BY RUSSELL CLEPPER
Whidbey Life Magazine Contributor
March 18, 2015
What does a local singer-songwriter have in common with the Greek goddess Ariadne, the Minotaur, and mythologist Joseph Campbell? Well, one could say, a ball of string…
In a PBS interview some years ago, Bill Moyers asked Campbell about the relationship between the myth of the hero’s quest and the life journey we are all following. He was speaking of the ancient tale of the Greek god Theseus versus the Minotaur in the midst of the labyrinth, in which Ariadne gave the hero a ball of string to unravel as he worked his way into the center of the maze so he could find his way back out again.
“That’s all you need—an Ariadne thread,” said Campbell. “That’s not always easy to find. But it’s nice to have someone who can give you a clue.”
“That’s the teacher’s job,” he continued, “to help you find your Ariadne thread.”
Many people through the years have come to Whidbey Island looking for, or following, that thread. And most of us would be happy to have our own personal Ariadne—a teacher who can help us find or re-discover the thread to guide us through the maze that leads to whatever it is we seek.
Multi-faceted artist Karin Blaine calls such seekers her “fellow card sharks and messiahs.” She believes the goal of all that seeking is wholeness and an enhanced quality of life and that creative self-expression provides empowerment to get there.
“I will love you forever if you can show me
a way to come out of the labyrinth.”
—Theseus to Ariadne.
Human creativity,” she said, “is a small scale of divine creativity. I don’t mean that in a religious sense. We’re spiritual people having a physical experience. The more wholeness, the better quality of life we have.”
Blaine is known to many in the community as one of the Northwest’s finest singer-songwriters, but she also happens to be a trained therapist with a Master’s Degree in Applied Behavioral Sciences. In addition, she has studied fashion design and interior design as she followed her own quest to what she calls an abundant life. The basic cipher to achieve it is outlined on a website she’s created—ivaluemyvoice.com. The website also describes the mission of a workshop she’s created—“V.O.I.C.E.” (Valuing Our Individual Creative Expression.)
“At heart, I am a designer with artistic ability. It’s very interesting to me to know why things work with people or why they don’t. Being a therapist, you’re a diagnostician—assessing what’s really going on and trying to make an intervention. I’ve always been fascinated with my own ability or inability to be as free and creative as I want to be,” she said.
For a lot of people, creativity is a cruelly elusive concept, yet highly prized. Even accomplished artists often struggle to stay connected to it. To help folks find and maintain that connection, Blaine created her V.O.I.C.E. workshop, which will be presented publicly for the first time at Clinton’s blueschool arts from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, March 28. (Follow links at the end of the article for more details.)
“A lot of times, people are blocked.” Blaine said. “Sometimes they are critical [of themselves].” Her workshop is designed to guide people to express themselves through their own unique creative voices in a nurturing environment. “The goal is personal empowerment and for people to be connected to themselves. I want to support self-awareness,” she said. ”How do I talk to myself about my art? How do you value something, how much time and attention do you give it?”
Blaine has experience with group dynamics through her therapy training, and she has also acquired rich knowledge in dealing with audiences at her performances. Her fans know Karin Blaine as a highly compelling singer-songwriter, a fearless solo stage performer and an entertainer whose flair, brio and depth of insight have the capacity to capture and beguile listeners.
Raised in a very musical family with four other sisters, Blaine’s mother was a classical violinist and her grandmother, Grace, “knew her theory so well, she could transcribe the various instrumental parts of an ensemble or orchestra just by listening to the record!”
Trained first as a young child in classical violin, Blaine soon discovered the guitar. “I learned to play guitar when I was 12,” she said. “That was during the folk revival. My father had a lot of records of popular music. I listened to the Weavers, the Rooftop Singers, Big Bill Broonzy, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee… I saw that, especially with blues singers, with one voice and one guitar, you could channel all of human expression.”
“What turned me on to the guitar was the fact that I could sing. You can’t sing and play with classical violin. That was the big deal—to be able to sing. I have only wanted to play the guitar to support my singing. Just support the song.”
After undergraduate studies in college, she began performing professionally with her twin sister, Siri Bardarson, in venues around Seattle and the surrounding area. DITTO, as they called themselves, performed almost all cover tunes. Blaine didn’t start writing songs until much later. However, one of her very first original tunes got chosen to be part of a compilation LP of Northwest songwriters produced in 1983 by a Seattle progressive radio station.
In 1991, she was a New Folk Finalist at the Kerrville Folk Festival. The long-running Texas event is one of the most prestigious in the country for aspiring singer-songwriters. Later that year she moved to Boston with her guitars and “a bunch of Kerrville contacts from the Northeast.” After a five-year guitar hiatus there and “feeling lost,” she picked her instrument back up and found that she had matured as a performing artist.
“In those five years I somehow had morphed into the entertainer and singer that I am now,” she said. “It was very strange to have that part of me show up. I just started to be totally present when I am on stage, which made the act of live performing as creative as the songwriting. I would show up on stage and never really know what was going to go down, how I was going to interpret a song. I really played off the energy of the audience. Very exciting. But the blues still had their grip on me…nonetheless….”
“The blues”—as in depression, not as in Lightnin’ Hopkins. Our brave heroine has slain some fierce dragons in her quest to attain peace of mind, something she says is a fairly recent accomplishment. Until seven or eight years ago there were times, she said, that “I couldn’t make the process work. Creativity and expression connect me to myself and my world. Ironically, I’ve had a devil of a time to sustain that.”
Although she still performs, and remains proud of her songwriting accomplishments, she prefers these days to explore her creative self-expression in a variety of forms. Her websites themselves provide an outlet to illustrate her design sense. One of them also serves as a virtual studio for what she calls her “dudessdahliaworld.” It’s a space, she said, “where I can be wild, big, say what I want to say with no limitations.”
She creates designs on clothing and fabric with Sharpies. She draws comic strips about the Messiah in the form of a “hot babe” who appears to a bunch of NRA members, resulting in a river of drool that washes all guns from the land and ushers in—well, something like Valhalla for the Ted Nugents of the world.
She creates giclee prints that express her reaction as a visual artist to some of the tragic current events of our time. Many of her songs deal with such themes, too, as demonstrated in “I Love Julian,” which explores how the world receives the truth-teller, the one who takes the heat for the rest of us in an effort to expose the oppression and hypocrisy of the powerful.
“I love idealism. I love big ideas,” she said.
Though Blaine has reduced her emphasis on performing, she continues to write songs (some whose lyrics she posts on dudessdahlia.com.) and performance remains important to her. “Man, that connection!” she said. “One place I’ve felt at ease in the world is onstage. It all makes sense there.”
It makes sense there. The stage, the center of the labyrinth, the place where the thread runs out, the Minotaur’s tomb, the workshop where Karin Blaine—Ariadne, fellow messiah, card shark, teacher with a clue—stands ready with her ball of string.
For information about Karin Blaine’s upcoming V.O.I.C.E. workshop at blueschool arts, please visit the first two of the following links. Information about her music and other creative exploits can be explored in all the links.
Image at top: Karin Blaine has worked her way out of a labyrinth or two in her quest to achieve wholeness through creative expression. (photo used by permission of the artist)
Russell Clepper is a singer-songwriter who plies his trade locally and around the country. He also is a substitute teacher for the Oak Harbor School District.
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