Beauty from Brokenness
Falling totally in love with our first horse, Chad, who came into my life when I was forty and our son, Evan, was five, was a dream come true. Facing his death four years later as a senior gentleman was completely devastating. Burying his huge physical form on our property was a bittersweet comfort, but I could not conceive that his presence would not be the same after all he offered us. It was incredibly painful for me to go near the stable and I left buckets hanging on the fenceposts in the pasture untouched for months.
In my first book, Beauty From Brokenness, Bits and Pieces of My
Journey Into Wholeness, I shared the story of how I began creating
my own mosaics. In short: My husband, Gary, and Evan surprised
me with a wonderful Italian dinner that they made for my birthday.
The then ten-year-old Evan, posing as a waiter, escorted me
to the table with a linen napkin over his arm and my mascara
brushed above his lip to create a moustache. After enjoying a
delicious meal, they asked me to leave them alone to bake my
favorite cake: carrot with cream cheese frosting. It was hard
to protest such a gesture, even late on a school night, so I took
the dogs upstairs and began to read. A few minutes later, I heard
Gary hollering up the stairs, asking where we kept the grater for
the carrots. As I re-entered the room, I watched in slow motion his
elbow connecting with a stack of antique bowls that I had collected
over many years go crashing to the floor when he was rummaging in
the cupboard below. Gary and Evan looked at each other and then
at me when Evan wailed, “We’ve ruined your birthday!” Naturally, I was
disappointed, but reassured them that their idea to make my day
special was what I would remember and that I would ask an artist
friend to help me make something meaningful from the shards. I called
my friend the next day and she assured me that I should be the person
to create something out of what was so meaningful for me. She talked
me through the process and I was hooked. It made me realize that I had
a lifetime history of creating art from ‘found’ and damaged materials-
--breathing new life into something discarded and unwanted. Creating
‘beauty from brokenness’ became my motto for living, hence the title
of my first book, with a mosaic as part of the cover art. Since I use
damaged vintage materials and other found objects, they are very
much in the genre of what is known as ‘bits and pieces’ mosaics.
Initially making pieces for family and friends, I began getting requests to take them to shows, retail outlets and have magazine features and teach classes. As I progressed in my ability and passion and outgrew my garden shed, I began using Chad’s wonderful stable as my studio where my healing and grieving his loss really began. I continued to resist Gary and Evan when they suggesed we find another horse, not ready to fall in love again so deeply again when the ending felt so sad.
Creating mosaics after Chad’s death became a shining example of the healing process of art therapy that I have such a deep belief in and now use in facilitating equine guided learning and development, thanks to mentors and friends, Kim McElroy, www.spiritofhorse.com and Sandra Wallin, www.chironsway.com.
Another birthday rolled around and this time my surprise was a beautiful golden mare named Chasta. To say that Chasta turned my world upside down, literally, and inside out would not only be true but an understatement. For one thing, I was scheduled to give a class that weekend on how to create mosaics and all of my supplies were stacked in the stable. They had been carefully labeled and arranged for me to pack in my truck and were now pushed off into corners to make room for fresh grass hay and my new equine teacher. What happened over the next years is recorded in my books, with the stories courtesy of the horses we have been so blessed to share our lives with---all thanks to Chasta and the soft-hearted guys who brought her home.
Kim McElroy introduced me to the very talented graphic artist and designer, Davina Andree, who created my website, www.woodylanefarm.com and did all the graphic art for my books. When Davina came to visit our farm, she loved the equine-themed mosaics I had on display. She asked me to be an equine mosaic artist on her site, www.earthwindandhorses.com, which features world-class artists who portray the beauty of horses. As honored as I was to be asked, I explained to Davina how difficult it was to find the pieces, how expensive they were, and that I did not want to incorporate intact items into my creations, and all the reasons why it would not be possible. She simply smiled and assured me that my limited thinking response was not characteristic of me and that I would find a way.
Davina, as usual, was right. Rather than focus on what was difficult, I started thinking and imagining the possibilities. I contacted another mosaic artist who taught me to make molds of my vintage equine shapes, so that I could form flat-backed dimensional shapes in clay, glaze and fire them. Another friend showed me how to make tiles from my large collection of copyright-free antique equine paper emphemera, much of it from another century. I was teaching a workshop on mosaic technique when I mentioned that I was looking for a second-hand kiln and “Voila,” one was given to me, and delivered! Suddenly I realized with a new and fresh outlook that life, indeed, is a mosaic of all that we are and do. Do we allow ours to happen to us or do we create our own beauty from our circumstances - many of them broken and beyond our control? Chasta and I were broken inside and out and now are deeply bonded, our mutual love making us whole again.
Each mosaic is one-of-a kind and tells a story. Some are mirrors since Horses Are Our Mirrors that reflect to us our deepest inner being and help us to embrace and heal our shadows. Some are garden- themed since Horses Help Us Grow. Some call on indigenous wisdom of all cultures since Horses Are Good Medicine. Some inspire us to find our best cowgirl and cowboy or dressage dancer, muse or whatever it is that our hearts desire in our healthy relationship with horses that reflects the true partnership that Horses In Art Magazine is helping to define and expand.
I am and always have been madly in love with horses, so inspiration is everywhere. Pressing antique lockets and the seams of old worn jeans into clay makes unique shapes and textures. A Depression Era candy dish that belonged to Evan’s Great-Grandmother makes a detailed border. Hand painting new pieces made from molds of old things and glazing them with colors that compliment shards from vintage broken plates creates an absolutely unlimited palette. My mind’s eye sees each mosaic completed before I start, so it is a deeply meditative process for me. I am simply filling in a complex puzzle in present moment time. Each piece is a prayer sent out to all life. Clay is a very evocative medium - we are clay - of the earth. Every culture has decorated clay in their most sacred rituals - from wedding feasts to celebrations of life at memorials.
Since I am regularly asked if I have a DVD or CD to accompany my class or for those who live out of my area, I am in the process of creating an interactive CD with a wealth of information and inspiration about my techniques that will be linked to many other resources. I hope to have it available sometime this year. My true message is far more than sharing sources for materials or how-tos, but to learn to live in the creative flow of energy that nourishes and sustains us all. Whether or not you ever create a mosaic of any kind, inspiring you to learn to be the artist of your own life is my mission statement and purpose.
This is another important way for me to express to the world the beauty and magnificence of horses. If people stop to take a look at the details from one of my intricate mirrors with images of horses, I hope it takes them back to the moment when they touched their first pony and inhaled the sweet aroma of horsehair and grass hay. To remind them that Pony Longing is life’s longing for the divine, and our connection to all life. Life is a mosaic. Live yours! Love yours! It is never too late to have a happy childhood and create Beauty From Brokenness.