Thursday, September 3, 2015

Disasters, Dogs and Ogoun - oh my.

I make a lot of religious artwork on commission. Its typical of Vodou sosyetes to have specific spirits they work with, and to have their own sets of colors and so forth. I set lights, invoke Legba to open the door for me, and to give me the best possible inspiration for what I do. The great Gatekeeper does, but sometimes, He likes the work so much, its derailed before I can even get it completed. Does He do this on purpose? Am I just not paying attention? I am not sure -- artwork is still a messy business at best. Paint is wet, glue to sticks to everything and everywhere except the place you want it to, and the dogs don't help with their snuffly noses and dirty paws. I start with good intentions, but after a week like this one, I begin to understand how that road to hell is actually paved.  Witness the following disasters, large and small:

I have a new client who was recently initiated into a Makaya house. He has been requesting some very specific work from me and as we've been on a Makaya high lately, this work seemed fitting. I am very happy to oblige him. I set the table of art (or tableau de arte, take your pick) with a prayer, a candle for Makaya and began sketching.  I make several drawings when I work, to help get the kinks out and to focus my ideas.  Paint and glue are unforgiving, so its better to approach with a plan than to wing it and regret it later. Having gathered my ideas and formulated a plan, I took the time to find materials suited to the task and purchased a couple very cool bottles, some new embellishments (flat back sequins and such) and reviewed the incoming requests.

The first commission was a boutey for Ogoun Flambeau.  This particular Ogou is served in my client's lineage with black and small gold highlights. It's a take off on the above chromolith of Saint George fighting the dragon. Saint George is wearing black armor with golden highlights. The correlation made sense to me -  in Haiti the saint chromos are not aligned because of the particular saint themselves, but more for the colors and decoration in the pictures. St. George wears black armor, so a black boutey was the right offering vessel for this fiery avatar of the Ogoun clan.

I had a fabulous bottle I'd purchased and it seemed perfect for this project. It was square shaped, with raised detail that made it seem like armor. I worked very hard on getting all the details just right, with flat back embellishments, tiny gold sequins and just enough bling to echo the look of the armor in chromo. Upon completion, I invoked Flambeau into the piece. Although we were serving the Marine Lwa that weekend, I slipped the boutey downstairs in the tmple and placed it on the Petro altar for the evening. Sure enough, several of the hounsi found it and wanted to know all about the Lwa, who it was for and when would they get one. They'll just have to wait for a bit on that. I also strung a lovely kolye with black onyx, gold highlighted beads on hand knotted silk cord. A fitting kolye for a warrior.

The client was ecstatic with his artwork and commissioned a second one from me. This time, it was for Ogoun Ge Wouj. The fiery hot spirit is served in his house with red and gold highlights. No problem, I had a perfect companion bottle for the first.

I took my time painting it outside. Several light coats of red paint work better than a heavy one. However, I underestimated the pull of Ogoun for the dogs. Bodhi, my canine doppelganger and bonded familiar was very interested in what I was doing. Way too interested. He investigated the bottle thoroughly,  knocking it off the fence post twice while it was wet. Le sigh.  I cleaned his nose, the bottle and got the paint job to look proper.

Once back at my table of art, I started the embellishment. But the glue ate through the paint. I did not figure this out until the gold metal ribbon I was using slid off to one side, taking the paint with it. Add to this the fun of a large, slobber covered ball rolling across the table while I try to work. Deeper sigh.

I locked the dog out of the studio and came back to find all the sequins and crystals had also abandoned their places - the glue was removing the paint on the bottle and the finish was now ruined beyond repair. Argh.

Ok, back to square one. A trip to several of my thrift stores turned up a perfect candidate. Having learned my lesson, I left Bodhi in the house while I painted. He was occupied by the workers outside yesterday and today, so I was able to properly paint the base, setting it up for embellishments. I also made a trip to Home Depot for the right adhesive, and came back to embellish without the help of a snuffly wet nose checking my work. I am very happy with the finished product and have sent pics off to the client to see if he likes it.

As I cleaned up, I went to toss the ruined bottle when I turned it over in my had and saw the sun burst. In my morning meditations of late, I have been receiving very clear information regarding Legba's status as a solar Lwa. He has made several requests that I intend to follow up on, and now in hind sight I realize He wanted this boutey for Himself. Well, jeez, ya coulda told me sooner.

So now I will be in the basement, cleaning off the bottle and getting it ready for my Solar patron. My client will be getting his amazing Ge Wouj bottle and Bodhi will be assigned to study my artwork before I get it all done, so if there is a change, I can make it sooner rather than later.

Ogou Zé Wouj, O! Konsa yo ye!
Bouch manjé tout manjé, Le pa palé tout pawol,
Ogou Zé Wouj, O! Konsa yo ye!
I take commissions on artwork -- shrines, boutey, statuary and amulet jewelry. Please contact me on the page for details.

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