“ Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” - Gustav Flaubert
Life is like a tapestry; the things you do and the people you meet are woven into the design. It seems so random that I would end up in Oaxaca for a second time. First time was in 2012. I had met Illinois storyteller Jim May when he came to Honolulu for a Storytelling conference organized by Jeff Gere. I got on his mailing list, went to a weekend retreat when NEA (teachers union) was in Chicago. There, I learned about the retreat he does in Oaxaca, and went there the following spring. I loved it and made some good friends. I met Jewel Murphy back then who was staying at the Casa and told me about her Art Tours.. I wrote about that in my previous blog entry. So Jim’s workshop was during Holy Week, a 2-week interim between the art and storytelling workshop. And I had been wanting to learn Spanish, so things fell into place. Art-Spanish-Spanish-Storytelling. That was my month.
Jim’s style of storytelling is a mix of fun and games (he works a lot with kids) and serious personal stuff. But you choose how deep you want to go and how much of your personal story you are ready to tell. My group was ready! They opened their hearts and souls and I am humbled and fed by the stories they told.
I haven't quite processed what I experienced during this retreat. I made some good friends, really nice people with interesting life stories. My project for the week was to share a story from my Okinawan roots. Since then, I have developed it more as a play. It is now a draft. There was something about this week that was deep. I was touched, somehow, by the storytelling, by the people, by the collective energy of the group. It was a good week.
I recently spent 9 nights and 10 days as part of an art immersion tour organized by Jewel Murphy from Eugene, Oregon. The artist who led the art workshops in our mornings was Rogene Manas, a mixed media artist, also from Eugene. This blog post is intended to be somewhat of a testimonial as I think it will take me a very long time to write about everything that we did.
i first met Jewel at the Casa Colonial, a charming “inn” (don’t know the correct name for it. It’s a small 16-room B and B with rooms surrounding garden.). I was there attending a storytelling workshop (more on that in another post). I found out that she was doing these art tours and I thought it sounded like something I would enjoy so seed planted. That seed blossomed this year as I let my intuition lead me to my next adventure.
For artists and artists-in-desire, this workshop was designed not only to be an opportunity for artists to do creative work but also to bring novice artists gently into the art-making fold. Rogene was a masterful teacher and generously shared valuable (invaluable) techniques, skills, ideas, guidance, support. I’d say it was thrilling ! To think that you feel like you accomplished something, that you now know something that you are now able to share with others is no easy task for a teacher. I can’t wait to get her book, Artful Paper Clay. I am posting below my finished projects, but all of us did work that was amazing.
Jewel is an artist in organizing, in creating this opportunity, in choosing the artists and artisans who we visited, in deciding which restaurants we would eat at, and in giving us also a bit of the Oaxaca art and museum scene. You could say it was highly “curated.”
Our schedule was generally that in the mornings we’d make art: sculpture with the paper clay; painting; collage, and assemblage. In the afternoons and one morning, we went on excursions, mainly to visit artists and artisans - sculptors, weavers, carvers, printmakers, assemblage artists. One of my most memorable days was a visit with Marietta Bernstorff, the curator of the current exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Arts. I will write more in detail about that exhibit but it was fascinating to hear the stories about the fascinating exhibit. Somewhere in this mix, we also did shopping, museums, galleries, and eating. The artists and artisans and sites that Jewel curates in the future will not always be the same. But I am sure though that she will put the same thought and care in plannning future tours. That’s just the way she is.
I can not write this piece without mentioning the magic in our group of women who participated in this tour. I was towards the end of making self-introductions and I felt a little intimidated by these women. They included a real artist, an art teacher (also a real artist); a creative writing professor, an acupuncture teacher, an herbalist, a professor of inter-cultural communication, a yoga teacher/physical therapist/ paper-maker/ etc., and me. You know me. Not only were these impressive women on the surface, they were kind and compassionate souls. We were in the zone together. I don’t think this was curated except by the forces of the universe. We also had a wonderful guide, Pablo, who made sure we got to our destinations, provided information and translation, and gave us a interesting and personal explanation if the artist Rodolfo Morales.
You may hesitate as I did when faced with the decision to do this tour. (I was the last seat!) But you will more likely regret not going, than going. In the tours, we were given opportunities far beyond the beaten path. Combine that with the the masterful teaching of Rogene, the setting at Casa Colonial and the many, many extra blessings we experienced, that is a recipe for a beautiful once-in-lifetime experience. But I’ll probably do it again.
I have traveled quite a bit, and am using this page to record some memories. Travel is a wonderful education, expanding your view of the world, of other cultures, of the beauty of diversity.