The Creative Cloister
Exploring the artistic roots of our Catholic Faith While ‘Sheltering in place’
Welcome to the Creative Cloister. In 2019 the Saint Martha’s Guild was asked to create an online collection of favorite projects exploring some of the fabulous artistic traditions of our Catholic faith as a way of encouraging an active spiritual life during the pandemic’s ‘Shelter in Place’ adventure. Those activities are corralled here under the “Creative Cloister” menu.
Fr. Peter Cutouts
Let’s start with the fabulous Fr. Peter Cutouts. Created in the 1940s by Catholic Extension, these are educational, quirky and adorable.
We’ve even put Fr. Peter to work in our Saint Martha’s Guild sewing room.
This is our replacement for Easter Baskets. We created a paper maché tomb.
It is basically a small cardboard box with wadded up newspaper taped to the outside to morph it into a cave-ish shape. We used TP tubes (you know you have a bunch of those) wrapped with wadded up newspaper to create receptacles for small flower vases - spice jars in our case. The whole thing gets taped to a board and covered with a few layers of paper maché using strips of newspaper and wheat paste. Here is a video of the paper maché process. Finally we painted ours with Rust-Oleum stone spray paint. Leftover house paint works too, unless your house is blue.
On Good Friday evening we set tea lights on the rocks around the tomb, The stone is rolled across the opening. On Easter morning the stone is rolled away, the rocks are blooming with flowers from the yard, and the tomb is stuffed with chocolate bunnies and jelly beans, spilling out in an epic river of sugared glory.
You can make most of this in an afternoon with stuff around the house.
- A board big enough to serve as a base for the tomb
- A cardboard box (you know doubt have one of those from Amazon)
- Some newspaper
- Masking tape
- Flour and water to make paste
- Some paint
- Small jars for vases
This was a standard Catholic school child’s craft project. The pocket shrine traditionally contains an image, medals and a prayer. Given the current circumstances, the Spiritual Communion prayer would be perfect. Often there is a small pocket with a folded up prayer. They are usually closed with a snap or button and loop. I’ve seen people incorporate pockets for their rosary.
When we encounter these small prayer aids while rummaging through our backpacks or purses, they remind us of who we are and encourage us to check in with Our Lord or our favorite saint. I’ve seen some really great versions of these. My favorite was from South America devoted to St. Martin de Porres, complete with a tiny broom fashioned out of a match stick and dried grasses fastened with brightly colored thread. This is a great place to use those broken scapulars, bits of retired rosaries, or the medals from Grandma’s drawer.
- Scrap of leather or sturdy fabric
- Lining fabric
- Printed image or one of those badges from Grandma’s dresser
- Print of prayer sized to fit into one of the panels
- Packing tape to laminate (both sides) of the prayer and maybe the image
- Medals and/or crucifix
- Optional beads, ribbon, or other embellishments
Any scrap of heavy fabric or leather makes a great case. Rummage around to see if you have an old purse or a pair of retired boots. Naugahyde works too. Print your images and text and then ‘laminate’ them with packing tape. Here’s a video of the blanket stitch for stitching the lining to the leather. I like to “pre-drill” the holes on the leather by stitching along the edge with an unthreaded sewing machine. Use the longest basting stitch length. I usually do this to the paper-packing tape image and prayer so that the stitches are really even. Some of these pocket shrines are simply machine sewn which is certainly an option if you have a lot of social activities that you need to run out for ;-)
Here is my Catholic Art Pinterest board.
Holy Card Heaven will have many beautiful images that would work for this.
This is a rather extensive gallery of Catholic fine art.
Check out these Pocket Shrines on Pinterest for lots of great ideas.
All right people, time to go outside. Everyone man your cell phone cameras. Take a walk. See how many front yard Madonnas you can find. Take pictures. Catholic cemeteries are a nice place to take a walk and will give you lots of material. Some Chicago neighborhoods are pretty epic at showing their Mother Love. If your neighborhood/suburb is lame, start nosing around for new locations to explore. With this pandemic shutdown you all probably need a change of scenery anyway. Post your most interesting ones in the nifty ‘I want my mom’ Facebook group and I’ll start a gallery here. The most epic one will get a hand embroidered scapular stitched by the St. Martha’s Guild! Ready....go!
The Gallery is Rocking! Looks like Mom is everywhere!
We've found that praying the family rosary is pretty wonderful with candles lit and a Spotify playlist going in the background. Classical music with no lyrics is pretty perfect since it doesn’t interfere with the concentration on the mysteries. Below are links to the Spotify Playlists.
The Kitchen Madonna
My sister recommended this book as a read aloud when my children were in grade school. Written by Rumer Godden, the book follows two young children on a mission to create a Kitchen Madonna for their beloved Marta. These carefully decorated icon images are tantalizingly described along with many adventures the two encounter as they collect just the right materials for their project. The book is really wonderfully written and the project begs to be replicated. I believe we have a hopped up one of these hanging in our church.
Brought to you by the St. Martha’s Guild of St. John Cantius Church in Chicago IL.
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