Wild Horses and our Naturally Wild Souls

paper horse

paper horses

Last night at our first monthly Girls Art Night at 1+1=1 Gallery (Brown Bird Studio) we were inspired by Ann Wood’s creative exercise to make these absolutely delightful horses. We were a small group — just the perfect size, though as we continue to do these art-nights I hope other women will join us.

paper horse

Shayna, Jaime, Cari and I gave some of our horses to Whitney, who is ready to give birth any day now. Her little boy will be born in the Year of the Horse. He will have a herd of wild horses to remind him of his naturally wild joy. With a mama like Whitney we know he’ll grow up snorting with laughter, jumping with glee and letting his wildness out into the world. (*See bottom of this post for some interesting predictions about this baby — and other babies born in this year of the horse.)

Whitney's Horse

paper horses wild horses

“Last night was like a symbolic circling of all the mares … lending the strength of those who have gone before, to the one ready to walk through that door that you never, ever can cross back through … the becoming of motherhood and the strength and grace of sisterhood … so special to me” — Jaime Terry

paper horse

We made horses. We laughed. She contracted. We played. Relaxed. Listened to her talk about the baby, the baby’s name, the nest she is preparing. Talked about lack of sleep and future lack of sleep and hope for sleep. And about other things. And nothing at all.

paper horse

Our hands busy with scissors and paint and buttons. Good food. Good wine. Good company. It’s what women do. We nurture each other with food and listening and love and open arms. A circling of the mares.


We decided to do this every month. Something artsy. Something to connect us. To each other. To our souls. To the Earth.

paper horse

Please join us at our next Girls Art Night with Brown Bird Studio on the last Thursday of each month. Like our gallery’s facebook page or sign up for updates from 1+1=1 Gallery, and we’ll remind you a few days in advance. Put Girls Art Night on your calendar for March 27th at 6:30 pm. 335 North Last Chance Gulch, Helena.

paper horses art night

Our evening gatherings are all about being relaxed and nurturing our inner artistic souls.

Whether you consider yourself artsy or “crafty” or not, I promise you will have a good time. And don’t forget we’ll share food, music and laughter too. The cost is free or minimal, depending on the materials we use.




Docenting: Learning as You Go

Wire and Stuff Sculpture

Wire and Stuff Sculpture

What is a Docent? Not What You Might Think

Well, I took the plunge and became a docent at our local art museum. Today was a day to get over some of my own stereotypes. Being a docent is something I have wanted to do for a long time, but hesitated because somehow I didn’t identify myself in the group of people who a) had time to volunteer, b) knew the right people or c) had a fabulously rich spouse.

With encouragement from a couple of acquaintances, I dove in and came up swimming. Imagine my surprise to find out that you don’t have to be a well-connected housewife to be a docent. I wonder where I acquired that stereotype? At my first docent meeting, I felt welcomed and valued. There are all kinds of people in this group of volunteers and I look forward to getting to know them and feeling comfortable in my role.

So … what is a docent? Sondra Hines, the Educational Coordinator at the Holter Museum, asked the kids in a school tour if they knew. They didn’t. Neither did I. I was glad she didn’t ask me. A docent is a volunteer trained to share their enthusiasm and knowledge of visual arts with all ages, and to encourage them to experience art in ways that are not available in classrooms. Basically a different kind of educator.

Detail, Counting Coup by Jay Laber

My First Day as a Docent: learning from the students

So, jumping right in, I had a blast with 19 sixth graders today — first, listening to them explore and think critically about “Counting Coup” a warrior made of pieces of rusty car wrecks by Jay Laber. Then, watching how easily Sondra channeled their curiosity and insights. The Holter Museum uses Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) in all tours. After observing Sondra use VTS so fluently, I am excited to learn this method of stimulating more engagement with art. I will write more about VTS as I improve my skills.

sculpture of wire and junk-drawer stuff

After the tour of Laber’s art, we made wire-and-stuff- sculptures. One girl struggled with her skeleton of copper wire and tossed it aside because it just wasn’t doing what she had in mind. She began again a second time with wire so thick that even I couldn’t help her bend it the way she wanted it to bend. I suggested trying the copper wire again. Nope. Didn’t want to.  She knew what she wanted, and was going to stick to her strategy no matter what anyone suggested. Reminded me of myself. Stubborn. In the end, she had a spare figure and ran out of time. She had struggled with this really heavy unbending wire in her wish to show it who was boss.

sculpture of wire and junk-drawer stuff

One lesson I think many of the kids came away with was that even if you start out thinking you are making a certain something … the wire and other bits will eventually dictate what you are making… your idea may change from a cat to a chicken. Or from a horse to a spaceship. Or you might take the easy way out, announcing that you have made an abstract sculpture.

Cowboy made of wire and junk drawer stuff

Grandmother with Cane, a sculpture of wire and stuff

Sculpture of wire and stuff

Time compresses when you are having fun. Or working on something challenging. Or trying to help six different kids simultaneously. Time compresses especially in the last five minutes of a workshop. You suddenly realize you have a head, two arms and not much else because you have obsessed and perfectionized about a certain placement of the feet or making sure the legs are the exact same length.  Meanwhile, your table-mate has willy-nilly twisted, tied, dangled and wrapped his wire with buttons, washers, bolts, window screen, feathers and pieces of nylon cloth. And come up with something remarkably resembling a wild and crazy alley cat.


Steal Like an Artist

  • Different styles of work and play.
  • Different ways of seeing the same materials.
  • We all look at life in a different way.

I recently read a little book titled “Steal Like an Artist.” It’s simple. Compelling. And I read it in the time it took my toes to wrinkle like prunes in the bathtub. The idea that humans are incapable of copying perfectly, stuck with me from the book. Copy copy copy. You will never make the same exact something someone else has made. The students used much the same materials, and some of them emulated Laber’s sculptures (warriors, horses, a buffalo) yet their amazing creations were so much a part of the creators that I marveled at their creativity.