The 2019 Raspberry Festival was spectacular for many reasons — one being that Spokane artist and designer Heather Berndt launched her book, A Berry Book of Hours, that she wrote and illustrated. With whimsy and wisdom, she integrates inspirations of the Monastery’s raspberries as well as the Liturgy of the Hours. Heather is also currently pursuing certification as an interfaith spiritual director and is a co-facilitator for the Embracing the Artistic Call cohort program

How did this project develop? What were the key inspirations? Intentions?

I have been studying the Liturgy of the Hours for a few years and had a desire to create some art around the subject. I find that working with a topic through different modalities informs my relationship to it and solidifies my understanding. I also have an entrepreneurial spirit and my ideas often morph into a product to sell. The desire to sell my work isn’t so much about profit as it is about purpose. When creating I envision the item being used or enjoyed by someone and that fuels the process. 

The inspiration is twofold:

One, I love the Monastery of St. Gertrude and wanted to honor the sisters and how they support the creative life of so many people through their core value of Healing Hospitality and programming in Spirituality and the Arts. I truly consider them one of the main reasons I see myself as an artist as well as Benedictine. And the raspberry is the official fruit of the Monastery, so it only seemed fit to have that be part of the story. 

Two, as I consider ways to live out the Monastery’s core value of Creative Peacemaking, I feel a deep connection to the tender space between a mother and child. Books were a huge part of my childhood and I read books to my children every night so that experience is alive in my heart. The idea of having my creative work be present in that precious space of holding is very powerful. 

And of course, there is God, who is a big show-off. I know a lot of my creative life is about responding to and trusting the greatest artist of all.

Was it difficult to complete? 

Yes. I tend to be more of a spontaneous, childlike artist who likes to jump in and “see what happens” in short bursts of energy. The desire to write the book was alive for quite a while and there were many months of stop and start energy that slowed things down. While I have lots of ideas, staying focused can be a barrier to finishing. This can sometimes squash my confidence as an artist. 

The book was a long-term project that required structure to complete and allowing new processes into my creative practice was an opportunity for growth. For example, I wrote the text first, followed by a small hand-drawn sketch of each page spread. I also created a chart on my wall so I could look at it and see my progress. Even the mediums of watercolor and ink were new to me. So yes, having a plan was very helpful as was having a deadline of the Raspberry Festival!

And I must mention my husband, Dave, who more than once suggested that I “go work on my book” rather than go to the thrift store. ????

Is this your first book? Any books you want to work on in the future?

Yes, this is my first book and I have several more books rattling around in my head. The Berry Book of Hours started as a different children’s book, so I’ve done some rough writing for that, and I have completed some generative writing for a non-fiction book with a working title of Safe Passage.

I should add that all these ideas were born during different visits to the Monastery. Maybe it is the expansiveness of the starry sky at night or being held in the sacred space where creative women have prayed for 100 years, but I always leave St. Gertrude’s with new ideas.

How can we get the book?

In addition to purchasing the book in-store at the Monastery’s Book and Gift Shop, people can order the book online.

Excerpts from A Berry Book of Hours by Heather Berndt.