Tools & Talismans #59 — Christina Baldwin

The most noticeable talismans of my writing life are the collaged covers of my journals. I fill a Clairfontaine 21 x 29 cm, 96 page notebook about every six months. I spend quite a bit of time fashioning the covers as they often become a meditation point and set a kind of imagistic intention for that period. We seem to co-influence each other: I put together imagery that I think is going to inspire me in a certain direction, and the imagery does its own work on me and my writing moods as I progress through the pages.

I love collage as a medium, and my volumes often have a number of collages inside as well. Collage is a way to bring world events and headlines into the journal so that my writing occurs in the context of what else is occurring around me.

Also important to me is the fountain pen with which I write by hand. Using a fountain pen has been a practice since my first teenage journals. I have always loved the glide of real ink and good paper. I love the smell of ink and working with it as a way to attach to a lineage of writers and writing. Consequently, I've been willing to carry ink bottles and refillers and leaky pens around the world. I've ruined favorite sweaters and pants, and persisted in carrying "a real pen," into nearly impossible situations.  can almost not write without a fountain pen. This pen holder is on my desk, an antique I remember from my childhood, though I don't know how it showed up in my parents' possessions.

As you may notice from these covers, the owl is important to me as a guide. When I was a teenager I studied the Greek goddess Athena as a role model. She is most often depicted as holding an owl on her arm, or one is riding on her shoulder. When I turned 60, owl imagery and real owls starting coming back to me. In my writing space, I stare at an owl staff that was crafted for me by a Native American artist. I often call on these animals for help in my writing process: Owl for wisdom, Fox for quickness of mind and thought, Honeybee for work and diligence followed by dancing the way to the honied heart of the story.

I have been a user of MacIntosh computers since the first model. The ever evolving Apple is endemic to my writing. This is my sleek and silky typing machine, and now also my encyclopedia, research tool, and challenger to hold focus and not succumb to rabbit holes every time I leave the writing page for the Internet.

Christina Baldwin, writer, wanderer, teacher on the trail of community and story


Tools & Talismans is a personal painting project where I document {in watercolor} the tools and talismans of 100 different women — creators and healers, thinkers and makers, wordsmiths and visionaries. Join me for a year of Tools & Talismans — I'll be sharing a new painting with you every Wednesday.

I'd love to talk about creating illustrations for you! Do you have a project that needs some illustration? Think my work might be a good fit? Get in touch, I'd love to talk about your project with you!