General magic studio

talisman s preliminary tracings

obverse tracing, 2″/5 cm bronze plate (“solve et coagula” side)

reverse tracing, 2″/5cm copper disk (“conjunctio” side)

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magic studio

how I’m spending this mercury retrograde

Finally made it through photographing thirteen sketchbooks/journals worth of images. Of course I didn’t record everything because a lot of it is just not good, and for the most part eleven out of those thirteen were mostly writing and not drawings. It still ended up being a LOT of stuff. I have a set of slides from my last real quarter at KCAI in late 1990-early 91 which I need to have someone turn into digital format images (there are places that do that, right?). Was surprised to find that I have a continuous bridge of work from that time until now. Some of it just crappy sketches and bad emotive writing, but still. Some of it isn’t too bad. I’ve been doing art all along since then and I have material evidence of that. And that’s just the material evidence, not counting the performed art of ritual that took up 90% of my artmaking efforts for a number of years. Seeing the continuity of work over 20 years or so has been surprising to me since I’ve had to work pretty hard to contradict the strong persistent voice in my head that insisted for a great big chunk of that time that I’m not an artist, really.

So yeah, I am SO not allowed to get mopey about not being a real artist anymore. There never was any kind of “gap” or lost years in that sense.

Why is it such a big deal? Why did that nag me for so long, keep me talking about it over and over, and why didn’t I eventually just say “so what?” and move on? Because really and truly it’s what I am and I had to get right with that on all planes. Which took a while. Even though it was/is obvious to everyone else. It’s laughable, really. Good thing I have a very very persistent Muse that never listens much to what I think.

Now for the renaming, sizing, and thinking about what will be useful right away. I will spend two hours on that, take a gym break, and then spend the rest of the afternoon in the studio.

magic studio

history battery

Dies Venus

Luna wx 87%v


Doing the self-reflexive thing this morning and writing about building this site on this site.

Have managed to wade through all my image files, edit, size, and rename them, and put them into a more sensible file tree so that they can eventually end up here. It’s baby-stuff for most people I know, but I’m not very computer savvy so it’s taken a while for me to learn and apply in a way that looks like I want it to look. T has been a huge help. This would not be happening if he weren’t building most of the site and teaching me how to modify and maintain it along the way (read: dragging me kicking and screaming, initially).

Last night I started in on reviewing the paper media- many years of sketchbooks and magical journals. I didn’t do any reading, just perusing the images and marking some that might be useful here. It took a couple of hours and as would be expected took me back to some places I’d forgotten I’d been. Twelve full hardbound sketchbooks.  Afterwards I felt a bit dizzy and disoriented, like my internal wiring was confused.  I felt open and a little unformed, as if  some basic things had been rearranged. The journals had zapped me good.  It was completely unexpected but a great surprise.

Also had the pleasure of spending some time with a fellow magician yesterday. J has been in China for three years and is visiting back in the states to take care of some visa things and see people while here. He is making good on his ambitions, doing well and looking great.  We met to discuss the making of Abramelin oil and cakes of light. I had a lot more to say than I thought I would.

I would not be surprised if a drive to write and perform more dramatic ritual with other operators results. I crave the space, the rush of energy exchange, but my schedule hasn’t allowed that to be a very realistic possibility for some time now. Still, perhaps my day-to-day (night-to-night) schedule will change enough to allow for that possibility again. I’d like that.

In the mean time there’s still plenty to do.

magic studio

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magic studio


Dies Mercurius
Luna wn 88%v

Beginning the process of organizing 4 years worth of image files to extract content for the website. Am seeing just how poorly organized the files are! For the most part I have just been taking pictures and dumping them off into the computer, 95% of them into one big folder called “my pictures”, the rest into named folders. Note to self: don’t keep doing that. Yikes.

Thank goodness I’ve recorded most of the materials and dimensions information on lj, too. I’d hate to have to re-measure everything and make guesses about pieces I no longer have in possession.

First edit through the images & folders yields decent pictures of about 70 pieces & process shots, about 200-250 usable images in all. Ruled out some pieces that I know I don’t want pictures of up on the site (the ceramic work, etc.) and I still have PLENTY. I think I have a few of the Mark Woolley show over on photobucket that I erased from my machine for some reason that I should snag back too. Maybe. I do remember they were kind of crappy pictures.

All of a sudden it feels like I have really made a lot of stuff.

Now what sort of tree do I want to hang this on….

magic studio

by my hand…

Dies Mars
Luna wn 97%v

the looming gremlin of mass production, continuity, and more road blocks I put in my own way

Have had a couple of days to get back into the groove by making a few simple layered metal pieces. My drawing sucks, but I’m doing it.

The metal pieces look like roughly-made mass produced elements stamped out of sheet and assembled. They look like pieces that machines could have made much better and more quickly, economically. It looks like I’m mimicking a machine process, poorly. Do Not Like.

For this kind of piece, most people cast multiples of the elements from perfected masters, but I find myself resistant to that idea. Why does carving something in wax and then multiplying it feel like “cheating”? Am I really that stuck on the one-of-a-kind thing? Yes, I think I am. And I think it could really hold me back.

I definitely have a fondness for the romantic singular event of making, and for the unique and unrepeatable object made by my hands in a segment of intensified time. It seems to come from my background in theater and dramatic ritual in general, initiation in particular. It also comes from living in a culture that places a high value on the individual and unique whether genuine or affected. Ironically enough, that same culture places little value on craft and is awash in ten thousand different (mostly mass-produced) options for any particular thing a person might want.

The fact is that, in comparison to casting 100 identical elements, a heavy steel die striking a piece powered by me dropping a hammer on it just feels better in my mind than casting it from a wax I carved.

The things I like about that that are all but invisible to anyone else:

-the metal is many times tougher, denser and durable for being impacted instead of cast. Its physical state, density is a direct result of its having been a receptacle of focused force.
-the process of the delivery of force that transfers the images/patterns is much more dramatic, more like some sigilizing processes. It is more immediately and easily choreographed to fit within ritual frameworks I’m familiar with
-the process is very old and very simple. The equipment required is very basic (once made & assembled) and can be used almost anywhere, Casting = many more steps and stages, much more required equipment (that I will have to travel to another location to use), brand new learning curve again.

HOWEVER…by not branching out, am I making a lot more unnecessary work for myself for a result that differs only minutely -assuming I raise my technical skill at the hand work to a high level- to most viewers?

The viewer who isn’t in on my particular views on the evocation of spirit out of matter will not see the difference (though I’d like them to). The viewer shouldn’t be concerned with me, anyway. They don’t need to see what goes on behind the curtain as the proof of the piece is in the experience of it. This is my problem with much conceptual art out there. One shouldn’t need to read a page of text to enjoy the art properly. One shouldn’t have needed to have read the book to enjoy the play- these things signal a failure on the part of the artist to do their job.

Should I stay with the time-consuming hand work, is communicating what is “special” about my work going to require that page of text  that I so very much dislike to explain, if what is special about it is hidden behind process? Should anyone care? I know I should, but will anyone else? (The problem becomes how to let the piece speak for itself, clearly, and yet still have it be close to my ideal).

What matters to me does not necessarily have to matter to anyone else. Ideally while making the work, I make no predictions on who might like it and who might be utterly indifferent to it. Easy to say hard to do. I’ll succeed if they have a live interaction with the piece(s). I might as well just concede that I’ll never have the view from the other side of the curtain as concerns my own work. I’ve already thought & written about it too much, about a perspective I will never have. My business is the how, and the opening of ways for these things to get into their forms.

Serving that thought, I do not want to inhibit the progress of the work by being too closed-minded about reproduction technology.

I still ought to take a casting course so that my choice is better informed. I feel so impatient though. Back to the exercises, then. Amd perhaps later have a conversation about material fertility & multiplication with one of my insect patrons.

magic studio

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magic studio theater
Dies Jovis
Another thing I’m no longer dependent on: narrative-based mythologies.  Ironically, getting outside of that box a little bit expands my understanding of “story” and humanness and allows me to appreciate that aspect of the spiritual even more. With increase of subtlety, the world becomes very, very big again.

Story decomposes back down to gesture, to interactions, decomposes further down into individual elements (unpacked symbols) and from there via their likeness to what surrounds me here and now re-pack themselves into the what-to-do-next.

magic studio

crossed salts cycle 1

Dies Mercurius
Luna wx 50%v

yield: six crystals with clear crosses, approx 3mm x 3mm x 2mm (sea salt)
Gently separated the best large crossed crystals from masses of various sizes and clarity- six good ones. Re-dissolved the rest and re-set for slow evaporation in sunny spot on studio altar.

magic studio

who is the flower for?

Dies Mercurius
Luna wn 21%v

Seem to be stuck on a question that I probably ought to just leave alone-
Who am I making this stuff for?

In fact, when listening to my own intuition regarding this question I get a clear “that’s a detour, don’t worry about it, get back to work”. So I won’t spend a whole lot of time on it here. Trying to answer that leads to all kinds of guesswork and mental calculation that isn’t exactly beneficial to the making.

But my internal planner keeps asking this question anyway. It’s not far from the question “why are you making this/ what’s it for?” This is coming up now, during the making of lance #2, because it’s at first consideration a ceremonial weapon from another life.

Why?  the simple answer: The lance form is beautiful. It has an extremely rich historic and mythic context. In the world of the imagination it opens many doors. I have an intimate and longstanding connection with the form.

On a bigger arc, it brings up questions about how and where I want my creations to be/go in the world.  Being actively used among a small and mostly hidden bunch of practitioners? Hanging out on someone’s mantlepiece most of the time? Piling up in my home? Hanging in a gallery? Left out in the wilderness? I think a list of places and a jotting down of my gut feelings about each might be in order to generate a beginning snapshot.

Once those are examined, the hairier task of working out the economics of the thing comes to the forefront. Not just the how-much-money in/out question, but the overall energetic exchange. For that I must consider relationship, community, ownership and value. It is important to get the exchange right. Trouble is I still have difficulty placing myself.

Enough time spent on this question for the moment. It’s not going anywhere, I’m sure I can revisit it later. It’ll certainly revisit me, anyway. In the mean time, back to the doing.

Looks like I will be making a pair of wedding rings after all, and am thrilled to have been presented with a new collaboration/commission for a trio of garter buckles. These tasks are right, undeniably RIGHT, no question about it.

magic studio theater

the real deal

Dies Mercurius

Luna wx 39%v

Yesterday I made a ring for an actor with whom I have had the good fortune to work with for the past fifteen years. He is the very embodiment of one who has given his life for the past thirtyish years at least, quite literally, to Dionysos. (one obvious giveaway comes with a glance at his nose, but that’s the most minor evidence)

He is a superb actor and has the VOICE. Any by the voice, I mean when he speaks in that bass you cannot help but listen. Even low, at regular conversation volume, the ground shakes a little. He’s one of the kindest most naturally noble people I’ve ever met. He is and always has been of very modest means because he just can’t do the schmooze thing. By his own amused admission, it just feels unnatural and he never bothered to learn how. Lives in the city, but is definitely a wild thing.

The ring is a double layer silver fuck ’em up ring, and fit his left pinky perfectly. I’m glad because sizing it was a complete guess. He teared up when I gave it to him and  said he’d wear it to his grave, which I think is the best compliment on my work I can ever hope to receive. Kind of puts everything else in perspective.

I thank him for his example, so brave and powerful, self-possessed in his Art.
I wish him continuing vivid, meaningful life and a beautiful death.

magic studio

the knight, death & the devil

2009-11-16, 12:00 pm
Dies Luna
Luna NEW

On the Pluto-Saturn configuration- um, yeah…heavy ain’t it? Have to admit, though, that it’s kinda nice to think of it as Pluto showing Saturn that perhaps he’s not always the bad motherfucker, after all. Comforting to see your boogie man get boogied a little, himself.

And it is for that reason that I will be embracing the virtues of Saturn that I have come to know better and better, namely disciplined detached work in the service of ambition.

Recent readings on craft and the functions of work point out that gaining mastery in any skill is about active problem-seeking as much as problem-solving. Looking for weaknesses in approach and execution, finding more difficult tasks that are beyond the current skill level to attempt to execute, knowing that the result will likely be inadequacy or failure. It requires a willingness to be incompetent (at least in regards to the ever receding horizon of the-next-level) for a long, long time and have this plainly pointed out over and over. Purposefully being near people who are better than you at what you do as often as possible.

I get to embody some of my least favorite things things!

motivation? Discomfort just as much as desire- mainly to push onwards and climb it, already. There will no doubt be some significant rewards and incredible feelings of actual advancement along the way, some very good things. But problems come and how I decide to react to them is the other side of the coin (both sides together constituting the value, worth of said coin). Materials and their tendencies, and my internal menagerie assert themselves every time I take action. There’s pressure to keep acting – I only have so much time.

And to go there willingly requires another level of putting self-image aside, assuming nothing, being a beginner over and over and messing up a lot. Because the minutiae of these trials are so very specific and really no one who isn’t directly involved cares -nor should they- this has to be done in private. It can’t matter whether anyone is watching the ridiculousness, suffering, and humiliations or not. Expectations must change.

It’s painful to my Leo Moon and Aquarius Sun, both of which want attention, acknowledgement of achievement, and social approval. Nothing wrong with that. That’s just where it’s most tender. Those are good motivators, but the wrong ones to place emphasis on. They are definitely the wrong carrots.

I’m certainly not going out of my way to find problems or create more for myself- been there, done that and hopefully can tell the difference now. The path, once I start seeing the difficulties that I’ve not been ready to see until now, will provide plenty.

I’m willing to take on this particular illusion filter because it’s the right next step. Oh Michael Lutin you are so funny. Dis-illusion, indeed!
Sign me up. May all the problems of this path stand right up and say HERE I AM! as plainly as the inspirations pulling me along it do.

General magic studio

payin’ dues

2009-10-09 @ 09:44 am
Dies Mercurius
Luna wn 86%v

For the past six months I have been taking the money I would be paying in dues were I still doing so and instead directing it to artists and access to art-works.

I’m doing this as a conscious magical practice and to explore my current interest in material & immaterial economies. In this exercise, participating not just as a maker but as a patron and benefactor, albeit on a very very small scale.

I’m interested in feeling out how the give and receive happens socially, energetically, and materially to further the instances of art being made and experienced on an individual-to-individual level (moving attention on larger orgs and the related formal egregores to the periphery for this one).

The guidelines I initially set for myself were that the money shouldn’t be spent on something I’d already buy for myself (like a cd or tickets to an event) and can’t be something I already get for free to give away (like comps). It can simply be a donation to an arts organization, but that is less preferential to a donation that results in a specific individual or individuals’ benefit. The donation needs to result in someone besides myself enjoying some art or a project I’m not working on getting funded a little more, and the more the direct the line between cash leaving my hand and them enjoying/producing/continuing to be able to make art the better.

What it can be is either direct support or a gift of money or materials made every month at least equaling what I would be paying were I still paying dues elsewhere. And though donation of time does count for something, cold hard cash or materials of that value must leave my hands at some point in the exchange.

I have bought tickets to a theatrical production, donated to a fundraiser for a musician who needed instruments, given away my own work in the form of custom pieces, bought & gifted books and art supplies. Sometimes to total strangers. Mostly local, but not always.

This month I will just go literal and send $$ directly to an artist of my choosing (thanks to an essay I read recently by Amanda Fucking Palmer, via [info]contentlove ). I’ll also be teaching some metal sawing technique to an enthused acquaintance who has been seriously bitten by the art bug.

Because I have plugged in in this way, making a contract of support as it were with Art with a Capital A in general, I feel literally invested in the whole of the artmaking sphere beyond my own little bubble of a practice and workday.  And I’d swear that my own opportunities for making and getting my work out there have multiplied (or perhaps they’ve just become more obvious).

So far it’s been very satisfying and rewarding so I will probably continue it as a regular practice. I’d also encourage fellow artists on my flist to try this for a while as a regular discipline, say 6 months, and see what happens. Doesn’t have to be a large amount- maybe even $5. And feel free to swim far & wide outside your regular familiar media. See what happens.

magic studio

I am babel on my own head, butting it against a glass mountian

2009-03-25, 04:10 pm
Dies Mercurius
Luna wn 1%v
Hitting a wall but can’t tell whether it’s a wall placed there by way of falling into the familiar sinkhole of trying to hold too much in the consciousness at once or a problem of understanding. I’m tending towards it being a problem of understanding.

It’s as if the idea of making objects is suddenly completely foreign to me, both the what and the why. It feels utterly unnatural and I have trouble seeing a reason to make anything at all beyond things with obvious functions and as skill-honing exercises.

I am operating as if this mode and medium are familiar and justified when in fact they are not, even though I have been chipping away at building a practice for some years now, albeit a not-terribly-prolific one.

What I am immersed in and have been immersed in for many years more than I’ve been doing this is dramatic and time based art. The song, the story, the nuts and bolts of production and performance. Sometimes as a writer, sometimes as a performer, sometimes making wigs or doing makeup, most of the time as backstage support. I’ve been soaking in it since I wrote that first seasonal rite back in KC, had musician boyfriends, and then here in PDX started doing all those Crowley pieces, continuing to write my own stuff, and taking that first opera job.

Aside from making a few talismans and cobbling together ritual gear, I have NOT been making object-art nearly as long. Time based performative art feels (relatively) safe and familiar to me. After all, it’s how I pay the rent. It’s where most of the artists I’m exposed to on face-to-face basis are. I have no trouble being involved in a piece and seeing clearly the reasons why, most of the time, YES, this deserves to exist.

It should be no surprise that some of the things I want to make have a time-element in them (i.e. one or more moving elements, and literally “clocks” if irregular ones).

Object-making suddenly does not feel safe or familiar. I suddenly do not understand it. At all. This is a very uncomfortable place to be and I have to admit I’m more than a little scared. It’s like it speaks in a foreign language where before I thought I “got it”.

– – –

And so I run to the word for comfort- I read, I putter around on the ‘net fishing when I don’t really need any more fish, I write, I need a story or a tune or another appointment or…..

Image is very different from word (-though not from Word, who I suspect is a bit of a liar, anyway, however it shows itself. That’s fine with me. At least its lies are true). Object even more different still.

I could give up and immerse myself, go even deeper and more active in the world I’ve been soaking in, the performance one, for some time and let this fantasy of object-making go, and chalk it up as a loss that came with the risk of doing it. Make a shift, put my eggs there and jump (I know, awful mixed metaphor). Maybe really fly.  Maybe I’ve been really delusional about that all this time, undervaluing my incredible luck in that department.

Or I could just endure and work it out, wait it out and eventually I’ll learn that language and understand again. Both the thing and the why. Keep with the hard pace of a somewhat split life hoping that it’ll either transition one way or the other or blend someday.

There is just something right about the object-making. That’s all the why I have right now.

But I’m here typing when I should be telling all this to the materials and seeing what they have to say. Running to the word again. Looking for some reassurance. In there, I’m that recent immigrant who is really hard to communicate with right now.

What I wouldn’t give for more understanding, more words, more language. More fluency. More WHY.

– – –

SO, I’m fasting from LJ, internet, books, scripts and e-mail for a bit. Half an hour a day for e-mail business and responding to that, fifteen minutes to check & post on LJ & FB. Goat of the week will continue. But for at least one week every time I want wordy distraction I will march into the studio and face the silent materials.

(BTW, I blame fucking Twyla Tharp for helping me to open this can of worms with that fucking “unraveling your creative DNA exercise”. Be warned, it will definitely unravel something, though of course YMMV. )

magic studio

the qualities of the response

2009-03-18, 11:20 am
Dies Mars
Luna wn 50%v
Sometimes the swift and desired objective that is the result of an act of magic comes not as the immediate materialization of the thing or opportunity you wanted, but as damned good advice. In fact, it comes that way a lot.

I think a scale could even be made where the nature of the entity responding can be reasonably well identified by how subtle and rarefied or literal/material the result. Which would help answer the question (if it’s a question that needs asking, of course) “when is it appropriate to consult an angel, when a god, and when some other sort of spirit?”

Depends on the kind of stimulus/response you most need. And if you know that part, you already know something important.

magic studio

rectificando redux

2009-02-13, 03:24 pm
Dies Venus
Luna wn 79%v

The world is as yet unfinished. Every new piece of art, of dance, every new song adds to the visible and concrete world. The veil continues to recede endlessly with each new event of creation. It recedes in all directions, at once.

It is our job to keep making our little bits of New World on the edge of that veil.

magic studio


2009-01-26, 7:18pm

IMG_0042 by seadigs.