We were honored and so excited to conduct a private workshop at Warehouse - Healdsburg for a group of 7 adults and 2 children, where we invited each student to create a small personal shrine or altar made of trash-to-treasure items as well as natural materials. It was as if we condensed the life-long process of collecting and attributing personal meaning to objects into a couple hours that involved gathering, gluing, arranging, knotting, drilling, and planting- as well as a little personal (even spiritual, some might say) reflection.
The class began with a brief reading about shrines and altars, their origins and functions across humanity, societies and religious groups. From the collections of sacred items in a shaman's pocket to the framed photos of family and friends on our mantel, humans tend to create space and gather items which we set aside for times of reverence. The rituals we complete each day and the collections we amass become infused with deeper meaning when we reflect and investigate. These are two excerpts from the prompt discussion:
"Personal altars reflect who we are, helping us define and clarify who we are spiritually and emotionally. As we gather and arrange objects that are outside us, yet represent our inner connection with spirit, we both express and learn about ourselves."
Spirituality: Living Our Connectedness Margaret Burkhardt, Mary Gail Iagai-Jacobson
“Ritual is an essential part of human life…. Weaving ritual into our lives gives life a wholeness, a completeness, mending the ragged ends back together. Ritual returns to us a shape that life has lost, a meaningfulness we knew in our hearts had to be there.”
Francesca Ciancimino Howell, University of Colorado Boulder
From these readings, we asked our students be present in their choices of materials, thinking of the way they arrange items, imagining the place in their homes for this personal altar. Would we add photos to it? Could it be visible each day? Are there items waiting in our homes to join this collection? How would the inclusion of living plants change our interaction with the altar?
With the prompt in mind our students dove straight into work. Each chose a particular driftwood to construct on with incredibly different and intriguing concepts. While some students were hopeful of attaching each item securely to the base, other's embraced the idea of detachment and mobility. Aubert, age 7, declared he would revisit the altar each day and redesign. His process included filling jars with sea glass, boxes with small sculptures and obsidian, and using multiple driftwood bases.
After the initial rush to gather materials came the quiet contemplation of design. Our students had the items in hand that grabbed their attention- now the question of how to incorporate them stood front and center. A drill, hammer and nails, paints, glue gun, twine, wire, and small vials were available to alter, attach, and manipulate with.
We cannot say enough how grateful we are for these chances to share the creative process with others. Witnessing the students gather and design, hearing their supportive conversations, working through construction obstacles, and ultimately creating something that needed no comparison or scale to measure its success was equally inspiring for us. There were no self-doubts in the room!
These altars represented a personal exploration into the objects we keep, the things that catch our eye and fill our pockets on our daily journeys. A particular place to set these kinds of objects opens the door for a deeper look at what they mean to us, and how they reflect our sense of self. They don't need to be announcements to the world of our beliefs and interests, but a secure place to be thoughtful and curious about ourselves.
Thank you to Warehouse-Healdsburg for allowing us to use the space, to Diana for inspiring and inviting everyone, and to all our students for giving 100% with this project!
An important impetus for Venn Floral is to be able to connect with people on the primal level of just needing to create something. Artists, makers, musicians, writers all work to express something deeper than what we find right in front of us, and Venn Floral believes everyone can feel this urgency to create. Our workshops are an opportunity to get creative without judgement or limits. It's amazing to see what a simple prompt, some materials, and a couple hours can inspire and we have been so impressed by our students.
If you would like to organize a private workshop with Venn Floral please send your inquiry to firstname.lastname@example.org. We'd love to create a custom workshop that engages your group and has everyone walking away with the beautiful feeling of success!