anna brones

writer + artist + producer

Archive for the ‘Women’s Wisdom Project’ Category

Frida Kahlo

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“At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can.”

-Frida Kahlo (1907-1954)

This papercut is a part of the Women’s Wisdom Project, a project focused on showcasing the wisdom of inspiring, insightful women by making 100 papercut portraits.

Written by Anna Brones

July 6, 2019 at 14:55

Florence Williams

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“Wisdom means having the experience and deep confidence to stay the course,

to know that you can come out of just about anything alive and whole. “

– Florence Williams

Last summer during a 3-week creative residency at Bloedel Reserve, I read The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier and More Creative by Florence Williams. I had seen the book mentioned in a few places, and when I spotted it at the local bookstore near Bloedel, I knew that it was the perfect text to have with me during a residency that was intended for slowing down and bringing more awareness to my natural surroundings. There are books that we read that change how we think about things, and there are books that we read that encourage us to continue down a path of questioning that we are already on. The Nature Fix was a little of both, and it felt like it came into my hands at the right place and time.

Why do we need nature? That’s a question that underlies much of Williams’ book. Of course intuitively, we make know that we need nature—after all, we are born from the natural world—but in our modern society where technology and advancement rule, it’s easy to forget just how much we need the natural world. And not just on a once-in-awhile basis.

What stuck with me after reading The Nature Fix was how important any dose of nature was. A multi-day detox where we are entirely disconnected and immersed in the natural world is wonderful, but if we dodge all other opportunities for smaller doses of the outdoors, from a short walk or even peering out the window at a tree and letting our minds wander, we miss out on an array of benefits. As the subtitle for the book would lead us to believe, time in and with nature is essential to our emotional and physical wellbeing. In other words, as Williams says, “being in nature actually makes us more human.” Having come to understand that through many years of researching and writing, I think that Williams offers so much wisdom that we all can benefit from.

As I worked on this papercut (which I had to cut two times in order to get right) I thought a lot about the sentiment that Williams shared and that I chose to use in her portrait. “Stay the course,” is probably advice that we all could take. I know that 55/100 profiles into this long project, I needed to hear it myself. And perhaps it’s wisdom that the natural world would share with us as well; we need only look to the trees and the oceans to be reminded that nature is cyclical, that everything is in a constant flow, always shifting and evolving, but moving forward nonetheless. No matter what happens, the sun manages to rise and set every day. If nature stays the course, so can we.

I hope that after reading this profile, you take even the smallest moment to enjoy some time outside.

What does wisdom mean to you?

Wisdom means having the experience and deep confidence to stay the course, to know that you can come out of just about anything alive and whole. Wisdom is what you know at 50 that you wish you knew at 25. Wisdom is about knowing who you are, and who you are in relation to other people. I tend to think that wisdom is largely self-wisdom, but I also believe that sometimes wisdom can be shared.

Is there an influential woman in your life who passed along a piece of wisdom to you? Who and what?

My beautiful sister-in-law Lisa Jones, a gifted writer and teacher. She just kept telling me I was okay, and I eventually, I started to believe her.

Before you wrote The Nature Fix, what was your relationship with nature? Were you conscious about how it made you feel physically and mentally? How did (or didn’t) writing the book change that?

I’ve always had a strong connection to nature, and I’ve long known that it sustained me emotionally and creatively. Writing the book taught me to have a more generous view of nature, to accept, for example, the little patches of city nature could also be powerful and affecting, that I didn’t have to be in a dramatic mountainscape or desertscape to have a meaningful experience. It taught me some shortcuts to being more mindful in nature, to cue myself to look and listen and smell.

Something that was very apparent to me while reading the book was how essential it is to create a balanced relationship with nature. How do you create that balance in your everyday life?

I try really hard to have a daily dose of nature, whether it’s morning and evening walks with my dog or sometimes just sitting outside for a few moments where I can hear some birds and catch some sunlight. I make it more of a priority now, and I pay better attention to how I feel in different  environments. If it’s windy, I might seek a more sheltered walk. If it’s winter, I’ll think more about going midday when I can get more natural sunlight. If I’m in need of an emotional re-set, I’ll take out the earbuds and spend more time looking at my neighborhood river. There are a bunch of little hacks like that to optimize the benefits. Also, I know i love snow, so if any falls, I try that much harder to catch it.

Part of the subtitle of The Nature Fix is how nature makes us more creative. Why do you think creativity is important in our society?

I think we live in an age where attention is a scarce resource. It’s the ultimate luxury good. When we are scattered and distracted, our thoughts suffer, meaning suffers, our human connections suffer. Creativity demands this interesting combination of deep focus and open focus, neither of which can happen when we’re multi-surfing. Being outside serves a bunch of functions. It helps us be mindful, it helps our sensory brains come online, and it gives our thinking brains a little bit of a breather. It facilitates open focus, mind-wandering and free play.

As a writer, what stories are you drawn to telling and why?

I’m drawn to telling stories that bring to light the hidden or neglected connections between humans and our environment, whether they be harmful connections like the effects of pollutants on our cells (as in my first book, Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History) or beneficial, like why we are drawn to the colors green and blue.

What wisdom would you share with your younger self?

Have more confidence in your ability to withstand hardship; believe that your needs matter. Relax and play a little more.

This papercut and profile are a part of the Women’s Wisdom Project, a project focused on showcasing the wisdom of inspiring, insightful women by making 100 papercut portraits.

Andrea Bemis

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“…food is the center of our lives and connects us to our community, our landscape, and our homes.”

-Andrea Bemis

Farmer and author Andrea Bemis is dedicated to not just growing food, but helping people have a better connection to what they eat.

Bemis and I met in person last spring when we worked on a project together, but I had been a follower of her blog Dishing Up the Dirt for a long time. In 2008, Bemis and her boyfriend (now husband) Taylor were living in Bend, Oregon, when they decided to move to Massachussets to work on his family’s organic farm. After a few seasons, the West Coast was calling, and in 2012 they landed on a 6-acre plot of land near Parkdale, Oregon, which they lovingly named Tumbleweed Farm.

With her hands literally in the dirt, Bemis has taken her love of growing food and turned it into a platform for not just getting people excited about what they eat, but having a deeper connection to it. She wrote a cookbook with the same name as her blog, sharing her recipes and wisdom for what to do with local and seasonal ingredients. She started an initiative called Local Thirty, where for a month she committed to sourcing her food from a 200-mile radius: “local food from local dirt.” That spawned a documentary film following Bemis and her husband on their journey, meeting local producers along the way.

I think that Bemis is wise in her understanding of the soil and what it produces, and her understanding of community. She knows that food is not just something that we eat, it’s something that sustains us, physically and emotionally. It connects us to people and places, and the more that we honor that, the more enjoyment we get.

What does wisdom mean to you?

Wisdom to me means having empathy for other people.

Is there an influential woman in your life who passed along a piece of wisdom to you? Who and what?

My older sister is very wise. She’s strong, thoughtful and has always encouraged me to not judge others and always put myself in their shoes.

What does investing in local food bring to your life, both as a farmer and as an eater?
I believe food is the center of our lives and connects us to our community, our landscape, and our homes. Knowing how, where and who grows my food is something I am extremely passionate about. When you know your farmers you are rooted deeper into the place you call home and I think that is very powerful.

How do you see the local food movement growing over the next few decades?

I think people are so damn hungry for connection. I have to believe that the local food movement will grow. It’s a great way get to know one another and discover a bounty that is all our own. When we start looking around and talking to each other I think we’ll discover that we all have so much. It’s time to ditch convenience and start connecting with our neighbors, our landscapes and our homes.

What lessons have you learned from being a farmer?

Being a farmer has taught me about patience, discomfort, and perseverance. When you’re a farmer you give, and then you give some more, and just when you think you’ve got nothing left in your fuel tank the farm gives back, and rewards you with bountiful harvests that will not only feed your household or your community, but it finds its way to feed your soul.

What wisdom would you share with your younger self?

The wisdom I would share with my younger self is to always be kind, and more often than not, be kinder than necessary. With myself, my friends, strangers and acquaintances.

This papercut and profile are a part of the Women’s Wisdom Project, a project focused on showcasing the wisdom of inspiring, insightful women by making 100 papercut portraits.

Written by Anna Brones

June 28, 2019 at 09:36

Winona LaDuke

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“Power is not brute force and money; power is in your spirit.

Power is in your soul. It is what your ancestors, your old people gave you.

Power is in the earth; it is in your relationship to the earth.”

-Winona LaDuke (b. 1959)

Environmentalist, economist, writer, politician, and activist Winona LaDuke has devoted her life to protecting indigenous lands and ways of life, working on sustainable development, climate-change mitigation efforts, and environmental justice.

LaDuke was born in Los Angeles to a mother of European and Jewish descent and a father from the Gaa-waabaabiganikaag reservation in Minnesota, also known as the White Earth Indian Reservation of the Ojibwe nation. Raised between California and Oregon, LaDuke attended Harvard University and earned a degree in rural economic development. While at Harvard, she met Jimmy Durham, a renowned Native American activist, who sparked her interest in and lifelong commitment to indigenous rights. At eighteen, she became the youngest woman to speak to the United Nations about Native American concerns.

After graduating from Harvard, LaDuke moved to the White Earth reservation. While working as the principal of the reservation high school, she completed a long-distance master’s degree in community economic development from Antioch University. Her work quickly became consumed with land rights, and she became involved with a lawsuit to recover lands that were promised to the Anishinaabeg people by an 1867 federal treaty.

While the case was eventually dismissed, LaDuke went on to found the White Earth Land Recovery Project, an organization whose work centers around land recovery and whose mission is dedicated to “preserving and restoring traditional practices of land stewardship, language fluency, community development, and strengthening our spiritual and cultural heritage.” In 2003 the organization won the International Slow Food Award for Biodiversity, honoring its work to protect wild rice from patenting and genetic engineering. Together with the folk-rock duo the Indigo Girls, LaDuke also founded Honor the Earth to raise awareness of native environmental issues through the arts, media, and sharing indigenous wisdom.

LaDuke’s work showcases the intersection of land and culture, showing that social and environmental rights are inextricably linked. An advocate for food sovereignty, LaDuke grows a variety of foods on her land on the White Earth Indian Reservation, including traditional species of corn and rice. She recently expressed her support for regenerative agriculture with the addition of industrial hemp.

LaDuke has written several books, including Recovering the Sacred, All Our Relations, and the novel Last Standing Woman. An outspoken activist for indigenous and environmental rights, she ran as the vice presidential candidate with Ralph Nader for the Green Party in both 1996 and 2000. Her tireless work and advocacy have earned her many awards, including Ms. Magazine‘s Woman of the Year, and she was nominated by Time magazine as one of the country’s fifty most promising leaders under the age of forty. In 2008 LaDuke was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

Winona LaDuke is one of three women from the Women’s Wisdom Project series to be featured in a new article in the TEND issue of Taproot magazine. The other two are Margaret Murie and Jane Addams. I am honored to have contributed to this issue, and encourage you to check out this great publication that’s independent and ad-free. You can order a copy of the TEND issue here.

This papercut and profile are a part of the Women’s Wisdom Project, a project focused on showcasing the wisdom of inspiring, insightful women by making 100 papercut portraits.

Written by Anna Brones

April 26, 2019 at 08:47

Margaret “Mardy” Murie

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“Wilderness itself is the basis of all our civilization.

I wonder if we have enough reverence for life to concede to wilderness the right to live on?”

-Margaret Murie (1902-2003)

Wilderness advocates often refer to Margaret “Mardy” Murie as the “Grandmother of the Conservation movement.” Born just after the turn of the twentieth century in Seattle, Washington, Murie’s love of the land led to many great conservation achievements.

Moving to Alaska at the age of five, in 1924 she became the first woman to graduate from the Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines (now the University of Alaska, Fairbanks). The same year, at a morning sunrise ceremony on the banks of the Yukon River, she married her husband Olaus Murie. A scientist for the U.S. Bureau of Biological Survey, both of them loved the land, and the two adventured off on an 550-mile, 8-month expedition cum honeymoon to study caribou.

They were an adventuresome duo, and Murie joined her husband on many expeditions, helping to keep meticulous records of specimens and findings. Eventually his work took them to Jackson, Wyoming, where Olaus was assigned to study elk populations in the Tetons. While they raised three children, Murie continuing to assist on research trips, and the two began advocating for the environment. Their home, the STS ranch near Moose, Wyoming, now a part of Grand Teton National Park, became a gathering place for fellow conservation leaders.

In 1945, Olaus was appointed part-time director of the Wilderness Society, and went on the become the president in 1950. Murie served as a council member for the organization, and with her husband collaborated on letters, giving talks and advocating for wilderness legislation. An expedition in 1956 took them back to Alaska, this time to the Sheenjek River Valley in northeast Alaska, gathering information of local wildlife in order to make an argument for federal protection. Their work later led to the establishment of the Arctic National Wildlife Range in 1960.

Murie published a memoir Two in the Far North in 1962, documenting her childhood and she and her husbands expeditions and adventures in Wyoming and Alaska, a story of exploration and fighting for the protection of the places they loved. Olaus died the next year, just a few months before the signing of the Wilderness Act, a piece of legislation the two had fought tirelessly for and led to the protection of 110 million acres of federal land.

Her life had been spent devoted to helping her husband, and while friends encouraged her to find a new path, Murie understood that her calling was to the land. She used her power as a writer to continue to advocate for the environment, writing speeches and letters to politicians and leaders. She was invited to President Lyndon B. Johnson’s signing of the Wilderness Act, and in her time when she wasn’t using her voice in the support of wilderness, she traveled to experience more, her adventures taking her to conservation sites in Africa and on a 10,000-mile campervan trip in Alaska.

Alaska continued to hold particular significance for Murie, and her work helped to pass the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act in 1980, which protected 56.4 million acres as wilderness in addition to tens of millions acres more as national parks and wildlife refuges. Her efforts did not go unrecognized, and she not only received an honorary doctorate of humane letters from the University of Alaska in Fairbanks, but was also given the Audubon Medal, the Sierra Club’s John Muir Award and the Wilderness Society’s Bob Marshall Award as well as the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Bill Clinton in recognition of her contributions to wilderness conservation.

Murie passed away at the age of 101 at her home in Moose, Wyoming, her undying love for wilderness and the environment having left a lasting legacy.

Margaret Murie is one of three women from the Women’s Wisdom Project series to be featured in a new article in the TEND issue of Taproot magazine. The other two are Winona LaDuke and Jane Addams. I am honored to have contributed to this issue, and encourage you to check out this great publication that’s independent and ad-free. You can order a copy of the TEND issue here.

This papercut and profile are a part of the Women’s Wisdom Project, a project focused on showcasing the wisdom of inspiring, insightful women by making 100 papercut portraits.

Written by Anna Brones

April 5, 2019 at 09:56

Clara Lemlich Shavelson

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“I had fire in my mouth.”

-Clara Lemlich Shavelson (1886-1982)

Fire sparks revolution, and while the fiery anger of women is so often suppressed, scoffed at, and used against them, it is that fire that has created longlasting change. As Rebecca Traister writes in her book Good and Mad, “… in the fury of women lies the power to change the world.”

Clara Lemlich Shavelson is a prime example of that fire, a women who at the age of 23, sparked an entire labor movement. In 1909 Shavelson stood before a crowd of garment workers, announcing in Yiddish, “I am tired of listening to speakers who talk in general terms. I move that we go on a general strike!” Her call ignited the many women, who just like her, were suffering under terrible conditions; eleven-hour workdays, six days a week, for starting wages of $3 a week.

The call led to the Uprising of the 20,000, an extensive strike by mostly immigrant women garment workers which eventually led to safer workplaces, shorter workdays and higher wages. It also caused factories to recognize the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union. But not everyone heeded the womens’ calls; at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory male union negotiators refused to listen to the striking women’s concerns, nor put them into practice. A year later, a fire in the factory killed 146 workers.

Of that day, Shavelson later shared this account:

We were all gathered at Cooper Union, you know there on Lafayette and 8th street. And all the workers from the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory and Leiserson Company were there. We all listened to leading figures of the American Labor Movement and Socialist leaders of the Lower East Side speak to us. You know, they just made me so mad because they talked in such general terms about the need for solidarity and preparedness and all that. well, you know, just then I asked for the opportunity to speak and I demanded action. I remember I said that I had been listening to all the speakers, and I had no further patience for talk. I am a working girl, I said, and one of those striking against intolerable conditions. I am tired of listening to speakers who talk in generalities. What we are here for is to decide whether or not to strike. And finally I offered a resolution that a general strike be declared. I was just saying what all the workers were thinking, but they were just too afraid to say. And so we all walked out of the factories two days later.

Born Clara Lemlich in Gorodok, Ukraine in 1886, Shavelson had come to the United States at the age of 16, her family fleeing poverty and the Russian government’s anti-Semitism. While her parents had forbidden her to speak Russian or bring Russian books into the household, the headstrong girl studied the language in secret and dove into the world of letters. By the time she landed in the U.S. she was already a committed revolutionary. Like many other immigrants, she found work in textile-manufacturing, but kept fueling her revolutionary roots: after long workdays, she would go to the local library to read Russian classics and study Marxist theory.

Her fiery spirit is documented in Triangle: The Fire That Changed America:

“A men’s-only strike was doomed to fail, she insisted. A walkout must include the female workers. “Ah—then I had fire in my mouth!” Lemlich remembered years later. She moved people by sheer passion. “What did I know about trade unionism? Audacity—that was all I had. Audacity!”

While blacklisted from garment shops after the 1909 strike, Shavelson continued her work, shifting her focus to the suffrage movement. This led to a long life of activism and organizing, eventually marrying Joe Shavelson, a printer’s union activist. The couple had three children, and Shavelson was known for bringing the children with her to Socialist  meetings.

Her work and passion for a better world continued to the end of her life. Shavelson was profiled last year in The New York Times‘ ongoing series of overlooked obituaries, and it held this anecdote, which I think sums up a lifelong fiery spirit:

Near the end of her life, she moved into the Jewish Home for the Aged in Los Angeles, where she organized the nurses and orderlies, according to “Common Sense.”“How much worse could these conditions get?” Shavelson, then 83, asked hesitant staffers before they successfully unionized. “You’d be crazy not to join a union.”.”

May we all embrace our fire and channel it into good.

This papercut and profile are a part of the Women’s Wisdom Project, a project focused on showcasing the wisdom of inspiring, insightful women by making 100 papercut portraits.

Lisa Congdon

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“An artist is someone who practices and expresses their creativity intentionally and regularly.”

-Lisa Congdon

Even if you don’t know her name, it’s hard not to have come across the work of Lisa Congdon. Her illustrations have been featured in numerous books and magazines, her wisdom about working as an artist is inspiration for many seeking a creative path, and her bright, bold, thoughtful work has become a visual statement against the oppressive and divisive politics of our time, a balm for many of us.

I have followed Lisa’s work for years, and knew that I wanted to feature her in the Women’s Wisdom Project. But would she say yes to taking the time to do a Q&A?

If there is one thing that I respect about Lisa, it’s that she is very publicly open about how she manages her time, and the necessity of saying no. She recently launched a collaboration with Emily McDowell and she has a new retail space in Portland. All to say, Lisa has a lot on her plate, and I was so grateful when she responded to my email and agreed to answer a few questions.

Originally, I had thought about using either of these quotes in her papercut portrait:

“Want to get better at something? Keep doing it.”

“Every single person who chooses to embark on a creative path has to work at it… You have to stay open and constantly move outside what’s comfortable.”

All of those words have power, particularly for those of us in a creative field, whether it’s personally or professionally. But eventually I landed on something that she wrote in her answers in this Q&A. That an artist is “someone who practices and expresses their creativity intentionally and regularly.”

Why this quote in particular?

The topic of what we call ourselves often comes up in conversation with friends and colleagues. When you are in a creative field, there is sometimes a fear or pushback to feeling like you get to define yourself with a certain term. Simran Sethi talked about this in our interview, not feeling like she could comfortably call herself a writer. I too have felt this many times, hesitating at the terms “artist” or “writer,” wondering if I have permission to employ them.

Instead of defining who we are and what we do on our own terms, we often seek external validation. In our culture, usually that’s money. The Virginia Woolf quote comes to mind: “Money dignifies what is frivolous if unpaid for.”

But you are not an artist because someone pays you to make art. You are an artist simply because you are involved in the act of creating. That’s why Lisa’s quote stuck with me, a reminder to reinvest in the creative act, to continue to be intentional about creative work.

Anna: What does wisdom mean to you?
Lisa: Wisdom to me is perspective. Perspective on life, the flow of life, the ups and downs of life, the relative seriousness of life’s events, understanding that all things pass, even good and exciting things, especially the difficult things. It’s an ease, a loosening of the grip. The perspective that comes with wisdom grows naturally with age, and it’s very comforting.

Is there an influential woman in your life who passed along a piece of wisdom to you? Who and what?

I haven’t seen her in years, but I had a therapist in my early/mid thirties who literally helped me change my life. Previous to working with her, I thought of myself as a victim, as someone who had no agency over her life or happiness. I was really, really depressed and suffered from extreme anxiety. And she helped me shift my perspective to see that I had the power to create the life I wanted through what I believed about myself and about life. Low and behold, I worked on changing my beliefs about life and my own worthiness, and my happiness grew. She taught me that it was my attitude about life’s events — not life’s events themselves — that would determine the quality of my life, and that I should look at even difficult experiences as opportunities to learn more about myself and to grow. Everything shifted for me as a result. I ceased being a victim and began being creative. I began making art. Everything opened up as a result.

What does the word “artist” mean to you?

Someone who practices and expresses their creativity intentionally and regularly.

I think a lot about our cultural use of the words “productive” and “prolific.” Especially in creative fields, these are certainly viewed as positive things, often given as a compliment. And yet, I think that it distracts us from the importance of the process of creative work, because we are instead so focused on the outcome. You are a full-time artist, so how do you find that balance between producing artwork to keep yourself financially flourishing and investing in a process that fuels you?

I am one of those people who others describe as “productive” and “prolific.” People ask, “When do you sleep?” assuming that people who are prolific also do not enact self care or know how to recharge. I think one of the beautiful things about my path so far is that I have pushed the envelope so many times (working too much!) and have managed now to learn the sweet spot where the creative experience and productivity meet but don’t overwhelm me. I’ve made the mistake of taking on too much work or committing myself to too many projects in the past, and I’ve learned when I do that I basically just stressed out and I feel like crap physically and emotionally. So what’s the point? A new client on the client list? Something new to show in the portfolio? Those outcomes mean little if you are miserable in the process of achieving them. My work right now is finding just the right amount of work to pay the bills and feel creatively challenged, but also to do as much of my own personal work as possible (and I’m lucky because I can monetize my personal work), and find time to explore, try new things, and also to rest, ride my bike and enjoy my life. That work is hard because you have to be so self aware. You have to say no when something doesn’t serve that end, even when it’s a beautiful carrot. You have to be super present. It’s daily work. I’m into it, though. I want to feel happy and relaxed. Getting older makes me want to really live what I have left.

Do you experience creative blocks? If so, how do you deal with them?

I do sometimes, but not too often, because I am always actively seeking out inspiration and I also have en enormous amount of grit that helps me work through blocks. In my experience, creative blocks are either exhaustion or fear. So I try to suss out which it is in any particular situation. And then I either rest of push myself through the fear of failure or whatever I’m scared of.

What wisdom would you share with your younger self?

YOU ARE A SMART, CREATIVE BEING. YOU WORTHY OF LOVE AND HAPPINESS.

This papercut and profile are a part of the Women’s Wisdom Project, a project focused on showcasing the wisdom of inspiring, insightful women by making 100 papercut portraits.

Written by Anna Brones

March 22, 2019 at 08:07