The Nature of Making Art

I have kept journals–diaries–on and off for the past 40 or more years. In the 1990s and early 00s, I hand wrote a huge amount in dozens and dozens of lined notebooks–mostly recording my dreams and feelings but also world events and my activities. I’ve been working on a big project, going through my journals from those years and massively editing them. By that I mean, I’ve been tearing out and shredding large portions of them while noting what I was going through at the time. Now, this may seem ghastly to some people, but it is extremely liberating to me. I am creating more room for myself at my current age, while remembering, but not holding onto, what my younger self experienced.

In the course of editing a journal this week, I saw an entry I wanted to record here. I wrote it in April of 1991 after attending an excellent painting workshop with the artist and teacher Sam Feinstein. I have always remembered the powerful nature of that workshop, but had forgotten his teachings about the nature of making art. This was my understanding of what he told us, as I wrote it in 1991:

About art making–you needn’t even believe in your creativity–do it as a way of expressing the life form that is particular to you, that is of nature and larger than you, that goes through you.  As a way of being authentic. Dreams and art are of the unconscious life force, bigger than us. Dreams are fleeting, art remains. Once a piece of art work is done, it is its own thing. It never was yours anyway. As its own thing, it is judged on its merits, apart from you.

Art is the spirit made visible through human beings reaching out from themselves, beyond themselves. Art is beyond our own feelings as we create.

Words to make art by!


The gouache painting above is one I made in the 1990s. I did it like a form of free association, attempting to allow whatever came to consciousness to find its way onto the page without censoring it.

All in One Piece

This past Sunday I attended an excellent wet felting workshop in Toronto taught by Monika Aebischer.  You can see her beautiful work and teaching schedule at I had gotten ill for the originally scheduled workshop, so I joined other participants who were learning nuno felting in which they combined silk and felt to create gorgeous scarves. I worked on a handbag with an inside pocket made with the resist technique.  That’s a technique where you make felt by enclosing a pattern with wool roving and felting around it.  The pattern is removed at the end and presto, you have a seamless felt piece.  It’s something I had tried to learn from books, to no avail.  I took the nearly completed bag home and have worked on it since, shrinking the fibre further and cutting out the handles.  I’m very happy with the results and intend to try more resist felting since the method opens up many possibilities.  Here’s some photos of the finished piece.  An added bonus is that the purse can be turned inside out. 

The outside of the completed purse, made with merino wool.  By Lily S. May, 2015
The outside of the completed purse, made with merino wool. By Lily S. May, 2015
Another view of the purse. Lily S. May, 2015
Another view of the purse. Lily S. May, 2015
Here’s the purse turned inside out, showing the colourful pocket. Lily S. May, 2015