Storybox Project with Sherri Davis

Blog feature sessions

I knew when I found out that I was going to be a part of the Storybox Project that it was going to stretch me. And I wanted it to. I wanted the project to define this summer for the artist in me. I knew I was going to be pushed to think outside the obvious of what to do with whatever mysterious items arrived on my doorstep. How exciting! Someone sending me a package with who know’s what in it, to make one storytelling image with all 4 items it in. My daughter thought maybe we were going to receive a giraffe and wondered how we could incorporate that into a session. I didn’t want to discourage her imagination, but I suspected that Canadian Customs may have some red tape involved in importing a giraffe. I spent many hours daydreaming about what could possibly be in the package. And not unlike Christmas, the anticipation is as much fun as what is to be discovered. 

When I first opened the package and saw a feather I immediately thought of a local Pow Wow we go to every year. The beautiful Regalia the dancers wear, the Headress’ the men wear, which then led me to the beautiful jingle dresses that the little girls wear. Dancing with jingling metal beads sewn row after row after row all over the dress. After a couple of weeks of thoughts, daydreams, making lists and sketches I got from the Pow Wow to a kite. And then my mind combined the jingle beads of the little girls dresses with the feathers from the mens Headress’, the twig for a handle and the yarn for a tail to arrive at a kite. I love handmade paper, so I went out and bought three large pieces of handmade paper. One for my son, one for my daughter to do what they wanted with and one for me. I knew they would want to be involved, but I didn’t want them messing up the beautiful kite I was going to make. Let them play and get messy while I create the perfect kite for the session. Since there was no Lego involved my son had no interest so his kite stayed pretty plain. My daughter decided that she needed a picture of her favorite horse Napoleon on hers. Or course it had to be large. And then for some reason Napoleon needed a piece of blue masking tape right by his nose. Not quite sure why, but it had to be there. My kite was a lovely shade of peach with dried flowers embedded in the paper with no masking tape or kraft paper horses glued on. My daughter’s pink kite had dried flowers in the paper too, but I’m not a pink person at all, so I knew it wasn’t going to be in the final picture. 

The forth item in the package was a small piece of green paper. Inspired by the jingle beads on the dancers dresses, I tore up the paper into little bits, added it to some torn up newspaper, made paper mache beads, painted and then strung them onto the yarn, cut into 3 pieces, on the tail of all three kites. On my kite I added even more beads as well dangling along the sides of the kite alternating with feathers. It was gorgeous. Exactly what I wanted. 

Around this time I started thinking of all the places we could take the kites to and what the kids would wear. I’m terrible at preplanning sessions. Nothing ever goes the way I want, my kids hate being told what to wear. Someone, usually me, always ends up in tears, but it was really important to me that both my kids be in the final image. Yeah right.  No logos? That is a disaster waiting to happen. A particular colour shirt? Nope, not going to happen. Tall grassy area during golden hour? No way. I’m not even going into the wardrobe discussions we had. Suffice to say I had nothing to do with my daughter’s clothing choices. My son? On the way to the predetermined lovely nature area with lots of wildflowers and tall grass he had an OCD meltdown and we had to turn around to go home. I wasn’t that concerned because I didn’t really like what my daughter was wearing anyway. And she was refusing to use my pretty perfect kite, so we switched the twig handle from mine to hers along with the feather from the storybox package just in case I did manage to create something worthy of submission, and went to my backyard thinking that maybe another day we would take my pretty kite to a lovely beach or something equally as stunning. For now we would practice flying it. I could get an idea of angles that worked and didn’t and even if the kite flew. Long story short, she was more interested in putting Henny Penny in a tree than running with a kite. The light was gorgeous, the sprayer beside the barn no so much. But that was okay, we’d try again another day. For now I’d let her be a kid. We had nowhere to go, and it was a beautiful summer night. She played with the chicken and occasionally would pick up the kite, oblivious to me and my camera.

A few days later I got the brilliant idea to take the kids to the water fountain in town and let them go crazy with the kites. How original is that? No one else in the project is going to fly a kite in a fountain! My daughter held my kite for exactly 30 seconds before she dropped it to go play in the water. My son held his for 10 seconds before he threw his kite up in the air but just stood there not running anywhere. Maybe to test gravity? I don’t know, but it promptly fell into the water. And that was the end of that.

Failure is good. We can all learn from our mistakes right? I decided I liked the horse on the pink kite but after the fountain incident it needed some repairs. Most of the feathers had fallen off so I glued more on the side, but alternated the beads just like my kite. We waited until a day my husband was home so my son could stay with him, bribed my daughter with a trip to the dollar store and took her to an open, grassy area with a big hill she could run up with the newly improved kite. That lasted about 3 minutes. I got a few nice standing still pouting shots, which were okay, but not my normal style. I almost asked another little girl I saw there if she would help but her family was with another photographer doing a family session. 

What do I do? Do I keep trying to improve by trying again to make the perfect session? Do I go with the first one which is not what I wanted, but is definitely me and my crazy life on a farm with kids and chickens. Do I go with the 3rd which really wasn’t my style and only had one good image from. I’m not perfect. My family is not perfect. My photographs are definitely not perfect. Is that failure? Or is that just me? I knew that some of the other photographers in the project were going to be submitted a perfectly styled image. Should I try and be like them? I went back and forth for a couple of weeks soul searching for answers. I think in the end I made the right choice. The reality is my life is imperfect. I live on a farm that has rusty equipment sitting in random places. My chickens run wild amongst our daily lives. I think my chickens are hilarious. I love the absurdity of a chicken sitting in a pine tree while a little girl (who obviously chose her own clothes that day) plays with a kite.  Pretending to be anything but a ridiculous family in the middle of nowhere would be silly. 

You can see Sherri (and all our other lovely Storybox Project images) in the Fall Issue of Dreamer Journal.

You can also find Sherri on Ello and her SITE.

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2 Responses

  1. Kara says:

    Wow Sherri….. you always amaze me. What a beautiful tribute to your children and what you can do / and what you are capable of with a few items in a box! I love it!

  2. Elizabeth says:

    Sherrie! You have completely inspired me-thank you! Suddenly, all I want to do is make a beautiful kite!

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