“Wait, what?” What is surveying and how does a person who experiments with clay get intrigued around the building site quantifying things?
“At a construction build, I would go in and quantify and define what you need for the build...how much that would cost. It took me out of my comfortable zone, you know? I love a challenge. It was a peek behind the scenes of something different in the world. It took me on a journey of economics and things I’ve never touched on because I did my degree in the arts.
As I look back on my time with her, I begin to see why she took the course. She seems to be following in the footsteps of an artist she admires, Alberto Giacometti. He was a Swiss sculptor and painter, but also a draftsman and printmaker who made detailed technical plans for buildings and infrastructure.
Divina admits that one of her latest pieces didn’t turn out the way she hoped. She wanted to get reinspired by Giacometti’s style.
“I really like his exaggerated, elongated style but obviously you have to have balance with that. The piece I showed initially - a japanese style handle, a gazelle form… I liked it, but I wanted to push it further, more exaggerated, more slender, more long, more elegant. My brand is very feminine. What I really want to portray is a kind of embodiment of myself. I want it to be very very feminine. And that piece, before, felt more masculine so I wanted to change it, twink it…
I imagine Divinia explaining the form she wants, with her slender fingers like a composter in an orchestra. Although we’re on a phone today, we’ve had video call chats.
I generally begin all the interviews in the series, the same way but today I went off script a bit.
“When you think of the beginning of the year...when does the beginning actually start for you?”
She asked me if I knew Iyanla Vanzant, an American spiritual teacher. “I’ve been following her and occasionally I’ll tune in. She was giving her opinion about the whole presidential thing and mentioned that a new year actually is about letting go to the past. She said that actually the new year doesn’t start on the 1st of January but the 21st of December. So I didn't take on the traditions of what I’d normally do for New Year's, for example. For me, the 21st was the beginning, with the intention of letting everything go. Now I have a very personal connection to that date...a personal moment. Now I'm starting fresh. It was a very on purpose approach to the start of a New Year.
“Everyone’s start is so different...Divina, what does the word ‘start’ mean to you? It’s such a simple word right- maybe five letters. What comes to mind first?”
A word popped in my mind...“spark…” It feels like this glint of something new, like an engine starting, a spark…
A spark of newness…but a push... at the same time.”
“What images pop up?”
“Ummm...start...start... I think for me it would be, “new beginnings.” She’s thinking it through, almost like thumbing through her encyclopedia of memories.
“I’ve always looked at life as an adventure. At that point when you're starting a new adventure, you don’t really know where it's gonna go...where its gonna lead to. For me…start....is like a call to action. It’s like you're gonna go and get on with something. You don’t know where it’s gonna go.”
"Nice. When was the last time you stepped out of your house and you didn’t know where you were gonna to go...like physically?”
“Like literally, with no plan? No, I haven’t done that for a very long time, Tyese! Let me think…..oh, I don't think I ever do that! The thing is, is that, I always have something in mind. I am a planner like that - that’s my go-to-thing. But I will tell you what I do, do. If I'm going to a park, then once I get there, I then let my feet take me...like a mini-adventure. The reason I plan where I go is because I'm bad with directions. It scares me not knowing where I go because I get lost very easily. But if I'm in a space and it stays light...in an area I kind of know, I will allow myself. I won't be as controlling.”
“What does getting lost mean to you?”
She repeats that she has a very bad sense of direction and that but she loves to explore things with fresh eyes and comes across old ruins, maybe a castle in a nearby park. She loves hiking. I try to remember when I went hiking last.
I backtracked a bit. “You mentioned ‘spark.’ What popped up for you?”
“Start is associated with spark…excitement. It’s more of a feeling, an excitement, a newness.”
“Got it. What was the last thing you were excited about, like the very last thing?"
“This pottery I did - this cup actually." She adds in a tiny, “oh-I-love-it” and a girlish clap. “I love the way it came out. You know that other piece I mentioned, I was not happy about it-meh. But this piece definitely embodies what I was going for - where art means function. It's where I want to take my art next, progress it to the point of 'art in your hand', in a functional way. I still want it to be accessible, not like a million pounds and where you can use it everyday. I don't want it to be this precious thing you put up on a shelf.”
“What were the other last things you were excited about?”
“Ahhhh...ummmm…” Divinia is, as her name describes, graceful in mannerisms and wears swooping bangs up and to the left like an elegant wave.
She responds with a gittiness. “To be honest it was thinking about getting a pizza. It's the most amazing thing in the world - Da Moreno Pizza. It’s spicy...with ohh….basil and cheese, prosciutto ham...seasoning.
And I have to make a disclaimer,” she does a dramatic pause. “I'm a vegan for health reasons. I have food intolerances but I do allow myself...'treats' I call them! Hmmm and...sourdough bread...heavenly!”
I review my notes trying not get hungry. Along with the words: spark, glint and adventures, 'empowerment' and 'making choices' arose during our discussion. She explains that empowerment means to be authentic. It’s a strength...within yourself. If you're strong, you are being who you really are and you're making choices and decisions that best assist you in life.
“I see: making choices. What kind of choices?”
“The kind of choices that propel you forward in your own growth.”
I take a risk of sounding like Oprah and run with it. “Divina, what kind of choices propel you in your own growth?”
She mentions choices around productivity and listening to her body. “Before, I worked in the corporate world. My timeline, work, schedule, all that, I knew how my day would run. When I pivoted and decided to work from home, I had to find a way to be more productive in a way that suited me.” Now she belongs to various virtual co-working groups to help keep her on track - one of them is just for creatives.
“There are times when you can be lazy and love the relaxed life but your body helps you realize when you have to push yourself to the next step. I get fed up with myself and I ask what's next, Divinia!? Your body gives you little indicators to tell you what you need to achieve, get you going to the next level. I trust my inner voice and say i can do more - it propels me forward.”
I trust my inner voice and say i can do more - it propels me forward.”
When I decorated the last of these vases, I really embodied it. I was a bit hesitant because I really wanted to get it exactly where the other ones were…” She thinks through her creative process. “I was inspired by the Hawaiian artist, Toshiko Takaezu. She was so...so free the way she glazed her pieces. They didn't have to follow suit. I adopted that and just went for it. I didn't check how it was done before. I just asked myself, ‘how do I feel’? I call it Heart Song because it’s literally from the heart. It was one of the first times I allowed myself to delve into that artistic side of things. I would call myself a creative but not an artist. I think that's a whole new realm. This is me allowing myself to take up space as an artist and not apologize for that.
I would call myself a creative but not an artist. I think that's a whole new realm. This is me allowing myself to take up space as an artist and not apologize for that.
I was intrigued at some of the insights uncovered during our interview.
The word ‘start’ for her, meant adventure. Like all creatives, we start on this adventure of a new project, but get scared along the way and pull back. Slowly we re-enter those moments of freedom, authenticity, realization of self and our best work shines through. I wonder how we can have more of those encounters (or reminders) of zen Divina spoke of when she started brush painting.
Is it that the structure we’ve given ourselves is too strict? You know, the ridgid plan of attack. The “I have to do this, in this way.” "I have to follow this schedule during my day." And we don’t allow ourselves just to be? Or even in the case of the lockdown. When we’re scared or uncertain of what will become of a project, we shrink up and restrict ourselves too much?
Why don’t we allow ourselves to get lost, to feel the wonderment as well as the anxiety that comes with it?
Maybe we all should go ‘off plan’, just a bit, even if you’re a vegan (wink). Maybe listen to our bodies more to tell us what's too strict of a rule. Maybe listen when we need to step it up? Maybe listen to Helen Keller for example, when she says, “Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” Maybe take more random, ‘I don't know where I'm going walks’, even for an hour. Maybe find an inspiration to reconnect with and try to adopt one of their principals you’d forgotten about? Maybe listen to Terry Pratchett for example: “Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”
What ideas do you have to create more of those moments….for a better start...for a better adventure?
What is your off-plan?