in not so many words.

this weekend held a lot of things, including two felting workshops, one little girl’s art making birthday party, a whole lot of baking, one cold on the mend, one missed Julie Doiron concert, and not enough sleep.

the stereo played a lot of beyonce (yes, that’s right) and Lucius, oh and Grace because this song never stops being beautiful,and even, um, some of this… because that’s just what you gotta do sometimes, you know?

there were some good reminders given, like:
1. fresh snowfalls under mid-winter night skies are worth bundling up for.
2. hot soup is one of life’s finest offerings.
3. sleep changes everything.
4. art making is good. plain and simple.
5. kitchens were made for dancing.

took a few pictures to prove it all happened. little Claire photo-documented the art birthday party at the Gallery, so credit for the “eyes of a 6 year old awesome shots” go to her.

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sitting here, on the far side of it all, i’m tired as, but i’m also ridiculously grateful. this life is a good life. even when it’s hard, it’s good. remember that, rae.

a found poem, or something like it.

...

...

It’s Saturday afternoon, the end of March. There was snow on the rooftops this morning, but that didn’t last long. I saw two crows fight it out in an eavestrough, while at another house, the hyacinth bloomed. By noon the sun was so hot coming through the window of the Mexican restaurant that our skin was feeling parched. My legs are stretched out on the brown striped couch in front of me. For a couple of hours they sat cross-legged on a carpeted floor. A live version of Such Great Heights is floating up to my window from a car speaker a few stories below. Today those kids really sang the blues.

I made the hot chocolate a bit too hot, but the almond milk was a nice touch. That cactus salad sure is hard to beat. Where does cancer come from and why does it happen and why did they have to die so soon? If you sang the song of your past it sure would be a heartbreaker.

That guy on the rollerblades must have been in the military. Lightening bolts on his head and all. As soon as you took off your glasses, I remembered everything. Fireflies don’t always bring light to dark places. It was 2 years yesterday, I wish I’d remembered.

You want to bring her back to life to make your future bright. That monster still sleeps in your sweater pocket. I wish it was easier for all of us to live with our losses. What should we do when our fears keep us up at night? It’s tradition now, you know. I could tell by your face that I’d lost you. I’m just not sure why you left.  I want to change my address too. Damn knocking.  You asked the question we’ve all been dying to know, little sage: If God is real, why doesn’t she answer?

……

What if we break their brains?

* this guy blows my socks off. again and again. today i had 3 pairs on, and he took them all off with one right-on-i-want-to-shout-hallelujah-and-buy-you-chocolate blog post. please read it. i write and ramble and post a lot of stuff up here. i think it’s all good. but i think this is really really great. and true. and could change things in all of our lives if we were willing to be brave like he is. that’s my two cents anyway. read it for yourself and see what you think.

Dallas Clayton

Dallas Clayton

EMOTIONAL LESSONS

Sometime around the end of the year it occurred to me that in the current school system children spend a fair amount of their days working hard at subjects like math, and science, English and history, maybe even arts and sports, but rarely if ever do our kids get to spend any substantial amount of time working on any sort of emotional development. Of course there’s the implied emotional development that occurs throughout life- learning what to do or what not to do through imitation or routine. That’s a given much like learning to speak. But if speech can be refined, vocabulary built, and language elevated what about a child’s emotional well being?

This of course is no new idea.  There are schools, and temples, massive well-landscaped gardens and volumes of books that address the issue head on. And as a tax payer I’m sure there are a multitude of arguments that could be made in opposition. Things along the lines of: Why should kids take time out of their allotted educational curriculum to focus on something as abstract as emotions? Who would be qualified to teach it? What would be discussed? What if we if we break their brains?

However when I took a moment to shift the idea toward an average cross-section of adults I knew, each with adequate reading skills, functioning math levels, a general knowledge of art, or history, even a basic athletic ability, the one commonality that seemed to hold true was an emotional deficit. With each person, over and over again, there was an inability to deal with some of the basic ideas that make us human.

Consider for a moment how many adults you know in therapy, how many on medication, how many with estranged relationships with their families, distorted views of their personality or even more simply how many totally ill-equipped to interact with strangers with any level of confidence. The number of socially inept, emotionally off-balance adults I know far outweighs the number of adults I know who can’t read, or do basic math. Even in my own life with as many advantages as I’ve had I’m still trying each and every day to enrich myself emotionally,in a way that leads me to wonder how it is I know the capitals of states I’ve never been to or the mundane likely-fabricated life details of presidents who died hundreds of years ago but I don’t know for certain what the best way is to deal with someone who is sad.

This isn’t to say that even if I were given a time machine and the ability to swap out two semesters of regional social studies for two semesters of team-building exercises I’d have turned out any better, but it seems plausible that spending thirty minutes a day working on emotional ideas might have the same effect as spending thirty minutes a day learning any subject that is completely foreign to us when we are born.

Take guitar for instance. With one thirty minute shot of guitar, maybe we’d have no retention at all. Maybe just a fun memory of the time we tried to jam, got confused and went off to play video games instead. But spread out over a period of ten to fifteen years those same thirty minutes a day might at very least produce a student who has a greater understanding of the basic concepts of music than one who has never held a guitar in his or her life. Whether or not he or she chooses to ever play the guitar as an adult, or use that skill socially is neither here nor there. It has been learned and the value of learning a new skill, especially in your formative years, is often beyond measure.

So this month I decided to test this theory. Treating emotional building blocks the same way you might treat guitar lessons. Take a simple subject, one that we all have issues with, myself included, and spend thirty minutes a day talking about it with my son.  I chose “Frustration” as the inaugural idea, because it is something that is quite common with both children and parents. For the past thirty days we’ve spent thirty minutes each day doing different exercises, working on different routines, and generally just bringing the idea of talking about frustration to the center of the table.

I haven’t done much in the way of research, just a few quick nods to the internet and a look toward my friends and all the issues that most frustrate them in their day-to-day adult lives.  Strangely enough a lot of the ideas I came up with would probably fall under the category of “things you might do at a company retreat” or “exercises from a corporate seminar.” Ideas most of my friends would find totally preposterous (see also, emotional development lacking in adults). But fortunately for me my work-partner is only seven and a half and acts much more like we all would probably act if we hadn’t spent so many years hiding behind walls. So for him these sorts of things are just as engaging and challenging as playing soccer, or reading a book. Full blown wonderment at times, confusion at others, and most often – joy when figuring out how to do something correctly.

At the end of each week I laid out a simple written test to review some of the concepts we’d learned and tomorrow as a result of finishing the final test there will of course be a fun reward for a job well done.

I don’t know exactly how any of this is going to work out in the long run. How each month’s subject will be chosen, or what will happen when we get there because at the end of the day I am in no way qualified to be teaching these sorts of things. But, much like most things a parent has to do- I’m learning, and figuring it out as I go. With any luck this idea of an “emotional lesson” will become just as commonplace in my sons life as stretching or talking and hopefully it will help push him to greater places both mentally and physically. As an added bonus, just as teaching someone to play guitar can reawaken skills that you didn’t know you had, or help you re-examine music in totally new ways, I’ve actually pulled a lot of personal emotional enrichment out of the past thirty days as well. Of course, how could you not get something out of spending some time each day having a dialogue with someone you love about how to become a stronger person?

Anyhow, I just wanted to share this idea because I know a lot of parents and teachers and even students check in here from time to time so I thought it would be nice to put this out into the world, maybe turn some gears, get people thinking. Like I said, I’m far from an expert so if you have any thoughts on all of this feel free to email me or if you want to take this idea and run with it on your own, feel free to do that too. After all, we’re all just trying to be better people right? Right.

Thanks for listening! – Dallas

winter offerings

sun setting on snow, day after christmas
sun setting on snow, day after christmas

I feel like it has been a long time since I’ve written an email like this. And maybe that’s true. For a handful of reasons, I chose to slow things down a bit here at Blackbird Studio this past fall. I am learning – often the hard way – that this work, this life, is a precarious dance. A fine balancing act between putting myself out there and nurturing myself in here. Learning when to stretch and when to rest; how much to give to others, how much to care for self. I know that I want to have the heart and the ambition to be able to create, both for myself and with others, for a long time still. But it is still a journey of learning what that means, what I need, in order to be able to do that well.

foggy first day on a lake of rice in a new year
foggy first day on a lake of rice in a new year

All that to say, this past fall was a season that moved at a bit of a quieter pace. Or maybe more accurately, a more introverted pace (which can be noisy and busy, just in a different way!). I spent a lot of hours getting lost, in the best way, in my own art making – something I haven’t carved enough space for in seasons past. And I was blessed with some great opportunities to create with people outside of the studio walls – through projects like Culture Days, Shelter Valley Folk Festival, and with my gracious friends at Hospice Peterborough.

elbow to elbow art making
elbow to elbow art making

And while the slower season was good and necessary, I am really ready and excited to have the warmth and creative energy of others come and share the studio with me again. And by others, I mean YOU!  I’ve put together some workshops for the next couple of months – you can find all the details by clicking on the Up and Coming link under the Workshops tab at the top of the page. We’ll be offering the always popular Painted Floorcloth workshop again, as well as trying out a new 6 week series called Be Where You Are. I hope you’ll find something in the mix that inspires and intrigues you. I am always open to new ideas and suggestions, so if there is something that you have been aching to learn or try – or if you’ve got a group of friends who would like to come and book a private studio workshop session – then please drop me a line.

art underfoot
art underfoot

If you would like more information, or want to sign-up for a workshop (or two!) contact me at info@blackbirdstudio.ca

One of the most rewarding parts of this work is when I hear from you. I love to hear your feedback and your stories. I am honored when you take an interest in this work; when you tell me that somehow, some part of it has connected with some part of you.

Thank you, as always, for coming along for the journey.

Be well.


come and be.
come and be.

but if we could for a moment

kids

CHATTER

I don’t know much more than you

nor you more than her

nor her more than her parents at that age

but if we could for a moment

one day, or one hour per year,

find the time to listen

we might all together

know just what we need

to make it through.

Dallas Clayton

half-man, half-machine

one of the best quotes from our community art project down at the Silver Bean Cafe this past friday, came from a young boy who, after a minute or two of trying his hand at needle-felting, looked up at me and said:

“You know that I am half-man, half-machine at this, don’t you?”

awesome.

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you’ve got an elbow in your ear.

cut and paste self-portraits

cut and paste self-portraits at MAKE art camp

we make our own rhythm.

I have the privilege of spending these first 2 weeks of August out in Lakefield, teaching art and hanging out with some very creative kids (and adults) at Lake Field Music Camp.

I am always left amazed and smiling at the crazy, thoughtful, oozing-with-imagination work that kids create. When given the space and the freedom to unleash their own ideas, they will always lead you to adventurous, magical places.

When given the space and the freedom, I will always choose to follow them.

by Eames

by Eames

by Kate

by Kate

by Natalie

by Natalie

The Ice Machine by Gianluca

The Ice Machine by Gianluca

by Stella

by Stella

by Isabel

by Isabel

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small hands. big ideas.

Mr. Flip by Uma

Mr. Flip by Uma

LeoVonWierdo by Eames

LeoVonWierdo by Eames

Untitled by Natalie

Untitled by Natalie

Freshly painted works by Bea, Kate, Joska, and Gianluca.

Freshly painted works by Bea, Kate, Joska, and Gianluca.

Untitled by Omneya

Untitled by Omneya

once in a house on egypt street

edward_tulane_cross_illustration

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

“The heart breaks and breaks

and lives by breaking.

It is necessary to go

through dark and deeper dark

and not to turn.”

– Stanley Kunitz

(from the inscription at the start of this most incredible book by Kate DiCamillo)

Next Posts

Words + Photos + Credit

Unless otherwise noted, all original photography and text are property of Raechelle Kennedy. If you see or read something here and feel inspired to share it somehow, please be considerate and give the artist (me!) credit, or even better, drop me a note and make sure I don’t mind.
Thank you!

Here + There

Secondhand Sainthood and the gift of losing it all – Topology Magazine, December 2015

Ten Things Made – Topology Magazine, December 2015

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