Creating a Birth Altar, Part 1

Creating a Birth Altar, Part 1 March 18, 2013

Inspired by birth altars created by artist Amy Swagman of The Mandala Journey, I decided I wanted to make a special birth altar for the birth of my daughter. My mom bought me a small, unfinished curio cabinet/shadow box to use for this purpose. The first thing I did was to paint it “placenta red” using a blend of red and purple paints to get the shade I wanted. This is my favorite “power” color.

Painted altar with door open (the door is glass, but it doesn’t show up in the pictures and looks like an empty frame).

I had a variety of postcards, tags, and inspirational words saved and some of them posted on the wall by my computer. I decided it was time to do something with all these accumulated goodies. I made a reversible, removable card to insert into the front door of the box. For the front panel, I used a card from Birthing from Within with a “kiva woman” painting that I really love and connect with. I didn’t like cutting it up, but it was worth it! Around the edges I used words from the tag that came with a shirt I purchased from WYSH (though the quotes are intended to be about the parenting journey, they are amazingly apropos for birth—which, of course, is part of the parenting journey too). I also used some of the tear off pages from a little “happy thoughts” sort of page-a-day calendar that I had a couple of years ago from a $1 Shop (again, totally appropriate for birth, even though it wasn’t the original purpose. Finally, my paper-hoarding tendencies came in handy, because these little words of wisdom were perfect!)

Part of me felt like I “shouldn’t” have so many words as part of my birth altar—birth brain doesn’t really “speak” in words, but words are my thing and my “medium,” so to speak, so I followed my intuition and I loved how it turned out. It was perfect.

First side of reversible card

I was a little less happy with the second side—I was going for less wordy on it and maybe I should have completely worded it up too! The upper left hand corner is a linoleum block print carved by my husband.

Second side of reversible card

Front of the altar with card inside:

Inside of door with card inside:

For the back, I had a small collection of items that are round and so I thought they seemed to go together. In the center, I attached a polymer clay womb labyrinth I made. In the upper right hand corner is a black and white drawings that I drew and that my mom modified and cut into a linoleum block print. The lower left hand corner is a postcard version of a womb labyrinth that I drew in 2007.

Then, I filled it up with some things that hold meaning to me that usually are around my house in various places including two of my polymer clay birth goddess sculptures. I included two little LED tea lights, which look cool (and safe) in there in real life, but are less cool in the pictures. I also put in a little plastic baby, which might be kind of weird—I couldn’t decide…

Remember the reversible card? Now the front is also the inside panel! :)



Opened all the way with front and back both visible.

This was a very fun and rewarding birth art project. You can see pictures of how I used the Birth Altar during my Mother Blessing Ceremony and also spy it in my Labor Pictures. I’d love to see photos of other women’s birth altars!

Modified from a post originally posted at Talk Birth.

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