Friday, August 31, 2012

Meeting Mosaic Woman

47... 1   starting a new journey, as I did in 1986

 What mattered was the book inside the red pannier

It was 1986 and I may have been lacking direction. I had just earned my BS in Biology and chose to ride my bicycle to the Catskills. Info on 20-30 graduate programs were being examined. I was at home with my parents. I began to tutor at a community college where i had turned my life around a few years earlier. It was in a room attached to the library.

If memory serves me correct, I saw her first in the library, but I knew I would later see her in the tutoring center. I was tutoring science. Mosaic Woman was tutoring philosophy. I remember telling a friend I had seen someone special before I could say I had spoken to her.

In college many a friend had recommended that I Read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, so I read it while I camped in the Catskills. There was something in that book that reminded me of something she was tutoring, so one day I asked her if she had read it. Were we at the cafeteria?

How long was that initial conversation? Long enough, for many more would happen.

and here we are... 

at a Christopher Ries exhibit, looking reflective and blue

at a Great Lake, looking jazz festival hip

at the Oregon shore a few years after we met, looking slightly less gray

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Improvising ~ Coltrane and a commission gets me thinking

Rainbow Starflower by Nutmeg Designs, glass on wood, 7 inches, ©2012

I once heard and have since forgotten the number of times John Coltrane recorded My Favorite Things, but what really matters is how many times he explored its being. The change that emerged could be staggering if one jumps from the first to the last. What is you could hike the musical path he created with his love of exploration.  If someone, who only knew of the first version called out to hear it in concert.... They may be disappointed.  Or they may be transformed themselves.  

We have been asked to recreate the above piece. Our challenge is to make it pleasing to the client while not hindered by trying to make it exact. At this point I can say it might have been more fun to let loose and truly play with the design. 

As an artist, what would you have done?

And I wonder how I would act as a client??? Would I be willing to commission a piece and say, "Make it new. Let the creativity flow?"  I am thinking of doing that with a collage artist.  I desire one of Abby Sernoff's pieces, but how to make that commission still floats in my mind.  

It can be a bit challenging to have open ended commissions, but the results can be so worth it.

I did let Coltrane flow when I made our second version. And that's a good thing. I am thinking about being creative with this design, one that emerged at a silent retreat.

Now be prepared to be taken to a place by someone who has truly explored it ...

Monday, August 27, 2012

After the Ugly Oyster, a new beginning for silence

Wernersville Tree ~ as I approached 

Having left the arts and crafts pub in Reading, it was a direct route to the Jesuit Center but a road not yet travelled.  I would be filled with thoughts of riches and poverty and how crossing one boundary can lead to such radical changes as I simply drove out of Reading into West Reading.  Do people drive this everyday? Do they get used to it?

The brain will get used to silence.  Thirty hours in I woke up and felt it.  I had made the transition.

I am not a fan of superlatives... Questions like who is your favorite band can baffle me.  I used to be able to say I never read a lot on retreats.  But I fell into the writings of (let me be safe here) one of the most influential authors in my life, Frederick Buechner.  

I came across his book The Clown in The Belfry as I weeded my bookcase of spiritual writings recently.  It is a collection of essays and sermons thrown together for the sake of making a book.  Not my most favorite thing.  But I hadn't read it.  

It proved to be a path into the many ways he has influenced my faith.  By the time I woke up 30 hours into the retreat, I realized that I only had three chapters left.  It made sense ~  one for that morning and one each for the last two mornings of the retreat.  I could not have planned it better.

As I look back at the book, I see that the last essay I read, before I woke up feeling the silence, had ended with this paragraph.  And this may be the coolest thing ever ~ 

Let us instead tell a story which is the story about every one of us,  It is a story about a pig, and a fox, and an ass under his holy and appalling burden.  It is the story about a mouth pushed crooked, about a voice breaking.  Let the rest be Christ's silence.

Wernersville Tree ~ about to step inside

Saturday, August 25, 2012

On the Way to Silence: a stop at the Ugly Oyster Drafthaus

Ugly Oyster:  mural the greeted me

I saw some tweeting about a garden gnome and the next thing I know was in the passenger seat being driven by a jazz loving, pie making friend who happened to be the father of 2/3 of the 20 somethings in the back seat,who for some reason call me uncle.  We were headed to see some minor league baseball.

So I was reading the directions and saw a list of restaurants at the bottom.  The Ugly Oyster Drafthaus and as the night unfolded it became a bit of an obsession, especially when one of the young ones checked out their website.  This is what it claimed...

Ours is the Oldest Pub in the county. The Ugly Oyster was built in Yorkshire England by Traditional English Craftsman. It was disassembled, transported and reconstructed by those same craftsman at it's current location. The authentic Celtic atmosphere projects feelings of warmth and welcome.

I knew it would be visited when I went to Wernersville and it is where in the midst of the hand crafted beauty, I ate lunch on the way to some silence ~

Ugly Oyster:  The front door

Ugly Oyster: The lighting to read the menu

Ugly Oyster: my seat was one of these cool stools

Monday, August 20, 2012

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Packing For Silence Revisited

Wernerville Cross
by Wayne Stratz
Hangs at the Jesuit Center
As I mentioned in my last blog post, a blog post mentioning a mug brought me into the world of the RevGals

I just read that post to see if the items remain the same. It has for the most part. The pool stick is not huge these days as I trust to find a functional one at the Jesuit Center. Port has been replaced at times with ales and there was the one retreat I took a bottle of Absinthe.

At home when faced with the desire to cut glass I rarely drink. By the end of a silent day... a beverage while chatting with God through an examen makes sense.

My habit of drawing cards for others at the retreat center and of drawing future glass designs means once again I will be packing up a bit of my studio.

You never know how it will go, but I still have Michelle's post about playing with the psalms in my head. Random psalm prayers may be the way to go. But the object is not to force an agenda on the retreat.  No different than forcing a lesson plan onto my students,  It will unfold and all I ask is to unfold with it.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The RevGals ~ my connection started with a mug

at Wernersville

Soon I will be entering silence. A chance to clear my head from technology and to hear what emerges. I will be leaving the iPad and I will be packing my mug.

In 2007 I was in the second month of this blog when I was packing for silence. A woman named Michelle popped into my life to comment that she does the same thing. Michelle and I have become friends all because we take mugs to Wernersville. Our art graces her home and some amazing commissions have flowed across oceans because of her. I spoke to her college students about how spirituality touches my art. Cards that have her writing have brightened my days.

A few weeks back I put in a request to join RevGals as a friend. I am not either, but through Michelle I have become friends with others including Robin who also digs silence. As I waited to hear back, my church asked me to give a sermon. I quoted Michelle.

I am taking my mug, but also a hope that I will get lost in prayer in the same way as I do when I draw designs. This year is different, I will not have a director to talk to daily. I am considering traveling to a diner to chat with a waitress, but likely will not do any such thing.

Today, a friend who leads retreats at her Windward Farms, walked through my garden. When I talked to her about self-direction, Dorothy encouraged me to write to go deeper. So, here I am.

and that is why I now have a RevGal button on the side of my blog and why I will be taking a break from social media in the future and why I hope to return with words written to share here.  Having a bounty of spiritual friends wishing me well is a splendid thing.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The sibling: Di's Red-Tailed Hawk

Di's Red-Tailed Hawk Mosaic
Wayne Stratz

When commissioned to create something new, I never make two of it at the same time... However, something happened when my friend Di commissioned a Red-Tailed Hawk.  Maybe it was the thought that I would very likely never make another one on my own volition?  But that has been true in many situations, so maybe it was that one day I could make Di smile.

You see I didn't tell Di what I was up to till after the fact, and then only spoke of it with a twinge of guilt.  But the hawks are not twins, for that would be impossible for me to do.  They are siblings of a new species, Di's Red-Tailed Hawk.  If I ever make a third or a fourth, they will have Di's name on it.  She inspired it.

Now why do I finally blog about the sibling, well it is being sent to a new owner this week thanks to our etsy shop.  I wonder if Di and the new owner would be great friends, but what I do know is that when Di reads this and leaves even the briefest of comments; I can guarantee that I will send her a message that will make her smile.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Mystical Mondays ~ Hope sermon: The Alpha and Omega

an amazing commission
by Wayne Stratz
I started...

by: Meister Eckhart 
Transl. Daniel Ladinksky
What keeps us alive, what allows us to endure?
I think it is the hope of loving,
 or being loved.
I am inside our booth and I tell a stranger that Hope is my favorite word.  He asks why.  My answer was because it is the opposite of despair, maybe my true answer is… I know despair.

Meister Eckhart 

I heard a fable once about the sun going on a journey 
to find its source, and how the moon wept
 without her lover’s 
warm gaze.
We weep when light does not reach our hearts. We wither 
like fields if someone close
 does not rain their 
I ended...
I don’t know how I unfolded into a man of hope, but it sure did help to stop believing in a God who keeps lists of sins and waits to throw it into my face.  Seeking out positive people sure does help.  Reading Frederick Buechner may have been key.  I will end with his words, from his sermon about hope: 

"I think it is hope that lies at our hearts and hope that finally brings us all here [into the church].  Hope that in spite of all the devastating evidence to the contrary, the ground we stand on is holy ground because Christ walked here and walks here still.  Hope that we are known, each one of us, by name, and that out of the burning moments of our lives he will call us by our names to the lives he would have us live and the selves he would have us become.  Hope that into the secret grief and pain and bewilderment of each of us and of our world he will come at last to heal and to save." (81)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Post hope sermon thoughts ~ playing into prayer

Hope in the Dessert
Margaret Almon and Wayne Stratz
I am grateful to my friend Michelle for getting me to think about prayerful play.  I often have heard people say they are not artistic or creative when they are looking at my work.  I tell them to play with colors whether the colors are deep inside paint, glass, pencils, water colors, fabric, yarn, beads... It doesn't matter.  Hope is the force that leads us into new creations.  Hope can create something beautiful.  Hope can lead to the right color.  Hope helps to make it turn out better this time.  Sooner or later you find the right play objects and it becomes joyful.  No need for patience since as Michelle put it, we "are caught up in the joy of the work at hand, be it messy or even risky."  

But what about prayer, how does creativity come into place.  Hanging out with Jesuits and those trained in Ignatian spirituality has helped.  Imagine yourself into the Bible passage.  Rewrite a passage to imagine how God would be speaking to you instead of Jacob or Mary.  Take the basic principles of the Examen and play with it.  Let it evolve into a prayer that is messy and risky.  

What activity in your life takes you into the land of joy experienced by a child playing with his imagination at full tilt?  Can you imagine being that focussed during prayer because you are being playful?  I hope that we can.  

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Preparing a sermon of hope

Once again, well for the second time, I have been asked to give a sermon at my church. And while I am not opposed to Jesus being the bread of life... I have become quite in need of the weekly Eucharist provided in my Episcopalian church... Psalm 130's message of hope clearly caught my eye.

and reading my favorite Quantum Theologist's post on psalms has me working out thoughts about hope, prayer, play.

Where did my hope come from, how did I emerge from despair, was there a moment in time that transformed me, what does unfolding with creation have to do with this

I don't expect to have answers by Sunday

Monday, August 6, 2012

Mystical Mondays ~ may Kabir take you back to a fond memory

I remember being fed by strangers as I bicycled by myself far from home. It was in campgrounds after being alone on the road all day. Did they know that three decades later I would think of them when I read...


Why not look at the beauty that your
memory holds,

so nourishing that light can be.

The past's lips are not

Let them comfort you
if they


Sunday, August 5, 2012

My first 3D commission... or what happens when you choose the colors and let me create for you

I stopped by to see a friend and told him I had completed my first 3D suncatchers.  He said, "How about 4D?"

Since I knew some physicists thought time was the fourth dimension, I said, "Already done." and showed him this.  He was interested.

But when I showed it to him in person, he imagined something new, something yet be be created.

"Blue, Pink, Gray," he said to me.

So with with 7 pieces of gray, 7 of blue, and 7 of pink.  I got set to creating...

Then photos on flickr and instagram flowed into my life and I saw what I was creating.  Remember that amazing sunset when a partially cloudy sky turned pink, with patches of blue sky, and portions of clouds that remained gray?  Yes, my friend without knowing it had commissioned a sunset.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Mosaic Woman gets set for the big show, Chase

It has been a while since our booth has not had solo pieces by the two of us, but because of this, that and the other thing, Mosaic Woman will be flying solo this weekend.  Well, not exactly solo.  I will give her breaks and at those moments it will me my job to say,

8/4 & 8/5/12

Wilmington, Delaware