Exploring your Root Stories with Found & Upcycled Art

If you create art journals, sketchbooks or do daily writing or photography, there comes a time when you wonder:

What do I do with all of theses art journals, sketchbooks, art and writing?

Especially if you do these things in service of a creative practice, these artifacts (as I like to refer to them) of your explorations and journeys inward accumulate—in the form of hulking piles and boxes of material.

As part of the ROOT: 30 Day Journal Project, I’ve asked several artists who keep visual journals, sketchbooks or art journals to share their creative process — especially as it relates to our theme of exploring rootedness.

cat-caraceloCat Caracelo

shares one of her creative tools for mining and recycling and  your work, in service of revisioning it and creating new stories out of old material. Creative upcycling!

“Our heart glows, and secret unrest gnaws at the root of our being. Dealing with the unconscious has become a question of life for us.”

-   Carl Jung

Diving into my art journal usually means finding what is handy, creating pages with file folders, random papers and altered books, I use simple bindings, materials and explore what is in my space.

When I make art, my heart glows.

I dive deep and explore the edges of my life with a warriors heart.

This is how I quest, how I question my life. Exploring the psyche, where the unconscious rises to the surface and becomes my material of life.

I want to share about my root stories, what they are and how they return to serve me over time.

I did not always lean into my questions with a warriors heart. When I returned to claim my artist self, I was almost 40 and I was lost. I called in the energy of awakening found in the root chakra to mend a broken life. I invited deep healing. Like a kundalini rising wind, my root energy supported my journey with art and life as I struggled to redefine my life.

Gathering some materials and papers I found a pile of old process art, collaged maps created and later painted over in a revisioning process, they seemed to be waiting for me.


I recognized them for two reasons; first they were covered with painted trees, thick trucks, flowing water and deep roots. Second, embedded in the imagery were many reflections of my own root stories.

Root Stories are found in the depths of ones own life, both shadowed and brilliant they are the stories and experiences that guide your journey.  They include wounds and sorrows as well as strengths and wisdom, once seen and well understood, root stories will grow and transform.  The red blooded broken heart, a river of tears, a burning boat in ritual releasing live there, the pain of the moments clear…listening to the wind, sacred trees moving down into the earth, and the sensation of sinking into their embrace to find ones own rooted self, rebirthing life, re-awakening.

Pain and possibility are ever present and root stories remain nearby, but when seen, heard and awakened they change their tone and shift in new directions.

My work as a Depth Coach and Artist is aligned with art as healing, art journaling is a powerful inner guide, exposing the root stories that guide and inspire us.

Your authentic truth is found in the roots.

I remember the various phases of this found art as it was being created many years ago. Once pristine and collaged, it is now painted, torn, written, tattered, released, wrinkled and removed from old backing, truly reflecting the cycles of my own life. It calls to me, showing me who I am now, what I have reclaimed and who I have become.

I tape the edges of my new journal and paint myself into each surface, exploring the landscape of the paper with my fingertips. Remembering that my roots are continually growing, I sink into a new landscape of my own life.

These are my Recycled Roots.


Gather some art…

You will want to deconstruct or upcycle it.

Trust yourself, especially if you love it…it is hard to take apart your art.

Be curious, invite your root stories to find new form and purpose.


With your own art explore these questions:

What is a root story?

How do your root stories serve you?

Are your recycled roots guiding you in new directions?


“Tears are a river that takes you somewhere…

Tears lift your boat off the rocks, off dry ground,

carrying it downriver to someplace better.”

                                           - Clarissa Pinkola Estes


Create a new landscape to explore your new roots…

Cat Caracelo M.A. is coach, artist, author and speaker who works internationally with individuals and groups. Cat’s focus is on designing, supporting and guiding others through transformative process, depth coaching and conscious life design. This powerful work is supported by exploring symbol, archetype and art-making to reflect shadow stories, experience and journey process.

The book Gathering Wholeness: The Art of Identifying and Exploring Parts of Self and the JourneyCircles Guidebook and Creative Mapping Kit, support the unique approach to healing and transformation offered by Cat, integrating wisdom through cross-cultural myth, depth psychology, dream work, shamanic journeying and creative visualization. For more information visit www.catcaracelo.com


How about you?

What do you do with all of your old art journals, sketchbooks, photos, art, or notebooks?

Do you have a particular process or way of revisiting and/or recycling your old material? Please share in the comments!

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