heart of wonder

Heart of Wonder close up by Brenna Busse
June 29, 2016

Each day is a secret story, woven around the radiant heart of wonder.  John O'Donohue

Creating my art, working in my studio, feels like being in the heart of wonder. It's when I can immerse myself in process, letting time unfold, being present with the materials that I love: clay and color.

To be in wonder is to approach work and world with curiosity. All of the "why. what, hows" call for action. Then a letting go enough, to listen, be present, let the materials have their say.

Wonder is also that place that feels like grace -- as if an unseen hand had guided mine. What emerges can be a wonderful surprise!

Here are  images from my process of creating that is a deep well of love and inspiration.


ready to fire


after the fire


adding color

Creating in Place


we know we love nature, do we know that the earth loves us back? Robin Wall Kimmerer

The lilacs were on the verge of bloom in early May here in Minneapolis, when I traveled five hours north to Grand Marais, a small, artful town hugging the North shore of Lake Superior. Spring was still a promise there as I gathered with nine other women to make art, with the guiding wisdom of Elizabeth Erickson. Her class, "Art as Journey" is offered through the amazing Grand Marais Art Colony, housed in a hundred year old church, focusing the creative spirit. Elizabeth, as my mentor through WARM, (Women's Art Resources of MN) 35 years ago, was pivotal in helping me find my creative voice.

I had just finished reading "Braiding Sweetgrass" by Robin Wall Kimmerer. She is a biologist and is of the Potowatomi people, so she combines her indigenous knowledge with science. She wonders if we began to call the natural world with a different pronoun, rather than "it" -- would we come more into relationship, not to objectify--to see rocks, trees, plants as partners in life, to begin to listen and

dreams of intimate nature

dreams of intimate nature

I learn from them.

dreams of intimate nature

dreams of intimate nature

dreams of intimate nature

dreams of intimate nature

It is with this open and humble intention that I began my art journey at Artist's point.
Artist's point in Grand Marais is a peninsula, a spit of volcanic rock that juts 1/2 mile into Lake Superior. Over the centuries, plant life has grown up in the cracks and crevices, so that now a hardy population braves this raw, windblown expanse, among them pines, lichens, mosses. . I gather materials that call my name -- to adorn the small, clay figures that are the beginning point of my creating. Above are three images from the series that I created in this inspiring place.

I love these pieces, and I know that they love me back!

an elegy

Flower photo by Brenna Busse
April 29, 2016

Each of us is emerging in every moment...

The word elegiac — is usually reserved for the somber remembering of the dead through ponderous verse. I heard the amazing poet and philosopher, David Whyte speak recently. His thoughts on elegy as both recognition of loss and celebration of what is lost resonated with me deeply.

Those who know my work, know that it has changed in the last year and a half.  My work has simplified. In this ongoing series, I use all clay for the figures; sticks, wire and acrylic paint are added after firing. There is always a bird — or two or three.

These images are an elegy for my sister Janet, who died two years ago, April 29. They embody our shared love and embrace of the verdant, living world. The birds are her spirit presence. They are a celebration of the way she touches my life – even now. Perhaps, especially now...

being hope

daffodils photo by Brenna Busse
March 29, 2016

Spring now! This time is a literal groundswell of possibilities as the earth begins burgeoning with life. Seeing the impossibly green sprouts emerging from the only recently frozen ground, feels like hope. In tune with the awakening spring, I have been thinking about hope. It sometimes get a bad rap as a kind of wishful thinking that everything will be fine. It is more complicated than that. I see hope as faith in the mystery, and a willingness to step into the unknown with open eyes and an ability to act as needed...

I am inspired by the writing of Rebecca Solnitz (Hope in the dark: untold histories, wild possibilities). She says: "Hope is a gift you don't have to surrender, a power you don't have to throw away." Yes, hope is powerful – I feel it like a prayer, when I walk into my studio, listen to the news, or think of the amazing people in my life. And being hope is work too – to show up, and be present and do what needs to be done.

I made these pieces below, with hope in my heart.

creating with nature

on the beach photo by Brenna Busse
January 29, 2016

On my self crafted art retreat in Mexico this year, I was drawn to create rock pile sculptures. This is a human impulse with a rich history and meaning. The term cairn is Scottish from the 16th century. Many were created and still exist to guide travelers. Called apacheta in South America, the rock piles are most commonly used to mark a trail, but also a place in the landscape to take notice, such as a burial site. Sometimes they are made, each passerby adding a piece, for good luck as with the Navaho. Other times to create a shrine or for pure self expression. Called "Inutsuk" by the Inuit, the rocks are huge, stacked larger than life size – and can be seen from great distance in the open landscape.

There is something sensual and transforming: sureness of rock, dense sound of stacking, joy of improbable balance

This practice is not without controversy, especially in wilderness areas where "leave no trace" is extolled. In endangered landscapes, moving rocks can upset the delicate natural balance. On complicated nature trails, clear rock pile trail markers are essential. Do not build under these circumstances.

artistic and spiritual

My practice here on this ever shifting, semi-tourist Pacific beach near the village of Troncones is both artistic and spiritual. Originally inspired by an amazing rock balancer just down the beach, when her/his work was nowhere to be seen this year, I decided to try. I have created many near our casa, both to mark a special place and to feel that joy of creating with nature. Through the tides, winds, passersby, fisherman, horses – most have stayed.

temporal art

Like all art made with natural materials, it is just a matter of time, and they will return to the earth. Much of the beauty is the temporal nature, to leave what I have "co-created" – give it back, with a prayer of thanks for this dance of creativity.

rock artist

Peter Juhl is a local Minnesota artist who has been creating temporal rock sculptures for 20 years. Check out his mastery of balance with the smooth rock from Lake Superior shores.

Gift of tree — love of linden


More about trees!  So the last couple of years I have developed a relationship with the linden. I find groves around the city and prune the elegant, drooping branches to use to create my “Gift of tree” series.


I love the sienna color of the branches that keep changing as they dry.

The linden flowers make a healing tea, so I gather them and drink the tea to imbibe the whole spirit of the tree! Linden tea has properties that are calming and help allay anxiety.



The branches are gathered and await “becoming”… working in my outdoor studio connects me with nature — and gives me the room to create



Gift of Tree

An ongoing series

Brenna Busse mixed media dolls

Gift of tree: welcome home

About six or seven years ago an intense summer storm hit the city of Minneapolis, where I live. I was devastated to see that there were trees literally blown down all over the city.  To honor these fallen giants, I began to collect branches before the trees were unceremoniously dragged away, chopped up and shredded.

mixed media, sticks, fabric, healing

Gift of tree: dream of green wings

“Climbing” the downed tree without effort, I was nonetheless in the canopy — amazed at the sun-kissed leaves and fresh growth — a view usually reserved for birds or adventurous squirrels. I clipped away the leaves, cut the sticks, gathered them together and secured them to form a body. Then adding a clay head, wrapping, and knotting colorful fabrics to become: doll. She felt like a changeling –person becoming tree, or tree becoming person?

moon, healing, mixed media, tree lore

Gift of tree: green moon

Over the years, I have created many “Gift of Tree” figures. The elegance of branch brings nature indoors in an artful way. I have used sticks of elm, maple, black locust, oak, poplar, linden. That they all have such different shapes, color and energy made me curious to learn more. I wanted to know their names, habits and history. This opened the door to the rich and ancient traditions of tree lore — the meaning and relationship to our ancestors and peoples in touch with nature.

Brenna Busse mixed media figures dolls metal tree sticks

Gift of tree: all parts welcome

ancient traditions

Early Northern tribal cultures had a deep relationship with trees and all of nature. Trees were sacred beings — planted or left standing –to mark a spot of ceremony or create protection. The early Celts crafted an alphabet with tree names as first letter. Each tree is associated with a month in the year, and has mystical qualities and healing properties that were learned and used in daily life.

sticks, mixed media, tree lore

Gift of tree: keeping count

Making a stick figure is like a ritual for me.  Finding the branches, cutting and fitting, wrapping and knotting are all intuitive, healing motions. I feel as if I am in touch with ancient wisdom and the spirit of tree.

And of course, each year it seems, there are storms that rip through the country. With strangely strong, straight line winds, the trees are helplessly blown down. I continue to collect and honor. I continue to create out of this destruction.