A Lesson in Surrender

The Recovery Gal's latest art exchange for the Winter Solstice has come and gone. If you want to catch up on what I'm referring to, you can here. The theme for this exchange was SURRENDER. Ah, I thought, and smugly I may add: I got this. I had the perfect, most Pinterest-worthy interactive piece of art all dreamed and schemed in my head, but there was only one problem. I couldn't start it. I was having so much resistance to making the thing and I couldn't figure out why. I knew I wanted it to be about a metamorphosis, the evolution that comes when one surrenders. The problem is that it's not the whole story, it's not my whole story. The bathroom floor, down on my knees moment had to be a part of it too. Most of my ideas come either in the shower or in a dream and this one floated through me in my sleep. I surrendered.

With this idea, I needed a box, a perfectly imperfect box that I made (without woodworking tools, mind you, and I wouldn't recommend) with my hands.

The two elements I kept from my first idea were a chrysalis and a butterfly, the metamorphosis, which I made with embroidery and applique. (I'm exchanging with two ladies as why there are two.)

I wanted to cover the box with words from an old journal. These particular words are significant because they were written in the middle of the night in one of the last years of my drinking. It was right around a birthday and I am attempting to describe, in barely legible handwriting, how my creativity only lies in the moments between sober and passed out. (If you want to see the journal entry in its entirety, it is here.) I thought that was the only magical creative moment for me and I chased it for decades. I cried as I made several copies of that journal entry to glue to my boxes. It's so hard to relive those moments, those lifetimes, so stuck, so miserable, so far from a solution. 

I used a decoupage-type glue and added many layers, so many layers of journal paper. I also added the words AND YET, NOT YET, which describes that continuous, incoherent state I was in, like purgatory. When the glue dried, I used an old grease marker to distress it more.

I glued the chrysalis and the butterfly wing to the front and back to finish it. I'm very pleased with how it turned out, exactly like my dream actually. It was very hard to make as it brought up so much emotion and the whole experience was one long exercise in surrender, the final piece, the metamorphosis.


I have to share the two stunning pieces I received from this #artexhange.

This is from Sarelle and please visit her blog to see her description of her process. It is so good. 

I can use it when I surrender to the day to get cozy under it with a book and a cup of tea. It reminds me of water, which is incorporated in the one and only tattoo I got when I was 19. One of my favorite things to do since I was a kid is to float in water and listen to my breath...surrender. I love this, the details are gorgeous.

My second piece came from Rachel. I'm going to paraphrase her description.

The idea is that when we stop trying to make the world go away and put down the umbrella and just experience the cold, wet rain, the pain, the discomfort, it isn't so bad. Just as the tree surrenders its leaves in the winter for new ones to grow, so should we. And the umbrella is actually a sketch collaged on to the piece, which is a metaphor for what we think is protecting us is sometimes just a mirage, or a story in our head. This piece is utterly beautiful, the woman looks so at peace, just putting her umbrella down and feeling the rain. It is going to hang in my studio for every moment I need to remember this.

If you want to follow along on Instagram to see the full collection of art exchanged this Winter Solstice, search the hashtag #artexchange and #recoverygalsartexchange . The pieces are still trickling in as the holidays threw some of us behind. If you are interested in joining in the next one planned for the Spring Equinox, contact me or Tammi Salas. We'll be coming up with the next theme in the next few weeks. This is seriously one of the most meaningful things I'm doing right now. I love all of the art we are making...pinch me.

When An #artexchange Is More Than An #artexchange

Do you know what it's like to be enthusiastic with someone? Like really dork-out hard on ideas, projects and dreams and just be down-right giddy, nothing withheld? I've had relationships like this in my life and if these brainstorming sessions involved booze (which they often did), the ideas were left right there with the empty bottles and over-flowing ashtrays. 

And then it happened when I met Tammi. Initial social media exchanges revealed mutual interests and before long, there were phone dates and ideas for projects with actual plans and timelines for follow-through. I've not buzzed so electric with dreamy creativity in a long time. We laugh about being separated at birth and I don't know if that ever really happens, but if babies were delivered by stork, we were definitely hatched from the same egg. 

After some thoughts tossed around about the possibility of our kids doing an art exchange, we got the idea for an adult version and put the call out to our creative sober community. The response blew me away. Tammi always says, Pinch Me and honestly, that thing you hear that if you wrote out the best possible version of your life post-sobriety, you would have sold yourself short? Well, that's true. Pinch me. 

The specifics of the art exchange are the participants make a piece of art from any medium (visual, poetry, photography...as long as it can be snail-mailed or emailed) on a recovery related theme. We drew random pairs and the dates for exchanges were set for the equinoxes and solstices. The theme that Tammi and I decided for this first exchange was Reflection, and our participants were encouraged to interpret the theme in any way that seemed fitting.

Sitting in reflection is a place I've spent much time in sobriety. Whether you are taking steps or doing the actual Steps, unpacking the events in your life that have led you to where you are is something that most of us in recovery feel compelled to do. I personally try not to get too tangled up in the 'what ifs'. Every road that we didn't take in our lives, we have no experience of  and therefore, without getting into the metaphysicality of it, doesn't exist. So for the artist or creative person, in trying to make sense of your life, the examination becomes its own product. It can be art or words, it can be meaty or syrupy, but what is happened, exactly the way it was supposed to. I need reminders and need to be reminded, and then I need to pass it on.

I knew I would probably go with some textile art since textiles are my jam, but the grand idea came to me where all grand ideas originate, the shower. I've had these antique hand mirrors for a while. They are such pretty dust collectors, *sigh*. I just knew they should be the premise for my pieces. (Note: My exchange is a three-way because we had an odd number of participants. So I made two pieces and I'll receive two pieces. Lucky me.)

I broke out the mirrors and got to work on the replacements.

What a pretty reminder, right? Still beautiful, nothing has changed and it never will. How comforting. And so is embroidery, by the way. I highly recommend picking up some thread and hoops. Couch activity, need I say more.

Perfectly imperfect.

Perfectly imperfect.

I added a little quilt padding, stitched it onto a felt backing and glued it in.

It's perfectly fine lying down.

It's perfectly fine lying down.

Or it's interactive!

Or it's interactive!

This is one of the funnest experiences I've ever had. The photos are coming in, so follow over on Instagram (and Tammi's IG here) and I'll post what I've received when they come in. There are a bunch of us beauties (15 to be exact), so if you want to see the whole she-bang, we are using hashtags #artexchange and #recoverygalsartexchange .

If you are a sober creative and are interested and jumping in on the next #artexchange, contact me or Tammi! We'd love to have you. Next exchange date is set for the Winter Solstice, December 21st, theme TBD.

Pinch me.