Sacred Artist Interview: Bette Norcross Wappner

I am really excited about this new weekly feature on my blog for 2008 — I will be interviewing artists who keep an awareness of the sacred at the heart of their creative work.  I want to explore how others merge their art and spirituality and give you, my dear readers, some more insights into this connection.

I am especially delighted to begin this series by interviewing Bette Norcross Wappner or b’oki as she is known by her poet’s pen name.  Bette found my blog not too long after I started writing one, about a year and a half ago.  She is a great example of one of the reasons I keep blogging — the chance to get to know some marvelous creative people who live miles away from me but share a passion for art and the sacred. 

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“Cool Blue” — one of Bette’s beautiful woodcut prints with haiku

So let’s dive into the wisdom Bette has to offer us:

What is your faith tradition?

I was raised in a Pentecostal church and then joined the Lutheran faith when I met my husband-to-be in 1986. Altogether, the two faith traditions and Eastern spiritual beliefs of contemplation and mystical union with nature, have given me a beautiful balance of Holy Spirit, Liturgical Spirit, and Nature Spirit. 

What is your primary art media?

Japanese short-form poetry — haiku and waka/tanka written in English, and woodblock printmaking in the old Japanese water-based, hand-burnished technique called Moku-Hanga.

How do you experience the connection between spirituality and creativity?

Only through my interaction with Nature am I truly able to experience a powerful synergy of spirituality and creativity. Being in nature clears my mind of worldliness, filling me with peace, joy, and deep and mysterious Beauty that can only belong to a higher power — God. 

What role does spiritual practice have in your art-making?

My spiritual practice has certainly evolved in my fifty years on Earth. I feel that being in nature, contemplating upon beautiful nature photography, writing poetry, creating art, showing love and kindness to others — all to be an over-all spiritual practice of art-making!

What sparked your spiritual journey?

When I was a teenager, I had wonderful spiritual experiences at church camps and being baptized fully-immersed. But as an adult, my true spiritual journey really started when I took a Beginning Haiku class online in the fall of 2002. When I learned how to be aware of nature and to describe my meditations in a disciplined 3-line, short-form poem, my mind, spirit, and soul opened wide up.

What sparked your artistic journey?

The first spark into my artistic journey was when I was a young girl and my artistic mother and I would lay on the floor together and color in coloring books. I became a graphic designer and Art Director in my mid-twenties; then after I became a stay-at-home-mom I slowly gave up my graphic design and took up fine-art. 

Do you have a particular process you use when entering into your creative work?

Writing Japanese short-form poetry in English has been my main creative work. The process I use when I am particularly inspired and captured by an image of nature is to enter into peaceful meditation. Then I start to write down the realistic beauty I see in that image. After that, I write down human emotions that relate to that image. Sometimes woodblock prints are born from my nature poetry and that is a special bonus!

How does your art-making shape your image of God?

As an artist, God has given me the ability to express what I see and feel through my art-making. My desire is for others to see and feel images of God in my creations.

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A deep bow of gratitude to Bette for sharing of herself in this way.  I love the way creativity infuses her whole life and I especially love the paradox of discovering a specific form of poetry as the catalyst for an opening of the soul.

Go visit her Flickr page to see more beautiful woodblock prints and come back tomorrow for a visual meditation.

One more day to submit your poem for this week’s Poetry Party!  Go read the latest submissions, as usual it is an abundance of poetic beauty.

-Christine Valters Paintner @ Abbey of the Arts

(middle photo is of Bette with her drum — one of her new passions and the bottom print is “Leaping Goddess” also by Bette)

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11 Responses

  1. Christine – Great article! My mind is awhirl re the haiku experience Bette describes re nature/body/soul – awakening. Your blog continues to stretch me…..

  2. wonderful post, christine & bette! your energy must have been close by because my morning post at lucy creates came out in haiku form…then i came over here and found bette’s interview :-) i love it when things like that happen.

    yes, bette (& christine)…”may we all continue to inspire one another!”

  3. Thank you, Christine and everyone for your kind comments. I really appreciate Christine for giving so much of herself to this blog for us all to come to each day to meditate, learn, and enjoy the beauty of each other, of nature, and of God. My life has truly been enriched ever since I found Abbey of the Arts :) May we all continue to inspire one another!
    Love,
    Bette

  4. Bette Norcross Wappner is an exceedingly fine waka and haiku poet and printmaker! Equally wonderful, she never competes with her colleagues, but always seeks to nurture, encourage and inspire us all! as is abundantly clear from her weblog at :

    SURIMONO GARDEN
    http://b-oki.livejournal.com/

    Thank you, so much Christine for this interview, and congratulations Bette on being chosen for this well deserved honor at Abbey of the Arts.

    ~kigen

  5. I love your woodcut, Betty, and it was so interesting to read how your spirituality was formed.

    Thanks, Christine, for adding this. What an inspiring interview!

  6. Ohmygoodness!!! Once again, you and Bette have given a lovely and valuable gift. The questions and answers and art are truly inspired. Thank you so much!

  7. This is a great idea Christine. Bette, how interesting and inspiring to find out more about you. (I recently bought a drum, too!)

Comments are closed.