Tag Archives: mandala

Following a trail…

Looking for words to describe the stitches that follow color and shape and pattern…layers upon layers that started out as a something that was photographed, losing its way within a photoshop process that I cannot exactly describe. When I am doing it, I am just in it.

Several years ago, I happened on a “spirit cloth” blog by Jude Hill, that captured me for a week as I read the full seven years of entries. I read about process and stitching and bit and pieces of personal life and a cat named Soul-O. Now I read her every day. I’ve found myself reminded of a younger me who liked to embroider and sew.

I remembered an older woman (to young me when I knew her) many decades ago named Fern. She was sister to my dear friend, Gene Gray, who taught me photography for a brief two years before his death in 1978. I visited Fern from time to time. She often showed me what she had just made, using only hand-stitching, no machine — pillows, curtains, covers for her car seats, placemats, napkins. Oh, I wish had photographed all those so long ago, to help my memory of them now (that I am approaching quickly the age Fern was then.)

What I remember from my younger self is the longing to slow down and sew like Fern. It took me almost forty years to come back to this slowing down.

I am now sewing again with awkward stitches and no viable business plan for art marketing of embroidered mandalas. It’s taking so much slow time just to do it.

This mandala was accidentally printed too large to go on an apron bib as originally planned. Now it’s hugging a store-bought pillow (haven’t slowed down that much to make the pillow by hand) made by someone in India working for a pittance.

The mandala puckered with the stitching on to a thin layer of cotton batting. The “feel” of it becomes my favorite layer, a digital mandala for touching.

• the finished mandala attached to the pillow center…
with large boro-stitching beginning from the pillow seams

• the puckering reminds me of trapunto…stitching from the center out, with a ring of french knots like persons sitting in lotus poses with wavy purple stitches cross-legged

• following the pattern of the original cracking of paint on an old propane tank using pale green thread…many, many years ago I visited the huge studio and artists’ gallery space of Chris Sorenson in Fresno. He had piles of old propane tanks outside the front entrance. I took many photos of peeling paint on the tanks. These photos seem to find their way into a layers in almost all of my mandalas. As I stitched the lines of the paint, I remembered those tanks, now long gone as art works in their own right.

• the hem of the mandala looks like a bleeding of the boro stiches, reminding me of turtles reaching the shoreline

Mandala: “Hello” digital collage © Elsah Cort

Marking time…

For the first time, a calendar made of mandalas shows up….

calendar © Elsah Cort

Made from twelve digital mandalas, the calendar measures 8.5 inches square. I love that I found greenerprinter.com to print the calendars, using soy-based inks and 100% post consumer waste recycled paper (called Reincarnation).

Here is the back page that shows you the twelve mandalas:

Calendar © Elsah Cort
See them at Le (très) Petit Noël on December 3-4, from 10 – 5 pm.
Held at my studio in Three Rivers and featuring other artists.

Call me at 559-561-4671 if you want to make a phone order.

$15 each, plus 8% sales tax. $3 for shipping.

Order calendars online here and I will mail them to you.

New Year Mandalas

Almost every January I make one mandala a day for the first twelve days of the year. The mandalas become a prophetic and inspirational image for each the twelve months to come. Digital mandalas showed up again for the second year in a row. Using the photograph of an acrylic mandala on canvas (that hangs in my living room) in a layer or two, I made these mandalas below using photoshop.

They are for sale in limited editions of twelve as digital prints.

The Heart Knows © Elsah Cort  "Landslide" digital collage © Elsah Cort  "One Layer of Reality" digital collage © Elsah Cort  "Love Returns" digital collage © Elsah Cort
"Soul Compass" digital collage © Elsah Cort  "Guardian" digital collage © Elsah Cort  "Mind Field" © Elsah Cort  "Listening" digital collage © Elsah Cort
"I See You" digital collage © Elsah Cort
  "Lucid Dream" digital collage © Elsah Cort  "The Movement of Now" digital collage © Elsah Cort  "The Bliss Trail" digital collage © Elsah Cort

All images © Elsah Cort
All rights reserved

How Flowers Changed the World

Spring is here again in the Sierra Foothills, and cannot be suppressed even by a sudden drop in temperature and snow dusting the hills for a few early morning hours yesterday. I long for Spring during all the other seasons, and as it bursts forth, I succumb to a huge “weed” burden on my foot paths and meadow edges around my house.

Weeds are just notions in our minds, after all, and I do hate to pluck to death those brave plants who want to live where I want to walk. Start anywhere, I tell myself, compost the weeds, invite them to be reborn into wildflowers.  I transplant the non-weeds—the poppies, the purple alyssum, the love-in-the-mist, the bush lupine seedlings, the rose campion (all derived by original plants and seeds given to me by Marion Gray in the late 1970’s), the sacred native white sage and the black sage, the mountain mahogany (I have four of these sprouted near my front door right now), tons of Spanish lavender, and purple violets, which have popped up in the path instead of the garden beds.

And when the weeding becomes just too much to bear, there is always photographing blossoms for future art works, and pressing flowers and leaves in old phone books for flower mandalas or swirled in handmade paper pulp.

Or, I  just sit, doing absolutely nothing, except sniffing the air for the first waft of the intoxicating scent of the ceonothus, wild native lilac (already one lilac bush is in bloom with its tiny white blossoms) at the meadow’s edge.

“Flowers changed the face of the planet. Without them, the world we know—even man himself—would never have existed. Francis Thompson, the English poet, once wrote that one could not pluck a flower without troubling a star. Intuitively he had sensed like a naturalist the enormous interlinked complexity of life. Today we know that the appearance of the flowers contained also the equally mystifying emergence of man.” from the essay by Loren Eiseley called “How Flowers Changed the World”.

photo by Elsah Cort


Finally, I am diving deeper into photoshop. I took a fun drive up Dry Creek Road yesterday for a wonderful tutorial with Badger artist, Robert Mertens. He kept saying, “I’ll show you a little more magic.” Taking notes and inwardly telling my brain synapses to remember…get it…don’t panic, I learned a few things in the photoshop realm. What an incredible (and overwhelming) software it is, just as we humans are. We have creative magic in us, intricate tools, untapped and invisible most of the time. We miss this immense beauty when we don’t give ourselves time to dive in and play.

“Be Crumbled” digital collage © Elsah Cort
[first attempt…it’s all process]

PS.  I used Indesign to make the final image.

Mandala as Living Organism


A microscopic photograph of a marine diatom alga
Actinoptychus heliopelta

made by Dr. Stephen Nagy of Helena, Montana

“Diatoms are microscopic, unicellular organisms that occur abundantly in marine and freshwater plankton. They form a major part of the food chain. The body is composed of two halves, which fit together like a tiny pill box. The cell walls contain silica, which is preserved in deposits known as siliceous or diatomaceous earths (ooze). Once hardened into rock it is called diatomite. The high porosity of this rock enables it to be used for filters, fillers and as a mild abrasive.” source

from the Encyclopedia of Life


Read more about these living mandalas.

Thank you to @lilalabs and @bcultral who tweeted this morning about these images: Microscope Photography http://ff.im/-7dzgo
(very strange and beautiful images)

Mandala that tweets


Tweet Wheel

Life is a circle that spirals.
Often we re-visit issues thought to be over.
They come around in new form if we need a message.

this morning’s Burnout Blip from @thedeeperwell

About the Tweet Wheel from mashable.com “Unfortunately, TweetWheel no longer exists (its domain, tweetwheel.com is now just a parked domain with a bunch of ads). However, it was one of the most beautiful Twitter visualizations out there, and Twitter app directory Twitdom still has an image of the tool in action.”

reinventing the wheel…


There are artists, and then there are Artists.  The distinction seems to come from how much money someone forks over for something made by your hand or executed by others, directed by your conceptual mind.  Or, it just comes from your announcement to the world: I am an Artist!

Do you even have to make art to be an artist?

Artist Bruce Nauman, talking about art-making, described it this way: “I was trying to find out what art is and what artists do, and such a lot of that, for me, seemed to involve watching and waiting to see what would happen.  When I am desperate enough just to do anything, even if it seems completely stupid, it’s such a relief.  My dad once said, ‘You don’t have to reinvent the wheel every day,’ but I think you do.  Maybe not every day, but pretty often.” (interview with Calvin Tomkins, The New Yorker, June 1, 2009)

Reinventing the wheel is the crux of the modern artist. Can we make art that is never-before-seen?

Does it matter? And who will notice that we have done it? What about this wheel anyway? Does it need reinventing?

My art-making is curious to me.  I can’t tell when I am actually making it.  Sometimes it only shows up in my mind.  A thought gallery that could be seen, heard, noticed (and sold) could be an invention to create. Always helps to be in The New Yorker, too.

living room wall:  my untitled mandala, hanging baubles

Mandate for an artist…

The story of the art, its biography or “provenance” or evolution into form, is what brings meaning to the work.  Not that art has to have a stated meaning, but what is it showing up for anyway?  As actively creative persons (all of us are creative in our nature) artists have a special responsibility when our art is presented to the world or even hung on the walls of our homes.  People may notice it and wonder about it.

So, this mandala has hung in the same place on the wall at the foot of my spreading stairs for at least ten years.  I pass by it numerous times in the day.  I have not looked at it closely in a long, long time.  And, the other day, I had bed and breakfast guests, curious about what they saw in my studio and home, and one woman stood in front of this mandala asking:  is that made from real flowers?

She wanted to know the story.  And, I realized, so did I.

flowermandala flowermandaleframed

I don’t even remember when I actually made this, but it was at least over 20 years ago.  All flowers were gathered from around my house and pressed in telephone books.  The center, or bindu point, is small purple bicolor lupine which grow very close to the ground.  The stems, dividing the mandala into quadrants, are from the local endemic poppy.  30 years ago I learned to call this wildflower by the name of frying pan poppy, because its pale yellow petals are splayed out rather flat from its center, just they are in the mandala itself.  The inner circular ring is made from fringepod or lacepod seeds.  A splash of watercolor hues are in the base.

The story of the art is my love for these plants which show up year after year without planting or seeding by human hand.  And these flowers used to be all over this town, but are disappearing rapidly as people move here and make their new homes and yards in the foothills look like their old homes in the cities with green lawns and oleanders and plants they don’t call weeds, like the local plants are called now.

This mandala is the story of grief.  Grief that can only come with the knowing of beauty.  No way to avoid this if you are living a human life that sees wildflowers growing on their own, especially on the hill that plows into your kitchen window.

Mandate for the artist:  live the life….make the art….share the story….and let others know they can do it too.