When you go to an arts high school, it's sometimes hard to feel unique. I am always surrounded by some of the most beautiful, passionate, and artistic people, and I have frequently asked myself: what am I doing here? What is so
special about me compared to the others?
To tell the truth, these uncertainties have haunted me to the point when they've
kept me up at night. One night, (being the hormonal teenager that I am) I cried
like a baby because I was so upset as I fixated on these questions of doubt
and I thought that despair would never end. But finally, morning came, and it
was a new day. A sunny, bright new day. I went to my school and read aloud in
front of the class, my follow-up essay that I had written in response to the novel
Fahrenheit 451. I felt really good about it and my teacher said it was great. Later that day, one of my classmates, whose opinion I value, praised my work on the
paper. He seemed so pleased and so impressed.
I couldn't stop smiling that day. People loved my writing, my art. How cool is
it to have someone to love your art? And so, from then on, I learned that my
classmates and I were all chosen to be in the same school because we're all
talented. The school's staff saw special abilities in us, special gifts whether they
are in visual art, dance, writing, music, etc. We are all here because we love
expressing ourselves through beautiful art. Art has saved pretty much everyone I
know and it's saving and healing me.
An amazing artist Suzi Blu said, “God loves my art.” And he does. He really does.
I don’t feel special sometimes, but then I always remember that day when I
realized my peers love my writing ... that day that made me belt out happy songs
in the shower.
So to everyone who at times may lose the feeling of uniqueness and confidence
sometimes: express yourself. Create. Sing. Paint. Write. Love. Celebrate.
Monica Mouet is 14 years old. She will be a Freshman at Orange County High School of the Arts in the fall.
In the wake of night when the world sleeps,
I work in moonlight, with my drawings scattered or clustered in heaps.
Ideas and images call my name,
but I must thank them as I translate the ideas onto paper, for it is my life that they saved.
Life would be cruel without this never-ending love,
of paints and pastels, of getting my hands caked in ink, my ideas soaring like doves.
Though I capture the macabre and strange,
I paint for more than just the hopes of earning a wage.
Art is my passion, and art is my love,
no matter how many hours I devote myself to drawing is never enough.
So in the dead of night, when darkness is setting in,
you'll see me drawing away in my quiet room with my love for art never running thin.
Yaxaira is 14 years old and just completed 8th grade at Orange County High School of the Arts. She will be returning to OCHSA in the fall as a 9th grader.
My life without art is totally unimaginable. Has my life been changed by the power of art for the good? Absolutely in more ways than I could ever explain.
Learning to Let Go
For most of my adult life I have been involved in working ‘spiritually’. I have taught meditation, run workshops in spiritual development and studied for three years to become a Reiki Master. I opened my own healing centre in 2003 called The Purple Patch where I helped with other people’s problems on a daily basis. Although interaction with my clients was very satisfying, on the whole the process of dealing constantly with grief and illness and unrest actually brought me down, and my life seemed to become a whirlwind of downward spirals — I have only begun to learn, all this time later — to let go and cut the cords that bind me to others, and to begin to heal myself.
During the last 10 years, I have suffered one traumatic blow after another. My business partner betrayed me, my health deteriorated and I also suffered a nervous breakdown. I developed fibromyalgia and arthritis after a parasailing accident I had while on holiday in 2004 which has left me in constant pain. I suffered panic attacks and generalized anxiety disorder. On top of all this, I then discovered that my husband had cheated on me for several years during a time when our youngest daughter was suicidal. The stress surrounding our family affected us all in different ways, and to say it’s been a struggle is an understatement.
Last November (2009) I lost my mother to cancer, and only four months later, while still grieving for my own Mum, we also lost my mother-in-law.
How have I survived all these things?
With the love and support of family and friends, but more personally with art, of course. I threw all my emotions into my art. Whether anyone who saw what I was creating, actually saw my pain, heartache and anguish didn't matter to me! What mattered was that I managed to find a way of expressing it and a process which I could lose myself in. I still express it today — as losing my Mum has devastated me. The thing is, I can now divert a lot of my anger, sorrow and pain in a much healthier way by calling upon all those emotions and experiences and putting them into some physical creation which in turn may bring a little more joy into the world.
Artists Have a Common Thread
I discovered the world of blogging and initially it was like a world of my own where I could babble away and pour out my heart and soul. I talked about the things in my life that were troubling me, I included some art. I was pleased and surprised to discover that people were actually reading my blog — and then they began commenting and following it. They liked my art! They said they felt my pain and I felt like a shadow had been lifted. As they say, ‘a sadness shared is a sadness halved’. How very true that is! I discovered that artists have a common thread — that they are kind and compassionate, and I felt that I had found my own haven.
For the last 8 years I have owned and operated a paper art store (Scrappindipity) with my eldest daughter. It is a small family business, struggling along each week. We love what we do, our passion for art and desire to encourage other people’s creativity keeps it alive. We are not rich in money, but we are rich in many other ways. We keep on going, and for me, Scrappindipity is a blessing.
I have learned so much through my own experiences, both good and bad. I realized first hand the healing power of art! One day my dream is to combine the powerful benefits of meditation and the healing expression of art by creating an art space where we combine the two, where everyone is free to be themselves, to create and pour themselves into their own canvas, in a safe, confidential and nurturing environment.
For now, I continue to create. I pour myself onto the blank pages and I truly believe art found me, to save me.
I'm 63 and retired. As a child I was never encouraged in any artistic endeavor. In fact the thing I did best was survive. My parents were both alcoholics and my home environment was chaotic at best.
Skip forward to adulthood
I became an alcoholic, too, but I quit drinking and I’ve been sober for 27 years. However, my two adult children are chemically dependent and have been in more messes than you can even imagine.
In spite of all of this I have my soul mate of 31 years, my sweet husband, and a beautiful 7-year-old grandson.
Now for the art part
When my children were in the worst trouble you could imagine, I found if I could simply do something artistic ... it seemed to make the problems disappear. Doing art makes me be totally present. I have found it is impossible to paint, draw, embellish something or just make something beautiful and worry at the same time.
I have been in a lot of therapy and I really believe that being creative is one of the best therapies out there and it doesn't cost a dime.
Josette Burgess is an artist who lives in Arizona during the winter, and wherever her spirit takes her in the summer! To learn more about Josette, visit her blog at mygrammassouljo.blogspot.com. She may be reached by e-mail at
For the Love of Paper
I have always been a "crafter." From an early age I loved to play with paper. When I was small we didn't have much money, and I was an only child for my first six years, so my mother and I would make paper dolls from the Sears catalog, furniture for the dolls from my dad's uniform cardboard (you know, they folded shirts around cardboard to keep them from wrinkling), clothes for the paper dolls from bits and pieces of paper and fabric, and on and on.
As time went by my crafts of choice seemed to change with the winds, but somehow I always came back to paper. A few years ago I started buying scrapbooking supplies because I loved all of the beautiful patterns and colors — and oh! the embellishments! Before long I knew scrapbooking wasn’t for me, but I started making greeting cards and haven't looked back.
The Three Years
About three years ago my dad’s health, which had been terrible for years, began failing. He was no longer able to drive, go to doctor’s appointments alone, etc. So I started taking him and my mom to all appointments. As his health worsened, my life was no longer my own, and I was forever at their beck and call. My husband and I live about 25 miles from them, and the distance sometimes made it harder, but sometimes I needed that distance, because my parents were always fighting and arguing and trying to get me to take sides — which is so hard for a child, even one in her fifties.
For the first half of those three years, almost every waking moment of my spare time was spent making cards and other paper crafts. I immersed myself in it, and it kept me going. For the second half of the three years, I stayed depressed all the time, and couldn't get things done around my house, so I punished myself by not allowing myself to be creative. Only when I got things done around the house could I allow myself to create, but I wasn't doing anything. I was depressed and stagnant.
My dad passed away last September, and my life changed drastically. I had time on my hands, and before long I started feeling the old itch to create again. By the end of October I began playing with paper again. And it felt so incredible! But then I just stayed at home and played, and rarely got out of the house. I was still mired in depression. The creating helped, and is still helping.
At last I am beginning to get out and about a bit. In May I participated in my first arts and crafts show and had a wonderful time. I more than doubled my very low goal for sales, which was so great. I have gotten involved with a group of ladies who enjoy crafting and creating, and it is great to encourage and be encouraged. For the first time in a long time, I feel I have my life back!
Diversity of Art
I really can't say I am an artist. My heart knows that I am, but my head says "Oh, you are so stupid, you aren't a 'real' artist!" I am working on being able to call my office/workroom my studio, but it sounds so odd in my own ears! Jeanne Oliver has helped me a lot in that respect, and in knowing that there are many types of art, not just a few. Blogging and reading blogs has helped me a lot too by showing me what other people are doing and how they use their talents.
I’m a mother of five, who believes in God’s word, living out everyday life on our organic farm supplying certified veggies for local friends and neighbors.
We recently had a barn sale in our horse barn, and without totally boring you with details, it was in our horse barn because our historic barn burned to the ground three years ago, when filled with local artisans and antique dealers’ items. I have had sales ever since the fire, but God has led me to this place we call Na-Da Farm for a reason.
Fresh Country Air
A few days before the sale, my oldest son, who is 13-years-old, asked me, “Mama, how much do you think you’ll make on this sale?” and unknown to even myself, I replied “I’m losing money on this sale honey, but it’s never been about the money.” He looked at me a little caring, and knowing me well, said, “You just want people to get some fresh country air don’t you?” I chuckled and said, “Yes, that, but it’s more than that ... I feel so blessed to be able to have this land, farm, the animals, the garden, our old farmhouse ... all from our Lord, and want to share that with other people through supporting our local artists and antique dealers.”
It happened to be so much more than that because the connections I made with these men and women who visited and shopped at the sale were too numerous to count, but all treasured the same. It was all about stepping outside of the barn with a blogger friend to just chat and giggle while we looked at the horizon ... welcoming into the barn an 85-year-old man dressed in a small brimmed cap, blazer and ascot, who I promptly served a glass of champagne to while wearing my ball gown ... enjoying a lunch of my homegrown salad and my own rhubarb vinaigrette with some ladies who traveled all the way down from Minnesota (to my Illinois farm) to spend the two days at the sale.
The Icing on the Blessing
It all was amazing to me, that other people actually did enjoy my farm (and overlooked the weeds ... and sharing that experience through shopping and food was just icing on the blessing.
Shopping locally, hand sewing, digging in the organic earth, home schooling our five children, and supporting your local artisans while loving the Lord ... that is who I am.
I was a frustrated artist for years, looking for my medium and I finally found it at the age of 49 with a business that began as a project with my mom after losing my dad to cancer. It has continued now for almost eight years.
The Power of Prayer
It started with handmade lavender filled pillows made with antique buttons and pieces of ribbons, and now has continued to include handmade skirts, hand knit wraps, backpacks and purses, with lavender sewn inside, and maybe the most important part of the journey ... the PrayerPockets.
The first PrayerPocket was made three years ago for a friend and me to wear while praying for a friend’s child who was waiting for tests at LeBonheur Children’s Hospital. I handmade each one out of antique fabric and added antique rosary beads to wear around our necks and over our hearts. Inside was a small scroll of handmade paper tied with a ribbon. On that paper we wrote the name of the child and her family.
I started getting phone calls and e-mails from my friend telling me how special the PrayerPocket was and about women coming up to her — complete strangers, drawn to her, to ask about it, and then ask how they could get one. The stories started pouring in —
a friend with cancer, or going through a divorce ... the garden of women needing
PrayerPockets began to grow.
I started making more and we sold off of a waiting list. That has continued now for almost three years and we have sold more than 300. They have traveled all across the country, from Florida, Texas and California, up to New York and into Canada. They have all been bought from Tennessee, by word of mouth and then traveled or been sent to friends across the country. I believe I was being led to the PrayerPockets, and the women and stories all along.
The Greatest Gift of All
Art does save. It has helped me get through the loss of a father, a project with my
mom, express my inner desires, and meet so many wonderful women. The most
humbling though, is that I have been able to make something with my hands that has touched others, and that has been the greatest gift of all.
In September of 2008 I found out I had breast cancer. I had had my first mammogram in August of 2008. I am 56 years old and breast cancer runs in my family. I had made every excuse in the book not to have one. I just didn’t want to know anything. Silly me! I came to realize that the day you find out you have cancer is the day you begin to fight cancer. I chose to look at that day as a very good day!
Something Profound Happened
Between the time I had my biopsy and my surgery — three weeks — the cancer became more aggressive. The tumor was small; the prognosis very good. I had a double mastectomy because I didn’t want to worry about it anymore. But wait there is more ...
from the beginning I have chosen to look at the positive side of this experience.
When I had lost my hair from chemo I saw a blank canvas. Yes, I am an artist and I have many artist friends. My thoughts flowed to henna. Why not let a henna artist do their thing on my head? I found I didn’t like wigs, scarves or hats. I didn’t want to hide my cancer. I wanted to be myself. I had no idea what a profound experience I was about to have.
I got in touch with a local henna artist, Wendy Rover (rovinghorse.com). She is fabulous! Again I wanted this to be positive, so I invited a young photographer, Jennifer Hummel, and some girlfriends and we made a little party out of it. My landlady, who is an artist as well, was also there. We all networked, had fun and it was a wonderful experience. Wendy had donated her time and artistry for free. I am a tassel designer and maker so instead of paying her, I created a tassel for her.
My Henna Crown
The difference in how I was treated with my “henna crown” was stunning. I became approachable. People came up to me and asked questions. They had smiles on their faces. They shared stories of their loved ones with me. I gave them an idea of henna art to share with their friends and family.
When I didn’t have a henna crown people looked at me strangely, they would look and then look away. When I rode the bus people would even get up and sit somewhere else. They didn’t want to get too close. It was interesting.
Jennifer Hummel had e-mailed me an ad on Craigslist asking for someone who had a mastectomy, if they could take pictures for an article someone was writing. My thoughts were if I could help someone, somehow, why not? Here I am a bald woman walking around with henna on my head, no breasts, and really trying to stay positive. I called.
Goodness Magazine, a new venture, was doing an article about a doctor who had breast cancer and wrote a book to help tell her kids that mommy has breast cancer. They wanted to have a photo of a mastectomy. I said ok. At the time I had a henna crown. I mentioned would that be ok. They were curious. They wanted to know more.
My Photo Shoot
They arranged for a photo shoot. I suggested why not take pictures of Wendy giving me a henna crown and it turned out she gave me “A Shield of Victory,” as I called it. My chest would also have a henna design on it. This was going outside my box, but I thought “Why not?”
Joni Schrantz was the photographer for Goodness. The day was decided upon and I was informed that two days after after the henna was applied there would be a photo shoot on location and in a studio. (You have to wait two days for the henna stain to be its best after application). I thought “Now what have I gotten myself into?”
The location was McMinnamans Edgefield, Ruby Spa Pool and the studio was at Joni's house. Long story short, the editor liked the pictures so much that I got my own article and the cover of the 2009 June issue. I was truly honored by this experience. I was told that I had made a difference. That was a very profound thing to hear.
Henna art was such a positive experience for me that I began to wonder if anyone else had a similar experience. So I searched on the Web and found people. I was not alone. I wondered if other henna artists had sought out cancer patients. They have, and they do.
My mission is to encourage henna artists to use their very special gifts with cancer patients. I want to educate doctors and nurses about henna and the empowering benefits of henna art with cancer patients and to promote the awareness of henna art to cancer patients, so they know that there is another choice we have to express ourselves during chemo treatments.
The Henna Art Quilt Project
I came up with The Henna Art Quilt Project to raise awareness and promote henna art as a form of empowerment for cancer patients. Henna artists, both nationally and internationally are donating their skills by creating hennaed fabric panels to be made into an art quilt that will be auctioned off to raise monies for projects that will benefit cancer patients.
As an artist, I also create hand-dyed, hand beaded tassels. In this tassel, the head is gilded and I used real pressed leaves for accents. I do custom work as well. Clients send their fabric and paint samples for me to hand dye fibers, creating for them one-of-kind pieces of art for their homes. I love what I do. It is my passion. It is my bliss! Having breast cancer has awakened my senses and desires again to create my tassels. I have longed denied my passion. Not any more!
I am sure I have left some things out but that is the jest of it. I hope you enjoyed my story. I have been profoundly touched by the healing power of henna art and those artists who have shared freely of their gifts.
My story begins back when I was a small girl growing up in Seattle, Washington. We lived on the edge of a forest where there were so many things to explore and do amongst the trees, wildflowers and little ponds where frogs and tadpoles lived.
My fascination with nature began there and my fondest memory is when my mom would give us big slices of juicy watermelon on those warm summer days and we would spit the seeds into her gardens. I was so excited to see the tiny little plants that would sprout up out of the ground. My mom always loved lots of flowers in her gardens and never minded that we would add our tiny little seeds all around.
Grief & Growth
Now many years have passed and I lost my sweet mom and dad two weeks apart last April. It seemed my joy and creative energy had somehow gotten lost with the loss of two of the most loving, caring parents whom nurtured me for 52 years. I have always found joy in my garden and so there is where I would find myself grieving and growing flowers in honor of my mom who so loved my garden. Slowly my creative spirit started to surface again and I decided to have a small art studio built in my garden that would become my sanctuary not only to create but to learn to just be still and love all that there is around us each and every day.
Coming Full Circle
I love to turn so-called junk into charming, unique little gardens, from teacups, muffin tins, chairs of any size and fill them with color and whimsy. It is here in my very own backyard where I draw my inspiration from all the beauty that surrounds us and I find that it really has been a full circle traveled since growing up in my backyard as a little girl.
Claire Brocato did a little spot about me for her Web site. She just came and photographed my little piece of heaven on Earth. Check it out at clairebrocatophotography.com.
While I'd rather not dwell in the past of my childhood, I will tell you this. It was dramatic and in no way was it ever boring. It was hard. We moved a lot a lot. One of the things I remember having constantly was a piece of paper and markers. I spent many hours drawing everything that I could imagine and everything that already existed. I took every art class that I could get my hands on. Art was my way of escaping reality.
Dreaming of Being an Artist
When I was twelve, my art teacher entered one of my pieces of art into the fair. It won an award. I never realized how big of a deal that was until many years later. I daydreamed of becoming an artist when I grew up but thought it was unrealistic so I considered my dream silly.
Many years later as an adult, I hit a really emotional rough patch. I wanted a career but couldn't find anything that I loved. I was a single mother. I was overwhelmed, under rested and constantly worried about everything.
Stress Takes a Toll
Then one day my stomach started hurting. It was such excruciating pain that I could no longer breath properly. I crawled to the fan, turned it on, sat in front of it to force air into my lungs and called 911. Any health situation is scary but when you're alone, it's terrifying. Just when I was about to pass out, EMT arrived. They took me by ambulance to the hospital.
After a few emergency room visits, doctor visits and counseling, I finally got an answer: kidney stones, ovarian cyst, vitamin B-12 deficiency and panic disorder. After years of stress, I was finally broken.
I got B-12 shots every week for a month and now take a strong vitamin every day, the cyst and stones passed on their own and the only thing left to deal with were the panic attacks. As it turns out, studies show panic disorders are hereditary.
Refusing to Give Up
My mother has had panic attacks before, and while I feel sad for her, I felt relieved that I was not the only one. She would talk me through it, was by my side and comforted me with something that most people laugh off. I felt crazy, but my mother assured me that I would be fine. Still, the attacks would not go away. They would hit me out of nowhere in normal every day events like when I would drive to school. I had to leave within the first ten minutes of a movie that my son waited weeks to see. I would hyperventilate, shake and inevitably cry. Even when they hit me at an extreme force, I still kept going. I refused to give up.
I went back to the counselor and she gave me medicine to help me keep them at bay. While that helped, they never completely went away. There had to be another way. I didn't want to be medicated forever. I joined the gym to help with the physical stress and then turned my attention to art.
The Healing Power of Art
I was told once that art was therapeutic. I read that it helped with stress. I hadn’t done art in years and I missed it. One day I saw a video about art journaling. The next day I picked up a paintbrush, grabbed a journal and then just stared at it. I started drawing slowly. I thought maybe it was ridiculous to think that art would fix me. I thought wrong.
As the days went on I drew, glued, used stickers, glitter, markers, paint, pens, collage. Anything I could get my hands on. My paint collection grew, the canvases got bigger, and my panic attacks? They nearly completely disappeared. I no longer needed medicine.
Now I am a fulltime artist, love my unconventional job with a passion, graduated college with honors and an award, and the panic attacks that do surface every once in a while are smaller and manageable. Art encouraged me to make healthier choices. Art helps me to focus on beauty instead of negativity. Art is my best friend. Art saved my life. And for that, I am forever grateful.