anna brones

writer + artist

Posts Tagged ‘papercut

Coffee Outside, at Sunrise

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Coffee Adventures Outside is a collaboration between myself and Alastair Humphreys, released each month somewhere around the new moon. We hope you’ll join us in our coffee adventures, wherever you are. 

“The sadness will dissipate as the sun rises. It is like a mist.”

– For Whom the Bell Tolls

Up here in the northern hemisphere we have passed the equinox and slipped into autumn. The days are becoming cooler and more windy, the leaves are turning golden and beginning to fall. Our nights are now longer than our days. The good news of all this is that it becomes easier every day to wake up a little before dawn, brew some coffee, and head outside to watch the sun rise. That is our latest little challenge for our year of #coffeeadventuresoutside.

Wrap up warm, take your coffee out into the cool grey pre-dawn, and settle down somewhere with a clear view of the sky facing the direction of the sunrise. [If you like to be precise, you can check this site out.] Wrap your hands around the warm mug, inhale the steam, and be still.

We recently enjoyed reading Nightwalk, by Chris Yates, which tells the story of a night spent walking slowly through the countryside. Despite Yates being a devoted drinker of tea, there is still much overlap with his walk and our coffee. He explains how he likes “…to creep like a mouse in the wood and sit still for maybe an hour, focusing with my ears, using the sounds of paw-patter and antler-click to colour in the invisible shapes until I could identify them or they came into shadowy view.”

 

His words are as much about an appreciation of slowing down and noticing as they are about nature or walking. Yates explains that one of the joys for him, “is the way in which everything in my head gradually clears of mundane domestic concerns and personal anxieties … because I know that apart from the animals I will always, unless I meet a deer poacher, be in perfect solitude. I am therefore able to bring all my attention to bear on the present moment… a place of endless immediacy, a place known to every wild animal, a timelessness.”

This solitude is why we have always preferred witnessing a sunrise to a sunset. Sunsets are easy, commonplace, strewn across social media. But sunrises are different. For most of us they are rarer to see than sunsets because they require a little more effort, and therefore you are more likely to have the whole spectacular show for yourself. 

“Be patient where you sit in the dark,” encouraged the poet Rumi: “the dawn is coming.”

As you wait with your coffee for daylight to seep slowly into the world, try to pay attention to how you deal with sitting still and doing ‘nothing’. Are you enjoying it, or does it feel like a waste of time? Are you content waiting, or are you anxious to get on with the day. In his book Four Thousand Weeks about time and how to use it, Oliver Burkeman refers to the “image of time as a conveyor belt that’s constantly passing us by. Each hour or week or year is like a container being carried on the belt, which we must fill as it passes, if we’re to feel that we’re making good use of our time. When there are too many activities to fit comfortably into the containers, we feel unpleasantly busy; when there are too few, we feel bored. If we keep pace with the passing containers, we congratulate ourselves for ‘staying on top of things’ and feel like we’re justifying our existence; if we let too many pass by unfilled, we feel we’ve wasted them.” 

He compares our modern anxious obsession with productivity and efficiency to medieval farmers who had no such notion. “There was no anxious pressure to ‘get everything done’, either, because a farmer’s work is infinite: there will always be another milking and another harvest, forever, so there’s no sense in racing towards some hypothetical moment of completion.”

For the remainder of our life’s allotted 4000 weeks the sun will rise every day. But no matter how beautiful they are, we cannot cram in any extra dawns. Rushing will not help. Savouring the ones we do have, on the other hand, may well help a great deal. 

In Sacred Time and the Search for Meaning, Gary Eberle defines sacred time as, “what we experience when we step outside the quick flow of life and luxuriate, as it were, in a realm where there is enough of everything, where we are not trying to fill a void in ourselves or the world, where we exist for a moment at both the deepest and the loftiest levels of our existence and participate in the eternal life of all that is. In simpler, or perhaps just slower, times, people seemed to enter this realm more regularly, or perhaps even to live with one foot inside it. Prayer, meditation, religious rituals, and holy days provided gateways into eternity that allowed us to return to the world of daily time refreshed and renewed, with an understanding that beneath the busyness of daily life there was an underpinning of calm, peace, and sufficiency.”

All those things, yes, and coffee too. This is our sacred time. 

The sun will rise, always. It is worth the wait, always. And as the world floods with sunlight, take the memory of the calm, the rising sun, and the steaming cup of coffee into your busy day that awaits.

Share photos of your adventures with us: #coffeeadventuresoutside

Written by Anna Brones

October 11, 2021 at 06:00

Coffee Outside, After Sleeping Outside

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Coffee Adventures Outside is a collaboration between myself and Alastair Humphreys, released each month somewhere around the new moon. We hope you’ll join us in our coffee adventures, wherever you are. 

You’re going to appreciate this month’s coffee more than any other from our adventures this year. A night spent under the stars is unlikely to offer the best sleep of the year, but it is refreshing and restorative in other ways that make up for it. If you simply want to sleep, stay inside. But if you are searching for magic and memories then grab your sleeping bag and head for the hills. (Here’s a little equipment list to help you plan) If that feels too audacious then haul your duvet into your garden for the night as you did back when you were a kid. We’ve done that recently and it is a surprisingly exciting, wild experience to sleep in your own garden, on your deck or your balcony.

Something deep and primeval inside us, plus the boring habits and conventions of modern life, combine to make the feeling of lying down to sleep in nature a mixture of excitement, nerves and absurdity. Nerves are natural, yet irrational: you’re tucked away in a quiet corner of the world, nobody knows where you are, you are completely safe. So that leaves the absurdity of going to sleep out here in nature (the chuckles and sense of wonder), the unfamiliarity of the night and the excitement of such a simple experience. 

There is no moon tonight so the stars are particularly bright. You might not have paid much attention to them for many months now. But they put on a spectacular show of shooting stars and satellites as you fall asleep. As you doze and wake and doze some more you notice the constellations revolving across the heavens. A pair of hooting owls weave in and out of your dreams and consciousness. Perhaps they were in the nearby trees for minutes or for hours; it is hard to know. For a night sleeping outdoors is a confused and busy affair. You sleep lightly and remain more aware of the world than you do at home in your bed. Eventually you notice the first hint of dawn, a slight lightening of the eastern horizon. You snooze a little longer. The next time you open your eyes you can make out the black silhouettes of trees and the dark sky is paling into grey. 

It is a misty morning. The seasons are turning now, summer sliding towards autumn, and this is our final ‘coffee outside’ prompt of the summer. As the sky lightens the grass sparkles with dew. The droplets on a spider’s web hangs like rows of pearls. When the sun rises the colour returns to the world. It is going to be a beautiful end of summer / start of autumn day. 

Time now for coffee. You sit up in your sleeping bag, stretch, yawn and look around you. You reach into your backpack and set up your stove. You pour water into your pan and the splashes ring out in the silence of the morning. Then comes the quiet roar of your little camping stove – one of the loveliest sounds imaginable. And then comes a few minutes of patience as you wait for your coffee to brew. A chance to look closely and notice the minute changes in the light as the morning creeps to life. To pay attention to the bird song and the chirp of insects. To see the leaves tremble in the breeze and remember that in a month or two they will be golden, and then gone. To appreciate the slight chill on your nose and the delicious warmth inside your sleeping bag. 

A hot mug of coffee after a night sleeping outside is a wonderfully restorative thing. Any nerves you had about sleeping outdoors dissolved with the daylight. So the coffee is also celebratory. Look! You’ve woken up outdoors, something that is so rare for most humans these days. The simple warmth of a hot drink feels wonderful as you cup it in your hands and sip it down. (This confession may be heresy to coffee aficionados, but out in the wild we have shuddered with happiness and gratitude for instant coffee, for a tea bag used five times over, even just for a mug of hot water to drink. The simplicity of possessions and experiences when in the great outdoors makes you so much more present and appreciative.)

Now, after your coffee, the day is calling to you. It is time to shove your sleeping bag into your pack and be on your way. There is still time (and always will be) for a sunrise dip in a river or the ocean (or pop inside for a hot shower if you spent the night in your garden). 

Finally it is time to return to a different world—the world of emails, chores, thermostats and electric lights—for after a night under the stars it does not feel much of an exaggeration to describe them as separate worlds. Back to the so-called ‘real world’. A little tired, no doubt. Perhaps somewhat disheveled. But with the reward of an experience and a coffee that you will still remember a year or more from now. If life is about making memories, a night spent outdoors is a simple way to create something a tiny bit special. 

Share photos of your adventures with us: #coffeeadventuresoutside

Written by Anna Brones

September 10, 2021 at 09:00

Coffee Outside, on a Bike Ride

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Coffee Adventures Outside is a collaboration between myself and Alastair Humphreys, released each month somewhere around the new moon. We hope you’ll join us in our coffee adventures, wherever you are. 

“The bicycle, the bicycle surely, should always be the vehicle of novelists and poets,” wrote Christopher Morley in Parnassus on Wheels. You don’t have to be a novelist or poet to understand the sentiment; the bicycle is the vehicle of dreamers, and as humans, we all dream. 

Whether we learned at 6 or 36, most of us likely remember the feeling of our first time pedaling a bicycle on our own. The freedom, the exhilaration. On a bicycle, we move all thanks to our own power, and while one of the simplest of vehicles, it can have profound effects. There’s creative power in a bike ride too, as movement has been shown to help stimulate our mind and imagination. But there is also the ability to access places in a way that’s different from in a car or on foot. The bicycle falls at the perfect sweet point in between; fast enough to allow us to cover distance, but slow enough that we pick up on all kinds of sensory details along the way. 

We notice the pungent smell of blackberry brambles in the late summer sun, the feeling of a fresh breeze on our face. We can hear the birdsong of an early morning, and spot a hidden pathway we might otherwise have missed if we were separated from the world by the steel and glass of a car. We can stop when we want, perching our bicycle against a tree to go and investigate whatever caught our eye as we pedalled along. 

Whether it’s slow or fast, long or short, a bicycle ride is an injection of energy. You are fueled by the knowledge that it is your force and your force alone that helps to carry the bicycle forward. 

How often do we feel that way? A walk can facilitate a similar sensation, but there is something glorious about the distances we can travel on a bicycle and the swooshing speed of the wind in your hair. After decades of riding, even we often remain amazed at how far we can explore, how much we are capable of. 

But the beauty of the bicycle lies also in the fact that its benefits come in journeys short and long. It is wonderfully versatile. There is as much enjoyment to be found exploring the streets of your neighborhood as pedaling across a continent. In need of a quick injection of good energy? A bike ride just might do the trick. Coasting down a hill, it’s hard not to break a smile. 

If you have traveled by bicycle you may know the power of these small experiences, how a bicycle makes you present for every single moment that makes up a day. There’s no autopilot on a bicycle—you are engaged and aware as long as you are pedaling—and that’s why it encourages us to be in the now. 

This month we are bringing our Coffee Adventures Outside to our bicycles, pairing our love for a coffee break and an excursion on two wheels. A coffee break by bicycle can give even a short bicycle ride the allure of a long bicycle trip; even if it’s just on your normal loop, it makes an everyday ride feel like a small adventure. 

A coffee break on a bike ride: this is the opportunity to find somewhere new to ride to, or make a stop on your regular route that you usually just pedal past. You may visit a local cafe during your ride, or pack a thermos and a mug and find a nice lookout to sit in and enjoy. If you want a full dose of adventure, you could even bring your camp stove and outdoor coffee set up for the freshly brewed experience.

No matter what your approach to your cup or your ride is, use this time to be in the moment. Feel every pedal stroke.

Watch the landscape roll past you.  

Be in your surroundings. 

Let your mind wander. 

Dream. 

Share photos of your adventures with us: #coffeeadventuresoutside

Written by Anna Brones

August 11, 2021 at 09:00

Vote: 2020 Election Posters

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I have been making a collection of vote-inspired artwork over the past few weeks, and I have turned several of them into a series of free, downloadable posters.

All of these posters started as papercuts, made from a single piece of paper.

The posters are designed for 8.5×11″ and 11×17″ paper. You can download and print these posters at home and hang them up wherever you like. You can even color them in!

I want to encourage people to get out the vote, and I want you to do the same, which is why I am making these posters free. They are intended for personal use and may not be sold or used for profit. For those who are able/want to, you can make a donation or support my work on Patreon. And if you want vote postcards with some of these designs, I have those available for sale in my shop as well as the original artwork.

Head here to download. 

Written by Anna Brones

October 19, 2020 at 10:19

Vote Like a Motherf*cker

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We must VOTE.
My original “Vote Like a Motherfucker” papercut illustration was inspired by the words of Cheryl Strayed. If you have read her book Tiny Beautiful Things, you will recognize the phrase “write like a motherfucker.” In the 2016 election, Cheryl adapted that to be “vote like a motherfucker.” I asked Cheryl if I could turn her words into artwork in lead up to the 2020 election. 

This year we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment. During the fight for the 19th amendment, suffragettes wore yellow roses to indicate their support. This yellow rose is a nod to the women who came before us and ensured that today we have the right to vote.

I turned this artwork into a “voter pack,” intended to remind you to vote, but also to take that reminder to someone else. Because we ALL need to show up and vote. You can wear your button and sticker proudly, and give the other button and sticker to a friend. Pass the voting energy on.
Postcards are 4.5×6.25″ and can also be hung as a small print on your wall/fridge/in the window so your neighbors see it. The pack includes a yellow, white, and black postcard. Snag one here. I am personally donating $5 of each pack to Fair Fight

Written by Anna Brones

October 4, 2020 at 12:31

Posted in Design + Creativity, Portfolio

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Ruth Bader Ginsburg

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“Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”

-Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1933-2020)

We must fight.

We must lead.

We must push on.

This papercut is part of the Women’s Wisdom Project.

Written by Anna Brones

September 19, 2020 at 09:41

Benefit Women’s Wisdom Project Prints

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I have a new collection of six different 8×10″ prints from my Women’s Wisdom Project collection, and 50% of each print is being donated to a different organization.

Here are the prints currently available and the organizations that they are supporting:

I am excited to be able to use this artwork in this way, and I hope that you consider buying one and supporting one of these causes.

Written by Anna Brones

June 18, 2020 at 10:34

Lessons from Making 100 Papercut Portraits of 100 Women

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Two years ago I set out to make 100 papercut portraits of inspiring women, calling it Women’s Wisdom Project.

100 is a lot. But it’s also very little. 
Making 100 portraits is a large endeavor. There’s a lot of work that went into creating this series.

But the number 100 is minuscule compared to how many inspiring, insightful women have come before us, are around us today, and who will lead us tomorrow. What do we lose when we disregard their stories? When we don’t give them a platform?

To me, these have become essential questions as I have worked on this series. Our stories carry power, so do our questions.

Life is made up of complexity and nuance
History, stories, and wisdom are complex and nuanced, in stark contrast to the simplicity of my medium’s black and white nature. We do not live in this simplified duality. Our lives are messy, gritty, chaotic.

Each of these papercuts has involved quotes, and I have also constantly been reminded of what we lose when we only focus on tiny snippets of what someone once said. After all, quotes are simplified, clean versions of otherwise complex stories. Not to mention how many quotes are misattributed, or entirely fabricated.

It is important to do our homework. To not take everything at face value. Certainly, there is power in a condensed statement of wisdom. But there is always so much more behind.

I hope this work sparks a conversation, that it is a springboard for learning more, not just about women in history, but about the stories of women around us.

You need a support team
We often view art as the work of an individual. We have a cultural vision of the lone, struggling, tortured artist, one who uses their medium to work through their pain and emotions. But art doesn’t only come out of pain, and it’s certainly not created in a vacuum.

Creativity can require solitude, but it also needs collaboration, and it certainly needs support, some emotional scaffolding if you will. If you are going to embark on a creative journey, you need people to love and support you, to cheer you on when you can’t cheer on yourself.

We move forward together.

We have so much to learn and so much share
The word “wisdom” can feel loaded. Something that’s unattainable, something that requires a lifetime to achieve. And yet as I have asked women where they have gotten memorable pieces of wisdom, it is often from the people closest to them. A parent, a sibling, a friend, a teacher.

It is perhaps natural that we look to changemakers and leaders for guidance. After all, these are the people who have a fantastic and beautiful ability to distill the human experience into bits of understanding, be it through words, through pictures, through film, through speeches. But most often, the answers that we seek are nearby. They are held by people close to us. Available just by asking.

If so much wisdom is carried in those around us, imagine how much lies with ourselves? How much do we have to offer?

Life is a series of asking questions
There is so much that we don’t know, and so much that we’ll never know. Every time I have sat down to research another woman to profile for this project, it has led me to many other stories, many other threads. It is physically impossible for me to pursue all of them, just as it is physically impossible for us to have a grasp of everything around us.

We can’t read every book, we can’t watch every film, we can’t keep up on every current event, we can’t have a deep understanding of every moment in history. But what we can do is to constantly ask questions.

We can sustain the curiosity to continually drive us to ask questions. This is what creates progress. It’s what keeps us alive.

The Anonymous and the Untitled have power
I debated a lot over the 100th piece in the series. Who would it be? What wisdom did I want to showcase?

Several years ago, my mother and I were at an art museum, and I started paying attention to the number of “anonymous” labels. In an exhibit devoted to folk art, there were several quilts, some of them attributed to the artist, but many of them by “anonymous”—the stories of their creators (most likely women) lost to history. The same was true in a gallery with pieces of Native American art. Stunning pieces of art and craftsmanship, simply with “anonymous” on the label below.

#100 in Women’s Wisdom Project is therefore devoted to exactly that: the unheard, the unseen, the unrepresented, and the stories, wisdom, and power that they have carried, do carry, and will carry. Let us all have the wisdom to pay attention and listen.

The Women’s Wisdom Project is up at Vashon Center for the Arts March 6-29. 2020.

A version of this post appeared in my monthly newsletter Creative Fuel

Written by Anna Brones

March 6, 2020 at 10:28

Women’s Wisdom Project Exhibit – March 2020 at Vashon Center for the Arts

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If you have been following along here, you know that for the the last two years I have been working on my Women’s Wisdom Project, a collection of papercut portraits and profiles showcasing the wisdom of inspiring, insightful women.

I am honored that all 100 original papercuts are going to be displayed at Vashon Center for the Arts on Vashon Island in honor of Women’s History Month.

The show will open on March 6, 2020 and run through March 29, 2020. There will be an opening reception from 6 to 9pm on Friday March 6th, and if you are in the Seattle/Tacoma area, I hope that you will consider attending and interacting with all of this artwork in person. And celebrating the completion of the project of course!

If you can’t come, be sure to check out the digital versions of all the papercuts here, as well as some of the profiles. I’ll continue to update the site with more stories and profiles over the coming months.

Written by Anna Brones

February 25, 2020 at 16:25

Send a Little Love in the Mail

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I made a few sets of holiday cards, all featuring my papercut illustrations.

Who doesn’t love receiving snail mail? Make sure someone you know gets a little love in the post this holiday season.

Some ideas:

-Write a note to a friend.

-Give a card as a gift.

-Send a thank you note to someone.

-Write a recipe on the inside and send it to someone you wish you could eat a meal with.

-Pencil in your favorite quote or poem and send to someone who could use the words.

-Draw a picture inside, or add a touch of color on the outside.

There are three cards in each set so you can even keep one for yourself and frame it on the wall.

You can buy a set (or two) in my shop.

 

Written by Anna Brones

December 2, 2019 at 07:02