Friday, June 28, 2013

My Mentors Interview Series: Effy Wild

As an artist and art instructor, I am extremely grateful for those teachers who have inspired, encouraged and supported my development as an artist. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to share this interview with you.  I have been taking classes with Effy Wild for a year now. I started by taking Book of Days her art journal course.

(Keep reading for a video and the giveaway!)

Tammy Dial Gray (TDG): Welcome Effy Wild! I am so glad to have you with us today!
Effy Wild (EW): I am so excited to be here with you!
TDG: Effy Wild, I know you as an art instructor, community builder, painter, writer, and a keeper of art journals. Why are these practices so important to you?

EW: Ever since I can remember, I have longed for ways to express what was happening inside myself. For many, many years, I was a writer and built community around poetry and creative prose. I developed a horrible case of writer’s block after a very traumatic family crisis (addiction hit our family full force), and in my attempts to unblock myself, I discovered art journaling. There was something so satisfying about expressing myself *without words* and after taking every class I could get my hands on, it morphed into my primary mode of self-expression rather than merely a way to ‘unblock’. I was so excited about what I was learning, both about art journaling and myself that I *had to share*. It’s in my nature to grow communities around the things I’m passionate about. I’m a bit of an evangelist that way! So when I knew how effective art journaling was, how amazingly healing ART was, I reached out. I shared. And I’ve been lucky enough to see the growth and expansion of one of the kindest, most amazing tribes I
've ever been a part of!

TDG: I am blown away by  your approach to creating art journal pages  They are so much more than a "pretty page." How has the practice of keeping an art journal helped you on your personal journey?

EW: I am a survivor of severe childhood trauma. While writing was always a helpful way to come into awareness about what was ‘now’ and what was triggered past stuff, I didn't find it very helpful in terms of changing the patterns I was uncovering. Art feels magical to me in that the effort that goes into creating an art journal spread seems to set change in motion. It seems to communicate with a deeper, more powerful part of my ‘inner committee’ that can actual act on the wisdom I glean from my art practice. Where before I had years’ worth of morning pages (written journals) all complaining about the same patterns and behaviors, now I have art journals full of tangible proof of how much I’ve changed. Since I began art journaling, I've got from a sense of purposelessness to a sense of vocation. I've gone from a deep sense of loneliness to being surrounded by an incredible tribe. I’ve gone from accepting crappy treatment in relationships to standing up for myself and demanding respect (or walking away when it isn't forthcoming). I've gone from desperately wanting everyone to like me (which does remain an issue for me) to learning how to self-love rather than seek love outside of myself.

Art journaling seems alchemical to me. It seems to allow me to take the dross of every day and spin it into the gold of personal empowerment, meaningful work, self-awareness, and authenticity. It also keeps me so busy that there’s little time to spiral into depression, which has been a huge boon.

TDG: A profound lesson that you demonstrate is "showing up to the page" which is a technique you use in collaboration with your process of layering. Through the  process you teach of layering and listening to the self, I learned that while I might not know where I was going with a page when I started, an unfolding of my heart and soul happens as I participate in creating the work. You teach us how to "find ourselves" on the page. It almost feels like the layers of my page are like the outer layers of an onion and as I put the layers down, I get closer to what my heart and soul are aching to express. Can you speak to how this process works for you and why you find it so important to meet yourself in your work?

I refer to this process as ‘reverse excavation’. Even though you are building layers up on the page, it actually feels like a kind of archeological dig. As I layer, I am actually ‘digging in’ and going deeper, uncovering my own inner wisdom. Digging deeply into the stuff beneath whatever is going on with me is something I’ve learned to love to do even though it is often painful. I believe that you can’t heal what’s hidden. I believe that shadow stuff (Jungian) needs to be gently dug up and brought into the light before it can be effectively dealt with. In digging it up, layer after layer, I am bringing shadow into light. There’s another benefit to this – especially since I do a lot of this on camera for my classes – and that is that my shadow stuff gets *witnessed*. This witnessing shines a light on the shadowy places. It is an incredibly healing activity, even when healing isn’t my intention.

TDG: Another profound "take away" I have relearned from you is the art of the reframe. I was so in awe when I saw you work through your personal challenges and reframe situations. It is a life skill that is life changing. How would you describe a reframe and how did you develop this talent as a part of your personal practice and can you speak to how it impacts your art?

EW: The reframe is a process of turning something that feels like dead weight or negative ‘stink think’ – a belief or situation that is just full of yuck – and turning it around. I learned this from Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way” in which she advocates turning every negative thought we have or write our morning pages into affirmations. While I’m not a huge fan of affirmations as a healing tool because they feel a little too much like faking it, I do find it effective to find *what is true* in any given situation, and focusing on that. For example, if I’m working on my journal and a thought or image comes up that is just not helpful (like “This really sucks” or “I am so tired of being mistreated” or “I wish I could get a handle on my emotions”, I will work to reframe it so that I am working with a positive, helpful statement instead of a negative one. “This really sucks” might turn into “Challenges Grow Me In Strength” – which is absolutely true, right? And totally affirming. “I am so tired of being mistreated” might morph into “I am worthy of excellent treatment”. True! “I wish I could get a handle on my emotions” might seem like an okay goal to have, but it is actually kind of self-shaming. My emotions don’t need ‘handling’. They need respecting, so I might reframe that statement into “I let myself feel so I can heal…”

This is a skill I've demonstrated often in Book Of Days since I am a walking minefield of negative self-talk, but I have found my crappy old tape really winding down over the last few years, and I find I need the reframe less and less often. Helpful, positive thoughts come more often now than the negative, unhelpful ones and I attribute this change to my art practice.

TDG: One of the ways that you describe yourself is that you keep things "real." I have certainly found that true as you have allowed yourself to be vulnerable within your community by sharing what is going on with you. I find that this correlates beautifully with your method of creating an art journal page. On camera you have shown us what to do when a page goes through awkward stages or something just doesn't look quite like you want it to. I have found it extremely helpful to learn from your methods of recovering a page and from coming back from a personal challenge. How did you find the courage to be so human and real in your work?

EW: I grew up in a family for whom the appearance of things was far more important than the underlying reality. This was incredibly traumatic for me, since I was always highly sensitive to hypocrisy and injustice. Even at a very young age I was infuriated with the way ‘how it looked’ seemed to take precedence over how it really was. As a survivor of abuse, I was steeped in ‘don’t tell, don’t feel’ messages. When this messaging became truly toxic in my early twenties (I was in an abusive relationship), I began (slowly but surely) to break free. I began to use my voice, even though it was dangerous. I began to talk and tell and feel out loud. This was absolutely the only way I could begin to heal, and so I model that in my work and my life as best as I am able. Does it take courage? Yeah. It does. Being this vulnerable in a place as scary as the Internet can be, in a place where people feel free to be hypercritical and even mean and insulting is *terrifying*, but it is also incredibly gratifying to see the impact of my ‘real’ on others, so I can’t not do it. Courage is feeling the feel and doing it anyway, so yeah. I’ll claim courage as one of my super powers.

TDG: What do you find rewarding about your art practice and teaching? What is the compliment or feedback that has touched you the most?

EW: I work primarily with women, and while the financial rewards are certainly nice because they help me feel financially sovereign for the first time in my life, what really rocks my socks is watching women step into their own personal sovereignty. I get so many letters from women who see themselves in me and because I’ve been brave enough to reveal shadow stuff, THEY feel brave enough to reveal shadow stuff. Wounds heal. People change their very LIVES as a result. I get to facilitate that? ME? That’s crazy affirming and rewarding, and while I know THEY are doing their own work, I also know that I modeled the work they are doing. Sometimes all we need is permission. Sometimes permission comes in the form of witnessing someone else doing what we know we need to do for ourselves. It is a calling I am so grateful I answered. It is second only to parenting in terms of meaningful work. Watching women come into their own is the very best feedback I could ever ask for. Ever. And that women trust me with their shadow stuff (mostly in private letters and messages) is the greatest compliment I’ve ever received. Ever. Bar none. The trust placed in me by my tribe is better than any accolade I could ever imagine receiving.

TDG: I know the next session of BOD is open for registration, now. Can you tell us about BOD and what participants can expect in the program?

EW: Book Of Days is an 18 week immersion in the art of self-inquiry and memory keeping through mixed media art journaling. For the duration of the class, students get lots of instruction and art journaling demonstration designed to inspire them to fill up their own ‘Book Of Days’. Each week, I deliver three videos: A discussion video in which I muse on my process, supplies I used or discovered, techniques I am loving, a “Book Of Mirrors” video in which I demonstrate doing inner work in the journal, and a “Book Of Days” video in which I demonstrate memory keeping in the journal. The videos are meant to be watched for inspirational purposes, but the real meat is in the doing. To that end, I provide challenges, journal prompts, and constant, tender hand holding in our Facebook Group. The class also includes an additional four week Boot Camp in bookbinding, and art journaling 101. Boot Camp on it’s own has been called ‘worth the price of admission’, and I agree. It is jam packed with instruction that, once taken, will lead you to a healing, fulfilling intentional creativity practice. You can expect fun, deep digging, gorgeous spreads, new skills, confidence, sharing, sisterhood, and a lot of love & glitter.
TDG: Are there any other offerings that you would like to share with us?

EW: I’m teaching in Life Book 2013 this year, and my lesson on turning on your heart light goes live in August. ( I am also doing a HUGE GIVEAWAY for a seat in BOD2013 Session Two!  (Please see the video below.)

TDG: Thank you so much for sharing yourself and your work with us here today. I honor your impact in my life.

EW: Namaste, lovely Tammy! Thank you for your thoughtful questions!  

Effy has a GIVEAWAY and a sample of her class here.  

Please visit Effy using the following links: