I first came across the art of spirit dolls as a child, using corn husks, bits of fabric, yarn, and beads to create a spirit of the fall harvest. Spirit Dolls can be elaborate works of art, imbued with intention and inspiration of the maker. They are made as expressions of Peace, Hope, Healing, Wisdom, Mother Earth, the Wild Woman, a Goddess, a particular ancestor, etc. Created intuitively using found materials, these Spirit Dolls can serve as messengers to us, from ourselves about a quality or virtue we would like to increase or explore.
I gathered aspen twigs from around my home, took a nature walk with my 5 year old to collect seeds, leaves and other interesting bits, and gathered other various materials from my craft bins. Most challenging for me was sculpting the face out of clay, inspired by the terra cotta faces made by artist Lyn Belisle. I wanted my spirit’s face to express a calm happiness, but I am not experienced with sculpting, so I struggled to get the expression and proportions to be ‘good enough.’ Although not perfect (as most of my making is beautifully flawed) my Golden Light Fire Spirit is a work of art. She reminds me to stay alert to the creative spirit and joy – that bright light – within myself.
Part of my creative process is being witness to everything around me. Being witness means looking and listening with care and attention, moving slowly, noticing as much as possible. Colors are more vivid; objects have more texture and detail; light and shadow are in strong contrast. Being witness always leads me to new creative ideas and inspiration.
While walking along a creek in the Sierra Mountains, I came across two perfect branch pieces – one became a walking stick and the other a talking stick. Aside from removing some remnants of bark, both sticks were left natural. I simply used hemp twine to create a wrapped handhold on each and added a pair of tassels as a minimal decoration.
Last month I was fortunate to be invited to lead a craft at Soulodge Fire Circle Retreat; my very first solo retreat; first time away from my little family; first time giving permission to myself to reset, renew, and reconnect. The retreat gathers women interested in earth medicine, so I conceived a simple wet felted medicine pouch, adorned with a slender, wire-wrapped piece of kyanite and hung from adjustable deerskin lacing. Instead of using a more conventional plastic resist to create the pouch, I chose palm-sized river rocks. I wanted the felting process to be as pure and natural as possible – as if we had gathered all the materials on the land. Each woman wrapped her chosen rock in natural alpaca roving and then knelt over a large metal tub filled with hot soapy water to wet, soap, and rub the wool until it was felted tightly around the rock. Cutting a small hole at one end, the rock was then pushed out – sometimes with great effort and humorous analogies to giving birth. The open pouch was then wet, soaped, and rubbed again to complete the felting process. After rinsing, squeeze drying, and hand shaping the pouch, the stone adornment and lacing was added. A slender kyanite stone was wire-wrapped onto the center of the deerskin lacing, which was threaded through two sets of holes punched through both sides of the pouch. The lacing was then secured with two slip knots for adjustability. For anyone who was not able to make a medicine pouch at Soulodge Fire Circle, I’ve made a few felted ones and posted them for sale on Etsy.