Have you ever been wandering on the street and something captures the corner of your eye? You turn and then become drawn into it? You find yourself in this energetic exchange so powerful that you just can’t leave. Well that’s what happened to me a few years ago and the object of my fascination was a large metal obelisk, a stake hanging off of a letter cord. My eye was next taken to three strong bolt concentric circles, but again so simply presented in their artistic form. And then the circle sitting alone, drawing me into it, not letting me go.
Well, what I did know is that I was in dense of sacred geometry, underlying mathematical formulas that underpin all of nature. I did of course, being the jewelry addict that I am, walk in to the store and found myself introduced to the work of Donna Hiebert – the series was called “Seachange”. Again, something that captivated my heart and I didn’t know at the time this was her first foray into jewelry making. She had come from the modality of sculpturing, and I did know that she was the sculpture who created the iconic wave that sits in the port of one of Canada’s busiest cities. I knew that when I had an artist on the show the first one would have to be Donna Hiebert.
Art is the magnificent process of creation, and as we come to know this is what makes women who lead who they are. So, I wonder how many of you have found yourself walking down the streets and all of a sudden something captures your eye? And it’s so powerful that you turn to look at it and engage in something that captures you and intrigues you to such an extent that you simply find yourself mesmerized. Well that’s what happened to me many years ago as I was walking down the street. And to turn my eye to what was one of the most magnificent obelisks, as some might say in the colloquial language a state, large, strong, bold in metal hanging off of a letter cord. My eye then went to another piece; this was concentric circles, three of them hanging off of a beautiful nautical cord. And then the simplest one, a circle, simply in its strength of character yet so delicately presented sitting there speaking to me. I realized in that moment that I was in a dense with sacred geometry.
Now I studied that for some time and found it always fascinating that it found its fruits in the study of nature and the mathematic principles that work within nature. If any of you actually know me out there, you knew that I could not just walk by. I had to walk in and I made my first purchase of a collection created by Donna Hiebert. What I didn’t know at the time was that this would be her first foray into jewelry from her background artistic endeavor as a sculpture; the name of the series was “Seachange” that also captured my heart. Well that wouldn’t take long for me to collect many of the pieces, and one fine day I did get to meet the artist (Donna) as we stood in a parking lot believe it or not which was the showcase of a design exhibit and artist exhibit which were Donna had once again captured the top design award for her work. I began to – in conversation with her – realized the debts and breath of what went on inside of this artistic mind as the creation process took place.
What I didn’t realize at the time was that she was the sculpture of the iconic wave which sits in one of Canada’s busiest ports and as known around the world for its beauty and its simplicity. Well, Donna is the first artist that we’ve had on this show, and I thought when I was going to bring an artist in I had to have Donna as the first. So, let’s go in to the studio of this crazy lady and discover what this is all about.
Lesley: Well Donna I will start with a tough question and my question on the top is how do you see yourself as an artist and as a leader?
Donna: Hey Lesley! Um, yeah, well I’ve been pondering this and essentially by doing, by making things discovering beauty and truth, by what I will say is going into the dragon’s lair, sorting to the heap. Some things you can barely touch, they’re still hot from her breath literally watching your back, what if she comes back? And then transforming this ephemeral dream shapes because that’s what they turn into when you bring them back into jewelry and sculpture, and I guess it’s an obligation.
Lesley: Hmm obligation… Definitely I want to go into the thought of the obligation but let’s first talk about the dragon’s lair, what is that?
Donna: Well, it’s a place I accessed through…in many ways through spiritual search, meditation, through exploring different spiritual traditions. I mean it’s…I chose that analogy because literally I had a dream at the beginning of my…because recharging myself by beginning to study jewelry making I had a dream one night and just at the very beginning of this journey that I literally was in the dragon’s lair, and it was incredibly vivid and I was sorting to this heap of stuff. And I went back, I was in the studio the next day and I recounted this story to a young Korean artist that was there doing his MFA …
Lesley: His MFA…say what that means.
Donna: Master of Fine Arts.
Lesley: Thank you.
Donna: Anyway, when I told him that I had this dream, he went, “Oohhh.” He said, “That’s really, really important that you had a dream of the dragon. That’s very prophetic.” And, you know, I could’ve left that and not really thought about it…and then I was reflecting on our…the fact that we’re going to be speaking today, I fell back to that dream. I felt, “Wow! That’s kind of what I do.” It’s a little scary…you know, it’s a little scary to dig deep to try to find what is it that I wish to convey, because I really do feel through my life it’s like this…that the role of an artist, the making of things, it doesn’t leave me alone. When I’ve turned my back it’s like, you know, I hear the knock in the door again. You know, “Hey come on, come on, it’s time to do some stuff, it’s time to make some stuff. You can’t just hang out with your…you know, there’s work to be done.”
Lesley: So you know, it’s interesting that you’d say that because over the course of the last several months in doing this show, it’s become completely apparent to me although I’ve never started with the assumption that one of the distinct features of women as leaders in today’s modern world is that they are creators. And that leadership in the way that we have found ourselves tied up with followers, and with in-charge, and with “Let’s take the mountain” to a very different space of how we create a different world, and how you in everyday manner are in that process of creation.
Donna: Yeah. It’s so true because…I mean, we literally create things in our bodies that we bring into the world, right? Or we have the capacities to do that. And with that also is a phenomenal vulnerability as well, right? So there’s phenomenal strength and phenomenal vulnerability.
Lesley: And that’s so much a part of what I’m discovering through the series of discussions what really is at the essence of women who lead. And it takes me back to how you captured my attention, because leaders have to capture people’s attention. And you captured mine with your first foray out of sculpturing into jewelry making through Seachange. Can you tell us a little bit about the jewelry and then about how it became what it became?
Donna: Well, Seachange means profound transformation and Shakespeare actually created that word from the tempest. And I didn’t know that at the time when I decided that that’s what the collection will be called and it came to me pretty much right away. But definitely, you know, I’ll try to be quick with this. But when I went back to jewelry making one of the first courses I took, believe or not it was called “Watch case making on the lave.” How is that for an exciting sounding course? Anyway, I took the course and I spent a lot of time at this laid and laid spin, right? And you’re looking at this and it’s spinning around, and around, and around and around. It’s like I had to…because I was learning I had to stare at this spinning shape, these circles spinning. And literally, I mean it sounds observant. It’s as if this circle became…it was became the center of this focus, and it became a whole transformation for me. Because in sacred geometry, it’s a study of geometry and its relationship as you said to nature and how it has influenced us for thousands and thousands of years because it is. Sacred geometry is…there is no kind of debate about it because it’s the reality of our existence, it’s the cosmos. And the very beginning of that cosmos is the circle, the monarch, the one and only, the portal as I call the piece that you the circle. So, um…yeah, so that’s an end. And I wanted to create because I think jewelry is something that, you know, people have been…we’ve been making jewelries as human beings for over a hundred thousand years…
Lesley: And tell us what is it about jewelry? What is its real messaging? What is its real purpose?
Donna: I feel that we wear jewelry to say, “This is who I am, this is what I believe in, this is my creed.” Right, you know? It’s…yeah. So Seachange, when you wear Seachange, it’s like you’re saying, “I’m part of this tribe of humanity that I wish to see the world in its essential way. I wish to connect to people in an essential way.”
Lesley: And so that’s exactly how I’ve always felt every time I wear one of those pieces. Is that first of all they’re large, and so they make a statement all into themselves. And other is that when I see someone else wearing that piece of jewelry, I know instinctively we have something that we’re connected by. There’s something about the messaging of this piece and you’re wearing this piece brings me to an automatic relationship with that person. And so the notion that we become a tribe as we adorn ourselves in messaging that’s exterior to ourselves, which really is a reflection of our interior selves is extremely, extremely powerful. And that’s what you do; you create these tribes of people because the jewelry can be worn by both sexes. And although I think more women purchase it than men, but the strength of them are definitely…can be adorned by human beings. I want though you to tell us the quick story of the moment that Seachange came to your mind, although it came in its original form through the spinning laze but there was another part to this story.
Donna: Yes… I mean yes. That’s a reflection in terms of the laze. But yes I had received a very prestigious craft award for this sterling silver smith teapot that I had made and submitted to this craft award. It was in Philadelphia and I was there, and I was also exhibiting very high-end, very carefully crafted high carat jewelry that I was trying to connect with wires across North America to purchase for the shops as well as collecting this award. And I have the opportunity to speak with Wendy Rosen who is…we know she’s huge person in the field of craft in North America. Anyway, she looked at my carefully crafted gold jewelry, and she said, “It’s beautiful, it’s amazing but you’re not going to be able to market it to shops. I mean, it’s just not going to work. You need to come up with something that is more affordable, right?” And it was a big blow to me because I brought all this work and I had all this energy invested in it. You know, I traveled all long distance just to get there. Anyway, so I was going back home and on the plane I was like, “I have to come up with something” and I really do. That’s when Seachange just like “Cling!” You know, it just all flooded in and it was like the whole collection was like there. And radically different than what I had been making although, you know, that’s what I can do, I have that skill and I still enjoy that… yeah, completely different and really a reconnection to my sculptural practice.
Lesley: What’s the connection between that form of jewelry making and your sculptural practice?
Donna: Well I guess it’s like an allowance of…it was the instigator to allow me to become more um…to allow my intuitive self to become more active in my work. And yeah, it’s like I had to spend a tremendous amount of time just learning the craft to jewelry making, and then listening to teachers and following my teachers. And I can really just being in that as a student, and it took time for me to hook back into what I know, right? But the thing is that’s the part of art making which I think really ties into the whole concept of leadership which is that…if we’re walking ahead, right? I’d say that very humbly with humility because honestly I don’t often really feel that way. And maybe that’s part of what really makes women interesting leaders because if you’re walking ahead in a humble way we’re stepping into the unknown. And if we’re stepping into the unknown, it’s really the unknown. And so we don’t know where the ideas are going to come from, we don’t know necessarily how we’re going to help the people that we by virtue of stepping out are now following behind us. And you know, as an artist, I think it’s interesting to consider leadership because I work alone, I spend a lot of time alone. And you know, when you first said to me, “Donna I’d like to speak to you in regards to this show that you’re creating.” I was like, “Whoa! How can I be a leader because I spend so much time alone and I’m kind of the outside?” I’m a lady in the village that lives in the hut that you come to for potions.
Lesley: Right! And your potions happen to be able to be wearable and striking in their notion. But I think what it says is and how you really describe the birthing of Seachange is that it had been gestating for a long time. When the one thing we know about pregnancy is that we know that we’re pregnant and we take nine months, and then we know that a baby is going to come at the end. In the true creation process you don’t know what exactly you’re gestating, you don’t know how long this gestation process is going to be and you’re not at all aware of what’s going to come with it. So, how do you stay in that space of just simply trusting that this kind of creative output is actually going to happen?
Donna: Yeah. Well, you know, for me sometimes it’s like almost like busy work but it’s like continuing to make, continuing to do but also like it’s a balance. Because, you know, you need to keep making things, throwing things out there with the hope that… You know, if I could find an A to Z way of creating something it would be wonderful but I can’t and it never works that way. So you just keep trying to find the ideas trying to come up with stuff…and a way, it’s like you’re believing, it’s like you’re following something that seems “Oh yeah this is a good idea.” You have to…it’s a kind of, you know, you have to claim it, “Yeah this could work, this could work.” And so many times it happens that I’ve been working on something, it’s like “Yeah this is the design, this is the one. And then, you know, it’s like it doesn’t seem to really becoming together, and then something happens, something comes fuds that in some ways doesn’t actually anything to do with that particular idea that I’m working on that it’s the one, it’s the thing. And it’s like, “How did that happen? I don’t know.” But I hadn’t been working on something, nothing would happen.
Lesley: Right. So the notion that staying busy with our hands and with our minds, and keep moving thought back and forth from the hand to the mind, from the hand to the mind, from the soul to the page. You know, all of those are what is allowing the gestation process to really gain energy.
Donna: Yes, but I will say that when I said balance the other aspect I think is also really important is actually to do nothing constructively. You know, to just let go and I think that’s such an… to our world today where I mean not to digress. But I think it is a factor that technology is always taking us, taking us, taking us. We’re always being distracted and I’m guilty of that myself by…we’re always being distracted. And so, we never allow for that kind of emptiness of that…I mean meditation is a huge part of my life and my… And I have, you know, if I didn’t meditate I don’t know where I’d be in terms of my process, in terms of my art at this point.
Lesley: It’s because it’s the place where the emptiness allows us to shed so much craft that is running through us that just needs to be quieted, and distilled and brings us into a different space of light that allows other stuff to enter.
Donna: Yeah. And as one of my teachers said to let me…
Lesley: And so, you continue to progress in your series of different beautiful art that women wear, and Sprout was next and then there was the compassion series. And tell us a bit about how you went from such bold big pieces to such delicate elements of the Sprout series? And just tell us a bit about Sprout just so that the listener could know.
Donna: Yeah, yeah. I mean, Sprout is anything that can sprout. So seeds, beans…you know, kind of light hearted in many ways. But you know, I always comeback to wish for whatever I create to have some essential meaning. And so, you know, things that can sprout contain promise. Promise, the ability to…you know, for something to take place, the beginning of things. Yeah that’s sprout, and also the collection I call “Flotsam and jetsam” which allows for me to work with…you know, kind of whatever comes up and create a lot of beautiful miracle shapes and connections through using found objects that I cast, and mold and fashion. And then my latest series is called “Todo cambia” (everything changes) and that series is…it’s reference is the time that I spent in Mexico but I think what’s really important about that time in Mexico was seeing the…and I think as an overlay not necessarily being too specific of a country although I did collect specific objects there, but the harshness of a landscape expressed through thorns and the amazing heart of the people. So it’s like we’re…the position of something that can literally pierce our flesh and yet we’re also… I mean without that walk of discovery, we can’t open to something larger. That whole series is like…I don’t think it’s…I’m having hard time articulating what it is because it’s still so new ,and I’ve really just started adding to it in doing with it…so yeah.
Lesley: Now Mexico was a sabbatical source and it was a journey into the unknown, the purpose of which was to do what?
Donna: Wow. Well, you know, to unhook from years of in many ways living a life that I know longer identified with, a long relationships that come to an end, and my children had grown and left home and I really wanted to reevaluate many things including even my jewelry making practice. And so, I just left everything behind, closed the shop that I had in the city I was living in and bought a truck and jumped in the truck with my dog, and drove 6000 kilometers to Huaca Mexico and rented a place, and yeah it was amazing. It was like nobody…I was the most amazing sense of freedom especially I think as an artist, but just as human being to be driving the roads through the Sierra Madre’s mountains and having this feeling. Not just a feeling but knowing that nobody knew where I was. I was just floating out there, it was wonderful.
Lesley: So then, what we’re saying in that whole creation process is the…you said about doing nothing but there’s something even more powerful about unhooking. Being in spaces that are so unfamiliar that the unknown becomes the normal, and then you can start to shift your perspective about what is normal.
Donna: Yeah. When I say doing nothing, I mean to me nothing is huge, right? And in a Buddhist sense it’s kind of…it’s what is. And you know, another huge asset of that is throwing myself in the kindness literally, you know, the phrase throwing yourself in the kindness of strangers which I did. Because my time there was…I was very exposed to whatever was going on and being on the road and not knowing very much Spanish either. So really relying a lot on body language and not having…I didn’t take guide books, I was really just kind of out there and following my nose. And the softening of the heart when you’re vulnerable like that is profound, and it was for me in any case. Yeah, it was um…
Lesley: I want to go into the softness of the heart and the paradox of the thorn, and we’re going to wrap this interview up with the story of the nest.
Donna: Okay alright. Yes, well, the nest series is going to be…it’s a sculptural series that focuses on creating nest from…ugh okay, this is dropping…trying to talk about this by wrapping it up. It’s going to be a little bit difficult. But essentially I’m exploring vulnerability and I’m going to be focusing on children in the world that are vulnerable and finding archetypes vulnerability. And I’m going to be creating nest and the physical ness are going to be replicated form, it’s going to be focusing on a particular kind of oppression. And the first nest I guess was last year when the 43 students in Guerrero State were disappeared…and have not been found and that really struck me very deeply. I mean I was travelling through that area and you know I have connections there still, and so I had these thorns. So I’ve replicated these thorns, I have 43 of these thorns and they’re going to create this nest. And inside the nest…so the whole idea is when we approach a nest, when we’re looking in a nest, we’re looking at something that we know is fragile. We know it is going to be, um, it’s delicate. We don’t know even there could be…hatch, we don’t know that or the nest might be empty. But we have this sense of what is going to be inside, we’re anticipatory. And so, what I want is I want people to have…I am hoping that these people will have a sense, and when they look inside the nest what they’ll see reflected to them will be an aspect of our humanity which we anywhere ignoring and aren’t considering. And so inside this nest is going to be seven very small carved and cast caracara birds which is the national bird of Mexico and they’ll be in various states within these nests, some impaled on the thorns. And I meant to represent the…kind of the…I guess something that’s broken. I don’t know, I don’t know, this is still unknown and we’ll be interesting to see what happens when it’s completed, what it ends up being, so and that will be a discovery for me too.
Lesley: So the beauty of what I’ve experienced of this first nest is that the thorns are really tough. They’re carved; they’re made out of bronze?
Lesley: And they’ve got very sharp spikes that could really hurt. So in other words, even the encasing shows both the delicacy of how they’re entwined with each other and the harshness of the world by the very nature of their tip. And then looking inside and seeing these beings who are in states of vulnerability and at the most serious vulnerability…says so much in terms of what we are facing as women, as leaders in the world in terms of the awareness we want to bring to what’s wrong, what’s broken. And how do we start to shape a consciousness that an action plan that gets us to another state? That’s the beauty of what I’ve experienced in the nest. Does that tell part of a story from where you said?
Donna: Well, that’s a…I mean if I could hope to meet that description I would be very, very humble to know and happy. So thank you.
Lesley: Well, I can’t thank you enough for spending your time. We’ve been in your studio today which is always a working pleasure as I see all of the different tools that go into this fine art of yours. And thank you for taking us into the mind of Donna Hiebert, she wanders the earth as what I would say one of the most magnificent creators, and one who for me inspires great hope.
Donna: Thank you! It’s been a pleasure.
Lesley: If we ever want to know what’s next on our evolutionary edge or where the next revolution is actually coming from. Or, what is underneath the surface of our society not being spoken, not being recognized but as shouting out to be part of our conversation. Well then we look to the arts because those such as Donna Hiebert have the uncanny ability to not only understand from an inspirational source that no one really understands but knows when it’s happening that they take this information. And not just absorb it but translate it into a physical form that can communicate those hidden messages to you and me.
Now as Donna says she sees that as an obligation, a responsibility that if she is the medium then she has to find a way to communicate what that is to others so that the conversation can be brought to the surface. That is a big responsibility. You can find out more about the artist Donna Hiebert on her website http://donnahiebert.com/. There you’ll find out more about the artist and her work. You’ll also find some interesting new forays into a world of the college or university ring.
As Donna describes it to me, “It’s how we as a tribe have attended a particular place of knowledge can communicate to others that we ourselves have experienced that same gratitude for the knowledge that we acquired in that important time in our life.” I’m not talking about your everyday stamp of a university emblem, I’m talking about how the creation process brings to the foray what it really truly means to have been a part of that tribe. You can find me at www.womenwholead.co, and of course on Facebook women who lead radio show. Remember, I am your host, this is your show. See you next time.