The Suit of Swords

The Suit of Swords :

A potentially prickly and cold suit-

all sharp blades and sad faces and high gusts of wind

You will find no soft comforts or ‘There, there”s here,

but neither will you find untruths.

Just as the ready knives can cut through wood (or bone),

they can just as easily cut through lies to clear the way for Truth, Knowledge and,


(if you are brave and face the swords,

which are really all in your head anyway)







Tell me about your practice: SILENCE

Tell me about your practice: SILENCE

I recently read a really lovely post on Brain Pickings by my new best friend Maria Popova.* In true Brain Pickings fashion, it touches on a lot of things, but the one of those things that really struck a chord with me was silence- including its role as a necessary catalyst to creative acts and deep searching.

In a 1986 paper about ‘Wait Time,’ researcher Mary Budd Rowe found that by increasing the wait time (or teacher-silence) after asking students a question by just a few seconds had tremendous changes on both students and teachers. Students answers grew in length and complexity (sometimes as much as 700%), while teachers became more flexible and began to refine their own questions to be more thoughtful and intentional.

Silence comes up in my own teaching practice all the time. To be able to follow student interest or accurately gauge the reaction of an adult learner to something said, I need to be a good listener. I’ve found silence to be a great tool to help build this skill (which makes sense- how can I listen if  I don’t shut-up now and again?). It’s empowering to learners to have the power to co-construct a conversation but more selfishly, it feels good as an educator to know that it’s not up to me to fill time or perform.

That’s not to say that silence is always, or should always be, a zen-like contemplative experience. Sometimes Frequently, we find silence to be uncomfortable or even downright scary. My own completely unscientific hypothesis about why this is is twofold: First, when we pause to listen, we get a chance to hear our own insecurities and small voices, ‘Are they listening? Are they zoning out? Am I boring?’ Second, and even more unsettling, though, is that when we allow for silence we open ourselves up to the Unknown, and to the human mind, little else is as scary as what we don’t know.

Cartoon Network’s miniseries, Over The Garden Wall uses our fear of what we don’t know/can’t see to great effect. It’s also the manifestation of everything I love. Go watch it so we can drink tea together and freak out about how good it is.

In contrast, in the Reggio Emilia approach, foundational to my own approach to working with children and adults, self-enforced silence is seen as selfish. If the aim of education is to foster community and engagement with the world around us, then keeping your thoughts to yourself is selfish- you’re withholding from the group insights which could enrich the conversation.

As with most things, I have two opinions (‘Do  I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself…”) Silence is good. Silence is bad. Ultimately, silence is a tool, and like any tool there are times when it’s the tool that’s useful and times when it’s not.

This is true in the home studio as well.
Sometimes I need noise:


and sometimes,  I need silence:


What about you-

What audio or ‘visual decibel’ do you need to be successful is it always the same? And if not, then how do you know when it’s time to change?

*No, we haven’t met, but seriously, Maria, if you’re ever in Columbus hit me up- I will buy you Jeni’s and we can talk about books. Or you can talk and I can just listen in wonder- whatever works for you..

“Herstories and How-Tos” or, What I’ve Been Writing.

I think I’ve alluded on here that I’ve recently taken on another writing gig to help kick my arse into writing more (with the hope that eventually it will lead to writing better), but don’t think I ever actually linked it.

In case you’re curious,
are skeptical that I have been tinkering with the English language
(in a typographical sort of way) and require proof,
or if you happen to enjoy learning about dead ladies who rocked
and/or while learning useful skills to apply to your everyday life-
The link to the articles thus far can be found here.

If you do follow the link, however, do yourself a favor and click the banner at the top to go back to the blog at large. There you can find more interesting articles, interviews, musings etc that come out of the collective CAW brain.

What I found in the silence:

  • That I want to be better at writing
  • That I want to be better at coherently explaining my process/intent behind my work
  • That these things happen through practice
  • That I am not adult enough to practice either without the element of shame and accountability that come with a public forum such as here.


To these ends, I added some weekly writing time into my morning-studio mix. My rules* are simple: Publish something– once a Wednesday, every Wednesday, preferably with a few sentences of actual writing (by me) involved. Picture-only posts should be used only as a last resort. Following the Elizabeth Gilbert Principal of Creative Work, the something doesn’t have to be great, or even that prolific, what matters most is that I show up and keep showing up until I’ve tricked my habit-driven plodder of a brain into thinking that this is what we’re supposed to be doing. (My art practice really is like a big obsessive compulsive slow-moving beast of burden)

This past month has been full of internet outages (both frustrating and refreshing and entirely what I needed), ill-timed Wednesday morning meetings and intentional self-imposed-rule breaking as I get deeper and deeper into making for Remnants. But that’s the point of self-imposed rules, right? Looking to get back into the habit of stringing together scraps of English on a regular basis as the project continues to coalesce, and I turn my attention towards a) writing a statement and b) figuring out how I will answer when a loved one looks at the piece and says, “So….?”

In the meantime, let’s get excited about blue skies and the return of the sun:





*because I have to make rules, even if they exist solely to be broken. It’s worth noting too, that these are totally personal and arbitrary. Feel free to steal for your own purposes or disregard entirely

Herstories and How-tos: Claude Cahun

So not only did I not stop blogging for good, I double not-stopped by volunteering* to write a monthly bit over on CAW (Creative Arts of Women)‘s blog. The column is called ‘Herstories and How-to’s’ (I really lobbied for Corpses and Crafts, but ultimately decided it might be off-putting.)

This month you can learn more about my current dead-lady obsession Claude Cahun, as well as three easy ways to fight The Man!

a picture of Cahun with a levitating cat that I desperately tried to work into the post.



*Isn’t that funny? They offer a monthly space with lots of eyes to practice writing and I get to call it ‘volunteering’. This is almost as good as the gig over at Ohio House Rabbit Rescue, where one ‘volunteers’ by cuddling bunnies. Living the philanthropic lifestyle really can be so trying.**

**But f’real, you can actually go volunteer to cuddle rabbits for an hour I’M SO THERE.