Saturday, March 12, 2011

Dinesh Francis - Book Designer of 'Human Icons, Sacred Stories'

Dear Francoise,

Greetings! Trust you're keeping well.

Am glad to hear that your iconic dolls exhibitions are going on well in Europe and America, and that people from different walks of life are responding sensitively to your beautiful works. I'm not surprised, since your dolls evoke the same sense of joy and wonder from so many people even here in Bangalore and in your other Indian exhibitions.

Francoise, now that your third book has been published, and having journeyed with and assisted you in the overall design of this book, I'd like to take a few moments to share my experience of the entire creative journey with you. Right from the first time we met, and you introduced yourself and your work to me, I felt an instant rapport and connection with you and your creative work. It’s a connection that happens spontaneously between inspired artists, regardless of the medium in which they work. When I heard you describe your work and the spiritual purpose behind it, and how you started creating your dolls, allowing the Spirit to move you and inspire you at every step, i was really touched. And deep down i was hoping that we might have an opportunity to work together on some  inspired creative projects. A few days later, as if in answer to my wishes, you asked me if I would design the book for your new dolls project, based on the gospel stories. I was happy to accept your request, and immediately started preparing for the same. Initially to start with, we just had with us your beautiful photos of the iconic dolls. Each of the dolls, based on the gospel stories, was created so meticulously and perfectly, with such loving attention to detail! It was a joy to simply hold and behold these little figures, watching them play out their parts beautifully. You told me that their photos have been sent to different poets, writers, and artists in different parts of the world, so that they may feel inspired to write a short poem or a little story about them, keeping the appropriate gospel passages in mind.

We were waiting for the writings to come in… and as they started coming one by one, the book also began to take shape spontaneously. You asked me to keep the design very simple, so that the inspiring message of the dolls and the writings were highlighted more. Whatever designs that I submitted were open for discussion and changes... and I deeply appreciate the way you gave suggestions and creative ideas. The entire creative process was one of mutual respect and openness to each other’s ideas and insights, and divine inspiration was always behind each decision, as we allowed the Spirit to guide us at every step…

As the poems came in, and I started to arrange them for the book, I started reading each one slowly and mindfully, with a growing sense of awe, wonder and delight! The interpretation of the dolls and their gospel passages by each writer was so radically fresh and innovative! Spiritual power and divinity expressed through such simple words and images! It was as if my eyes were opened anew to the gospel words. I had to literally open my bible each time to check what the gospels said, and how they related to the ideas and inspired visions expressed by the writers. There was a beautiful dynamic happening between the dolls, the photographs, and the writings… all subtly interconnected and held together by the underlying gospel passage. What a joy to discover multiple meanings and inspirations from all these! And the more poems and images I worked on, the more this sense of divine discovery and creative joy increased! I can truly tell you that it was not at all like “work” for me… it was as if I was just an instrument through which this sacred work was being done! And a good sign of this was that ,there was hardly any fatigue or boredom at any point while working on the book. In fact, the more we interacted on the book and its contents, the more there was a sense of joyful discovery and creative delight. Many of the gospel passages took on a whole new meaning with each new image of the dolls and their stories.

During the process of this work, I was also witness to so many visitors who stopped by to say hello to you, and stayed on to discover your sacred work, fascinated and deeply touched by the simple yet profound beauty & dignity of your dolls. To me, this was a direct experience of the wonderful power of divinely inspired work. Most of the time it was hidden, and yet it reached out to the right people and touched them in ways that, I’m sure, forever changed their way of thinking and seeing. I, for one, believe that all creative work is sacred. But the ones that make us turn back to God, turn back to the Spirit within our own hearts… THAT is truly Divine Creativity in action. Such work has the ability to help us become children again, help us to live in the Kingdom of Heaven, help us to see again with clear eyes and a pure heart. And I believe your work has that power… to bring the viewer back to his or her own heart, opening the floodgates of love and compassion within one’s own heart.
Every now and then, you would go off on your doll exhibitions to small villages and towns, and bring back photos and descriptions of many visitors who came, saw and were transformed. Many of these photos spoke for themselves, where little children, young women and old folk alike had their own favorite dolls, through which they could identify themselves… through which their own life-stories came alive... through which the healing power of God manifested itself to them.

Francoise, I also cherish the experiences and inspirations you shared with me about the creation of each of the iconic dolls. For any creative person, it’s always a mystery how inspiration strikes, or how an idea for a creative work arises. So for me, it was overwhelming and edifying to hear you speak about the ways by which inspiration and divine revelation came to you. For example, in the middle of the night, while you were quietly working on your dolls at 2 am, in holy silence and stillness. The Spirit whispers in the heart, in a still small voice… and only those who are open and receptive to it, as you are, are capable of receiving its message of love and wholeness. In my career as a graphic designer, illustrator and animator, often it’s very easy to get caught up in too much of work, working all the time, as if ideas are going to get exhausted anytime soon!! The mind is always occupied with something or the other, and the creative work that happens is often a jumbled mix of ideas put together in a chaotic manner. But after working on this sacred icons project, I’m learning to be more quiet, more silent, giving more space for stillness… so that the Spirit may speak and guide and do what it wants. The Spirit is, indeed, the source of inexhaustible creativity, and being still and empty allows one to be filled up with endless spiritual treasures and creative gifts, to be shared with the world at large. I realize that it is so important to do work that is spiritually meaningful, not only to oneself but also to others who experience it. And for this, I’m deeply grateful to you.

A Big Thank You from my heart, and on behalf of all my friends,

Love and Peace,
~ Dinesh Francis, June 2010

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