My Self-Made Artist Residency

Bud hanging out in my studio

I opened the woodstove door and jumped back, gasping, startled.

Inside the cold stove was a Bluebird, looking right at me.   The cerulean blue body and vermilion chest were glaringly beautiful against the dim gray of the ash-covered stove.  His wings were spread out as if in flight.

It was gorgeous.  It was dead.

I wanted to preserve it, to keep it forever.  I wanted it to go away, to never have to look at it again.

Jon took his picture, I buried him in the garden next to Gus.

Jon looked for the meaning of the bluebird coming to us.  He believed it brought prosperity.  Later that day we found out, that for the first time in our marriage, we’d be getting a tax refund.

But I was too disturbed by the whole incident to look for meaning in the Bluebird. Its death felt too awful to find something good in.

So I tried to forget about it.

The next day, as Jon and I discussed what we would do with the tax refund, Jon suggested, not for the first time, that I take some of the money for myself.  That I use it  to buy a certain amount of time, so I could focus on working on something that I wanted to do without having to worry about making money.

“Like an artist residency,” I said.

And without another thought about it, I agreed.

Jon has mentioned this idea before.  Because we have separate businesses we have separate bank accounts.  Jon has always made more money than me and on the occasions when he got a big check from his publisher he has made this offer before reminding me that it really is “our” money, not just his.

But I never felt comfortable doing that.  My independence is important to me and I need to know that I can run my own business without taking money from someone else.

I think there are two things that made me agree to the residency (as I think of it).  One is that I clearly see the tax refund as belonging to both of us.  The other is the time we’re in.  The coronavirus has made me hyperaware of what is really important to me, in terms of my relationships my work, and my life.

An artist residency is something I’ve wanted for a long time.

When I first heard the term I was in my twenties in art school. We had an artist come to the school and give a talk about her work. One of the things she described was how she had a  three week Artist Residency (I don’t remember her name or where it was) which she was thrilled about. But when she finally got to the place where all she had to do was work without being disturbed, she panicked and couldn’t do a thing.

The pressure came from inside of herself, believing she had to create something earth-shattering in three weeks.

I always remembered that because I could imagine that in those circumstances, I might feel the same and hoped I could learn from her experience (which is why, of course, she told us about it).

I gave up trying to live a traditional artist’s life a long time ago.   I never applied for grants or residencies and haven’t even tried to have an exhibit of my work in years.  I’m happy with the art world I created for myself in my School House Studio and on my blog.

It works for me and keeps me working.

When I said yes to my self-made artist residency, all the doubts and questions that made me refuse it in the past were gone.   It seemed like a good idea and I wanted it.

And this is where the Bluebird comes in.

Something had changed inside of me to allow me to so readily accept this thing I wanted without hesitation.

Perhaps a part of me felt that I had earned it.  I’ve been working hard at my art and business for over ten years.  Although I don’t make a lot of money, I still see it as a success.  Both my art and business continue to evolve in a positive way.

The other thing is that I’ve always thought of myself as not having enough money.  But I think I’m ready to let go of that idea. Because the idea of enough is subjective.  My whole life I  believed that I couldn’t make ends meet but in reality, I always have.

When I looked up the meaning of the Blue bird in Ted Andrews Animal Speak, I found that the Bluebird is “symbolic of a passage, a time of movement into another lever of being….it is connected to the transformation of a girl into a woman..,”If the Bluebird comes into your life, look for opportunities to touch the joyful and intrinsically native aspects of yourself that you may have lost touch with.

I’m ready to move from that girl who always believes she never has enough so she can’t do what she really wants, to the woman who knows what she has, and is willing to own it.

I love the idea of taking a few weeks not having to think about making money and just working in my studio, making whatever I want.   I don’t even know what that might be.

Maybe getting back in touch with the “intrinsically native aspects of myself” as Bluebird advises.

Maybe I’ll discover something new about the way I work or the work itself. Or maybe I’ll find out that I’m already doing exactly what I want to be doing.

So when we get our tax refund, I’ll begin my first Artist’s Residency in the comfort of my own studio. I’m planning on taking a day off before I begin.  Maybe take a long hike in the woods to help my head adust and open up my thinking.

And, of course, I’ll be writing all about it on my blog. So I hope you’ll join me.





20 thoughts on “My Self-Made Artist Residency

  1. When I saw Jon’s post about the bluebird I could imagine your feelings on finding it because it was shocking just to see the photograph. I would have had the same reaction. Something about dead birds touches a particularly vulnerable place in my heart. I’m sorry you had to experience it, but I think maybe it did bring you the message you needed. I look forward to hearing about your special time.

  2. I love the symbol of the bluebird intertwined with your artist residency. It is good to view ourselves in a new light, like becoming…

  3. Hi Maria, I think it’s grand you’re going to be an artist in residence in your own residence. It’s such a Maria thing to do. As I started to type this, a brilliant male Cardinal alighted on the top of our dogwood tree, almost eye level to me since my desk looks out a second floor window. He took off a moment later. I wonder what the appearance of a Cardinal means in Ted Andrews’ book? It probably means, “Hip-hip-hooray Maria!”

  4. Coincidentally, this week a friend created the Principle of Enough group. He is an entrepreneur and has struggled with old self -limiting messages from childhood, so from this pain has been springing the idea of changing those old messages into those of being enough. He is sharing his thoughts on Being Enough in little pieces on a Facebook page called the Principle of Enough. If you would like some strengthening in your inner messages of being enough, check him out. His idea has blossomed in the short week that he is initiated it. (By the way, it’s free…)

  5. I am so excited for you Maria! I’m looking forward to reading about your discoveries during your Artist Residency! Enjoy this wonderful time of self discovery and creativity!

  6. Look forward to seeing how this unfolds, where you find inspiration, and as you say, whether it takes you in a new direction, or shows up in you creating more of the things you already enjoy making….

  7. Wishing you all the best Maria! When I go on retreat I have 3 days to read, rest, knit, and do my cardmaking, but not this year with the virus outbreak. So I have tried to do a little at home, but unlike the retreat I have to cook, clean, and do laundry.ugh

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