Saturday, January 23, 2010

Art as Tranquilzers

Stories are one of my first memories. My mother read to me everyday at naptime, and I always had a lot of children’s books. I remember my very first picture book; When Daddy Comes Home to Me was about a dad in a suit returning in the evening from the office. I was mesmerized by that daddy because he was so different from my blue collar daddy who came home for lunch each day from an auto parts store at the time. Another first book was a fat tome of stories about forest animals, elves and fairies playing with or tricking children in gardens. I drive down country roads now when the spring may apples pop up in ditches and on shoulders and find myself wondering if a mouse or a toad is serving tea and cake under those plant umbrellas.

I continued to love stories read by teachers at school, ones I read to myself, memories told at family reunions, or tales told by elderly neighbors. Then I began to write my own stories. Often now, I find myself frustrated by my lack of creativity or my limited new ways to see old stories. But then I remember I need to lighten up and enjoy the pleasure of the search. In The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron says, “Remember that art is process. The process is supposed to be fun.”

My brother-in-law found his own way to tell stories when he taught himself photography. He now has a small side business doing portraits. His settings and angles with people shots are impressive, but I love his inanimate objects because I think they each “talk” and tell a story. His portraits and prints may be seen and ordered at

DH deals in creativity another way. When first married and living in a tiny St. Louis apartment with no tools, he wanted to build something. He was designing wings and tools for airplanes at McDonald Douglas, but he wanted his hands on building materials at home. So he designed and built me a spice cabinet. It was imperfect in places, but I loved it and that wood project was a start. He now builds everything in his workshop from toy trucks to kitchen cabinets. I see stories in DH’s work too.

For example, a primitive chest is built from barn wood taken from a barn that once stood on the family farm. On the side are some holes in the wood made by a wood bee long ago. I picture DH playing and working in that barn that is now only a memory. When I wanted shawl pins, DH made several and some he made out of hedge or Osage Orange taken from trees on the family farm. I write daily at a desk DH built out of red oak purchased from two local Ozark suppliers who are always good for stories at their mills or outlets.

Julia Cameron says that words are “like tiny tranquilizers”. While I use words to exercise my creativity and as my “tranquilizers”, these men each use another process. But in the end we are all doing the same thing. We all are creating art, dealing in the stories of our lives, and I hope having fun on the way.


BECKY said...

What a great post, Claudia...and how talented is your DH!! :-)

Linda O'Connell said...

Claudia, glad I found your web site, I love it! I hope one of us - you, Donna, Cathy or I win that contest! Good luck. Check out my blog and feel free to sign on

Bookie said...

Thanks and welcome,Linda. Good luck to you on the contest too. I will definitely visit your blog later today...c