anna brones

writer + artist + producer

Archive for the ‘Women’ Category

Five Lessons on Art and Creativity from Women Artists

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“Habits gradually change the face of one’s life as time changes one’s physical face; & one does not know it.”

-Virginia Woolf, diary entry, April 13, 1929

This Virginia Woolf quote is printed in the first pages of Mason Currey‘s book Daily Rituals: Women at Workan exploration of how creative minds get to work.

The book is a follow up to Currey’s first book Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, and is a concerted effort to focus on women artists and in the process, as well as offer up some sense of guidance to readers who might be struggling with their own creative practice. Sometimes, in order to do the work, it’s helpful to know how the people who came before you did theirs.

There are 143 different women in the book, from writers to fashion designers to choreographers. Women artists have—as many women artists still do—experience a particular set of battles when it comes to expressing their creativity. This shines through in the book, and encourages an even greater sense of respect for the creative work that these women were able to produce.

“Most grew up in societies that ignored or rejected women’s creative work, and many had parents or spouses who vigorously opposed their attempts to prioritize self-expression over the traditional roles of wife, mother, and homemaker,” writes Currey. “A number of them had children and faced excruciating choices in balancing the needs of their dependents with their own ambitions. Virtually all of the, confronted sexism among their audiences and among the gatekeepers to professional success—the editors, publishers, curators, critics, patrons, and other tastemakers who, over and over, just happened to find men’s work superior. And this does not even take into account the woman artist’s internal obstacles, the various species of anger, guilt, and resentment that come with forcing the world to make space for you and your achievements.”

I like both of Currey’s books because they get to the heart of what is essential to the person’s creative practice. But as a woman, Daily Rituals: Women at Work particularly resonates, and every time I pick it up I feel like I get something new from it. In fact, it is the kind of book that you can turn into its own daily ritual, reading one entry with your morning cup of coffee.

Inspired by the book, I asked Currey if I could create a few papercuts based off of some of the women he had profiled. He chose the women, and I in turn worked to figure out the main “lesson” that Currey had documented, and that the rest of us could take to heart. These “lessons” are by no means the one takeaway from these women, but I think that they are lessons that can resonate for all of us.

Commit to your craft

Creativity requires work, and no one understood this better than Coco Chanel. Born into poverty, she ended up building an iconic fashion empire, the result of an incredible commitment to her craft.

Welcome dissatisfaction

When we are satisfied with our work, there is nothing to push us forward, something that choreographer Martha Graham knew well. Despite a lifetime of achievements and recognition, Graham was driven by what Currey calls a “chronic dissatisfaction.” We want to be able to revel in our work, to enjoy the process. But a little dissatisfaction will always help to challenge us to continue to evolve in our creative practice.

 

Prepare intensely

Even when creative work flows, when we hit that stride that’s somewhere between magical and mystical, it is on the back of countless hours of preparation. If we don’t lay the ground work, we can’t let go and let serendipity take over. Nina Simone spent countless hours not just practicing, but understanding the spaces where she played. She would spend the afternoon before a show in a music hall, to get an understanding of where people would sit, how close to the stage they would be, what the lighting would be like, where the microphones would be placed. Simone took in every single detail, so that “by the time I got on stage I knew exactly what I was doing.”

 

Be relentlessly curious

As Currey writes in his book, Susan Sontag “succeeded, in large degree, thanks to her seemingly boundless energy.” That energy led to the consumption of books, film, conversations—essentially an insatiable curiosity of everything that was around her. That curiosity helped to shape her world, and her broad amount of references. If we stay curious, we can do nothing but keep learning.

Use art as relief

Art helps us to process, to heal, and who better to exemplify this than Yayoi Kusama. She checked herself into the Tokyo mental hospital in 1977 and she still lives there today, continually creating art as a way to fight her pain, anxiety, and fear. As she calls it, “art medicine.” A reminder that no matter where we are in our lives, we can all tap into this restorative element of art making.

Want to win a copy of Daily Rituals: Women at Work?

In honor of Women’s History Month, I am giving away a couple of copies away. To enter to win, sign up for my newsletter. I’ll be pulling two names at random and announcing them in my next monthly installment of Creative Fuel.

Written by Anna Brones

March 31, 2020 at 09:35

Vote

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It’s National Voter Registration Day, so make sure you and all your friends are registered.

I just had these Vote buttons made, featuring my original papercut “Stars, Stripes and Uterus.” I made the papercut in 2016, but it still feels timely. Because women’s rights are human rights, and this button is perfect for election season (but wearable during any season, of course). You can order yours here.

Want the same artwork on a coffee mug? I’ve got that too. Order here.

Written by Anna Brones

September 25, 2018 at 13:54

Wild Woman

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The wild woman who wants to feel her feet in the grass, dewy blades poking up between her toes.

The wild woman who stands outside on a winter morning, just to feel the cold wind on her cheek, telling her that she is alive.

The wild woman who seeks solace in the night sky, the stars a reminder of her tiny presence on earth, but its vast potential.

The wild woman who finds beauty in the smallest moments; the surprise of a wild strawberry on the forest floor, the change of color in a leaf, the unfurling of a fern.

The wild woman who finds adventure in her backyard, who explores new lands and cultures on the ground and in her imagination.

The wild woman who has the courage to say yes, but the wisdom to say no.

The wild woman who is open to the universe, hears the wind in the trees, feels the stillness of the forest.

The wild woman who wants the freedom of an afternoon for exploration, whether it’s afar and at home.

The wild woman who sits still, and the wild woman who runs.

The wild woman who embraces her being, and releases the confines of expectation.

The wild woman who forges her own path.

The wild woman who knows that she is the only one who gets to define her happiness.

The wild woman who is thankful for her time on this planet, and empathetic to all the beings around her.

The wild woman who searches the forest for fresh nettles on a spring day.

The wild woman who catches the glint of sun shining through an icicle on a winter morning.

The wild woman who rides her bicycle to feel the surge of freedom.

The wild woman whose face is crusted in the salt of the sea.

The wild woman who gives everything to her community, and the wild woman who prefers to be alone.

The wild woman who takes time to breath, time to feel, time to create.

The wild woman who feels pain and joy.

The wild woman whose wildness is hers and hers alone.

 

Written by Anna Brones

May 16, 2018 at 10:48

Wool Sponges by Full Circle Wool

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At the end of last year, I bought a set of wool sponges from Marie Hoff (you can wash with wool, not just wear it!). I had met Marie while on a bicycle trip down the Pacific Coast two summers ago, and I have a lot of respect for all the work that she does. She herds Ouessant sheep, is an advocate of carbon farming, and last year she launched Full Circle Wool, selling climate beneficial wool and wool products.

I did a Q&A with her over on Food and Fibers Project and wanted to share a snippet here.

“We need to bring domestic processing and manufacturing back to the United States. We don’t have a diversity of industrial mills that do custom work anymore. There’s only one scouring mill in the country that will clean coarse wool on the commercial scale I need, and they are overloaded. In California alone, where I am based, we produce over 3 million pounds of wool every year. Every small scale mill that’s operating is overloaded, and we only process .03% of all that wool each year here in California. The majority of it goes overseas, and is washed with synthetic chemicals, often mixed with synthetic fibers, dyed with synthetic dyes based in coal tar, and then shipped back to the US for us to consume. About 20% of it just sits in people’s barns or goes directly into the landfill, as it can be more expensive to sell the wool than to raise it and leave it.

Especially for people who raise sheep on the coast, there’s very little incentive to sell the wool because the breeds of sheep that thrive on the coast produce coarse wool, which is lower value than fine wool, like merino. Even though their families have a tradition of appreciating wool, many just consider the wool to be a byproduct of raising meat. The lamb sales are their livelihood. In order to get ranchers a return that they can make a living on, and still produce a product that most people can afford, we need that critical link of a commercial-scale mill that can process wool locally, efficiently, and for not too high a cost. The more we can prove a demand for locally grown, locally processed, and natural fibers, the more demand there will be for milling, and the more likely investors and entrepreneurs will be in investing in that type of facility. We need more demand for, and support of, local agriculture and healthy land stewardship.”

That’s part of our longer conversation. Check out the full Q&A here.

Written by Anna Brones

February 26, 2018 at 13:28

Downloadable Vote Poster in Support of Women’s Rights

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I made this papercut, titled “Stars, Stripes and Uterus,” back in 2016 before the U.S. presidential election, but it’s as necessary today as it was then.

If you’re going out this coming weekend marching for the Women’s March 2.0, or if you simply want to show what you stand for, I’ve turned this papercut into a free downloadable poster that you can easily print at home. Hang it in a window, hold it above your head, print out a bunch and pass them out to friends. Stand up for women’s rights.

It’s available in two sizes: 8.5×11 and 11×17.

Written by Anna Brones

January 19, 2018 at 07:15

Posted in Portfolio, Women

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Witch Fika

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“…to be a witch is to be a woman with power in a world where women are often otherwise powerless.”

– Annie Theriault, The Real Reason Women Love Witches

I read a few articles this week about witches (like this one), and it inspired this Witch Fika papercut. Gather up your coven and get together for a coffee break. You’ll be a more productive and efficient witch.

Written by Anna Brones

October 31, 2017 at 10:45

Posted in Portfolio, Women

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#withthesethighs

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“Ugh, my thighs look huge.”

My friend and I were flipping through our photos from a recent bike camping trip. There was so much good going on in the photo; we were happy and goofy, the sun was shining. You could see it on our faces, that we were in one of those rare moments that not much mattered but the present, that we were enthralled with the simple act of riding our bicycles, feeling the wind on our faces and talking about whatever came to our minds. Yet here I was, entirely ignoring the beauty of that moment captured in the photo, and instead, focused on how my thighs looked.

I am not alone. This is an automatic reaction for many women: to focus on our appearance above all else. It’s almost second nature when you look at a photo of yourself or stare into the mirror, or simply gather together with another group of women. We have a tendency to pick ourselves apart, focus on all the things we wished looked better, be it our thighs, our hips, our stomachs, our noses, our breasts, our ankles. It’s all up for judgment and scrutiny.

This may seem vain, and to some extent it is, but the onus isn’t just on us; we are after all raised in a culture that teaches us that vanity is of the utmost importance. That how we look shows who we are.

A body is much more than something to sculpt and maintain. A body is our way to get around, our way to see the world. Our body holds our heart and our emotions, it is our vehicle for existing.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Anna Brones

July 6, 2017 at 11:01