Monday, 21 December 2009

Return of the Light

I felt devastated this last week following the events of the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. I witnessed humanity facing its darkest hour in history, where billions of people begged for their lives or hope for any kind of future, and having their pleas fall on the deaf ears of many of our world's leaders. What heartened me though was that most of us listened, we really listened, and we heard. And I know we will do whatever it takes.

So this year more that ever I felt the need to celebrate the winter solstice. A few days earlier I brought in from the cold the cedar root that the beautiful man I share my life with unearthed from the beach for me as a house-warming gift. In the warmth the root opened up and took on its role as protector of hearth and home. In the late afternoon I hung lights, my little "soul catchers", stars, hearts, and a few of my favorite things.
I filled the room with candles in tapers, floating in a bowl, groupings here and there. As the sky darkened, we shared in the lighting of the candles and put on the tree lights to celebrate the return of the light.
My home is mostly windows and skylights and we were surrounded by light and repeating reflections. Instead of closing the blinds we left them open, letting the light shine for all to see and enjoy.
In ancient times, people celebrated this time of year to honour their belief that winter would pass and that the light would eventually return. For many people, that hope was all they had to get them through the darkest of days.

In these dark times let us all keep lighting candles of hope. Let us commit to doing whatever we can in our own lives and our communities, make our leaders listen to us, so that we can save this Earth and ALL of it's inhabitants, so that eventually the light will return.
Wishing you all a Happy Solstice ~

Monday, 7 December 2009

In Praise of Unfinished Projects

"Why can't you finish one thing before you start another?" was right up there with "Why can't you just pick one thing and do it right?" when I was growing up. I ignored both pieces of advice. Adults, well-meaning friends, teachers, all insisted that this was the only way to actually get anything accomplished. The result of which I'm sure only made me more determined to find my own way.

I have amazing focus when I want. When I find something that interests me I throw myself in the deep end, consumed for weeks, months or even years until I am completely saturated. I just have more than one obsession on the go at any given time – sort of like the books I read… Learning rather than completion matters more to me.

"Once you have understood that it's the work that counts, and not the reward, you'll be happy" a teacher wrote in my journal when I was ten. Considering that I disagreed with exams on principle, I can only imagine how I embraced this sacrilegious concept!

I LOVE Unfinished Projects! There, I've said it. I mean, how else can you get that sense of finishing a whole bunch of stuff in one go? Fifteen years ago I ran a "Sock of the Month Club" and knitted up one sock for every month of the year ahead as class samples. Every year or so I would complete the "other" sock and have a whole new pair! This winter I may just finish the very last one, a heavy mustard sock that will mark the end of an era. I can't remotely relate to the fact that I should have finished this 15 years ago. I'm just ecstatic at how great they are going to look with my new purple sweater… if I get them finished, that is…. And as for the red pair I started two years ago, wait till I wear them with the stunning red Roots boots my friend found for me at the thrift store last winter!

Whenever I have an art show coming up, I simply turn to my crate of Unfinished Projects and within a week I can have several new "finished" pieces without any of the "burning the candle at both ends" syndrome.

My recent West Coast Reflections series grew from a host of unfinished watercolours.

Then there are all those collages that would never have come into being if it were not for the unfinished wannabe's loitering around the studio.

One of my most important pieces of art has grown from an "unfinished project" of several years back, and has launched a whole new series earmarked for a groundbreaking solo show next summer.

So come on, join the revolution, DON'T finish that project – you'll be amazed at what happens if you dare!

Friday, 20 November 2009

Knitting content

The last few days here on Gabriola the rain has been bucketing down - hardly suprising considering we live in a rain forest - but we've been spoilt this year. Since early Spring we've had magnificent weather. So all this rain is taking a little getting used to... again.

For me, it's been the perfect opportunity to spend more time indoors, snug and warm with candles lit, pots of homemade soup simmering on the stove, baking in the oven, hot chocolate and... my knitting!

I've been a knitter on and off most of my life, oft times neurotic, sometimes sporadic but it is something I've always come back to. It's one of those things I begin to look forward to as Summer comes to a close. My thoughts turn to unfinished projects from the previous year, and new yarns or patterns I have somehow accummulated since. As the Fall colours begin to show, I pull out my knitting basket and plan my projects. By the time the leaves have fallen and my body begins to slow down for the winter months, my fingers start to itch to have something to do in the evenings.

And this year I realised that knitting is a barometer for how I am weathering. I only knit when I am relaxed and my life is in balance. When I finally pick up the bamboo needles and feel the yarn running through my fingers as I begin to knit through another winter, I know that I am, quite simply, content.

Monday, 16 November 2009

So that's what I have been up to...

On the previous post I inserted information about launching a line of SoulSpeak greeting cards as a gift set - so now you know what those lines of cards were all about in my previous studio photos!
Busy working on more sets of SoulSpeak cards~ I'm happy to say I can't work fast enough! How very luck I am to be looking forward to each new day to work some more at what I love ~

SoulSpeak Cards

Gentle, supportive and inspirational insights come to me while working as an Intuitive. I create SoulSpeak greeting cards from recycled, discarded, or handmade scraps of paper to reflect my interpretation of the meaning of the words.
This set of four original designs are printed on cards stick, individually hand enhanced with painting, collage and embossing, so that each card becomes an original in its own right.

The cards are left blank inside for you to add your own personal message... or simply sign the cards and let the words speak for you. SoulSpeak cards are designed to be kept and cherished, framed individually, or as a set of insights to reflect upon or live by.

Once we have held in our hearts
what we know to be our truth
it is impossible to let go
of who we are

In the mirror of lmy mind
I catch a glimpse
of who I choose
to become

We could all see
what's within
if we let go long enough to become it

Who you are
is what you know in your heart
to be true

5" x 7" (approx. 12.5 x 18 cm)
Printed on white heavy weight card stock
Blank inside
Whilte mailing envelope
Packaged in individual cellophane sleeve
Suitable for framing

Payment and Shipping Information

Cdn $ 25.00/per set of four includes shipping and handling to Canada and the U.S. Overseas orders will include an additional shipping charge. Please inquire.


Email me at the number of sets you want, your mailing address, and your choice of payment:

Paypal: Use the button on this site or I will invoice you through paypal directly
Cdn Money Order: I will invoice you directly

Please note:
Both the words and images are the original work of Shena Meadowcroft and subject to copyright protection. Thank you for respecting that neither my words or images can be reproduced, saved, altered or used in any way.

Monday, 9 November 2009

On being perfect...

For years I've fought the urge to have everything "perfect" before starting anything, and while I have won most of the battles, most of the time, against that particular monster, occasionally it rears its ugly head just to see if it still has a chance.

And so it's been the last little while. Admittedly after months of packing, unpacking, moving, settling, then moving again, I was getting a little jaded, and with it being a particularly busy summer with shows and sales I hadn't been able to get my house unpacked and a lot of things out of storage. I can only operate in a state of chaos for so long and then I draw the line, and it is usually at that point that the perfection monster sees his chance and grabs it.

I had spent the last month focussing entirely on getting my house and then my studio "in order" and the time invested has certainly paid of. But I was aware that I was running out of things to "organise" and sort. Today when I woke up the plan (again) was to tame the studio once and for all! I went to the loft, moving stuff up the stairs as I went, and spent about an hour sorting and tidying. Suddenly I realised that even though there was still a lot to do I was well past that point where you know it's only a matter of time till it all pulls together. And that what I really wanted to do in this space that I had worked so hard to create was... create!

So I spent a wonderful afternoon up in my new studio working. And what a day it was... The sun was breaking through the rain clouds, glistening on the water the studio overlooks, "Prayer for Peace" was playing softly on the CD player, a mug of yarrow tea waited nearby. In no time I found myself in the wonderful meditative space that seems to find me whenever I take up my brush or needle. I chose to begin by touching up by hand a set of four greeting cards in my line of "SoulSpeak" cards, each one slightly different, no two ever the same. The messages written on them will touch each recipient in different ways.
Was my house perfect? Not by a long shot! Is my studio exactly as I want it yet? Not in many ways. I don't have the right storage yet for everything, there is too much stuff on the floor and, well... still too much "stuff." Yet it felt great being up there in my tiny loft, sun streaming in through the windows, paintbrush in hand, the lines of cards growing without me even noticing, glancing probably way too often out the window, supper cooking in the kitchen below. As the shadows lengthened, I put the tops on the paint pots, planned my work for tomorrow and went for a walk along the beach in the setting sun, returning home to spend an evening with my love.

So the house isn't perfect yet, nor the studio, but you know what? Today was...

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Creating the Space in order for our Needs to be met

Since moving I seem to be dragging my feet setting up my studio space. I still have things in storage, and I find it hard to sort when everything is not in one area. I have also gone from having two huge studios and one gallery space a year ago to.... now... well...a rather small loft!
Don't get me wrong ~ I love my loft! It's all wood and skylights with one whole end wall being glass. Did I mention it overlooked the ocean?
I tend to think I have to get my space "perfect" before I actually do anything in it, so three months into the new home I'm still not really doing anything. Granted I did move twice in one month (don't ask!) set up home, found new furniture, participated in five art shows, grew a garden and that's since June, not to mention helping out on several landscaping projects.
But no studio...

I've done quite a bit of the layout, and got rid of a lot of things I no longer need, organised some of what remains, and most important of all can actually walk across the floor most days without incurring personal injury. And always... always I've keep journalling....
But no studio....

Yesterday in total frustration I finally bought a bag specifically for my large sketchbook and pouch of favorite pens - at least I'd have a portable studio!

Today I was thinking about something I taught in a class years ago: that self-discovery is usually about learning to figuratively create the space in order for our needs to be met. In a "duuh" moment (I just teach this stuff!!!) I decided to not only take that literally, but to turn it around. That maybe it was about defining my needs in order to create the space.

So grabbing my journal I wrote down the issue:
What are my needs?

I need somewhere to WRITE (I have that in my writing area downstairs)
I need somewhere to PAINT
I need somewhere to DESIGN
I need somewhere to CREATE
I need somewhere to PLAY
Even faster I jotted down:
1) LIGHT (good source of natural light and excellent lighting)
6) BEAUTIFUL SURROUNDINGS (the totes had to go!)
I'm scribbling hard by this time... I then made two lists, one, what I needed at hand and the other, what I could store elsewhere:

(At hand)
Art Supplies... Collage Supplies... Sewing Machine & Supplies... Art Books... Sketch Books...
Music (!) CD Player/Radio and CD's... Inspirational pieces (bird's nests, stones, driftwood, other artist friends work...)

Mats... Frames... Fabric/Patterns... Extra Note/Sketchbooks... Embroidery Threads... Beads... Accessories

There's a lot more to add to the list, trust me... but I was suddenly VERY clear on what I needed to do to have the space to create!

I felt totally liberated and can't wait to get right in there and put into practice what I had realised in writing. The fact that my friend and I are planning a huge garage sale Thanksgiving weekend suddenly makes it easy to let go of more stuff...

Now here's the truly magical part of all of this.... remember the portable studio? the bag with the sketchbook? Feeling very pleased with what I had worked out, I took it out and doodled a bit, played with my pens and loving the feel of the line as it sweeps across the page chasing my hand. Then without really thinking about it I began sketching for a new line of greeting cards I have been thinking of doing for several months now. I sketched some designs for some birdhouses I want to make for the winter. And from there came up with the idea for a mural that I have been commissioned to do: concept, outline, design, the lot!

WOW! Did it ever feel good to be in that creating space again!
And for my needs to be met...

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

You can never go back...

When I lived in Calgary, Alberta (what seems like a lifetime ago - nine years) one of my most favorite things to do was to throw the dog in the car after supper, stop at a lake on the way so he could run and swim, and drive an hour or so to Banff in the Rockies.I would park myself and my journal at the counter at the front of Evelyn's Coffee Bar on the main drag and treat myself to a large Latte and a huge slab of their very best carrot cake!
I flew back to Calgary earlier this summer, and drove through the Rockies to Cranbrook to do work as an Intuitive for the weekend. We took the southern route there, and came back through Banff. It was late Sunday evening and I wondered if Evelyn's was even still there. To my delight it was, to my chagrin it was just closing, but relief quickly followed as I was referred to the original shop down the street, who still had... carrot cake made with the original recipe... and it was as good as I remembered it.
As much as I loved it when I lived there, Calgary holds no meaning for me anymore. I had a hard time recognizing the places I used to know like the back of my hand, and although it was great to see old friends, the city itself was a stranger.
Myself ~ Shelley ~ Sandie
I knew when I moved out further west to Vancouver Island it was absolutely the right choice for me and have never once regretted it. This trip reinforced that for me.
Calgary - where I once lived
Gabriola - where I call home now

It's true, you can never go back ... except for carrot cake!

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

New Home ~ New Work

After a somewhat interesting few months of looking for somewhere to live, finding a great place, and moving temporarily for one month until the new place was available, I'm finally home. I gave myself the month of July to unwind, unpack and settle in, and although I'm not completely there on all three accounts, I am... finally... home. Or as final as a lease in a rental accommodation can get you. And what a beautiful place to call home.

As I sit outside in my little courtyard I see the world anew and try to pick up the threads of where I left off a few months back. Now where was I again? And as I try to remember I realise that that was then, and this is now, and it's not about trying to go back to where I was, because I'm simply not there anymore. I'm here now. And it's not about going back to pick up the threads, it's about making a brand new start... in my new home, in my new way of living my days, and in my new form of work. Starting from here... anew.

Monday, 30 March 2009

Art Journal

Journalling has been my lifeline for over eighteen years. It is still my constant, and I can never imagine, or want it, any other way. It’s how I see the world, sort myself and things out, plan, scheme, schedule, dream, explore thoughts and feelings and yes, still moan quite a bit…
What I discovered some eight years ago, upon moving to Vancouver Island, was that I wanted something more. Words, always my security, and what I return to time and time again, were no longer always enough in some instances. Whether it was because I had started working seriously on my art and wanted to record my progress, or whether I began to connect on a more visual basis I don’t know, but I wanted something more than my steadfast journal.
I found a beautiful 10” x 10” spiral bound scrapbook and began to tentatively explore within the safety of its pages. Mention of my first art exhibit and sale, acceptance into a local juried show, my invitation to a prestigious event at some local botanical gardens… Sporadically I would paint something or collage a piece to be included in the pages, and postcards of others’ shows or work would find themselves pasted alongside everything else.
Last Fall, I moved into a tiny space and as a result had to go through piles and piles of “pieces” I’d saved over the years, as well as far too many half-filled sketchbooks, the contents of which mostly were not likely to ever be allowed to see the light of day again. But some were not half- bad, and I realised that I didn’t have to keep these sketchbooks intact. I could take them apart, burn the pieces I really didn’t care for, and paste the ones I liked into my art scrapbook. Once the move was behind me I spent several enjoyable evenings doing just that.

But it still wasn’t satisfying enough. Mostly because it was images and very few words.
And I cannot live without words.
Around this time I found some 8” x 8” hardbound lightly-lined journals on sale for 50% off. I bought all three. I then came across a blog where the artist shared her collection of 'Everyday Travel Journals' in which she kept a written and visual record of her life. Something about the way she used her journals changed my entire way of looking at things. All it took was an idea to run with, and run with it I did!

I began to combine images, sketches, and words to my heart’s content. I discovered that the paper in the journal I was using could also take watercolours, and I now have a record of my art journey on an on-going basis. I may not work in it every day, or every week for that matter, but treat myself every now and again to a couple of evenings every few weeks “catching up.” I’m enjoying the process so much I will eventually go back through my journals over the last eight years and harvest the phrases and paragraphs that pertain to the images that populate my original art scrapbook.
From now on I am giving equal space in my Art Journal to both my writing and my art, which is, after all, how it was always meant to be…

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Journalling to My Self - Part I

"This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man."
William Shakespeare

To thine own self be true. If only it were that easy. Most of us ... after many years of questionable upbringing, sibling rivalry, an education system that seemed bent on knocking the stuffing out, and a society where everything, even the pain we suffer, is measured ... are still striving for a perfection that seems forever just beyond our reach.
So we talk to our friends and we buy self help books (occasionally reading them,) go to workshops, see a therapist, do some counselling, visit psychics and commune with whoever we pick for our higher power, desperately trying to be better, to grow, to become healthy, balanced, grounded or whatever the term is at any given moment. I can admit to all of the above, and a lot more besides, over the years. Approaching that magical age of 40 I got to thinking. I create... We all create. I won't get into the intimate details, but as either man or woman we have the ability to create a child - and it don't get much more creative than that! And whether I build a bookcase, write a book, set the table, prepare supper, I create the best bookcase, manuscript, dinner table, meal, that I can.
I was created... (and I'm going to keep this so non-denominational, it's not true) ... Whoever, Whatever, However ... I was created. Somehow I don't think that He, She, It said: "I know, I think I'll make a really lousy Shena today!" I believe that what was said was: "I think I'll make the best possible Shena that I can."
Meanwhile here I was trying to be better, improve, change, grow, ground myself, you name it. Wasn't that like someone bringing me over a nice dish for supper that they had created, and I blithely add spices, whip up a sauce, or sautee it in brandy ... without even tasting it first?
How insulting! It occurred to me that maybe all I really had to do was to stop trying so hard to be perfect and just be who I was created to be ~ my self.
Which is where this all began, being true to my self ...

Journalling to My Self - Part II

Now in no way am I demeaning therapy, friends, counselling, psychics, books, workshops or anything else that we can try. All of the above have helped me enormously and besides, I actually now do most of the above, for myself and with others.
But the single most thing that has been with me day in, day out, in sickness and in health, in sorrow and joy, in quiet moments and in celebration, in the depths of despair and the heights of the awesomeness of life, is my journal. You see, there's a special relationship between me and my journal that has yet to be found elsewhere. Think about it: a journal doesn't disagree with you, doesn't argue back, doesn't criticize, is always there, and best of all, LISTENS. It’s a safe place to scream, to be silly, vent, explore feelings and beliefs that I might not just yet feel comfortable sharing with others. Mine goes EVERYWHERE with me. I am totally indiscriminate about what I put in it. My days, my thoughts, great quotes that inspire me, recipes, photos, the fortune cookie message from last night's dinner that was unbelievably meaningful. Notes on a book I'm working through, a class I am taking. Cards, I keep copies of letters I have written to other people. Stuff I don't know where to put but don't want to part with. I have no rules. I buy sturdy, ring bound, inexpensive notebooks with a pocket inside the front cover, and decorate it, making it mine. I make sure I have an abundant supply of pens I like to write with, one permanently clasped inside the rings. I do have some really beautiful journals that I have purchased in a weak moment (they were on sale) and a couple that friends have given me, but I am afraid they lay abandoned on my bookcase. It's really hard to make a mistake in a lovely book, it's even harder to be nasty and I absolutely cannot, for the life of me, swear on ivory colored paper. I just can't. And I'm not saying you have to swear, but sometimes writing an entire page of the rudest word you can think of is very cathartic. Doesn't happen on ivory paper, trust me.

Journalling to My Self - Part III

I have no special time to write, no particular topics, and especially no set amount a day. This is my best friend remember. Unconditional love on both sides. And because I get to be really who I am, it becomes a joy to visit, a treat to pick up and write a little, and yes, a huge comfort at three o'clock in the morning when I feel very, very alone and the dog is snoring soundly in my ear. My journal is my friend, my confidante. I have always been able to see things more clearly when I am writing them down. It calms me, and helps me to feel all the things that I'm trying not to feel. I don't seem to be able to fool myself when I write. It helps me see myself differently. My journal is my reflection, a mirror to the inner part of me. When I look back over the pages at a later time I can relive the good, positive feelings I had about myself, I can actually see the changes that are coming about, and sometimes, just sometimes, I catch a glimpse of the wonderful person within.
Why journalling? Because however honest I like to think I am, to a certain extent I can still B.S. my way through, or out, of most things. Especially when it involves my own stuff. When I write, it's really, really hard to lie. And when I do, I know full well what I'm doing. And word by word, journal by journal, I find that I am becoming more true ... to my self.
©2000 Shena Meadowcroft

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Daily "Magic"

One of the comments on my last post about daily sketching (thank you!) read: "What a wonderful way to look at life too." It reminded me of "Magic," a wonderfully daft black lab that was my best friend for 14 years . For eight of those years we would take the same walk every day, day in-day out, more often than not around the same time.
Occasionally I'd drive to another part of town for a change, but the walk that we took was down by Nosehill Creek (parallel to the highway) which ran right into the Bow River almost at the centre of the city of Calgary. Each day: same walk. We'd start at the same place, we'd walk the creek, and sometimes along the river by the zoo, but always the same. The seasons changed and so did the ground cover, but not much else. Same walk, different day.

Yet that dog threw himself with such anticipation and complete wild abandon into that walk. Everything was new, everything was exciting, and every tiny part of the walk was greeted with complete and utter amazement, as if he was seeing it for the very first time. And I knew that if ever I could wake up each day with that same attitude, my life would be rich beyond anything I could imagine.

Recently my van was out of commission and I had to walk a long way in rotten weather. I was tired and grumpy and for some reason thought of "Magic." So I decided to pick up off the ground one of every type of foliage that I could find with the commitment to paint them in my Art Journal later that day. And as I discovered each new piece, that I had seen every day of my four years on Gabriola, I began to really enjoy the walk. Painting the pieces that evening I realised that I had, for that day at least, seen the same, same old, as brand new and exciting.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Room with a View - Daily Sketching and Writing

Last Christmas, I read about a woman who saved up for a “pleine air” painting holiday in France only to discover, once she arrived, that it was the worst time of year weather-wise; rain and wind prevailing most days, putting a complete damper on her outdoor plans. Undaunted, she decided to sketch and paint the scene from her window every day. She enjoyed the process so much that she returned to the same place the following year, at the same time, and went on to complete a vast number of sketches and paintings of the same scene.

Right now I live in a tiny spot with an incredible view. Totally inspired by her story, I began a series of sketches which have taught me so much more about seeing and sketching, than any amount of travel or variety could in the same period of time. Free to interpret the same view daily, in the warmth and comfort of my own home, regardless of the weather (and there has been weather, trust me!) I get to experiment and make mistakes because, after all, I can do the same view all over again tomorrow!

The exercise has become a way for me to explore new ways of using old materials, play with concepts I’ve been meaning to for a long while, or try out techniques as I read about them – after all it’s only a 6 x 9 sketch… besides, there's always another one to do…

Have I done one every day? Nope. Am I enjoying doing them? Absolutely.
I do intend to continue with the idea in the next place I move to.

Because every time I sketch the same view I learn something different about my art, and myself.
Now I wonder what would happen if on the facing page I use the day’s view as a setting off point for a piece of writing?

Monday, 2 March 2009

Design for Life

Ballet, Fashion Design, Knitting, Basketry, Time Management, Strategic Planning, Self-Discovery, Intuitive Development, Research, Writing, Art…… these are only some of the workshops that I have taught across Canada and the United States over the years.

I only have one rule.

It works whether you are designing a garment, choreographing a routine, knitting a sweater, weaving a basket, planning your daytimer, writing a novel, or painting a masterpiece…

It’s my only rule, but it’s a golden one.

It goes something like this…

If whatever you are doing doesn’t turn out like the teacher’s sample... or the picture in the book... or what you yourself have in mind...


Works for life too.