Monday, October 18, 2010

Remembering my Nicho

A friend from my online artsy-fartsy group happened to mention "vessels" and how she is doing a series of items using old cigar boxes, jewelry boxes, etc. to make a series of dioramas. While she had me at the word "vessel" her comment also reminded me of my Nicho - my "Little Altar" which hadn't been given a thought in a long time. It's displayed very proudly on the shelf in our living room, but who looks at what's on their shelves after awhile?

So there I went with my camera, having a look at my old friend and hopefully turning it into a gift to share with friends. Let me tell you its story.

When my husband was in Seminary in Austin, TX, I signed up for a course called "Art & Soul." The name would have been enough for me to find interest, but the description of the course had me panting, hoping that this seminary spouse would be welcome to "sit in for free" and participate with "the paying" students.

It was this course that got my heart burning for my artistic self to shine through. I can remember it like it was yesterday, rushing home to begin my assignment and forgetting about all time and space while doing so. I even forgot (sometimes) that we were living in Austin!

Anyway, one night we were all told to choose from a selection of cigar boxes which had been provided. I chose a wooden one with a little clasp. It still smelled good (yes, like cigars) and I liked the feel of it when it was closed. We were then told about Nichos, and were assigned the project of making our own.

My Nicho is painted purple. I intentionally did not cover the outside with gesso because I did not want to lose "what it was" so the name of the cigar company still shows through on the box. For the inside, I painted a little random color on some paper. I glued little colored beads all around the inside edges (some have fallen out, I see...). On the left side, I cut two images out of Christmas cards. The gold image is of the Holy Family following the Star. But it reminded me of us - Warren, Jonathan and I - following OUR star by following our hearts and leaving our home in Denver to move to Austin and then to...who knew? This image gave me much peace of mind, allowing my insecurities to be real, but also comforting my "unknowns."

On the right side, you see two silver posts. These are just wooden objects that I painted, but are placed there as an opening - a gate, if you will - inviting us in to share ourselves with others. The little icon was a gift which seemed appropriate there as it again symbolizes us - our family. (Not that we are "Holy" just that we are "Family!") The little colored discs to the left represent problems and worries. Everyone has different concerns for themselves and for others. Some are bigger than others. The colors represent the myriad of things that people pray for and worry about. 

The little red watering can is "me" - the vessel - the one who sometimes needs to be poured out, but often needs to be filled up. Sometimes my vessel leaks, at which time I need to figure out where the leak is and have it repaired. Other times, my vessel becomes cracked. This is not always a bad thing! When it's a "good" crack, I'm flowing with being in a good reference point in my life journey...I'm being creative, my family is well, and my worries are more trivial. However, when my "crack" is a bad one, what flows out of me is like bad water and nobody wants to drink it, not even me! This is the time that I need to not find a "quick fix" but take a serious look at just what is behind this flaw and why it has become such a prominent part of who I am at that moment. Some days are better than others...I guess I'm only human!

There is one more part to my Nicho, which is barely visible (oh, my!) in the photo. It's a little brass angel hanging from a chain at the top right. It's Katie's presence in my/our lives - sometimes she moves with the breeze, other times she is steady. Same as us. Some days, she's more visible to me than others. You might say, "That's normal after 13 years" but I'm here to tell you that there is nothing normal in missing your child the way we miss Katie.

I do love my Nicho so much! Writing about it right now feels like writing about it eight years ago when I first made it. Some things leave a mark on your heart in a way you can never forget what it's there for.


  1. I cannot even begin to tell you how touched I am by this entire piece. The writing is beautiful, the nicho is beautiful, the whole package with you a part of it just shines with a sort of Holy Light around it in my mind. I actually got goose bumps on my arms while reading it, in the the way that only a really wonderful piece of meaningful art can touch your soul. Mary, you are so talented and such a beautiful soul that I feel so lucky to have gotten to meet you. I think we may become lifelong, long distance friends...

  2. Thank you Laura, for your very encouraging and inspiring response. Yes, I believe we will be lifelong, long distance friends! I appreciate everything you have done to help encourage my creative spirit to come alive the last few weeks!

  3. My dear friend MB sent this comment to me in my private email. I don't want it to become disengaged from this post, so I'm posting it here!

    "I am so enjoying reading your blog. The food entries made my mouth water, and the story of you being a vessel is beautiful. You are not only an artist, you are also writer. I am so grateful to have such a gifted friend. LOVE YOU very much."