Paula Chaffee Scardamalia: I Stay in Dialogue with the Muse

Paula Scardamalia headshotPaula, dream consultant for PEOPLE Country Magazine, is a book coach, and dream and tarot intuitive.

You work in several medium(s). Can you tell me more about how you create your art?

For years, I worked in both fiber and in words. In fact, my MFA is in weaving and writing with the focus of fantasy.

I’ve been a professional weaver since 1993 or thereabouts. At first, I sold at local and regional craft shows. Then I started doing wholesale craft shows, and sold my work to shops, galleries and boutiques across the country. I finally stopped doing the shows in 2007, but continued to weave for a limited number of retail clients and for a designer from Maryland. I still have several looms and a wall full of rayon chenille yarns.

PScardamalia Online scarvesWhen I was pursuing my MFA, I was weaving images in a technique called doubleweave pickup that allowed me to create representational images. Later, when I was selling both retail and wholesale, I was weaving wearables and throws. I stopped doing the images. They weren’t selling enough and they were incredibly time-consuming (an inch per hour).

Most of my weaving starts with color and whether I am weaving images or wearables, the color has to sing to me—and to my clients. From there, the work is intuitive, just responding to what feels right about image or color proportions.

As for the words, I’ve been writing and telling stories since I was old enough to spell and read. In college, I majored in Creative Writing. I’ve written freelance articles for both print and online magazines. And I’ve completed three manuscripts—two young adult fantasies and one adult fantasy romance.

The first two stories evolved page by page, totally seat of the pants with a lot of rewriting afterwards. This last manuscript which is starting to make the rounds of agents and editors, I wrote intuitively through probably half and then turned to scene cards and some general plotting for the rest. Even with the planning though, I am listening with at least one ear to the Muse.

At what point in your life did you start thinking of yourself as an artist?

I think I’ve always identified myself as a writer. The art weaving was a surprise to me, that I could create interesting images by just staying in conversation with the weaving. I really call myself a writer or weaver rather than an artist.

How would you describe your spirituality?

My spirituality is eclectic, earth-based and fluid. I consider myself a practical mystic.

How does your spirituality find expression in your art?

PScardamalia wlife2My themes in my fiction writing have to do with transformation, the power of love to transform and redeem. The stories tend to reflect mythic ideas. I also have three large image weavings that are titled Transformation I, II, and III.

And out of both weaving and words came my book Weaving a Woman’s Life: Spiritual Lessons from the Loom. Because while my spirituality finds expression in my work, my work also teaches me many spiritual lessons.

How do you connect with divine flow when you are creating?

So, in 1984 my mother, who was approaching 53, was dying of breast cancer. At the time, I lived about 8 hours away from her and had three small boys who needed my attention. A few months before her death, I put my youngest, about 18 months old, in the car and headed to my mom’s. I also took my small table loom with me on which I had started another large double weave pickup piece. While trying to fix foods my mother could easily swallow, and caring for my son, I also took time to work on the weaving. I think I finished about one or two inches of the bottom.

A month or so later, my mom, whom I adored and who was my primo cheerleader, died. I stopped weaving but kept thinking about what I would weave.

Two previous large pieces had towers as their central image, towers with roots, and flames going up the center. In my mind’s eye, this next piece would show the tower uprooted on the left side. I saw it clearly.

Still not weaving, I managed to sprain my left ankle twice within a period of three months while wearing a pair of my mother’s shoes.

Finally, about nine months after her death, I returned to the weaving. I didn’t weave the uprooted tower since I already had most of the roots done, but I kept weaving, deciding I wanted steps winding up around the outside of the tower. The image in my mind now, was of a tower that totally disintegrated by the time I reached the top of the piece.

Still, I stayed with the weaving and noticed that the profile of the steps that were disintegrating around the tower had a profile of breasts, breasts disintegrating. Painful, but I stayed with it.

PScardamalia Transformation III

As the tower fell away and the steps were small and rickety, instead of totally disintegrating they continued up into the sky, ending just a space or breath away from a door. This was a total surprise to me, not what I had envisioned earlier.

By the time I finished that piece and took it off the loom, I had processed my loss and my grief. It wasn’t gone, for sure. But there, in 5/2 cotton threads, was an affirmation of my mother’s life and journey—and my own.

I titled the piece, “Transformation III: My Mother’s Journey.”

Years later, I submitted it to be exhibited at the Pittsburgh Three Rivers Arts Festival, a place where my mother had once exhibited a print of her own. My piece was accepted. Life had come full circle.

That’s a long way of saying I don’t have any set process for connecting with the Muse. Whether weaving or writing, I trust my intuition. I stay in dialogue with the work and the Muse. That’s not always easy but it is almost always rewarding.

I listen to dreams which have provided the seeds for two of my manuscripts and images for several of the weavings. I use the tarot for inspiration, breakthrough and creation.

I keep asking questions.

How do ideas come to you?

As above, dreams, myths, fairy tales, tarot—and sometimes lying awake in my bed at night.

How do you decide which ideas to pursue?

I guess just whatever seems to pull at me, to have the most potential for development and depth and imagination.

If you were going to teach your creative process to someone else, what would be one or two of the key things you would share?

Conscious dream work and using the tarot.

Thanks Paula!

Since 1999, Paula’s taught writers how to use intuitive tools like dreams and tarot to write stories from the deepest part of their imaginations. She’s taught at small private workshops on the East Coast, and at both national and regional Romance Writers of America conferences and meetings, at the 2014 San Diego University Writers Conference and the International Women’s Writing Guild. She leads intimate writing and dream retreats. Paula publishes a weekly e-newsletter on writing, dreams, tarot, and is the award-winning author of Weaving a Woman’s Life: Spiritual Lessons from the Loom.

Find out more about Paula and her work at: and

Connect with her on social media:,,

On Facebook and Twitter, Paula posts the link to her Monday Message from the Muse video where she pulls four tarot cards for the week’s read on their creativity.

Lisa Laughy: Creative Ideas Set Their Own Priority

llaughy_headshotLisa Laughy is a woodcarver and painter living in central New Hampshire. She has been carving for the last ten years after spending several decades as a designer and illustrator. Lisa’s work is primarily influenced by the early medieval Irish manuscript art best known by the Book of Kells, but other influences can be found in nature, the Stave Churches of Norway, Viking art, geometry and alchemical engravings.

Your bio mentions that you work in two mediums. Can you tell me more about how you create your art?

I am a woodcarver with a strong background in design and painting. It wasn’t until my creative work became focused on wood carving that I realized how much of the design process for my 2D work is conceptualized in relief — the criteria I use when visualizing a painting or design begins naturally in my mind as an image in low relief. I feel as if the years of designing, drawing, and painting in 2D were actually spent in preparation for working in wood, even though that was never part of my original plan. It has been a slow, steady, and seamless transition in my creative process between the two mediums, and I feel that each supports the other.

LLaughly_marriage_shield_webAt what point in your life did you start thinking of yourself as an artist?

My two earliest memories are of birds singing (Chickadees), and drawing with pencils and crayons. I have a painting of a Robin I did when I was five years old, and my mother submitted it to a magazine — that made a big impression on my little self. As far as I can remember I have always thought of myself as an artist.

How would you describe your spirituality?

“The sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.” – Carl Gustav Jung

LLaughly_children_of_lir_webHow does your spirituality find expression in your art?

I experience my creative process as a search for meaning — which I think is how a lot of people would describe their spirituality – but I don’t consider myself to be a spiritual person. For me, meaning is best explored and understood through symbols and myths — so much of my creative process is spent attempting to communicate personal meaning using those elements.

How do you connect with divine flow when you are creating?

Coloring has become enormously popular, and many people are discovering the meditative qualities of coloring complex patterns, or doodling along the lines of Zentangles, and I think to a great extent, that is a similar process to the ‘flow’ I experience when I am absorbed in creating a design, or focused on a carving. It is a kind of timelessness, a side-step from the usual experience of physical time, and it is an enormously relaxing and regenerative process.

LLaughly_bowl_of_remembering2_web How do ideas come to you?

I read a lot — especially about history, mathematics, science, and psychology. I look at a wide range of artwork and art history books. I look at nature, and pattern, and color. I use those elements as a filter for the thoughts and whatever else is churning around inside my head, and try to find a way to project something outward that captures some sense of meaning for what is going on for me. As an example: I recently bought a small chunk of interesting wood — wormy butternut — I knew I wanted to make a carved bowl, but this wood was riddled with worm holes. So I thought — what is a bowl with holes? A sieve! And then I thought — yeah, my brain has been like a sieve lately, I can’t seem to remember anything. This led me to the idea of carving a bowl with holes with a brain-like texture on the outside, to represent the frustration I have been feeling about my poor memory skills.


LLaughly_ninthwave_shield_webHow do you decide which ideas to pursue?

I keep lots of notebooks and sketchbooks to capture ideas as they come to me — sometimes I am just making a quick sketch, or writing down a quote, or a note to follow up on an idea. Other times I am doodling to see what comes out. There are always ideas that have more immediate appeal than others, that seem to need the most attention at the time, or are more compelling in one way or another, and these are the things I work on first. But I often go back to those rough sketches at a later date and expand or adapt them. I feel like creative ideas set their own priority — what doesn’t emerge initially as an overly compelling idea often becomes something worth pursuing at another time.

If you were going to teach your creative process to someone else, what would be one or two of the key things you would share?

I think a lot of people feel that there is a great deal of mystery about the creative process, but it is helpful to remember that the more time you spend working at something the better you get — you will definitely improve as you go along. A large part of creativity is based in skill, and this is something that can always be improved through practice and learning. The aspect of the creative process that is more elusive is the internal aspect — the most important part of working creatively is what you as an individual bring to the process you practice.

Thanks Lisa!

LLaughly_triple_raven_webFind out more about Lisa and her work at

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If you would like to be a featured artist on Art as Worship, email me at vlowry (@) While I’m no longer recording new episodes for the Art as Worship radio show, I’ll continue to feature artists using their written words to describe the connection between their art and their spirituality. Access the Art as Worship radio interviews on Empower Radio. Listen to an encore presentation of an artist’s interview each Wednesday at 9am Eastern on Empower Radio. Like us on Facebook at Art as Worship, then share your art and comments. Namaste!

Margery Kellar: Being Aware of Messages I Receive

Margery Kellar picStained glass artist Margery (Cunningham) Kellar grew up in Indiana and graduated from Ball State University with a BS in Art Education. After moving to Atlanta, she worked for the state of GA in Fulton County’s Adult Protective Services. Margery retired in 2011 and now has more time to create stained glass art.

 “I’m open to the fact that there is a God and that all I have to do is be aware of the messages that I’m receiving. I feel like I have a special Angel that gives me ideas. Sometimes ideas come in dreams or when I first wake up in the morning. At other times, they come throughout the day—when I’m driving or when I’m looking through a catalog. Ideas come all the time—I just have to act on them. And when I don’t, my Angel gives me another nudge.” ~Margery Kellar MKellar 4MKellar 1

Listen to Margery’s Art as Worship interview on Empower Radio.

She first took classes in stained glass art at the Spruill Center for the Arts in Dunwoody, GA. She is now an assistant at Spruill, helping instructor, Anne Rambo, teach new students.

Margery exhibits at craft fairs, is commissioned to create custom pieces, and is available to repair a client’s treasured stained glass art.

MKellar Celtic3She says, “Everything about stained glass attracts me. Lately, I’ve been creating Celtic knots—they twist and turn and are so beautiful when the sun shines through. Intricate Celtic knots were originally created out of stone or metal and were placed at the entrances of buildings to keep the devil occupied. The idea was that he was too busy trying to find the beginning and end of the strand that creates the knot to come inside. I enjoy taking Celtic knot designs from the seventh, eighth and ninth centuries and reproducing them in stained glass.”

MKellar Celtic2Margery is widowed and has three children. Visit to find out more about Margery’s work.

Listen each Wednesday at 9am Eastern on Empower Radio to hear another artist’s story. Share your art and your comments on the Art as Worship Facebook page. Namaste!

Suzanne Halvorson: Weaving is My True North

Suzanne Halvorson picSuzanne Halvorson is a textile studio artist and partner in By Hand Gallery (IN). In 2012, she was a Visiting Lecturer at Indiana University School of Fine Arts, and at Earlham College (IN) and will be teaching at Purdue University for the 2013 fall semester. She has taught weaving workshops at Penland School of Craft (NC), Ghost Ranch (NM), Grunewald Guild (WA), and at HGA’s Convergence (CA) and for countless weaver’s guilds and conferences. Her work is published in Handwoven, Shuttle, Spindle, and Dyepot, and Weaving for Worship.

 “My art is my spiritual evolution. Weaving is my true north and without it I don’t know who I would be — I consider it my calling. It keeps me seeing the world as a hopeful place. I look for beauty and inspiration every day.” ~Suzanne Halvorson HALVORSON_2_warp_weft_face_bamboo_2007_display

Listen to Suzanne’s Art as Worship interview on Empower Radio.

She goes on to say, “Weaving is what I call active meditation. Every step of the process is slow and intentional — it is very calming. There are times when I’m weaving, when I am really in the zone and completely connected to the work, that everything else disappears.” SHalvorson IndigoBamboo

Find out more about Suzanne at Her work is represented by: By Hand Gallery, Bloomington, IN; Marigold Arts, Santa Fe NM; Penland Gallery, Penland, NC; Columbus Visitor’s Center, Columbus, IN; and Spear’s Gallery, Nashville, IN.

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Pastor Lyle McKee, from St. Thomas Lutheran Church in Bloomington, IN, is modeling the chausble.

Her liturgical line is entirely by commission. Suzanne says, “I’m learning to say ‘No’ to commissions that may not be in harmony with where I want to go with my work. I choose the ones that I accept based on if I can do something new — something that inspires me. It’s not just the same old thing.”

SHalvorson 2

Lenten tent created to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of their sanctuary at Peach Lutheran Church in Danville, CA.

Suzanne will be teaching summer workshops “Weaving Explorations” (July 8 – 13) at Ghost Ranch and “Dyeing to Weave” (July 22 – 27) at Grunewald Guild. These workshops are for weavers of all levels.

Listen each Wednesday at 9am Eastern on Empower Radio to hear another artist’s story. Share your art and your comments on the Art as Worship Facebook page. Namaste!

Beth Tarkington: Get Out of the Way

Beth TarkingtonBeth J. Tarkington grew up and resides in the Atlanta area.  She earned degrees from the University of Georgia and Georgia State University with emphasis on drawing & painting and surface design.

After spending 16 years as a high school art teacher, she turned her focus to become a full-time ceramic artist. Today, she applies her painterly techniques on handbuilt clay forms to create one-of-a-kind pieces.

We Each Wear It A Little Differently

We Each Wear It A Little Differently

“I have a friend who says ‘Just get out of the way and it will happen.’ So, that’s what I’ve tried to do with my art.” ~Beth Tarkington

Listen to Beth’s Art as Worship interview on Empower Radio.

In her artist statement, Beth says, “There is a Greek word, Kairos, which loosely means: to be in the place you were meant to be, or where time and destiny meet. Within this search for place, I found a natural progression from painting and surface design into clay. My artwork has evolved as narrative handbuilt, one-of-a-kind pieces; conceived, designed and crafted entirely by me.”

Beth participates in juried and invitational shows and exhibitions around the country. Her ceramic pieces are known for their layers of color, rich textured surfaces and thoughtful narratives. Compositions often center on female figures framed by landscape, symbolic elements and occasional text.

We Have Grown This Way Together, Inseparable from Place

We Have Grown This Way Together, Inseparable from Place

She says, “The evolution of my spirituality has profoundly affected my art. My spirituality is a deep centering thing for me. I create art that talks about people and places in life — basically my own experiences because everything is autobiographical. People ask me, ‘Is that you on that piece?’ and I say, ‘Sure, who else would it be?’ I try to touch people from that place inside.”

You can find out more about her at She is represented in the Atlanta area by The Signature Shop and Gallery.

Listen each Wednesday at 9am Eastern on Empower Radio to hear another artist’s story. Share your art and your comments on the Art as Worship Facebook page. Namaste!

Matt Moulthrop: What’s New and What’s Next

Matt Moulthrop picFollowing in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, Matt Moulthrop turned his first bowl at the age of 7. Completing his BA at the University of Georgia and MBA at Georgia Tech, Matt tried his hand at work in the 9-to-5 world, but ultimately eased into turning wood as a career, making him the third generation of Moulthrops to carry on the craft.

“My spirituality is affected by what I see in nature. I work with wood that is unnatural or uncommon. Trees that have been diseased, are decayed, or may have been hit by lightning. I never cease to be amazed by what’s new or what’s next. It’s humbling to see the power of nature and what God has created.” ~Matt MoulthropMMouthrop 1

Listen to Matt’s Art as Worship interview on Empower Radio.

Matt says that as a young adult, he learned that the artistry of wood turning comes not from the hand, but from the eye. Being able to “see” the shape of the bowl has been a legacy and a gift he has tried to improve upon with his vision and version of style, form, and texture.

MMoulthrop 2The artistry of woodturning begins with the wood. Matt says, “I read the log to see what is interesting in the pattern. The work is a revelation process — the challenge is to manipulate the material to best reveal what has been created in nature. I’m constantly looking for new colors or new patterns — anything that’s unusual.”

His works has been displayed in galleries and museums around the country, including the Smithsonian Institution, Renwick Gallery of the National Museum of American Art in Washington, D.C.; The Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, PA; and The Carter Center in Atlanta, GA.

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Coffee table made from poison ivy vines.

MMoulthrop pivy 2Matt talks about one of his most unusual pieces, a table made from poison ivy vines. He says, “Poison ivy is kind of a vilified wood in a sense, but it is spectacularly beautiful. This table was one-of-a-kind. In my research to create it, I couldn’t find anyone who had done anything with poison ivy before. It was a tremendous challenge. There was a danger factor to both skin and lungs, but I had somebody help me who is not allergic and we took a lot of precautions.”

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As a child, Matt posed inside one of his grandfather’s woodturned bowls to show the scale of the art.

Find out more about Matt and his work at Watch a fascinating 15 minute segment on the PBS program, Craft in America, about Matt, his dad Philip and grandfather Ed — three generations of woodturners.

Listen each Wednesday at 9am Eastern on Empower Radio to hear another artist’s story. Share your art and your comments on the Art as Worship Facebook page. Namaste!

Matt Tommey: Crafting a Creative Life

Matt Tommey is a basketry artist, a musician, author and worship leader. His interest in fine craft and handmade baskets began as a teenager, growing up in southern Georgia. His passion for using natural materials began to center around the creeping southern vine of kudzu while attending Young Harris College in the North Georgia mountains and the University of Georgia.

“A few years ago, my wife and I made a decision to say ‘NO’ to everything that was not creative at its core. That meant turning down jobs and moving from Atlanta to Asheville. It meant crafting a life that sustains what we are called to do, as opposed to running after the frustrations of the day. I’ve crafted my life in a way that makes it easy to be creative — that meant saying ‘no’ to stuff that sucks my time.” ~Matt Tommey

Listen to Matt’s Art as Worship interview on Empower Radio.

Now an Asheville, North Carolina resident, Matt’s handcrafted baskets are a whimsical collaboration of traditional Appalachian forms and wild, rustic, natural materials including natural vines (kudzu, wisteria, grapevine), branches (birch, oak, ash & poplar), long leaf pine needles and poplar bark. His interpretation of rib baskets and other traditional shapes offer a heartfelt nod to his roots in Appalachian basketry while offering a contemporary expression that is all his own.

Matt says, “Coming from a family of musicians and being a musician, I grew up with this idea of performing for God. As I’ve grown in my spirituality and relationship with God, the Lord began to draw me back into the woods. With my basketry, my relationship with God began to change from a position of performance to just being. Connecting with the solitude of the woods helped me to find a place of rest with my creativity. It’s in this place that I know that I’m loved and accepted beyond anything I would ever create. I know that I’m created in the image of God and my job is not to perform for Him, but to create with Him.”

Matt is a leader in the contemporary basketry movement, serving on the Board of Directors of the National Basketry Organization and as an instructor at schools, guilds and conventions around the country.

Through The Worship Studio and his book, Unlocking the Heart of the Artist, Matt encourages others to embrace their creativity. He says, “You are creative. The things that make you weird and unique are the very things that God put inside of you to express His glory on the earth — and for you to have a really good time in life. The abundant life comes when we connect to creativity and the greater spirit of God with our unique expression of creativity.”

Find out more about Matt at

Listen each Wednesday at 9am Eastern on Empower Radio to hear another artist’s story. Share your art and your comments on the Art as Worship Facebook page. Namaste!