Monday, January 11, 2010

Tuesday Technique-N: Know Your Symbology

Tuesday Technique'N coming atcha early --
I am BOMBED with work so don't want to take the time to do a blog post at the office.

Discovering Your Symbology
This is as easy as looking around your house. 
What do you collect?
What are your favorite colors?
What patterns or images are on your plates, your towels, your sheets? 
What images or motifs repeat themselves in those places, on your clothes or jewelry? 
What do you flat-out love, or find yourself ever swooning over in magazines or movies? 
Turtles?  Betty Boop?  Balloons? 
These are, essentially, your symbols.

Because this subject fascinates me, I've spent more than considerable time studying things like archetypes, Soul Collage, storytelling (love me some Clarissa Pinkola Estes), animal totems, and mythology.  In doing so, I've managed to identify many of my 'less obvious' symbols -- but even those will reveal themselves to you as you go.  Discovering your symbology does NOT have to be or feel like homework or research for a dissertation.

  You are looking at pages of my personal symbols,
which I stamped-then-described deliberately so
you would get a strong sense of my meaning and process.
And where you see a particular color?
This is the color that always accompanies the symbol.
I picked this up from Frida Kahlo's diary,
wherein she used specific colors to express specific components of her psyche and emotions. 
Symbology is FUN!  Surprising, too! 
Some come to you easily, automatically --
others simply insist and you soon realize their import and value.

I can't tell you who the manufacturers of these stamps are, and I apologize for that.  Three years ago, when I set out to collect stamp images of my personal symbols, I shopped every stamp store and craft store and online store and ETSY and Ebay store known to man, woman and beast.  Because I am ENTIRELY a visual person by way of response and connection, it was critical to me that I find the stamps which most closely resembled my internal image of the symbol.  You may already have stamps on-hand which you unconsciously purchased, responding to on a deeper level.  Or you may have some that will work for you, in the interim, while you explore other options.  It's all about experimentation.  Since I've worked with my symbols for so long, I have an easy interaction with them and their meaning (to me), so I don't have to keep any pages like this, with notations, posted somewhere anymore.  But I DO have all these stamps in one place:  a simple blue polyurethane binder I bought at a 99-cent store.  The stamps are on foam backing and mounted on the sheets that go along with the backing.  Otherwise, I used those clear FedEx label pouches, stuck to a heavy piece of 3-hole punched bond paper, and slipped groupings of the stamps in the pouches.  You could also use punches or cricut/diecut shapes, if you want more of an outline shape, a silhouette, possibly journaling on the image itself that way.

And a symbol can be A N Y T H I N G!!!
You can see I have several phrases or single words in my collection.
We're writers!  Eesh, blimey & shite!! 
Of course we are going to respond to particular words.
A word can conjure, sometimes, more than any
image possibly could.
Case in point for me:  SEA

One way I use my symbols is with the Storyboard Technique.  Helps me clear my head if something puzzles me.  You can do this by placing various symbols on the page, anywhere you want, then journaling to link them together.  What do these symbols have to say?  Or just one symbol image on a page is often enough to start my pen moving when I'm tired, stressed, overdrawn, depleted, or feel stale.

Mainly, though, I use the symbols as I write, when something I've written comes to me in that 'voice'.  The symbols, stamped right in the middle of the journaling, validate thoughts in certain ways I really like.  And if I am plowing back through my journals looking for something in particular, some gem of brilliance or an AHA moment, seeing the symbols helps me to hone in on that piece of writing.  I just keep the binder, a wet rag or baby wipes, a 2"x2" acrylic block to mount the stamps on, and a stack of ColorBox Cat's Eye ink pads -- very portable -- right beside my journal as I write.

Speaking of writing:  am I the only one who prefers to lay on my stomach on the bed, propped up by pillows, my furball purring in the low curve of my back, radio playing?


  1. Thanks for sharing this. It so speaks to me. As i thought about the stamps I have already, I know I picked some up because they were part of my symbols. I only just realized reading this post. Great share!

  2. What a great idea! I already have a few stamps, and oddly enough they were given to me by a very close friend. She said that they reminded her of me, and so would be the perfect gift...she was right. Now with this gift of your splended idea...I'm set and off to try it out...Thank you again.....Kittie

  3. This is another amazing technique post, Toni. Thank you. I need to set aside some time to think about my symbols. I think I know them but I bet there are more than I really realize.

  4. Thank you for another wonderful post. What a great idea to explore. You are such an inspiration!

  5. This is absolutely the best explanation of using symbols that I have ever seen!

  6. This is a wonderful post! So much to think about. It's funny when I first starting reading your post I thought I didn't have any symbols, but as I read along I realized I did. I just need to become aware of them.

    Again thanks!

  7. What a great idea! Thanks very much for sharing this. I'm going to try it out on myself. Would be a wonderful exercise as an Artist Date (RE: The Artist's Way).

  8. Love how you've worked through your symbols and remind us to open our eyes and see what we surround ourselves with - often unconsciously. Do some symbols have both a light and a dark side - carrying perhaps more than just one meaning for you?

    You have a few unique images that really resonate with me - that of the mermaid and the horse for sure - both are powerful on their own, but together really grab me. You can see them appearing in my artwork too.

    Thanks for sharing your idea!

  9. These posts are such a nourishing and insightful way to give back to the creative community! Over the summer I organized my personal symbology in a very similar way. It was amazing how much of my rubber stamp collection fit into the context of such visual cues. Now I have a dictionary-in-progress which is amazingly satifying to study and amplify.

  10. hmmmm.....never thought of life this way....ALTHOUGH I sooooo believe in kind of the same thing but different, right ?

  11. This idea has really grabbed me, and I'm constantly looking for those symbols now, as I go about my life. Thanks for turning me on to this, I love that I can have my own symbology.


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