Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Busy Day Chicken - Mind Numbingly Simple


l.  Spray the bottom of the baking dish with a non stick spray...whatever size dish you have on hand.

2. Layer as many sliced potatoes as will fit in the bottom of the pan.

3.  Layer chicken pieces on top.  Whatever you happen to have.  I had thighs.

4.  Sprinkle with liberally salt, pepper, paprika.  I threw some thyme on top because I happened to have it growing in the kitchen.  You could use rosemary or leave it plain.

5. Cover with foil. (put NO liquid in it)

6.  Bake 350 for around l.5 hours.


(another Buddy Fergurson approved recipe!)

*I wouldn't not recommend chicken breasts for this dish.
They are not juicy enough.  If you do use them, add some water
to the bottom of the potatoes before baking and reduce the cooking time by at
least a half hour...or more.

Friday, November 7, 2014

You Are What You Read - Your Facebook Feed

It's been awhile since I posted in this blog, but like most artists who are fortunate enough to be able to express themselves through multiple platforms, I write when I'm inspired to write.
When the words fill my head, I write.
I paint, draw and take photographs when I'm visually inspired.
The last few months, the visual has definitely taken a front seat in my life.

This morning I read something on my Facebook page that has come up several times.
That I've actually posted about it on our Mind Body Spirit Marketplace page in the past.
A friend had requested that her friends post photos of baby animals to counteract all the hateful comments and negativity that she was seeing in her Facebook feed.
I had to ask myself...why?

 My Facebook feed doesn't look like that, and neither does the MBS page.
So I commented:

"I honestly don't see much hatred in my feed. In fact mine is usually full of artwork, nature and people posting positive, inspiring quotes. My 'FB friends' don't tend to post negative things or hateful, political spew. The one thing about FB that a lot of people overlook, is that what you see is totally within your own control. So people need to ask themselves....who 'do' you friend with that would post such negative things to begin with?? If I don't like what I see...I just block or unfriend...
I mean, why not?"

We become what we choose to feed ourselves.  
Not just food, but what we choose to ingest visually and auditorily too.  
What we read, what we watch, who we talk to...what we listed to and choose to focus on.  
Who DO we talk to?  
Who DO we choose to spend our time socializing with?  
Both online and off.
Does it make us more intelligent and informed?
Do we feel better or angry after we read it?
Does it bring us up, or dumb us down?

We make our own choices everyday that either uplift our soul or compel us to dive down and 
swim with the bottom feeders.
What do you think about in your spare time? 
And -
How do you think about it?
In positive or negative terms?

  Are you thinking about how much you dislike someone or how angry they make you?
Or do or you move your thought process on to more 
positive  thoughts?

It's all within your own control, you know.

  Good example:  
This morning I was talking with a friend in his yard.  
Yes, it would have been almost too easy to focus my attention on all the work he 
needed to catch up on around his house... but when I looked in his yard, his wonderful 
 little trees, the trees that he loves so much and has patiently cultivated and 
nursed over the years, 
stood out like little golden jewels. 
Their fall colors vibrated wildly in the sunlight.
They were simply stunning.  
(I'm obviously still thinking about them)

Next time you wake up in the morning and and find yourself mindlessly scrolling through 
your Facebook feed, ask yourself -
"Why do I choose to allow myself to ingest the things I do?
And - how does that not only effect my own well being, but the well being of others?
(especially when I choose to re-post)"

Don't become a Facebook drone.  
Disconnect from the things that do not bring you to a good place and move on.

Enjoy your day!

diane fergurson

Yellow Crabapple Tree Autumn Print courtesy of Jude McConkey Photography

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Monday, December 9, 2013

Mind Body Spirit Holiday Gift Picks

The Holiday Season has arrived, and once again Diane Fergurson and Abby Horowitz have put
together some of their favorite Mind Body Spirit related items that they have found online.  This is the
4th year that the Mind Body Spirit Odyssey has featured this list, and every year it's popularity
continues to grow. Some of the products that are featured may be familiar to you because they were previously featured on the Mind Body Spirit Marketplace Facebook Page, which is updated with new items everyday.  Others are Diane and Abby's personal favorites.  Some of the products are handcrafted and available from independent shop owners, others are traditionally manufactured and sold through online retail sites.

For additional gift ideas, you might want to revisit the  2012 Gift Picks List, and even go back and look at the 2011 Holiday Gift Pick List, and 2010  selections.

There is lot to look at and enjoy!  You will definitely find something for everyone on your list - and even for yourself!

Hope your Holiday Season is a healthy and happy one.  Stay positive and thank you for following The Mind Body Spirit Marketplace Facebook Page, Twitter, and Pinterest page.  Also for supporting and following this blog.  
(Oh, and don't forget to tell your friends about us -  spread the word!)

Gift ideas from Abby :

Connie, the creator of Eco Chic Soaps says that OH! Christmas Tree Handmade Soap smells just like the forest did when you were a kid chopping down that Christmas tree with your folks - piney, brisk and fresh. It's a fantastic "woodsy" scent; the pine notes really come out in the soap, making it a "must have" for the Holiday Season! Her shop is filled with wonderful gifts for the season! 

This handmade wire wrapped necklace features three rough-cut clear quartz crystals ranging in size from 1.12 to 1.25 inches, accompanied by silver moon and sun charms on hanging chains.  The perfect gift for your favorite Christmas Angel!  ArianaSierz creates a wonderful array of talismans, necklaces, and earrings featuring angels, fairies, deities, day of the dead, crystals and minerals. Seventeen year old Ariana has late stage Lyme Disease and the money she earns from her shop helps with the cost of her treatments.


HeidiLane created this lovely Gratitude Candle to create a sacred space to celebrate the holiday season, meditate, pray or simply sit in silence as you thank your creator for the gift of love and life. She hand rolls each candle upon ordering and lightly anoints each sheet of pure beeswax with her own anointing and blessing oil. Each candle has 1 mini clear quartz crystal tucked in the base that has been set with the intention of Gratitude and Giving Thanks to our Creator. Each beautiful crystal has been charged under the Full Moon and basked in the rays of the Summer Sun. Her shop is filled with wonderful gifts!

Julia Pasichnyck makes colorful environmentallyfriendly baby toys. This braided toy of wooden beech and juniper beads and organic cotton thread is the perfect gift for the special little one in your life!  She says that this interesting accessory helps your child to see and distinguish colors and develop fine motor skills. This toy is made entirely from natural materials in the Carpathian Mountains!

Lauren Gray’s shop was born of her love of woodworking, crystals, and minerals. She offers Crystal and Mineral Curio Sets as well as art prints, sage, and beautiful examples of her woodworking.
The smoke of white sage has been used for centuries as a natural incense and for smudging purposes. It is a great way to cleanse your home, your work space and of course your crystals and minerals of negative energy.

Robert from Belfast, Northern Ireland creates these lovely hand made Dreamcatchers.  You can choose one from his shop or have one created especially for you. Choose your favorite colors for web, trim, beads & feathers. A great gift to keep those bad dreams at bay!

When I found KV’s shop, I knew it was very special.  She tells us that it is her soul's purpose to bring us tools that help us to stay grounded during these shifting times as we move into a new epoch. She has created several items that help us to remember who we really are so that we can take charge of our life and truly BE the master co-creator we are so that we can set our dreams into motion. She offers custom Birth Chart Books up to 80 pages!  I know I’ll be ordering several of these.  Check out her wonderful shop!

Are you or someone you know struggling with expressing their creativity? This is an amazing gift for anyone who has wanted to draw, paint, write, or compose music. The Artist’s Way helps you to find the artist within through a 12-week program that takes you on a journey of discovery.  The seeker will learn how to unlock their hidden creativity, break through blocks, and how to connect with the energies of the universe. 

Kat O'Sullivan’s sells the most amazing Sweater Coats and lucky for us she also offers instructions on how to create your own!  What a perfect gift for someone who loves to sew and has lots of old well loved sweaters just waiting to be given a new life!  Check out her shop and see for yourself!  A wildly colorful Sweater Coat just may be in your future or someone you gift with her wonderful Guide to Sweater Coats!

Oriana Rodman’s SantaFeOrnaments Shop on Etsy is filled with enchanting examples of her colorful artwork that is inspired by the diverse cultures of her beloved SantaFe. The ornaments feature sacred hearts, retablos, owls & hawks, milagros, birds & hawks.  Stop by her shop and get lost in her imagination!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Gift ideas from Diane


Silver and Earth creates a gorgeous line of earthy, organic jewelry which combines natural elements with natural gemstones, fossils, and exotic beads.  Featured is a stunning Red Jasper and Silver Pendant - one of may gorgeous pieces in their shop on Etsy.  #SilverandEarth is also one of the original sellers in the Mind Body Spirit Marketplace when it was located on 1000 Markets.  I love how their work has evolved over the last few years.  so lovely ~

When we spotlighted The Yoga Poster earlier this year in our Marketplace on FaceBook, it was easily one of our most popular features.  The poster is a visual guide to the practice of yoga...and I can't think of a nicer, affordable gift to give someone who is really into their practice.
#TheYogaPoster can be purchased on Etsy.

I originally purchased Stones of the New Consciousness by Robert Simmons at a gem and mineral show earlier this year, but was surprised when I found out the other day that my local New Age Shop also had numerous copies in stock.  This book is not a lightweight intro reading guide.  It is a thorough, in-depth guide to sixty-two of the most important stones for awakening and healing, while exploring the attunement relationship between man and mineral.  Definitely a good gift idea for anyone interested in expanding their knowledge base on gems, minerals, crystals and healing. 

Also - if you have not checked out our intro series, Gemstones of the Zodiac, here is a link that will get you there.

I know what you're thinking....
I had my doubts too, but honestly, this is probably one of the best cookbooks to be released recently containing recipes for healthy, natural, clean eating.  This book has become a go-to both in my household for sure, especially since it contains recipes that are both gluten-free and vegetarian (although there are plenty of meat and fish dishes too).  Everything our family has cooked from this book has been wonderful.  Doesn't get any better then that!
Good job Gweneth!
Available on Amazon.

This is one of cutest kids' toys I've seen in quite awhile.  My First Buddha is one of several great items in Dharma Crafts' Children's Collection which is available on their website.  A portion of the proceeds from the purchase of My First Buddha goes to Save the Children, the world's largest child protection organization.

Lavender Cottage on Etsy is another former 1000 Markets shop that we had the pleasure to re-connect with earlier this year.  Sterling sliver artisan jewelry that is made by hand - the pieces reflecting love of the natural world around us.  Featured is their gorgeous Bee Ring, one of many stunning choices in this beautiful shop.

Colorado photographer Julie Magers Soulen is known for her stunning shots of the natural world.  Putting these images on to cards however, has given them a whole different life.  This gorgeous butterfly card set astounds me every time I see it.  One of many beautiful card sets available through her shop on Etsy.  A lovely gift for someone special! 

Another of our features which gained quite a bit of attention earlier this year, was the stunning, hand painted scarfs from Australian artist  #Shovava on Etsy.  A wonderfully unique gift that is definitely reasonably priced.  Many different wing and bird styles are available. Just gorgeous ~ 

Continuing forward with the winged theme...
Kino Lorber is releasing the DVD version of the very interesting and informative documentary More Than Honey in a few weeks.
It's available for pre-order from Amazon, or you can purchase it as a download.  The film profiles the current decimation of bees and beehives that is spreading globally.  50% to 90% of all local beehives have disappeared.  A very education and timely film...  Narrated by John Hurt.

In addition, last year as one of our Gift Picks, you may remember we featured a beautiful screen printed Bee Mandala Shirt by astrolaboratory on Etsy.  Part of the proceeds from that shirt go to the North American Pollinator Project.  Definitely worth checking out again ~

The Hermetic Tarot was originally released by US Games in 1979, and was brought back by popular demand.  I ran across the deck during my travels this summer, and was absolutely knocked over by the amazing black and white illustrations (by Godfrey Dowson) and also the powerful symbolism depicted.  This deck is a great addition to anyone's tarot deck collection.  Some people collect decks to use to use for divination, other people collect for the artwork.  Whichever you are interested in, this one is a must.  Very powerful deck ~  Available on Amazon.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Thank you to our blog contributors this year:


Galleira di Giani

Jude McConkey Photography

Karen Casey-Smith

Salt Springs Malas

Adam Fergurson

Darren Orr

Abby Horowitz Designs

Diane Fergurson

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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Blueberry Sorbet for a Hot Summer's Day

Since our household has been eliminating dairy from our diet, my husband has been on an experimental quest to find the perfect sorbet to replace the ice cream that we would normally eat on these abnormally hot summer days.  Blueberry seems to be the winner, hands down.  Thought I would share the recipe.  Enjoy, but I guarantee it won't last very long!

3 cups (1 1/2 pints) fresh blueberries, rinsed and drained 
(can use frozen unsweetened)
1/2 cup water
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

In a blender or food processor puree the blueberries with the water until smooth.
  Pour mixture into a large bowl.  Add the sugar and lemon juice.  Whisk to blend.
Cover and refrigerate until cold, at least 2 hours.  Whisk the mixture to blend and pour 
into the canister of an ice cream maker.  Freeze according to directions.  
Transfer to covered container and freeze until firm, at least 1 hour.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Gluten Free Apple Cake

It's BBQ season.  Cookouts and dinners with friends abound, and usually everyone 
ends up bringing a dish.  These days since I'm gluten free, one thing I 
learned early on - if I think I'm going to want dessert, I'd better bring some myself
 regardless if someone else is or not.
  This gluten free apple cake is a new addition to my repertoire.  I adapted if from an old apple cake recipe I had in my file box.  One of the great things about this cake is that it is not made from a mix.  People are always shocked to find out it's not only gluten free, but has buckwheat flour in it too!
  You'd never know.  It's definitely a winner!


1 1/4 cup raw sugar (or less)
2 eggs
1/2 cup oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups peeled, diced, raw apple
1 cup all purpose gluten free flour mix (I use the mix from William Sonoma)
3/4 cup buckwheat flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350.  Beat sugar and eggs together until thick and light.
  Beat in oil and vanilla, stir in apples.  Sift flours, salt, cinnamon, and fold into
the apple mixture.  Pour into oiled and floured 9 inch square baking pan.
Bake 45 minutes or until done. (time may be less).
Cool and sift powdered sugar over the top before serving.
Can also be served with ice cream.
This also makes great muffins.

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Friday, May 31, 2013

An Interview With Writer.ly Co-Founder Abigail Carter

When we interviewed Abigail Carter a few years ago, it was about the publication of her book, "Alchemy of Loss: A Young Widow's Transformation".  What has she been up to since then?  Well, she's co-founded the online marketplace Writer.ly to help bring together the talents of writers, publishers, editors, and designers into a mutually beneficial online community.  Since there are so many people in the Self Help and Spiritual Community who write, would like to write, or have self published their own work, I felt that learning a bit more about this wonderful new service could be valuable to quite a few people.  Make sure to pass this article on to anyone you know who may be interested in this terrific service!

                                                                                                                 ~ diane fergurson

MBS:  What is Writer.ly?

Abigail:  Writer.ly is an online marketplace where a writer can find service providers who will help them publish and market their work. It's a place where a writer can find a book editor, a cover designer, a social media expert, a web designer – you name it. It's also a place where someone can find a writer to help them, such as writing coach or a ghost writer. Conversely, it's also a place where service providers such as editors and designers can find work.

You can post a job – perhaps a manuscript that needs editing – give it a budget and a deadline and have editors bid on your job. You choose based on price, experience and ratings on the site posted by other people who have worked with that editor.

Writer.ly is also a community of writers and publishing experts working together to produce a successful, quality product.

 MBS:  Is it for illustration work too, or just writing content?  What about businesses who are just geared towards distribution?

Abigail:  Yes, there are illustrators on Writer.ly too. Writers need help with distribution as well. There are other websites out there who specialize in the distribution of ebooks (Bookbaby.com, for instance), but if you were to post a job needing help with distribution you would get bids.

MBS:  How did the idea for Writer.ly evolve?

Abigail:  My co-founder Kelsye Nelson and I met at a writing Meetup that she started several years ago, called Seattle Daylight Writers.   I had just published my book and had no idea that I was meant to do my own marketing, but learned a few things by talking to some of the other writers there. Some people in our group talked about needing an editor or a book designer and we realized there was no place where writers could find the people they needed to help them. Publishing a book requires a team of people and with the surge of self publishing going on right now, that has never been more true. Kelsye and I talked about this a lot and we got excited about this idea of bringing writers together with self publishing experts. But it was really Kelsye who formulated the idea for an online marketplace and was accepted into The Founder's Institute (http://fi.co/), a start-up incubator program that helped to build it into a real business. When she was a few weeks into the program, she came to me and asked me if I wanted to join her. I didn't hesitate, since I knew the need for such a marketplace first-hand.
We launched Writer.ly on January 25th, 2013 and now have over 3,600 people registered. It's been super exciting.

MBS:  Is Writer.ly for all levels or writers, or mostly just for those new to the world of writing and publishing?

Abigail: Writer.ly is for all writers, both brand new, self published and traditionally published. Even traditionally published, well established authors need marketing help, and new writers need coaches and good editors. There's something for everyone at Writer.ly.

MBS: Is this a pay service, or is it free?  When people sign on to the service, what can they expect?

Abigail: It is free to register, post a job and bid on a job. Writer.ly takes at 10% transaction fee, so it's up to the freelancer whether they want to pass that cost onto the writer, or absorb it into their own cost.

MBS:  In the Mind Body Spirit Community there are many first time writers and self published writers.  How can a service like Writer.ly benefit them?

Abigail: There is lots for a first time writer. It's a place where you could find a writing coach, and soon we will have services that will allow writers to select from a variety of services offered by our freelancers. Sometimes new writers don't actually know what services they need, so this new section will be a showcase of what's out there. As well, we are close to launching an educational section of the site that will enable people to learn about the craft of writing, self publishing and everything in between. Our philosophy is all about helping writers become successful, so everything we do is geared toward that goal.

MBS: Where do you see Writer.ly headed in the future?  What are some of the upcoming plans you have for it?

Abigail: I mentioned our "Offers" section which will be launching in a few weeks, and our "Community" educational section coming soon as well. We hope to create a vibrant community of writers, freelancers and self publishing specialists who work together to improve the quality of work that is being published in all the new forms available right now. It's exciting days for publishing right now, and we hope to open the door for more great work to be accessible.

MBS:  When you wrote your book, what were some of the biggest learning lessons you took away from it?

Abigail: In writing my book, I learned how much I actually needed to do myself. I honestly thought I could just sit back and let the publisher take care of everything. The reality is that I needed to build my audience, market my book and distribute it in any way I could. Some of those things happened almost by accident through writing my blog, but I could have done a LOT more to get my book into people's hands.

I am definitely going to self publish my novel. It will be a big undertaking, but I'm excited for the challenge.

Abigail Carter and Kelsye Nelson
Some other things about Writer.ly -

    •    We will be at Book Expo America on May 29-June 1st  at Javitz Center in NYC. (wanna come and visit our booth?).
    •    Guy Kawasaki (apethebook.com) is on our advisory board and is a big advocate of our service (see video below)
    •    Visit our Facebook page
    •    Twitter (@writerlytweets)
    •    Google+
    •    We also have a couple of really good webinars teaching people who to use Twitter
Part 1 and Part 2.

Thanks Abby, and good luck!

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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Mind Body Spirit Artist Series - Deborah O'Keefe

I was walking through the artist booth area at our local "Art in The Park" last month - chatting away, not paying much attention to what I was doing, when I happened glanced over to my right and was totally thunderstruck by Deborah O'Keefe's amazing work.  I was immediately drawn in to her tent (something that rarely happens to me) and I went back to her booth 3 times that day, the third time with my poor husband and his wallet in tow.  Deborah's story is a fascinating one, and the process she uses to create her stunning collage pieces is quite interesting.  I thank Deborah very much for this interview, and I hope you will enjoy reading about her wonderfully amazing work!

                                                                                                      ~ diane fergurson

Mandala:  Gran Cirque
MBS 1:  Tell us a little about yourself.  How did you get started in art.

Deborah:  My story shows--as many of our stories do--how one thing leads to another.  Creating has always been important to me.  As a young person I gravitated toward finely-detailed handwork such as embroidery, sewing, knitting, and quilting.  I also involved myself in some very complex doodling projects (remember paisley?) during high school biology lectures.  Music was also important to me, and for a time I considered majoring in piano performance in college, a goal I scrapped due to extreme performance anxiety, pursuing instead undergrad and graduate degrees in religion and Biblical studies.  Following the completion of my M.A., I worked for 7 years as an assistant editor on the staffs of two different religious weekly magazines.  That very disciplined apprenticeship in writing and editing eventually led me to move out on my own into the field of creative non-fiction (a memoir) and then fiction (two literary novels).  For more than a decade I wrote on my own, every day, all day, an enterprise I interrupted for a couple of semester stints teaching college writing and literature.

Guardian Angel

As a balance to the writing life, I found myself turning to collage.  In school I had always steered away from art classes because they seemed too subjective and unpredictable in outcome (i.e., grade) for someone as protective of GPA as I was.  But on my own, after years of visiting art museums and enjoying friendship and conversation with many visual artists, I began creating mosaics out of paper.  My love of quilts and the tile mosaics of antiquity, plus my enjoyment of making something out of nothing, seemed to find fulfillment in this enterprise.  Furthermore, the materials were all accessible to me--paper, scissors, Elmer's glue (and PVA), various salvaged substrate, and polyurethane varnish.  After my first novel was rejected by at least a hundred publishers and agents (really, it's not that bad!), I decided to print it in book form, folio by folio, and bind it into a book.  Thus in a period of a year I created 7 individual, handmade copies of The Matisse Bag which I embellished with beautiful papers and many small collages.  That project, which I had turned to in order to feel a sense of closure with the novel, opened me to the realm of book arts and altered books.

After completing my second novel, The Virgins of Manhattan, I attempted to begin writing a third book.  By then I was spending my evenings collaging altered books.  After about six false starts on the third novel, and with a divorce in process, I decided to move in the direction my creative energy seemed to be taking me to pursue visual art.  It was a difficult, frightening time for me.  During the 10 years of my marriage I had left the regular job market to write and occasionally teach, and had depended on my husband's income for economic stability.  When our marriage ended, with limited saving and no income, I found that a 50-something woman with a humanities background was not exactly a hot commodity on the job market.    Soon job-hunting seemed like a futile waste of my time.  I decided to treat the creation of book art as my full time job, to be careful with my savings, and then see what would come of that.  As fearful and distressed as I was during that time, after an hour or two of collaging I would calm down, feel optimistic, and find myself thinking more clearly. That led me to make a series of good, intuitive decisions which ultimately enabled me not only to survive but to grow creatively in every aspect of my life.  In retrospect I see that when I was making art I was in my "best mind"--positive, creative, hopeful, resourceful.

Since that time, early 2006, I have continued as a full time practicing collage artist.  I am self-taught, but highly mentored by the art I see and read about, and by many good conversations with artist-friends for whom I have much affection and respect.  For me art is not only a career, but a spiritual path that involves all that I am and who I am becoming.

Poesis Lyrica
MBS:  This is interesting, because for anyone who has seen your work up close your collages are made up of very, very, very tiny cut up words.  There is such a connection between writing and making visual art.  So many people I know, and also have interviewed, not only paint or make fine art, but they also write.  What are some of your thoughts about the connection between the two?

Deborah: I do use some words in my collages, although mostly I am working with non-verbal images. When I incorporate words into collage I am especially interested in languages I do not understand or even read phonetically--what I think of as "character" languages such as Chinese/Japanese and Korean, Hebrew, and Arabic.  They are beautiful to me as symbols, apart from my understanding of their meaning.  I also enjoy using words from languages which employ some recognizable images from our alphabet, such as Greek and Cyrillic.  For me some beauty, mystery, and breadth is evoked when I incorporate those symbols into a collage.

With regard, however, to the relationship between writing and other art forms, I wish to first observe that artists are often broadly creative.  For example, Kandinsky not only painted, but played the cello and also wrote.  Carl Jung was not only a great psychoanalyst and researcher, but a prolific writer, art historian, and visual artist.  People are what they are, and may exercise remarkable gifts in more than one discipline, depending on their abilities, interests, and the direction their energies take them. Furthermore, I believe the variety of disciplines one pursues may stimulate and inform each other in synergistic ways, so that one art enhances the other.  When I was writing full-time I found that visual art provided a welcome relief from the life of words.  Furthermore, as a writer, I became acutely aware of the limitations of language to express human feeling, truth, and the subtle shades of existence.  It seemed to me, then, that art was able to complement language and also go beyond it in providing elastic, non-verbal symbols that could speak to people in very personal ways.  Now I find, however, that words, if they are not imposed, but flow genuinely from me as I am creating a piece of art, may enhance the significance of the artwork, or place it in a context that inspires meditation in a particular direction.  Some long-form writers--I think of Herman Melville in particular (who was, by the way, a great art appreciator and collector)--turn to poetry in their later years.  I feel that my turning to art after so many years of writing non-fiction and fiction was perhaps my way of turning to poetry.  To me art is, in a way, poetry.

There was a time, also, when I was writing full-time, that I felt very sure of myself, of the nature of life and truth, and of my words about those things.  I now feel a different kind of confidence, or perhaps could better be described as a comfortableness or at least acceptance of how great is the mystery of life and human experience, and how little I truly know of it.  I feel now that my best place in the expressive arts is to be as open as possible to the depths of my being, and to impose as little as possible, to avoid preaching.  Of course I do impose something, for I decide to go in a particular direction with a piece of art, and I continue making decisions as I work to complete a piece; art is nothing if it is not doing.  One of the cardinal rules I learned as a writer was to show rather than tell. For me, then, making art is my best-yet fulfillment of that rule.  Furthermore, the making of art is carrying me into areas of exploration that are beyond words and beyond myself.     

No One's Perfect
MBS:  How do you feel that your spirituality connects with your artwork?  Through inspiration?  While you are creating it?  As perhaps even a subject matter?

Deborah:  Here is where I meet the mystery.  On the one hand, I might say that the conduit between my spirituality and my artmaking is largely unconscious.  On the other hand, and perhaps more accurately, I think there is no separation, that every aspect of my life, including my artmaking, involves and expresses my own spiritual self and commitment.  I do not attempt to make overtly religious art, but my passions for nature, symbol and sacrament, literature, and the Mystery do somehow come through.  Also, it appears to me that my belief in faith, hope, and love, along with the need to wrestle with the darkness in order to protect and promote those qualities, is somehow communicated through the art I make in various ways that are either unconscious or so familiar to me that what I am doing seems simply normal, natural, and routine, not "spiritual" or religious.  Art-making is for me a spiritual path in which I am learning to "walk by faith" (a Christian metaphor I grew up with) not only by following a financially risky vocational path, but by approaching each new art project with openness to a living process rather than unduly imposing myself--my ego, my cleverness, my pre-determined plan.

With regard to the artistic process, Henri Matisse, in his cut-out book, Jazz, said, "You must present yourself with the greatest humility, completely blank, pure, candid, your brain seeming empty in the spiritual state of a communicant approaching the Lord's Table."  I also think of the sculptor, Henry Moore, who decided not to read an article offering a Jungian interpretation of his artwork because he did not want to become too conscious of what he was creating when he made art and risk having that consciousness interfere with the purity of his process.  And then there is this somewhat inelegant but humorously articulate poem by Ogden Nash which I found in my college literature anthology years ago and for some reason have never forgotten:  "The goose that laid the golden egg/Died looking up its crotch/To find out how its sphincter worked;/If you would lay well, don't watch."

The most important way, however, that spirituality and art connect for me and for those who exercise creativity in any activity or profession, is that creating puts one in joyful communion with the Creator in a place where we may meet on a graciously level playing field.  So much in spiritual discipline is necessarily remedial:  repentance, forgiveness, the struggle for peace, harmony, unity, crying out for help or resolution of a problem.  It seems to me in many aspects of my life I am simply, as the Shaker hymn says, turning and turning to come 'round right'--to where I needed to be all along.  But there is, then, the creative, positive experience of adding something of value, of bringing into being what did not exist before through art or some other means.  For me creating is joy, an experience that draws me into my "best mind," and proffers the privilege of fellowship with the divine.

The Marriage of Sol and Luna
MBS:  How do you create your pieces?

Deborah:  There are various ways a new piece may come into being.  From a technical/material perspective, however, I almost always work with small, hand-cut (scissors) or torn pieces of paper--mostly recycled from a variety of sources--which I glue into some pattern, usually abstract or symbolic, onto various substrate (wood, books, found metal, CD assemblages, stretched canvas, matboard, or layers of watercolor paper.  (Virtually all of my substrate is recycled or salvaged material.)  I use Elmer's Glue- All for most of my work (buy it by the gallon!), and occasionally PVA, an archival white glue book binders and book artists often use.  I use a small metal stylus, touched to glue I've spread on the substrate, to pick up the small pieces of paper and maneuver them into place in the collage.  When the collage is finished I varnish it with 3 or 4 or more coats of polyurethane varnish.  Occasionally I use polycrylic varnish if I do not want any yellowing of the colors.  Mostly, however, I embrace the slight yellowing of the polyurethane, which antiques and warms the colors of the collage and helps to further coalesce the piece.

From an artistic/aesthetic perspective, I am often inspired by particular materials at hand that I would like to work with.  Sometimes I set down a larger focal piece or pieces in a way that interests me, and then begin to collage around what I have laid down.  Other times, when I am creating a mandala, I may simply begin with a center and begin to work in concentric circles.  And yet other times, I may even draw some lines to establish a basic structure for the collage.  Often I will make a rule for myself that I follow, for example, collaging in a particular color scheme, or in a particular pattern.  I try, however, to be open to what is happening in the collage, and to what is occurring in my mind as I am creating it.  Sometimes I come to a point in which I've been following a pattern and something in me tells me to break the pattern or rule I've been following in order to surprise myself, to experiment a little.  Building on what I've done before, I then try to do something different.  So I am in a continual process of trying to subtly overthrow what I have done in the past.  For me the art I do is a continual exploration of possibilities.  I always feel that I am reaching for something I will never fully grasp, but the journey is satisfying enough that it gives me more pleasure and satisfaction than distress and frustration.  I do return to familiar patterns, such as the mandala form, at the same time that I attempt to tweak that pattern and find something new in it that excites me.  Of course sometimes I am more successful than others.  Sometimes I create pieces I don't much like at the beginning.  If I don't sell them immediately and they stay around long enough, I often get used to them, maybe even like them, and may even begin to see that their virtues are more than I originally believed.  In any case, those pieces that seem less successful to me are often stepping-stones to to pieces that seem more successful.  But when I talk about what is a successful piece and what is not so successful, I also feel that I am making a judgment I am in no position to make, and that someday I may see it quite differently.

One more thing about my process:  I am continually inspired by nature.  I do not try to copy what I see in nature, but I do try to work the way it seems to me nature works.  For example, I appreciate the repetition and variation that goes into the way a spider spins a web, or the way a bird builds a nest.

MBS:  Do you have a favorite material that you like to use or a particular format you favor? Do you work on more then one piece at a time?

Deborah:  My favorite material is paper.  I seem to gravitate toward rich colors and textures, but I also try to mix it up, to see the possibilities in quiet, subtle colors, or in an almost colorless scheme (whites, ivories, and tans).  I love natural-seeming materials, such as old papers that have become very grainy, stained, fletched, and/or absorbent.  The form to which I seem to continually return is the mandala form.  I love beginning a piece in the center and allowing it to generate from that point.  To me it is like watching something grow.  At each point in the development of a mandala, once I have completed a ring, I am looking at something that has its own provisional wholeness.  As the mandala grows it grows more complex and the resonances of the colors, textures, and patterns becomes more rich and interesting.  But it is like watching a human develop.  A 7-year old child is as much a whole being as is a 27-year old or a 72-year old, but perhaps not as experienced or complex. Often a piece that is largely generated from the center outward possesses a special kind of energy.

Usually I work on one piece at a time, but there are times when I may have two or three (usually smaller pieces, often in different stages) going at once.  

In the Beginning Was the Sound
MBS:  What is a typical work day like for you?

Deborah:  I work every day in my studio, which is in the unfinished basement room of my house, a large room that includes the washer and dryer.  First thing in the morning I take care of my e-mail, deal with pressing business (e.g., paying bills, etc.), and then I begin collaging.  Usually that is interrupted sometime in the morning by the walk I take with my husband when he goes to his office. I walk part-way with him, then return home and work in my studio till he comes home around 6:00 p.m.  During the course of my work day I often jump up from my chair to warm up my coffee, check the mail, tend to the laundry, or get a drink of water or a snack.  Other than these small breaks, I work straight through unless I have errands to run to the post office or bank.  I am either collaging, or preparing the substrate for a collage, or varnishing.  The most time consuming part, of course, is the actual collaging, which is quiet, detailed work.  I almost always listen to music while I work, usually classical music I stream through my laptop, or a CD.  At the end of the day my husband calls me when he sets out from his office and I walk to meet him part-way.  Sometimes I go back to my studio for a little while to tie up loose ends, but I rarely work again after supper.  Sometimes on the weekends I will work a little in my studio if I am home and my husband is doing something on his own.  I have been keeping this sort of daily work schedule for nearly 20 years, first as a writer and now as an artist.  I learned that if I did not set my work schedule in a serious way no one else was going to set it for me.  Early in my career as an independent writer/artist, I learned that it was even more important for me to keep a strict schedule in that work than it had been for me to show up to the 8 - 5 editorial office jobs I had once held. The work that no one else is asking you to do will never get done unless you yourself are serious about doing it and then do it.

Question 6:  What has your online experience been like?  Do you have a website or blog?  Do you sell online?

Deborah:  About a year and a half ago my husband presented me with a Wordpress blog site, all set, named, formatted, and ready to go.  Since then I have posted many, many images of my artwork, with titles and prices, and about 15 blog posts.  People cannot purchase work through the site, but they can contact me via e-mail and purchase a piece directly through me.  I use the site in conjunction with the weekend art shows I do.  Occasionally I sell pieces to people who have gone to the website, but I believe in all cases, those people have first seen my work at art shows.  This year I have been so busy doing art shows and creating work for them that I have been regretfully neglectful of my blog site.

Globe 2
Question 7:  What are you currently working on?  Do you have any shows or anything in particular coming up?

Deborah: Right at the moment, about 12 inches to the right of my laptop, sits a small collage I started last night while my husband was taking a short, after-supper nap.  I've incorporated into the piece a large amount of a mostly red, nearly full-page ad from my husband's Wall Street Journal, plus a line of music, material cut from the inside lining of my utility bill envelope, a half-rusted, half painted disc of metal about the size of a quarter (but NOT a quarter), some scraps of red and black papers from which I once cut or punched small circles, had been cut or punched, and miscellaneous other papers.  I created a large portion of this collage this morning while listening to a recording of the Dalai Lama's recent presentation at William and Mary College, in Williamsburg, Virginia.  It is quite a surprising piece to me.  For the next 8 or 9 days, I am devoted to creating small-ish collages for a show I am doing in Tampa, Florida, the weekend before Halloween.  After that I will be creating work (i.e., replenishing) for a show in Savannah, Georgia, the second weekend of November.  My last scheduled show for 2012 is the weekend after Thanksgiving, at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, on Manhattan.  Somewhere in all this, I also need to prepare 7 or 8 small/medium pieces for a group show in November at Gallery 549 in Lafayette, Louisiana.  (I've been showing there since 2006; the artist-owner of the gallery, Donald LeBlanc, was the very first person to show and sell my art, in the fall of 2006; he is a friend, an artist whose work I appreciate and respect, and best of all, I trust him. When one has such a relationship with a gallery, even if the sales are small, it is worth nurturing.)  So I will be very busy till early December, at which time I'll be able to shift gears and create a couple of Christmas presents: a piece of space-related (i.e., planets, stars, galaxies) book art for my sister-in-law, and also a larger, preferably long, horizontal above-the-window piece for my husband for Christmas.  But don't tell!

 Question 8:  Any advice for those who would like to (seriously) pursue an artistic path?

Deborah:  Because making art is for me a spiritual path, the advice I have to offer is largely spiritual. I believe it is important for any person, whatever path they choose, to find what it is they are passionate about doing and then commit to doing and developing that.  Joseph Campbell said (I'm paraphrasing here, from memory) that the world is a wasteland of people who have stopped listening to themselves, and that the best thing any of us can do to improve the world is to find where our life is and then be alive ourselves.  "A vital person vitalizes," he said.  "Follow your bliss," he said. Following that is not always so easy.  It will take you on a life-journey that will discipline, develop, and transform you and your art, and influence and inspire others.

With regard to audience, don't pander, but do reach out, communicate.  For me, not pandering meant to not turn mandalas into clocks (which someone once suggested I do) because they might be useful and sell.  I did not like the idea, which seemed to me like a sell-out of what was truly driving me as an artist and a devaluation of my art.  For me, communicating means creating original, quality work on a variety of scales, and therefore in a variety of price ranges, so that people at every economic level can afford to purchase a piece of my art if they want it.  It is good for them and, of course, it helps me too.

My good friend Mare Martin, a very fine and experienced painter and print maker, told me over the course of several coffees and meals together, three things I often think of when I am working:
1.  "I always work with my mistakes."  (She did not say "erase" or "get rid of" or "throw away"; she said "work with."  What one may think of as a mistake may in fact be the fortuitous accident that brings energy and originality to a piece, if you work with it.
2.  "Don't listen to that voice in you that says, 'Why are you doing this?  No one needs this.  It's already been done.'"
3.  "I try to push a piece to the point of failure."  That's where the discoveries happen, where the new ground is broken.
Another friend of mine, also a painter, once said to me "No one painted more bad paintings than Picasso."  What he meant was that Picasso was not only incredibly gifted but incredibly prolific, and out of that abundant work emerged many, many masterpieces.  I believe that the works of mine that I judge as inferior (and really, who am I to judge?) are part of the artistic process that prepares for and generates the "masterpieces."  

Don't be discouraged if not everybody likes or understands your art, because not everybody will.  Be true, grow, and you will find and develop a community of individuals to whom your art speaks.

Finally, if you want to make a living as an artist, you will probably need to be as creative with your finances as you are with your art.  For me, that has meant living as simply as I can, taking risks (i.e., when the time was as right as it was going to get, quitting a part-time job to make art full time), and as much as I dislike saying this, accepting a certain amount of debt for a limited time--something many new business owners have to do, with the hope their enterprise will become profitable and enable them to pay off the debt.  The history of art, music, and literature is abundant with impoverished (either temporarily, or for a lifetime) luminaries.  Of course a lot of money can be and has been made in art.  But if you'll notice, most of the six-figure art sales at Sotheby's are for the work of dead artists.  Although that seems to be where a lot of the money is, it is still an advantage, in my opinion, to be a living artist, which is what I hope to be for a long time to come.

Thank you Deborah!

You can read more about Deborah and her work on her blog at ameliamandala.wordpress.com.
You can email her at ameliamandala@gmail.com

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