that risk is being held hostage in the tower. The benevolent king and queen, who once gently ruled over our hearts, have been replaced by a tyrannical paranoid dictator who lets nobody past the armed guards.  We are safe…in the way that a prison inmate in solitary confinement is safe…but we are not living. We don’t just keep out the pain, we keep out everything, every feeling, every pleasure and joy.  Untouched.  Unmoved.  Disconnected.  Isolated.  Fallen away.

Ivory Tower by Raqee Najmuldeen

Either we remain here indefinitely or we start an uprising, a rebellion from the inside.  We infiltrate, organise, confront.  We exercise our right to peaceful protest, refuse to accept the dictates of a fearful, controlling mind.  That dictator will scream as the defenses come down.  It will mobilise troops, threaten, cajole, terrorise in an attempt to make us back down and co-operate with it’s agenda. It does not realise that our heart is not the enemy.  It does not understand that our heart means it no harm, but simply longs to be free…free to love, free to live, free to take it’s place in the world and feel the sun on it’s face.

A little while ago I had a dream.  A woman came forward and spoke to me. I asked her name.

“Pandora” she told me.

“As in the box?” I asked, incredulously.

She did not answer me but reached down and pulled out an old chest that was tightly locked.  As I neared it, I could see there was something in the box that was fighting to get out, stretching the sides of the box, trying to escape.  Each little glimpse I gained inside as it pushed at it’s prison walls showed me a shaft of golden light.

I looked at Pandora.  I wanted to open the box.  More than anything I wanted to open the box.  I kept remembering the story though…Pandora’s box with all the sorrows of the world inside.  I didn’t want all the sorrows of the world, but I wanted to open the box.

After some consideration I reached down and slid the clasp back.  The top flew open and a stream of darkness flowed out.  Where was the golden light I had seen?  The darkness swirled around.

Pandora’s Box by Arthur Rackham

I peered into the box and there on the bottom was a lump of pure gold, light emanating from it’s surface. Hope?  I reached in and pulled it out.  As I held it the light became more brilliant and started to swirl along the path where the darkness had flown.  The golden glow began to fill the space, illuminating it, transforming the darkness and bringing it all to light.  Pandora looked at me and smiled.

“Sometimes you have to release the darkness in order to release the light that will transform it” she said.


We have to have the courage to set free our pain and fear and woundedness in order to set free the light that will heal us. These things stay stuck when we hold them in stasis, locking them up and preventing the natural movement of energy and life.  Deep inside every one of us is the source of healing, light and strength for all our wounds.  It is never lost, never extinguished, however long we lock it up for.  Hope always survives, patiently waiting for us to claim it, trust it and allow it to guide us away from the pessimism and cynicism of the world back into innocence and renewal.

Many artists over the years have been inspired by the subject of the mythological Pandora’s Box.  Today there are many wonderful examples from the talented artists and makers at .  See below for a small selection that you can view on the site by clicking the images:

Pandora’s Box by Kiersten Eve Eagan Illustration

Pandora’s Box by Kate Fensom

Pandora’s Box by Laura Peyton

Mixed Media by Euphoria Lucid Dreams Art Designs by Effie

She Let It Out by Light Plus Ink

Pandora’s Box by PRRINT

Beauty and the Blade

Do you have a favourite tool? We seem to write so much about what we make but not about the tools that we use to make it with.  As a lover of  creative making, I also love my tools.  Whether it’s a crochet hook, needle, scissors, jewellery pliers, rubber kidney, scalpel, wooden or metal modelling tools, rolling pin, chisel, sieve, stamps, cutters, burnishing stone, sewing machine, hammer, paintbrush or any number of other things, tools are crucial to whatever I am making.  Tools are not like materials that are depleted as they are used, but through using and looking after them they become our steady creative companions that will see us through project after project, that feel familiar and comfortable in our hands.  Eventually, with much use and practice, we (hopefully!) develop enough skill to become one with our tools, directing our intent through them as an extension of ourselves, allowing us to focus fully on the piece that we are making. Our bodies learn them, the way that we need to move them, the exact amount of pressure, the specific angle to achieve our desired result. It becomes so second nature that it is only when we have to replace a favoured old tool and pick up a new one that we will feel the very subtle differences: perhaps a slight difference in the weight, or that little imperfection that you got so used to working around which is no longer there.  It can take a while.

I used to have a favourite wooden modelling tool that I used all the time in clay work.  To an outside eye it looked like a wooden stick carved into a point on one end and a flat surface on the other.  I never used to think about how I used it.  Then one day it disappeared.  I hunted high and low for it but in the end realised that somehow, inexplicably, I had managed to lose it.   So I bought a new one.  It looked the same on the outside, but when I picked it up it was not the tool I had lost, it felt different in my hands, I did not feel that same connection to it.  Over time, the new tool became as comfortable as the old one, but it made me think about the relationship between makers and their tools and the process we go through in learning to use a new one. Read more…

One Stone Too Far…

Gosh, it seems so long since I was last here!  Well, after my break I am feeling considerably better and ready to leap into a new topic that I have been mulling over recently.  What is this megalith that has been on my mind?  It is the Stanza Stones Project: a collaborative art project organised by the Ilkey Literature Festival, imove and Pennine Prospects as part of the cultural programme running up to to the 2012 Olympics.  The project places work by the well-known modern poet Simon Armitage into the landscape of Ilkley Moor and surrounding areas in West Yorkshire by carving the words of his poems into a number of rocks. A couple of these rocks have been imported, but many form part of the Moor’s natural geology.  The idea is that they will form a ‘poetry trail’ through the landscape between Marsden and Ilkley.  Two poems have already been carved, at Marsden Quarry and Nab Hill, with more to follow.

The poems are a collection called ‘In Memory of Water’ and are all on the theme of water, an important natural force that has helped to shape the landscape in this area.  The organisers suggest that the carving of the poems onto the rocks places the work into the context of human carving in the moor’s landscape over centuries, from prehistoric times through to masonry, through to ‘twenty-first century informal unauthorised carving’ (otherwise known as graffitti!  More on that later…). Read more…

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