Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


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New Art Friday: Birds of a Feather

A quick check-in this Friday with a few more new Ornimals.

Some of my favorites ornies to make, and also some of the most popular, are birds. Living in a house that is surrounded by woods, I have lots of inspiration right outside by window. We have cardinals, blue jays, nuthatches, chickadees, and goldfinches, juncos, and titmouse. We occasionally see grosbeak, towhees, orioles, and cedar waxwing.

And then there are the big birds-sharp shined hawks, red-tail hawks, owls, and vultures and the occasional heron.

Last year, my bird Ornimals featured just the head of the bird. This year I’ve expanded my sculpting so the bird Ornimal has a body and feet. Some come with additional embellishments like hats and ear muffs.

Cardinal Before (2011 version)

Cardinal Ornimal 2011

Cardinal 2012

Cardinal Ornimal 2012
Amy A. Crawley (2012)

Chickadee Before (2011 version)

Chickadee 2011

Chickadee with Earmuffs
Amy A. Crawley (2012)

Baby Chick

Over the summer, I ordered 2″ glass balls. Another slight error on my part-ordering the wrong size ornament because I still couldn’t find the ones that matched the ornaments I used in 2011. These glass balls sat in the box they were delivered in for a few months.

Then I found inspiration in a few pictures on a great blog, My Modern Met. The post included pictures of baby chicks. They were the perfect size critters for sculpting on these smaller bases.

Baby Chick Ornimal
Amy A. Crawley (2012)

What do you think?

Do you prefer the “full bodied” birds or the “head-only” birds?

Ch-ch-changes

As much as I enjoy sculpting the Ornimals, I find myself yearning to return to some art that I dabbled in last year: encaustics and my polymer focal disks. I took some time in October to dig out the disks I made and laid them out on a work table. It was fun to shuffle them around, lay them out in various patterns, and think about how to assemble them into wall hangings.

Focal Disks

I pulled out several books on encaustic and watched part of a DVD on the medium. Sometimes we all need to take a break from the art we currently make and rejuvenate with a different medium. I hope to work a bit more with the disks and encaustic after I finish my last holiday show in December. Who knows, maybe I’ll combine animal sculpture, encaustic, and wall hangings.

Focal Disk on encaustic paint background

Thanks for stopping by! Have a great weekend.


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A Year of Mindfulness-The Wind

Can you believe we are now entering the last quarter of the year? Welcome October! In another several weeks we will have completed our mindfulness practices and finished Dr. Bays’ book. Remember how awkward this all felt back in January? Okay, some of it still feels awkward. Know that you are making progress.

Last week, we were asked to become more aware of things we might be overlooking, such as sounds, colors, smells. Those things we typically don’t pay attention to because we are focused on one singular event or task in front of us. How did you do with this practice? Did you notice a bell that chimes almost every morning just before 8am? (There is a private school not too far from our home. A bell rings in the morning and we can hear it if we listen hard enough.)

How about a dog barking in the distance? Or a train whistle? With the cooler weather I’m also becoming more aware of the smell of fires burning in fireplaces. And you?

This Week’s Practice-Become Aware of the Wind

Now you might think this week’s practice is rather obvious. Of course I’m aware of the wind, you say. I feel it blow across my skin when I go on a walk. And you are correct. That is one form of this practice.

But what about the less obvious occurrences of feeling the movement of air? In this week’s practice, we are asked to become aware of the movement air, from the obvious, such as the wind, to the subtle, such as the breath.

There are several ways we experience “wind”-by feeling its touch, by feeling a change in temperature, by seeing it move other things, and by hearing it move through other things.

All of these experiences represent change-change in what we see (leaves moving), change in what we feel (cool skin), change in what we hear (a howling sound.) So you could say when you become aware of the wind or air, you are becoming aware of change.

As with many of these practices, this week we are once again called to pay deeper attention to actions in our daily lives. Instead of moving through life on auto-pilot, this mindfulness practice asks us to be present, to notice, and to embrace change.

This week, we are asked to become aware of wind or movement of air. Notice your breathing and how it changes in various situations. Notice temperature changes and how your skin reacts before you feel air move across your skin. Can you feel the air as it moves around you when you walk? How about when you blow on a hot beverage or sniff?

Want a real challenge? Sit quietly and try to become aware of your breath at the nostrils. Can you feel the subtle change on the skin just above your lips? Are you becoming aware of the subtle changes that make up the fabric of life?

Reflection: All things are embraced. Within the universal mind. Told by the cool wind. This morning. –Yamada Mumon


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A Year of Mindfulness: Water, Water, Water

Happy Monday! Ready to start this week’s mindfulness practice?

Before we get to that, did you practice silly walking last week? Come on, it’s okay. A little silly walking in the privacy of your own home is a great way to break the negative voice from taking over. How can anyone stay annoyed when they use silly walking? Just thinking about it flips my negative thoughts.

This Week’s Mindfulness Practice: Water

With the number of forest fires that have torn through the west this summer, becoming mindful of water seems rather timely. This week, we are asked to become aware of water in all its forms, both inside and outside of our bodies and our homes.

Did you know that your body is 70% water? Saliva, blood, urine, joint fluid. We take in water all day long. Tea, oranges, soup. Without water we’d be a pile of dried up cells & salt.

Becoming aware of water, we realize how miraculous a substance it is. Water is liquid, solid, gas. It is a substance we take for granted until we run out of it (drought) or have a problem with it (overflowing toilet.)

When it comes to mindfulness, consider how water moves. It flows without hindrance, over rocks, under bridges. What if we allowed our mind to be light and flexible, flowing (like water) with situations as they arise and change and not with energy-sapping resistance?

If water is muddy and left undisturbed, the sediment settles to the bottom and the water clears. When your mind is agitated, can you still the mind and regain clarity like the water?

This week, become aware of water in all its forms and how precious it is. This week, become aware of how your mind can become light, flexible, and clear, like the water.

Reflection:

Nothing in the world is more flexible and yielding than water.
Yet when it attacks the firm and the strong, none can withstand it, because they have no way to change it.
So the flexible overcome the adamant, the yielding overcome the forceful. Everyone knows this, but no one
can do it. -Lao Tzu


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Moonman Sculpture Inspired by Recent Super Moon

I’ve always enjoyed looking at the nighttime sky. As I get older, I find myself more fascinated with the twinkling stars and constellations. I do wonder “what is out there?”

The Super moon that we had a few weeks back was thrilling. Though it didn’t seem quite as large in my own backyard, some of the pictures posted online were fascinating. Looking at those pictures, an image popped into my head for a new sculpture. I drew the idea in my sketch book and began work on this new piece. I’m thrilled with how it turned out and am happy to share pictures of Moonman with you today.

First up is Moonman before he went into the oven. Looking rather fleshy isn’t he? Usually the sculpts are kind of ugly looking at this stage. He looks rather proud of himself.

Moonman Nekked

An acrylic wash is applied after the sculpt is removed from the oven and cooled. Then the fun begins when I add oil paint for dimension and character.

Moonman’s smiling face (Amy Crawley, 2012)

Moonman’s starry slippers (Amy Crawley, 2012)

Moonman in his starry jammies (Amy Crawley, 2012)

Moonman (Amy Crawley, 2012)

Moonman is approximately 4″ tall. He is made from polymer clay with a glass & wood armature. I think his smiling face might work its way into a new line of ornaments.

Thanks for stopping by.


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A Year of Mindfulness: See the Color Blue

Wow, it’s hard to believe we’re almost at the end of May and almost at the half-way point in our mindfulness practices. How are you doing with these practices? Noticing any changes? I’m sure some resonate with you and others you leave behind. That’s okay. I do the same thing. Of course, it is the ones that we wish to leave behind that are probably the hardest for us.

Last week our mindfulness practice was to say yes. Last week I said I found the practice challenging before it even started. The reason for that is, as a woman, we are often conditioned to say yes, whether we want to or not. That saying yes is being polite. That saying yes is what nice people do. However, for many women, saying yes to everything can create a passive person. Someone who is expected to simply agree and do everything.

So I bristled at last week’s practice. On one hand I understood the purpose (not really “giving in” and being submissive, but being open to others.) On the other hand, a lifetime of societal conditioning raised it’s head and fought the practice by saying NO. How about you?

This Week’s Mindfulness Practice: See the Color Blue

Hmm, now this sounds nice. I love the color blue. It’s not my favorite color, but it does rank up there. The purpose behind this practice is to notice the color blue in our environment, not only in its obvious form (the sky) but also in its variations and subtle appearances. Ironically, this practice was brought to Dr. Bays by a student who was an artist and who was keenly aware of color. If you look for the color blue, you may find that blue is in almost everything.

This practice reminds me of a popular philosophical question: Is the color blue that I see the same color of blue that you see? Or, is what I see as blue the same thing that you see?

Probably not, because we bring our own experiences to our lives. No one else can experience our life as fully as we experience it.

So as you make your way through this week, see the color blue, experience the color blue in all its variations and subtleties. For no one will experience blue the way that you do.

Reflection: Colours are brighter when the mind is open. -Adriana Alarcon and  Let the blue sky meet the blue sea and all is blue for a time. -Moncy Barbour


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A Year of Mindfulness: Notice The Trees

As we ended the month of April, we were asked to be mindful of entering new spaces. The focus of this practice was to increase our awareness of leaving one space and entering another; something that we rarely pay attention to as we tend to move quickly from one space to another.

How did you do with this practice? I failed. Dr. Bays said it was one of the hardest mindfulness practices and it is indeed. I rarely found myself pausing while leaving one room and entering another. Dr. Bays comments in her book that one reason this practice is so hard is that as we leave one room, our mind moves ahead toward the future, moving into the next room and what we will do in that new room. It happens so quickly that we aren’t even aware of it.

This Week’s Mindfulness Practice: Notice the Trees

Doesn’t this sound like a wonderful practice? This week we are asked to notice trees; their shape, their texture, height and foliage. Don’t analyze the trees. Appreciate the trees. If you don’t have trees where you live, notice the grass, the cacti, or the bushes.

What is the point of this practice? To become aware of our interconnectedness with trees, nature, and the environment. Trees are part of life. They provide shade, shelter, and filter air. You might even have a favorite tree to sit under, to climb, or perhaps it holds a swing.

I remember how much it hurt to see the tree damage that occurred from the early snow storm last October. The broken, snapped and twisted branches. And yet, this spring, many of those same trees sprouted new leaves and flowered as if nothing had ever happened. Now that’s resilience.

So this week, notice the trees when you look out your window, when you walk or drive.

Reflection:  There is always music amongst the trees in the garden, but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it. -Minnie Aumonier

I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues. -Dr Seuss (The Lorax)


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Ostara

Ostara Revisited-The Vernal Equinox

Enjoy this re-post on the history of the Vernal Equinox. Originally posted in 2008, the first day of spring 2012 looks quite different than what I saw outside my window in 2008. This year the vernal equinox brings temperatures in the 70’s and spring blooms bursting all around.

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Ostara is a neopagan holiday that is celebrated around the time of the Vernal (spring) Equinox when day and night are nearly of equal length.

Ostara comes from the name of an ancient German Goddess, Ostara, after whom the Easter festival may have been named (as speculated by Jacob Grimm in Deutsche Mythologie.)  In addition, Grimm’s source, Bede, put forth a thesis that the Anglo-Saxon name for the month of April, Esotur-monath, was named after a Goddess, Eostre.

The Equinox is considered a time of rebirth and rejuvination.  It is, therefore, not surprising that Easter also occurs around the time of the Equinox.  Several “traditions” associated with Easter find their origins in pagan rituals, such as eggs which are a symbol of fertility; coloring eggs and hunting for eggs (decorated eggs were offered as gifts and to bring blessings of prosperity and abundance) and the Easter bunny and Easter chicks.

Chicks and rabbits are very fertile animals.   The rabbit was an animal sacred to the Goddess Eastre (Oestre).  Eastre is the Goddess of spring and presides over the realm of conception and birth (animal and human), pollination, flowering, and ripening fruits of the plant kingdom. By honoring the rabbit in spring, by eating candy in the shape of rabbits or chicks, it was believed that we’d take on their characteristics and enhance our own fertility, growth and vitality.

The bluebirds, a sure sign of spring, made an appearance in our back yard a few weeks ago.

bluebirds0208-01blog.jpg      bluebirds0208-02blog.jpg

Unfortunately the first day of spring in Massachusetts is rather dreary.  I found the following images on Flickr to remind me of the warmer weather and flowers soon to come.

spring1.jpg

spring2.jpg

kniteastereggs.jpg

Happy Spring!


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The Elderly Animal Project: Isa Leshko’s Photography

I recently came across the beautiful photography of Isa Leshko, in particular, her photography of elderly animals. These black and white images are stunning on their own. Then she added this short video explaining the elderly animal series. It brought tears to my eyes. Go grab a tissue before you watch this video.

As any animal lover will tell you, caring for an aging pet can be challenging & heartbreaking & rewarding. I’ve gone through it a few times myself. And we face it again with Woody our eldest cat. Woody is 12. In the past year he was diagnosed with kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, and high blood pressure. The trifecta of kitty diseases.

He’s currently doing well. He gets medication twice a day. Eats breakfast, dinner, and all the snacks he wants in between. (In fact, he just came up to the studio as I write this to let me know it is time for his mid-evening snack.) His weight is holding steady at around 10lbs plus or minus (down from a high of 12lbs.)

After looking at Isa’s photographs and hearing her explain the elderly animal series, I took a few pictures of Woody over several days. I thought it would be interesting to capture him at different times of the day. Several of these pictures were taken in natural light without a flash. I think they capture his true nature, for the most part. (And with cats much of that true nature involves lots of naps.)

Woody 12/17/11

Woody 12/18/11

Woody 12/19/11

Woody 12/19/11

Woody 12/20/11

Woody is a pretty regal cat. A little Zen master who fancies a well worn toy mouse named George, tummy rubs, and night time snuggles; the periodic hit of fresh catnip, chasing a bird feather on a stick, having a nutty, and chasing his little brother around the house. He inspired my first cat sculpture and an Ornimal. He’s a very special cat.

Grey Tabby Ornimal

Isa’s project has me contemplating something similar with Woody. If not a daily picture, certainly a weekly picture. After all, he is quite photogenic. But more than that, I think it would be interesting to capture his handsome nature as he ages.


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Chainsaws and Generators: The October 2011 Snowstorm

Though the weather people weren’t quite calling it the “perfect storm,” the October 2011 snowstorm seemed to form on perfect though perhaps freaky conditions: a cold front moving down from Canada colliding with moisture moving up the east coast. A few degrees warmer and it probably would’ve been just another wet weekend.

Instead we got Snowtober. 12″ of wet snow in central MA and over 2 feet of snow in other areas. We’re used to snow here, though getting walloped in October is not a welcome sight. What made this worse than the ice storm of 2008, however, was the trees still holding onto their leaves. Heavy wet snow on top of trees that haven’t lost their leaves can only result in one thing.

Cracked, snapped, and sheared off tree limbs crashing on power lines and phone wires. And if that didn’t take out the power, the snapping of the poles themselves was the final insult.

As one town worker told us, some areas looked like war zones.

Our whole town lost power. Power was returned to the town in chunks. Some parts of town got their power back after four days. Some not till day seven. Our power came back on after 6 days. Below are some pictures that I took in the days following the storm. All the pictures were taken with my iPhone. Several were edited using the Camera+ app.

The next three pictures show the birch tree in our backyard. The weight of the snow on its branches caused one stem to crush against our bedroom window.

Same tree split apart by the weight of the snow.

Thankfully the birch has almost fully recovered in the past two weeks and is standing nearly as tall as it was pre-storm.

Snowblowing in October just isn’t right….

Sir Bruce, our gargoyle, wasn’t very happy with all the snow either.

Yet the contrast of the red sugar maple leaves against the white snow was quite stunning.

Trees that snapped and blocked the road.

At least the kids in the neighborhood had the right idea. Loved their snowperson family.


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Life Goes Blurring By

We took the train for our recent trip to New York. To me it is much less stressful than flying into JFK or Laguardia. No one asks me to take off my shoes. I can choose from an assortment of food to eat. The legroom is better. And they have wireless onboard.

I was a little bored on the trip home so I decided to aim my camera out the window and take random pictures. Some turned out quite nice…and in focus.

These, however, I found a bit more interesting. They captured the blur as we passed by.

I’m preparing for an Open Studio event this weekend. I’ll share pictures of my newest series, Snapshots and Memories from Languedoc-Roussillon, next week.