Saturday, September 30, 2017

A wonderful life, a life full of wonder

A post I wrote a good few weeks ago, but never saw the light of day.
So, here it is...

Sometimes life it just wonderful.
Full of wonder.

Many of you know that I was never much of a fan of Facebook, but I was 'tricked' back into this strange world to fundraiser for Into the Light just over two years ago. The page wage was managed for me. I just suggested what could be written on it. I stayed away from this scary place for a god while. But, alas, eventually I wrote a few words myself, and added pictures, and then even wrote on my personal page, not just my Art page ... I know...

But, as life moves on, I have moments when I actually like facebook...

Being part of that world, has brought me in contact with many other creative, I would not have met otherwise. I don't get out into the real world all that often.
It led to giving puppet making classes.
It led to some amazing (many private) conversations, about birds, and books, and art.
About healing, and illness, about challenges and gratitude.

photo of juvenile goldcrest on a bed of leaves, by Corina Duyn

Birds and books

A photo of a little bird which had flown against my kitchen window. The photos of the bird brought a discussion about what kind of bird it was, many got involved.  It also led to a conversation with a fellow nature lover, also living with M.E. Selina is currently in Scotland, and we "visited" each other's gardens, through sharing images, taken from our homes.
I loved that!

Also, recently I was contacted by a lady who's drawings I had posted in a post last year about Severe M.E. Linda had come across  a version of this post on the Disability Arts Online blog. Linda and her husband Greg, then found themselves exploring my website, and made contact with me on facebook.  We are both creatives, like to write, love the birds, identified in such similar ways in terms of the experience of illness. Linda's symptoms are much more severe. Being grateful to have seen some light in my journey, I decided to post a copy of Into the Light to her. Just felt right.  As Hatched  is about my first eight years of illness, when I was still pretty shook, they downloaded the book from my websiteLinda:"I really am moved by the words and pictures and they touch my own experience."

When Into the Light arrived at their doorstep, we were all catapulted into a place of wonder and excitement.  Linda was awake during the night and felt compelled to write her thoughts on the book. Greg got inspired to create a beautiful page on their Stonebird Website. I felt overwhelmed by their kindness, and what the creation I had made, made such an impact on people I will most likely never meet in person.

“What we love about this in essence deconstructed and elegantly transformed book, is how it brings accessibility, where an ordinary book is too heavy, too complex and often too many pages and too many words to manage. 

The imagery and photography convey so much to me personally – they elicit a recognition and deep resonance in my heart of my own experience, yet bring hope. They seem to bring a multi dimensional aspect because it resonates so deeply with what I know myself also from my own very severe illness and helps me recognises a bond of knowing between us, carried through the messages, words, imagery, beyond what is physically seen – the gift of not aloneness, the comprehension of pain, the need to surrender to the experience yet not to give in, the triumph, the resilience of the human heart and spirit despite intense physical suffering.” (Linda Crowhurst - See more at the Stonebird website)

What can I say.
It has been an amazing week.

... And to top it all, at the very moment I was writing this I heard a motorbike stop outside my gate. Followed by a knock on the door. The driver has seen one of my prints I have displayed on the wall...
'Into the Light print:
'The blessing for which we hunger are not to be found
in other places or people.' John O'Donohue  - Anan Cara
We had a lovely chat and he went away with a copy of Into the Light .

So, Facebook can be full of wonder, 

but having this unexpected visitor equates to a wonderful life.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Puppetry, as a reflecting on life with illness/disability

The Two Dancer Puppets for the "Reflection" project are on the go since 2013, but I restarted working on them about two months ago. Read more about that HERE.

Puppet making has many, many steps. In terms of the creative process, but also emotionally....
If I like it or not!

photo of sculpted and painted puppet body parts made by Corina Duyn
'Hanging out'


Sculpting the heads, the hands, the feet/shoes. Assembling the bodies. And for this project, of course there is two of everything. Herself, and her reflection... (A disabled puppet sees her dancing reflection in the mirror)
Two wooden puppet bodies, with sculpted caly heads made by Corina Duyn

Broken bodies

Seeing these bodies side by side. In all their nakedness, a friend commented on how this also represents my story. The story of illness, of disability, of fragility, of a broken body in a way.
How true.
'But', I said'. 'They will be dressed, of course!'
'Of course.'

But isn't that a story in itself. 
The assembling of the bodies, the painting, dressing up and all, covers up the reality of a fragile body. A puppet body which can not function without support. Support of strings, and glue, and wires and a cross to manipulate movement. My body, which can not fully function without the support of mobility aids, of society, of friendships...

Putting it all together

Last week I started painting the heads, hands and shoes.
A process which is divided up in four stages. Two different undercoats. One 'wash' with watercolour paint, and finishing off with varnish. Before being attached to the body for good.

photo of sculpted and painted puppet body parts made by Corina Duyn, gathered in a box
box of painted body parts, paint, brushes etc

The puppets became little beings.
I just love this photo of the puppet (its reflection) showing off the new socks.
I think there is a sense of fragility in it. But also a huge sense of pride.
photo of puppet sitting on a box, in her underwear, wearing stripy socks, made by Corina Duyn
I think this is one of my favourite images.
And pride.
In the last few days I have started to work on the clothing.
Clothing cut, and yet to be sewn and fitted
Oh, how I wish I could just stay in the studio, and finish the clothing. And not be in tears from the pain if stay any longer than 15 minutes behind/near the sewing machine... 
I am re-learning how to find the best posture, use the most appropriate chair, and most of all, to set my alarm.
So, all in good time, one day at the time, one small step at the time, the girls are getting dressed.
two puppets dressed in brown velvet trousers, made by Corina Duyn
trousers fitting
puppet leaning on her walking sticks, Puppet by Corina Duyn
Holding herself upright with her walking sticks
Saturday's session: first shirt in the making
And while I work away on the puppets, Dominic Fee is working on creating the movement of the puppets. I love collaborating with an artist of such calibre.

Puppet standing on a small stage made by artist Dominic Fee
 Jimmy: "At last I made it onto a stage!"

Jimmy, my at least 25-year-old puppet, has travelled to Cork to be a 'stand-in' for the 'girls'. And how proud he looks! 

The 'stage' is Dominic's art: "DLV (DIMENSIONS, LOCATION VARIABLE) is a modular, interactive, open-ended artwork, made in 2013, consisting of several hundred wooden components which can be assembled together in many different ways." 

Jimmy with Dominic Fee's DLV artwork
The DLV artwork proved to be an incredible platform to facilitate the movement of the puppets. Dominic first trial had Jimmy move his arms, with the help of a small motor, and strings leading from the puppets via the DLV structure.
Incredible stuff.
Watch this space for updates!

Art and reality 

Over the years I have come to realise that my art reflects the stages of my life (with illness). Usually after a work has been completed. Sometimes I see this only years later... Reflections of growth, of hopes, challenges, and desires.

As this puppet project had a four year lead in period, in which my health took many a challenge, I can only hope that the movement, the stepping out, shown here, will in some way reflect my own present personal reality: the wish, and ability to dance. 

At least let me trust the reflection in the mirror - the movements which are possible in my mind's eye. 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Japanese Dancer Mia, made by Anne Palmer

A visual account of how 'Mia' came into being under the hands of Anne Palmer. The first doll made in my studio by someone other than myself.  Mia is turning out to be beautiful.
'Mia',  made by Anne Palmer
(Her Kimono is still to be finished)
A few months ago I announced here on my blog that I had made the decision to teach puppet and doll making in my studio. To concentrate on 'all-things-puppet'. At the time I had no idea how this was going to work, if anyone might be interested. Little did I know that I would receive requests for puppet making classes from people who did not even know I was teaching... 
The word must be out in the universe.

Anyway. Anne Palmer was the first to complete an eight week long course, although she still has to finish her doll Mia's kimono. The second class (of three students) has started, the third one is already booked. (Classes run for one and a half hour per week, for 8 weeks, with plenty of work to do at home.)

I just LOVE to see the individual characters emerge. 

The very early stages of what became to be Mia
Anne came to my class with Margaret, (who was unable to continue half way through). Anne's aim was to create a Japanese dancer, based on a poem she had written:

Flying crane on a Japanese kimono

I could be this bird
whose movement across
the warp of time
is more real
than my thread-bare 

I could just be,
free from
sophisticated knots
that tie and dye me
in stringy metres
starched and subdued.

My poems would zing
like the crane's daisy-chain legs
following the ghost
of my bird-body
traced by a skilled hand 

in some grand design.

© Anne Palmer 2017

The character is starting to emerge
stuffing the body
As Anne's doll was going to be attached to a painted screen, we decided that there was no point in adding strings to make a fully workable puppet. We chose a stuffed, and wired body, and added syringes in the back in order to attach the doll to the backdrop. An experimental way, but it worked!

Mia against the Japanese Screen,
which will have painted panels,
felt panels
and the words of the poem written on it.
creating some beautiful hands
Mia, will be holding a fan in one hand, while her other hand portrays a gracious movement. 
I think Anne made a wonderful pair of hands.
ahh... a bit of a rest in the studio before class!
As the facilitator,  it is wonderful to see the connection that is made over the weeks between the maker and the emerging doll/puppet. Often there is a bond between them. Between the two worlds. Or perhaps between the outer and inner world of the maker. A mysterious adventure into the unknown.

Anne opted to keep the facial features white, with a hint of rouge, and very distinct red lips.
And created a 'bodysuit' for under the kimono.

almost ready to see into our world.
I ask new students not to have a fully formed idea on what their puppet/doll should look like. The puppets have a habit of come out the way they want. 

The ability to let the creative process happen  is key to a fun adventure, and successful outcome.
Proud mama Anne
This Japanese Dancer is at this stage sill awaiting
her kimono, but the fabric has been chosen
and the design created.
I look forward to see Mia as fully finished doll. With Kimono and fan. As well as the Japanese themed backdrop with the painted panels, the felted panels and the poetry.

What an incredible multi media project.

Well done Anne!

Further reading and links:

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Puppet Reflection

I have come to accept that certain art projects take years to grow from the initial seed (idea) to a finished piece of art, with its own story to tell. My dance puppets are one such project.

two sculpted heads drying on a stove, each resting on a sculpted lower leg. By Artist Corina Duyn
Heads drying on the stove.
The shoes- also drying, were a handy way
to keep the heads upright... 
Looking back:

I found this abstract From a blog post in March 2014:

"... During my residency at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre at Annaghmakerrig [September 2013] I was invited to visit the dance studio. When I made my way up there, the person who had invited me was not there. Walking through the door I was faced by a full wall of mirrors.
Unsettled by my reflection, I turned around, sat down, and observed the beautiful views from the large windows: the greenhouse, Annaghmakerrig House, fields, and trees. Lots of trees. A robin landed on the wall in front of me. A playful dog ran back and forth (danced?) along the patio, his owner not to be seen. Listening to a reversing tractor making a sound like a musical instrument, I decided it was time to look around and face the dance studio mirrors.
I walked, slowly. Stood still, two canes holding me upright. When I moved the canes behind my back I looked pretty normal. I could be that dancer. But looking with intend into my face, brought sadness.
Here was the reality: I am disabled. Rely on canes to walk. Can only stand steadily for a few minutes. Away from mirrors I generally do not see my life to be so much different from the ‘healthy’. 

I needed to trust my body, trust I can dance. In my own way. 
As a result of this encounter, the puppets I was working on which were to represent dancers, changed from two healthy dancers to one disabled dancer seeing her healthy reflection in the mirror.
In art I can be who I want to be. In art I have danced. ..."

I had started to make one of the heads four years ago... But life took a different route. And I was not so sure about the head I had created... It was different from my usual more whimsical faces. 
Over the years other sculptures were started, and finished. But this one head remained in my studio. Untouched. But not forgotten. 

Starting the puppet making workshops in my studio 8 weeks ago was the catalyst to resume working on the Dancer puppets. (Of course the whole puppet adventures have taken on a life of their own as well. See below for link.)

As I wanted to have the puppet face itself in a 'mirror' (I intend to use framed plexiglass as a pretend mirror), I had to find a way to copy the head I had made. I decided that the best way to do this was create a plaster mould. Having made the copy of the head with DAS air drying clay, I was able to change the facial features some bit, to a more open, happy face, while the clay was still wet.

two puppets / marionettes in the making. Showing wooden bodies and sculpted heads  By Corina Duyn
Dancer Puppets in the making.
One with walking sticks,
the other more free in her movements

I have assembled two wooden puppet bodies. The parts made with the help of my brother Joop, and IWA puppet maker Paul.

I made two individual sets of hands. One set to hold on to the walking sticks. The other with a much more movement in her arms and hands- even her wrists. (I moulded a piece of rope from a roller blind between the hand and forearm)

hands in the making. Adding one finger at the time
Hands in progress
The puppet with the walking sticks will be pretty much stationary when facing the 'mirror'. The other one- the reflection of herself in the 'mirror' I would like to be able to move. To Dance!
This will be an exciting adventure too. 
Of course the puppets can be manipulated manually... like the puppets in Life Outside the Box but I am also exploring how the puppet in the mirror can move with the help of a little motor.  
This part will be created in collaboration with Cork based Artist Dominic Fee .
I am so excited!

Today, eight weeks after having resumed this project, I have applied the first of four layers of paint/varnish on the puppets. Over the next few weeks/months, I will look for the fabric, and design the clothing, decide on hair style, and finish the painting process.
And suddenly, the puppet and its reflection in the mirror are becoming little 'people'.

Watch this space!

Further reading: