Tuesday, July 26, 2011


You gotta click on this and look at it more closely.
Awhile back I posted about trading a Wooliverse sculpture in exchange for a surprise painting from a really good friend and artist.  I recently received my original Randy O painting, and I LOVE LOVE LOVE it!!! 

Lizard's are a special animal to me, not just because they enjoy laying on warm rocks, but because they represent existing with one foot in the dream world, and one foot in regular consensus reality.  This painting, acrylic on canvas, it's hard to do justice to it with a photo. . .it is such a shimmering and vibrant piece.  I'm so touched, I don't really know what else to say.

Randy. . .Thank you!

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Old Ball and Chain

Heart lock and key.
 Pictured here is a solid wool, near-life size replica of a classic ball and chain.  It's the largest needle felted sculpture I've made.

I really like the idea of the object itself, duplicating solid iron in light, soft merino wool. 

I had fun with the romantic sub-text.  Being called a "Ball and Chain" is definitely not romantic, but love and relationships do have obligations and commitments.  It struck me as romantic to turn the ball and chain idea on it's head, and instead of a burden, show it as something warm, fuzzy and cute.  And maybe a bit sexy, depending on your perspective.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A New Direction

(Please read my previous entry "What Does Magick Have to Do With Anything.")

Recently I have been sculpting with wool less, and playing with other techniques, like painting wool on canvas,  2.5 dimensional applique sculpting, and wet felting.  I've also expanded the types of yoga I've been practicing to include Kundalini (the results of which sort of remind me of Israel Regardi's Kabbalisitic "Middle Pillar Ritual." ) It's been fun, but for the longest time it seemed like it was going nowhere. 

Pre-sculpted wet felt

I've decided to share the story behind a new creation because. . . well, I like to share no matter how nutty it's gonna make me sound. 

So I had an idea that was an integration of all the experiments I've been doing with wool.  I wanted to create a wet felted "wall hanging" with a very primitive look to it, sort of like an animal pelt, and to use that pelt as the "canvas" for sculpting an image onto.  My idea was to combine "pop and primitive" and I wanted to do an image of H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu (because I enjoy Cthulhu as an image, and wool locks work well for his tentacled face.)  But as is often the case, what I WANT to make and what ends up actually getting made aren't the same. 

When I conceived the idea I had for weeks been in a near constant state of bliss, practicing yoga with a renewed energy and interest, and swimming regularly.  Not that it probably matters, but this was shortly after the lunar eclipse.  It wasn't until the moon was moving into Capricorn (goat) that I was ready to get working.  Then a series of interruptions happened.  Just mundane life stuff, but I let it get under my skin until I let myself get into a really angry place, really resenting that "my only day off to fully work on the new idea" was getting "ruined."  It was pretty ugly.

 I calmed down somewhat and went to my kundalini yoga class, which I hadn't been doing for very long.  This type of yoga deals with raising energy located at the base of the spine.  When I had done this class before, it always left me feeling invigorated, light, joyous and filled with a love that seemed to radiate from my core.  On this day, the anger I had been feeling was gone afterwards, but in it's place I was just tired.  About two hours later I was running a fever and went to bed.  I slept for nearly two days.

When I was feeling well again and had an open space to work I began with a deep mediation, followed by contemplation of a single tarot card.  I used a different deck than normal (Bohemian Gothic Tarot) and I don't know why.  I only have the deck because I enjoy the artwork in it.  I drew the seven of wands.  Sevens represent a degradation of their element, and wands are fire or primal energy.  This particular deck is unusual in that it associates this card with a goat image.

Mounting the piece
 I had actually prepped and laid out the wool for wet-felting some days before.  The process of wet felting can be really surprising, especially when you use a number of different types of wool.  The way it shrinks brings about shapes and edges that you can't predict.  The picture of the wet felted piece above was quite different than I expected and it's shape was all wrong for the Cthulhu image I'd wanted to sculpt on it.  But there were five definite points and an implicit goat shape.

I was actually doing this piece as final project for a mixed media sculpture class, and one of the things the instructor had been emphasizing was the juxtaposition of topic/image with material.  How perfect then, to evoke an image of a goat in the hair of sheep?  Not exactly a profound idea but the individualist/goat emerging from the herd/sheep was thematically coherent and the essential shape was suggested by the way the wet-felt had dried, like Jesus in a corn tortilla. 

Fuzzy Ears Are Fun to Rub!
 The process of actually sculpting the image, as is often the case, flowed almost unconsciously and even now seems sort of like a dream.  But it was a goat alright.  Of sorts.  And so soft and tactile (pure merino wool). . .it's ears feel really, really cool. 

I had also originally planned on hanging this piece by tying the four corners to a frame of sticks, but that just seemed all wrong.  It just seemed to beg for rusty nails and ragged old wood--like nailing an animal hide to a decrepit barn.  I figured there would be no way I'd find the right wood mount before the sculpture class ended, but I literally stumbled onto exactly the right size (and decrepitude) of wood on a morning walk at Ocean Beach. 

I thought about leaving out this next little bit of info as being a too creepy and weird--even for my most open minded of friends, but well. . .I've gone this far.  And synchronicity is interesting.  So here it goes.  The morning after I finished the sculpture (but before I had nailed it to the board) I snapped a quick pic of the piece with my phone. . . and happened to notice that it was the 666th picture on my memory card.  And when I checked my email right after that, I had received a notification that was time-stamped at about the same time as I was finishing the sculpture.  It was a notification that my "Bastet" sculpture had been featured in a "Goddess Treasury" on Etsy.

Bastet was created back in November of 2010, and prior to this experience, was the single most intense visionary and artistic experience of my life, and preceded a phase of true and meaningful personal growth.  How fitting that this goddess should get her first exposure in a treasury at the exact same time I was finishing an ancient god-image (Baphomet) associated with fertility, virility and individuality? 

I don't make too much of all this, but I don't dismiss it.  What does it all mean?  Anything?  Nothing?  Selective perception?  Coincidence?  Who knows.  All I know is what it feels like.  It feels like hard work.  Like overcoming challenges.  Like growing pains.  It feels like being the goat, being an individual, is painful business.  Because it means being honest and embracing the entirety of one's humanity: the animal, the angel, and yes, even the demon.

This piece just begged for a dramatic tongue-in-cheek "heavy metal" cliche photograph.

What does magick have to do with anything?

My Etsy profile says "Armed with mythology, pop culture, magic, yoga--and some really sharp felting needles--I pursue the deities, faerie folk, and strangely beautiful creatures hidden in humble locks of wool through a process that often feels more like conjuring than creation." 

How much of that is whimsy?  What do I mean by magick?  I have mentioned consciousness and magick previously in this blog, but I have kind of shyed away from talking much about it because I know it is scary to some people.  However, because of the nature and circumstances of my most recent adventures in the Wooliverse, and I wanted to address the topic head-on.

I am by nature a scientific rationalist, and a skeptic.   I do not believe in the "supernatural" (though as a skeptic I don't completely rule anything out.)  What use does a rationalist have with "magick?"  Or with things like the Tarot?  Or mythology for that matter? 

Mythology and Pop Culture are both great sources if imagery.  And Pop Culture is itself a rich of form of mythology (think Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, or H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos.)  Tarot is also a system of symbolism (it is, in fact, a brilliant pictoral representation of the human psyche and our journey through life.)  Symbolism is a powerful way for the conscious and unconscious mind to communicate. 

When I say "Magick" I'm referring primarily to techniques that unite the conscious and unconscious mind, or at least allow communication to occur between the two in such a way as to stimulate not just creativity but self-awareness.  Training the mind with archtypal/universal symbols such as those found in the Tarot is one way to increase your ability to travel more deeply into yourself to find understanding about who you are, and why.

For me, creating things out of wool is a very primal and magical experience most of the time.  Felting is such a slow, repetitive process that even if I haven't initiated a new creation through ritual or meditation, I often enter into what I can only describe as a hypnotic state.  Many creative people--musicians, writers, painters, poets-- describe feeling this way when working.  I can literally lose awareness of everything else around me. 

I am a beginner as a visual artist.  I am a beginner in my practice of yoga.  I am a beginner, honestly, at "being P.J."  I have learned a LOT about myself the last couple of years while exploring the "Wooliverse."  I am slowly learning to SEE, and to be a happy person. 

Some things that come out of the process are dark, because those are aspects of myself that rise up and must be confronted.  Other things are whimisical and fun because I am that too.    Magic, tarot, yoga, explorations of consciousness. . . I have definitely known people who think that is all just "satanism" and I can only feel sorry for people limited by fear.  The scariest thing is really knowing yourself, both your ugliness, and the deep responsibility of your true beauty.  Those are things I'm dealing with in my practice--of yoga, art, and magick, whether the end result be a goofy looking brightly colored snail, or a hideous monster.