Tracking an idea
People often wonder where artists get their ideas from. It's a question I've been asked a lot and rarely have an answer for.
But I was thinking last month, that after the last few years of dealing with breast cancer and recovery from the treatment, and the attendant "brain fog", which made larger work almost impossible; this year I was feeling more normal and needed something that would stretch me in various ways. I wanted to expand my bead vocabulary, of course, but I also wanted to do a piece that would explore some of my spiritual views and perhaps also work as a vehicle for healing. Pretty large burden to put on a bunch of tiny beads, but they came through for me as they always have.
So, that was my state of mind as I was surfing along the web for inspiration (as I do almost daily) and I was led by a friend to the website of a Seattle painter named Michael Schulteis and I was reading the small statements he made to go along with each of his paintings in a show at the National Academies (of Science) in Washington, DC. I really like his work and artists' processes have always been an interest, so I was reading along and came to a quote from the Japanese poet, Basho. I liked the quote, so when I was done looking through Michaels exhibit, I googled the book he was quoting from, Narrow Road to the Interior. The quote from Michael (just a sentence or two) was expanded and I found that this small book was considered Basho's masterpiece in Japan and that I could read a bit of it on Amazon. It really grabbed me and I decided I needed a copy. Naturally, it's translated from the Japanese, but what I didn't realize is that it's been translated several times, by different translators, into English. A friend sent me to a website where there were 4 different translations, along with commentary but none of them were the translation I wanted, nor were any of them the same! This was something I hadn't really thought about before, but, it's certainly obvious when you do, that each translator brings his own interpretation to the translation! Wow, that blew me away! I also realized that if I had come across one of the other translations, it wouldn't have caught me at all. Only the translation by Sam Hamill turned Basho's words into the poetry that grabbed me.
By reading about it, I found that this little book, which is basicly a travel book about a jaunt that Basho takes into the northern interior of japan is also (according to Sam Hamill) "a long journey to the soul's interior"....now that really hooked me! Sounded just like what I had been thinking about exploring myself.
So, I thought about using this small book as inspiration for a beaded piece....but, although it was a small book it had a lot of "meat" to it, so maybe a series of pieces? Then, in one of the online commentary sites, the parts of the book were described as "stations" (one for each of the places Basho visited, plus one for a prologue and one for an epilogue); and there were 44 stations in the book.
At that point I thought of a glass "quilt" that a local artist makes of glass....she does many small glass squares, ties them together with wire and hangs them as a single piece, a glass quilt. I thought I could do 44 small pieces and at the end put them together some way as one large piece, inspired by and honoring the book.
So, that's where the idea came from...there are still lots of decisions to make about connecting the pieces, how to back them, what size, etc., etc., etc. Not to mention how to do my own translation of Basho into Beads.
I do know I'm using both meditation and personal imagry and that so far, it's a much slower process than I expected. I was thinking about doing a piece a week, but this first piece isn't even close to being done and the first week is over.
I started this piece, in terms of putting beads and thread to fabric on January 1, 2007.
When I finish this first one, I'll post the station of the book that inspires it and add a few more words about process.