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: diviningthemuse.com and diviningthemuse.com/blog

Connect with her on social media: facebook.com/paula.scardamalia, twitter.com/DiviningtheMuse, pinterest.com/pcscardamalia.

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.

Denise Trach: Painting as a Means of Meditation

Denise Trach artist picArtist Denise Trach has many facets to her life. In addition to creating art, Denise teaches AP Literature, Creative Writing, College Reading & Writing, and English at Carmel High School and is mom to two daughters. She says, “I finally found a label that I love: artist. I’ve created two lovely daughters, an amazing teacher career, a rewarding writing life, and a painting poetry experience. I use painting as a means of meditation, and doing so has brought so much peace to my life. Discovering this passion has been a blessing.”

We caught up with Denise recently and asked her a few questions about her art and how it intertwines with her spirituality. Here is what she had to say:

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

Honestly, as a writer my entire life, I’ve always considered myself an artist. Last November, however, when I started to sell my paintings did I begin to consider myself a visual artist as well.

How would you describe your spirituality?DTrach Live like Lotus

Ever-evolving. I am always searching—myself, others, the world. I feel that it is nothing finite and everything infinite.

How does your spirituality find expression in your art?

My art IS my spirituality manifested visually. Because I cannot find it within myself to sit in meditation, I use zentangling and painting as a form of meditation and as a connectedness to others.

 How do you connect with divine flow when you are creating? Is it an intentional process that you can duplicate?

This is a lovely gift for me; it simply comes when I put my intention on the work at hand. This flow keeps me present; THIS is my mindfulness at its best.

 DTrach be stillHow do ideas come to you?

Sometimes ideas are triggered by conversations with people and their experiences and pain/happiness. Sometimes the ideas are a discussion with other artists. Mostly, though, I just follow my thought through my hand. And then I am at peace.

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 actually teach this process to my students. Several of the students that I teach suffer from terrible anxiety, so we often take a break from the literature and writing to simply connect back to ourselves through zentangling. I keep pages in our classroom for students to use when they are feeling especially disconnected or there is too much “noise.”  

How has your art affected your spiritual evolution or spiritual evolution affected your art?DTrach Vastness of Light

These go hand in hand. I am ABLE to evolve spiritually because I practice my art, and my art has evolved because I am on a continual spiritual journey.

Thanks Denise! Find out more about Denise and her work at www.creatingcadence.org. Visit her Etsy store to purchase one of her creations, Like her page on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter.

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. Contact Vanessa Lowry at vlowry (@) gmail.com if you would like to be a featured artist on Art as Worship. Namaste!

Cory Cuthbertson: I’m Curious and I Cherish Life

CCuthbertson pic Cory Cuthbertson is a self-employed crafter, selling bookshelf necklaces and tea themed handmade jewellery to fund her PhD. She is a Canadian expat living in the UK with her English husband. She has a BA in linguistics, an MSc in palaeoanthropology and palaeolithic archaeology.

Since I love both books and tea, I was immediately intrigued when I stumbled across Cory’s Facebook page. She agreed to talk a little more about her art.

Tell me more about the medium you work in and how you create your art.

I love the tactile part of working with clay.  I used to work in an office, and a creative element in my life was missing. So I went and got £20 worth of polymer clay, sat down with some Youtube tutorials, and started learning how to work it.

I love miniatures — so once I learned the basics I used my skills to find my own niche.  I love tea and books, and it naturally went that way! I started making bookshelf necklaces which turned out to be surprisingly popular — but not that surprising I guess, because who wouldn’t want a tiny library hanging around your neck?

At what point in your life did you start thinking of yourself as an artist?CCuthbertson 0146

When I was young I was always painting or sketching or molding plasticine characters, and creating was a big part of my identity.  I don’t think there was a turning point because art was always there with me. If anyone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, my automatic response was ‘artist’, although I had no idea what that entailed.

CCuthbertson526586630_qsubHow would you describe your spirituality?

I am an atheist, and don’t believe in a god or higher creator. I believe that when we die, that’s it. That makes me cherish life — we create our own meaning in life, and I find meaning in being happy and making others around me happy. I’m also a scientist, and working towards my PhD in archaeology. I think this reflects my personality a lot, I’m very curious and I love learning about humans as a species.

How does your spirituality find expression in your art?

While I wouldn’t describe myself as spiritual, I do appreciate the human body and mind.  I understand human cognition as being extended and distributed — our mind is as much of our body as our hands are, or our paintbrush is, and the things we work with and communicate with, such as art, are expressions of our cognition. That makes art very personal. It also means my creations have a little bit of me in it, and they are bought by other people and it becomes a part of them — I really enjoy that connection.

How do you connect with divine flow when you are creating? Is it an intentional process that you can duplicate?CCuthbertson 425530364_8he2

There is nothing supernatural going on that I am aware of when I am working, but I find I become very at peace when I am focusing all of my concentration on my tiny pieces, and relaxing or turning off other parts of my brain.  Art is very meditative for me, and I perceive time passing differently when I am in ‘the zone’. I really enjoy this feeling it gives me, and I think it allows me to center myself and work through any anxiety or pressures of life.

How do you decide which ideas to pursue?

The art I create is always joyful.  I try to illicit happiness in the things I make. One way I do this is by making things small and delicate — that makes people smile, because they are cute and look complicated to make. I also create things that give me happiness in life.  I mentioned tea and books — I love these things but they are also things that others love too, and that motivates me to use these themes.  I also love archaeology, but that’s a bit more niche, so I don’t make as many archaeological themed objects.

CCuthbertson 331731289If you were going to teach your creative process to someone else, what would be one or two of the key things you would share?

Be unique as a celebration of yourself. Find your uniqueness by experimenting, and experiment by creating things that make you happy. And don’t be frustrated. People are way too hard on themselves and their creations, but they should be proud of anything they made because it comes from themselves, and that in itself is unique. You get better over time, and if you enjoy it, keep it up!  If you don’t, do something else that makes you happy.

How can our readers find our more about you and your work?

I have an Etsy shop where I sell my bookshelf necklaces and book and tea themed jewellery: www.coryographies.etsy.com. I also keep a blog where I talk about my jewellery, but also about being self-employed and other thoughts and musings: www.coryographies.blogspot.com. I have a Facebook page: www.facebook.com/coryographies and Twitter: @Coryographies as well!

Thanks Cory!
 With the Art as Worship radio show on hiatus, we’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 interviews each Wednesday at 9am Eastern on Empower Radio. Like us on Facebook at Art as Worship, then share your art and comments. Contact Vanessa Lowry at vlowry (@) gmail.com if you would like to be a featured artist on Art as Worship. Namaste!