Articles By Heather Conn

A Gucci dress dyed with lichens?

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Italians and other Europeans have used plants and lichens for centuries to die fabric and fibres. More recently, they have begun to use mushrooms as natural dyes.

In the fall of 2016, I attended the 17th International Fungi & Fibre Symposium on British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast. It was fascinating to meet spinners, knitters, and weavers from around the world who use fungi and mushrooms as natural dyeing materials. Their exhibition of handmade, organically dyed goods from sweaters, socks and shawls to hats, plush toys and cards, wall hangings — even bright orange ceramics — was astounding.

The FibreWorks Studio in Madeira Park held its own accompanying juried show of garments and art by B.C. artists using local fibres and dyes.

For more details and photos, see my feature Fungi and Fibre in the winter 2016/17 issue of Sunshine Coast Life magazine.IMG_2081

Heather Conn reveals two favourite cards from her SoulCollage deck

The following article, which I wrote, appeared in the Sept. 26, 2016 issue of the global e-newsletter Soul Treasures, published by KaleidoSoul in Massachusetts.

Reader Kas Sobey-Knabb responded: “Heather, just wanted to reach out to you after reading your upbeat and lovely piece in Kaleidosoul Soul Songs.Enjoyed it and meeting your 2 Neters [symbolic guides]! Quite colorful and they have given me something new and refreshing.”

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SoulCollage facilitator Heather Conn with some of her 250 cards in 2013

Grieving my father’s death. Healing from incest. Transforming feelings about everyday situations and people. SoulCollage® has been my silent sanctuary of grace and empowerment for more than a decade. It allows me to surpass the limitations of written and spoken language and instead, immerse myself in archetypal forces, intuition, and the rich universal world of visual imagery.

If I have conflicted feelings about a situation or person, I feel related sensations in my body: an ache, a tightness, whatever. I don’t want to ignore that by “escaping” into my head. SoulCollage® provides a tactile way for me to keep or release the flow of any given energy in my body. When I create a card related to those feelings, I don’t stay in my head. I don’t try to tame or control these emotions through words. SoulCollage® gives them a different outlet, a form of creative self-expression that balances my intellectual life as a professional writer and editor.

I have loved making collages since childhood. When I saw Seena’s first SoulCollage® book at a women’s conference in Seattle, I couldn’t put it down. The four-color images of the cards spoke to me in every way possible. SoulCollage® incorporated so many of my favorite passions, including photography, spirituality, art, and archetypes. How could I not explore that?

I love SoulCollage® because it offers rewards similar to free-association or “wild mind” writing. I don’t have to know the answers to a dilemma; things don’t have to make sense. In free flow, I’m co-creating with my subconscious. I just start in and pick images that evoke a visceral response. This might make no sense at all to my Inner Critic, but that’s fine. I can stay in confusion or bewilderment or joy or grief or fear and honor that, without a label. Like the Fool, I can tap into wisdom or insights without conscious intent. To me, the card-making process, the finished card, and interacting with the card are all forms of true presence: engagement with my deepest, most authentic Self.

I love that SoulCollage honors equally all aspects of self, without making character traits positive or negative. This makes it easier for me to “own,” befriend, and transform them, rather than resist or deny them. This embracing of my otherwise split-off or buried parts of self is one of the most powerful and exciting aspects of SoulCollage®, in my view. It reinforces unconditional self-love and acceptance, which is at the core of healing and personal transformation. And the process is so accessible!

Like dream work, SoulCollage is a non-threatening medium that can enable others, with little or no exposure to it, to open up and share in ways they might not otherwise. I have witnessed this repeatedly with workshop participants, one-on-one clients, and my family. It is so rewarding to see and hear people making “aha” connections with images on a card, even if it is one that they didn’t make.

I made cards on my own for at least three years before receiving my SoulCollage® Facilitator’s training in 2008. I began offering workshops in 2009. Most of the time, I started making a card with a specific intention. For example, if I wanted to tap into archetypal Peace, I made a Peace card. Or if I wanted to represent a certain sub-personality, I would create a Committee Suit card for that. But in the last three years or so, I have given myself the freedom to create a card with no specific intention. Even when I’m finished a card, I’ll sometimes have no idea what it represents and I’m fine with that. My controlling self might niggle a little, but I can handle that.

As with dream work, I will review such cards weeks or months later and usually, the meaning or importance of certain symbols will be obvious. I love this delayed process of discovery. It reinforces that we are ever-changing, ever-growing beings and our rational brains aren’t the sum total of all we are. I encourage anyone creating SoulCollage® cards to combine both an intentional and non-intentional approach.

In a handful of cases, I have asked the person honored on a Community card I’ve made to sign the back of it. This way, I feel as if I’m making a connection with someone I admire. The signature imbues the card with that person’s spirit and energy, which adds a special touch. That makes it even more of a cherished keepsake.

You can find me at sunshinecoastsoulcollage.ca.

Here are my 2 favorite cards:

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My Source Card (Transpersonal)

I loved creating this card because it represents my sense of being a tiny speck in the Cosmos, part of infinite inter-being and the Great Mystery. It inspired me to use imagery of night skies with stars on other SoulCollage® cards to remind me of my interconnectedness with All That Is. When I cut out some of the background image, I liked the empty space that it left behind, so I decided to incorporate that into the card. I put black behind this space and left it open, to represent the Unknown.

The glowing circular white rows are a close-up photo of a backlit dandelion. I like the notion that something traditionally viewed as an unwanted weed can be a source of beauty and wonder, depending on your perspective. That reinforces to me that Source energy is everywhere, in everything, even in the last places where I might think to look for or find it. This image has inspired me to include pictures of dandelions gone to seed as a repeat motif on some of my cards. These silently remind me to find the beauty in everything.

img_2015My 6th Chakra Animal Guide

This card came together quickly and effortlessly. I loved the colors and sense of flow with it. Since I am drawn to the imagery of circles as a symbol of wholeness, I cut out a circle around the Dragonfly. I liked this card so much, I made it my business card image.

I am one who is with you always.

I am one who brings vibrant beauty to the glimmer of a moment.

For more information about SoulCollage, please see my website Sunshine Coast SoulCollage.

Publisher wanted for Bigfoot picture book

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Rough illustration by Lillian Lai of the sasquatch and main character Annie

 

NEWS FLASH (Feb. 13, 2017): A Vancouver publisher wants to publish this book. Hurray! It all depends if their grant comes through in March. Here’s hoping . . .

I`m currently looking for a publisher for my new picture book Dirty, Smelly, Feet. It features the mischievous antics of little Annie and her sasquatch or Bigfoot pal.

Illustrator and animator Lillian Lai has done a great colour rendition of the book`s two main characters. Lillian did an excellent job of illustrating my first picture book, Gracie`s Got a Secret.

Unfortunately, the publisher of that book, MW Book Publishing, has ceased operations.

I don`t want to reveal too much about what makes this book special and different. If you know any publisher who might be interested, please let me know.

Despite the popularity of the Bigfoot on TV and in books for older readers, there are surprisingly few for young readers.

An honour to host and organize Canada’s first Mentors in Violence Prevention program

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Former BC Lions player J.R. LaRose (back row, centre) joins grade 10 and 11 students at Mentors in Violence Prevention event in Sechelt, BC

I was honoured to organize and host Canada’s first Mentors in Violence Prevention program in Sechelt, BC on May 5. Here’s a story that I wrote for the local media:

 

A former B.C. Lions player, open discussions and hands-on scenarios recently helped about 40 local high school students learn what words and actions can lead to violence against women.

 

Sunshine Coast Community Services Society (SCCSS), in collaboration with School District No. 46, hosted a Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) Student Summit May 5 at Seaside Centre in Sechelt. Grade 10 and 11 students from Chatelech, Elphinstone and Pender Harbour Secondary School, Sunshine Coast Alternative School and the Aboriginal Program attended, along with about 20 school administrators, SCCSS staff, and RCMP members trained in MVP strategies.

 

“I’m not OK with just standing by and being silent when someone is being abused,” keynote speaker J. R. LaRose, a former BC Lions and spokesperson for Be More Than a Bystander, told the group. “It’s time we speak up and be a voice for those that have been hurt and abused. Speak up and break the silence.”

 

This event marked the first time in Canada that high school youth have participated in an MVP program. Developed in the early 1990s in Boston, MA, this peer leadership model, using trained student leaders, strives to empower those who might otherwise be silent observers to situations where bullying and violence is unfolding.

 

“We are so proud of the youth stepping up as leaders and change-makers at the MVP Student Summit,” said Keely Halward, director of SCCSS’s Together Against Violence Services. “Gender-based violence is not just a statistic, but the reality for hundreds of women and girls on the Sunshine Coast. Almost half of our Police Based Victim Services files relate to domestic violence, and research tells us that most domestic violence goes unreported.”

 

In scenarios that ranged from verbal abuse to sexual harassment, and from dating violence to sexual consent, students learned practical ways to communicate that violence and abuse are not acceptable. They discussed related issues as a whole group, and in male-only, female-only and fluid-gender groups.

 

The ongoing MVP initiative is possible thanks to funders including the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General, Department of Justice Canada, RCMP National Crime Prevention Initiative, the Sechelt Indian Government District and donors. For more information about this initiative and to learn about services addressing gender violence, please go to the Sunshine Coast Community Services website at www.sccss.ca or contact Heather Conn at hconn@sccss.ca.

To see story and photo in The Local, click this link: Tackling violence against women.

Screening of “Salam Neighbor” prompts $887 in donations

I was honoured to organize and host an April 15 screening of the documentary Salam Neighbor in Sechelt, BC. This by-donation event, held at St. Hilda’s Church, raised $887, which will go to the Syrian Refugee Sponsorship Committee and two other groups on the Lower Sunshine Coast working to bring Syrian refugee families to this area.

The 75-minute film, by twenty-something director/producers Zach Ingrasci and Chris Temple, reveals inspiring stories of individuals rallying against huge odds to rebuild their lives and those of their neighbours in Jordan’s Za’atari refugee camp, only 11.5 kilometres from the Syrian border.  Embedded in the camp for a month, the two filmmakers form compelling connections with refugees of all ages, like street-smart imp Raouf, 10, whose almost-constant smile hides lingering trauma. Women like Um Ali struggle to overcome personal loss and cultural barriers. A Syrian husband learns to confront and release anger when his wife launches a successful microbusiness within the camp.

Raouf, 10, felt too traumatized to attend school in the refugee camp. While in Syria, he was at school when it got bombed.

The filmmakers and refugees share food, music, tears, laughter and companionship. These are only a handful of the 85,000 Syrians trying to restart their lives in Jordan. More than 4 million people have fled Syria to escape the atrocities of war.

This film, a 2015 AFI Docs official selection, is released by 1001 Media. The filmmakers created the documentary Living on One Dollar  For two months, they subsisted as radish farmers in rural Guatemala to understand life in extreme poverty.

Many thanks to Clarence Li for providing the venue for the screening and to all the local people who volunteered to help with promotion, set-up etc. Thanks to Tugg for assistance with the film’s promotion, reservations, and online donations.

Author to host Banff workshop April 23: The Power and Pitfalls of Creative Nonfiction Onscreen

What can happen to a nonfiction story when you add a fictional narrator? Discover the pitfalls and benefits of this approach while viewing the 20-minute documentary A New Way: An Organic Garden Changes Lives.

I’ll be hosting a 1.5-hour seminar April 23 at the Banff Centre in Banff, Alta. It’s part of the 2016 conference hosted by Canada’s Creative Nonfiction Collective Society.

This workshop will reveal how creative nonfiction techniques on the page translate to the screen: what works, doesn’t work, and why. What are the similarities and differences in storytelling? I will screen three short films, including a five-minute personal essay and 4.5-minute inspirational poetic piece, and encourage participants to analyze and deconstruct them. The use of dialogue, structure, tone, voice, visual detail, and other elements will be examined. In addition, the workshop will include a short in-class written exercise.

My mixed-media collage from Joni Mitchell exhibition sells in early December

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Here I am (left) with Del Lobo, who purchased my mixed-media collage “No Regrets, Coyote.”

I am thrilled that my mixed-media collage, entitled “No regrets, Coyote,” has sold to Gibsons, BC resident Del Lobo. The collage appeared in the recent juried exhibition Both Sides Now, which ran from Nov. 12 to Dec. 6 at the Gibsons Public Art Gallery. The show, inspired by the musical repertoire of Joni Mitchell, featured works from dozens of B.C. Sunshine Coast artists.

My collage incorporates magazine pictures, photos, rope, thread, and cigarettes. It was fun to start with a visual concept and let it unfold.

For me, Joni’s song “Coyote” evokes the call of the open road and reminds me of my early hitchhiking days. Joni is a huge popular favourite among locals on the Sunshine Coast; until her recent hospitalization following an aneurysm, she spent half of every year at her home in this area.

Gibsons book sales and signing Dec. 5

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I will be signing and selling books at Sunnycrest Mall in Gibsons on Saturday, Dec. 5 from noon to 2 p.m. Look for my author banner and display table outside the Windows on the Water Gallery. The following sale items will be available:

  • Vancouver’s Glory Years hardcopy book
  • Gracie’s Got a Secret picture book
  • Emails from India anthology
  • Raincoast Chronicles 22 anthology.

Please note that the finger puppets of animals featured in my Gracie book are SOLD OUT.

If you can’t make it Dec. 5, the Gallery carries my books and DVD A New Way: An Organic Garden Changes Lives. Hope to see you there.

Book sales & signing Nov. 28 at Roberts Creek Legion

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I’ll be selling and signing my books on Saturday, Nov. 28 at the Roberts Creek Legion’s Christmas Craft Fair. You can choose from two anthologies, a photo history book, and my picture book Gracie’s Got a Secret. I’ll also have copies of the 20-minute DVD A New Way, which Ivy Miller and I created, my photo cards of the rare white kermode bear, and SoulCollage(R) cards on display.

The fair, held at 3064 Lower Road in Roberts Creek, BC, runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and will feature wandering minstrels, food by Dylan, a 2 p.m. visit with Santa, and a raffle package. Lots of free parking available. It’s a fun, family event so come on by.