PDX Profile: Amy Kleene, of Blessing Bird
I've always thought of crafting as essentially a spirit-based endeavor (hence, the Church of Craft). So I was excited to discover Amy Kleene's work. She creates handmade objects for spiritual use - shrines, prayer beads, woven mats for sacred objects. And she expresses the spiritual nature of craft beautifully.
There's lots of great food for thought in this interview. You can see even more at Amy's website, Blessing Bird.
How did you first become interested in the intersection between spirituality and crafting? Even though I was raised Methodist, I became engrossed in Catholic and Orthodox religious art as a teenager. Icons, statues, rosaries, chalices, the entire layout of the sanctuary It was a whole new world for meand one that immediately felt like my mother tongue and swept me up full-force. Im a spiritual girl who naturally tends to approach everything very symbolically and visually already. And this is what devotional art is all abouttranslating the spiritual world into something both understandable and tangible!
In the beginning, I spent a lot of time going through books on the subject of devotional art and soon branched out into studying devotional practices from all over the world. Since I was a child Ive been gathering up items, especially items from nature, and arranging them for holidays, seasons, and to mark special occasions like a birthday. Laying out altars and making spiritual crafts has seamlessly followed from that as Ive grown up and studied religion and spirituality. I often find that the process of making crafts about divine truth, life events, goals and problems, or other big mysteries truly helps me get a handle on things. Its a messy, integrative process that pushes me to really think and clarify.
. . . And will you describe that intersection for us? How do handmade things become spiritual? I use symbolism and natural materials in my crafts because I feel like these things are inherently spiritual. Energy naturally moves through them, and symbolismlike Jungs archetypesnaturally speaks to us as human beings. Thats why I love wool and wood, stones and crystals, and bits of plantsthey have a depth and history that speak to everyone, even someone who isnt at all familiar (or comfortable) with symbolic/religious imagery. They also hold and move energy really well. Im a reiki practitioner and an initiated student of the Western Mystery Tradition. Using my hands and prayer, Im able to bless and charge my crafts with a great deal of energy, which is a service of love that I offer all my customers if theyre interested. I have to say, there is a clear difference to me between simply something Ive crafted and a craft that Ive blessed for a particular customer. The distinction is striking, the same way the vibrancy of a well-loved child is readily apparent.
So my crafts are fertile ground for creating sacred space but they require action, love, and intent to amplify their potential. Charging them full of energy is simply a powerful beginning. What Im making is symbolism and potential all packaged up and ready for you to interpret, build on, and make your own. You have to keep nurturing it. Essentially, these sacred crafts are for focus - a focused space to gather energy, prayers, gratitude. Focus is the key. This is what artists do already! They move the inner world outward into the physical, into something tangible. And this is how sacred space is created.
On your website, you speak of people using your handmade items to help them create sacred spaces in their homes. Will you tell us what a sacred space might be used for? You can use your sacred space as a focus point for your emotions, health, & personal growth, for current/past relationships, remembering the past, supporting future goals, honoring the divine, claming your power, moving through life changes or hardships, celebrating life changes, and marking seasons and holidays. The process is so personal and dynamic. You may use the same altar cloth as a foundation while the items on top of it change often; you may recite different quotes each week while running your prayer beads through your fingers or you may use the same affirmation on it for years at a time. I like to set up individual altars to mark the cycles of the year by placing plants, candles, and other appropriate objects in front of a seasonal photograph. I also like to write down keywords and goals, and then display them in my prayer box.
A little shrine box that you receive from me may begin simply as the holder of your intention to have a child with a tea light lit in front of it. As your process unfolds, more and more items may gather around that one candle until it is time to change your focus. You clear the altar space and begin again. And on and on.
Do you see your work as "Art" or "Craft?" And how do you think these two things are different? I definitely see my work as Craft. It seems to me that if something looks homemadeif the hand (and maybe the glue!) of the artist is apparent then its a craft. You can tell full well that I went to the supply store, that I filled up a pail with pinecones while out on a walk, that I slipped a little bit when painting that corner of the box, and that I wove that cloth by hand on a cardboard loom while my toddler was trying to help. And you can tell that I did it all with love just for you. Now thats a craft.
What are some of your favorite creative spots in Portland? Portland is a deliciously crafty town. These days, Gossamer on East Burnside is one of my favorite creative spots in the city. For wool-lovers and Waldorf crafters its a little slice of heaven. I also like to buy roving at NW Wools in Multnomah Village. The Pine Needle in Lake Oswego has the most amazing selection of quilting fabric and I always leave there broke and convinced that Im a fabulous quilter.
While Etsy.com is a world-wide marketplace for selling crafts, Portlands own chapter of Etsy sellers, called a street team is named PDXEtsy. Im a member myself and Ive met some of the coolest, most inspiring crafters in this dedicated group! These are seriously talented, hardcore devotees to all things crafty. They have craft fairs and participate in craft sales all year round right here in the city.
Healing Waters and Sacred Spaces on NE Broadway is a fabulous store thats loaded with crystals, altar decorations, and other goodies, and is positively humming with good energy. I cant leave that store without at least a couple crystals to glue into my next shrine. I like going to The Grotto for the inspiration, and taking my son on walks at Tryon State Park and the other countless nature parks were blessed with around here. One of the best things about living in Portland is being able to drive out to the Coast or the Gorge so easily. I find these places immensely motivating and grounding as an artist and a human.
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