anna brones

writer + artist + producer

Posts Tagged ‘inspiring women

Tove Jansson

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“It is simply this: do not tire, never lose interest, never grow indifferent—lose your invaluable curiosity and you let yourself die. It’s as simple as that.”

Tove Jansson (1914-2001)

Beloved Tove Jansson. A woman who wore flower crowns and plunged into the sea. A creative woman who gave us the gift of stories through the world of Moomin. A woman of wisdom and insight.

Jansson was born into a creative family, her mother an illustrator (she designed Finnish postage stamps for over three decades) and her father a sculptor. She learned to draw almost before she could walk, and later she would attend art school in both Stockholm and Paris. Her world was one built of curiosity, and navigating her way through it by way of expression–she wrote, she drew, she painted, she thought. As was noted in The New Yorker, “home was continuous with studio, at night filled with music and the couple’s creative friends. While freedom exists in principle, when you grow up in such a setting, and one of your family pets is a monkey named Poppolino, chances are you will become an artist yourself. In an emergency, mother asked if daughter could fill in on an illustration job, and daughter obliged.”

Winters were spent in the art studio and summers on an island. If you have read any of Jansson’s work, you know the power an island holds—they were woven into her work and personal life. As is noted on the website devoted to her work, islands were “hives of adventure and the setting for rebirth and change – places where you can build your own world.” Symbols of freedom, she and her partner (and fellow artist) Tuulikki Pietilä found their own: Klovharu in the Finnish archipelago, where the two women built a small house where they enjoyed over 30 summer seasons together.

Sometimes deliberate people look for their island and conquer it, and sometimes the dream of the island can be a passive symbol for what is one step beyond reach. The island—at last, privacy, remoteness, intimacy, a rounded whole without bridges or fences. 

Sheltered and isolated by the water that is at the same time an open possibility.

A possibility one never considers.

From Jansson’s essay “The Island

Capturing the Nordic landscape and spirit, at the heart of Jansson’s work, there is a world of tension and contrasts, whether it’s contentment versus restlessness, safety versus security, the fear yet exhilaration of the unknown versus the comfort yet mundanity of home. As Tuula Karjalainen wrote in Tove Jansson: Work and Love, excerpted in The Independent:

The inhabitants of Moominvalley often stray from their valley and are subject to storms and disasters on the raging sea. Tove loved the sea in its various manifestations. She described it in her life, in her painting, in the Moomin books and also in her other writing. The Moomins live in these two contrasting worlds: on the one hand, a luxuriant, marine landscape, with brooks, flowers, houses with tiled stoves; and on the other, the unpredictable sea with its barren islands, archipelagos, caves, mussels, sea creatures and boats. In the tension between these worlds, the Moomin family settles down.

That made Jansson’s work layered, which appealed to both children and adults. Karjalainen continues, “even in these early works, it is plain that Tove’s narrative operates on several levels. It is a quality that lies at the basis of all the Moomin books and makes them quite unique in children’s literature. It was also the case that some bewildered publishers were unable to conceive of books that might be suitable for both children and adults.”

Of course, Moomin wasn’t Jansson’s only world. She created an impressive body of artwork, and penned stories specifically for adults, like The Summer Book and Traveling Light. 

In researching Jansson, I came across some old film interviews with her. In one (fyi it’s in Swedish, if you decide to try to watch), she spoke of the impetus for The Summer Book, a book that I read at the beginning of every summer. She describes hitting a creative wall, that she couldn’t work or write, and she went to her mother. Her mother challenged her to write about a very old person and a very young person.

The idea reignited a desire to sit down and write.

This entire project of documenting women has been about wisdom. The wisdom we seek, the wisdom we carry, the wisdom to challenge, the wisdom to ask. In this interview, I found it so touching that the idea for one of Jansson’s most seminal books, the one that feels like her truest story, was one that was sparked by the wisdom of an important woman so close to her.

There is so much to give, so much to find, so much to enjoy, so much to seek. There is wisdom in tension, in layers, in curiosity, in the novel and in the mundane. For that, I find Jansson’s words so powerful.

Stay curious.

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

February 12, 2020 at 11:54

Teresa Baker

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“Hope is infinite, without it there would be no reason for any of us to move forward.”

-Teresa Baker

Teresa Baker is the founder of African American Nature & Parks Experience, and as an advocate for diversity, works tirelessly to ensure that not only the country’s national parks are more diverse in their staff and visitors, but also the outdoor industry as a whole. She also created the Outdoor CEO Diversity Pledge, focused on improving representation across the industry, from marketing teams to ambassadors and athletes (learn more about it in this She Explores episode).

She is a powerful voice for diversity, equity, and inclusion, in an industry that—like many others—has long been white and male dominated. I think that Teresa’s work highlights the essential intersection of environmentalism and social justice. But as Teresa reminded me in this interview, it’s not an intersection but a coexistence. For us to make social and environmental progress, we have to stop thinking about them as separate. Nature is for everyone, and we all deserve an equal place on this planet, and we all have to fight to protect it.

What does wisdom mean to you?

For me wisdom is the means to think for myself and not allow outside influences to determine my moral standing.

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

Maya Angelou was and still is someone I look to for intentional grounding of self. Her words are a constant reminder to me of who I am and why I am. It is because of her words that I understand I am a vessel in this life, this life is not about me in the physical sense. I am here to carry a message forward, as are we all, we just need to learn to walk in that understanding. And we can only do this by being courageous. “Courage is the most important of all virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.” My favorite quote from her.

You are a diversity advocate, and work on a number of initiatives to promote and encourage diversity in the outdoors. Diversity and equity are obviously something we need to focus on within all areas of society, what about the outdoors made you want to focus on that industry specifically?

What most people overlook about the work I do is that it is all tied to environmental protection. Now more than ever we need more people involved in the protection of our outdoor spaces. And right now the voices that are not involved in this work, as much as they can be, are from underrepresented communities. This is why I fight for equal representation across the board, so that we can have more people on the front lines fighting for the spaces we hike, climb, ski and walk through.

I see a lot of your work at the intersection of environmentalism and social justice. Can you talk about why this intersection is important?

I don’t think there is an intersection between environmentalism and social justice, the two must co-exist. When we separate the two it’s like saying we can have one without the other, we can’t. I don’t think of myself as an environmentalist, nor a torch carrier for justice. I think of myself as someone this society has overlooked for far too long. Someone who gives a damn about the spaces that surround us all. I understand that for myself and many others, these outdoor spaces are sanctuaries where we can go to escape the insanity of our day to day lives. They are roofless cathedrals and we need to protect them as such. And within that obligation, if we are able to put our physical differences aside, we exist under the umbrella of… Justice for all.

What is your personal relationship to nature, and how does that shape the work that you do?

Nature has always been a place of serenity for me, it is my think tank. I escape for self healing and self reflection. It truly is my cathedral, my religion, my shelter. I feel a “different me” when I’m out hiking among the redwoods, hearing nothing but the whispers of the birds, the swaying of branches and the wrestling of my feet as I walk along the leaves that have fallen to the ground. There is nothing that compares to the connection I feel to nature, she is what grounds me. A physical reminder of why the work I do around DEI is so important.

Through the work that you have done, what gives you hope?

Hope is infinite, without it there would be no reason for any of us to move forward. Life is hard no matter our path, hope is what I awake to, hope is what speaks to me when frustrations kick in, hope is what I cling to when doubt tries to creep in. I am nothing without hope and the belief of divine driven purpose that I am doing the work prescribed to me.

What wisdom would you share with your younger self?

A talk with my younger self would go like this….Your self doubts today are preparing you for a life of service that will inspire change beyond your time here. Hold on to your anger, it is part of the journey. Know that you are with purpose. Do not take education so lightly, for it will be of great use moving forward. Surround yourself with the smart ones, the ones whom you will gather with in the future. Do not be afraid that you think and feel differently than the ones you surround yourself with today. Fall in love cautiously and not just because you find him cute. And most importantly, spend more time talking to your parents, those days will past faster than you know.

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

January 22, 2020 at 11:36

Greta Thunberg

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“You are never too small to make a difference.”

-Greta Thunberg

Greta Thunberg is 16, and last August when it was time to go back to school in her city of Stockholm, she decided to strike instead. It had been a record hot summer, and she wanted to do something about climate change. So she sat outside of Swedish Parliament, with her now famous sign “skolstrejk för klimatet” (school strike for the climate). She handed out fliers that said “you grownups don’t give a shit about my future.” After three weeks, Thunberg went back to school, but she kept striking every Friday, and others joined her.

I was in Stockholm in November, and walking on a cold Friday afternoon I saw the strike. I remember feeling inspired, but also sad, thinking of the situation that these young people currently face, and of the future yet to come. I was in my own head focused on other things, and I didn’t stop to talk to them. Now of course I wish I had.

Today, March 15, 2019 students have taken to the streets around the world for the global climate strike (also known as Youth Climate Strike, Fridays For Future). What started as one girl’s insistence that something needed, and could be, done has turned into a massive movement. Thunberg was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize this week. If you haven’t watched her UN Climate Change COP24 or TEDxStockholm speech please do. And if you haven’t been following the global youth movement that is growing day by day, do that as well. It feels like a flicker of hope in dark times.

“This movement had to happen, we didn’t have a choice. We knew there was a climate crisis. Not just because forests in Sweden or in the US had been on fire; because of alternating floods and drought in Germany and Australia; because of the collapse of alpine faces due to melting permafrost and other climate changes. We knew, because everything we read and watched screamed out to us that something was very wrong,” she and other young leaders wrote in a global op-ed.

Support them, raise their voices, join in. Remember that none of us are too small to make a difference.

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.

Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman

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“I don’t shine if you don’t shine.”
– Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman 

I am a big fan of the work of both Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman. I wanted to feature both of them as part of Women’s Wisdom Project and it felt fitting to put them together, since they are a masterful duo.

Listening to them on their podcast Call Your Girlfriend feels like hanging out with friends; friends who inspire you to be better. Their show makes me want to read more, ask more questions, create more art, have more fun. I also love their Shine Theory concept which this quote comes from. (And yes, they have a shared quote because I think we all need a reminder of how much wisdom we all share with each other on a regular basis.)

A little extended excerpt from Shine Theory:

“Shine Theory is an investment, over the long term, in helping someone be their best self—and relying on their help in return. It is a conscious decision to bring your full self to your friendships, and to not let insecurity or envy ravage them. Shine Theory is a commitment to asking, “Would we be better as collaborators than as competitors?” The answer is almost always yes.”

YES. We don’t create in a vacuum and we don’t succeed in a vacuum. We have to build up a team of people who believe in us, support us, and inspire us.

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 1, 2019 at 09:22