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Featured Artist : Billie Ruth Hopkins Furuichi
Artist Bio / Statement
My work is a metaphor for the diverse fabric of my life, with overlaying design, color, texture and text.
When I first learned silk painting, Dharma Trading Company used to have Deka Silk Paints, which gave me
really vibrant colors that never faded. Since that brand went off the market, Dharma recommended that I
use Jaquard silk colors. The green label has worked very well for me, but with just a little bit more work and
steaming, I use the red label, and I now get those same vibrant colors I used to get with Deka. So for anyone who is
willing to do the steaming process, I would recommend the Jaquard Red Label silk dyes.
Two years ago, I published a book on silk paintings, digital collages, haiku, and commentary, entitled Illuminating the Mundane: Transformational Silk Art and Haiku. It is available through River Sanctuary Publishing Company in Felton, California.
Many of my fabrics hang with the edges exposing raw fibers, as banners, rather than framing them.
However, I love the effect of framing a silk painting, stretched around cotton padding, affixed to a matte, then
framed behind glass, such as the green one with Kanji lettering, called Kaiho Iki (Release, Relax). That
particular silk painting was done on Dupioni silk, which has little ridges and bumps in the weave. It makes for
an interesting texture, even if it does allow the colors to seep out from behind the resist somewhat.
When I make create digital copies of close-ups, I can then print a digital collage on paper, and tear the edges
to evoke that same unfinished design. Whether working as an artist, teacher, dancer, musician, poet, or
workshop facilitator, I use movement meditation as an interdisciplinary techniques before I start painting.
It allows the artist’s soul to wake up and become aware of the painting process, such that your entire body
becomes extended by the breath, the resist bottle, the brush and the paints. The first workshop I developed
in 1984 was Take The Big RISC (Relaxed In Control Successful Centered). It was a stress reduction program
designed for restaurant workers on Maui. During that time, I learned traditional silk painting from Aunt Ruth,
but I'm just not a "stay inside the lines" kind of artist, so an ethereal style emerged. The next workshop, Take
the Big LEAP (Life Esteem in Action and Power), was geared for teens. In the 1980s when I lived in Maui, I
was taking groups of teens to Russia. Once we painted a huge mural of Peace and Aloha for the Russian kids.
From those experiences, my work took on a spiritual flow, and I began to write haiku on some pieces. I use
haiku and dream journaling activities when working with students. It’s a powerful way to go deep where all of
our best creative creatures lurk.
When Aunt Ruth Puchek first taught me how to paint silk scarves, we would sell them at big
hotels for $80 each so right away I thought I had a career. Making a living on my artistic talents has been
more difficult than I imagined in those days, so I have always depended on teaching as a more dependable
source of income. That being said, if I don’t express myself creatively through music, dance, writing, or silk
painting -- if I don’t teach others how to discover and release their own deepest creative creatures – If I hide
my own light under a bushel, I will surely die. When I put on my meditation music, moving freely through the
first minute or two just being who I am, allowing the breath of my movements to rush through my muscles and
into my fingertips, squeezing right through the bottle of resist and onto a silky white expanse of nothingness, a
gestalt process takes over. Swirling design lines become whatever they must become and sometimes they
are recognizable as flowers or trees or people, or falling stars through billowing clouds upon a sea foam of surf
in the sunset – or not. I truly have no idea, most of the time, what the image is about to express, but the truth of what
emerges is always an authentic monument that documents the experience, and I always remember when and
where and with what emotion and accompaniment each piece was made. Each piece is a monument of the
process – a healing icon – expressing who I was at that time.
When the resist dries, I do the same thing with the paints: put on the music, move freely for at least
two minutes to internalize the process, and validate myself as a mere vehicle – an extension of the brush –
validating whatever seeks expression at the time, then swooshing paints across resist lines, mixing colors as I go,
and even squealing with glee at that starburst effect from an impulsive toss of salt on wet paints.
Back in 1996, I painted seven 36” x 60” silk banners to represent a spiritual vision of what I called The
Transformation Wheel with seven spokes – each banner carried a haiku and the word from a chant – Release,
Relax, Flow, Connect, Love, Let-Go. When finished, I hung all of them from a crab trap like a huge wind-sock, and
wrote a curriculum to facilitate my movement meditation and silk painting techniques. The workshops were
called Breathing Through Walls, and The Transformation Wheel™, was actually a heuristic cognitive/affective
device to guide students through the depths of their souls where they could discover, unleash, and release
their own inner healing icons.
During my current workshop, Beating Back Darkness, Anchoring Light, I encourage students to find
their own voice through the integration of movement, meditation, and journaling; to dispel harmful myths, face
those deep demons, discover the inner icons of healing and transformation, and bring it all back into the light
of day. Their pieces become monuments to a personal heroic journey – a journey we all take as we beat back
darkness and anchor light.
Whether facilitating a workshop, mentoring a student, mediating a dispute, listening to someone’s pain,
or designing a piece of art to wear, my life and my work come face to face with my higher consciousness
and a creative approach to our changing societal paradigm insisting that it is time to step up in this evolving
humanity. The times, they are a'changing, whether we like it or not. Especially now, it is incumbent upon me
to seek out, find, and embrace opportunities to hang ten off the paradigm edge, release my highest creative
creatures, be poised to fly on the outside of the envelope, and help us all to move gracefully into the future.
Blessings and Light,
Billie Ruth Hopkins Furuichi
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