Paper dolls and miscarriage

I had 5 pregnancies and 2 live births 30 years ago. At the time I didn't really mourn my loss and I wonder if my anxiety and chronic migraines stem from the upheaval of hormones I experienced over 4 years.

Mostly I feel like have worked through my grief . However, I was knocked for six this week after reading an article in 'Therapy Today'

( Who Knew ? j.Gosney June 2017 vol 28 issue5) The article describes Gosney's work with grieving pregnancy loss. (I could have done with meeting her in the late 1980's). She talks about why there is 'such a silencing shame around miscarriage' I suspect it is because we don't want to upset or worry other newly pregnant parents.

I remember 'retreating from a world that had become a hostile environment peopled by babies, pregnant women and proud fathers' I moved my living room to the back of the house away from the twice a day school run of chatting happy Mums and buggies

I am not sure I experienced post traumatic stress but I definitely 'became vulnerable to anxieties….. and questioned my bodies ability to carry full term…. I realised I couldn't trust my body anymore.'

With my dyslexia and continuing migraines I still feel this phrase resonates strongly.

Most of my art doesn't look into this as a source of inspiration. however after the embodied reactions I keep getting to @gracemorgan's art on Instagram – I felt inspired to look at how I could explore this, using my paper doll technique.

My first go at womb mandala

Wombs with 8 week embryos( which is when the doctors thought things when things went wrong) I quite like the difference in the colours of the womb – photocopy , against the rawness of the real painted colour of the embryos

These feel a bit sanitised, I am shying away from blood. Which is ridiculous really. Though I am being a bit hypocritical because I dislike sanitary towel adverts on the TV

And another pretty one

http://www.bacp.co.uk/docs/pdf/16027_all%20editorial%20tt_jun17.pdf

Migraine mandalas

I get hemiplegic migraines ( which I am sure I must have mentioned in an earlier post) they are exacerbated by flashing lights and hormones. Most of the time they are under control with a very small dose of antidepressants. However, menopause and my irritable bowel has been fun!!! Sometimes, the migraines are brought on by flashing lights – sometimes food (if I am being sensitive). This latest episode was self inflicted really – reading a book and drawing mandalas in 4 hrs of flickering light on a car journey -was asking for trouble. 

I decided to have a go at working through my frustration and anger at my self , after several  reared their ugly heads , consecutive evenings. 

I am staying at my Dad’s house in the south of France with only my travel kit. I painted  loose ovals on lots of sheets of heavy duty cartridge paper with  very diluted acrylic. Then added swirls of neocolours, oil pastels and more paint- it’s warm and arrid here so everything dries very quickly. 


I wanted to continue working with my paper dolls. I tried a design where a female shape is curled up in painholding her head but it ended up looking like white splodges in some sort of fiery constellation. 

A head screaming (below) just looked weird( lol) and didn’t convey what I wanted to express- I like the colours , textures and patterns , so they became backgrounds. 


I needed some figures that worked in circles so I searched on line and came up with an ancient artifact from Mexico 


Practicing blind contour faces in pain ( really getting into the details 😂😂😂😂) 


The above design uses an African figurine as motif but even though it made a lovely mandala in the centre with its arms and legs I didn’t like the proportions of the head and neck. 


Nice uncomfortable screaming baby type figures are amusing me now my head is better and I like the nightmarish qualities – there is an other worldly feeling and out of body experience that I seem to have captured too , which sums up my aura stage quite nicely. Though if I think about it -I don’t experience all that colour 

Mandala teaching 

I had fun teaching some of the other people on the retreat how to draw mandalas. Everybody did very well. It was interesting seeing who wanted to follow my examples exactly and who felt confident enough to start innovating from the beginning 

I prepared a sheet which had examples of suggested shapes to use and how start building mandalas. I had a brain wave to do it on stickers so that everybody could take them away or stick them in their journals 


Here are the finished designs. This is only my second go at teaching my style so it was interesting seeing the other people’s designs develop. The first drawing is probably the nearest copy of the design I drew with them 




The design with the lavender on is my tutorial – I was very amused by how difficult it is to draw , teach and talk – my design looks very wonky 😂😂😂

More Movement Medicine dancers this time in Orange 

Over the past 6 months I have made so many different mandalas that sometimes I don’t know what to do with them. I had been wanting to work with my movement medicine dancing ladies some more. So yesterday I made loads of cut out dolls. 

I was very amused about 30 minutes in,  that I needed to make the images stand out more – the colours were too samey or the patterned mandalas meant that the dancers got lost on the similar coloured backgrounds. 

An orange frenzy ensued which was very therapeutic and got my creative juices going. I had thought I was a bit stuck because I hadn’t danced for a week. 


I made some smaller templates so that I can cut circles of joined dancers – the idea of them all being connected appeals. Catherine ( http://catherinewright.co.uk/workshops/) mentioned us all being joined by a gold thread last session – but I can’t quite get my head around how that would fit visually within this work  – there is so much colour and pattern going on- they feel more like a  ‘5 Rhythms’  Chaos session (https://www.5rhythms.com/). I think I must have had Matisse’a ‘The dance’ going on somewhere in my head too 


https://www.hermitagemuseum.org/wps/portal/hermitage/digital-collection/01.+Paintings/28411/?lng=


I love complimentary colours and the circles of dancers fit in with my mandalas – it’s all a bit bonkers colourwise – I enjoyed scrawling in blue oil pastel over the finished collages , but I think some of the more simple ones are very effective.


I produced some single dancers for some A5 pieces I had in my stash – I think maybe I should draw these figures individually. 

Trapped 

I was flipping through my Instagram feed this morning at 4.45am ( I keep waking up early ) when I was arrested by a piece by ‘gracemorganart’.  Which showed a photograph of some gloves. These had been stitched , the fingers joined together with  many tiny stitches. White on a red background. To me the fingers looked trapped. 
I am still floored by my emotional response. Which has stayed with me and which I can’t quite place. 

An image of my free exuberant paper dancer popped into my head, with her arms and legs chopped off and bound to her body like an Egyptian mummy, cocoon or a butterfly that died emerging from its chrysalis.

 Below is an exploration of the idea – it’s not quite grim enough 

Yesterday I visited a butterfly world near Dalkeith and I was fascinated by the chrysalids hanging from bamboo canes and some pinned to a wall. Most were empty, but a few had died and dead bodies lay on the floor. I felt a great sadness disproportionately to the event. 1 in 4 don’t make it ( according to the attendant ) 


The trapped feeling is focused on my neck and shoulders and stomach. A tingling embodied response. 

I have a strong need to write I MUST SAY NO TODAY. 

The thought of not being able to move my fingers freely is terrifying- to be caught in that web. I feel trapped, but what binds me? 

The need to say ‘No’ to my self , relates to a trance like state that I can get into where I am not in control and feel in free fall. ( Tara Brach talks about it being the state you are in before you become mindful) 

gracemorganart posted that she had to make the stitches to keep sane.’little bitty stitches on little bitty gloves, these little stitches kept me sane today’  I was in a trance state this week making too many flower stickers. I feel trapped in my mandalas and doodling sometimes – sitting on the sofa not moving enough. My hands hurt with all the small details. 


Then Yesterday I had great fun splodging paint on top of my neat outlines like some kind of rebellion against ‘neat and tidy stuck me ‘ ( lol) 

 

Below is another version of trapped – it reminds me a bit of ‘Aliens’ when they are waiting to explode out of bodies ……

Below A moth chrysalis up close and a butterfly that didn’t make it . I don’t like the drawing pins . 

Movement medicine inspired artmaking 

Over the weekend I participated at a movement medicine workshop. It was called ‘This being human’ and was facilitated by Catherine Wright. 

http://catherinewright.co.uk/

During a meditation about the tree of life I had this really clear image in my head of a human figure as a tree trunk with a black heart or hole where the heart should be. I have had a tight chest recently and palpitations as menopausal symptoms. I danced the feeling out. I am aware of being in touch with my head and my stomach – but there is a numbness where my heart is. 

During the workshop we worked with a poem by  Rumi called ‘ The Guest House’ 

This being human is a guest house.

Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness, 

some momentary awareness comes 

as an unexpected visitor. 

Welcome and entertain them all! 

Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows, 

who violently sweep your house 

empty of its furniture, 

still, treat each guest honourably. 

He may be clearing you out 

for some new delight. 

The dark thought, the shame, the malice, 

meet them at the door laughing, 

and invite them in. 

Be grateful for whoever comes, 

because each has been sent 

as a guide from beyond.

We did an exercise on Saturday where we welcomed a ‘guest’  and worked with a partner – talking, witnessing and using dance. I chose the idea of ‘disappointment’.  As I danced I became aware that I was relieving ‘something’  but it wasn’t disappointment. So I chose to revisit my confusion on Sunday. 

I am still unable to verbalise what is exactly present but I realised with relief that the hole is not black or vacant but a conduit that is not to be frightened or scared of. 

I needed to revisit this experience today through art making. 

Sketches for  ‘a black heart’ – I wrote in my journal ‘ figure rooted but with a hole where the heart should be’ 

 As I was dancing , holding my heart or the feeling of my hands up to my chest was important – drawing hands that don’t look like claws or sausages is always a stretch of my ability – I also needed the tree/body to be a real rounded shaped woman  

Conduit / portal heart sketch – there was such a sense of relief at the realisation that what was going on felt like a portal. As I was at a dance session it was important that I tried to convey movement. 

Black heart – in my head the tree trunk / body was red – the background is newspaper that I used as  protection paper. It is advertising a film and it has amused me that my figure could also look a bit like an ‘Oscar’ there is no way I would offer to be the mouldy for any figurine 😂😂😂😂 


Conduit/portal heart 


My mandalas seem to need to be in everything I do at the moment. The conduit doesn’t feel draining and the energy feels like it is not restricted by time and space. 

During the dance workshop we did a session where working in groups of 3 we witnessed , danced and or meditated , wrote or drew. During my first role as ‘meditator’ I doodled , the portal was very strong in my head and I produced this 

Collaborative letter journaling 

I do some collaborative work with a face book Letter journals are small books that are made with 4 pages of light weight paper and a cover 8″x8″stitched down the middle.  When it is folded in half the journal fits in a business envelope. Most of the time I send the journals to Australia or America , because this is where most of the work that is similar to mine is produced. One of the aims of these journals is to have fun and keep the weight down so that they don’t break the bank when posting them internationally – the maximum weight is 50gms – so your journal will need to weigh 20gms or less at the beginning of the swap 

It’s fun to keep the cost down by using lots of cheap easily found art equipment. 

I use different light weight paper to make my pages for example security envelopes , old books , music scores and I recycle things like boarding passes 

Equipment : Colouring pencils, pencils , cheap acrylic paint , postage stamps, stamps, biros, thin black writing pens , sharpies, washi tape, stickers, madgazine and newspaper images, letter and image stencils 

When I send out my journals I go through and add stuff to every page 

Stage 1 

Examples :

Smear  some paint with credit card – add dots of paint 

This image is from a journal worked on with Brenda Lin, Joanne Hughes and Kerry Coleman
Scribble with a colouring pencil or a felt pen

The above image is from a journal with Michelle Hood, Jade Herriman and Natasha Kirby 

Use pages with patterns or textures- e.g old music paper , book pages 


Add images from news papers and magazines 

Add strips of colour or texture from news papers and magazines 

Add children’s stickers 

Colour in or doodle on plain  stickers 

Add stripes with different types of pen- sharpie , biro, pencil , thin black liner 


Doodle 

Cut out words from magazines and newspapers 

Stamp images using commercial stamps


From a page finished by Michelle Hood 

I send my journal off at this stage – usually you finish a double page spread in each journal and sign it. I like to do my final spread at the end, when I receive my journal back. 

Stage 2 

Things that I do to other people’s journals when I receive them 

Doodle 


Top left from a journal worked in with Paula Jeffery 

Add paint using stencils 


Add magazine images and text 

Other things to do – 

Colour in doodles 


From a journal worked in by Kathy Moulton , Darlene Winter and Sue Maher 

 
Add outlines and layers to people’s images 

Add more collage 


From a journal page finished by Joanne Hughes 

Washi tape – I tend to add washi tape at this stage because it is hard to doodle over the top of with my fine liners – even the permanent ink ones 

Work from a journal worked in by Michelle Hood, Jade Herriman and Natasha Kirby 

Stage 3 

Some finished pages – if everyone had a good go you get back 8 or 9 pages of mixed media fun 


From a couple  of journals worked in by Tess Wyatt ,Michelle Hood, Jade Herriman , Natasha Kirby l,Brenda Lin, Joanne Hughes and Kerry Coleman 

The FB group I work with is run by Jade Herriman 

Loving Letter Journals!