Feng Shui Hoop Display

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Five Elements Creatively Approached

Last year, I drew all Feng Shui’s elements. To help you remembering my drawings, I add a small compilation of my work.

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Paula’s Feng Shui’s interpretations, showing its Water, Wood, Metal, Fire & Earth element. Copyrighted.

My 5 large, circular, artistic compositions that are now decorating one wall of our living room. I wrote a booklet about this creative process named ‘Feng Shui, A Creative Approach‘. After I had framed my Five Elements, I felt that this project was too inspiring to bring to a close. With our rooms already carefully evaluated on a harmonious representing of the Five Elements, I still wasn’t ready to leave this subject behind me. I printed small prints of my drawings and gave them to various friends. Sybille, a long and very creative art-friend delighted me with framing these mini-prints. (Click here to see her display of the mini-prints). For myself I printed my drawings on fabric, using Spoonflower. I framed the fabric prints with hoops. Somehow, they were begging for more creativity. I gave in eagerly, of course, and looked for nice embellishments to add to the hoop. Thus, I created an engaging hoop-sized display of Water, Fire, Wood, Earth & Metal.

feng shui elements (All)
Feng Shui 5 Elements, Creatively Approached by Paula Kuitenbrouwer at http://www.mindfuldrawing.com. Copyright Paula Kuitenbrouwer 2018.

For Feng Shui’s Wood- element, I added a wooden button and a small wooden stick. I added a metal coin, a beautiful one to the fabric showing my Metal-element interpretation. This coin was in 2017 design for the Isle of Man £1 coin features two birds – a Falcon and a Raven. These birds are symbolically associated with the Island and feature on the Coat of Arms.

Adding an embellishment for Feng Shui’s Fire-element offered a challenge. Yes, of course, I could set my hoop alight but that would result in a very short-lived representation! It took me some time to find a solution. Ashes, perhaps? No, ashes are represented by Earth’s element. Artificial flames? No thanks, too kitsch. In the end, I opted for adding Red Dragon Beads, Dragons breathing fire and these beads showing interesting carvings. I attached them to a loose string, causing some movement. After all, fire is in constant motion, unless water that be still. Equally, I faced difficulties with adding a truthful water-element as an embellishment. After all, I can’t have a soaked and dripping piece of artwork hanging on my wall, but the dripping inspired me. Thus, I added watery looking, droplets decoratively to the hoop. Earth…what to do with Earth? Rubbing in my artwork in with dirty soil? No, of course. It seems better to add Feng Shui’s jewellery for the Earth element with terra-cotta coloured gemstones. All in all, this project resulted into an interesting and engaging display of Feng Shui’s element, artistically approached.

Have you ever wrapped your creative mind around Feng shui’s elements? As I hold a MA degree in Philosophy, I am interested to dive deeper into creatively expressing elements. Feng Shui covers 5 elements, but ancient philosophers wrote about more elements: Air and Aether. Air & Aether certainly pose a near impossible artistic challenge! I will keep you posted.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Artist, Author & Expat

‘Birds, Butterflies, Fish & Botany’

Visiting the Dutch Countryside

We are visiting the Netherlands; birding and hiking in the low lands, visiting villages and the countryside where our ancestors lived. We talk about past generations. What a wonderful stories we, three generations, share and pass on to the youngest generation. Sometimes our ancestors feel close, as if you can turn a corner or pass a group of trees and they will be there. In my mind’s eye, I see a group of men, pre-WWII dressed, joyfully cycling on old bicycles to their work. In my mind’s eye, I see great-grandmothers knitting behind old windows of antique, beautiful houses in well preserved towns. Maybe they still are there; we feel their kindness and beneficial wisdom. Maybe they shape-shift and come as buzzards that enchantingly fly over us or as elegant swans swimming towards the horizon in a sun-set coloured brook. We walk between fields of cereals. I hate to see the expansion of factory farming (knowing of the animal suffering inside these too large stables) but I thank farmers for growing healthy looking crops. The wind dances over fields of young oat stalks. Should I read a message in the silvery patterns that is written by the playing wind? Perhaps the message simply is thankfulness.

………en in de geweldige ruimte verzonken de boerderijen verspreid door het land, boomgroepen, dorpen, geknotte torens, kerken en olmen in een groots verband…..

(H. Marsman, Herinnering aan Holland)

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Artist, Author & Expat

‘Birds, Butterflies, Fish & Botany’

 

Red Ducks in the series Tufted Ducks

‘Red Ducks’ in the series of Tufted Ducks.
‘Red Ducks’ in the series of Tufted Ducks. Copyright Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Unicorns, square circles and red Tufted ducks only exist in our art and imagination. Fantastic concept can inspire us endlessly. Ruddy Shelducks (Brahminy ducks) come close being red ducks but in fact they have orange-brown body plumage. My red Tufted ducks are deep red, dressed up with gold and a variety of different stitches. The satin glow of their pink chest give an impression that they just left the duck pond. While the last drops fall of their waterproof plumage, this cute couple starts preening their feathers.

I always use my own designs, based on my coloured pencil drawings or oil paintings.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Artist, Author & Expat

‘Birds, Butterflies, Fish & Botany’

@mindfuldrawing on Instagram

Embroidery as Art

What makes embroidery art? What is required for embroidery to become a masterpiece? I have read a few books on embroidery but I haven’t come across a reflection on this question. As I am rather new to embroidery, I can only use my fine art (painting) knowledge.


A work of fine art is mostly appreciated for technical and artistic exquisite execution (skill and artistic talent). Having said this, there are many works of art that are regarderd masterpieces because of social, political or purely creative qualities.

For a beautiful piece of embroidery some criteria are similar to painting; technical skill, colour-choice, composition, originality of concept/theme, and quality of materials. Don’t underestimate originality; it is enjoyable and valued to see artisans using their your own source of inspiration. Their artwork reflects their life and their conflict or love for their life living in a certain place and time. Such inspiration creates a unique and uncompromising style or signature.

Blue Tufted Ducks by Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Returning to the question ‘What makes embroidery art?’ Embroidery demands an equal amount of skill as painting, drawing, woodwork, and ceramics. For all artwork counts that more skill leads to increased quality and value.

‘Blue Ducks’ & ‘Green Ducks’ in the series of Tufted Ducks by Paula Kuitenbrouwer.

I used gold thread & various blues plus freehand-stitch, pekinese-stitch, french-knots & openchain-stitch. I always use my own designs, based on my coloured pencil drawings or oil paintings. Occasionally I use my sketches for making lino-prints too.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Artist, Author & Expat

‘Birds, Butterflies, Fish & Botany’

@mindfuldrawing on Instagram

Tufted Duck Embroidery

DuckEmbroidery.jpg

Remember the lino print that I made recently? Perching Ducks 4It was inspired by observing a Tufted duck couple. Although the stylized style is new to me and not often practiced by me, I enjoyed playing with the intertwining lines. In fact, I enjoyed it so much (it felt positively Celtic) that I copied my drawing and set up an embroidery design.

My preening ducks keep me busy. What wing part is from the right sided duck and what from the left? Nobody knows and that I find the most charming part of this design.

My duckish ambitions haven’t acted out completely and I foresee more playing around with these lovely ducks. In fact, the next embroidery is in the making, as you can see. (By the way, Tufted ducks aren’t green. The male is black-white and the female brown. They have darn cute, large and round shaped heads with a charming tuft).

 

 

Woolgathering

I learned a new word: woolgathering. I like new words and I especially like woolgathering because I like textile craft, cotton, wool and gathering supplies. But that is not what woolgathering means, however woolgathering was original used for gathering the leftover pieces of wool after sheep shearing. Woolgathering now means to indulgence in aimless thought or dreamy imagining, in short, day-dreaming. Can artists day-dream? Or do they rush to their sketch-books, canvasses, notebooks in a bee-line to pen down their inspirational ideas?

William Wordsworth wrote in his Daffodils poem that when he is ‘In vacant or in pensive mood, They (daffodils) flash upon that inward eye’. Is that vacant and pensive mood daydreaming or woolgathering? I don’t think so.

Poetic reflecting is closely related but it seems different from woolgathering to me. Woolgathering is without focus; poetic reflection demands concentration. However, the effect is the same; inspiration floods the mind. Off I go, rushing to my desk where my sketchbooks, notebooks and soap-stones are waiting for me. I leave the woolgathering to others.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Artist, Author & Expat

@mindfuldrawing on Instagram

A Bardic Storytelling of the ‘Celtic of the West’ Model

I am much impressed by Celtic art and as a result of being so inspired I have summarized the Celts from the West Theory in a ‘Celtic’ artistic style, as a way of Bardic story-telling, in which we aren’t sure what is fact and what is story-telling.

Lady Vix Face.jpg(Reconstruction of the Lady of Vix’s face based on her skeleton)

Allow me to present lady Vix, a highly gifted and deformed woman, born in the ancient Portuguese city Tartessos, in the first millennium BC. She inspires a local artist to chisel her in stone, riding a horse, side-saddled because of her deformities. Later this statute, identified by archaeologists as that of a Celtic Goddess, is found in San Bartolomeu de Messines along with Tartessian letters[1]. About 97 other Tartessian inscriptions on stone convince Koch that Tartassian was a Paleohispanic Celtic language.[2]

Tartessos
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tartessos

Tartessos isn’t big enough for Lady Vix and soon she is on her way to spread her metalworking skills. She, and other traders, use Tartassian as a trading and metal-work related vocational language. Phylogenetic work (Gray and Atkinson, 2003) offers a date of the development of Celtic language, which is about the 4th millennium BC.[3][4]

Lady Vix travels extensively, using Atlantic sea-ways to visit Brittany and the British Isles. Along with spreading metal working fashion, increasing artistic awareness is responsible for establishing ‘a high degree of cultural similarities displayed by maritime communities (Cunliffe, 1999)[5] along the Atlantic coast. Such as upstanding angular stones, Cliff Castles along the entire Atlantic façade, and circularity in domestic architecture. We can’t be sure this is Lady Vix’s and her apprentices influence exclusively but with many women written out of history, one should be mindful of missing women when stumbling upon gaps in our knowledge.

Atlantic-Europe
Atlantic Europe

The bards’ story-telling about the influence of Lady Vix inspire local village heads to adopt Celtic place names. Later linguistic research, by Patrick Simms-Williams (2006), offers maps with high density of Celtic places, resulting in linguistic geographical evidence for the ‘Celtic from the West’ model. It is also thought that Celtic language spreads further ‘as a supra-regional language of Bell Beaker groups[6], as maps of Bell Beaker burials and Celtic language Bronze age maps show remarkable similarities.[7]

The last successor of Lady of Vix is found in a burial mount in Burgundy, France (dating from 500 BC). Next to her remains stands an extraordinary Greek wine mixing vessel that tells us that trade, charisma and metalworking skills have been interrelated for a long time.

Mont Lassois, France
Mont Lassois, France, Lady Vix’s Burial Mount

Vix Vurial

(CGI of Lady Vix’s burial chamber)

Vix Chariot & Krater
Lady Vix’s Wine Krater and Chariot in which she was buried. Lady Vix burial artefacts are magnificent, especially the large Greek wise vessel.

The last known Lady in the Vix tradition is buried away from the Atlantic Celtic language zones as the long line of successors have used thousands of years of trading coastal, riverine and migratory networks from Portugal to the British Isles, from the Atlantic coast to the east of Europe. The Roman Herodotus was right after all that the Celts lived near the Pyrenees, ‘beyond the Pillars of Hercules’[8][9]. Lady Vix and contemporaries have brought their DNA to the British Isles which leads in 2006 to Oppenheimer stating that the ancestors of today’s British and Irish populations arrived from Spain about 16,000 years ago.[10]

From Tartessos, like Lady Vix.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

2017

P.S. I wrote this story being inspired by my course ‘Who are the Celts’, at Department for Continuing Education University of Oxford. I tried to bring knowledge together on Celtic sea-way trading, Celtic metallurgy, Celtic DNA, and Female Druidism. I hope you have enjoyed my story. Should you feel the ambition to unravel what is fact and what is fiction, I highly recommend the course at Oxford’s Department for Continuing Education. Having said that, the footnotes might be helpful too.

FOOTNOTES

[1] Koch, J. Tartessian, Europe’s newest and oldest Celtic language. Published in Celts: Issue II (Mar/Apr 2009), Prehistory/Archaeology, Vol.17.

[2] More on Celtic inscriptions and identification of Celtic place names: Koch. J. An atlas for Celtic studies (Oxford, 2008).

[3] Gibson, C. & Wodtko D, The background of the Celtic languages: theories from archaeology and linguistics, p. 5

[4] Others suggest it goes back to the 2nd-3rd millennium BC.

[5] Cunliffe, B. Atlantic Sea-ways. Revista de Guimaraes, Volumne Espeiual, I. Guimaraes, 1999, pp. 93-105.

[6] Gibson, C. & Wodtko D, The background of the Celtic languages: theories from archaeology and linguistics, p. 7

[7] Harrison, R.J., Jackson, R. and Napthan, M., 1999 A rich Bell Beaker burial from Wellington Quarry, Marden, Herefordshire, Oxford Journal of Archaeology, vol. 18, no. 1, pp 1–16.   

[8] Beyond the ‘Pillars of Hercules’ refers to the Straits of Gibraltar, what is now southern Portugal, were the ancient city Tartassos was located.

[9] Cunliffe, B. 2003. The Celts, a Very Short Introduction. Oxford; OUP. Chapter 2.

[10] Oppenheimer, S., 2006 Origins of the British: A genetic detective story, Constable & Robinson Ltd.

My Celtic Art Project

My Celtic Art Project 

This is my contribution to my “Who are the Celts’ course at Oxford Department for Continuing Education, week 5 ‘Celtic Art’ (2017). At the end of a demanding study week the participants were challenged to make their own Celtic art, a drawing, woodwork, or poem, whatever your prefer.
I managed to finish my Celtic Art project within a fortnight because it was a lot of drawing. Strangely enough, I was always in awe when I saw Celtic art but I was never challenged or commissioned to make Celtic art.  I had to remove my anxiety for too much rigid mathematical organization (the patterns and swirls) and focus on the hidden mythology, faces and animals. Although I love Celtic art, I have always feel resistance to make it as it seems to limit artistic expression to its theme as the patterns are strictly organized and repetitive. The article on the enchantment of technology inspired me too to embrace  a geometrical challenge for making Celtic patterns.  Anyway, I am not going to say: ‘I did it’, but I enjoyed the challenge!

Used: Golden/Silver ink-pens, an ordinary Bic blue pen, art paper, a protector and many rulers.

Note: preliminary sketches trying out mathematical organization, a large original drawing, a print & a small postcard. I printed the title of this artwork with a Celtic letter type:

Golden with Silver & Lapis Lazuli Celtic Plate
with Boar, Hidden Face & Swans
© by Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Enjoy!

Paula

 

Prehistoric Hands Invite and Confirm Communication with the Dead, by Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Positive hand-prints are stenciled with red ocher;

white hand images are achieved by adding pigments around a hand

I like to present an idea about prehistoric positive and negative hand-prints that are found all over the world and dating from circa 40.000 to 1.000 BCE. I read a message into the difference of red and white hand-prints. The message, to my understanding, is that both hand-prints testify of successful communication with deceased souls. Why I have come to this thesis, I will explain.

I.

There is research stating that prehistoric peoples believed that the soul of the dead lived on in rock or stone reliefs. If this sounds strange, think of modern examples that resonate with this belief: we have the venerated Wailing Wall, we touch stone tombs, crosses, statutes, and monuments or lay flowers at the foot of them showing our respect.

Thinking that the soul of the dead lived on in stone isn’t hard to imagine as stone is everlasting (apart from some eroding) and impenetrable. The ever-lasting and impenetrable quality of stone symbolizes death; people are away for ever and out of reach. But are they? Not to prehistoric peoples who lived in their world full animal, nature or ancestral spirits. For communication with the deceased, the living sought their ancestral spirits in special places; deep in caves, high on mountains or hills.

We do the same. We visit graveyards, throw flowers in bodies of water, send our prayers to heaven. Or we hold close memorabilia, things prehistoric people didn’t have. Imagine being without memorabilia to hold close in times of grief. Imagine how important it was for prehistoric people to communicate with the dead; to ask for their advice and wisdom. Or to invite them back into the world of living, which was an obvious thing to do as prehistoric people lived with the spirits of their dead, they were dwelling in their house, in their lakes or on nearby hilltops. Inviting back family members or tribal leaders who had stood out and were important or even regarded irreplaceable, isn’t a huge mind-stretch when one assumes his or her spirit is lingering nearby and shamans could journey to the spirit world to communicate with these valuable and beloved tribal members.

II.

There are many different interpretations of the functions of cave hand stencils. They are seen as ancient fingerprint identifications; ‘I have been here in this cave’. Or as traffic signs, informing us about the location of fertile hunting grounds, or they were handshakes (one tribe is greeting another tribe). In any case, hand-prints were serving a form of communication. The most remarkable fact about prehistoric hand stencils to me, for me observed as an artist, is that they come as positive and negative prints, creating red and white hand images.

Making red and white hand images requires a different technique, which, to me, shows two different communications are expressed; the message of light-against-dark hand-prints versus dark-against-light hand prints.

From here, we could assume that the hand-prints that were red, were the hand-prints of the living expressed with red ocher being the colour of blood and thus of the living. The white hand-prints are the hand-prints that expressing and representing the deceased. They are white because being dead is being bloodless, pale or white.

A cave that shows hand-prints, both reddish and whitish, holds a message to visitors that this is a sacred place, a ‘thin’ place, a penetrable place where communication with the spirit world is possible and successful. Supportive of this thesis is that a few speleologists (Chauvet cave, France) felt ‘spirits of long ago’ after discovering a prehistoric cave.

On some cave paintings many hand-prints are found, illogically applied, some easy within reach, others not so easy to apply. It seems like that prehistoric people were trying to locate the thinnest place of the walls, that, as a thin veil or membrane, was hanging as a semi-permeable divide between the world of the living and the dead, allowing communication with the dead. As a doctor feels a patient, as an artist feels a canvas, as a blind person feels a face, so prehistoric people felt a wall, trying to make contact and marking their hands as red, as from the living. Where they felt contact with spirits, with the deceased, they set white hand-prints to mark communication was established. Should they return to the depths of a cave, they could use the marks on the wall.

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III

We know that hand-prints were often applied by women (Professor Dean Snow of Pennsylvania State University) but certainly not all of them as there are also hand-prints of both genders and of all ages. Still, it is important to know that most were female hand-prints. What is the extra value of women over men? Let me be succinct and point out to reproduction. Only within a woman’s body reproduction can take place and a soul can descend into a fertile womb. This quality of a woman had her, more than others, touch prehistoric cave walls inviting a spirit back into her womb. Again, I like to point out how prehistoric caves resemble human flesh, with their stalagmites and stalactites resembling membranes, male and female genitals.

To enter Earth’s womb made prehistoric people set of long and laborious journeys into dark and dangerous deep caves. Then, arriving there, in a womb like interior, performing or reacting a conception ritually (and perhaps not only ritually as the cave of Laussel suggests), but more importantly spiritually by communicating with the dead must have been a consolatory and a rewarding ritual when, a few months later, a baby was welcomed to the community. Communications with the dead might have been assisted through shamanic rituals, enhanced by the illusions the visual stimulating cave paintings created, and by the intake of paint pigments, which might have been used as psychedelic drugs.

Perhaps shamans or psychedelic drugs weren’t even needed. Imagine changing stages of consciousness by dwelling for a longer time deep in a cave that is completely dark and still, in a cave that isn’t affected by the outside world. No rain, no wind, no thunder, no light other than that of torches and ear deafening silence. Imagine the smell of smoke and a sense of being inside a living organism that shows its fleshy interior. This was the strange world where the dead lived as it was cold and dark, yet it looked alive and organic too. Here you were as close to the dead as possible and here communication with the dead should be able to take place.

A combination of a wish to communicate with the deceased, alternating stages of consciousness, and the belief that the dead were dwelling behind these fleshy walls, inside an organism in which you had descended too, here contact with the dead was possible. Although the deceased lived in stone, these fleshy coloured walls, seemed to move and pulsate under the lights of torches, and these walls didn’t look impenetrable.

It was a matter of finding the thinnest spot, but touching, by feeling the wall. And thus, the thinnest curve in a rock that allowed communications were touched with red hand prints. And if prehistoric cave dwellers felt communicating with a deceased family or tribal member was answered, a white hand print, was added with a white hand stencil signature.

A supporting idea for white hand prints marking established contact with the dead, is to be found the hardship a small community suffered by crawling into a deep cave, a seriously dangerous and laborious task, a task that was only worth to be undertaken if it served a cause worth its hardship and danger. Bringing back a wise dead family or tribal member would fit such cause. Not only as a remedy against overwhelming sense of loss, also to regain wisdom, elementary knowledge or status to a tribe.

What can be brought up against my idea? Many things, like that some hand prints were from men and children. However, it isn’t hard to imagine a grief-stricken child in need for communication with a lost parent being helped by other tribal members or their shaman. Refuting my idea by stating that if white hands represented the dead touching and answering to the call, these hands should have been mirrored, fails as one can’t touch a stone wall from within. But one can use different coloured hand-prints.

CONCLUSION

Putting a few aspects together; hand prints serving communication, prehistoric people thinking that their ancestors lived on in the world of rock, most hand prints were applied by women, supports an idea that pregnant women were assisted by their tribe or community to enter a cave, touch the ancestral world in order to communicate with a deceased soul to invite them back into the realm of the living. Red hand prints were left on cave-walls as to testify people attempted to contact deceased tribal members, white hand images were added as a sign communicating with the dead had taken place.

Hand images have emerged around the world over a period of some 40,000 years. Any symbol, be it a hand or a circle, can represent a multiplicity of meanings and motives or change in their meaning related to rituals, sacred rites or ceremonies. I have highlighted only my idea. There are many ideas and theories.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Artist/Writer/Philosophy M.A.

N.B. Inevitably I am, as a lay person, simplifying and generalizing archaeological research. I hold a degree in Philosophy, studied ‘Religion and Rituals in Prehistory’ at Oxford Department of Continuing Education, and have read many books on prehistoric art. My essay is presenting an idea, unpretentiously, and it welcomes criticism.