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Archive for the ‘arts and crafts’ Category

I do consider Samhain to be the beginning of my spiritual year, but I also cannot deny the status quo in regards to modern society.  Generations have looked to the point between December and January as the threshold to a new year and the continual existence of all. I can’t deny the power associated with such a movement, even if I don’t always observe it with much excitement.  Last year I spent it quietly with my husband.  We relaxed.  This year, I’ll likely spend it helping my sister move and then celebrating with some of my tribe.

Another thing I want to do is clean my home as best as I can.  Many people believe that what you do at the end of the old year will follow you into the new year, and that we should strive to surround ourselves with the qualities we want to fill our lives with.  I want my apartment to be cleaner and I want to take more time making it thus.  I spent some time today cleaning and organizing the kitchen.  There is still work to be done but it’s slowly getting better and more user-friendly.

I also find myself looking forward to the green half of the year.  With the Winter Solstice pretty much over (I plan to take my decorations down on the 6th.  There’s an old Irish belief that it’s unlucky to do so before or after.), I find myself excited for Beltaine.  I feel a bit bad about that since I don’t feel as giddy over the next high day, Imbolc, which is sacred to my blessed Lady Brighid, but to me that’s more of a quiet holiday for counting one’s blessings.  The Spring Equinox has never been that festive to me either.  Beltaine, though, is another story completely.  The ground will finally be completely or in the process of thawing.  The leaves will be blossoming and the robins will assuredly be back by then.  It is when my grove erects a May Pole and we dance about it to provoke the Earth Mother into fecundity.  It is a flirtatious and celebratory time!  I find myself excitedly looking through seed catalogs and humming Jonathan Coulton’s “First of May”…

This time of year is also when I find myself a new calendar.  This year I am going to use  The Artisans Guild of Ár nDraíocht Féin 2011 Calendar.  It supports the guild I belong to and features the work of several amazing Pagan artists – including a couple of my dolls!

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Brighid: My Muse

By Grey Catsidhe

6/24/10

 

Ever since I felt myself welcomed at the hearth fires of the Tuatha Dé Danann, one Goddess has stood out as a kind of mother figure and muse to my heart – Brighid.  She was a popular Goddess in the past and remains so in the present.  This should hardly be surprising as she presides over a plethora of important activities including the arts.  For this reason, she is the perfect muse as I explore the path of the artist.

Many Celtic tribes honored Brighid (also known as Brigit, Brigid, Brig, Brigantia, and other names).  She was so beloved that she was Christianized in the form of St. Brigit who presided over the abbey in Kildare (Cill Dara) where her sacred fires burn in her memory (Duinn 16).  The Goddess and saint also share a feast day, Imbolc, which falls on February 1st and is a celebration of fertility as demonstrated by the agricultural rituals that take place then (19-30).  She was equated to the Roman Goddess Minerva by Caesar, and was worshiped by poets, metal smiths, and musicians (Markale 275).  Furthermore, she is considered a patroness of healing, arts and crafts in general, and even divination (Ellis 103).

I used to be a bit confused by her strong presence in my life.  There is such emphasis on her blacksmithing skills.  I am a seamstress and fiber artist by nature.  Was Brighid really a good muse for me, or was I trying too hard to make her a Goddess of all arts and crafts?  My research concludes that Brighid is indeed a patroness of many arts, including fiber arts.

In some parts of Ireland, people claimed that, traditionally, one was not supposed to perform any work involving a wheel on Imbolc.  The household spinning wheel was dismantled and put away on the eve of the celebration.  In fact, one man, Seán Segersiúin from Killarney, claims that people believed Brighid had first taught women the art of turning wool into clothing (Duinn 177).  This belief is backed up by the folk tradition of girls making miniature spinning wheels out of reeds to help men divine their future brides on Imbolc – Brighid’s holy day (194).  Furthermore, there is evidence that Imbolc, “was celebrated when the first sign of milk was observed in the ewes, and the newborn lambs, harbingers of spring, were ready to suckle” (Ellison 113).  This connection to sheep, in my opinion, solidifies Brighid’s place as a patroness of spinning, dying, weaving, knitting, crocheting, and, ultimately, sewing. Caesar’s comparison of Brighid to Minerva, a Roman Goddess known for weaving, provides further evidence for the argument.  Additionally, when considering the other “womanly” chores Brighid is associated with, including presiding over childbirth (Sjoestedt 25), it makes sense to include what are traditionally considered as “feminine arts” to be within her influence.

Fabric in general plays an important role in Brighid’s rites.  It was believed that Brighid would visit households on or around Imbolc.  Families often left fabric outside which they believed would be blessed by Brighid’s otherworldly powers.  The brat Bhríde (Bride’s mantle), as it was called, then acted as a charm of protection or as a treatment for illness (Duinn 26).  Instead of putting out a large piece of cloth, some people left ribbons or handkerchiefs outside for similar blessings (35).  Brighid played such an important role in the health and prosperity of the people.  It is understandable why fabric would take a large role in her rites as well.  Fabric warms people and helps keep them comforted during the coldest parts of the year.   As Brighid is already associated with health and warmth, fabric becomes an extension of those qualities.

There are other crafts associated with Brighid as well.  The weaving of Brighid crosses is a well-known tradition that is still observed in parts of Ireland.  It was believed that they helped to protect a home from storms and terrible winds (Duinn 108) and I have met many present day Pagans who insist they are charms against house fires.  Historically, the crosses were also helpful in crop and dairy fertility (128-129).   Crosses are not the only traditional Imbolc craft.   In many villages, “girls of the townland fashion[ed] a sheaf of corn into the likeness of a woman. They dress[ed] and deck[ed] the figure with shining shells, sparkling crystals, primroses, snowdrops, and any greenery they may [have] obtain[ed]” (Carmichael 166).  Clearly, one of the best ways to honor this Goddess is through creating art.

As stated, I am a fiber artist.  I have practiced such crafts as sewing, knitting, crocheting, and weaving since I was very little.  They are an important part of my life and my religious expression.  Discovering the influence Brighid has over fabric made a lot of sense to me.  I was no longer confused as to why she continually whispered inspirations into my ear or why she seemed to smile at me from beyond the veil as I toiled away at my sewing machine.  I now truly believe that Brighid’s talents are so varied that any artists can seek her aid and inspiration so long as they honor her in their work.

When Brighid’s influence in my life first became apparent, I was not sure how to thank her.  I said a word or two to her in my daily devotionals, but it somehow didn’t seem like enough.  As she is multi-talented, I felt her even when I wasn’t crafting.  I felt the need to honor her exclusively at certain times.  Luckily, I wasn’t alone in this calling.  Other Druids in ADF called out for a flame keeping SIG.  Through its formation, we devotees of Brighid follow in the steps of our predecessors from Kildare and light a flame in her name on certain nights each month.  This was a powerful way to grow closer to my muse and inspired me to go a step further.

I firmly believe that Brighid somehow influences every creative idea I have.  I feel that she is a spirit of inspiration and that she provides me with topics to explore.  I then add my own ideas to them and seek her guidance throughout the process.  When I am in the midst of art, I feel as if I am having a conversation with my Goddess.  I felt that, due to such collaboration, she deserved more than what I was giving her.  After all, crafting is one of my greatest sources of happiness!  Such a blessing should be celebrated tenfold!

Based on my flame keeping practices, I developed a short ritual that I perform when involved in my creativity.  I usually light a candle when keeping Brighid’s flame.  To thank her for the imbas, the divine inspiration in my head, I usually light her a stick of incense.  I say words of thanks and ask that I bring her honor “in all I say and do.”

Brighid is a Goddess with many talents.  Her influence is vast and my UPG tells me that she is willing to work with anyone as long as they honor her for her blessings.  Brighid is my muse and I will strive to learn more about her and admire her as I explore the ways of the Druid artisan.

 

 

Works Cited

Carmichael, Alexander.  Carmina Gadelica.  1900.  Sacred Texts. .   4 June 2010.

<http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/celt/cg1/index.htm&gt;

Ellis, Peter Berresford.  A Brief History of the Druids.  New York: Carroll & Graf, 2002.

Ellison, Rev. Robert Lee (Skip).  The Solitary Druid.  New York: Kensington

Publishing Corp., 2005.

Markale, Jean.  The Celts Uncovering the Mythic and Historic Origins of Western

Culture.  Trans. C. Hauch.  Rochester: Inner Traditions International, 1978

Ó Duinn, Seán.  The Rites of Brigid Goddess and Saint. Dublin: Columba Press, 2005.

Sjoestedt, Marie-Louise.  Celtic Godsand Heroes.  Mineola: Dover Publications Inc.,

2000.

 

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As part of the Art Guild study program requirements, I am to choose two mediums to focus on.  It was suggested they should force me to focus on different dimensions, brain power, and physical movements.  Choosing a first medium was effortless.  Deciding on a second was a little more challenging, but I think I have found something that will prove helpful and complimentary to my studies.

I’ve been sewing since I was four or five. When I was younger it was my mother who first taught me how to thread a needle and do a basic stitch.  I made a pillow and, quite ambitiously, declared that we should call the local museum and ask about submitting it for their exhibit.  I still have the ratty pillow as a reminder of how proud sewing has always made me, and how a simple craft can inspire me to reach for the stars.  As I’ve grown, I’ve explored other fiber arts such as knitting, crochet, and embroidery.  Textiles is my medium of choice and I’m filled with such joy and purpose whenever I’m engaged in it.  Of course there are frustrating moments – jammed bobbins, uneven seams, knots, misread patterns – but the end product and the feeling of having created something beautiful, unique, and, possibly, useful is so fulfilling.  I am excited that the Artisan Guild study program exists as it gives me an excuse to further explore my favorite craft and how it can become a greater expression of my spirituality.

Choosing a second medium to focus on in the art guild has been a challenge.  There are many arts I would love to learn about  – many of which would compliment my sewing.  At first I thought about sculpting, an art I’ve had experience in and would like to pursue once more.  Jewelry making was also something I considered.  Each would help me create more involved dolls and costume accessories.  When I discussed this with a fellow artist and ADF member, she suggested to me that, although they would be helpful to my sewing, they were three-dimensional mediums and that I am already engaged in such a process when creating dolls and clothing.  I am basically sculpting with fabric when I create my dolls or costumes.

Thinking along these lines, I decided to revisit drawing.  I studied art all through public school and even took a drawing class in college.  Although never a blue ribbon artist, I did develop an understanding and enjoyment for drawing.  I’m proud of some of the pieces I completed.

Although sculpting and jewelry making are obvious compliments to doll making and costuming, drawing will be just as helpful.  Having focused more on textiles than anything else, the drawing skills that were so practiced in high school have suffered.  I would like to practice more so as to be better able to sketch designs for dolls and costumes.  Learning more about perspective and proportions will help me perfect my understanding of anatomy – an important aspect of dolls and costume design!

 

Will you be able to take classes at a local art center?

 

Although I’ve had several years of experience, I realize that I have much to learn and that I have many areas to improve upon.  I was lucky to have both a mother and a father who sewed.  I learned a lot from them and a few other family members.  As I grew I started looking at books for further inspiration and technique.  In college I was blessed to meet a fellow sewing enthusiast who shared some of her own tricks with me.  Now I’m an adult, moved away from home, and living in a new town in Northern NY, far from my old teachers and peers.  I am left on my own with my books, websites, and how-to internet videos.   That said, I’ve recently learned about the Thousand Island Arts Center and it seems like just what the proverbial doctor ordered. Although their website is being reconfigured and their classes have yet to be updated, last year there were courses on weaving, spinning, quilt making, pattern drafting, and all manner of traditional arts. Quilting, weaving, and spinning are skills I would love to learn about, and taking any classes would undoubtedly provide me with an opportunity to perfect my skills under master teachers.

As stated, I’ve already taken plenty of drawing classes throughout my educational history. I’m definitely not close-minded to taking more!  Should I see a class that focuses on a skill I feel lacking in, I would be inclined to take it.  I believe I already have an understanding for the basics that most introductory classes present, and that I would most benefit from workshops focusing on a certain area such as portraits, figure drawing, or landscaping.  I would also like to learn how to better use the materials.  As with sewing, the Thousand Island Arts Center has offered pertinent classes in the past and I look forward to seeing their updated calendar for possible consideration.


Will you need to use well-illustrated how-to books and the rigorous school of trial and error?

 

I’m hopeful that the art center will update its website and class information soon.  In the meantime I have to rely on tutorials, trial and error, and my own tenacious creativity. It’s part of the game, I suppose. Luckily I already have some wonderful books that can help me with the more technical annoyances of sewing such as the Signer Sewing Book by Jessie Hutton and Gladys Cunningham.  It’s old but full of useful information.  I would like to find books on spinning and natural dying.

I am definitely opened to using books to better understand certain drawing techniques.  I think well-illustrated books would be especially helpful with anatomy.  Otherwise I will rely on trial and error to perfect my shading, perspective, and other such skills.
How available, affordable and sustainable are the materials you will need?

I already have many tools. My husband recently revived my old sewing machine, and my father fixed another that will arrive at my home sooner or later. I also do a lot of hand stitching lately which is, I’m sure, more sustainable than using electricity.   I have various sized crochet hooks and knitting needles.  I like to buy fabric and thread from garage sales and second hand stores. I also like to recycle clothing and scraps. Unfortunately this doesn’t always meet my needs and I do buy a lot of fabric and other materials from art and craft stores. I try to research sustainable and organic materials but, unfortunately, many of them are a bit too expensive for me at the moment.

 

Some more sustainable and affordable materials have crossed my radar recently. I’ve noticed more felt made of recycled plastic for example. There are also some recycled buttons. I’ve found a few skeins of organic/bamboo yarn.

Luckily, as long as I can find thread and keep my needles straight, I will be able to sew. There are always scraps around.  Plastic bags can be turned into “plarn” for knitting or crochet. I would love to learn how to spin wool and eventually weave my own fabric. In Northern NY, there seem to be plenty of sheep and alpaca farmers with homespun wool for purchasing.

I am lucky to have a couple craft stores in the nearby city of Watertown, NY, one of which has a plethora of drawing materials.  In addition, the city of Syracuse, NY, which is about an hour and a half away from my home, has an amazing art supply store with even more materials.  There are plenty of graphite and charcoal pencils, watercolor pencils, and inks for my use.  The art store in Syracuse has an amazing selection of canvases and specialty paper should I ever feel so inclined.

 

I recently purchased some watercolor pencils and noticed that some brands guarantee that the wood did not come from rain forests.  I favor those brands as deforestation is a very real problem and I want to do all in my power not to contribute to it.  I am not aware of where the pigment comes from, but this is something I would love to learn more about.  I know that some drawing paper is recycled and I would prefer to purchase this should I find it.

 

Is there anyone in your community who can serve as a resource for you?

The Art Center I mentioned before will, I hope, become a resource. There are also bound to be other local artisans I have yet to meet. Within my own tribe there are plenty of crafty, needle-happy people. My friend Parallax is an accomplished seamstress who also has a degree in art. My mother and father are both talented and are my original sewing teachers. My aunt used to make her own clothing. My husband also studied some art in school.  Although he focused on photography, he has a keen eye for detail and notices when things don’t seem quite right.  In addition, my sister, Sara, her fiancé, Trevor, and my grandmother are all artistic.  My sister and her fiancé majored in art and are rarely seen without a sketchpad.  Sara focuses on interior designs and Trevor’s interest is character design.  My grandmother, though mostly a painter, always starts with a sketch.  These people will be the first I turn to for suggestions and help.  If that fails, there is also the internet with its many tutorials and forums.

Are there opportunities to work and learn collectively with other novices?

Should the Art Center offer more classes, then yes.  I also have my eye on local colleges as many have non-credit classes open to the community and there have been quilting or fiber arts classes offered before.

What kind of assistance or advice will you want/need from the Artisan Guild, if any?

I would expect the guild to be a community of learners at various levels of expertise. I would love to bounce ideas off others and receive honest feedback as well as encouragement. I am always open to advice and help.

By Grey Catsidhe 3/22/10

 

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Ferret Love!

I was editing my “About Me” section and decided to add a link to my Deviant Art page.  I was really behind in my messages so I went through and saw this amazing piece by the always impressive Ravenari.  Kissing ferrets!  How adorable!  (I love ferrets.  I share my home with two of them.)

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Continuation of Crafty Goodness

I forgot to add a few things.  Here’s more that I made this weekend!

Five new Goddess dolls.
A dark brown catsidhe with pink wings.
And finally, a demonic catsidhe.  OMG isn’t he amazing?  *fiendish grin*  

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

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My Weekend Thus Far…

…has been spent sewing.  I did mention in my last post that I also worked on my grad school application, but a majority of my time was spent preparing for the upcoming craft show.  I did a lot of work, especially yesterday.  Some things aren’t done yet, but here’s what I did complete.  I apologize that some of them are a bit hard to see.  I need to make a light box.

A small teddy bear.
Side of a small black dragon.  It will eventually be turned into an ornament.
The front of the mini dragon.
A pixie.  She will also become an ornament.
Mini wizard.  Another ornament.  

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

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In anticipation of an upcoming craft/art show, I’ve been sewing like a mad woman.  Some of my creations aren’t done yet, so I’ve not bothered to photograph them.  I have three large dolls in the works.  One is nearly done.  She just needs shoes.  I felted some grapes for the second.  They need leaves and vines.  Then she needs hair, clothing, and wings.  The third doll is, as I like to say, gestating.  Her body parts are in various stages of development.  She’s currently in a bag.  I hope to work on her while visiting my family this week.

I have made several little things.  Check ’em out!

Meet the mushroom spirit!  The tree spirits were feeling lonely and wanted some fun guys to play with!  (Yuck yuck yuck!)  Like most people, I have this aesthetic attraction to amanita muscaria – fly agaric.  They are full of whimsy and magic.  Many people still use them for hedgecrossing and other trance work.  What magically inclined person wouldn’t want one of these little guys hanging around?  
 Here’s the amanita formosa  variety of fly agaric.  I’m quite fond of them because they’re in my back yard!  
A brown mushroom.  I’m sure there is a mushroom that looks like this.  I need a name for it…  
A wide-eyed fly agaric.  
A darker fly agaric.
Some “psychedelic mushrooms.”  I need to attach string to some of them…  I think they make cute ornaments.
A tiny Santa.
Finally, a wee fairy.  I also plan to add a string to her.  She would look lovely on a Yule tree!  
They’re kind of hard to see, but here are her wings.  

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

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