13 June 2010

Box Coverage

In my quest to find something useful to do with my love of collage and mixed media art, I recently took a workshop with Jane Davies. The topic was "Collage In a Box" and I want to give credit both to Jane for a fantastic and well-organized class and to Patti who is the delightful proprietor of The Queen's Ink, who hosted the workshop.

The goal of the workshop is to make a box from scratch and decorate it with mixed media papers and other embellishments. I needed a striking design for the outside, but since the box is for my husband, I didn't want it to be floral or pastel. I selected the blue and turquoise greek key pattern as perfect for him. The design is on wonderful Lokta paper (rice paper, traditional type made in Nepal), which is very easy to bend and wrap, as well as, thick enough to withstand the necessary layer of adhesive used to cover the chipboard.

The box edges are covered with a very thin, hand-painted rice paper. It's a remnant from a stack of the jewel-toned papers by a local artist that I purchased at The Queen's Ink many years ago. The paper is so richly colored you cannot take your eyes off of it. The downside for box collage, is that it is very thin. The adhesive made the paper so wet that I had to be careful not to tear it. It was also tricky to manipulate this paper to cover the edges of the box. It had the tendency to want to fold, crease, and buckle no matter how careful I was. I decided, however, that I was okay with the result because the creases actually make the flecks of metallic paint sparkle.

When you open the box, you'll see one of my scrapbooking papers of vintage travel luggage tags. One of them fortuitously is from Hotel Carlos V in Spain. Marc and I stayed at a hotel of that name in Madrid 11 years ago on our first big trip to Europe together. I laid out my interior paper so that the Carlos V tag was an important visual element, impossible to miss as you open the box.

And with that jazzy pattern on the inside of the box top, I decided the bottom interior covering should be ultra simple. It needed to match the Lokta paper. I had also brought with me several colors of papers that mimicked faux leather; I chose the turquoise color to match the Lokta design on the exterior.

I'm so pleased with how my very first box of this type came out. I will be adding just a few collage elements to the box's top exterior to complete the design. I have some travel tickets that I've stockpiled from travel abroad with which I can experiment.

07 June 2010

Power Mantras

I first learned about practices of meditation when I was at college. I read a great deal about Eastern religion in those days, exploring new forms of spirituality. I really enjoyed reading about Buddhism, but felt quite sure that I couldn't identify with it completely. Yet some of the practices intrigued me. I also learned about the disciplined yogi of India and of their dedication to turning inward for learning deep lessons about life's existence.

Any attempts to actually teach myself meditation usually failed. Even when I attended a group mediation, I found myself feeling foolish and unable to focus on the task of focusing my mind the way the group leader asked me to do. I am a visual thinker by nature, so the only successful forms of meditation for me back then, centered on visualization techniques versus "sitting and breathing" as I thought of it.

It took me a while to realize that I had already encountered visualization techniques at a very young age, when I was 6 or 7 years old. My Mom enrolled me in a children's yoga class at the local YMCA. I remember our yoga teacher instructing us to lie on our mats at the end of class and close our eyes. We had to imagine that we saw a brightly-colored ball, like a bouncing ball we might have played with. Our teacher asked us to think about this ball growing larger and larger until it was so large that we were inside of the ball. This was a way to help us to focus, relax, and refresh. (Not an easy feat with a class of rambunctious children!) In my child's brain, I didn't know I was meditating, but I was.

Visualization remains my most effective tool for mediation, but my thoughts about the practice have changed pretty radically in the recent past. I am beginning to see that the chants really do help me connect with the universe when I am alone or with others collectively when I chant in a group setting. The effect is very similar to what I experienced in years of choral singing. The vibrations and rhythm help bring control and order to my existence.

The word resonate is the one that sticks most with me when I think of mantra.

Grown-up me has finally begun to unlock the potential of mantras. I started taking yoga again about four years ago as a means of stress-relief. I have had some amazing teachers, but my favorite one uses mantra combined with yoga poses (asana) and/or hand gestures (mudra).

One of the first simple mantras I learned in her class is the one she says she taught her two sons, it is a series of four key sounds made in the Sanskrit language of ancient India: SA TA NA MA These four sounds, made with hand gestures translate to mean: "Infinity, life, death, and rebirth."

In another class, my teacher taught a mantra that has become my favorite. It's intended to be a chant to invoke the power of women, the feminine aspects within the universe. It's a hauntingly beautiful chant, but also very raw and energetic. I loved it so much that I found a dance-groove mix recording of it by musician Erin Kamler and her colleagues, performing as Mantra Girl.
The chant is:


One yoga website describes this ancient mantra as:
The First Shakti Mantra tunes into the frequency of the Divine Mother, and to primal protective, generating energy. Chanting it eliminates fears and fulfils desires. Adi Shakti means the "Primal Power," Sarab Shakti means "All Power", and Prithum Bhagawati means "which creates through God."ation while I was in college.

--quotation from "Kundalini Yoga" website, www.kundaliniyoga.org

Now, thanks to my same teacher, I am learning a new mantra. Along with it come a set of mudra (gestures), and some yoga poses that enhance certain of the words that form the mantra.

I am choosing to learn this mantra because I went through a month of anxiety and sleep-disorder that I had not experienced in many years. The affects of not being able to sleep were so disruptive to my health that I needed something new to get me back into the healthy rhythm of life.

Just as singing a favorite song can lift your heart, mantra can also help raise your spirits. It is intensely focused (unlike some songs) and if you chant the mantra long enough it begins to change you. It doesn't change you on the outside, but it does change you on the inside, where it counts most.

My new mantra combines the Sanskrit words representing the building blocks of all things: Earth, Water, Fire, Air, Ether, and Light.


It may sound weird, and even childish to read the words on the page, but when you chant these words for a long time and make the hand gestures things change.

This post dedicated to Lara and all the brilliant yoga teachers out there