Exploring the Power of Stories

By Lisa Kagan (Director, Family Heirloom Arts)

“The events in our lives happen in a sequence in time, but in their significance to ourselves, they find their own order… the continuous thread of revelation.”
– Eudora Welty, author and photographer

The Power of Stories

Lisa Kagan, Director, Family Heirloom Arts

Through my work as a personal historian, writer, artist, and educator I have found that when people have an opportunity to tell their stories, it transforms their lives. As Director of Family Heirloom Arts, I am driven by my passion for storytelling and my commitment to preserving and honoring personal narratives. I have recognized that the storytelling process opens up opportunities for innovation and discovery that allow people to more fully access their own potential, and in turn make significant contributions in their lives and in society at large. They are better able to understand their past, gain confidence in their ability to address their present circumstances, and begin to envision their future. Through the act of sharing our stories we can deepen self-knowledge, strengthen family ties, and build bridges across generations.

Get Started Telling Your Own Story, From Fact to Memory to Meaning

A Legacy of Twelve Generations, an illustrated family heirloom book created for a Family Heirloom Arts client

At Family Heirloom Arts when we help our clients tell their stories, we aim to help them not only record the facts of their life along with their memories, but we focus on supporting them to distill meaning from their life through a guided process of self-reflection and discovery. 

Here are a few questions to get you started telling your own story:

  • Write down a story of one of the most pivotal experiences you have gone through in the course of your life, which you feel would be important to share with future generations.
  • In what ways do you feel like this experience changed you?
  • What do you think future generations can learn from this experience?

Join us for Life Storytelling Workshops & Retreats in 2020

Half-day weekend workshop- 

RADIANCE: Returning to the Light, Exploring the Art of Resilience

Dates & Times: Saturday February 1st, 2020, 1-5pm

Location: Vibe Studio, 5633 SE Division Street, Portland

Program & Registration Information: https://familyheirloomarts.com/event/radiance-returning-to-the-light-an-exploration-of-the-art-of-resilience/

Weekend Retreat-

EMERGENCE: Coming Into Bloom, A Journey of Renewal & Regeneration

Dates & Times: Friday March 13th-Sunday March 15th, 2020

Location: Alton Collins Retreat Center, 32867 SE Hwy 211 Eagle Creek, Oregon 97022

Program & Registration Information: https://familyheirloomarts.com/event/emergence-coming-into-bloom-a-journey-of-renewal-and-regeneration/

About Lisa Kagan & Family Heirloom Arts:

Lisa Kagan is a writer, artist, educator and personal historian. Her business, Family Heirloom Arts, is dedicated to helping individuals and families celebrate their life stories and significant life milestones through the creation of illustrated heirloom books and custom art. Lisa offers art and writing workshops and retreats throughout the Pacific Northwest. Lisa is the co-founder of the Touchstone Retreats program and a facilitator through Portland Women Writers.


Lisa Kagan (Director, Family Heirloom Arts)




Personal historians remind us to gather our stories

Personal historians know holidays are the perfect time to gather family stories and honor personal legacies. Ask Trena Cleland or Gloria Nussbaum about the importance of preserving personal history.

Both Trena and Gloria are members of Personal Historians NW and contributors to the December issue(s) of Northwest50Plus magazine, highlighting the different types of work being done to help families (and businesses) preserve their stories and legacies.

Trena’s article, Ask Yourself, appears on page 14 of the South Valley/Lane edition of Northwest50Plus . In it, this Eugene-area personal historian provides memory prompts on topics such as childhood games, holiday traditions, and family heirlooms to get the gears of your memory in motion.

Trena Cleland with a memoir she produced

Trena knows how to unearth the gems, having carved her niche as a personal historian starting in 1998. She’s an expert interviewer and has assembled a top-notch team of writers, editors, and book designers whose work honors the stories and wisdom being passed along, decade by decade. She describes a personal history as “a way of keeping your experiences and hard-won wisdom alive. It is an invaluable investment whose benefits will be reaped for generations.”

Learn about the treasures Trena and her team create and get a list of prompts to engage your family in story-telling this holiday season by contacting Trena via her website.

In the Portland Metro/Vancouver edition, the article Listen to My Story features member Gloria Nussbaum. Usually the person behind the microphone interviewing and gathering stories, Gloria was right at home with her interviewer talking about her personal history business.

Gloria Nussbaum of Real to Reel

As the owner of Real to Reel, Gloria has been listening to and recording stories since 2001. She’s preserved the oral histories of hundreds of individuals and families through her work.

“Almost nobody does what I do,” Nussbaum says. “I became known as ‘the audio person,’ because it was my passion to just get the stories and the voice. Each person has a voice as unique as a fingerprint. “And it doesn’t matter if you don’t like the sound of your voice,” she says. “This is the voice that your loved ones know and love. When they hear that voice, you’re right there in the room with them. With audio, you get their laughter, the way they speak, a turn of a phrase, even the way they breathe.” Source: Northwest50Plus magazine.

Perhaps many of us can relate to Gloria’s story about her own family’s legacy and the importance of preserving those stories in a story-teller’s own voice. “A regret is that I didn’t discover this in time to record my dad’s stories.  Thanks to his siblings, I have stories about him but that is very different from having his stories…and his voice.”

Since 2006, Gloria has been a member of Personal Historians NW. Learn more about Gloria Nussbaum and her company Real to Reel by reading the entire article in the December 2019 issue, Portland Metro Edition of the Northwest50Plus magazine.

We invite you to share your stories, your history and your legacy this holiday season. Whether it is art, memoir, a visual journey, books or oral history, you are sure to find a personal historian who can help honor your wishes. Reach out to a personal historian to explore an array of legacy options for commemorating a family, business chronology or your own personal history.