Tag Archives | music

On ritual and reflection

It has now been two years since I travelled to Touchstone to take Rachel Sager‘s class. Unbeknownst to me at the time, that would be the pivotal experience that set me on the path down which I am now travelling. Since then, for whatever reason, I have taken to celebrating this ‘anniversary’ of sorts.

At first I thought I was being silly and sentimental (and I probably am, to some degree), but I like the ritual and tradition of it. I also like that it clearly establishes a marker against which I can measure my progress and serves as a reminder to stop and take stock of how far I’ve come and how far I have yet to go.

This year, in addition to listening to Josh Ritter’s “Lark” (my Touchstone theme song), I celebrated by going on my first foraging outing of the year. It was still a bit early in the season and the waters were high at my favourite scavenging spot, but they had receded just enough that there was a thin strip of shoreline for me to explore.

This is my favourite foraging spot. An appropriate place to celebrate my Touchstone anniversary.

This is my favourite foraging spot. An appropriate place to celebrate my Touchstone anniversary.

While down at the river’s edge, I sat down on a big boulder and took a moment to reflect. No deep or revelatory thoughts in particular, just a general feeling of satisfaction when, in my mind’s eye, I set “Grounded” (that first piece) and “Quod erat demonstrandum” (my latest piece) side by side and saw that, yes, in fact, I have made progress. And also a feeling of excitement when I started to think about all that potentially lies in store for me if I keep showing up and doing the work.

I'd say I've made some progress!

I’d say I’ve made some progress!

I think it’s important to occasionally step back and assess. Whether you do it once a year or just on an ad hoc basis, it’s a good exercise: it helps put things in perspective and it gives you a little motivating push (or a kick in the pants if you’ve been slacking). I’ve tried doing it by calendar year, but it just doesn’t hold as much meaning for me and seems rather arbitrary. So I will continue to celebrate my Touchstone anniversary and use it as a prompt to pause and reflect. And if nothing else, it’s a good excuse to go foraging…!

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What lies beneath our feet: Wayfinding and the road ahead

I think that perhaps by now you’ve gotten a sense that mosaic camp had a pretty profound impact on me. So now it’s time to try to articulate what it all means. It’s actually kind of challenging to find the right words to adequately convey how pivotal and amazing this experience was for me. Over the course of this post, there will likely be ramblings and digressions, but I hope you’ll bear with me.

mosaic hardie in logIt’s hard to explain what this workshop meant to me without first understanding where I was in my relationship with mosaic. My early work with glass got me hooked on mosaic in terms of putting things together to form a cohesive whole. My brain works well that way, so it was natural that I should gravitate to mosaic. But the material and tools just didn’t do it for me. So I explored. I took a few classes and found out I didn’t like tile (neither vitreous nor ceramic), but that I did quite enjoy smalti and stone. Most importantly, I discovered my love for my hammer and hardie. But as I moved into these new materials, it felt like I was still missing a piece of the puzzle. I enjoyed the craftsmanship that went into each piece – I love working with my hands and creating something tangible – but I was still just a wee bit unsatisfied. I think that maybe I found the materials, although lovely, a bit uninspiring and sterile. Everything in neat cubes and rods and squares. It felt restrictive. I think it’s fair to say that prior to the workshop at Touchstone, I was in an uneasy transition period. I was still searching for my niche.

Now, I have long been a fan of Rachel Sager‘s work. It just speaks to me. I love the organic, almost eroded feel to it, and I definitely connect with the subject matter. I had a feeling that I would really enjoy taking a workshop with her, but I had no idea how transformational it would be. Seriously guys, this workshop was a game changer for me. It was the perfect course at the perfect time. The whole weekend I felt both euphoric and at peace. It was such a strange combination of feelings. I couldn’t make sense of it at the time, but now I know it was the result of finally finding my path. My previous restlessness had morphed into a peacefulness, a feeling like all was right with the world. And that made me so incredibly happy.

Maybe it’s my background in geography, but everything about the process we learned made my heart sing: the sense of place and connection, the dialogue with both nature and the materials, and the feeling of adventure and exploration that permeated the whole process. It all spoke to my soul. It was exactly what I had been searching for. Over the course of the weekend, Rachel kept returning to the themes of independence and freedom. I can think of no better way to describe how this workshop and this process made me feel.

I have always been uncomfortable calling myself an artist. I’ve always seen myself more as a maker, craftsperson, or artisan. But, oddly enough, when I was making “Grounded“, I felt (for the first time ever) like maybe I could eventually grow into the label of “artist”. It’ll probably take a while, but I think it’s an indication that I’m on the right path. [Complete aside: two people have already asked me if “Grounded” is for sale. You might think I’m crazy, but I’ve told them it isn’t. It’s just such a pivotal and emotional piece for me – I’m not ready to let it go yet. Maybe not ever. I never feel like this about any of my work. I’m always thrilled when it can go find a new home. But this piece is different.]

It feels exceedingly good to finally have direction. To feel that passion and fire. I was still bouncing off the walls for days after I got home. Poor R tells me I didn’t even look at her for 2 days – that’s how wrapped up in the experience I still was. I want a future (like, a full-time future) in mosaic where stone features prominently. Saying that is both exhilarating and terrifying. I still have a really really long way to go, and I know it isn’t going to happen overnight. But I’ll be patient and play the long game and keep chipping away at developing my skills and my voice. And then maybe one day…!

post-touchstone fb status

Music plays a big part in my life and ties me to moments in space and time. I often deliberately pick a song to act as a soundtrack for big events (like last days on the job, embarking on big trips, etc.). I’ll play it over and over to cement that feeling in my head and heart, and then whenever I hear it I’ll be transported back to that moment. Naturally, I chose a song to remember my experience in Rachel’s class. I hadn’t listened to any music at camp, swapping my ipod for the chirping of birds, the rustling of trees, and the babbling of the stream. When I got back to civilization and began my music-starved hunt for the perfect ‘theme song’, I went directly to Josh Ritter. I think his “Lark” pretty much embodies my experience at mosaic camp. The lightness of the music and some of the lyrics correspond perfectly with how I felt – like there was a “lark in my heartbeat.”

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Ear candy: James Vincent McMorrow

Music is very much a part of my mosaic process, and I find that my “studio time” is a perfect opportunity to take new artists for a test drive. I recently stumbled upon James Vincent McMorrow, and he and his lovely tunes have been keeping my company of late. I especially adore these two songs:

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Flower power

flower mirror

Every time I go home to Kitchener to visit my family, my mom unfailingly leaves a pile of her already-read magazines on my old dresser for me to thumb through. I use them for 2 things: (1) to find new recipes and (2) to clip out little swatches of inspiration from ads or stories about the top 10 <choose 1 or more: couches, dresses, dinnerware, throw pillows> that you need to have for <insert current year>. That’s where the inspiration for this mirror was drawn – some pattern that I tore out of a Chatelaine, most probably (I likely scored a killer chocolate chip cookie recipe too!). I think it was originally cherry blossoms, which, in a random stream of thoughts, makes me think of that Andrews Sisters song, “I’ll be with you in apple blossom time.” (Although I’m quite partial to “Bei Mir Bist Du Shoen.”) And no, I’m not ashamed to admit that I have both of those songs on my iPod. In fact, I have the whole “Best of…” album. So there!

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