Hmmm, where to start? With my mom.
To say she was a unique individual doesn't begin to describe her. She lived in a world composed of magical creatures, mystifying experiences, and unexplainable happenings. Everyday life contained exciting possibilities and wonder. Her creative soul expressed itself throughout her life balancing her love of music as a classically-trained singer with her love of creating as a talented artist. She loved to cook, she threw pottery, she quilted and embroidered intricate designs on tablecloths, napkins and silk. She carved apple faces, created collages from pine cones and moss, and made creatures and lovely Christmas ornaments form egg cartons. For the last season of her life, she returned to her love of seashells and worked diligently crafting Sea Angel ornaments. She poured her all into whatever she did, teaching me that spirit of excellence by example. She raised my brother and I the best she could with what she had to work (and play) with. Homemade bread and ice tea are two things I'll always associate with her love. Much of my life has been spent following in her creative footsteps both as singer and an artist and trying to pass down the unconditional love and support I received from her to my son.
When she passed away in 2012, I spiraled down the dark path of grief, grappling for any hand-hold in a new and unfamiliar terrain of daily life without my best friend and protector. I questioned everything, especially my priorities. I began to examine outdated beliefs that were no longer serving me. I learned how to be okay with mistakes, messes and crying, which happened frequently and inconveniently. I didn't feel the music anymore and I began the search for a creative outlet that would give me a voice as a different human being than who I used to be.
That's when I discovered Spirit Dolls. My dear friend, Brigit Snyder, whom I'd met through the Buddhist organization, SGI-USA, shared with me her journey of discovering and then creating Spirit Dolls. We bartered-- her dolls for some work I did for her and her stunning dolls surrounded me with love, protection and healing. I fell in love with them. I didn't know I wanted or needed these little healing spirits but their presence soothed my soul and brought me much comfort.
Shortly after that, I felt the urge to craft my own, which has contributed to my growth as an artist and a human. I love the process of creating a spirit doll especially since the foundation is always a branch or stick from nature. Then I love sculpting a face in polymer clay, watching how the features change and become someone, adding a little more flavor with color and impressions. Then I start playing dress up, fiddling with all the right materials to best bring about the transformation from clay into a Spirit. I can get quite lost in the experiencing, digging into my own private universe and sharing the songs of my heart. letting my hands guide me one step at a time, building layer upon layer of fabric and fibers until I feel the doll is complete. Then I let the doll sit for a day or a week to insure that they are ready for the world. Sometimes, I start with another artists' face which stimulates a whole new side of my creativity and is equally satisfying.
The most important part of my healing process comes through the release and letting go of that new spirit. After creating a doll, I marvel at this new little creature and pray that they can fulfill their mission of hope and healing with someone else who connects with them, too. It's a wonderful cycle of experience and expression.
That's a good question....I've always worked with my hands. My husband calls me a technician. I'm a classically-trained pianist and a self-taught guitarist. I love tinkering and fixing things. I also enjoy graphic design and working on the computer, cooking & gardening. I'm one of those shoppers who has to feel the fabric between my fingers and pick things up. But the very first thing I remember making with my hands are rice balls with my mom. Did I mention she was a fabulous cook? She taught herself Cantonese cooking after marrying my dad, who's Cantonese, and she also ended up teaching Cantonese cooking classes to help support our family while my dad worked his way through his Phd in rocket science aka Physics.
Where were we? Oh, so we'd take the sticky rice leftover from dinner and compress the rice into little balls, rolling them around in soy sauce and then oil.
Then we'd gobble 'em up although they were supposed to be for the next day's lunch! I loved making rice balls with my mom and little brother. I haven't thought of that memory for a long time. Everything my mom did had a flavor of magic added to it. That was her secret ingredient and I try to make it mine, too.
Just about everything inspires me because all of life fascinates me. All of nature, every story, people and places both real and imagined. My mother's imagination kept us distracted through some pretty hard times and I pull from that place she showed us that's totally safe and wholly of my own making, where there's a secret garden full of fairies, witches, goddesses and nymphs. It's a wonderful creative space to work from.
Also, I chant twice a day and I get amazing ideas while chanting especially if I'm stuck with a creative challenge. I'm usually able to move forward at least one step when I'm done.
Other artists' works fascinate me and I enjoy trying to figure out their techniques, adding them into my repertoire.
Lastly, my family is a never-ending source of inspiration and support. Both my hubby and son will usually give me their opinion when asked, "This or this?" Sometimes, I even find out the name of a doll from my husband who is extremely intuitive.
What are your favorite materials?
Everything natural, most things beautiful and all shiny objects. I love molding a face from a hunk of clay and using all the right tools necessary to get the desired effect. Beads and jewels and leaves and feathers and branches and yarns all bring out something different inside me and all are necessary for me to feel a sense of completion in creating a doll. I love transforming things that already have a purpose like buttons, doilies, luxurious fabrics and ordinary cheesecloth into something completely different and giving things a new purpose.
Apart from creating things, what do you do?
My daily Buddhist practice keeps me grounded and inspired and I spend time studying Buddhist concepts, chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and getting together with fellow members to share experiences and meaningful dialogue.
I enjoy an almost daily hike/run in the nearby woods, always keeping an eye out for raw materials. Hunting and gathering fill me with something akin to holiness. My family usually hikes up Mt. Baker to collect blueberries and huckleberries every fall and harvesting from the local apple orchards and berry farms is a priceless way to spend quality family time.
Speaking of family time, I fret and worry about my teenager, a lot! Parenting is the most difficult job I've ever done. I still remember being given the go-ahead to leave the hospital with our tiny bundle of life filled with love, a sense of responsibility and wonder that I didn't need a license or a Phd! My husband and I make it a point to enjoy breakfast out on most Fridays, a lovely reward for the hectic pace of our lives.
In the summer, I long to be outside gardening and weeding. Spending time with friends on 'soul strolls' and 'psyche hikes' or grabbing a bite to eat fills me with sustenance for the long and sometimes lonely studio work.
Hunting down trinkets, treasures and bows puts me in a meditative state.
I never tire of graphic design on the side for friends. Creating logos are my favorite; I can spend hours on Photoshop, tinkering with fonts, backgrounds and effects and working out all the little details to create a brand. I'm into little details. Just like my mom.
Mostly I appreciate my awesome and beautiful quality of life, my supportive and loving family and residing in the lovely Pacific NW of the United States of America. My life is full of fortune and I'm grateful for it all. That's why I feel compelled to share what I can of my life that is filled with richness to whomever needs a little happiness and joy.