On the suburban outskirts of Seattle, Washington, Stasia Burrington dips her paintbrush into a cup and watches watercolor pigment swirl through the clear liquid like a cloud of smoke. The water is clean and fresh, thanks in large part to fungi and microorganisms. These organisms naturally filter melted snow as it journeys from the peaks of the Olympic Mountains through miles of pristine forest, into the Cedar and South Fork Tolt rivers, eventually finding its way into Burrington’s watercolors. As she paints, she feels a kinship to the oft-overlooked cleaners and filterers of the world. For Burrington, the work of an artist is similar to that of a mycelial network, but, rather than water, she’s filtering society’s collective traumas, particularly with the challenges of the past several years.
“As a creative, your value somewhat comes from your sensitivity to the world,” she explains. “Our job is to filter what comes in and process it in some way. We're like a digestive system, or like fungus, transmuting literal garbage into something nourishing. To find the medicine in the pain. And there's so much shit to process right now.”
After a year and a half of pandemic isolation, Burrington is grateful for the opportunity that solitude provided for reflection. For an artist whose subjects often focus on self-care, the pandemic provided space to consider her own practices and habits.
“It's so seductive and actually easy to find delight and excitement in the exotic and novel, but the fact is that most of the time we are in our daily routine and maybe it's not the most glamorous? We think that if things were different, then maybe we could be happy,” Burrington reflects. “But that's a problem of attention, and I'm interested in the here and now and in feeling ‘simple’ pleasures more deeply.”
Through art, Burrington, a self-titled ‘homebody’, has forged friendships and grown her community. Between chance meetings at art shows and paths crossed in online spaces, she’s met and become close to many people who she might never have otherwise known.
“With my art I'm broadcasting my interests, passions, perspective,” Burrington says. “So I feel sometimes I'm like, in an off-world space station marketplace and putting up big signs to find those out there like me.”
Art has also broadened her horizons through collaborations like her first mass-market children’s book, Mae Among the Stars. Written by Rhoda Ahmed, the project taught Burrington the ins-and-outs of managing the business side of a large-scale project and that in any relationship, communication is key. Reflecting on the ways art has brought people into her life and inspired even further creativity, Burrington expresses gratitude. “Without art I wouldn't be meeting so many incredible business owners and other creators. I'm interested in the dreamers and doers.”
Another project which opened unexpected doors for Burrington, creating her own deck of tarot cards, began as a commission. After creating the 22 cards of the Major Arcana for her client, positive feedback from her customers and community inspired her to take the project further and complete a full 78 card deck. The Sasuraibito Tarot, named with a Japanese word whose closest analogue in English is ‘wanderer’, has imagery and themes inspired by life in the Pacific Northwest as well as Japanese and Buddhist ideas. When Burrington put the finished deck into the world, she was amazed by the high demand for the product. Today, she’s grateful for the ways it has opened up new avenues for self-exploration and community.
“Since the original painting, design, and printing, I've had several opportunities to read cards for strangers, which has been a really intimate and life-deepening experience,” Burrington says. “This project has put me in spaces both online and in real life full of such a huge diversity of seekers, mystics, skeptics, and obsessives. Also meeting other tarot creators, readers, and supporters has been so interesting!”
In the future, Burrington is looking forward to taking on more challenges and continuing the work of filtering the hardest parts of life into something kinder, perhaps with more books一maybe even featuring her exceptionally illustratable cat, Momo. To creators just beginning on their journeys, she recommends practice, patience, and resisting the temptation to compare themselves to already established artists.
“Practice, and draw the kind of art that your heart craves (or sculpt, write, create). It's easy to get distracted and discouraged by comparing yourself to already-established artists, so you have to remember that everyone starts out not knowing how to do the thing. You just usually don't see all the hesitation, doubt, discarded rough drafts, and repeated rejection online. We keep that hidden to show off this shiny polished exterior!” She explains. “But do find artists you resonate with and use them as a resource or a roadmap. You don't have to do everything from scratch and by yourself, you can ask for help and use your network. Be kind, to others and yourself. It's hard work. But so rewarding and so worth it!”