Last week while in New Orleans for our monthly Jungian training seminar, I found myself with a free day, but in a torrential rain storm. No chance of wandering and making photographs in the French Quarter this visit.
I remembered passing by what looked like an art supply store in the Fat City neighborhood near my hotel on my visit last month. (I am perpetually lost in New Orleans, and hoped I would be able to find my way back.) I did find it, with the help of a young woman who was a native New Oreleanian.
I found David Art and was happier than I could be in any chocolate store! It had been a long time since I had been in such a place where the shelves are stocked with amazing materials and the whole place full enough to burst wide open. In these times of online shopping for everything, what a joy it was to actually pick up, hold, and explore the objects I found there.
There were canvases of every shape and size and fat oil pastel sticks arranged in a maze of “cubby” spaces in a wooden frame. I saw all kinds of paints, a few I have tried and many others I would love to get to know. They had supplies for encaustic (wax) painting right there on the shelves – these are so hard to find in these times.
The fiber artist in me gravitated to the dye section, materials for surface painting and what could be used to dye fleeces and yarn. There was colored hemp for beading and macramé and lanyard cord (called boondogle when I was growing up) for making knotted key chains and jewelry.
I found calligraphy supplies and implements for pen and ink. When I asked for a traditional pen, the owner showed me one complete with a real feather plume! There were all kinds of handmade and fine watercolor papers and artist’s journals bound with pages of the same material.
And so I returned two more times before the weekend ended. My stash: round pieces of watercolor paper for collage work or maybe painting on silver emulsion for darkroom printing, goldleaf paper, colorful jute twine for making an imagined talisman, and a calligraphy pen and inks.
I had a great time chatting with the owners and with a fellow artist who is a muralist, and met the dog who is the store’s namesake (pictured at right).
Spending time at David Art, I realized again how important it is for artists and creative folks to frequent inspiring places: taking in and taking home the materials that draw us in, adding to the “stash” of materials we keep at home or in our studios, and sharing the company of members of our (artist) “herd.” (See Jungian analyst Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ interpretation of the tale, "The Ugly Duckling" in the book Women Who Run With the Wolves.)
I now realize that for me, coming to the MA in Psychology and Counseling program residency is like a trip to the chocolate store. It inspires me in a way that is like my experience of David Art in New Orleans. In both cases, I took a day-long trip to get to a special place, each a unique environment. At Goddard College, as well as David Art, I have found “food for my soul”: inspiring materials, creative experiences, and new resources. And most importantly, I find my herd.
Note: My “Free Association Boxes” are created in cigar boxes and include images of hands made with my Holga (an experimental camera). The images are printed by silver gelatin process on fiber in the darkroom and toned in sepia and gold. I love the alchemy of printing and toning. In the boxes, the objects are those that I am drawn to. Fragments of vintage clothing form a backdrop. I arrange and add and subtract objects until I feel that they have assumed their rightful places.