Tag Archives: hooping

The Flow Must Go On!

Mendo Flow Dojo at CircusMECCA's Halloween Party. Photo by Keith Wyner.
Mendo Flow Dojo at CircusMECCA’s Halloween Party. Photo by Keith Wyner.

It turns out that fall is just as busy as summer, if not more, and the changing seasons have certainly kept me on my toes. After our final festival trip of the year to Pacific Fire Gathering in September, we got right back to busily working our little tushies off. Weekends have been full of picking up extra work, jam jamming, and staying local, which has been so nice! We started October with a camping trip at Usal on the nearby Lost Coast for a friend’s birthday, and finished it with two shows in the bay area and then a kickass fire performance with our local circus school, CircusMECCA, at their Halloween street party in Mendocino.

I’ve started canning for fall, cleaning up from one season and preparing for the next in the garden, and enjoying a little more time to catch up on things around the house. But after the busiest year of my life, the to do list is still long as the holidays approach and the festival production season kicks off again soon with Lucidity (tickets are just now going on sale at 9am 11/3… which means another cycle begins and I will be quite busy). And the bills never end, so crush mode must remain engaged!

Fire Hoop at Once Upon a Festival. Photo by Zac Krohn / Clapping Porpoise Studios.
Fire Hoop at Once Upon a Festival. Photo by Zac Krohn / Clapping Porpoise Studios.

With a bit more time on my hands, I’ve finally gotten around to creating a Facebook page for my flow arts performance persona, Twisty Pixie.  Since James has had a page (Flicker) for a while now and we often perform together, I needed a place to gather photos & videos of my flow arts performances. I wanted to create something I can promote with and use as a contact point to get new performing gigs. Hopefully this is just the beginning. We have some pretty big dreams and it’s awesome to be getting such a great response when we share what we love doing with the world.

Our Halloween performance was a lot of fun, and we busted out more props and a longer set than ever for our third year performing with the amazingly talented folks at CircusMECCA. We dressed as fire ninjas and James made a mix of kung fu inspired music, and though we’ve both been so busy that we didn’t get much practice time in before the show, we got a great response from the crowd and hopefully got some new locals interested in the flow arts. We continue to host spin jams in town on most Thursday evenings, and perform together under the same name as our spin jam group, Mendo Flow Dojo.

Performing at Paige & Trent's Wedding in May.
Performing at Paige & Trent’s Wedding in May.

We even made the front page of the local paper, Mendocino Beacon, (and page 5) with fire photos from our Halloween performance and Mendo Flow Dojo got a mention! Granted, Mendocino is tiny so making the front page isn’t exactly difficult, but still, fire spinning on the front page! Fancy pants!

Our fire performance on Halloween made the front page of the Mendocino Beacon!
Our fire performance on Halloween made the front page of the Mendocino Beacon!
James got a photo on page 5 of the Mendocino Beacon
James got a photo on page 5 of the Mendocino Beacon

We only had a few official gigs this year (when we do so many things it’s hard to focus on practicing and our performance business as much as we’d like) but life is good when you can do what you love and actually get compensated for it! It gives me hope to see that the world still values art and creativity enough to support some pretty talented and amazing artists, and I am so grateful to have met and know a few of them personally! The flow life is the good life, and I am super excited for the next chapter in this adventure…

Hopefully lots more fun gigs are in our future, a promo video, and a web site for fire performance and flow arts education. If we know any photographers or videographers who are interested in capturing fire performance and going on a few flow arts photo shoots in beautiful local locations, hit us up! We are hoping to collaborate on a few photo shoots and we’re always looking for help capturing our shows. Thanks so much for your support!

James at our Mendo Flow Dojo Halloween performance. Photo by Keith Wyner.
James at our Mendo Flow Dojo Halloween performance. Photo by Keith Wyner.

Performance is not something I ever thought I would do professionally or even get into at all, especially with dance, silly shapes and dangerous fire as my medium. But sharing what I love with the world, engaging people in playful performances, and inspiring others to dance, move, and explore themselves has been a beautiful journey and I am so grateful that I can share this passion with my partner. It was, after all, a fire performance we were both asked to do at a Halloween party a few years ago that started our friendship and our love story. And this fire is still burning bright… because the flow must go on! <3

Performing at Paige & Trent's Wedding in May.
Performing at Paige & Trent’s Wedding in May.

Sacred Shape: A Work in Progress

Sacred Shape Web Site Screen ShotWeb design is a fast-paced field that I have a hard time keeping up with, but the fact that I have to stay up to date on my skills or risk being rendered obsolete by changing technology certainly keeps me on my toes! I have been reading and learning about WordPress for the past couple of years and was looking for a way to put what I had learned so far into practice. I learn best by doing anyway, and fake projects for tutorials are great and all, but what’s even better is finding a patient friend who needs a web site and has a limited budget but plenty of flexibility to allow me to learn as I built them a site.

Enter my good friend Kelsie of Sacred Shape Hula Hoops.

Kelsie and I fell in love with hooping together during several years of hoop groups on the bluffs overlooking Mendocino village and Big River Beach. She taught me a good chunk of my trick vocabulary and a few years ago she started making hoops. Kelsie is a jeweler, excellent chef, organic gardener, creative crafty type and very good with her hands. So of course once she sets out to make hoops, she makes gorgeous, high quality, handcrafted hoops with love! Over the years she has tried all different kinds of tubings, tapes, connectors, fire hoop wicks, sizes, and variations to find what works and looks best, and I’ve been happy to help try out all the different hoops along the way. We came up with a logo concept for the business that blossomed out of her hoop-making craft, Sacred Shape, and I designed her identity and business cards.

Sacred Shape IdentityKelsie sold hoops at a few small festivals and local events, began wholesaling hoops with the local FedEx stores, taught workshops and did a few performances with me, but soon she wanted to grow her business into something that could bring her more sustainable income. She had a friend offer to build her site but then stall for years without the project ever coming to fruition, so I offered to give it a try. We worked out a deal that allowed me time to learn the platform as I went and included partial payment in hoops. A hooper can never have too many hoops!

I knew I wanted to use WordPress for Sacred Shape’s site because it allows the control of having a site on your own servers, the freedom to completely customize the site while still running it with a WP backend, and once it was set up with a custom theme design, Kelsie could easily use WordPress as a CMS to update her site without having to know code or ask me to make endless updates. WordPress has a solid community of developers behind it and is the most widely used Content Management System, as well as being open source, updated constantly, and easy to use. But I also had to choose a plugin that would securely handle the e-commerce side of the site. After a bit of research, I decided to install WooCommerce, a free, expandible plugin that processes transactions, handles the shopping cart functionality, and does all the nerdy number crunching that’s over my head.

Building the site took about a year of planning, meetings, taking and gathering and preparing product and hooping photos, writing and editing content, learning WordPress and WooCommerce and just enough php to make them work (thank you Lynda.com), finding green web hosting, installing and configuring WordPress, designing a custom child theme to deck out the site with sacred geometry colorful fabulousness just like Kelsie’s hoops, and entering countless product details, descriptions, photos, prices, parameters, shipping costs, etc. etc. as I learned how to configure WooCommerce largely by trial and error. It was quite the long process, especially since we’re both so busy with other work! But the result is the first e-commerce site I’ve designed by myself and  the first WordPress custom child theme I’ve ever created, and it came out so pretty that I think it was worth the wait.

Sacred Shape Web Site Screen Shot 2

We launched the site at the end of September 2013 and threw a big launch party to celebrate. Kelsie and I practiced choreography for weeks and put together a fire show with friends. We had music, food and drinks, raffle prizes, and of course, lots of hooplah! Kelsie pulled together a lot of awesome people and put on an amazing event. Never has a site I’ve created been launched with such gusto!

Of course, launching a web site is just the beginning of the adventure. Creating and updating it with fresh content to keep people interested, fine tuning the site’s design and code, constantly updating the site and looking for ways to improve it, keeping track of stats and improving SEO are all ongoing. I showed Kelsie how to make updates, post blog posts, add images, and edit and add products and we’re both constantly learning more and updating the site. This project has most definitely been a labor of love.

Kelsie and I were friends before we ever worked together, so I’m sure that helped this project go smoothly, but our business relationship is exactly the type of connection with my clients that I crave for every freelance project I take on. I love being involved with a client’s business from the beginning and helping them express what they are all about through my designs. Especially if I’m involved early on in the creation of the business, I feel like a trusted and essential part of the team and I care about the success of the client’s business as if it were my own. It’s very rewarding being a part of the entire creative process and working with a business over the long term, carrying creative concepts through various mediums and campaigns. As a jack of all trades type designer, I love the variety of working on logos, print materials, web sites, graphics, banners, and all kinds of media, especially combined with the stability of steady work from a client over time. Building long-term symbiotic relationships with clients is what I strive for with every project, which is why I select them carefully and focus on a limited number at a time. After this project, it’s obvious that Kelsie and I make a good team whether we’re hooping or just trying to sell her hoops.

Launching Sacred Shape has inspired me to keep learning as much as I can about WordPress and keep experimenting with it. I finally archived my own site that I had designed in 2005 and replaced it with a clean install of WordPress with a plain, default theme. I have big plans to build a custom child theme and try out new things here as I learn more, but of course my own site is always on the back burner since I design for others to pay the bills.

Projects like Sacred Shape that combine my various passions are always a joy to work on. I hope that Kelsie’s web site will help spread the love of hooping and flow arts far and wide. Flow arts have played a very special role in my life and I love helping my friends go for their dreams, so this project was the perfect combination flow, friends, and lots of fun! Now, everyone go order hoops from Sacred Shape! They are amazing and I’ve been hooping with them for years, plus you’ll be helping a very deserving small business blossom and doing yourself lots of good, too!

Finding my Flow(mily)

Ever since Earthdance in September 2008 when I purchased my first hula hoop and began my journey into hooping, spinning, and the flow arts, I have been slowly connecting with and becoming a part of the wonderful flow arts community I call my “flowmily.” Flow arts is a relatively new art form that draws together influences from a variety of related movement art forms: martial arts, dance, juggling, circus arts, ancient cultural dance forms, and all kinds of object manipulation meld together and influence flow artists. We’re all seeking and sharing a love of the state of flow that comes from the concentration, movement, and discovery that learning the variety of forms of “movement meditation” provides.

Flow Temple beautifully describes the “flow state” that we can arrive at by many means, and which seems to come naturally with the flow and movement arts.

Flow is the state of relaxed responsive focus that you feel when you’re “in the zone” and ready for anything.  Flow is the state of optimal experience that occurs when your body, mind, and spirit are in dynamic balance. It’s what’s happening when the Now is so compelling that everything else fades away. Ego and fear dissolve in the perfect moment, time slows down, and whatever you are doing becomes a meditation. Flow tows the fine line between controlling your actions and obeying your commands.  You know when you’re in the flow, and flowing is half the battle. Where will and physics intersect, we hone our own flow.

My first introduction to fire spinning was seeing people spin fire at Okanogan Family Faire, a fall barter faire in northern Washington that I began going to in 2002. Seeing someone dance with fire was one of the coolest things my 19-year-old eyes had ever seen, but at that point, I never in a million years imagined that I would ever be able to do it! A few friends of mine were into hula hooping, but it was something I was never much good at until I finally bought a BIG, heavy rattan hula hoop from Holistic Hooping at Earthdance in 2008. I had always felt klutzy and uncoordinated, so hooping did not come naturally to me and I had to push through the awkwardness and keep spinning even though I didn’t feel graceful with it. I started practicing with that big hoop despite the bruised hips and failed attempts at grace, and soon was having hoop groups with my friends and exploring the world of hoopdance.

Through festivals like barter fairesFireDrums , Burning Man, and in my local community in my new home on the Mendocino Coast, I began seeing more and more hoopers and spinners. I haven’t always had the time to make regular practice a big part of my life, but the more I have gotten into it, the more amazing, inspirational, open-hearted and brilliant people I have met through the flow arts. A few of my good friends and I began hooping on the beaches and the bluffs regularly, and we all encouraged each other and shared as we learned. One of those hooper friends, Kelsie, started making hoops, and she now runs a hoop company, Sacred Shape. We launched her web site in fall 2013!

I have made and deepened so many friendships through spinning. Some of my fondest flow memories brought me full circle back to OFF barter faire, when 5 friends and I performed together as Kushi Tala and spun fire for our barter faire family in 2010. We were asked to come back again in 2011 and performed both Friday and Saturday nights to an even bigger, more enthusiastic crowd. I had only been spinning fire for a year in 2010 (my virgin burn with a fire hoop was at the same barter faire in 2009) but I was with friends who had been spinning for years and with their support, I felt ready to share my newfound love of this art form with the world. I have had the opportunity to perform at several small events since then, and though I don’t consider myself a professional performer yet by any means, it is always really rewarding seeing people’s response to the flow arts. It has even become a tradition for me to spin fire for my family when everyone is gathered for the holidays.

At FireDrums in 2011, my first fire spinning focused festival, I expanded my object manipulation universe past the hoop and began picking up fire fans and flow wand (or levitation wand). Flow wand has quickly become my favorite prop to dance with. It feels so natural to me that even though hooping will always be my first love, I feel that flow wand is my “native prop” – it is truly an extension of myself and it’s a very accessible way to reach the flow state. My first wand was just a simple practice wand from the wonderful company my friend Erik works for, FlowToys. When I got their LED flowlight wand for Christmas, it became my constant companion, and it’s still my favorite flow toy to take to shows or concerts or anywhere I may not have the space to hoop.

Flow has brought so many wonderful experiences, insights, and people into my life, and I am eternally grateful for the inspiring community I am becoming a part of. But there is one connection that stands out in my mind as the greatest gift the flow arts has ever brought me… and that is my sexy poi-spinning sweetie, James (Flicker). Around Halloween in 2012, James and I were asked by a mutual friend to spin fire at the Fuzzy Nights Halloween party at The Caspar Inn. We’d known of each other via Facebook (and it’s a very small spinning community in Mendo) but we hadn’t really spun together or hung out until that night. We had a little impromptu fire jam outside the party that night and became friends pretty much immediately. I was excited to find someone locally who was as excited about spinning as I was, and it helped that he was a DJ who happened to have very similar tastes in music as me, so our paths continued to cross and intertwine and out of our friendship blossomed the most beautiful love I’ve ever experienced.

After local hoopers spotted me LED hooping on Halloween, I began going to a hoop group at a dance studio that fall, and soon we had opened it up to other forms of spinning and flow arts and I began helping to organize weekly spin jams. Of course I invited James to come spin, and despite being the only guy and the only poi spinner for the first few months as we generated interest, he stuck it out and helped recruit people, and we now organize spin jams twice a week together. Having a partner in flow that helps me nurture and grow our local flow community has been amazing, and this is just the beginning! We make a wonderful team and I am so grateful that circus arts and playing with fire brought us together and gives us something to continue growing and learning in.

Flicker and Twisty Gypsy Spinning Fire

I am grateful for many many things in life, but especially for the gifts that flow arts and my beautiful flowmily have given me. One of my new life missions has become learning and absorbing everything I can about circus arts, practicing and tuning my body, mind, and spirit so that I can best express myself and share the love of flow arts with others. It has truly transformed my life and I’ll always love the world of flow.

I close this long rambling love letter to the flow arts in my life with a beautiful video FlowToys released wrapping up their 2013 festival season. There are many familiar faces in this video and fellow flow ninja Jonathan Alvarez put it together. Let it be the first of many inspiring flow videos I share here!