Monthly Archives: December 2012

A Fragment


Less is more, enough is plenty, slowing down to catch up. As in holding hands. Feeling a little hungry, a little cold. Sitting on a park bench for an afternoon. Not taking the last bite. Not running away. Staying put. Standing still. Noticing your own breath. Listening instead of talking. Giving away the book you’re holding. Offering the door. Calling someone by name. Asking for help. Letting someone go first.

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe said it first, less is more. He wasn’t the first. The idea has many cousins. He only pointed out what we all might know if we opened the small envelope within us that’s marked personal.

Living lightly. A jar half full has room. Changing your mind. Opening up. Letting go. Going quietly. Lingering. Asking before you touch. Rest. Laughing. Leaving things alone. Only getting angry once in your life about something that really matters.

There is probably more I could say.

chris woodhull

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Perfectly Imperfect

perfectly imperfect
“Imperfection is beauty. Madness is genius. Its better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.” Marilyn MonroeWhether rumpled sheets or a nicked banister, life is filled with imperfections…or “flaws.” With all sorts of odds and ends we strive for perfection.

How ironic. Because in reality, we are imperfect creatures.

The word “Imperfection” or even “flaw” both have a negative connotation. We think “bad”, “inadequate”, “not quite”. Not that we should necessarily strive to be imperfect, we should strive to be ourselves, disregarding the level of perfection we attain. Imperfections are bound to come…they can make you or break you.

Imperfections are what make us one of a kind. Exclusive. Unique.

I have always been more drawn to beauty that has a flaw. There is something that makes my heart settle in when something exquisite includes a dent or scratch. I’m not sure why. My guess is that imperfection is relatable. So much of what people think to be beautiful is an illusion. We use makeup, wit, forced charm, and a myriad of other tools attempting to be perfect human beings so that everybody will look up at us and say “wow!…just wow.” If anyone ever did reach “perfection” nobody would “oo and ah”…they would feel inferior and simply continue the cycle of feeling inadequate.

“I always find beauty in things that are odd and imperfect – they are much more interesting.” Marc Jacobs

Mistakes add interest. They add a point of view. Facets. Individuality. Ever seen someone with an interesting nose? Or a intriguing birthmark? That is what makes them themselves. It brands them as original.

Think of a child drawing. Instead of shoveling through a box of crayons they simply pick the first one that catches their eye. The child wraps the entirety of their dimpled palm around the waxy piece of color and moves their arm around the page with a jabbing motion. They feel. They don’t plan, they execute, they do. As a child grows up they begin to think before doing. Character and intrigue is lost. I wonder what the world would be like if everyone could remain a child creativily? I know that if we could hold on to our child selves we would have a world that was chock full of artists and creative thinkers.

But instead, we judge, we analyze and in the end become insecure and build forts around the areas of ourselves that make us…well us.  And why do we do this? I have no answer. There is no rational reason.

We need to begin to embrace our differences and let them define us as one-of-a-kind human beings. After all, why would you want to be like everyone else?  What a bore that would be.


The Scent of Water

I hesitate to bring this up.  I can already hear the heavy machinery of resistance engaging, doors locking, computers powering down and windows shuttering.  And to be honest, I’m reluctant to say it.  And yet what I am about to say isn’t my main point.  But it is something that I want to mention, admit even.  Not for the reason you might expect.  Let me get on with it.
I love scripture.  You know, the bible.
Most every day I return to it and without fail or so it seems I gain something new.  It is stubborn.  It can’t be eaten whole as some things can.  It is subversive and strange.  It challenges me, not as a polemic but as a kind of provocation, rousing me from sleep.  It can also be boring without a scent of interest.I am not trying to get you to open the bible, become religious, just regular at something.
Mostly I want to point out that there are things available in our lives worth returning to daily. Things that at first seem unspectacular, unnoticeable, common, to traditional, not that interesting, kind of old fashioned.And yet these wellsprings are often the sources that provide us wisdom. For me, among other things, it has been scripture.  Not the meaning of it or the theology of it but the actual presence and encounter with it.  This happens by meeting it every day.Who knows maybe it doesn’t have to be scripture.  Perhaps the same thing would happen if I kept returning to the writings of John O’Donohue.  Who is to say.I’ve had people report a similar experience by returning to a painting or painter or reading poetry, touching the keys of a piano or enjoying a friendship. A word that comes to my mind that I think describes this phenomenon and it may seem out of place here, I’m not sure, but the word is marriage. Marriage.  Perhaps all the word really means is that you find life and light in the someplace everyday.  When we commit ourselves to something long term it slowly gives back.Spike Lee’s Get on the Bus (1996) is one of my favorite movies.  It follows several African American men on a very long cross-country bus trip to the Million Man March. On the bus are an eclectic set of characters including a laid off aircraft worker, a former Gang Banger, a Hollywood actor, a cop who is of mixed racial background, and a White bus driver, all make the trek discussing issues surrounding the march, manhood, religion, politics, and race.  The most interesting character is Jeremiah a tall older man played by Ossie Davis.  Having lost his job, struggling with alcoholism and then losing his family, he is hoping to find renewal at this historic event.  But he dies on the day of the event, just outside of Washington DC.  He suffered a heart attack.  The rest of the brothers miss the event as well by choice because they want to be near Jeremiah in his final moments.

That evening a letter is discovered and read that Jeremiah had written for the occasion of the Million Man March.  It is read on the bus in the dark shadows of the now abandoned Lincoln Memorial. The letter is an appeal to live a life of meaning and purpose and hope and also to understand that even though things may seem dead and futile, life is near, revived by a wisp.  Jeremiah quotes from the book of Job.

“At least there is hope for a tree:
  if it is cut down, it will sprout again,
  and its new shoots will not fail.  Its roots may grow old in the ground
 and its stump die in the soil, yet at the scent of water it will bud
 and put forth shoots like a plant.”

Everybody, or so it seems, realizes that they already had what they needed on the bus, back home, between themselves, in each other.  It just took some time together for days to notice.

Like noticing the scent of water, does it even have a scent?  It begins to if you give it time.

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I Believe in Good


I believe in good. I grew up in a good Christian home…as perhaps the majority of American families have, at least the ones that I was around. If I’ve been taught something over and over again by my parents it would be to question everything. Question even things you know to be true. Questioning opens the doors for your beliefs to become stronger.  Questions lead to good.

I am not Christian. I feel learning your beliefs should be somewhat like science: keep looking, keep testing. To me practicing Christianity has always felt like playing house, a part in a play. It only feels real for a while.

About a year ago I finally stepped back and thought…Why do I believe God exists? Have I ever experienced God? I haven’t. Though I can hear my father’s responses rolling around in my head…”God is in the way your paint brush hits the canvas, he’s that feeling you get when you create the perfect outfit, he’s the intense wave of inspiration you feel after being on Pinterest for an hour, he’s more here than we are, that’s the problem…” Yes Daddy. I hear you. But who’s to say that’s not something else?

I’m not an atheist though because as best I can tell atheists believe only in things that they can prove, verify with sight, touch, smell, taste, and hearing. I have to admit I’ve experienced moments where I feel something intangible, something ineffable but who’s to say it was god? I’m not ready to name it.  It could very well be some other higher up being or maybe it’s just my soul singing.

Believing in God for me is like believing in Santa Claus; it’s true right up till the moment you realize it’s not…nice in theory but at the end of the day it’s merely a tradition to get us through the day, something to get excited about. It’s a holiday from reality. Maybe one day I will decide I do believe. But, until I experience a feeling of knowing I don’t believe.

I don’t want to lose myself to something that is not true and doesn’t allow me to be me. Christianity has turned into an enterprise just like most things in our world. It stamps out people that all look the same inside and out. One thing I will never compromise on and will always protect is my originality, my me-ness, what I mean as good. In my way of thinking, being good is being real, being me.

The world is growing boring with everyone wanting to be the same. The more people who resist this trend and choose to be different, to be themselves, who choose the good, the better and stronger our world will become.

For that reason I believe in good.


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Go Monk!


I love monks.  They wear strange clothes, are predisposed to long stretches of silence and don’t seem bothered by people who stare.  They are clearly on to something altogether different.

My first conversation with a monk was the summer before I entered middle school.  Not yet a middle schooler myself my parents decided to send me off to a summer camp in Florida with the same rowdy boys whose fist like ways would greet me in the fall.  Here at the camp I seemed to be invading their space; it was terrifying.  So I wandered around toward the edges of the camp and it was there I found my first monk.   He was on loan to the camp from someplace in Canada.

It was his face I noticed first, not his worn black cassock cinched at the waist by a cord of some sort but his face.  It was open, gracious.  He turned toward me and smiled.

“Hello.”  And then he went back to scraping the hull of a row boat.

I sat on a bench next to him and studied the lake. He scraped and scraped and blew periodically, running his hand along the smoothed surface.

“My name is Brother John.”

I introduced myself and we talked and this went on all summer long.  He wanted to know my story, books I liked, music I listened to.  I had never meet an adult who wondered what I was thinking about.  All summer long, as much as I could, I made my way down to the lake.  He asked me these big generous questions that opened me up and made me feel good inside.  At the end of the camp I discovered from another counselor that he had nominated me for some kind of award.  Best Camper or something like that.  He believed in me.  It was strange.  I was about as prominent as a leaf on a tree.  He noticed me; I loved him for that.

That experience touched something solid within me.  Like the warm knock of finding a stud in a wall, something structural.  Something permanent.  That small but important moment drifted off bobbing in the sea like a bottled promise, swallowed by all the days to come, lost forever.  But not really.  I can remember the feeling of being with Brother John and there have been other Monks along the way, like Thelonius Monk, people of grace and exquisite strangeness and openness who helped me find my way and the memories of those encounters continue to guide me.

I am grateful.  If being a monk means finding what’s real, growing deeply, becoming thoroughly yourself and luxuriating in the beauty of the world and enjoying a big whopping friendship with creativity then sign me up, I want to be a monk.  I’m all in.  Go monk!

christopher woodhull

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Does the Thought Really Count?

Does the thought really count?

Every year, around the time when eggnog slides its way into the refrigerator section at Kroger there hangs this huge black cloud. We have to detail a list of every gift we must purchase. We have to go dust off our puffy coats and slip on comfortable shoes and head out to wait in long lines, push and shove to get the best deals and in the end to get all our Christmas shopping completed. And then once we finish our list with just a few people left…you know those people that you don’t have a clue what to get them and so we hastily snag a few gift cards…”I saw them listen to music once…I’ll get them an iTunes gift card.” That is the extent of our thought. Slowly big box merchandisers and us, begging like little slobbery puppy dogs, have created a gift giving process that is about as enjoyable as eating your crazy aunts fruitcake.

There is no longer any thoughtfulness or delight in our process of gift-giving.

Gift giving should be loving and romantic. It should be a mere taste test of the generosity and care we extend in the rest of the year. The act of giving is rich, real and robust. Providing delightful things to another human being is a way of considering and noticing what delights them. It teaches us how to be human.

But instead, we give out of obligation, even guilt at times. And with our ever-widening need to attain more “friends”, the quality of our gifts become cheap and tawdry. Our culture stains expectations on us about the code of giving. “If someone gives to you, you must give something back to them.” Giving has morphed into a speedy transaction. It’s like telling someone you love them just because you want to hear it back. Even if we say we don’t, we create lists in our heads of who gave us the best presents and who gave you some dinky little potholder that they made.


Growing up I always heard my mom say that the best gifts are the handmade ones. “No they aren’t mom!” I would chant, “the best gifts are the ones that spin, twirl, turn on and off, can make you fly…” Now that I’ve grown a bit I’ve noticed the truth in what she was saying. Handmade gifts really are the best gifts. And you know why? Because the giver had to think of what to make you, go buy the supplies and think about you as they made that dinky little potholder. What’s the main ingredient? Heart!

Gifts do not surprise anymore. All presents have become the same junk just in different colors.

When gift-giving becomes mandatory it loses all its beauty.

So with all this being said we would like to encourage you to keep these three points circling in your head as you complete your shopping.

A real gift…

  1. Notices the person
  2. Tickles their fancy
  3. Delights their heart

Bonus thought: fresh flowers are better than plastic ones.   Merry merry!

“You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.”

― Amy Wilson-Carmichael

paris & christopher

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Beauty Needs a Lover


Beauty needs a lover. Without a lover beauty is not beauty.  It is life.  Almost.  A seed.  That is how it seems to me.  Things are not beautiful in and of themselves unless I notice them in and of themselves.  The moment my eye catches it, “Ah!  Yes!” then it unfolds and becomes beautiful.  Do you see what I mean?

If something is not beautiful this does not mean that it is ugly.  It’s just not yet, beautiful.  Almost though.  It’s a threshold, a doorway.  Almost anything you interact with becomes beautiful if you open your eyes, reach out your hand, breath it in.

Beauty is a relationship, a discovery, a beholding, even a bewilderment.  It is a recurring accident if you let it.

One of my favorite moments of beauty comes from Helen Keller, reaching out her hand to the world.  In her own words:

“We walked down the path to the well-house, attracted by the fragrance of the honeysuckle with which it was covered.  Someone was drawing water and my teacher placed my hand under the spout.

As the cool stream gushed over one hand, she spelled into the other the word water, first slowly, then rapidly.  I stood still, my whole attention fixed upon the motion of her fingers.  Suddenly I felt a misty consciousness as of something forgotten – a thrill of returning thought; and somehow the mystery of language was revealed to me.  I knew that  “w-a-t-e-r” meant the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand.

That living word awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, joy, set it free!  There were barriers still, it is true, but barriers that could in time be swept away.

I left the well-house eager to to learn.  Everything had a name, and each name gave gave birth to a new thought.  As we returned to the house every object which I touched seemed to quiver with life.  That was because I saw everything with the strange new sight that had come to me.

I learned a great many new words that day.  I do not remember what they all were but I do know that mother, father, sister, teacher were among them – words that were to make the world blossom for me, “like Aaron’s rod with flowers.”  It would have been difficult to find a happier child than I was as I lay in my bed at the close of that eventful day and lived over the joys it had brought me, and for the first time longed for a new day to come.”

 christopher woodhull

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Home is Where You Get Your Paint Brushes

Opening the door I’m immediately immersed in an air conditioned calm that is my home away from home. As I walked along an aisle, I ran my fingers across the surface of of pads of paper stacked haphazardly in the middle of the concrete aisle. Wherever my eyes rest, I see potential. I see beautiful pieces of art waiting to be seen and created. This store has always been my candy store. While other little girls were whining to their mothers trying to urge them to buy the newest Bratz doll for them, I was whining for art supplies. Though I never had to whine for long. My mother smothered me in supplies, not in a spoiled way, but in a way that showed she supported my creative endeavors. Heaps of sketchbooks lie beneath my bed with just the first page used. There is something magical about the first page in a sketchbook. That sketchbook could be created into the next piece of art that could be held up next to Gustav Klimt or Henri Matisse. But, in my case, I would be so excited that I would start to draw anything and then once I used the first page, the magic vanished so I lost interest and tore the plastic off of a fresh sketchbook and began again.  Jerry’s Artarama still promotes my creativity and the quality of my art. The very smell of this haven of materials makes my fingertips itch to begin creating.
Ever since I was tiny, I have always been that child that yearns to touch and hold not just to see. I remember quite clearly that when I was seven I visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art and I was so taken by a painting that I lightly brushed it with my chubby finger. Well one would have thought I would just murdered the Pope. After the guard warned my grandmother quite sternly to make sure I kept my hands to myself, I walked out feeling flushed and embarrassed. I hadn’t meant to do anything bad, I just wanted to feel what that artist was feeling when their brush hit the canvas. This policy was never so at Jerry’s Artarama. I was always told, actually encouraged, to feel the quality of the papers and feel the different textures of the bristles on the brushes. Literally smelling, seeing, touching, and even hearing can determine the quality of art materials. I’ve always loved the entire process of making art and this first step of picking out materials is close to my heart because I can still feel the textures that I first felt when I was just a child.
According to the Paris Woodhull dictionary, “Art” is a verb: It means “to feel;” not only to feel emotionally, but tactually. For that reason, Jerry’s Artarama is my temple. I can feel the potential and the textures around me. As I continue down the concrete aisle which leads into carpeted rows I can smell the pungent odor of acrylic paint and acidic paper. I can hear the soft shuffle of feet and the tapping fingers of impatient customers waiting to check out their ambitiously large canvases. Wide rows of brushes poise upwards like little choirs so customers can feel the harshness or softness of their bristles. These hallowed walls have housed the beginning to almost every art project I’ve created; everything from my project for governors school to window installations. Every corner is free of dust and dirt  because each corner is inevitably interesting and draws artists to come over and keep the dust circulating in the air.
As I continue down the aisle that houses all sorts of odds and ends for potters, I begin to think about what purchasing art supplies could be compared to. “Purchasing art supplies is like…Going over to grandmas…it’s like when you buy your first car…” After much deliberation, I decide that,”Buying art supplies is like deciding your religious affiliation.” My pace slows down as I jot these quick thoughts down in a wonky sixth grade boy handwriting. Purchasing art materials is, in fact, somewhat of a religious experience. I have to first decide what materials my hands require and then I have to decide which brand is most suitable. Do I like rough surfaces of smooth ones? Do I need a pen or a paintbrush? Do I like the wateriness of gouache or the thickness of acrylic? These thoughts enter my brain as I continue down the pottery aisle making a sharp turn into the portfolio section. Giant portfolios with a shiny outer shell pleading to be filled with art. No matter what material, like religion, art strives for the same goal: to find hope. Some people take drugs to calm their nerves, but I go to Jerry’s.
paris woodhull
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Learning to be Fearless


Today’s post is brought to you by Paris. This was a blog that was written not too long ago for the Reruns Consignment Boutique Blog, but everything in it still rings true! So go grab yourself a cup of joe or hot tea and read away!

For years I limited myself when it came to wardrobe choices, probably from a fear of making “mistakes” and then having stupid kids at school making me pay for them. I wore everything from Chacos to Toms to Northface.

In high school its an unspoken contest to see who can reach perfection, when in reality those stuck up preps will never brush perfection with their finger tips. And you know why? Because they are just as scared as me of “messing up” in the world of fashion. The funny thing about this is that fashion should not be scary at all. Fashion is a way of expressing how you feel inside. Fashion can also be a form of therapy because it forces you to look inside yourself and interpret who you are through what you wear.

Now that I think about it that is kind of intimidating! And I’m sure that most people don’t think of fashion as something that goes that deep. But as the author and Harvard Professor Cornel West stated, “Its the person who wears the clothes. The soul. The spirit. The body inside the attire. That’s where style comes from.”

What if every person in the world dressed like themselves? Do you know what I mean? What if every person felt comfortable enough to express all of themselves in the open by how they dressed? What a wonderfully interesting world we would live in! I know for a fact I would just want to sit out on the sidewalk for hours and watch people pass me by.

So after two ho hum years in high school I finally cracked, broke down my junior year and decided to take a risk. I was so tired of not becoming myself. At first it was difficult because my school has a dress code but I took it as a challenge. So after reading the school dress code word for word online I set off to become a distinct person not at all concerned about making myself appealing. All I wanted was to say something real, be noticed. So slowly but surely I started breaking every fashion rule I knew. I wore different patterns together. I wore high-waisted long skirts (not commonly appealing to the opposite sex). I wore pink neon fishnet tights. I wore socks that didn’t match. And all sorts of other fashion no nos. You might be thinking “but didn’t people make fun of you?” Of course they did! But I knew the secret to surviving high school: Project confidence and don’t give a flying flip!

After a month or so of my craziness I started having random people come up to me in the hallways and tell me how much they loved and admired my sense of style. Wow! Who knew that people would actually admire originality! This has been one of the most eye opening experiences of my life. All of a sudden I realized my deep passion to become an artist and I started painting my soul out in addition to creating one of a kind window displays for Reruns. I felt a growing feeling that I was doing what I was meant to do, which is by far the most incredible feeling that one can feel. Who knew that my life could completely change just by changing what I put on in the morning.

Now I’m not saying that you should go home and throw out all your clothes and take a walk on the wild side. All I’m trying to do is encourage you to take a small risk. Throw caution to the wind for a day. Whether it be wearing black and brown together or wearing those sexy red heels you’ve been hiding in your closet. I promise you, it will feel incredible. Bon voyage!

paris woodhull

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Knock Knock


“Don’t play what’s there, play what’s not there.” Miles Davis

We all begin as children. Playing.  Wondering.  Exploring.  Touching.  Curiosity is sparked by anything and everything. The world around us invites us.  Children know this.  They teach us that nothing is boring, really. Everything has the potential to excite, reveal, enliven.  But only if you can see what’s really there.  As artists we need that unending interest to survive. We thrive on thresholds.  We need to find the chipped paint on the frame of an old door and say, “that looks like an elephant!” not, “dang I need to repaint this door.” Every fold, crease and crinkle in life holds a story. Artists and children know this and depend on this!

Monks and Mannequins is about beauty, the beauty in us, on us, around us, among us and all about us.

christopher & paris

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