My mother’s gifts

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.

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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 my mothers childrenthe 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.

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A place for my mom

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Priscilla, JJW, and I went to the De Young Art Museum to participate in AAWAA’s art residency collaborative. AAWAA stands for Asian American Women’s Art Association. The theme of their residency was “A Place of Her Own”. They provided materials like boxes and fabric and such for people to come in and work on their own pieces.

Since I just got a nice new big art studio, I decided I want to focus on making a place for my mother. As many of you know, my mother has Alzheimer’s disease and she lives in a fullcare facility in Reno near my brother and his family and my father. My mom shares a room with another patient, and usually she is in her wheelchair out in the public area.

Here is my creation process:

I choose a nice wooden box and line the box sides and bottom with hana (flower) cards. My mother used to play this Japanese card game with some women friends in Lodi. I have fond memories, hearing the voices and laughter of the ladies as they visited. I place a sea urchin shell upon a nest of yarn in the box. The shell reminds me of one that she gave me wrapped in a white napkin when she returned from a trip. It seemed so fragile and beautiful – and that is how she is now. I sprinkle confetti and red string in the box too. I think she needs some fun and always liked bright cheery colors. In the inside of the lid I put a gold flattened cupcake wrapper. Now it looks like a sacred halo. On top of the halo I put a feather. Feathers are messengers from and to God. I think she may have things she may want to say. Lastly I add 2 butterflies. Butterflies for fun, for flitting around, for transformation. I feel a sense of wonder and peace having made this special place for her.

Elders create eco mandalas

I enjoy facilitating an Elders’ art class in San Francisco every Friday. For the past 6 weeks we have been focusing on mandalas. I discussed the sacredness of the circle symbol in many cultures, in nature, and in religion. We designed rose window mandalas based on the cathedral stained glass windows of Europe. We made shield mandalas to give us strength.

For the eco mandala inspiration, my two high school aids presented a report on Andy Goldsworthy and showed how he used things found in the environment, nature ,to create installations. I scavenged materials for the mandala creating: rose petals from the flower place on highway 92, rocks left over from Carla’s landscaping job, different kinds of rocks and colors from Home Depot, and fallen ginkgo leaves in front of Judy Johnson-Williams house. The biggest score though was from Alena Jean’s Flower Shop. Her dad had just finished pruning and I grabbed beautiful plum branches, geranium leaves, lily flower petals.

The only instructions I gave the elders were to think about: balance, color, texture, placement, and the centers of their mandalas. The elders went right to it and came up with some beautiful designs. Some of them left a lot of black around their materials, so the shapes of each petal and leaf was defined. Others piled the materials on.

I found the project to be very successful for the many different issues that the elders have: hearing loss, stroke restriction, language differences, memory and cognitive variation. Everyone was able to create the mandalas and they enjoyed seeing what their fellow students had done.

Film festival celebrates aging

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The International Film Festival on Aging is a celebration of the unique joys, challenges and opportunities of our later years, when our experience and wisdom are finally equal to our passion for life. Through artistic expression, we showcase the singular experience of becoming a true Elder. Presented by the Pacific Institute and the AgeSong Senior Communities, this film series illustrates the value of our Elders while challenging society’s archaic preconceptions about growing older. The International Film Festival on Aging will take place from February 20–22, 2009 at premiere film venues across the San Francisco Bay Area, including at the world–famous Castro Theatre. (February 20th at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco; and February 21st & 22nd at the AMC Theatres in San Francisco and Emeryville.) Films include international, independent and studio productions, from captivating animated shorts to touching and memorable feature length films and documentaries, all of which explore the complex issues of aging.

more details at: http://www.filmfestonaging.org/

Assisting Aging Parents Class

Wow this sounds like a great class! Wish it was in person instead of online though. Sounds like what a lot of us baby boomers need. I am thinking of taking it. Let me know if anyone else is interested and maybe we could have a group to talk/email about the topics.

Are your parents in their golden years? Learning how to help parents or other loved ones through their transition can prepare us for our own. This compassionate and comprehensive class will give you the tools, techniques, and insights for this passage. Growing older is a part of life. Some aspects are joyful, some bittersweet, some frustrating, some frightening. You will learn what to expect, what to watch for, how to deal with physical and emotional challenges, and where to find resources to help. You’ll understand the impact of retirement, learn how to choose a nursing home, and be prepared to deal with death. You’ll learn about financial and legal considerations, health issues, and family interpersonal relationships. You’ll be introduced to special communication skills, observation methods, and coping mechanisms to ease the burden for everyone involved. You’ll learn to handle most of the challenges you will face while coming to appreciate and cherish the privilege of the journey.

Check it and sign up here. Classes start: September 17 | October 15 | November 12 | December 10

Doris and Mary doll

I brought my mom (Doris) a present on my last visit to Reno. My friend and artist Judy Johnson-Williams made these wonderful family dolls for me in response to a family tree assemblage piece I did. I decided to bring one of the dolls to my mother who has Alzheimer’s and is in a full care facility. She speaks of her mother now and then, so I chose that doll to bring her. My grandmother, Mary, lived with my parents for many years, but the photo of her used on the doll was from a long time ago, when my mother was probably around 10. I wonder at what age my mother thinks of her?