While re-reading Lewis Hyde’s The Gift, I especially enjoyed his use of folktales to demonstrate old ways of understanding the nature of gift. I thought about Raven Steals the Sun (3/19/2021) and Raven Steals the Water (10/15/2021). These stories focus not on the giving of gifts, but on the irreverence and immorality of hoarding. The gift is only dispersed – as it should be – when a single individual (Raven) finds it too large to be selfishly contained.
For several months, I’ve had trouble focusing on my mask projects. I cleaned my studio & cleared off my work surfaces, but that didn’t solve the problem. The walls are crowded with finished pieces and I can’t help feeling two things: Although I am still learning from looking at them, I feel the masks are getting tired of looking at me. And new masks seem reluctant to come until there is space for them to exist…. Then, recently, I re-read Charles de Lint’s fantasy novel Memory & Dream. In this story, the subjects of oil portraits beg their painter to release them into the wider world. This fits perfectly both with my intuition & with comments in The Gift. Hyde reminds us:
“An essential portion of an artist’s labor is not creation so much as invocation. …[We must create] within ourselves that ‘begging bowl’ to which the gift is drawn.”
“Bestowal creates that empty space into which new energy may follow.”
“Passing the gift along is the act of gratitude that completes the labor.”
I’ve long known the necessity of letting one’s work fly free. My poetry, for example, flows freely when I am part of a mutually-sharing writers group where it is read and heard by others. On the other hand, when I just shut away my writings in a drawer or a file, that creative spark soon flickers and fades away.
But I haven’t known what to do about the accumulating masks. They seem too specific, somehow intrusive to give as Christmas or birthday gifts — as I’ve done with scarves, shawls, handmade books, etc. It has been suggested that I sell them. However, having sold — & then stopped selling — one-of-a-kind shawls whose making had always felt to me more like bestowing hugs than manufacturing articles of clothing — I have no idea how I would comfortably go about organizing that. Anyway, the masks feel more like prayers than commodities & I do have the luxury/privilege of being able to just let them go.
So, I’ve put pictures of several of my older pieces here. I’m hoping that some of you may find that one of them calls to you. If so, please contact me with your address at firstname.lastname@example.org . They are so eager to meet new people & places!