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Writing Lessons of the Heart

Something powerful is activated when women seek to hold each other up in reverence and joy. This is what we found as we sat with each of the women who gave their stories to the From This Place project and this is what we saw released in our own lives as again and again the wise words these women had to share found their way into our hearts.

Every woman, no matter who she was or what she did had a moment in their interview where the words they dared to utter bought us to tears.

Not because they were sad stories but because they were truth – beautiful deep expressions that came from the source of who they are.

And as truth they cannot be forgotten.

These words, quotes if you wish, hung in the air like perfect droplets of water, waiting to infuse into all our lives. Sometimes the women didn’t even realise the beauty of what they had shared. But we held out our hands and let the wisdom fall onto our parched hearts and from there the book was written, not word by word, but drop by drop.

For this reason, their stories are an infusion into the deepest parts of us. We hear at the level we can receive and we are touched in places that most need to hear. As the writer, I have felt to be more a midwife, a conduit for story, a messenger between the holy and the earthly self. I have borne witness to creation, to creativity, to cathartic, captivating realness and every page of the book resonates with something much larger and more evocative than anything we could imagine.

This is the beauty of sharing stories. Of allowing the stories to be as they are, not asking them to bend to some agenda or theme. Letting the story speak and then taking the blessings as they come. No story could be planned, instead it shaped itself and emerged on the page in a kind of ritual. A conscious state of stepping out of all I have been taught to receive a deeper kind of wisdom. Of inhabiting the words, of capturing brief glimpses of the essence of a person and then being open to the nuances of each story as it came through as colour, shape and symbol. People have commented about how each woman sounds so unique in their own story. I think this is why. It was not a conscious act but rather an authentic one.

For these stores to inspire you, they have first inspired us. As I sent each draft to Angela to read, she would reply ‘I have goosies’ and we would know we had captured something.

I felt these stories.

Time was irrelevant as I wrote them. I would gather myself at the final sentence and feel such a rush of joy – of disbelief, of absolute fulfilment that I was writing in a deeply resonant way with my soul’s purpose.

And I have gained so much more than I have given in this process.

Sometimes it was hard.

I faced a period of debilitating anxiety for several months as I struggled with my own lack of faith in my artistry, until finally I leapt from the edge of comfort and found new wings.

This is the inspiration that lives in the pages for you, too.

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Why these Artists?

We have fourteen incredible artists in our book and we’d like to share with you a little about the process of how this came to be.

When we set out two years ago to develop this project we thought we would focus on 8-10 artists – such was the talent of the women we were meeting we expanded our aim, and yet there were still many wonderful women that could have been included that we just didn’t have the time or ability to extend our resources to cover.

When we started, we did a lot of research to develop a list of potential artists. We posted extensively on Facebook asking for people to let us know if they were interested in completing and an Expression of Interest form, or to let us know of women artists they thought might be interested. We scoured through several years of Open Studio brochures, worked through the list of women interviewed on local radio arts program, the list of exhibitors at the Waterwheel Gallery – you name it we unearthed it and from that place we encouraged women to step up. We received about 40 Expressions of Interest (and many people we contacted never respond at all) and it became apparent as we sifted through all the incredible stories that there was a theme we couldn’t ignore.

We needed to focus our attention on a much smaller geographic area than we originally thought in order to make it manageable but also because many stories spoke of specific community dynamics that were part of the Warburton and surrounds, and included the Yarra River.

We set about, from a holistic perspective, finding stories that represented a broad range of women – from a range of age groups, across a variety of mediums, and at different stages of their art careers because we felt that created the most ‘inspiring’ read where there would be something for everyone.

We also had as one of our selection points that chosen artists had taken that step out into the world in some way, and that they were mostly sustaining themselves through their art.

There was also an organic thread in the process where we trusted that those that needed to be in the book would come forward – we recognised it was a big thing and people needed to trust us with their hearts. For that reason, we always understood that many artists we may have reached out to who didn’t know us, may have chosen not to reply.

When you read the stories, you will come to know of their remarkable achievements.  Each one has opened up their lives for us to peer into. This is not always comfortable and we are incredibly grateful. We didn’t know every woman in the book, and neither did many of them know each other. Now we all do and we are proud of the way we have supported each other.

From This Place represents universal stories and while we know it is a wonderful representation of the artists involved, it also does much to elevate the profile of artists in the Yarra Valley generally and from this place, every artist is present and can benefit.

It’s been a huge project – more than 400 hours each devoted by both Angela and Lindy, over 60 photoshoots with more than 5,000 images to choose from, plus the hours provided by the artists themselves to interviews and shoots – and we are so very grateful for your support. Have we learnt something? Yes of course, Would we do it differently next time? – possibly but there has also been a divinely feminine hand in the process that we have trusted implicitly to bring the right women together at the right time. This divine guidance, dear readers, was a bigger influence that any of us could reckon. We could have filled an encyclopaedia with artists of the Yarra Ranges, but that would have required more than 2 years, a huge budget and mountains of energy!

There are so many inspiring stories in our community, in our world.  This is the beginning…