Memory Jugs

Memory Jugs Descansos

The first memory jugs were made by African Americans for grave adornments. Memory jugs are mosaic vessels covered in mortar and encrusted with shards, shells, and various found objects. They were popular in Victorian times as folk art but the idea is believed to have originated from African mourning vessels. “ These were memory laden mosaics…three dimensional scrapbooks. In essence they are fascinating time capsules that link the past to the present as poignant narratives.

What would you put on a memory jug? Contemplate a narrative that might spring from making this art form.

Grandmother’s Coat

Grandmother-s coat heller kleinI have always been fascinated by Clarissa Pinkola Estes idea of making a full length scapecoat to detail in painting, writing, with all manner of things pinned and stitched inside. But I really love what Alice Wellinger has done here. This beautiful piece truly resonates and fuels the desire to do something using a grey coat that I have had hanging, unworn for many years.

In order to come to know them better it could also be good to explore what the inside of a character’s coat looks like

Identifying the Essence

spiritball-16-multiyellow09_smallI am not sure where I have been. I searched online to find out if there was such a thing as a Spirit Ball and discovered there are thousands to choose from.

Apparently, Spirit or, as they’re sometimes called, Witch’s balls have been popular since the 18th Century – first in England and then in New England. For well over three centuries hollow glass spheres have been hung in windows to ward off witch’s spells, evil spirits and ill fortune. Hanging these decorative glass balls in the window or on the porch is thought to tantalize the mischievous spirits which may be threatening a home’s tranquility.

The wayward spirit is mesmerized by the ball’s reflective beauty. When the spirit touches the sphere it is absorbed and trapped in the web-like strands of glass thus protecting your home and family!

My notion of making a spirit ball was quite different to this. I thought of a spirit ball as being something which holds, at its core,  some ‘essence’, some attribute that make an entity what it fundamentally is, and which, by necessity, adds character and without which identity is lost.

So! A ball, made with an unlocked lock inside it, given to a healer, represents that which, at essence, is what they do. Their identity is somehow lost when they do not help unlock that which is held within. While they hold the ball they know what it is that they must do!

Temari Balls

Temari BallsTemari balls are a form of folk art that originated in China and were introduced to Japan in the 7th century. The carefully hand-embroidered balls often made from the thread of old kimonos were created by parents or grandparents and given to children on New Year’s day as special gift. According to Wikipedia the balls would sometimes contain secret handwritten wish for the child, or else contained some kind of noise-making object like a bell.

Source: Colossal

The idea of making balls which are made using material from the clothes of loved ones and which contain secret handwritten wishes, bells, memories and other surprises appeals. I am cursing that I have not kept more pieces of clothing from those loved ones who have died.

No matter!

My descansos ball has none of the amazing precision seen here. At one time that would have bothered me. But today I feel no need to replicate this form of art. What I am most interested in, as I forage for ideas, is the use of color, the notion of using diverse scraps and the concept of making many balls.

This is timely for, having placed the open lock in my descansos ball, I sense the time has come to complete it and then see what material speaks to me and asks to be shaped into balls.  After all, Baba clearly has not done with me. My tasks are by no means completed.

Flickr user NanaAkua photographed an amazing collection of  geometric spheres created by her 88-year-old grandmother who began to master the art in her 60s. She has since created hundreds of them, nearly 500 of which you can see right here.

Baba’s Task

Late, late last night, when the whole world slept
Along to the garden of dreams I crept.
And I pulled the bell of an old, old house
Where the moon dipped down like a little white mouse.
I tapped the door and I tossed my head:
“Are you in, little girl? Are you in?” I said.
And while I waited and shook with cold
Through the door tripped Me” – just two years old.
Zora Cross

AccretionI came to Baba Yaga seeking a fire stick and she sneered and told me, in no uncertain terms, that it was me that let the fire go out and that I would have to spend a lot of time making Descansos!

With that she flew off in her cauldron, leaving me to ponder the task of making endless lines of rope

So late, late, as night fell, I searched and found the photo of two year old me.

I kissed her, gave her a hug and made sure to tell her how precious she was/is.

Since Baba insists, I will go on making the rope, along with all the other tasks this feisty old crone has set.

I will wind and twist my strands of material and ever so respectfully, cover the things I uncover.

So here lies my two year old self, the one with sharply forged intuition, carefully wrapped and tucked within my ball for safe keeping. Like Vasalisa’s doll she will be with me and guide me as I obey Baba Yaga’s commands.

Containing Memory

The sleepy basket girl
walks through the pink Lemurian mist
each early morning,
singing out, in a sweet alto voice,
“Dreams for sale!
Look in my basket,
full of pretty dreams!
Pick any one you like!
Only cost you a quick kindness,
don’t cost nothin’ to look!
Old dreams, new dreams,
anything you can dream of!
Anything can happen today
in the City of Ladies!
Come on, now, my dears,
you beautiful Lemurian dreamers,
Try one of my fresh dreams right now –
today could be amazing!
And where she walks she leaves a magic trail
of pink and purple glittering pixie dust,
a few sand dollars, some pretty shells,
the heavy, sweet scent of longing
for what could have been,
and just a hint of what may yet be
by Kerry Vincent (c) 2008

Ball

The thing about the story of the hero, as Ursula Le Guin points out in The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction, is that it is ‘his’ story and not ours. More worryingly, we have primarily heard about “the sticks and spear sand swords, the things to bash and poke and hit with, the long, hard things and in the process stories about the minutiae of daily life have been lost.

One of the special things about the work that was done within Lemuria was that it grew to become a place filled with stories about people rather than stories about great battles. In this environment you could write, quite simply, as Kerry Vincent did, about glittering pixie dust, pretty shells, sand dollars and the scent of longing.

If it is human to fill baskets, and every other imaginable container, with things that you want, or want to remember, and then, leave them and pull these things out when you need them then, like Le Guin, I am human.

As my ball grows, it will become like an intricately woven net that captures moments in time.When unwoven, at some time, it might be found to contain little more than a note, a photo, a pebble. To many these things may appear worthless, and the ball may be discarded as a bundle of rags.

No matter!

What matters is that I know what memories, potential stories to be told, lie within it.

Law of Accretion

accretion
əˈkriːʃ(ə)n/
noun
noun: accretion
1.
growth or increase by the gradual accumulation of additional layers or matter.
“the accretion of sediments in coastal mangroves”
synonyms: accumulation, collecting, gathering, amassing, cumulation, accrual, growth, formation, enlargement, increase, gain, augmentation, rise, mushrooming, snowballing;

AccretionIt began with a simple line of cloth rope.

Then, quite unexpectedly, the rope took on a life of its own and began whispering to me.

It began to grow.

First there was the introduction of varying shades and color.

Then, as the fingers worked, talking, as they have a habit of doing, directly to the brain, memories rose.

Voices called for me to bear witness to what lay, deep within.

Words on paper that need no explanation! The words sewn on the ball. Words that will disappear into the growing mass.

The process of accretion has been activated!

I am reminded of making Descansos!

there is a time in our lives, usually in midlife, when a woman has to make a decision – possibly the most the important psychic decision of her future life – about whether to be bitter or not”

Without a hint of bitterness I am acknowledging the role of accretion in my life. Some of those layers of matter that fill the crevices within may be represented here..

And so the ball forms a mass, hiding within it the things that lie hidden within me, yet yearn to be acknowledged.