Japanese Good Luck Doll

It’s almost a new year!  Can you believe it?  2015 is right around the corner.  And what better way to head towards a new year than with a bit of good luck.  But where to find it?

One way is to purchase a Japanese good luck doll known as a Daruma, or tumbling doll, which is modeled after Bodhidharma, the founder of the Zen sect of Buddhism.  It’s traditionally made of papier-mâché, spherical, and weighted down at the bottom.  That way, even if it falls over, it will always stand back up.  This is to symbolize perseverance.  The Japanese have a famous phrase: “Nana Korobi Yaoki” which means “Fall down seven times, get up eight.”  As someone who has fallen before (while running), I really appreciate this saying!

How does it work?  Think of a goal you wish to achieve.  Then fill in one of the blank white eyes with black ink.  Put the Daruma doll in a prominent place where you will constantly be reminded of your goal and what you want to achieve.  Pursue your goal as best you can.

When you complete your goal and your wish comes true, it’s time to celebrate by filling in the Daruma’s other eye.  He was motivated to grant your wish, because in turn, now he can see!

As you may have noticed in the photo above, I decided to purchase my very own Daruma.  With one eye filled in, my goal is set.  Now it’s time for me to get up and move towards achieving it!

What are your goals for the new year, and how do you plan to stay motivated to achieve them?


Interview with Photographer Katherine Carver

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I recently had the honor of interviewing my longtime friend, photographer Katherine Carver.  Read on to learn about her love of dogs, passion for travel, and current creative project photographing shelter dogs.  Prepare to be inspired!

1.  What/who are your influences?

My major influence in my work is my curiosity, my dogs, and my need and desire to work through and communicate my ideas visually.

Photographers I admire are: Diane Arbus; Sally Mann; Francesca Woodman.

2.  Explain your process as a photographer. 

I am drawn to creating images with wonderful lighting that simultaneously go beyond the literal.  My goal is to create layered and didactic images.  I want to leave viewers with a new way of looking at dogs in their natural world.  If I am not working on my photography, I feel uncomfortable.  I am always thinking about my work.  I am enjoying the journey, trying to stay present in each moment, and I will see where things lead.  I do believe that I will always be examining our human relationship with animals.

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3. Tell us about your current project.

I have been working on a long-term photography project with dogs as the subject matter and focus of this project for the past two years, and I am still working on this project.  Biscuit, our first dog who was a rescue, is the inspiration for this work.  The goal of this body of work, once it is completed, is to raise awareness — to connect the dogs to circumstances where humans fail to act in a responsible manner and to further study the relationship between dog and human.  I want to leave the viewer with a new way of perceiving dogs and our relationship with dogs.  This body of work is still evolving as I am currently in the midst of this project.  I am hopeful once this project is completed, it will lead to an exhibition and to publishing a book.

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4.  Have you always been a dog lover?  How did this come about?  Tell us about your dogs.  How did dogs, especially shelter dogs, come to be the focus of your photography?

Dogs have not always been a part of my life.  In fact, I did not grow up with any animals.  It was not until my husband and I adopted a Shetland sheepdog named Biscuit, our first dog who was a rescue, that our entire view of dogs shifted.  Biscuit changed our lives for the better and we are ardent supporters of dog rescue.  Biscuit opened up a part of us that is difficult to articulate in words.  He added an entirely new facet to our lives, and we cannot imagine our lives without a little rescue Sheltie family member.  Photography has always been a part of my life, but after adopting Biscuit, I became fascinated with dogs.  Biscuit awakened a desire for me to carry my camera everywhere — creating images that preserve fleeting moments that chronicled Biscuit’s story forever.  Biscuit was the inspiration for my great curiosity and study of dogs in my work.  Biscuit created an entryway into another world, an ‘animal world,’ which I had never experienced.  It changed my life forever in many ways that I did not anticipate.  He taught me, for example, to be more present, aware, and patient.  He also taught me to have more gratitude for the small things in life.  I believe animals have a way of teaching us all about ourselves if we are willing to open our hearts and invest fully in the experience.  Sadly, Biscuit passed away last summer.  Our time together was short, but filled with enough memories to last a lifetime.  Last fall, we adopted another rescue sheltie named Victory in Biscuit’s honor.  Even though at the time we lost our Biscuit, we thought it was unimaginable to love another dog as much as we loved Biscuit; however, Victory, a rescue sheltie, came into our lives and she has stolen our hearts and we love her so much and she is just as much an integral part of our lives as our Biscuit.  We believe that Biscuit sent her to us.  Victory has been a perfect fit and she brings us so much joy and she has really grown in so many ways physically and emotionally since we adopted her.  I am a firm believer in dog rescue.  There are so many dogs who need a second chance.  Biscuit’s (and Victory’s) story is living proof of this sentiment.  When we first met Biscuit he was simultaneously the most handsome and the saddest dog we had ever seen.  He was wondering the streets of North Carolina, abandoned and severely malnourished, and covered in urine with a virtually nonexistent fur coat.  He was timid, shy, and riddled with anxiety when we first brought him home.  Through dog rescue, Biscuit was given an opportunity to blossom and flourish.

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5.  You and your husband like to travel.  What are some of your favorite destinations?  Describe your ideal vacation.  How does travel inspire your work?

My husband and I have been fortunate to be able to travel together.  However, my husband, prior to us meeting, was much more of a world traveler than me!  We have traveled abroad together to France, Monaco, and Israel.  The rest of our travels have been by car as we included Biscuit and continue to include Victory on our trips together.  They are family, and they have been part of any trip we have taken together!  They make our vacations better and we have many fond memories while on vacation.  We have made several trips to Nova Scotia; we have been to Quebec most recently this past summer; and we have traveled domestically as well.  For me, my ideal vacation is similar to some of the vacations we have taken — renting a house on the water for several weeks, taking each day as it comes, with lots of time to rest, time to ponder, time to read, and time to relax.  This past summer we traveled to Quebec and it was very nice to have some down time and spend quality time with my husband and Victory!  It was the first time I did not do any work during vacation.  I came back refreshed and rejuvenated with some new ideas for my project.  I think that rest and a change of scenery is really important for anyone.  For me, it helps get the creative juices flowing!

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6.  Describe your artistic approach to photography.

I am not sure if I have an artistic approach per se with my work.  I am drawn to issues that I am very curious about, and I want to communicate visually through my images.  I think that it is vital to have intellect behind your work to support the message you are trying to communicate visually through the images.

7.  What advice can you offer other artists?

Follow your curiosity and keep going and pushing forward no matter what.  Maintain a consistent daily art practice and don’t be afraid to question, to take risks, and to push your boundaries with your work.  I think it is also helpful to find a few people who you trust to provide feedback on your work while you are working through a body of work.  Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.  The process of making art is uncertain and uncomfortable at times; and this is why perseverance is key and I believe that the Universe will support you in kind.

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You can view her work at http://www.katherinecarver.com/; her blog at http://www.biscuitsspace.com/; and follow along on Instagram @katherine_carver.






Uncovering Spirit during the Holidays

Searching, shopping, buying, spending, packaging, sending.  Where are you spirit?

We all know this is a busy time of year.  Sparkly, but cloaked in darkness.  And cold!  How to chill out but stay warm?  According to one of my favorite creative and inspirational writers,

Spirit is present in every atom of our universe! In fact, there is nothing and no place in which spirit does not exist.”  SARK

 So how can we find it, if we can’t feel it?

Simply welcome it in.  Sounds simple, right?  Here are some specific examples SARK gives for ways to welcome that elusive spirit–that is somehow everywhere–into your life.   

  • Extend an invitation to spirit by simply including room for it at your dining table or in your room, car or bed at night.
  • Spirit will appear in many forms; a moment of grace, a whisper, a hummingbird at the window, the slant of light on your bed.
  • Acknowledge the appearance of spirit with smiles, songs, celebrations or sharing with another person.

The best part is that the more you connect to spirit, the more others will as well!

This holiday season, consider ways of being lit from within.  When you light yourself up, everyone will notice.  And you just might feel spirit moving through you. 


Making Art with Kids: Mashups!

I visited my nieces and nephew over Thanksgiving, a real treat since I don’t get to see them very often.  Usually I read them a bedtime story over Skype once a week.  So when I visited, I asked them to tell me stories.  And boy did they!  A fractured fairytale about Rapunzel and a story about a fearless princess kicking a three-headed dragon kept me on the edge of my seat.

Then on our last day together, we decided to make art.  A few weeks ago on Skype, I was talking to them about a stuffed animal I had as a kid called a Wuzzle.  Does anyone remember those?  They were basically hybrids of two different animals, like a bear with butterfly wings.  So that got us thinking.  What if these animals really existed?  What would they look like?  Only one way to find out!  Time to draw.  Here is what we created.

Frog Owl and Owl Frog with a little “help” from my nearly 2-year-old niece Charlotte 🙂

Lion Dragon breathing fire created by my 6-year-old nephew Joey

Monkey Horse created by my 8-year-old niece Allie

Devil Mummy created by Joey

Then we decided, why limit ourselves to animals?  What else can we mash up?  How about fruits?  Don’t mind if we do!  Sounds tasty 😉

Fruit Mashups

*See the fruit Joey created pictured above in his Lion Dragon picture.

Orange Apple created by Allie

Then Allie decided to get all serious and artsy by creating a very sophisticated bowl of fruit complete with shadow.  Why?  Because she’s a seriously talented artist 🙂  They both are!  I’m just honored I got to spend an afternoon creating with them.  What will they think of next?????

Bowl of Fruit created by Allie

That’s all from the mashup gallery for now.  But just for fun, try creating some of your own.  If you need help, just ask a kid.  They’ll get you started 🙂