29 December 2011

My New Year's Gift to You: Slow Down

I guess it is right about time to wish you a successful and healthy new year.

I would like to wish for myself to keep having you by my side on the path to sustainability and simplicity. I am sure we could all benefit from that.

I started the year with 0 followers, 0 pageviews and 0 blogging experience. I finish it with more than 2000 subscribers and more than 100000 pageviews a month. But behind those numbers are you! Thanks to you I have exceeded all my expectations ever. 

Thank you to my sponsors who have trusted me to showcase your lovely eco-friendly creations, your thoughts at the process of creations and your generous giveaways and discounts.

Thank you to all of you, amazing new blogging friends, to whom I look for inspiration and who have been by my side in all my endeavors in the past year. Thank you for your words of appreciation and honest opinion. You have been my driving force.

Please, have my New Year's gift to you. I designed a wallpaper you can download for free and I hope it will inspire you and will set you in the right mood always. I already have it on my desktop and I imagine how if you set it as well we will be connected in a wonderful and simple way.

With the wallpaper comes my wish to you: every time you feel stressed out in the coming year, remember to SLOW DOWN and relax. Things will be alright as long as you are able to hear your inner voice.

Click to download (choose between bright or dark bunny):
iPhone4 - bright | dark
iPhone - bright | dark
iPad - bright | dark
1024x768 - bright | dark
1920x1080 - bright | dark

26 December 2011

Dreams Do Come True

It's quiet. Only the hurricane passing through Norway, beating branches against my window disturbs the fragile equilibrium of the late Nordic darkness. It is the second night of Christmas when miracles happen or so we humans tend to believe. Because really, we are the agents of everything that happens to us. We are where we are because at some point in our past we thought of this place - emotional or physical; good or bad. And we dreamed it hard enough to make it happen.

The quiet night will extend into the muffled empty space between two celebrations. A 6-day period of leisure, cozily lit warm homes and time spent with loved ones. Free of goals and achievements. A good end to a year and a wonderful preparation for a new one.

In this short period of time it has become customary to re-evaluate the year past and to plan ahead for the new one. In fact, people have been doing this since Babylonian times, which makes for a pretty well-grounded tradition of roughly about 3000 years. We like to evaluate, judge, learn from mistakes and most of all, we like to dream.

Photo: kanelstrand

The New Year's resolutions you will be heavily advised to write down on beautiful freely downloadable printables on every other web site are the critical first step to fulfilling your dreams, don't deem them banal. Your dreams get conceived in the serenity of your mind. But to give them life you need to take them out to the bright world. Writing a dream down sets the process of its fulfillment. Trust me. I know from experience.

Once you start believing that you have the power to fulfill your dreams you will get stunned because they will start coming true. Inevitably. They have no other choice. 

Dream big. Dream ridiculously positive and don't be judgmental. Instead of listing the reasons why your dream will not do in real life, just write your dream down and read it out loud. See it happening. Remember it happening.

The process has now begun.

It doesn't matter if your dream is a new year's resolution, or if it sounds weird, unachievable, weak or too ambitious. Once you can see the outlines of the words that describe it, once you can touch the paper and smell the ink your mind and the whole universe will start working for its fulfillment.

Don't worry. 

Don't judge.

State your dream.

Trust the process.

P.S. Now don't just nod in agreement or disbelief. Take out a sheet of paper and write down a dream. Then come and join the Simple Living challenge. You will thank me later.

24 December 2011

Scandinavian Christmas: The Tradition

Every country has its own distinctive Christmas traditions. In Norway, the Christmas season starts with decorating the house. It is quite common for Norwegians to organize winter gatherings for a shared handmade decoration experience. Advent calendars are very popular as well to count the days to Christmas. On the fourth Sunday before Christmas, when Advent starts, all local and national choirs and bands start their annual Christmas performances in churches throughout the country.

Photo. VisitOSLO

In every Norwegian town a huge Christmas tree is lit on the first Sunday of Advent, followed by a big celebration. When the tree is lit people hold hands and dance around it in a circle. It stays up until the 13th January – the official end of the Norwegian Christmas season. Traditionally Oslo sends 3 Christmas trees as a symbol of friendship to Reykjavik (Iceland), London (UK), and Rotterdam (Netherlands). The trees are Norwegian spruces and are decorated in traditional Norwegian style, with white lights.

Photo: kanelstrand

On December 23rd is Little Christmas Eve and on that day the Christmas tree at home is lit. The whole family takes part in its decorating. The decorations include handmade heart baskets, paper chains, Norwegian flags and gingerbread figures. You would rarely find a home with a plastic Christmas tree in Norway. Norwegians prefer to use real Christmas trees. The needles sure make a big mess, so a special tree mat is placed underneath to collect them. The trees don’t go to waste – at the end of Christmas they are used for firewood.

Photo: kanelstrand
At 4 pm on Christmas Eve the church bells ring to announce that Christmas has officially started. This also starts the first Church service for Christmas. Christmas Eve dinner is set on the table with traditional dishes - ribs, white Christmas sausage, lutefisk (literally lye fish), pinnekjøt (cured, dried and smoked lamb) or ham, winter vegetables, sour kraut, rich gravy and cranberry sauce. Gløgg, (mulled wine with spices, nuts and fruit) is a common Christmas drink. The family sit and enjoy dinner together with Christmas carols playing in the background.

When Julenisse (Santa Claus) comes the family sings a Christmas song to him before he hands out presents and treats to the children. The family open presents, play games, sing carols and spend the rest of the night having fun.

Christmas day is a time to visit family and friends. Churches have services and children play with their new toys or go outside in the snow. For dinner extended family come together for a big Christmas feast.

Photo: kanelstrand

Christmas Day is the first day of Christmas. Following are 20 days of juletid (Christmas time) celebrations. This day is also a flag raising day in Norway. Many Norwegians have flag poles in their front yards or attached to the house for hanging the national flag on special days of the year. Normally the flag goes up at sunrise and is taken down at sunset but since there are not sunrises or sunsets during the dark season in Northern Norway, 10am and 2pm are used as the standard times.

The Second Day of Christmas, Boxing Day, is also a public holiday to relax and enjoy family.  From Boxing Day until New Years Eve it is called Romjul (Space Christmas) which is the ‘space’ between Christmas and New Years.  It is a quiet time of Christmas where the streets a bare and the shops have limited hours as Norwegians spend this time with family.  However, the local sledding hills and parks are filled with families skiing and sledding, and having bonfires and BBQs in the snow.

God Jul 
is how we say Merry Christmas is Norwegian.
I wish you warm and shared moments filled with love!

How are you celebrating Christmas in your part of the world? Share with us in the comments.

23 December 2011

Scandinavian Christmas: The Christmas Heart

It is an old Scandinavian tradition to make woven paper or felt hearts to fill with candies or nuts and put on the Christmas tree. The Christmas tree in Scandinavia is not as lavishly decorated as in the U.S. and instead it has mainly handmade ornaments, the Norwegian flag and Christmas heart baskets. 

Woven heart baskets are typically made from paper or felt in two contrasting colors, usually red and white and every school-age child in Norway knows how to make them by the age of 10. 

Photo: Helena of Craft and Creativity
In fact, you can see the Christmas heart in all Scandinavian nations. Some Danes say it is the symbol of the heart of Christmas (love and respect) and was invented by Hans Christian Andersen in the late 19th Century.  In the past, the hearts filled with treats were the only gifts the children received after dancing around the Christmas tree and singing Christmas carols.

You can find a very easy to follow picture tutorial as well as a template for the Christmas heart basket on the Craft and Creativity blog.

I hope the Scandinavian Christmas heart will bring the love and respect to your house!

22 December 2011

Scandinavian Christmas: The Gingerbread House

Gingerbread was brought from Asia to Europe in 992 by the Armenian monk Gregory of Nicopolis. While he lived in France for a period of 7 years, he taught the Gingerbread cooking to French priests and Christians.

During the 13th century, the knowledge was brought to Sweden by German immigrants. In 1444 the Swedish nuns were recorded baking gingerbread to ease indigestion. It was the custom to bake white biscuits and paint them as window decorations. Gingerbread became widely available in the 18th century.

In Scandinavia, the most popular form of ginger confection are the gingerbread cookies. They are thin, very brittle and are associated with the extended Christmas period. In Norway and Sweden the gingerbread cookies are also used as window decorations. It is a long standing tradition to bake gingerbread cookies and to make gingerbread houses covered with a variety of candies and icing with kids.

The newspapers in Norway are bursting with gingerbread houses photos around Christmas and almost every town in Norway puts on display collections of gingerbread houses made in kindergartens, schools and homes creating magical gingerbread towns but the one they make in Bergen is supposedly the world's largest such town.

Here are some photos from Norway and Sweden to put you in the festive gingerbread mood.

Photo: pvv.ntnu.no

Photo via Milda
Photo: FinnLover via Yumsugar
Photo via Milda
Photo: VisitBergen
Photo: Bergen Sentrum
Photo: Byens Næringsliv
Photo: Torild Storvik Malmedal via VG
Photo via Milda
What are the Christmas traditions you enjoyed as a child and want to keep alive?

Source: Wikipedia

21 December 2011

The Minimalist Guide to Christmas

Christmas is just a breath away, the excitement is rising and minimalistic though we are, there will be presents and joy, shared moments with friends and relatives. Oh, who doesn't like the bonding on Christmas!

This holiday season, we are keeping Christmas merry, minimalistic and plastic-free! How? It is really not hard, in fact it is quite easy and I have already posted some of the steps my family is taking towards a sensible and green Christmas.
  1. Make your own gifts by repurposing, reusing and recycling at home. The Kanelstrand blog is abundant in fast and easy DIY ideas that will make for perfect gifts!
  2. Support handmade. If you are not crafty, go for local or etsy. Enjoy the love and care handmade artists put into their creations. You can take advantage of the generous discounts offered by the Kanelstrand sponsors.
  3. Surprise your loved ones with edible gifts. You can bake, cook, pack and ship or just enjoy together! Here is a good list of edible gifts I compiled for Green Living Ideas. Reminder: opt out on plastic dishes. Serve your food art in real ones instead - beautiful and reusable!
  4. Pack your gifts with alternative packaging, ranging from fiber to scrap wallpaper or maps, the variants are endless. take a look here and here for inspiration.
  5. Make your own post cards instead of buying new ones. This creative act will warm everyone who receives them, There is no need to make them extra complicated. Use recycled paper, magazine or newspaper cutouts and let your imagination roam freely. Or make some digital images to send via email and go paperless.
  6. Give. Donate to charities but not because it is Christmas, do it because you care.
The less we buy, the more challenged we are to give real warmth and care. Let's spend this holiday season concentrated on the love we can give, instead of on the money we've spent!

20 December 2011

Meet the Awesome Kanelstrand Sponsors!

Welcome to all new and returning sponsors! This month we have so many talented and amazing artists on Kanelstrand that I don't even know where to begin. First and foremost - thank you for sharing this space with me and making it a bit more beautiful with your awesome ads. I enjoy all your products, and I enjoy the feedback I am getting from my readers concerning the quality of your products.

Please, take a moment to get to know them, like them on etsy and go through their shops - almost all of them are having fabulous sales right now and you might get a good bargain on quality eco-friendly goods.

Do You Like My Hat?     shop | blog | facebook | twitter
Although I learned to knit very young around 5 or 6 years old, I did not become "a knitter" (someone passionate about the craft) until my mid thirties. About two years ago I discovered natural fibers and now knit with nothing else. These fibers can be expensive however and people may shy away from them. That is why I began my Etsy shop. I make accessories that use less yarn so they will be more affordable and more people will discover these fibers. My motto is "everyone deserves a little luxury".

Buying socially and environmentally responsible is also very important to me. On my search for natural fibers I discover wonderful companies, big and small, who are working hard to empower women. Any small thing we can do to reduce poverty and illness particularly for the children of the world is very important to me. People who produce natural fibers are also concerned with the environment, how to properly treat the animals, how to produce and dye wool with fewer or no chemicals, using plants to create yarns. These are the topics that I discuss on my blog.

I am at the very beginning of this experience, but would quit my day job today to devote myself to this full time!
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Barnwood4u     shop | facebook

Stay at home dad working with reclaimed wood, handcrafting heirloom quality home decor and furnishings. Never had a clue when I was younger that I would end up as a woodworker. Started part time 16 years ago and went full time April 2011.

Our shop creates unique earth friendly home decor ranging from simple wall shelves to entertainment centers. Pictures frames 8x10  up to 28x22, and a few even bigger. Each piece will have it's own unique character from it's previous use. Nail holes, knots,knot holes and imperfections are just a few of the characteristics our products have. 

Coupon code FALL2011 gives you 10% off your entire order.

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Additions Style     shop | blog | facebook | twitter

I started my creative career 15 years ago as a sterling sliver jewelry designer.  About 5 years ago I decided I wanted to create a new collection that was young, hip, and affordable and Additions was born.

All my pieces are created with recycled and upcycled hardware. My goal is to create pieces that are unique and easy to wear. That is why I experiment all the time to come up with new ways to add color, texture, and designs.

My Etsy shop has a variety of pieces to suit many styles. I have pieces that are unisex, and will look great on a man or women. Several pieces have beads for the person who want more feminine styles, and some pieces have little establishments showcasing the wonderful variety of hardware available.

The process of creating my new collection inspired my blog.  My blog focuses on inspiration, creativity, and business. I am working towards building a community of artistic individuals to inspire each other on our creative journeys.

Coupon code KANE15 will give you 15% off entire order.

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Larson Farm Naturals     shop | blog | facebook

Simple. Gentle. Natural. That's what I strive for in all of my products.  Handmade cold-process soaps, lip balms, laundry detergent and more. I make them all myself in small batches using only quality natural ingredients. From our farm to you!

With coupon code LFN15 you get 15% off your entire order until the end of November.
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Cherry Walls     shop | twitter | facebook

Veronica is a Seattle based designer, small business owner, wife and mom. My small company specializes in creating wall decals for contemporary interiors and baby nurseries. Our decals are only original, made here in the USA and we are proud to offer some of the best quality decals on the market. Hope you enjoy!

Coupon code 10CHERRY  gives you 10% off your entire order.

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Fia Naturals     shop | blog | twitter | facebook

Welcome to the world of vibrant colors where glass, natural seeds and earthy stones are mixed together to give you a stunning unique handmade jewel full of love!

Women can be beautiful and respect the planet Earth by using all natural eco-friendly jewelry.

Most of my beads are from Africa. Add a beautiful eco-friendly African fabric gift-wrapping or jewelry pouch to your purchase!

Use coupon code ECOJEWELRY to get 10% off your entire order.

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Skyejuice     shop | blog | twitter | facebook

If you are looking for wedding or bridesmaid jewelry with a dash of colors, look no further. From pearl cluster bracelets to colorful gemstone earrings, I offer a wide variety of designs and colors for you to choose from that are suitable for any weddings and other occasions. Seriously, I have like over 100 pearl colors and can be mixed into a million different color combinations!

Wear something in color today and feel good about yourself. :) Use coupon code KANEL10 gives you 10% off your entire order!

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Belle Terre     shop | blog | twitter | facebook

Belle Terre use only organic oils in their natural handcrafted soaps, lip balms and related products. They also use minimal and recycled packaging, and commit 5% of our sales to charity. All of this means you can enjoy our products with peace of mind, knowing that not only are they great for you, but they are also helping to create a cleaner and healthier world for everyone.

With coupon code GIVEAWAY15 you get 15% off your entire order.

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The Hairy Peach     shop | blog | facebook

My name is Meeling and I'm a foodie. I love to cook but more importantly I love to eat! I come from a food background of Dutch influence with a little Indonesian thrown in for good measure. I love to try new foods and have had the opportunity to travel and experience some great local flavors.  Good food and wine are some of the best enjoyments in life. I hope you'll follow along with me as I share some of my food experiences with a little bit of life thrown in!  

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Evaelena     shop | blog | twitter | facebook

I am an artist who likes to make things and I am passionate about vintage. I sell a range of interesting vintage items that I consider has good design, fine craftsmanship or is amusing and unusual. I make jewelry out of vintage souvenir spoons and vintage pieces. No two are ever alike and I love the idea of wearing something about a sense of place that comes from another time.

With coupon code KANEL20 you get 20% off your entire order.

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Red or Gray Art     shop | blog | facebook

I am a redhead with a touch of gray hair .. my shop name! The pieces are gently created using repurposed stone . cloth . paper . wood offered to you from the earth, many pieces are one of a kind .. all are unique, which is the joy of handmade!

With coupon code REDORGRAY10 you get 10% off your entire order.

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Designed by Amber     shop | blog | facebook

I work part time and am able to bring my children with me to work.  I have 2 wonderful children - Katlynn, 3, and Ryan, 9 months - and an awesome husband. I really enjoy making pretty accessories, tutus, and home decor. I make some of my products from upcycled material (I mention in the product description if the product is made from upcycled material). I also enjoy making custom orders for my customers.

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Betsy & Bess     shop | twitter | facebook

Eco friendly purses, handbags, and accessories, made from repurposed, upcycled, and recycled materials, down to the zippers, buttons, and pockets. Nothing goes to waste!

With coupon code KANELSTRAND you get 10% off your entire order.

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SadieBess     shop | blog | twitter | facebook

I first fell in love with vintage in the tenth grade, when my poor put-upon father dragged me down to the local Salvation Army store so that I could get my very own 'boyfriend blazer', and hopefully quit stealing his. I think he was tired of having the sleeves wrinkled from being rolled up, and of finding stray candy wrappers, lipsticks, and tampons in his pockets. I remember being awestruck by the racks and racks Lawrence Welk style gowns, polyester double knit separates, and fabulous, funky accessories. I'm pretty sure my father had to drag me out of there after well over an hour. I did have my very own menswear blazer when I left, though. I remember it was a subdued grey check, and smelled faintly of old man and moth balls. I was hooked.

Now I scour Nashville and the surrounding area for unique vintage goodies that I can share with the world. I find it really gratifying when someone else, maybe even someone on the other side of the world, recognizes the same greatness I did in a quirky jacket, a dainty pair of shoes, or some well loved old boots. I've also been a bit of a tree hugger for about as long as I've been a vintage lover, so being in the business of 'fashion recycling' is something I feel proud of.

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KnellyBean     shop | facebook

I'm pretty much addicted to making things... I follow my whims and dabble in a bit of this and that, but mainly I crochet. I have tons of colorful items in my shop to keep you warm and cozy and also lots of handmade supplies to inspire you in your own crafty adventures :)

With coupon code KANEL10 you get 10% off your entire order.

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HerbanLuxe     shop | twitter | facebook

Myra is the Chief Makeup Developer and owner of HerbanLuxe. She learned how to craft makeup while growing up in Puerto Rico with the guidance of her abuela who was an herbalist. She grew up in an environment where everything we needed could be gotten from the backyard, literally – including makeup. About 10 years ago it became a business. In 2007,  she appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show as a finalist in her search for the next big idea.  In 2009 she sold her business AND NOW caters to her favorite group of people, savvy Etsy shoppers who appreciate all that goes into making anything handmade.

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Adrienne Audrey shop | blog | twitter | facebook

Adrienne Audrey Jewelry is a collection of handmade jewelry and accessories hand crafted by Adrienne in her home studio in Washington State. The colorful and feminine collection is inspired by nature, fairy tales and uses materials such as lace and beads.

When Adrienne is not working on new jewelry designs you can find her blogging over at Crafty Little Gnome where she shares fun projects for the home and garden. 

Coupon code KANEL20 will give you 20% off everything you buy in Adrienne Audrey jewelry shop.

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Hapee Monkee     shop | blog | twitter | facebook

This is a visual-candy store that offers glossy postcards and unique still life, landscape, food & travel photography. I hope it gives you and your home joy & happiness. The photos are perfect as gifts to friends & family or just for you because they invite you to 'come and see beauty in every day events'.

With coupon code BEHAPPEE2011 you get 10% off your entire order.  

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Thanks to all amazing Kanelstrand sponsors for another month of creative collaboration and generous discounts! All funds raised by the ads go back into spreading the word about handmade and green living, and promoting the Kanelstrand blog.      

19 December 2011

A Portrait of The Artist: Jonathan Weisblatt

This is my early Christmas present to you:  A Portrait of the Artist with Jonathan Weisblatt - an artist asking questions, in different languages and on different levels, stitching a self-portrait out of the answers. He calls for collaboration on restoring the balance in our souls and our world and invites everyone to join him in the creation of here and now.

He feels at home in modern art and literature and his work revolves around a vision for a consciously collaborative and ecological celebration of our interdependent life on this planet.

Let me start with a question you ask on your website OneSelfPortrait: Who are you in this world?
I am you, I am rivers, dammed ones and wild with fish; I am what the fish eat and the bigger fish and grizzlies and who eat them. My body is the earth’s body, and I am healthiest and most alive when my life force is flowing unencumbered, un-dammed and fully integrated (so I practice yoga).  And I am polluted and toxic at times. And I am empathizing with all my relations at this exciting time in our history.

I am one with everything, and I also have my own unique gifts to give to the world.  I bring my own unique cultivated presence, as well as a purposeful web of perspectives and energy into my interactivity.  I have observed and have been told I have a gift for awakening and enlivening people in my presence, and I strive to give my unique gifts as thoroughly as possible to the world.

As everyone is an agent of our coming culture, each moment we are choosing to bring it forth in whatever form we are enacting. I see myself as a deep and compassionate listener and an [aggressive] agent of our coming culture -- a catalyst, a fomenter, a questioner, a practitioner of artful breathing and a biodiversity networker.  I am an exhibitioniste (I can’t seem to keep myself hidden or restrained-- I did grow up playing classical piano next to the Detroit Zoo empathizing with the caged wild animal). I  take a stand for the potent possibility for an empathic, sustainable, just human presence on the planet. 

Paintings from Jonathan's virtual gallery

You have studied Literature and Language Art, how did that knowledge lead you to multimedia conceptual art and what made you connect your art to sustainability and ecology?
I am moved by your questions to tears at the memory of my origins, my formative years. 

Literature and Language art for me included learning storytelling, mythology, criticism, cross-cultural and cross-medium exploration of art’s origins and contexts.  Everything has the potential for being an active and valued object of art, a word or piece of punctuation in the story of our lives on this planet.

My studies, at university and otherwise, taught me ways to connect with historical expressions of beauty and culture and to reflect on my origins and learn to contextualize and re-contextualize myself and my expression in the moment; I learned from great teachers how to observe, analyze and think creatively and critically.  And I learned to tend my soul and follow my heart very early, through various relationships, artistic mediums, storytelling, and identifying with various artists throughout time.  This brings me to how I view modern art:  art relevant to our current moment.  This brought me also to practicing yoga when I first lived in New York City. I sought, through this conscious physical practice of breathing and expanding and contracting and generating energy, to dissolve the physical blocks and barriers I had developed in my body so that I could be a more open, fluid vessel for pure life force to animate.  And in this way, I would literally become a more expanded and free and present version of myself, released to a more liberated flow of life force through my presence.  

This combination of practices reinforced my view as Shakespeare’s “all the world’s a stage,” and has informed my practice of living and creating.

I would say everyone is an artist; we are all creating our lives, our breakfasts, our relationships, our homes. We are all giving our gifts to this world.  And the ecology of my presence in my bioregions became my own language of being, my path’s careful and wild and artful unfolding.  We look at ourselves through history’s lenses, through the eyes of our great great grandchildren, and I ask myself regularly, “How can I be most present and alive and engaged and modern and responsible?” 

The most significant educational experience I had was the New England Literature Program.

Thrust into immediate communal living in Wilderness with twenty-four students and nine staff members, we read Thoreau, Emerson, Cummings, Dickinson; Mary Oliver came to stay with us. We restructured our weeks into 9-day weeks.  Reading Thoreau’s “Where I lived and what I Lived For,” asking why I need more than one fork, one spoon, one knife, while living simply in the woods, this changed me -- or, rather, this revealed more of who I truly am. 

The experience of having lived in a foreign culture did provide unexpected wonders for my knowledge of myself and my world, beyond linguistic and cultural trappings, shifting the context of my expression of myself into a hitherto unimaginable sets of voices and views.  Becoming a fluent French character on the world’s stage was profound, yet living in community in Wilderness revealed to me my own wildest nature, my truth in an unmediated language where I knew my oneness with everything, beyond language. I then committed to seeking my truth and expressing it, in whatever medium I might require, in what I hoped might be a more universal language. 

Literature and Language Art I view as my continued path, as I carve my continually renewing story into the fabric of our world, step by step, moment by moment, breath by breath.  The language of my being is my own mark on this big stage.  Further, my name, Weisblatt, means “white leaf [of paper]”, so, as with anyone connected with the American mythos and/or modernity, I am consistently renewing myself and reinventing myself.

Can you reveal a little about your creative process?
It begins in a vacuum.  Nothingness.  At some point arrives a feeling of inspired connection with something or someone or a vision of how we might be more beautifully together and balanced on this planet, a celebration of our collaborative potential.  I will often have either visual or conceptual visions of how things might come together and flourish.  I sit and breathe with this and allow it to sink in.  Then I endeavor to make some sort of sketch of my vision.  Often I will bounce my ideas off of friends and sometimes acquaintances to see how things might resonate with others and how the experience of opening this delicate, fetal stage discussion might affect my ideas of possibility, accessibility and effectiveness. I have a strong desire for my work to connect everyone, to inspire and connect us all to each other and to the wild and to a more beautiful state of collaboration with all living things.  Often I may discover my ideas are too idealistic to bring to fruition in this world in the near term, so I will assign these visions to a place in a screenplay I am writing -- in order to present the vision I find beautiful at least on a screen to inspire people.  

The Occupy Movement has shifted the line of what’s possible in my view, and I have been deeply engaged with it as a beautifully imperfect collaborative experimental art project in our decaying plutocracy.

In perhaps every project, I am confronted with a dreadful fear that my work is a pointless or unbeautiful expression and a failure.  This I have learned to accept as a part of my creative process, to continue pushing forward through the resistance, and what normally results is a much more positive experience and product.

In what way is your art sustainable and eco-conscious (f.ex. what materials do you use)?
I use everything. Early on I had to reconcile my presence on this planet as both a creator and a destroyer. No matter what we do we will be destroying something, e.g. galloping across a field we trample grasses and insects.  

Long ago I started painting “Ingredients” boxes on my paintings, when I could get the acrylic paint companies to tell me roughly what is used to make their paints outside of proprietary corporate protectionist nonsense. I have a funny exchange with a representative from a paint company in some email box somewhere about eating paint, feeding it to our bioregions, etc.  I thought if I were transparently and colorfully expressing, in the limited rectangle which is the canvas’s field, the sources and effects of my job, my work, then this might bring consciousness of this footprinting into all other areas of all of our culture and our lives. I take polluting footprints into consideration each step, and I realize  I am not a model sustainable citizen, I am not an ultimate example to follow, as I am participating still in the culture in which I was educated (in the French sense of the word “education”) and attempting to awaken and steer the dominant conversation and action closer to its source, thereby transforming our systemic failures from within. I think we would need 2.3 planets to act as I act. Better than the 5.5 or so average for North Americans, but far from sustainable. I sometimes consider dropping out of the urban life and living on a farm, but I believe I can be of more service in this context with my gifts at this time.

You participated in this year’s SOCAP where you presented an interactive art installation, called Self-Worth. Did you fulfill your goal of providing environment where people will find peace and space for reflection, hopefully leading them to a more just and sustainable human presence on the planet?
SOCAP was a delight. I provided a beautiful environment and context and a solemn, reverent space for reflection, and some people participated in it in very inspiring ways. I’m not sure how much it actually affected people or our path toward a more just and sustainable human presence on the planet. I got some great feedback, and I marked the space with Truth and Wilderness, Compassion and Self-Awareness, Love and Laughter, a tipi, a soundscape and a circle of twelve reverent sculpted female forms. My hope is the mere presence of this piece will resonate in people’s landscapes of memories and dreams as we strive for beautiful, balanced new cultural models.

In the age of ego, when every human action is directed towards achieving personal happiness and welfare, do you believe there are enough people willing to spend time collaborating in the name of nature and biodiversity? 
I keep hoping we are melting the age of ego and sinking into activating a collective consciousness.  I have hoped this for a long time, and it apparently has had to be a gradual process :)  

How is it that we do not realize as a culture that everything is interconnected and that our ecosystems are what are supporting us and our economies?  It’s mindboggling to me the degree of illness, separation, imbalance, we are so actively supporting in our stories of ourselves we hear in the mass media, and then that we hear parroted in conversation. It’s tragicomically disastrous.  

I do sense a hopefulness in the youth I see more unfettered (or less fettered?) by the old status quo and fears and illusions of stiffened, older generations.  I have also been greatly inspired by the Occupy Movement, and I have been actively participating in it. This gives me hope that people all over the world are willing to put our lives on the line to make a stand for what is true and just and sustainable and wise.

Do I believe it’s enough?  I believe in the potential of our species to act in collaboration with Nature and with each other to create far-reaching cultures of beauty. I believe this is possible, and this is what I strive for.

You greatly value collaborating and the fact that all humans are part of one whole. Do you think that participating actively in a community can help people find their way back to respecting our planet’s eco system?
I DO!  The more connected we are with each other, the more we share cares and responsibilities, the more we collaborate, the more we thrive.  The root of the word “culture” is “to care for.” The genius of the collective far surpasses that of an individual, and rapid solution-making can take place and spread like wildfire.  

If you could make any project without limits to cost, materials or skill, what would it be?
I like the idea of inviting people from all over the world to come together in dozens of places around the planet to build cultural learning centers with gardens together, to create more compassionate exchanges and listening between individuals from everywhere, and to create pragmatic, lasting central architectures of our conscious global cooperation.

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All photos courtesy of Jonathan Weisblatt

17 December 2011

Weekend DIY: Yarn Bowl

Two weeks ago, while discussing DIY ideas about our No New Gifts Christmas I mentioned a lovely yarn bowl that I wanted to make. Most of you know how much I value hand work be it just for the sake of mental health and the feeling of accomplishment. In a mostly virtual and fast-paced world, one of the most precious acts is working with your hands to create practical objects that can be touched.

So, of course I didn't waste much time and dived happily at the project together with my daughter in the first moment available. Yes, this is a great project to work on with children and teenagers, and it requires a maximum of 40 minutes. Before I continue, let me make it clear that while for many of you yarn bowls like this are probably just a regular basic school activity, for me the process was absolutely unknown (except from the bleached memories of making paper mache once in my life, looong time ago) and extremely exciting. 

The thing I like most about this project is that it is totally eco-friendly and should I even use the very fashionable word biodegradable? There is not a single toxic element into this paper yarn mache except, of course, if you decide to use acrylic yarn.

I made some slight changes to the original pattern, which I would like to share.

What you will need:

  • 1/2 cup of flour
  • 4 cups of water
  • 3 tablespoons of sugar
  • scrap yarn in the color of your choice
  • bowl to use as a mold
  • saran wrap or plastic bag

Choose a bowl that you would use as a mold and wrap it with saran wrap, or a piece of a plastic bag (which we did and used duct tape to secure it on the inner side of the bowl).

Mix well 1/2 cup of flour with 2 cups of lukewarm water. Boil the other 2 cups of water in a sauce pan, remove from heat to add the flour mixture. Bring to a boil once again while mixing constantly. Remove from heat and add 3 tablespoons of sugar. Mix for one last time and let the mixture cool. 

We went kind of over the top with the flour mixture but the bowl still turned out great.
Once it is comfortably cool, start by taking the yarn through the flour-glue mixture, gently squeezing it on the way out of the bowl to prevent what happened to us - you can see on the photo that the glue on the bottom is too much. It took 3 days for it to dry, which is way too long.

Make sure NOT to make your bowl look like this one. It should have considerably less flour-glue.

After you wind enough yarn and in a pattern you like you are done! We left our bowl on the bathroom floor and the floor heating did a miracle drying up. The sides of the bowl, which got through a gentle squeezing process to remove excess glue dried up in 24 hours but the bottom kept us waiting for 2 more days.

Wild  chestnuts complement the wooden look of the bowl

Anyway, the end result is just fabulous, don't you think? Using this particular yarn created a wood-effect that goes perfectly well with our interior (and exterior!) so we are quite happy with the outcome!