Letters to the Dead workshop
RiverWinds Gallery at 172 Main Street, Beacon NY is presenting a two-hour workshop, Letters to the Dead: Beyond Words, led by Jennie Chien, Saturday, September 26 and another one October 24,
10 am – noon, at RiverWinds. This workshop gives an overview of the project, guidance in writing, and supplies materials, offering participants the opportunity to send a letter to someone who has passed away.
“The letters to departed ones will be collected, shredded and cast into paper Spirit Houses,” explains Chien, “which will be the vessels that hold your words.” On November 1, the shreds of their original letter will be used in a raku firing of a clay Spirit House. The burning paper infuses the clay spirit house with the spirit of their written words. Participants will receive both a paper cast and a raku fired Spirit House.
“Grieving is a primal emotion that can be uncontrollable. The physical act of writing to someone who has died engages the higher process of the brain and memory, which helps to control the grief. It doesn’t eliminate the grief, but having processed it, the grief becomes a part of you rather than controlling you,” Chien says. “My father died 25 years ago and I could never talk about him without tears in my eyes. After sending him a letter and infusing the words in a spirit house, I felt more at peace with his memory.”
The paper houses will be burned to release the words to their intended recipients, in a ceremonial raku firing at the Rockland Center for the Arts in West Nyack, NY on November 1, 2015. The firing is both cathartic andtransformative. Theshreddingsfromtheburntlettersinthefiringinfusestheclaywiththespiritofthe written words. The cast paper and raku Sprit Houses will be displayed in March 2016 at the Nyack Library, after which they will be given to the letter writers.
The workshop is a preview of Chien’s Featured Artist show, The Spirit House: Beyond Words, at RiverWinds Oct 10 – Nov 9, 2015.