birthday spirits

WoaWomen Urra
4 min readJul 15, 2020


It’s a wonder | wander | women birthday post! Mom celebrated her birthday a few days ago and it’s our tradition that I draw or paint her something for her birthday. Our favourite motif is the divine figure of the bodhisattva from Thai Buddhist art or the diwata of Philippine folklore.

It’s hard to imagine but there was a time wonder | wander | women hardly saw each other. I spent my childhood with my grandmother while Mom worked in a different city; there was no Internet and definitely no video calling, only yearly visits, rare phone calls…and lots of letters, especially on birthdays.

Trying to keep my cousin from blowing out his little brother’s birthday candles.

Many kids send their working moms drawings; I got art from mine. Long thin women with fantastical hair and graceful limbs.

Now I reverse the tradition. On Mom’s birthday and sometimes Mother’s Day I make her little artworks. One of the most common is our bodhisattva collection: the first one was a mixed media illustration of the bodhisattva of time, with a pocket watch for a halo.

A few years later I was playing with Prussian Blue and added a partner, the bodhisattva of space. I used moon and horoscope stamps and embossing powder as embellishments.

As my skill at drawing and watercolour got better, I dialed back the stamp elements and concentrated more on the painting and figure. Here is the bodhisattva of journeying:

I structured the painting to look like a page from an old book. The figure’s headdress has a touch of Mayan influence because Mom loves it! The halo this time is a compass stamp.

The latest one at the top of this post is for this year: the bodhisattva of light. Mom has been doing a lot of healing work and this year was becoming especially productive. COVID-19 intervened, but the work carries on even without physical sessions, so I painted a figure that radiates healing light. Now that I look at it again, I can see the evolved forms of the clouds I first drew!

Lately I’ve also been drawing my own figures evoking those long-ago diwatas that Mom sent me for my birthday: graceful women swathed in panels of abstract hair.

My figures were more melancholy and static, Mom’s more vibrant and dynamic, but there’s definitely an influence. The women are drawn from imagination, but we’ve given them their own personalities. We may not know their stories, but we know they are there.

This week I started experimenting with colour. When I added motion and rainbows of hair to my figures, the direct influence of those childhood presents became clear. Even the composition is a callback to hers.

As we both grow older we see the evolution of art we started decades ago. We both continue to draw and paint and write separately, but so much of our work was built together, and it makes us happy and heartened to know it.



WoaWomen Urra

curious creative tandem — cohearts & collaborators