Friday, February 10, 2012

Ladies and Gentlemen, Katie Johnson Has Left the Building

Oh my, after 12 years of working, sweating, dying, painting, pressing, sewing, printing, batiking, packing, laughing, crying and focusing in this space... I have moved out of my studio. This empty, industrial, back alley 700 sq. foot windowless room housed Hartware's dye and print shop since 2000. This space served me well and I witnessed many changes in the downtown blocks which surround my work shop in those years. But I'm glad to be gone. I've moved my studio back to my dwelling and into the yurt that now sits near my house. This move feels momentous and delightful and unbelievable to me. I feel a fresh breeze blowing through all of the habits and patterns and ruts that working within those walls at 711 Main St. engendered. I suppose I could sit down and calculate just exactly how many minutes and gas I will save by not driving into my studio 5 miles round trip every day. I suppose I could do that, or I could walk to the lake.....
It is time to be quiet and wait. Something new is being born. I don't know yet what it is.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Altar Net

At the Oregon Country Fair I chose an experiment instead of my normal routine of "work myself to the bone with no sleep and make as much clothing as possible" pattern. I chose to go on a financial fast. A fast similar to a dietary experience of abstaining from the ingestion of certain foods or even any food at all. I chose to consciously make less money by not adding new inventory and to witness the internal processes that arose from that choice.

I am so glad that I did this.

Let me say that one more time...I am so very, very glad that I did this. I had a very powerful time at the OCF this year. By stepping back from my personal treadmill I saw how addictive and compulsive my work ethic has been. In the act of choosing financial abstinence I put myself on a firm platform of trust. I knew that I would survive the financial strain of less money. I decided that my sense of security does not derive from money and that in fact, money is the source of quite a bit of my anxiety. With this simple act I began to assess all of my resources and the largest resource of all is my community. Ultimately, that is all that money is anyway. It is an abstract representation of our energy that we pass between ourselves in order to quantify our efforts. Money allows us to harbor illusions of independence. But those illusions are tearing at our consciousness and resulting in an increasingly alienated culture. We have forgotten that we created legal tender to simplify our bartering system. Now, people work just for money and completely forget that it is the planet's natural resources that are what is required for our survival. Thus we routinely exploit our abundant water and forests and mountains and the result is that we ultimately damage our own habitat.

Creating the Altar Net for the Oregon Country Fair helped me remember who I am and what I am doing. It was a fantastic stream of conversations with wonderful festival goers and family and friends and new ideas. It has been a recognition that we reside within a net, an intricate interwoven web that supports us. This network of interconnection cannot be severed no matter how hard we try. We must breath the same air and allow the same water to pass through our bodies as every other inhabitant of this planet. Money serves us when we remember what a handy tool it can be. When we exchange it and it connects us to one another. It really only works when it is moving between hands and when it represents something. As our financial institutions crumble and Wall Street becomes a farce perhaps everyone will finally cry out "the emperor has no clothes"!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Altaring Consciousness

This winter I have been building altars. It began with a small altar in my studio before I went to work there. That was the result of my ruminations from my last blog post in which I embraced the union of my "work" and my "spirit". The first altars were clearly devoted to the earth element. I was and could say that I still am very interested in getting my feet on the ground. So much energy is devoted to planning and decisions and visions that I yearn to see tangible results of all that ruminating. That is what I enter the studio for and pray to birth abundance. So, the altars seeped into my art. Here is the first completed image titled "Earth".

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Back Womb

Perhaps the times really are changing. Maybe these big shifts in consciousness that everyone has been talking about are manifesting. All I know is that this 2011 so far has brought with it a lot of realizations and epiphanies and lovely experiences for me. The foremost being...goodness can I put words to this? Hmmm.

First! a disclaimer. I plan to launch into topics of a spiritual nature. I have no intention of making this into a sermon. But if I am gaining any wisdom as I age, it may be to recognize that I do lots of things which I think are free or untainted by ego or personality issues. Then lo and behold, 3 years down the line and I say "oh yeah..that choice or event was ego ridden". Or in plainer english..duh! So warning to the reader. If you cringe when the dinner conversation turns toward the divine or sort of religious or even a little woo woo philosophical, this blog post may not be for you. (oh, it is 11:11 at this very moment. So cosmic. Everyone dance!)

Now a little back story. I was raised by a very devout and lovely Mom who was a Christian Scientist. Different from the Scientologists. But similar in the odd, not so many people know about them and has a vaguely cultish reputation. The "cult" or extreme flavor comes from the fact that Christian Scientists rely upon God for healing and do not use conventional western medicine to address ailments. They usually also abstain from alcohol and tobacco and recreational drugs. It was actually a pretty great way to grow up. Even though there were some intense aspects to it (Mom could be extremely strict about some issues) I would choose it over a bland religious upbringing. There was a lot of discussion and debate in my tiny Sunday School class. We were encouraged to think and question and best of all, to have our own relationship with the Divine. Within the framework of Christian Science, of course. My Mom really wanted her 4 progeny to grow up to be Christian Scientists too. She seemed to be very invested in CS being the "Right Way".

Well, as I grew into adulthood I began to spread my spiritual wings and became very interested in many religions and teachings. In fact, my spirituality has been running along side and through my t-shirt business and craft all along. That seems like it should be something that is very obvious. But I was also raised by a successful businessman who made his living as a designer. There in the house I was raised in was a split between two worlds. My Dad did not and does not display very much interest in religion. Business and religion were two very different and separate facets of living. We go to church on Sunday and we go to work for 5 other days of the week (with lots of overtime and late nights) and we sail or ski on Saturdays. Beautifully and elegantly compartmentalized.

No wonder I was so uncomfortable with using spiritual imagery in my work. Over the 20 years that I have created and brainstormed countless images for the chests of t-shirts I have consciously steered myself away from ideas which I considered to be too strong. Although lots of subtle and not so subtle symbols have made their way into my iconography, I've always used them with great caution. I did a few designs once that were based upon the tarot deck but it made me nervous. I wanted my images to be non-confrontational to the myriad festival goers. And it is true that the equal sided cross has asserted itself into my designs with a passion. And I have had some customers comment that the cross is too loaded of a symbol to adorn their body. But this is the way things will always be when the motivation is coming from the ego driven individual. There will be endless rationalizations and reasoning and mental gymnastics around designs, audience evaluation, demographics, niche markets, product development. These are the foundations of the church of capitalist business making.

I've been meditating. As I meditate I am training my mind away from its lonely perspective of me, mine, yours. I still my thoughts in order to remind myself of my presence. To be in the now. To release the rationale, the pattern of separateness. As my story of reality shifts my creativity and entire relationship to my income and my business must shift with it. Suddenly I am no longer an individual artist "making a name for herself." Now I am a channel, a vehicle for creative energy to flow through. In the same way that a mother gives birth, she doesn't and can't create a baby, she allows a baby to come through her. The ultimate mystery does all the work. When I'm in that zone of creativity I know I'm in "The Zone". Yeah honey! Eveyone dance and sing praise. Hallelujah! We are not alone!

So, the realization that spawned this little rant (while washing the dishes) was not that I should make more images of a spiritual nature. Rather, I should make the time I spend working and designing, painting, de-waxing and washing more sacred time. OK, I noticed it too, there are a lot of shoulds in those two sentences. As a friend told me once "don't should on yourself". OK, try again. I'm discovering that when I work and it has the quality of a prayer, it shifts the whole definition of work. Even though I am self employed and my work has the intention of bringing financial stability to me, I can still do it in the sense of being of service. Most folks with jobs go to work and their boss tells them what to do. I've joked a lot that my boss drives me really hard. But that was because my brain was asking itself what to do. Now my brain is asking my higher self to ask something larger, the Tao, the Universe, the One...what to do. It is very different. And in order to hear, my brain has to shut up and listen. Oh my!

The Back Womb. I have quietly referred to my studio with this name. I toss it out in conversation to friends when they've entered through the only door. I look to see if they catch the pun. I think mostly people have thought that I'm trying to be asian or have a subtle lisp. My studio is 5 miles away from my dwelling. I chose it for very pragmatic reasons. I use a lot of water in my process and I wanted to use city water instead of my well water. My studio has a concrete floor which is also very pragmatic for messy, waxy jobs. It is the back room of a retail space on Main St. in Cottage Grove. It doesn't have any windows. It only has one door to the outside. When the door is shut it is utterly enclosed and I have no idea what is going on outside. Well, maybe a peep of light from under the door will indicate that the sun has come out. Fortunately the door faces south. I have rented this space for 10 years. I moved into it in January of 2000. It has presented a challenge to me energetically because I have never liked it's lack of windows and rather garage like quality. I have wanted it to be prettier but never have known how to go about it, because it is my work place. And work and spirituality are separate you see.

Well, that dichotomy is changing. I don't know what will happen, but I believe that when we change our thoughts our outer reality seems to change miraculously. For now, I must end this blog post and head to that very same studio. Today I'm feeling really curious about how I'll feel when I'm there. Today the question will be, what will best serve this place? Instead of what needs to get done?

Monday, November 22, 2010


Standing in front of the white, blank, sheet....of paper or fabric or wall. A coming back to that blank page. What? Why? How do I lift my pen or brush? Feel the urge. Eternally the question, what next? What has come before? What shall be different? What shall remain? What is unfinished? Should I bother? Is it worthless? Is it brilliant? This moment thumps itself over and over using me as it's drum. Again, I find myself here. Even my computer freaks out periodically and offers me only a white screen. Does it conspire with all the other blank sheets that wait, expectant to receive the image, the message, the word? What's the word on the street?
Today...ripple. The thought comes to just do it. Just put out there the things I love. Feel the love sister! What do I love? What is worth remembering and reforming into color and pattern?
Mushroom gills, compost, ripples, gods, frailty, webs, potato bugs, roots, growth rings, usnea, ease, puffs of smoke, fat trees, traffic jams on epic bridges, dry firewood, empty highways in vast land, persian carpets, children dancing.
Thankyou Life