anna brones

writer + artist + activist

Astrid Lindgren

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“Give the children love, more love and still more love – and the common sense will come by itself.”

– Astrid Lindgren

Usually when I make papercuts I need silence. I can’t listen to podcasts because it’s hard to focus on both the words and the cutting at the same time. After all, quiet is good for the creative brain.

But as I started to work on this one of Swedish author Astrid Lindgren, I realized that I wanted to know what Lindgren sounded like, I wanted to know what she had to say besides a list of her quotes that I had compiled. So I found an interview with her from 1993.

As I cut and listened, I realized that her voice, her words, her story, it was all magical and comforting, evoking the same emotions that I associate with growing up in a half-Swedish household. She talked of nature, her own childhood, her first time going to the Stockholm library, her home in Skärgården (the Stockholm archipelago, which would later become the central point of her series Vi på Saltkråkan, but only after she had spent several decades living there, an acknowledgment that to write about a place you must know it) and she sang. In moments, she sounded like my own Swedish grandmother.

I found myself with tears in my eyes as the interview drew to a close. My personal connection to Sweden – besides language, besides family, besides friends – is very much tied to the magical world of books, those by Lindgren and another literary great Elsa Beskow. It was a world filled with exploration, adventure, nature, enjoyment, simplicity, and growing up in the Pacific Northwest, it was a link to the Swedish part of me.

It was a world that took inspiration from Lindgren’s childhood home Vimmerby, the memories and landscapes of her own life translated onto the pages and making their way into millions of children’s rooms around the globe.

I have donated many books from my childhood, but all of my Swedish ones remain. Their pages are filled with their own worlds, worlds that comfort and that inspire. When asked if she would ever start writing “real” books, Lindgren responded, “I want to write for a readership that can create miracles. Children create miracles when they read. That’s why children need books.”

Lindgren is of course most well known for Pippi Longstocking. When I read Pippi as a child, I never specifically thought about the fact that she was a central female character. I just liked the books because they were fun and unexpected. But as I have grown older, I have been reminded of the value of seeing a female heroine, one who is adventurous, strong, funny, courageous.

I came across a great Pippi Longstocking quote yesterday:

‘He’s the strongest man in the world.’

‘Man, yes,’ said Pippi, ‘but I am the strongest girl in the world, remember that.

In this context it means physical strength, but I think Pippi also embodies emotional strength. Strength is of course not the only thing that we as women can strive for, but there is value in seeing a girl take on the world around her with no fear. Even today, I still need that.

“Astrid touched the everyday Swede,” wrote Suzanne Öhman-Sundén, co-editor of a book on Lindgren’s public influence. “There was a combination of common sense, straightforwardness and warmth in everything she did, which made her unique.”

But Lindgren’s influence has today gone far beyond just Sweden. As of 2017, there are as many as 101 different translations of her books. And that means that still today, children – and even adults – have the ability to step into her world.

“Everything great that ever happened in this world happened first in somebody’s imagination,” Lindgren said in a reception speech for the H.C. Andersen award. I would say that love and imagination are two of our most powerful tools, and we have Lindgren to thank for them.

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

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Written by Anna Brones

March 8, 2018 at 07:09

The Winding Path of a Creative Life

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In February, I worked on a project with Subaru and She Explores. This post is brought to you in partnership with Subaru, all opinions are my own.

“I don’t really think that I’m creative.”

I was road tripping from Taos, New Mexico to Marfa, Texas in a 2018 Crosstrek with my good friend and filmmaker Sarah Menzies. We were headed to a storytelling experience hosted by She Explores and sponsored by Subaru. I was driving and she was sitting next to me, and I had just asked her if she had some kind of a daily creative practice.

Sarah makes a variety of films, all focused on interesting characters and important issues, like my recent favorite, “The Mirnavator.” For the last couple of years, I have been working with her on “Afghan Cycles,” a film about women cyclists in Afghanistan and challenging gender stereotypes from the seat of a bicycle. I would certainly consider her a creative and passionate individual, and she’s one of my friends that continually keeps me creatively inspired.

“You don’t think you’re creative?” I responded back to her, not hiding my shock at her statement. This is a woman who always has interesting ideas for how to tell a story, is always drumming up new ideas.

This launched us into a conversation about creativity, what it is and whether or not we “have it” or not. The idea that some of us are creative and that some us aren’t, based on the idea that creativity is some kind of talent, simply isn’t true. Creative thinking is a skill, one that takes work and practice. You don’t get off the couch and run a marathon in record time, and you don’t go from zero creative practice to coming up with a masterpiece. We have to work at creativity, work at doing the things that make our brains better able to think creatively, better able to make connections between ideas, and come up with new ones.

Our conversation about creativity continued, and we began talking about some of the difficulties that come with working in a creative profession. Creative work can be exhausting. There’s a privilege to being able to say that. I am well aware that I don’t have to go work in a mine every day, and I am thankful that I have a profession where I get to do things that I love. But one of the big fears that I often have is that eventually, the creative ideas will cease to come. When your income is tied to your creativity, there is a real fear in wondering whether or not one day you’ll run out of ideas. What happens if you don’t have another idea for a new project? Then what?

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Written by Anna Brones

March 1, 2018 at 10:47

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

In the Footsteps of Creative Women

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I’ve always been drawn to the Southwest. Perhaps it’s because there are so many stark contrasts to my native Pacific Northwest. Lush, wet greens replaced by dusty pinks, light and dryness instead of wet grays. The reasons that I love the landscapes of the Pacific Northwest are also what drive me to seek out places elsewhere, not because I am trying to replace them, but because I am so inspired by the differences to be found elsewhere.

The colors of the sky, intense and dusty all at the same time. The smell of sage brought out by the heat of the sun. That feeling of the desert resonates with me, even though I’ve never lived there, and perhaps never will.

I am not the only one to have drawn inspiration from that landscape.

“I found out that the sunshine in New Mexico could do almost anything with one: make one well if one felt ill, or change a dark mood and lighten it. It entered into one’s deepest places and melted the thick, slow densities. It made one feel good. That is, alive.”

That’s a quote from Mabel Dodge Luhan, a woman with a colorful history who in the early 1900s made her way to Taos, New Mexico. She fell in love with Antonio Luhan, a Taos Pueblo Indian, and eventually they bought a plot of land and built a house on it. It started as a four-room adobe, but expanded to seventeen rooms, the Luhans wanting to create a space that was inviting to those with a creative spirit.

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Written by Anna Brones

February 19, 2018 at 07:32

Dolores Huerta

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“Every moment is an organizing opportunity,

every person a potential activist,

every minute a chance to change the world.”

– Dolores Huerta

What do we do with the precious time in our lives? Do we consume instead of creating? Are we passive instead of active? Do we succumb to the darkness or do we stand up to it? I think that this quote, from Dolores Huerta, the labor leader and activist who co-founded the National Farmworkers Association, is a reminder of the opportunities that can be found in even the smallest moments.

Born on April 10, 1930, Huerta is still active today, and is the founder and president of the Dolores Huerta Foundation. Last year at the Mountainfilm festival in Telluride, Colorado, I not only had the chance to see the amazing documentary “Dolores,” which is all about her life, but also hear Huerta speak in person. Her energy was inspiring, and it was a reminder that every moment in our lives is an opportunity to take action, and we can continue to do so for as long as we live.

It’s easy to think of “activists” as people who are very visible or take bold actions. But as human beings, global citizens and community members, I believe that we all have a chance to be an activist in our everyday lives, choosing to stand up for what we believe in, no matter what the scale or what our platform is.

Every minute is a chance to change the world. What will you stand for?

This papercut is a part of the Women’s Wisdom Project, a yearlong project focused on showcasing the wisdom of inspiring, insightful women. If you want to support this work, consider doing so on Kickstarter

Written by Anna Brones

February 3, 2018 at 12:46

Women’s Wisdom Project

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Going into this year, I knew that I wanted a bigger project to work on. A couple of months ago I had made a few papercuts inspired by the Unsung Heroines Instagram account, run by Molly Schiot, author of Game Changers: The Unsung Heroines of Sports History. As I was working on those papercuts, going through an assortment of portrait photos and quotes for inspiration, I started thinking about all that the women of past and present have to offer. What insight do they have? What can they teach us?

I thought about a collection of papercuts, each done as a portrait of a woman, and paired with a quote of something that she had once written or said. The idea would be to compile the wisdom of many women through art.

And so the seed for the Women’s Wisdom Project was planted.

During the month of January, Kickstarter is running the Make 100 campaign, an initiative to focus on editions of 100. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to launch the Women’s Wisdom Project. Starting this month, I’m committing to making 100 papercuts this year, documenting a variety of amazing women and what we have to learn from them.

Over the course of the year, I am certain that the project will continue to develop (zine? book? calendar?) but this is a way for you to support in the initial stages, and if you are interested in doing so, you can check out the Kickstarter campaign here. There are limited edition cards and prints available as well as some other fun items.

Above is a papercut I made last week, in honor of Virginia Woolf’s birthday. “Once she knows how to read there’s only one thing you can teach her to believe in and that is herself,” Woolf wrote.

Women deserve to be heard, we deserve to have a voice. Hearing the voices of others also empowers us to find our own. This is why I want to create work to showcase women from around the world – and throughout history – and their wisdom.

Supporting this work means supporting the work of women throughout the ages and amplifying their voices. The project will honor women of the past and women of the present, and I would also like this project to inspire community support for women overall, encouraging people to support women’s work in their local communities.

Throughout the course of the project, I will highlight these stories and the artwork right here on my website, in my newsletter and on social media channels. You can check out #womenswisdomproject on Instagram.

I look forward to working on this project and to sharing it with all of you.

Written by Anna Brones

January 29, 2018 at 10:40

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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