Winter Solstice :: Recovery Gals Art Exchange (Renewal)

My little studio used to be my son’s little studio. Over the years, I’ve commandeered the place and slowly took it over as my very own. His interests in creating art have waned considerably upon entering high school and as hard as it’s been to accept that he is his own person (no one every old me this would happen!), I didn’t want to become the kind of mom that made her kid do art. God. That would be awful, wouldn’t it? But I miss those days where we used to spend hours and hours on end creating things he dreamed up in his mind. So as much as it kills me to watch him be a normal teenager and reject something that I love so much, I released him from pleasing me in this way because it cannot be about me. I know that.

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The theme this time around for the Recovery Gals Art Exchange is RENEWAL. That word got me thinking about my relationship with my son and how he and I are constantly renewing what it means to be at this place we’re currently at - adolescence (an 11-letter word!). What once was, is now vastly different. Our relationship ebbs and flows and I get my feelings hurt quite a bit. In recovery, I’ve heard that we’re not supposed to regret the past, nor wish to shut the door on it, but I gotta be honest - sometimes I wish I could.

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I was hungover daily for almost a decade of my son’s life. I was short-tempered and bitchy upon waking. In my home, my tone of voice set the tone for the day. In recovery, I’ve had the chance to right some of the wrongs from my drinking days. As luck would have it, I’m a morning person now. i’m actually writing this at 4:30 in the morning! I can hardly believe it. But that’s the thing about recovery that I’ve come to appreciate, the ways in which we have the opportunity to be reborn every 24 hours. I can choose to start again, hit the reset button and rehabilitate old patterns with intention and dogged determination It’s now the work of my life and I love it.

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For this exchange, I wanted to use a humble material as my base to symbolize how raw and bland I felt when I first quit drinking. I dug through the shelves in my studio and stumbled upon my random cardboard/chipboard collection. I save these to use when reinforcing something flimsy when shipping, like a drawing or painting. The symbolism that it was useful and sturdy was intentional, too.

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Over the past few months, I used this simple piece of chipboard to wipe excess paint off of my brushes. Over time, it has become it’s own work of art. The layers symbolic of my recovery, too. No pre-meditation, just a simple, rhythmic exercise that I would do before cleaning my brush or library card off in water to remove the final bit of paint from those simple tools.

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The simple practice of using the chipboard as a place to receive excess from my paintbrush made me think of my simple morning routine. By starting my day like a blank canvas, so to speak, I can start layering the basic things that help me create a fresh start and attitude for what is to come. The idea that there is not a pre-determined outcome to my routine is helping me to see the beauty in just what is. No bells and whistles go off when I’m done. It’s a quiet union I make with my higher power and it transforms my way of being as I venture into the next 24 hours.

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So while some could perceive this painting as a messy or chaotic, I like to think of it as a revitalization of what it once was - a simple, beige-colored, one dimensional, functional piece made hard from the build up of layers. An item that could have been easily discarded as not worthy of being seen or framed. What I did was choose to see it, revive it and give it life by adding broad strokes of random colors, a little bit of this and a little bit of that, until it became fresh and reinvigorated. This is EXACTLY what I did when I got sober. I was that sad little piece of bland chipboard. So flat and emotionally wrung out of all color in my life and slowly (very slowly), over time, I started adding color back into my life. Layer by layer. One awkward brush stroke at a time. I didn’t know how I was going to turn out, but I knew I could no longer remain beige and blend into the background of my life.

2018: renewal acrylic on chipboard

2018: renewal
acrylic on chipboard

I also enclosed a copy of Pixie Lighthorse’s Prayers of Honoring book for my exchange partner because she has been one of my biggest teachers this year when it comes to my morning routine and feeling renewed after I absorb her words. She has been helping to restore my spirit by starting the day reading her one-page prayers. This is something I never thought I would do, but I’ve learned that I quite surprise myself when I remain open and willing to learn new things. Her words are a salve that I apply to my soul every single morning. I am restored when I finish reading them. They baptize me with their beauty and, in a way, I am born again.

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I love how these art exchanges help me to think about what it was like, what happened and what it’s like now.

Renewal is an action for me. It is something I take every morning upon waking, moving through my rituals and routines and I’m grateful that when I set the tone now in my home, it is one with far more softness and grace than I once possessed.


I just opened a package containing art from my partner in this exchange and it literally took my breath away.

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My exchange partner shared that this was her first attempt with working with stained glass as a medium. I’d say she has a future with this art form, right?

Here is a little bit about the meaning and power behind her creation.

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Thank you for such a thoughtful + creative gift, Amy. I will treasure this for years to come and feel deeply honored that you would make this one-of-a-kind creation and then gift it to me. I am humbled by your generosity and talent.


If you are interested in seeing more #recoverygalartexchange work, click on the hashtag and you’ll be taken to Instagram and you can peruse past exchanges. We have close to 200 images showing work made over the past two years and exchanged between women in recovery from alcohol.

If you’re interested in participating, send me a DM on Facebook at Tammi Salas and I can add you into the secret Facebook group for the next exchange (spring equinox), which will be announced in early January 2019.

Recovery Gals Art Exchange :: Vernal/Autumnal Equinox :: Awake(N)

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The theme for this round of the recovery gals art exchange was Awake(N). i met my exchange partner, Anna, at the She Recovers LA event that took place last weekend at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. It was a total bonus to be able to exchange in person and get to know her over the weekend. She was totally alive and excited by the event, too.

My co-host on the unruffled podcast, sondra primeaux, anna + myself

My co-host on the unruffled podcast, sondra primeaux, anna + myself

One August morning, I woke up and was, like, EYEBALLS. Yep. EYEBALLS. And, that had me walking out to the studio to grab a stack of magazines and start cutting out eyes that spoke to me.

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Last weekend, during a guided meditation by Biet Simkin, I took part in an exercise that involved left eye gazing and it was one of the most powerful experiences I’ve ever had in meditation. You can read more about it here. Biet’s story, as well as her original music and guided meditation, became one of the highlights of the weekend for me.

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Collage has never been my medium, but I enjoy those who do it and do it well, like artists Danielle Krysa, Hollie Chastain and Christa David.

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I applied rubber cement to the square panel and the backs of the images and let them both dry. Then I started placing them on the small wood panel foundation in an overlapping manner. I had to commit to placement because the paper was thin and couldn’t be removed and placed in a different spot. It looks like it bubbled up, and it did, but it calmed down and smoothed out once it was totally dry. After a few hours, I turned it over and used an X-acto knife to remove the overage on the edges.

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Connecting with Anna in LA was the best. Her vibe was infectious and helped me to remember how amazing it is to be AWAKE in my life, in sobriety.

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She gifted me this beautiful hand-carved crystal grid kit. Here is how she explained the materials used:

It was made with curly (quilted) maple wood. It was kiln dried at the mill where my husband carves at. The wood came from a tree in the Pacific Northwest near where I live. It’s important to me to use locally sourced materials, like I’m offering a piece of my home to the recipient.
— Anna B.

She also shared in her letter that crystal grids are all about intention and sacred geometry and the power of the stones. The stones she bestowed on me were clear quartz, citrine, and amethyst.

Anna’s verve and zest for life showed me, in real time, how awake she is in her sobriety and recovery. She brought a smile to my face every time I ran into her during the conference or saw her posts on Instagram. She soaked up every bit of the LA-experience and was a shining example of how good sobriety can look on someone. She exuded confidence, wide-eyed curiosity and joy. I feel so fortunate to have crossed paths with her on social media and then in real life.

Thank you for such a thoughtful and generous creation, Anna. It’s gonna live in my studio with me.

The view from our room at the beverly hilton hotel on the morning of 9/15/18

The view from our room at the beverly hilton hotel on the morning of 9/15/18

I feel like I definitely woke up to my life on February 3, 2015, when I decided to tell my doctor at my annual physical just how much I drank in a week.

I woke up to the chance to live my life by being 100% alcohol-free.
I woke up to the gift that my addiction had given me.
I woke up to going deep within myself to unearth what I had buried for so long.
I woke up to stepping out of my comfort zone in an attempt to grow into myself.
I woke up feeling all my feelings and choosing not to numb them out with booze.
I woke up to a new version of myself that felt familiar, but had been dormant for so long.
I woke up to my own recovery and eventually began embracing it as my superpower.
I woke up to not caring what other people think and embracing the woo.
I woke up to my life.

When I could no longer stand the person I was, I chose to do things differently so that I could feel different.

I chose to stop drinking for 8 weeks as part of an elimination diet.
I chose to stay the course when those 8 weeks were over because I loved waking up without a hangover.
I chose to greet as many sunrises as humanly possible and nurse myself back to health.
I chose to do things that took me WAY outside my comfort zone.
I chose to eventually go to 12-step meetings and suspend my judgment.
I chose to listen more than talk.
I chose to surround myself with others who shared my common problem.
I chose to seek a spiritual solution.
I chose to go back to school in order to fulfill a lifelong dream and reclaim my lost self.
I chose all of this so that I could live a life I no longer wanted to escape from.

I’m grateful I no longer abandon myself to fit in or please others or soothe my anxieties.
I’m grateful my darkness helped me identify the dimmer switch in my life and showed me how to turn it up, instead of down.
By removing just one thing (alcohol), I finally woke up to the possibilities of a brighter, bigger life.

Alcohol actually delivered me into this amazing world of introspection, inquiry work, the 12-steps and a recovery community I adore.
Alcohol allowed me to find a way out and into a more conscious way of living.
Alcohol has shown me what it was like, what happened and what it’s like now.

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I am wide awake to my life today and feel like I am the luckiest.

#recoverygalsartexchange :: Summer Solstice (WONDER)

During the last week of school, all of a sudden, I was inspired to work on my recovery gals art exchange. I had previously been worried I wouldn't be able to find the time or fit it because of my busy end-of-the-year schedule and my impending art show. 

It all worked out.

Just like it always does.

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It started here. I wasn't ready to dig into homework yet and, if I'm being honest, I wasn't ready to wrap up the last few paintings in The Geographic series.

A fellow classmate had done an in-classroom demo demonstrating how to apply gold leaf and I was immediately intrigued. I drove myself directly to the art supply store and picked up a gold leafing kit. If you're interested in learning more about how to gold leaf, you can watch the Youtube video I watched before I jumped into the process here.

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After applying black gesso to the hardwood panels, I scraped color across the panels using an old plastic credit card. Ultimately, I knew I wanted these pieces to be white with just a hint of color peeking through. Layers are an important part of my creative process.

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Next up: I pulled out my childhood dictionary and looked up the word WONDER. I ripped of a piece of glassine paper from a roll I had shoved in a corner of my studio. I tucked it into my vintage electric typewriter and tapped out the definition.

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I ripped off the excess negative space and placed it directly in the center of the prepped panel.

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Then I used matte medium to adhere it and a Speedball roller to push out the air bubbles.

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Next up: I applied the gold leaf, following the directions on the box.

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And the final product was more than I could have hoped for.

I absolutely love how it turned out.

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I removed the tape, sanded the edges and applied a layer of matte medium to seal it.


The month of May was a challenging stretch of days for this gal. I'm so grateful this art exchange gave me the opportunity to step back from my drama, my story, my challenges, and spend some time with myself in the studio, creating something from nothing for a woman I don't really even know in a bid for connection with someone who shares my common problem with alcohol.

The layers.
The darkness I experienced this month with my health.
And how I listened to my gut and knew that making art would lift me up and out of myself.
Stumbling upon my old childhood dictionary.
Looking at my name inscribed on the inside cover in my loopy handwriting from 1977.
Feelings of nostalgia bubbling up and enveloping me.
Having the time and space to let my mind wander...

Wondering why I didn't allow little Tammi to follow her childhood passions.
Wondering why I sloughed off the things that brought me the most joy.
Wondering why I conformed to other's expectations of me.
Wondering why I started faking it in my daily life.
Wondering why removing just one thing from my life gave me the opportunity for a bigger one.
Wondering why it took me finding my bottom to figure out I was my own worst enemy.
Wondering why I left myself so often; and
Wondering why I felt like an imposter in my own life.

Wondering why it took me so long to return to myself.
Wondering why I still feel awkward at times.
Wondering why I doubt my intuition when I know that it should be listened to and honored.
Wondering when I'll stop questioning myself.
Wondering when acceptance and surrender and willingness and open-mindedness will become second nature to me.

Wondering when curiosity and pleasure will be my guiding principles.
Wondering when I'll fully shed the shame of my drinking past.
Wondering why, in sobriety, each new day feels like a baptism.

And, deciding I don't need to spend my days wondering about any of this.
I know full well now that I have everything I need and,
I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be.

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I am a WONDER.

And so are YOU.