The Collaboratory

In typical nomadic fashion, we met Ceri Jones Salahadyn through a series of events and people. She invited us to her Collaboratory in Mesa, AZ to learn the craft of welding, plasma cutting, as well as, hear her amazing story.

IMG_4970Exploring the science and process of welding was fascinating and for us “road schoolers” as it offered us a wonderful learning opportunity. We learned that¬†welding is the process of joining two or more metal parts by melting the pieces and adding filler material.¬† The filler is melted and pools between the other pieces.¬† The end result after the materials cool is a strong joint or weld. We learned how to Stick weld, which is when an electric current passes between the metal and an electrode (stick).¬† The electrode melts and combines with the metal to form the joint.

Our project was to make a candle holder. The real fun began once we welded the base to the stem and were ready to use the plasma torch to design our holders. In this process, a gas (oxygen, air, inert and others dependant on material) is blown at high-speed out of a nozzle; at the same time an electrical arc is formed through that gas from the nozzle to the surface being cut, turning some of that gas to plasma. The plasma is hot enough to melt the metal being cut and moves fast enough to blow molten metal away from the cut. We all made individual designs in the form of trees, faces, and shapes. We found that plasma cutting was much more difficult than welding and required a very steady hand.

Through out the course we were able to hear Ceri’s story, which was quite breathtaking.¬†A fabric & abstract artist in her own right, Ceri met her husband and fellow artist Khabir Salahadyn at the beginning of time, or so it felt. Her story intertwined the two dancing and weaving through time and space, doing what they love, creating, inspiring, inventing, and graciously sharing their knowledge and goodness to the world around them. In late march of 2012,¬†Khabir was diagnosed with severe liver cancer and the couple moved from Denver, CO to Mesa, AZ, seeking out healing options and community.¬†They¬†made the journey in¬†their¬†Working Art truck, a 22ft beautiful old Mack Daddy, fully loaded with all their Working Art, tools and equipment. They arrived to a¬†community of hope and healing and explored the realms of alternative and naturopathic possibilities. Each and every step of the way, they¬†received the very best care and treatment opportunities available for Khabir.

However, the time was coming when Khabir would pass from this world. So, with his last bit of breath and strength Khabir helped his wife set up the Collaboratory and transferred his vast legacy, teaching her everything she would need to know in order to continue on. He helped her create the space, encapsulating his presence, his freedom and abilities into the world around her.

When we met Ceri¬†it had only been one year since Khabir’s passing and you could still feel his steady hand present in the space. Ceri carries on with love and light. She is a¬†passionate learner, adventurer and visionary, who desires to empower people and cultures with¬†innovate new ways of communicating through the arts. Her hope is to bring Vision, Mission and Values into the lives of people, organizations and their communities.

We are so grateful for opportunities to meet and be inspired by others we connect with along the way. If you ever get to Mesa please stop into the Collaboratory, create something fantastic and say “Hi to Ceri” from us Hollands!

The Zone; One More Time Around

A2J Garden, 3 Blocks from The Zone.
A2J Garden, 3 Blocks from The Zone.

We’ve been rolling around this country for a few years now and Phoenix is one of our original stops. It’s a place that holds so much in terms of learning about faith and humility. Which I guess makes sense, seeing as it is the desert.

The first time we showed up Phoenix we had about $50 in our pocket, which we have found isn’t that unusual. But, two years ago when we were really just getting a taste of the nomadic life it was extremely worrisome. We still drift into the anxiety that comes when we are down to the last cent but we have always made it to the next stop and remembering that gives us faith.

That shift in¬†perspective came the first time we visited the Zone. I’ve written about the Zone before but for those who are new to our travels, it’s a place similar to Skid Row. It is a place where physical, mental and spiritual afflictions really stand out because there are no pretenses to hide behind. It is where the rawness of humanity is found and where we are confronted with the core of our being. It is in this type of environment that texts like the ones found in Matthew or Luke make so much sense to us.

“You‚Äôre blessed when you‚Äôve lost it all.¬†God‚Äôs kingdom is there for the finding.
You‚Äôre blessed when you‚Äôre ravenously hungry.¬†Then you‚Äôre ready for the Messianic meal.¬†You‚Äôre blessed when the tears flow freely.¬†Joy comes with the morning.”

And so, here we were a few visits later, down in the Zone with Dave, Amber and a few other from the A2J community. This time around there was a warm breeze and folks were in relatively good spirits. In fact, if you didn’t know the harsh¬†reality of where we were you might think we were at an outdoor music festival. We gathered in a circle and played all sorts of old timey tunes, hymns and later a fella named Nick showed up and lead us all in a few Motown songs. I met a homeless woman named “Little Mar” who was about my age. She was clearly mentally ill, professing to be the Princess of Persia, as well as, one of the best crime stoppers on Americas Most Wanted. She had a strength about her, and although she was skittish, she had a generous in spirit.

"Little Mar" is sitting in the blue tank and hat, to my right.
“Little Mar” is sitting in the blue tank to my right.

As we sang “Tis So Sweet,” I began to watch her more closely. I tried to imagine what her childhood was like, did she have children, how did she get here, what did she do if she had to use the bathroom, what about when she was thirsty? I didn’t find any answers but I was in¬†awe of her resilience and stamina to face the elements and oppression of a world that was whizzing around her at a frantic pace.

IMG_7397The added bonus was having so many other kinfolk there with us, sharing in song, listening, being present and bringing peace to a people who are constantly living in survival mode. The healing nature of the arts and music provided the space for creativity, unity and understanding.

We believe it is important to care for the widow, orphan and poor, but have learned that doesn’t always mean meeting physical needs. Sometimes, we need to go deeper and offer something of our selves. When we go to the Zone it isn’t because we feel superior or desire a pat on the back for serving the homeless. We go to the Zone to find ourselves, to look in the mirror and see that we are all made of the same mud. We go to the Zone to bring and receive healing.

And so, when that spirit of anxiety or striving tries to steal our joy we remember. We remember that day we sat and sang and shared in community with the Princess of Persia and her court.

Remembering Holland Haus Gallery Night

While we don’t miss the snow and cold, we are missing our homeland of Wisconsin lately. Mostly the people with whom we developed close community.

We moved to Green Bay, WI fall of 2006 and lived there until 2011. We picked a lovely old Victorian home in Astor Park, the historical district of this sports crazy town. It was an awesome neighborhood to live in, as the neighbors were quite happy to participate in community, sharing resources, shoveling each others path, advice about gardening and sharing an occasional meal.

Holland HouseThe Hollands Haus was the perfect place for us share our gift of hospitality and creativity. The old Victorian had two levels and the downstairs held 5 separate spaces, including the  country kitchen. We held all sorts of gatherings in our home from musical jams, dinner parties, Settlers of Caatan nights, house concerts, spiritual gatherings, and our beloved Holland Haus Gallery Night.

Winters are long in Green Bay, WI, lasting sometimes until May and once football season is done, most folks start to go stir crazy. So it made since that Gallery Night was always in February, for one saturday night only, we would host 12-15 visual artists and a handful of singer/songwriters in our home. We would strip all of our artwork off of the walls throughout the whole downstairs and move most of the furniture to the back attic room. Each artist would drop off 3-7 pieces the night before the event and Craig and I would put the puzzle together. We’d arrange the pieces to not only to complement each other but also, thinking about the artist in each room and how they might interact with one another. Our hope was to build community, and so it was most important to us that the artists that participated or came, had an opportunity to continue relationship if they wanted.

The hanging process really suited us, with Craig being more on the logical side and me being ascetically sensitive, we complement each other well. The next morning, Craig and the kids would clean the house and set up the sound system for the musicians. Meanwhile, I along with a few girlfriends, would make food creations. Cheesecake was the highlight of the night (as the Galley night also doubled as my birthday) The house would buzz with energy and excitement as we waited for the guests to arrive at 7pm. They were always on time!

The first year we budgeted the event into our giving fund, paying for all of the food and wine but with 65 guests, it was to expensive continue. And, so our second year we asked for a $5 suggested donation. It was our lowest attended year, at 42. So our third and fourth years, we decided to ask guests to bring a bottle of wine/beer or a hunk of gourmet cheese. You have to specify the cheese in Wisconsin or you might end up with five pounds of cheese curds. None the less, that seemed to be the ticket, as the next two gallery nights would each host over 150 guests. All up, we hosted four in five years, taking a break after the third year, with our final year being the most epic.  

Natalie Vann ArtHow did we meet the artists you ask? Well, it started with one, Natalie Vann. I met Natalie on Myspace of all places. That was back when you could search zip codes and add criteria and then folks that fit that description came up. It was six months before we moved to Green Bay, and I was looking for friends, specially friends in the arts. Natalie was kind and welcomed me to Green Bay before I arrived. She introduced me to a few other artists as well. At the same time, we were apart of a spiritual small group and a few in our group were artist. Through conversations at those gatherings the idea to create an opportunity for artists both established and up and coming to show their work in a non-threating environment with no fees was birthed. The added bonus was inviting artists from all walks of like to commune, share resources and bring their extended communities together.

There is really nothing more exciting than seeing different world views, ideologies, income levels, ethnicities and creative styles come together in unity. That was what Gallery Night was for us. We were just the bridge. Our hope is that folks in the Green Bay area are continuing to see the value in creating and connecting with each other. I hope that we inspired those we met to be more hospitable. To reach out to those who are ‚Äúvisitors‚ÄĚ and bring them into the fold.

We are grateful for our time there and although the bus offers a whole new way of community and connecting we will always remember Gallery Nights with such fondness. And, when we are feeling alone and uninspired we just look upon our walls, at the few pieces of work that we were gifted or purchased by some of our favorite Gallery Night artists and we remember.

Sentrock

SentrockJoseph “Sentrock” Perez is from “Bird City” a.k.a Phoenix, AZ. His family of origin came from Central America before Arizona was ever a state. Sentrock grew up on the west side of Phoenix and much of that culture has played into his current artistic perspective. He¬†began by working solely with graffiti, but is evolving into a world-class muralist and gallery artist. He now lives in Chicago, IL and is studying art and design at Columbia College. ¬† ¬†¬†

This past weekend we had the opportunity to meet and experience his work. He laid down a fantastic mural behind the Geer home in the North Lawndale neighborhood, South Chicago. The theme was “From struggle comes strength” which was an inspiring message to a neighborhood that has seen much struggle. His offering was personal, vibrant, and we were taken with his humble spirit.

Typically we humans tend to clump into scenes, cliques and hang with people who have similar backgrounds or preferences in life. That isn’t a bad thing but it does limit the creative possibilities. To me there is something exciting about the union of differing cultural, creative and philosophical ideals! So, when we heard about Sentrock we were eager to meet him, hear his story and share ours. My hope was that there would be a connection and an opportunity for our creativeness to collide. My hope was that just as we were inspired by Sentrock, that he would be inspired by our family and desire to share his talents by painting a mural on our bus.

Sentrock and The Hollands! We put it out there. Sentrock responded graciously and with enthusiasm that he would be keen to paint a mural on our bus. He came by to visit our space, took home our CD and is using all of it to source inspiration for the design.

We will continue a relationship with our new friend and are excited to see what inspiration comes from the urban, folky connection.

Stay tuned for what may come as we wait with anticipation for the creativity to flow.

100 Acre Woods

One Memorial day we spent a lovely afternoon with the Roberson family, exploring the 100 Acre woods. A fantastic place to picnic and hike, the 100 Acre Woods is free to visitors. It is part of the Indianapolis Museum of Art and is one of the largest museum art parks in the country. 100 Acres is open daily from dawn until dusk.  For more information visit www.imamuseum.org

The Process of Communal Creativity

We met Joel Pritchard on a warm Sunday evening in Feb, 2012. Actually it was my birthday, but after hitting forty, I had lost the appetite for big celebrations. We were performing that evening in the court-yard of a big suburban church in Phoenix, AZ and Joel was there because he was the young, hip art director at the church and friends with the opening band. After the show, we went back to the bus, which was parked in the lot adjacent to the court-yard, and planned on heading to bed. As we were winding down, a knock came to our door and Joel and a friend asked Craig if he wanted to go out for a drink. Always up for a party, Craig said, “sure.” I was a little miffed because it was my birthday, but honestly, I was tired and happy to have some alone time. They left, the kids went to bed and I relaxed with my glass of red wine and a book. I was lulling to sleep when the phone rang. It was Craig. He asked if I was still up. I said, yes, but just about to sleep. Inconspicuously, he asked me to stay up. I questioned but said, OK.

IMG_2971About 15 minutes later the fella’s arrived at the bus with gas station ice cream bars and big smiles on their faces. “Happy Birthday!” they exclaimed. I started to giggle and blush at their spontaneity and thoughtfulness. We ended up staying up sharing life for another two hours.

We kept in touch with Joel over the course of the year. When we visited again this January, Joel asked if we would lead a workshop at an art event he was hosting. We were delighted to be included. We had just finished laying down the base tracks for our CD and beginning to work on ideas for the CD artwork. I had a concept but am no visual artist. We had been keeping an eye out for an artist to partner with and Joel came on our radar after we saw his work at the art event. We were really inspired by it and by him. He was prayerful, had technical knowledge and most importantly he was a friend. So we asked if he would be willing to work on our project. He said, yes. We didn’t have any audio files to send him yet but he was happy to work off of the premise of the album and the lyrics. It was exciting waiting to see what inspiration he would have from our thoughtful words.

565618_590049887672574_1743006125_nHis first draft of an idea arrived and I have to admit, it wasn’t exactly the direction I was anticipating but I did like certain aspects. I shared my feelings gently and He assured us it was only a starting point and that he was going to spend more time contemplating ideas. I trusted him.

579102_591322334211996_892571188_nFast forward, we were three days before the artwork had to go to print and Joel sent me a sketch that diverted from his original work and mentioned a caricature drawing of our family riding a turtle. Parts of the sketch resonated with me,  I let Joel know I really liked the eye with the house but was struggling to find connection with the rest. And, the turtle idea was a bit cheesy sounding but I was happy to take a look. Over all, I was feeling a little panicked and unsure of how the piece was going to come together. However, I  continued to wait, pray and trust.

Meanwhile, we were parked in Lafayette, LA with the Campbell’s aka the”gift givers.” We were connected with them through our friend Chaz, who is mentored by them while attending school in Lafayette. Their home was buzzing with students coming and going during the three days that we neighbored with them. It was life-giving to be around so many young minds, all longing to grow and express themselves as spiritual beings.

20130421-200242.jpgAt one point, Kari Campbell spontaneously pulled out a few art supplies and five or six hands began to craft a piece of artwork. Chaz, a gifted artist, took the piece and added the final touches to create a colorfully, dynamic hot air balloon.

At first glance I knew it was meant to be included in the CD artwork. However, I hadn’t heard from Joel and didn’t want to undermine the hard work that he was doing. So, I called him just to see how he was coming along and he responded that he was really stumped and hadn’t been able to move forward. I told him about the inspired piece and asked if it was possible to include it or at least the concept in the CD artwork? He was keen to give it a go.

Thirty two hours later Joel sent me the draft for the final product. It was perfect! Everything about it was amazingly perfect.

Hollands_Over-Lands-&-Leas 908285_592422774101952_546274192_n

We have the original balloon piece displayed in our bus as well as the most thought-provoking artwork on our CD, including the turtle drawing which we have fallen in love with, and a phenomenal sound track that encompasses everything our family has encountered on this journey. Whatever may come, Over Land and Leas will be a treasure that will be passed down from generation to generation. It is a deep refection of community and connection, beauty and trust. It is a gift to have met so many precious souls along our way. It is a gift to have had the opportunity to create in community. It is a gift.

Phoenix Arts and Community

20130203-172550.jpgPhoenix hasn’t also been know for the arts but over the past few years the downtown district has done so much to encourage the arts. There is still work to be done, specially in The Zone, which we discovered last time around. However, we meet a community that sites just a few blocks from the desolate streets and offers a constant peaceful and creative presence. We meet Ryan Thurman through our gracious host family, The Skeens and visited his A2J community one afternoon. We were inspired by the communities commitment to their community and to each other. We heard stories of struggles and redemption in the neighborhood. One story included a woman who had been homeless for a time and found her way off of the streets into the A2J community and know offers her gift of hospitality behind the prayer house. We heard about the longing for more families to move into the neighborhood, for a deeper connection with the greater body. We immediately thought of our friends in Oakland at New Hope and our friends, in Omaha at InCommon and began to tell their story. There is something encouraging knowing that there is a global/local community out there. We’ll be thinking about them as we make our way, and encouraging folks to consider hanging with these kinfolk for a while.

We were also able to connect with a number of aspiring and professional visual artists at the Artistree Arts Conference which we offered our Songwriting Workshop, our Swimming Upstream Workshop and a performance. Our kids were able to take advantage of the sketching, journaling and graphic arts workshops offered by other practitioners. ¬†Joel Pritchard spearheaded the event. We met Joel through Steve, with Hope thru Art and are excited to announce that Joel will be doing all of the art and design on our upcoming album. We’ll keep you posted on his work.

While at Artistree we meet John and Elli Milan, world renowned oil painters. And are especially unique in that the¬†Milans create their paintings together.¬†Although John¬†and Elli are both accomplished artists on their own, their collaborations bring out a side of¬†their work that neither could reach by themselves.¬† The couple says that the Spirit of God inspires their work and allows them to create together and maintain a uniÔ¨Āed vision.¬† The end result is aggressive and spontaneous layers of paint which create a bright and playful scenario that is interwoven with hints of narrative. ¬†We were invited out to the Milan farm and studio in Queen Creek, AZ for lunch and had an encouraging visit, learning about their faith journey finding their purpose in creating together. We even saw the beginnings of a painting that was inspired by our album, Ashes to Beauty. We meet two of their four children, who are quite the artists in their own rite. We enjoyed the horses, chickens, dogs and cats. It was energizing to meet a family committed to one another and to creating together.