It starts with a jar. Or a small-ish box. Maybe a nice spherical tin that once held dry oats. The jar or box or spherical tin, once empty, fills up with tiny scrolls of paper from January 1st to December 31st. A homemade treasure chest in which I store the years memories. My favorite moments. Important discoveries made about myself and the world. Animals I encountered. Books I read and loved. Quotes that inspired a smile. Friendships gained. Fears lost.
A day or two after January 1st I open the jar and pour out the memories. I unfold and read and remember and reminisce. This personal tradition began in 2014. Pinterest most likely played a part in the idea. Matched with my propensity to cover any surface smooth enough with acrylic paint.
I painted ‘2018’ on a re-purposed oatmeal tin a few days ago and felt a necessary tug in my gut to share this idea with others. Why? Because acrylic paint and self-reflection is good for the soul! Also, if you’re anything like me, the days of December through February are a strange time. Months when sunshine and rompers are replaced with Dayquil and cheap Target gloves. This tradition offers me tiny moments of gratitude. A dose of perspective. A positive self-care activity to keep me busy in the milieu of post-holiday blues. Maybe this rewarding year-long project is just what you need right now…as you inch closer to your SAD lamp.
Creating the Jar (or box or reasonably shaped object capable of containing contents)
For me, the container for the memory scraps is equal in value to the memory scraps bumbling around inside. Every year the jar creatively morphs. Mirroring my own transformation. My creative process typically follows these steps:
- Find a container.
Although making a trip to Target or Michaels is an option, I prefer the rummage and hunt approach. I’m a bit of a hoarder when it comes to containers of the mundane and eccentric. I simply open my closet and I’m at the Container Store. (If the Container Store sold small mint tins, wooden boxes wasted on index cards and shoe boxes in various forms of deconstruction.
- Decide upon the colors to use and the designs to adapt.
My favorite part. I begin with a vision. A color I’m itching to paint with. A swirling pattern I’ve yet to attempt. I bring the intention to the drafting table; however, I also embrace fluidity. Poising the paint brush and letting impromptu creativity take the lead.
For example, this year, my inspiration stemmed from an image I found captivating for both its color scheme and it’s detail. I set out with a palette of blue, red, purple and yellow. I learned that when creating magenta and fuchsia, the differences are subtle, but profound.
- Set the tone/mood.
Play some Nina Simone and light a few candles. Stream early seasons of The Office and burn a stick of incense. Open all the windows! Wear something that can get messy and jump into this art project with absolute abandon!
- Keep your mind and energy open.
I free this activity of the need for perfectionism. After spending a couple of hours entrenched in the details, I step away for a bit. I put a cap on how much time I can spend fussing over it. I let it breathe. In that space, the perceived mistakes appear more like delightful quirks. Upon revisiting the jar-like piece, I’ve been pleasantly surprised and curious. A tangible vision pulled from some internal well of creativity.
Through the Year
The jar-tin-toaster lives prominently on my bookshelf. Reminding me to pause as I move through the year. Sometimes I come home from an adventure and jot down the experience immediately. Other times I stretch out on a lazy Sunday and mentally tick through the months and document bits and bobs. Written in bullet points and enthusiastic paragraphs and the occasional standalone word.
Unfolding the Memories
The ceremonious event begins by pouring out the contents of the jar. A waterfall explosion of nicely folded paper scraps! A year in confetti! I scramble them around a bit, smoke a little green and begin.
I unfold each individual scroll, read the memory and pause. Some notes warrant a longer pause. By the end of it my bed or desk or floor are covered in memories. My year a patchwork of various papers and adjectives.
Happy New Year!