The Silence After

Talk to me.

I’ve just sent my work into the world.

On Saturday night, I opened my first solo art show entitled If the Ground Moves: Villanelles in Mixed Media.

In the morning, we filled the room with poetry and paintings, installing my work into the space. In the evening, the room filled and flowed until no seats were left and friends had to stand. There was conversation. There was music. There were my paintings looking out at everyone, singing their own song. And then there was me at the microphone, reading precious words to those who had gathered.

For right now, after so many words and brushstrokes – it seems I can’t say much. I am ridiculously happy with how it’s all come together, but I cannot pull a clear thought together about how I feel, where I stand, or what in the world is going on in my head.

In the meantime, my poetry and my paintings will hopefully keep talking for me. They are still up at Scarsdale on Shaw Boulevard until February 1st.

If you were one of the friends present at the show, talk to me.

Talk back.

 

But seriously, call me, send me a message, drop me a line at nathania.aritao@gmail.com or visit my new page here.

Give me violent reactions. Send me drawings. Make up diagrams. Talk back!

mic

 

(More photos from the show soon..)

 

Speak soon,

T

 

 

 

 

 

An Exercise in Vulnerability

I swing back and forth. Mostly I am tickled with delight or excitedly nervous, but between this and that thought, I freeze momentarily in terror.

I am putting up my first solo show of poetry and paintings.

This is a dream come true. And hopefully the first show of a lifetime of sharing art.

It is also an exercise in vulnerability. My paintings and drawings will be on the walls, as will my words, carefully pieced together. On the opening night, I will pick up a mic and read to whoever has gathered.

final-poster-smaller

 

Last year I vowed I would make more time for my art – between the adventures of running operations for a social business, teaching classes at the barre and telling stories to Filipino children affected by the destructive typhoons.

While traveling in September, after a caffeinated wave of inspiration, I decided I would go for it.

This is me going for it.

Friends tell me I am brave for doing this. And though that strengthens my heart, it is also when I hear those words that I remember to be scared.

Walk with me through my 2014.

Thank you for all your ridiculousness, your storms, your breakthroughs. One last look, but actually, 2014, I’m quite over you.

20150101-143139.jpg

I made new friends.
I traveled to see people. I traveled with Buhay Makulay. I traveled alone.
I stood in front of thousands of little children, from the poorest communities I know, trying my best to shape life into the word hope by telling stories and painting murals.
I was welcomed into the makeshift houses of families that lost theirs.
I saw the impact of history’s strongest storm and the brokenness, amidst powerful healing, that persisted months after.
I was reminded of God’s faithfulness.
I was left in awe of people living with less wanting. People living with less.
I turned 25.
I met heartbreak. The dream shattering, paradigm shifting, inky, moonless kind of heartbreak.
I paid a lot of bills.
I sold back my first car to my brother after an expensive year of maintaining it, and bought a smaller, more fuel-efficient new one in the same color.
I still didn’t gather enough courage to drive.
I went on adventures. I wandered.
I met healing. The joy mending, light pouring into your dusky musty cave, dewy, liberating kind of healing.
I picked up my pen again and wrote poetry.
I moved out of my family’s house and got my own place.
I received visitors. Friends with noise and laughter.
I learned how to teach four more classes at PlanaForma.
I was challenged.
I tried hard to make time for my sketchbook and blank canvases.
I made a lot of challenging decisions as a manager running operations at The Paper Project.
I listened to my gut.
I stood in front of the work of some of my favorite artists like Sebastiao Salgado and Mark Rothko.
I got to spend time with friends who live far away.
I wrote out checks.
I fell for coffee.
I cried more this year (almost certainly) than my whole lifetime of crying after the age of five.
I met hope, again and again.
I made a lot of messy, but valuable mistakes.
I was embraced by community. The spirit resuscitating kind of community.
I started to skip the trips to the salon. I cut my own hair.
I danced. But not enough.
I prayed. But also not enough.
I ate a lot of good food. A lot.
I laughed. Hopefully more than I ate good food, or at least just as much.
I dreamed new dreams.
I claimed big visions for the new year.

You were one for the books, 2014. Now, please pleasantly get out of my way.
20150101-143410.jpg

 

Mid-Year Moment of Gratitude

Happy July 1st! Where did the first half of the year go?

Here are a few things I am thankful for today, the midpoint of 2014.

1. Work.

Whenever I am tired and feeling overworked, I try to remember how difficult it is for too many others to find a livelihood. I am blessed to have two jobs that are stable, safe, challenging, and engaging. I continue to love what I do.

storyofhope

2. Ideas.

I feel the love of God when He plants a seed of an idea in my mind, and allows me to discover it. These are ideas for things to do – whether personal, professional or in between – Buhay Makulay activities, independent projects, creative initiatives, process improvement, troubleshooting, an interesting perspective, ways to mentor my staff, new ways to approach the classes I teach, or new adventures to go on. These are all gifts from above.

IMG_0008

3. Hope after the storm.

In the wake of devastating SuperTyphoon in November last year, and in celebration of the 8th year of the annual Fairs – we’ve taken our Buhay Makulay Children’s Fair on the road. The children and their communities continue to teach me about hope.

20140426-073101.jpg

4. Travel

Because of the #3, I’ve been able to travel the Philippines a bit more this year than most years. We’ve played with children from Capiz, Cebu and Leyte. Hopefully Iloilo and Negros in the coming months too. And I finally made my return to Singapore to visit my older sister – a plan six years in the making.

1 DSC_0798_Fotor

5. Art

#3 has allowed me to do some community art. But in the past few months, I’ve been craving personal art-making time. I cannot always fit it into my schedule, but since reading a beautiful novel about Claude Monet, going on a painting afternoon, purchasing a sturdy & easy-to-carry sketchbook while in Singapore – I’ve picked up my drawing pen again and vowed to restore art to its rightful place in my life. I also want to start dancing again – and by dancing I mean, not Zumba..

oo
My pen portrait from a couple Sundays ago.

 

 

Speak soon,

T

 

In every card, a story of hope: The Paper Project Inc.

We run a social business called The Paper Project Inc

We employ women survivors of abuse, victims of oppression or women escaping flesh trades like prostitution or trafficking. These women are our precious card makers. We make handmade greeting cards.

storyofhope

Our cards have more soul and story than that musical e-card you sent out for the holidays. They are likely more special than the last card you saw your neighborhood bookstore. Our cards make it to thousands of stores across the United States through our partners at Good Paper. Recently our work has also made it to Australia and Germany too. But that isn’t the special part.

DSC_0676

PaperProjectCardCatalog_Page_08

People have often commented that my job must be sad or depressing – because of the history of abuse or oppression in my worker’s lives. If you think my job is gloomy too, you are focusing on the wrong side of the story. In fact, my job is the exact opposite of sad and depressing. 

At The Paper Project Inc., we focus on the hope of a life renewed. And we start with a simple craft. This craft provides a stable livelihood and a community in which to grow. 

A full life can still be led by those who have been broken.

I love to share the story of our card maker Esther*:

cm

Esther used to wander the streets of Metro Manila. She had been abused in the past, had no contact with her parents, and for a long time didn’t even have a copy of her birth certificate. With scarce opportunities for livelihood, having barely started high school, Esther now turned to vices for survival. One of our partner organizations referred Esther to us after seeing her waste her days away, hanging out at street known for gamblers, pick-pockets, pimps and prostitute pick-ups.

We welcomed Esther into our workshop where she learned how to cut and assemble cards out of handmade abaca paper. The training process is actually not as easy as it sounds. The individual parts of the card design can be very small or intricate. A card maker must learn the precise art of cutting all sorts of shapes that were sometimes easily the size of your tiniest toenail. Edges have to be smooth. Assembly has to be accurate. We pride ourselves in high quality craftsmanship. You’ll see it across all the products we create.

cm4

You never know how each new trainee will take to the work. Not long after her start with us, Esther was overheard on the street by her social worker, speaking confidently and excitedly about her new job. She boasted to friends, but in the most earnest way possible, about her work in a nearby city’s business district. She was hopeful and full of excitement.

She was talking to her friends on the same street where other women continue to trade their bodies for their next meal.

In her new community at The Paper Project, Esther bloomed. In less than eight weeks, she was given the privilege to train other women in cardmaking. She was even earned the responsibility to manage the quality control of our completed cards. Today she continues to thrive in our card making workshop.

cm5

Just having a basic uniform transformed the way Esther carried herself. Having a place she needed to be at, where attendance was taken and where she had assignments to complete – this transformed her sense of daily purpose. A pay check at the end of two weeks and women to fellowship with – these transformed her lifestyle and self-worth.

In every card, a story of hope. And hope grows.

Maybe one day you will also hold in your hand a card lovingly made by one of our beautiful women. 

Like The Paper Project on Facebook or follow us on Instagram

PaperProjectCardCatalog_Page_01

*Pseudonym.