Friday, January 13, 2017

The Grace of Jizo

Recently the NY Times ran a small story on Jizo, the Japanese Bodhisattva, one of the most beloved and revered Bodhisattvas in Mahayana Buddhism. Jizo is the embodiment of the Bodhisattva Vow, the aspiration to save all beings from suffering. He is the protector of women, children, and travelers in the six realms of existence. 

"Most prominent today in Japanese Zen, Jizo is understood to be the protector of those journeying through the physical and spiritual realms. This bodhisattva is closely associated with children, believed to be their guardian before birth, throughout childhood, and after death."

In India he is known as Ksitigarbha, in China as Dizang, in Korea as Jijang Bosal
and in Japan as Jizo Bosatsu.

Long before many of the fantasy and fairy elements of my world showed up in Bewilder and Pine, I was making Jizos. I had learned about them while studying Zen just after the turn of the Millennium and when I was trying to find the comfort zone in my desire for solitude and silence around me.

I fell in love with the figure and the meaning behind him.

Visiting a monastery that had a "Jizo Garden" with statues large and small, each dedicated to a child who had died and lovingly placed and cared for along the forest paths, my interest deepened.

Then I read about the Onegai, or "wish granting" Jizos aNihonji Daibutsu, where thousands upon thousands of tiny Onegai Jizos surround the larger statues, all placed by folks making wishes or prayers as they visit.  The Onegai is one of over 70 various Jizo versions I have seen described! 

Over the years I have been so blessed to have created a few hundred or so of these little guys and they have grown along with me. I change the listing photos every few years as they mature and grow with my skills. 

The story in the Times led about 15 or so folks to the shop, all within this last week, and I have been graced with making Jizos one after the other to meet the demand there, as well as with the few little boutiques I sell thru who also happened to see the article. I've also been graced with the stories of some of these new customers who are buying them who read the article, searched the internet for Jizos, and happened upon my little guys. They sometimes share stories of the children they lost in childbirth or far too soon thereafter. Some purchase them for just that purpose, others as travel companions for protection. and some just for their own altar in the role of a "wish-granter". 

The thing is, and many of you know this about me, I am usually not fond or making things over and over in short spans of time. But I have to say that I felt none of that this last week creating two dozen or so Jizos to fill the purposes they were requested for. It's a whole other realm. It feels like a deep and true service. . . 

It's possible, especially when Bewilder and Pine is fully stocked, to miss them altogether among the fairy magic and mythic gargoyles and such. . . but below are a few of the images of some that I made this last week. If you have never heard of Jizo, there's a lot of information out there. But if you are truly interested in the meaning behind Jizo,  I'd recommend the book written by my previous Zen teacher from that time, Jan Chozen Bays called:  "Jizo Bodhisattva - Guardian of Children, Travelers and Other Voyagers".  She has worked with and studied Jizo for years. There's no better introduction to Jizo than her book. 

It's been a hectic week. . .  but every step of the way it's been a wonderful reminder of how you can touch people with creativity. The meaning found within and the wealth of warmth and love one can receive from the service of creating. . . 

Hope the New Year is treating you all so wonderfully thus far!!


Onegai, Wish-Granting, Jizo

Just over 2 inches (5cm) tall

I offer them in the same aged patina finishes as my statues in Shadow of the Sphinx too.

I hope you enjoyed the glimpse of these little guys. 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

New Year, New Plans, New Work

Wishing a very Happy New Year to everyone in the blog-world and thank you, for your comments, for just taking a moment to read and for being a part of my world. :)

Hoping YOUR year to come is filled with magic and wonder every day!

“Now I become myself. It’s taken time, many years and places.” 
 May Sarton

2017. . . yikes! I can recall, in the early 1980's being old enough to realize that I  would see the turn of the century. It felt like it was a world away back then. Now, 17 years after that millennium date came and went,  feel like I can hardly remember it passing.

I found myself, this past week, thinking of so many of the things I have tried in my life. as it pertains to "making a living" — Cooking, writing music, sound engineering, running coffeehouses, owning cafe's,  photo editing, photography, digital art. . . all took up a bit of my life as my main "pursuit".

A perfect word, pursuit.

Looking back I think I am realizing that I was always chasing something — some dream I held at that moment.  And at the core of those dreams was the thought "Wouldn't it be great to be able to make a living doing ___ " Of course, if I am honest, I wanted more than that. I wanted to be "known" for what I did too. And I often, in those early adult years, let that misguided part of it in the driver's seat far too often.

How wonderful now, all these years later in life, to have discovered thru the process and elimination of all of the attachments to that particular ideal, that it is truly enough to just say, "I want to make magic!" Well, that and then to put it into this world"

I feel most grateful that I have been able to become a "maker-of-things" and that, for the last six years, it's been my sole occupation. I do not think, in that time, I have ever thought about anything else other than gratitude for the fact that I get to rise each day and travel down whatever road my imagination wishes to go.

When I am asked about my "occupation", as with my recent, mid-December eye doctor appointment, it is funny to notice how speaking of what I do tends to stop people in their tracks. That's how it was with Dr. Paul,. Like him, they'll often ask the question, take in the answer, then turn, look at me and say "Really? You can make a living from that?" In Dr. Paul's case, this led to us stopping the exam mid-stream so he could open up Etsy on his computer and look at the shoppes! :)

But behind the magic of my two main shoppes is, at this point,  seven plus years of diligence and hard work, experimentation and lessons learned along the way. From those first days of running to the store to get the right sized box with every sale to now, where our "guest" bedroom is 100% devoted to packing and shipping. Walls lined with shelves of gift and shipping boxes, tissue and bubble wrap and oodles of rolls of raffia and ribbon.

From not knowing how to ship an international package at all to having a pretty good grasp on many of the oddities one cannot ship to specific countries. We've adapted and grown into it with every step of the process. And the thing I believe that we are most aware contributed to our ability to turn these ideas into our life's work, was the way we look at each new obstacle and are willing to do almost anything to overcome it.In short, as I have said before, the willingness to shape our life around the work and not try to force it the other way around.

Even at the beginning, when Sofie and I first took an apartment together, on day one we decided we needed to make the living room space the bedroom and the two small bedrooms into our work studios so we had more space and better light to work within. Our lifestyle never goes over well with family, though our few friends seem to appreciate it and understand. It's all in service to the creation of what we hope IS magic. And that magic has to come first for us or it's just not going to work.

Now I have gone about things pretty much the same way my whole life.

All or nothing.

No safety net or cushion below the high wire.

It's always paid off beautifully with either wonderful experiences or total collapses — and I mean that. It's always paid off BEAUTIFULLY.

Even the worst of it was a better learning experience than anything I might have gained playing it safe or taking things slow and sure.  Diving in always felt like learning to ride a bike. The uncertainty of your steadiness before that first glorious moment where the pedal completes a revolution and you catch the balance of the wheels just right. Now, I didn't learn to ride a bike until I was 30, so I recall the feeling oh so well. I'll never forget it.

That said, all or nothing was a younger person's game to play for sure. And I never had the stress in those years of a mortgage or of kids or of car payments etc. I moved across the country, started four or five businesses over the next 15 years and, when things didn't work out? Next idea please! Along the way I've accumulated skills, equipment and insights that I would never have had otherwise. And they all seem to be converging in the here and now.

Thru all the trial and error, I kept looking for that one thing. That certain "magic"I could call my own.

It was never a case of wanting to have it all for me.  I remember reading in May Sarton's,  " Journal of a Solitude" about how, as she was becoming something of an icon for feminism, she would get letters from young women begging her to tell them the secret to "having it all", which they perceived her to have achieved. She often would reply, "you can't dear, no one can."I want to write another post in the coming weeks about Sarton's influence on my own life. Her love of solitude, seeing it as an absolute necessity for her sanity. . . it resonated so strongly with me. Quotes like:

“Loneliness is the poverty of self; solitude is richness of self.”

No one had described solitude's graces quite like that before and it allowed me to feel as though I wasn't just some oddball for wanting so much time to myself again, as I had when I was a child.

So. . . solitude, magic, openness to change of direction or to unorthodox means. Whatever it took.

Here we are then. Solid footing and seven years into this magical path and I am completely committed to whatever it takes to keep the magic flowing.

So what does 2017 hold?

Well, I'll just bullet point it for now with short descriptions as I am sure I'll address these all in detail in the coming weeks.

1. Continued growth of my Etsy shoppes. I think I finally get it when it comes to creative balance. I've needed for some time to be better about not overloading myself and trying to accommodate everything that is requested of me.  And I plan to further my dive into exploring new work and new skills each month.

2. Creating a dedicated Squarespace website for "The Bewildering Pine" — OK, I know this is confusing to some. The Etsy shoppe, "Bewilder and Pine" is "inspired" by the land of the "Bewildering Pine.". That's the world itself. Rooted in childhood.  The place where all the little houses, stories and ideas come from. I want the site to be for those stories, little vignettes and a blog just for that world and it's characters. Anything sold there would be directly related to the stories told within. Sets of fortune cards, special amulets, dream teas and "tinctures", who knows what could be created? But at it's core, it's to be a place to grow the magic of that paracosm without limits or without tying it to the varied expressions found in the Etsy shoppe.

3. "The Ledgerkeepers" book - Short stories from around and within that same world. A full color, detailed map and 24 or so small story "peeks" into the folk who live there and the reason the Bewildering Pine came to be. A limited run of hand-bound copies and possibly (hopefully) a full print edition by the summer of 2018. All of it, however, is to lay the groundwork for a novel in the following years. There is a certain ripple of darkness under the magic of the land itself and stories to be told that no one can begin to guess at their point of heading :)

4. The Bewildering Pine "Travel Guide"- Part of the extensive world building for writing "The Ledgerkeepers" has been taking each town, point of interest and the variety of elves and kind folk, myths and secrets of that world and writing about them. It's all backstory for the larger project but I thought it would be quite lovely to put together a collection of those descriptions, a map and some other details. Maybe a small bestiary, a lexicon? Perhaps more. . . also slated for late 2017 or early 2018 but we'll see.This would also be hand-bound.

5. The Bewildering Pine Podcast - Yes, a podcast. Though it likely won't be called that. I am quite taken with podcast radio dramas like "The Message", "Tannis", "The Black Tapes" and "Life After" but I wanted a place where I could begin to tell my own family stories (which are rather magical and unbelievable in many cases) yet keep it in the realm of "otherworld" magic. Well, a short synopsis would be: Reading so many folk tales about particular fae and elven spirits I found myself thinking, quite often, "Oh, that one reminds me so much of my Great aunt Kate who lived on an old houseboat or that meadow elf reminds me of this girl I knew when I was 10 who was bewitching!" In short, it's a podcast that's about my experiences, looking back and realizing that there may have been more magic in our world, in my childhood and extended family, than I ever realized. The journey into it is set off by the discovery of a diary of my great grandmothers, long lost until it turns up in another extended family members discarded things. The entries within it, the allusions in the details, to other worlds and other "folk". I am planning on two seasons of 6 episodes being blocked out before I get started with it all for recording and broadcast.

6. Ice Elf figurines - Well I have mentioned this before over the past two years. A series of 50 or so limited edition "Ice Elves" that would  feature a story that is told over 24 months. A new "chapter" is sent to the buyer each month. I'd like it to be an interactive story as well. So as those who bought the Ice Elf figure follow the "mission statement" of the Elves and, hopefully, engage with me thru a future website for the Ice Elf world, we can build the story together. and complete their mission. I imagine the Ice Elf packaging to be rather elaborate. A "chest" containing the small figurine and a series of extras. Ice Crystal gazing ball, scrolls and amulets, coded messages, magic ice dust. . . oh I have a long list of possibilities and am sourcing materials now. I'd want to be sure I could get at least 50 of each required supply I need to keep them consistent.

7. Music - OK, this is tied to the podcast. I wrote music for years. Worked with dance companies, commercial and film makers and produced songs for other songwriters. What I rarely did though, was create solely for the "magic " of it. There was always an end game, an ideal of success that I wanted within it and, I felt, that kept me from really getting into the heart of it and writing just in the service of finding that magic. So, creating music for the Podcast would allow me that opportunity.  A way of righting that part of my past too. Working with just limited world/ancient instruments and going more for atmosphere than pure song writing or music/CD release, I just want to indulge in the magical creation of it all again. I used to be so obsessed with music. I felt like I lived and breathed it but, looking back with the advantage of the years,  I see that I always wanted and expected it to be in service to me, instead of the other way around. I want to give that back. So it's time to dig out the old digital recorder and start reacquainting myself with it all again. we'll see. . .

Ok, that's it.  . . I think. :)

This really has been much longer than I anticipated so I am going to just leave you with a few pieces of new work from December. I may have to come back and edit any errors above as the New Year is calling me already.

And I've got my Sparrows and Crows and Starlings to feed.

Magic to make. . .

Make YOUR New Year magical too!!!

And thank you for reading, but more for believing. . .

Perhaps my favorite Sutekh/Set I have ever sculpted! 

I never tire of making Sekhmet pieces. She is, after all, the Lady of Light.

These two were part of a gargoyle "quarry" of nine!  I loved making both sweet and bratty gargoyles for this request!

A fine fellow in Ireland buys multiples of mini statues for his work team when they complete a major project,
which are always named after an Egyptian Deity so, these were for "Ma'at"

The Fairy House of Barberry, the village of Hobs and Grogochs.

And a pair of country Hermitage Fairy Houses. These have come a long way over these past 7 years so they
do still feel rather "new" to me. ;)