Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Art Matters, Part 2

This past month, I spent a weekend at an artistic retreat for women. It was a powerful and empowering experience. There were many moments of bliss, communion, hilarity and discovery. There were a few moments of sadness and grief.

After my grandmother's death and the days that followed, I have found few opportunities to really feel what it means to be without her. My life is busy, as are most women's, and it's hard to schedule in grief because it doesn't always announce itself until the tears are spilling down your cheeks. I found this happening at unusual moments over the weekend, but felt that it was a safe place to just let the tears flow.

Early on the last morning, I dreamt of my grandma. I knew I was dreaming, and knew that I was being given one last opportunity to hug her and smell her familiar scent. I let the hug linger as long as I could, and felt thankful that I could see her this way again. Later in the dream, she appeared to me again, with a smile that carried a message for me: that she wasn't gone, and that I would get to visit with her like this throughout my life.

I woke up with a big smile on my face, and felt peace trickle in to the space where before I'd held only sadness.

Later that morning, I attended a workshop where we created "soul cards", collages of images and words that whispered to us for sometimes unknown reasons. I didn't have a goal in mind when I began, but when I came across a tiny picture of pink nail polish, and one of a bowl containing a string of pearls, I knew that my soul wanted to remember my grandma, Pearl. Meaningful images were plentiful: an apple tree (Violet thinks there are apple trees in heaven), a picture of a house with wings (my parents' house, where grandma spent so many happy moments, and ultimately, her final moments on earth), a tiny playing card, a clip-on earring, a butterfly (representing transformation), and my favourite: an avenue of trees with the sun shining at its end.
This was an incredibly healing exercise for me, and allowed me to record in images and simple words what has been difficult to describe. It is a physical manifestation of my dream, and a daily reminder of the love I held for this woman; the love I HOLD for this woman. I know I will see her again.

You can start by gathering magazines, scissors, and glue, and anything else you think you might use: ribbon, stamps, gemstones, fabric, old jewellery, etc. Use a piece of paper or a Dollar Store canvas as your background. Spend a few moments in quiet thought, then begin. It is meditative just to flip through the magazines, clipping out any images or words that speak to you. It may make no sense to begin with, but eventually you may see a theme emerging. Your soul wants to talk to you! It wants to create. Just go with it, and don't worry about the final results. It is very freeing!

I've started clipping pictures that I think would appeal to my children: aliens, Kermit the Frog, ballerinas, robots, puppies and kittens, hockey players. Once I have a good stack of images, I intend to set them free on a collaging adventure. I'll share the results when I have them!

Resist the urge to overthink the finished product. Enjoy the process!


  1. That is a perfect idea to both deal with loss and keep the memories close to the heart.

  2. Hello!
    Thanks for stopping by my blog this chilly evening!
    I couldn't help but notice you are a fellow Canadian...Killaloe no less! My step father grew up there and has the hunting camp on the famous Buck Hill Road...where the teenagers go to catch a glimpse of a ghost.
    What a tiny world it is!
    I too feel a deep loss for my gramma (who lived in Maynooth)who passed nearly two years ago,so this was a touching post to happen upon.
    I will be back.

  3. Stephanie, I have often turned to collage in my art-making...and I think we share some similar sentiments to it for sure. I'm dying of curiousity about this art retreat you went on? Where was it and how did you manage a weekend away? Lucky you!

  4. What a wonderful project especially when you can create beauty while working through emotions like grief. I honestly think the best therapy for me has been fiber arts. Every time I sit at my wheel, calm washes over me.

  5. I love collages. Not that I've made them with any regularity myself, but I do appreciate those of others. There's something about the layering of material, thoughts, and emotion that is appealing. Great idea doing it with the kids, too. Perfect for ALL ages! It's goin' on the To Create list.

    Much love...

  6. I love this idea. As you know from visiting my house, there a few collages around from women's retreats I have been on. I am hosting a group of lovely women for dinner on Saturday and am going to ask them all to consider bringing some little treasures to make one of these.
    Thank you for the inspiration!


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