Several years ago as I was working at the Art Museum of South Texas, I paired up with artist Kay Thomas to teach a weekend workshop for teachers out for Summer break. The workshop consisted of an art element and a drama element. We blended to two together with the theme of developing a character and creating a book about it. This was my first experience with bookmaking.
Bookmaking has been an interest of mine ever since. I am fascinated by well-crafted journals and have several that I have bought from artisans, friends, and even a few I have made myself. But my passion for bookmaking is much stronger when it comes to book art. I get fired up about creating an artistic expression of some aspect of life, filling it with visual symbolism, and working out various mechanisms that make the book more than just pages and binding. I love the flaps, interesting shaped pages, pockets with fun things to fill them, unusual bindings, and surprising closures.
This weekend I had the opportunity to lose myself in such a book. A friend of mine, who works at a little cafe that I have made my second home, saw a small box filled with drawings I have been stashing away for several years. I call the drawings my fairies although most of them have no wings. They are fantastical drawings of female figures, their clothes, hair, and surroundings often drawing on elements of nature.
When Sue saw the drawings, she asked me to create a card for her boyfriend’s birthday. I was delighted. I spent the next couple of days dreaming about and working on the card. Before I knew it, it had turned into a book.
Sue explained that she and her boyfriend enjoyed going to Ren Faires and that they loved trees. I went to work planning the various elements. Some things were easy. I wanted to create little paper dolls that were reminiscent of the fairies Sue had originally seen. The one for Mike would resemble his Druid costume, and Sue’s would reflect her Wood Nymph costuming. I also planned on a tree theme and wanted to pull the Druid reference in further with some Celtic knotwork. The details would come improvisationally.
In the end, I had accomplished two things. First, I created a piece I felt proud to share with a friend, a work that had meaning for both her and me. But perhaps more important than the artwork itself, I felt accomplished by what the process provided me.
The creative process is a powerful mechanism. It becomes both teacher and healer to the Creative who engages it. The experience can be universal. There is the struggle with self-doubt and self-worth that arises. The Creatives meets with technical roadblocks which threaten to pull them off course and out of their projects. But if she is dedicated, or if he has the courage to stay with what wishes to be expressed inside, they will ride out the lesson that is in front of them. And in those moments where the Creatives make the choice to give life to the ideas begging to be born, they not only learn something about their medium, they often find something within themselves they might have never experience had they chosen to give it.
My understanding of this process comes from living a creative life. It started with theatre as a girl, went on to study that in college, discovered art just before graduation, and have been teaching both in one form or another ever since.
There is an inner story that plays out each time we attempt to create. Some part notices a need to take what is inside and share it with the world. Some other part challenges the value of what wants to be expressed, how it should be expressed, and the worthiness of the Creative who is up for crafting it into its corporal form. Then the battle begins between the want and the don’t. Sometimes the battle rages with voices from the past, demands for perfection, and blows which threaten to render the Creative helpless. Other times the battle can be subtle and poetic.
For me, there is something sacred about this inner dance. Perhaps it’s tendency to bring powerful insight and the way it provides balm to my aching spirit makes it as close to a miracle as I have ever experienced. Imagine stepping into a room as one person, doing the dance of creativity, and leaving a totally different person because what you learned about yourself and the Universe during your time of self-expression. The other part is that something can rise up from within that feels bigger than me and lead me to create what feels like something more amazing than I might be able to do by myself. Yes, that must be it. It can feel like a miracle.
Creating the Birthday Book was like that for me this weekend. I found lost parts of myself among the pages. I discovered a bit of magic, a twinkling in my spirit that had gone underground for a little while. It was greatly missed. And having it home again helps me settle into myself a bit easier.
I am including pictures of the book. It was created with manila folders, black marker, prisma colors, stamp pads for distressing (inspired by the polyvore art of the mistress of all things distressed…Merry Quite Contrary, mka. Meredith Watson), a strip of masking tape for the binding, some embroidery floss, and a reed. I dropped it off to Sue yesterday afternoon. I knew it was more than what she thought I was going to do. A simple card would have sufficed. But she had said I could take creative license with it. And my Inner Creative just went wild.
Part of the fun of creating can be sharing what you have created. If you have something you have made recently, I would love to see it. Drop a link in the comment box so we can all take a peek. Or if you can relate to the process that goes on during the act of creating something, please share that with the Creatives who find their way here. Who knows, maybe your experience is even different than mine. I want to hear from you. Until next time…. I am Creatively Yours…..Rae.