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Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Interview with Kara of Mother Henna


Kara is a swapper from way-back! Just like me, she got her start on Nervousness. Hers is a wonderful story of swaps as a way of reconnecting with the world after a loss and finding beauty again. Read on to find out all about it. And then visit her blog, Mother Henna, her Etsy shop and even get updates via her Twitter!

SwapDex: Tell us a bit about you.

Kara: If I had to give myself a job title, it would likely be "heARTist." Through art and the art making process, I make my living as an artist and as a Grief & Creativity Coach. That encompasses many hats. Actually making art. Doing presentations. Offering workshops. Writing articles. Helping others find their creative way. I love what I do. And almost everything I do is in partnership with my husband Hawk who is also an artist and teacher. We have two grown children and one child who died in 1999. We have young grandchildren now, too. And while we live on a small island in the Puget Sound, I feel like our life and work is truly international. A lot of my outreach and art swaps and workshops take place on the Net and via phone/video conference or happen when we travel, so we have been graced with the chance to meet people from all over the world.

SD: How long have you been swapping? How did you first learn about swapping, and what made you decide to start? Do you remember your first one?


K: I have been swapping since the late 1990's when I first happened upon the old version of Nervousness. My decision to jump in and make heART came out of deep grief and loss. We were so clobbered by grief after our son died, that I had a very difficult time reconnecting to the world at large in person. So Nervousness offered me this chance to connect online, via mail art, in email discussions. I met other bereaved moms there. We made art about our experiences because words could simply not tell the whole story. While I do not remember exactly what my very first swap was, I do remember learning about ATCs early on in my Nervousness experience. And I have ATCs dated 1999 from swaps on the themes of "Day of the Dead" and "Remembering" both of which I think came out of several bereaved moms wanting to exchange cards with each other. Swapping has never stopped for me!

SD: What is your range of swapping? Do you stick to swaps hosted by people you know or are you likely to swap with anyone, anytime?

K: Swapping is very intuitive for me. I host lots of swaps myself and always participate in those swaps just like everyone else. There are certain other hosts I have followed through the years and will jump onto any swap they host because I know and trust them. But I check out swaps anywhere, any time, hosted by any one and see how it feels. If it feels like a right-fit, I'll jump in for sure! Sometimes swaps go swimmingly, sometimes they just flop till they are dead fish. I've learned that this is part of the process. And process is what it is all about for me. Process rather than finished product is most important. I like the process of meeting new
hosts, other participants, seeing how everyone communicates, how they share their heART. Risking to love and embrace heART even in the face of possible loss or risk of incomplete swaps, etc. All of this is metaphor for my experience of my son's death and learning to live life again in the face of loss and mortality.

SD: Do you swap with any organized groups like yahoo groups, flickr, groups on swap-bot, other message boards, etc? Why or why not?

K: I don't really have any hard and fast rules for organized groups. It is really very intuitive as I said. If there is a swap happening on ATCsForAll that feels right, then I'll do it. If someone is hosting something on yahoo groups and if feels right, then I'll hop over there. It's all about right-fit for me.

SD: What's your favorite swap you've ever been in or hosted?

K: It is very difficult to pick a favorite because we've had so many great experiences along the way. But recently, I was so impressed with a Day of the Dead swap we hosted in Fall 2009. You can see the results of this swap in a blog festival post we did at the end of the swap:
http://motherhenna.blogspot.com/2009/10/welcome-to-day-of-dead-blog-fest.html

I was just so impressed with how unique and creative every single participant was in response to the call. They were generous with their heARTs, they were involved with each other, connected blog to blog, and willing to share moving stories with us. They were all also willing to make one extra piece of art for me to exhibit in an upcoming 2010 gallery show where sales of the art will benefit our local food bank. Just an amazing alchemy happened in that swap.

SD: What do you do to make your packages special?

K: If the host is not going to re-package contributions, then I will make a fuss about packaging. I like to wrap in tissue paper. Recently I've been taking plain colored tissue paper and drip-coloring it with alcohol inks. And I'll wrap items, closing the tissue paper up with one of my custom stickers or fancy piece of ribbon. I just want the recipients to feel they are being gifted.

SD: Do you have a good story about hosting or participating in a swap?

K: In the Day of the Dead swap I mentioned above, I have to say I was most taken, surprised, swept away with the package from Ines of http://forwardtumble.blogspot.com/ and Butterfly Child. She sent a box full of driftwood from the shores of Ireland, all marked with a symbol she'd created for the swap. It was just stunning to open the box and see all the pieces in a group like that. Stunningly beautiful.

SD: What do you think is the most challenging part of hosting a swap? Any advice for someone who is thinking about hosting a swap?

K: The most challenging part of hosting, just for me personally, is the continued practice at flowing with tide instead of fighting the river. I have to be willing to set up guidelines as specific as possible, but also allow for people to be human. Drop outs happen. Some swaps just don't fully come off the way I visioned. I have to be willing to allow things to unfold and trust they will turn out in whatever way they are meant to, even if it is very different than I had intended at the start. It helps to have as many hosting experiences as possible because with each one, you refine guidelines, you see where the last fell short and in the next you can course correct. I definitely take more of an art therapy approach rather than a fine art approach. In the fine art realm, it is all exact, critique, rules, confinement, competitive, not conducive to group experience. In art therapy, there is no right or wrong; the process is emphasized over the product result; the host facilitates an experience rather than dictating an exact outcome. Though of course I hope for everyone to enjoy the outcome, too, it is more about the collective experience and communication for me.

SD: Any exciting plans for the near future? Swaps, projects, new products?

K: Though the calendar is not complete yet, I do keep an events list posted at:

http://www.motherhenna.com/calendar.htm

You'll find a few swaps and blog fests already listed there. A few more will be added along the way this year, too, so feel free to check in there now and again.

1 comment:

Kara aka Mother Henna said...

Thanks so much, Jenna! Tweeted and FB and LinkedIn on all my spots about it just now. Will be working on eNews in the next day or so and will share it there, too. Really so appreciate your hosting the swap index here! So helpful. And fun to discover you are an old Nervousness heARTist, too :)
miracles,
k-