Discover how making crosses out ordinary objects can be a transforming experience. In this challenge we invite you to take found objects (shells, twigs, dried flowers, pieces from broken dishes, magazine images, etc.) and assemble them to create a cross. As you create your cross observe your thoughts. What memories surface? What emotions emerge? After your cross is made, take some time to sit with it quietly. Observe the lines, shapes, colors, and textures. Ask your cross, "What story do you tell?" Pull out a journal or pad of paper and start writing. This is a profound experience and a perfect creative and contemplative practice to try during Lent. This blog post features some of the crosses I made and the stories they tell.
This blog post on cross making was originally posted two years ago. I've had some readers inquire about reposting this theme and challenge. Revisiting a post, book, theme, prompt always brings new insights for we are never the same person from one moment in time to the next.
So I've dusted off this post, added some new reflections, and picked up another copy of the book, Making Crosses: A Creative Connection to God by Ellen Morris Prewitt to giveaway to one person who participates in the contest. Details can be found further down on this post.
Will you join me on a Lenten Journey?
Making time for reflection during the 40 days of Lent is a very powerful experience, regardless of your religious background. I've found the process of making crosses to be very transformative and insightful. Whenever we tap into the creative process, we touch the divine. It is experienced as GRACE, that feeling of ease where we enter the creative zone where images seem to emerge and words flow from the pen. This Lenten Journey that I'm inviting you to take with me is an invitation to enter into that creative space and to open up to GRACE.
A project for everyone.
Making crosses doesn't require any background or training as an artist. All you need is a desire to collect stuff and put it together. There are no rules, guidelines, or expectations. You can make the crosses from magazine images and collage them together in your journal. Broken dishes, dried flowers, seashells, old jewelry - really anything you can imagine can be worked into a cross. Allow yourself the creative freedom to select what piques your interest. You may need to experiment with different adhesives, wire, or nails to assemble your cross. The process of selecting materials and pulling it together is part of the journey - I hope you'll have fun with it.
If you are not of a Christian background this symbol can be seen as a CROSSROADS. It is a great visual for representing the paths in your life, a point of intersection, and a place to check in before moving on in a journey. I write more about the crossroads theme that is packed with great reflection questions HERE. In the post, I share a cross made out of paper that represents my word for the year, "embrace." I offer several questions in that post that may help you as you reflect upon and interpret your own crosses.
I was first inspired by the book, Making Crosses: A Creative Connection to God by Ellen Morris Prewitt. The book offers steps, reflections, and journal exercises to guide you in making crosses.
Each cross has a story to tell.
Each cross is a unique reflection of the person making it and holds within it a very personal story. Clues of the story emerge from the materials that were selected. Whatever is burning in our hearts becomes the story our crosses tell. Like all of my art making, I work intuitively to make the crosses. I pay little attention to "why" I'm selecting materials. I grab what grabs me. Making time for quiet reflection is an important part of the process. Storytelling has the power to heal - when we share our stories we learn that we are not alone in our struggles. Often we make peace with what has been stirring inside and our stories offer comfort and resolution. As you tell your story, consider how you will tell it. You have the opportunity to tell it anew and in a way that is empowering.
My first crosses and the story they tell.
To get started on my first crosses, I was drawn to natural materials and pulled out a large hat box stuffed with dried materials left over from my Ikebana (Japanese flower arranging) practice. What follows are five crosses and my reflections on each one.
Cross 1: Believe
bleached kiwi branch, eucalyptus pods, and seashell
As I looked at this cross I thought, "What are you struggling with?" A torrent of emotions welled up and shook my body like a violent storm. I was watching myself and silently asked, "What is behind this strong reaction?" Looking at this sweet little cross I heard the question, "What do you believe?"
After thinking a bit I replied, "I still don't know." For most of my life and even today I have difficulty speaking the name God. For me it is rife with a history of man's ego acting out so violently throughout the centuries in the name of God. In my own life I've been saddened to witness (albeit far lesser) trespasses on the name by mean and petty "Christians." From a young age and even today I struggle separating man from religion. How much of traditional religions are divinely inspired and how much is designed by man to serve man? I mean no blaspheme here and wish to add that in my work of the last 7 years, I have come to know so many dear, honest, and faith-filled people who inspire me to look closer with an open heart. What I do know is that we are part of something bigger. I have been blessed to witness miracles every day, yes every single day. With each miraculous coincidence, kismet seems to be dancing in front of me and asking, "When will you get it?"
"But what exactly am I to get?"
I turn to my next cross.
With the branches full of leaves and an unusual flower at the center, my second cross speaks to me of growth. This cross reminds me just how important it is to make time for contemplative practices. As I prepare to take up a Lenten Journey, this cross is a signal to dedicate more time for journal writing, daily walks, and yoga.
This cross, made of broom corn reminds me of the autumn harvest. It also reminds me of the simple lifestyle of the Peche Indians I met when traveling in Honduras. The homes were so simple. They used branches as brooms to sweep their dirt floored homes with the leaves. When I look at this cross I am humbled and reminded that we do not need as much as we think we do. The cross speaks to me, "Live a simple life and you will reap a harvest that will nourish you and those whom you serve."
This cross asks me to look around at all that I have collected. "Do you need all of this stuff? What can you give away that will help another less fortunate?"
As I tied together three pussy willow branches, I imagined the leaf as a bandage holding together three parts of myself: the child, the mother, and the artist. The starfish was attached with another leaf at the center of the cross. Doesn't the starfish look playful? It is as if it has outstretched arms and it is dancing. As I seek to balance the different archetypes and roles, the dualities of my mind and body, I see how important it is to approach life as a dance for when I resist, I feel the struggle.
This cross says, "Lighten up! Get playful." On this Lenten Journey I will seek to be like a child - full of wonder and curiosity; like a mother - nurturing and gentle; and like the artist - creative and contemplative.
This last cross is perhaps the most intriguing to me.
The top bears several branches reaching out. I sat for quite a time looking up on my wall of crosses thinking, "What is the story behind this cross?" I sat still in silence. I sat and sat. My mind seemed empty. On a small table next to the crosses I pulled out my box of Zen cards and randomly choose a card. FORGIVENESS came up. "Ah-ha! Yes, forgiveness is the name of this cross." I've been exploring forgiveness in the last seven years and more recently the focus has been turned inward on forgiving myself. As I look back on that first cross and my struggle, perhaps it is time to open my heart and forgive those who have been so very human, broken, and misguided?
The back of the Zen card reads:
yourself and everyone
around you. When you
judge others, YOU
are the one who feels
forgiveness, all pain
Now it is your turn!
I invite you to take up your own journey during the 40 days of Lent. Try making a cross of your own. Consider getting together with your friends to share this creative practice - and be sure to leave time for telling the stories of the crosses. The crosses also make a thoughtful gift for a friend, loved one, or colleague.
I hope you'll be inspired by this post to create one. As a little incentive I picked up a copy of the book, Making Crosses: A Creative Connection to God by Ellen Morris Prewitt for one lucky participant.
1. Design a cross using any materials of your choosing. Maybe you'll take a week to collect materials before you sit down to work. One suggestion from the book is to select items to honor your past. To get organized, consider setting up a table just for this practice so you don't have to complete your project in one sitting. When I work I allow myself to slow down and observe the process. Feeling resistance? Breath into it and let go of any expectations. Turn to your journal to empty yourself of any frustration. Remind yourself that you have everything you need to make your cross.
2. Post a photo on the True North Arts page on Facebook.
3. Include a description. In your Facebook post share the materials used, the name of your cross, and any details you would like to share.
4. Submit your entry by Friday, March 29, 2013 at midnight EST.
5. I'll announce the winner on Easter Sunday, March 31, 2013.
Go! Collect some materials and fashion yourself a cross. In this creative time, look inward. Listen to your heart. May you find a deeper connection to the divine. I look forward to seeing your beautiful crosses!
Kathryn, Collage Diva
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