Wonder Round (Aug. 12-18, 2018) by Hayden Michelle

It has been a week full of deadlines and hard work, which was most satisfying to complete.  There is a sense of accomplishment when we finish what we set out to do, whether it is as mundane as taking 7 hours to whittle down the stack of papers needing attending on the desk where I paint every day (when your 6 inch square of watercolor paper is feeling encroached upon, it is time to take action!), or completing an application after many days unfolding glitch after glitch.  I have been mindful of the positive energy that remains when small steps to organize and create more sanity in my daily life are happening, not just for me, but for my family.  I am grateful for forward momentum in this area, as it is easy to push it aside when making art and making daily mess.  Wishing you all productivity in the ways you most need it this week! 

("I walked in thick fog blanketed over the hills this morning, tiny slivers of silver illuminated by dim light, webs sagging from the drops of moisture pulling them into the grass. The subtlety of this shimmer reminded me to go slowly enough about my days that I can take notice of these small things, whether in nature or with people, as there is certainly beauty in the details...")


("Walking yet again under the thick fog of morning, I breathed in crisp cool air, grateful for the ease of breath that filled my lungs. Over my years of social work, I spent time in many homes that were closed off from fresh air, windows locked and blinds drawn for safety and privacy. If my short time spent in restricted air was challenging, I can only imagine for those that lived in those conditions, often weighted down with health problems that made it even more difficult to breathe. Odd thing to recall as I roamed this morning, but it brought to mind the tremendous difference that movement of air, breath, breeze, can make in a moment and in a life. Wishing you all open space to feel the preciousness of air, allowing it to move through you in healing ways...")


("As the morning air takes on a touch of chill, deep reds begin to show in the plants that cover the iron weed filled hills, all signaling the change of season that is coming... I feel the push and pull of sadness that summer is slowly winding down, leading into a season that slows in nature, but speeds up mightily in the day-to-day life of our family. Connecting to the rhythms of my natural environment helps create space to breathe and be more grounded in our family and community flow, providing balance and replenishment of that vital energy.")


("This morning I crawled out of bed after little sleep, working on a deadline that is using up serious brain power :). I was curious how the circle would go, and was not so surprised when the pigment flowed outside the lines, despite trying to be careful. How easy it is to want to fix it, hide it, start again, rather than just let it be as it is... My youngest and I were discussing this very thing last night— how good it is to be gentle with ourselves and keep things in perspective when we make “mistakes”, fostering space to grow, learn, and accept that we are human. Certainly with paint, it does not matter a bit, but the practice of being mindful of how we speak to ourselves is one which needs at least as much attention as what goes into the daily watercolor circle. May we all go tenderly today...")


("I could not quite decide what jumped out of my circle this morning— it was a mix of hard-boiled eggs and animal eyes that lurked in the jungle of some child’s story... and it doesn’t really matter! It is good to remember that our work, no matter what kind, can bring in the element of play, lightening our mood and perspective when we are able to sink into it. I am grateful for the bit of balance that it brings to issues that are difficult in this world. What things bring you a sense of levity and play?")

("Especially happy that it is Friday, today I shift into low gear and head up to meet my beloved childhood friend. It is so satisfying to take a break after having put forth intense effort into the past week, and to look forward to relaxing, connecting, and restoring my tired self. Happy Friday to you all!")


("How wonderful it is to awaken to a day that is wide open, with the only goal being play. Clearly, a change of routine is good for the mind, body, soul... let us all sink in!")


Wonder Round (August 5-11, 2018) by Hayden Michelle

As we wrap up another week and prepare for the start of the school year, I find myself savoring the freedom to spend the day open-ended, and ponder how to hold onto this concept as the academic year unfolds.  I continue to be grateful daily for the inspiration that comes from nature and those with whom I share my life, in small and large circles.  Have a lovely week ahead, and hope it finds you sinking into activities that bring you meaning, joy, and respite.

("As the parents were sitting under the cool shade of the porch while our children gathered around celebrating their peer heading off to college, one of the dads remarked that these were the memories that would stick with our kids for the rest of their lives. I sat with that in the moment, and have returned to it during the night and early morning today... these years go by so quickly as our children grow more and more into themselves and their engagement with each other, and the experiences that are created across this whole continuum truly will be with them, and with us, long after they each go on to the next phase of their lives. I feel incredible gratitude to be surrounded and inspired by such loving and supportive community, who commit every day to the challenging and joyful job of parenting and homeschooling. May we each help weave positive connections with each other every day...")


("This morning’s reflection as the paint became the imagery reminded me to greet the day with possibility, energy, and hope. What a simple and profound gift, the rising of the sun each day! Wishing you all a day filled with positive experience...")


("Yesterday, I was listening to a bit of a program on public radio, and tuned in while a female judge was sharing how she often assigned personal essays as sentences for nonviolent crimes. I was moved to tears as I heard some of the insights and stories that were revealed, which humanized not only those speaking their truth for perhaps the first time someone had ever asked, but for all who listened in that courtroom. It resonated with the experiences in my social work background, and brought to mind the many deeply painful stories and courageous people I was fortunate to walk alongside during difficult parts of their lives. And it paralleled an experience I had with another artist just that morning, in which unexpected connection was made from having expressed deeper parts of our stories with one another. It reminded me to listen on all levels as much as I can, as always, there are deeper stories to honor than what may first be visible...")


("I keep returning to the lay of the land in these circles, intrigued with the variety of feelings that each type of landscape evokes... the lush forest with its moss-encased floor, the vast sky and endless cloud formations over our Appalachian foothills, the solidity and grounding of rock outcroppings, the flow of our rivers and babbling brooks. I feel immense gratitude for the diversity of nature that offers such a wide expanse of energy, available for us to sink into its offerings and find restoration and peace.")



("That any one of us is here on this earth, at all, is profound... but that we each get our own life in which to uniquely explore and create, is an incredible gift. May we all find space from the burdens of life to express and more fully be...")


("This morning’s paint lay on the paper in delicate, muted tones. I noticed it was difficult for me to leave it at that, and not reach for the bold colors that lay waiting in the pan. Perhaps this is reflective of the ebb and flow of our voices, that can be loud and bold one day, low and barely audible on others. It is empowering to have a choice, and to embrace the many means of our expression in the world.")


("This morning I returned to a Qi Gong dvd that I have had for years and which needed revisiting. It was an energizing and grounding experience to tune into the words of the instructor as my body creakily mirrored the movements, absorbing the backdrop of the red stone earth and music that centered me alongside my breath. I am realizing my need to incorporate this part of exercise back into my daily routine, and know that it is a process, like anything we add into our lives. The ending words struck me in their simplicity and power— to practice being “open to give, open to receive”... a mantra which I can remember and carry within me. I continue to be deeply grateful for the enrichment and support we offer each other day to day...")


Threads in a Tapestry Are We by Hayden Michelle

"Interwoven Threads in the Tapestry of Our Nation" (10 x 24 x 20 inches)

I was thrilled to receive word last week that this sculpture was accepted into the international exhibition, MELTING POT/ MELTING POINT at the Encaustic Museum of Art in Sante Fe, New Mexico.   I responded to a call to entry from a collaboration between International Encaustic Artists (IEA) and Encaustic Art Institute (EAI), powerful national and international organizations dedicated to supporting encaustic artists through education, resources, and exhibition opportunities.  The theme this year was one which was easy to gravitate towards-- "MELTING POT/ MELTING POINT":  

The Melting Pot is a metaphorical reference to the American ideal of a society becoming more homogeneous, with different elements fusing harmoniously together, to create one common culture. The Melting Pot also represents the encaustic technique, as heating the material to the Melting Point is an essential step in creation. For this exhibition, we invite artists who work in encaustic or cold wax to interpret MELTING POT / MELTING POINT as it is reflected in their own lives, experiences, ethnicities and cultures. It will be a coming together of many points of view, with the result being a true expression of our differences, yet a celebration of living and working together.  Juror, Francisco Benitez, is a Santa Fe-based artist of Latino background who has developed a career exhibiting both in the US and Europe.

An idea sprang to my mind, as I had carefully been documenting my collection of found and gifted moth and butterfly wings with macro photography, and had a wide variety from which to choose.  Grateful for these beautiful representations, some only in tattered fragments, I set to work printing them on fabric, layering them up with many coats of wax, cutting them to shape, and carving their surface with intricate line, beginning to restore their original beauty.

 My favorite part came next-- sculpting them to form, playing joyfully with abstraction, while being mindful that the bends and curves represented the toll of hardship and sacrifice inherent in those who made the decision to leave behind all that they knew and forge unknown obstacles to come to this country.  I felt deep respect and connection to the diverse color, shape, size, and patterns expressed on these wings...


Much work was done late into the night (many), where the thirty-two winged creatures seemed to be multiplying under the light of my table lamp while live ones fluttered beyond my window by the light of the streetlamp on our country road.  I was moved by the energy of these short-lived beings metamorphosing into the immortal, and treated them as sacred.

Once they were sculpted to shape, the laborious process of coloration over the entire surface of each wing began, bringing out the vibrance and intricacy of their individual species.  I enjoyed watching the color intensify with the fusing that set the pigment deep into the wax, as if they were coming back alive...

Finally came the moment I had been waiting for (both with excitement and fear), as I had no idea if the plan to sew them all together would come to fruition, having never created a piece with this much complexity.  I realized there were no sketches to be made, and that instead, I must just begin.  I imagined the process might liken the making of a crazy quilt, attaching one chosen piece at a time.  I imagined women over the centuries doing just that while in the company of other women, enjoying the unfolding of the process.   I realized that with all art, and certainly with all major decisions in our life, we must just eventually take the leap and begin, trusting in the outcome of the process, one stitch and connection at a time...

Sewing one wing to the next was fueled by anticipation, and mostly was a delightful a process, especially in the beginning... As one built on top of the next, some tucking underneath the fold and protection of another's wings, the process got incredibly complicated and tedious, and took much diligence, deep breathing, stretch breaks, and focus.  I was again brought into awareness of how much this made me appreciate, if only metaphorically, the long and arduous process of those coming to this nation in search of a better life, not knowing what each new step would bring.

It was interesting to not have complete control of the process, as the sculpture shifted as it grew, and required many additional layers of melted wax to be applied from the underside as I delicately supported the entire thing upside down (I am certain I lost some oxygen during this stage of the process!).  I did not foresee that need coming, and was grateful for that tedious and careful execution to be over.

"Like the arduous journey of my great-grandparents and those courageous enough to cross oceans in hopes for a better life, these moth and butterfly fragments symbolize the beautiful diversity inherent in the creation of this country. The tenacity necessary for this labor-intensive sculpture made me contemplate the heroic efforts, sacrifices, and deep trust in the outcome that was surely present."

(alternate view)

"This sculpture changes dramatically with every angle viewed. Wings come together to provide shelter, integrity, and support, enabling those nearest the top, release. How we could learn from this interdependence, realizing our individual strengths become fortified and more beautiful when shared."

(alternate view)

 "Although many feelings were experienced in the creation of this piece, the one most deeply rooted, was gratitude. There are not adequate words to describe the appreciation I feel for my relatives, and all those who risked their lives in coming to America. I have a life of freedom, privilege, and opportunity because of their sacrifice. This sculpture is a tribute to all still on this journey."

(alternate view)