MAMA looking for a home for Mother’s Day

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MAMA is currently on exhibit at WCSU in the Ruth Haas Library until the end of this month so if you live near the Danbury area I encourage you to get over there and take a look while you can. There has been a lot of buzz over it, which I’m thrilled about.

However, MAMA has no plans, as of yet after that. I cringe at the thought of all 11 pieces being stowed away back in my garage 🙁  I was REALLY hoping to find a place for the exhibit for Mother’s Day. I think this would make an awesome event for any gallery, shop, restaurant (whatever!) that wants to honor Mother’s Day with a special event. I can imagine some hor d’oeuvres (maybe even a whole dinner, or brunch!), wine, music… and this intriguing exhibit making for a unique event to take mom to on the only day of the year that’s just for her!

If anyone is interested, or has a lead on someone who might be, please contact me at ezaffis@gmail.com

Thanks!

Erin

FREE Mamadonna to those willing to participate in product trial!!

I created The Mamadonna in September 2013, largely by accident. I was busy making items I had promised to the folks who donated to my kickstarter campaign for MAMA. One such reward was a one-of-a-kind “birth totem”; the idea being a small object a woman could use during childbirth as either a visual focal point or tactile stimulant. The idea came from my experience with birth, having had 2 out of my 3 daughters naturally, without any pain medications or other interventions, and also my experience as a labor and delivery nurse.

I remember well a woman who brought with her to the hospital a tiny, stuffed Chihuahua, I do believe it was a stuffed animal version of that dog from the old Taco Bell commercials (“yo quiero Taco Bell!”). She said she had learned in her birth preparation classes it was helpful to have something visual to focus on when you get a contraction, and she took this seriously; when we accidentally blocked her view of it she barked at us to move! This is a concept used in yoga too; the “drishti” is something you focus your vision on in order to develop concentrated intention. I “find my drishti” when I’m in eagle or tree pose, and it really helps!

When I myself was in labor, with my third baby, I found tactile stimulation immensely helpful. I first practiced focusing on the grout lines on the tiled walls of the bathroom where I showered during early labor. Then, as labor progressed, I took up my “birth beads”, which I received at my “Mother Blessing” party the midwives had thrown me weeks earlier (to read about the Mother Blessing try this link: http://www.birthinginconsciouschoice.com/mother-blessings.html). I rolled the different shapes and textures between my fingers, remembering the strength and loving support of my birth-working friends and mamas. This meditative activity really helped renew my focus during active labor.

So, I set out to create some birth totems for my kickstarter supporters that would suite both these purposes. I created one that especially resonated with me, and after shipping it off to it’s proud owner, I decided to create a slightly larger, fuller version which I might be able to mold and make copies of. The original was created with apoxie clay, which I shaped and sanded until I felt I had something that was both visually stunning/inspiring and fit perfectly in the palm of my hand. As I gazed at it and held it, running my fingers over the curves, I felt intuitively it was a very strong, spiritually “impregnated” object, and was very excited about it. To enhance the metaphysical power of it, I decided to carve out a perfect little hole for a small moonstone. Moonstone is a beautiful, iridescent white crystal known for it’s feminine, healing energy. So was born, The Mamadonna; the name being a play on the words Mama (mother) and Madonna (the Catholic version of the goddess/feminine god; Jesus’s mother Mary).

I have a collection made at this point, all different colors and with different types of stones. I have sold some and the others sit waiting, in a little community on my bedroom dresser! But what I really want is to experiment with The Mamadonna as a birth tool; this was the original intention! I created a resin version for this purpose, and I have enough of them made now to give away some for free to birth-workers or expectant mothers who would like to participate in a little consumer product testing for me.

If you or anyone you know is a doula, birth educator or expectant mother, please contact me for the details on this offer. I will ship to anywhere in the continental US for free, addresses outside the US will require a $10 fee to cover shipping cost. I only have about 4 or 5 to give away right now, so respond ASAP if you are interested! You can check out what I have available at my etsy store: https://www.etsy.com/shop/MamAmore (resin varieties only).

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Success!!

My talk today at Western Connecticut State University was a smash! The college really made me feel welcomed and appreciated with a professional AV set-up all ready to roll and a huge catered spread including a large cake reading “Congratulations Erin Zaffis, MAMA, March 11th”! It was cut and being eaten before i got a picture of it 😛 yummmm

Lot of students in attendance, and faculty, to hear about how I was inspired by my experiences with birth to create MAMA and why I believe we need to achieve cultural change when it comes to how birth is viewed in this country. I’ve been asked to talk to a Medical Anthropology class there in April, as well, which I’m excited about. Advocating for women’s informed choice and autonomy in pregnancy and birth is my passion, and I will jump at any opportunities to discuss it. The question and answer session afterwards was lively; lot of great questions and commentary, I was so happy all these young people were engaged and interested in this topic, even though the vast majority of them were not mothers themselves, I’m honored that I was able to plant some seeds. I am really hoping I can take MAMA on the road and do more college lectures like this, so if anyone has a connection to that extent, please contact me!

I was touched that my mother, sister, neighbor and a group of my close friends from high school showed up to support me and hear what I had to say. Much love! Here is a picture from today, taken by my sister who was sitting at the “merch” table. Aren’t my Mamadonna’s little butts so cute?! 😉

I am also looking for a gallery or artspace that would like to host MAMA for a Mothers Day event this year. I could also do a (bit shorter) presentation/talk for such an even too, again, contact me if you have a connection!

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Install Today!!

I’ll be installing my exhibit MAMA today in the Ruth Hass Library of Western Connecticut State University, 181 White St, Danbury CT. It will be up the whole month of March, free and open to the public during library hours. Come on March 11th at 2pm and attend my free talk in the atrium of the library; learn why this…

The Center

The Center

… is my placenta… and about my diabolical plan to help women achieve full reproductive autonomy and informed choice. Don’t miss it!

Here is a poster you can share 🙂

WCSU poster

MAMA coming to Danbury CT!!

I’ve been sitting on an announcement I’m really excited about; MAMA will be on display in the Ruth Hass Library located at Western Connecticut State University, midtown campus, for the entire month of March in celebration of Women’s History Month!! I feel really honored, and blessed when I think of all the awesome people that I’ve met over the last few years that have enriched my life, encouraged and supported me. This opportunity was made possible by one of those people <3

In addition to my art being on display, I will be giving a talk, a power point presentation, on the afternoon of 3/11 titled; “Birth as a Creative Process”. I will be discussing how I used my experiences as a mother and childbirth nurse as a guide to navigating the challenges of creating the art exhibit, having been a total novice. I will also talk about the history and culture surrounding childbirth and why choice and autonomy in birth is a women’s rights issue. Exact details regarding time and location TBA.

In honor of MAMA’s second show (and because I had one more mannequin left), I am working on a new sculpture; the 11th, and probably last, installment in the MAMA series titled, “The Center”. Here is a sneak peak of it, in progress…

The Center, in progress

I hope you will attend if you live near the Danbury Area. Even if you can’t make the lecture, try and make your way over to the Ruth Hass Library sometime in the month of March to see MAMA on display!

Healing Art

As some of you know, I recently earned a Master of Arts in Integrated Health and Healing. The program I was enrolled in at The Graduate Institute  introduced me to the myriad of ancient and modern complementary and alternative healing modalities. Expressive Arts, of course, was one that resonated strongly with me, but I also did a mentorship in energy healing and became very interested in shamanism, acupuncture and homeopathy. What I noted about most of these modalities is that they are focused on the energy body; the inseparable aspect of the body that is unseen. Western medicine focuses solely on the physical body, tissues and body chemistry, applying harsh methods of healing through surgery or toxic pharmaceuticals. Western medicine has admitted to the role of proper nutrition to good health, but this still follows along the lines of a mechanistic/reductionist perception of the body.

What I learned is that there is much more that can be done to encourage healing at the subtle energy level, which does not involve cutting the body, harsh chemicals, or even ingesting essential and beneficial nutrients. A lot of it may sound like religion, or ancient religious practices, and certainly ancient healing arts were very much tied to spiritual beliefs and practices. What is now being realized is that spirituality and science really do align, at the quantum level. Skeptical?? Check out Lynn McTaggart’s, The Field, or Bruce Liptons, Biology of Belief if you are interested in the hard, scientific evidence to support the idea that spirituality, energy and thoughts have as much impact on health and healing, if not more, than physical and biochemical approaches. I also recommend Twilight of the Clockwork God, if you’re interested in an overview of how scientists are discovering there is much more at work than meets the eye.

When I sat down to make the rewards I owed the generous supporters to my Kickstarter campaign, I had all these ideas in mind. I wanted to make art objects that were not only beautiful, but could help heal the mind, body and spirit. I truly believe art is most powerful as a healing agent when participated in, but I also believe in its power to heal through its aesthetic beauty, intention, shared meaning and even the materials used have a certain energy that can have an effect on us. So far I have created two new items I will be selling (in person or through my Etsy shop, for the time being) that I believe promote health through ALL of these means.

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This is a “Crystal Healing Tree” (as it is being tentatively called). I made this one for my dad as a Christmas gift this year, I have made 6 others, all of which I’ve given as gifts or sold. I’ve made them in many different shapes and sizes, like real trees, which I have modeled them after. I have always loved trees; I love their beauty, smell, strength and support, and their silent wisdom, the kind that resonates from beings that have been living on this planet much longer than we have. One of my very favorite childhood activities was tree climbing, it was like a sport for me! I am also fascinated with the the implication, and irony, of combining natural, or “God made” objects with things that are man made. I think a major key to our continued survival on this planet lies in our ability to innovate ways of working in harmony with what resources and ecology that the earth provides instead of merely exploiting it. I have created these trees as a symbol of this concept, which helps promote it on a subconscious/cultural level. I also put healing intention in it through the materials I use; real tree roots and branches, copper and crystals. I believe the real tree remnants hold the energy, and wisdom, of the tree. I choose the crystal, custom chosen for my father in this case, for it’s specific healing spectrum (based on it’s healing uses over the ages). The copper wire, the man-made part of the equation, is said to help strengthen and straighten the energy from the crystal. I put one of these in my bedroom and felt it was working the way I intended it to! Soon after I sold it, but I will tell you, I’ll be making another one soon for keeps!

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This is an object I’m really excited about. I call it, “The Mamadonna”. This is intended most strongly as a subconscious level/morphic field/cultural healing object, but I also incorporated the small crystal, in this case a moonstone, which is believed to be the stone of femininity and help regulate female cycles. This is an object that can be displayed for it’s beauty and psychic energy, a visual focal point, or held in the hand for tactile stimulation. It is hard to express in words how it feels holding it in your hand; strangely comforting and empowering is how I’d best describe it. In my Masters program, I learned how the arts are an exaggerated expression of the comforts of our relationship with our mother. Figures like the Venus of Willendorf, uncovered by archaeologists and believed to symbolize the deity of ancient Goddess worshiping civilizations, are among the very first accounts of human art and support this theory. I made the Mamadonna as a modern-day Venus of Willendorf. I see it not only empowering women on their life journey, and in particular in preparation for motherhood including childbirth, but influencing the noosphere towards equality for women. I’m not talking about equal rights, which we at least do have for the most part (on paper anyway), but equal value. I’m not even talking about the human value, either, but the spiritual value. Our culture does not value female ways of being; caring, nurturing, gentle, soft, vulnerable, open, accepting, etc. The world will not heal until femininity as a whole, the female gender, is valued. Here is a very minor example: I had to count change for a coffee today, and the nice boy ringing me up (at a progressive-minded,  health food store) said he just saw a man with a “manly” change purse and was excited because he feels he can finally get one; he hates all the loose change in his pockets all the time. Why does an object which helps you be better organized have to be “manly” for men to feel it’s acceptable for them? Women have earned the right and acceptance to do “man” things, to a pretty large extent, but men still feel it is somehow demeaning to be in any way like a woman. As boy growing up in America, the labels “girly”, “sissy”, “pussy” and “gay” are all insults because they are associated with being a female. This poor boy was as innocent as they come, and completely oblivious to this offense. However frustrating, instead of fighting the cultural disease of sexism with my voice, I choose to heal it with my art. This is the intention behind the Mamadonna. It is the exaggerated expression of the beauty, compassion, creativity and strength of the Feminine Divine. I do not feel we can heal the world until we ditch patriarchy and embrace egalitarianism; valuing the strengths of each gender equally. I consider the Mamadonna my sort of “affirmative action” towards this type of existence. I would love to give them away for free, just to get them out there, but due to time and cost of materials I must charge for them, although if they take off I hope to streamline their production and lower the price. Please purchase one and spread the rEVOLution!!

Whatchu talkin bout Erin??

I really love the reactions I get to my project, “MAMA”. Some people resonate with it immediately with a smile and “Woooow!”, others raise their eyebrows, or grimace, possibly in shock, disapproval, or confusion. I get a lot of questions about what the sculptures “mean”. I understand people want to apply some meaning to everything; this is human nature. However, I encourage people to look at them, initially, with quiet, open mind, not working so hard to “figure it out” but instead letting the image speak to you; listening for its quiet voice. This is part of what I practiced, simultaneously while making them, at each stage of the process, to an extent, then more thoroughly once the sculpture was finished. I would sit with my journal and let the image speak to me. A lot of people are confused by that, because they have the assumption that art begins with an intended message. This may be true for some artists and for some forms of art, but not for me, not for my art. I begin with an emotion which I do not try and label, and this emotion leads to a vision. The vision may be vague, but i start with the parts that are clear, and let it evolve from there, organically, on its own and through my own internal process. A lot of what you see evolves from mistakes! Mistakes and limitations. Limitations of “talent”, knowledge, time, money…. etc. Sometimes I break through my limitations, sometimes I have to accept them. Such is the dance of art, and the dance of life; sometimes we need to strive, sometimes we need to surrender, and wisdom comes from those moments when we are forced to make that choice. This ended up being the thesis behind MAMA, which I turned into a 40 page paper as part of the project (for my MA in Health and Healing).

IMG_2116compressedAnyhow, it wasn’t until I sat down to write the paper that I was able to reflect on the whole process and the whole body of work, and was finally able to hear what Mama really had to say. Yes, these are mother archetypes, they each hold a unique perspective, a unique experience, but cumulatively they are in one accord. If they had a leader, I’d have to imagine it would be the last one I made; Dream Child. She is the hopeful mother, the purposeful mother, the clairvoyant. She advocates for the rest, and what she has to say is; “We have the ability to create our reality. Anything is possible, and it is our purpose to discover possibility. Dig into your roots, revisit and pay homage to your “Mother” and you will discover the key to your brilliant future.” I think the first step is true equality. Lets start (just START) with abolishing cultural paradigms which label, limit, marginalize and otherwise discriminate against women. We are HALF the population and we gave birth to the ENTIRE population. We will not consciously evolve as a species until the gifts and powers of women are fully embraced instead of treated like a threat. Some people may feel threatened just reading this, you may not be fully aware of it, but maybe you feel a change in your body, somewhere. Maybe you feel a bit defensive, maybe you are smirking and laughing it off. These destructive cultural mindsets are deep-rooted, pervasive, insidious, and most importantly, masked. I’m not entirely sure how we weed them out. I’d like to think my images are a way of confronting these paradigms; provoking thought, stirring emotions. I’m not a politician, a business woman or public figure whatsoever. I am just a woman, a mother, who wants a better future for my children, and knows the only way I can contribute to that is through living my passion with self acceptance, perseverance, and faith. That’s what I’m talkin about.