As some of you know my mother, Doris Shintani, left this earth on August 13, 2009. She had Alzheimer’s disease for about 12 years leading up to her death. Recently I spoke about the many gifts she gave me at a community memorial and at the United Methodist Church in Lodi.
As a healing and an honoring of her, I decided to make art around these gifts.
The first small piece I made was a red chair drawn and sewn on to a piece of birch bark. I wove the red thread hanging from the chair into a braid and at the end of this I tied a red envelop. Inside the envelop I placed 3 needles. I wanted to convey my sadness and the empty place in my heart. And I wanted to convey the gift she gave me – the ability to always create my path and to stand on my own two feet.
The other piece I am working on is a real meditation. When I was going through my mother’s photos I found the pictures of her classes. She taught first through fourth grades. I thought about those 23 years she had been a teacher. She was very dedicated to her students. My mother had touched so many of their lives. Some students even sent her letters through the years. I decided to make a bead of each student’s face and to string them together. I have made about 150 beads and have 500 more to go. The core of each bead is made of joss paper which is used for funeral rituals. The art making has helped me through my grief. I made beads sitting in waiting rooms during my father’s surgeries. I made more beads on plane trips. I continue to make beads in my studio. They are keeping me connected to the impact my mother had on my life and on the lives of others. The gift to make a passionate difference in others lives is a gift I want to keep giving.