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.

Aarti Nayar: Be a Lover of Your Language

Aarti Nayar picPoet Aarti Nayar is a mother of two and an instructor of ESL (English as Second Language) at Gwinnett Technical College in the department of adult education. In addition to poetry, Aarti writes for children, has been published in the Indian monthly publication Khabar, and is an active contributor to The Titan View, Northview High School’s monthly newsletter.

How do you create your poetry?

Writing a poem, to me, is akin to creating a painting where the subject is my emotion(s) of the moment and the art is a depiction of it in words.

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

Over the years, as I wrote both poetry and prose it helped me realize my ability to create something that was both meaningful and beautiful and spoke to my need to speak my mind about the situation on hand. The beauty came from my endless quest to find the perfect synonym, the perfect simile, or metaphor to describe the thought swirling in my head, much in the same way as any other artist (painter, sculptor, chef) would toil to perfect his creation. In that sense I have thought of myself as an artist ever since my association with the writing process.

How would you describe your spirituality?

I believe in the presence of a higher power and feel inspired by the religion of humanity.

How does your spirituality find expression in your art?

My poems encompass the spectrum of human existence, from politics and war, to nature and beauty, and in general to the mystical and the mysterious in all things around. While very diverse in their subject matter they all resonate with an underlying feel for the human condition and its limitlessly universal appeal.

Can you share a story of how creating your art expanded your awareness of God?

Be it a poem on a moonlit night, or the haunting magic of trees, or the spectacle of falling leaves, the death of a solder or the devastation of the tsunami, one is endlessly examining, at very close quarters, the different manifestations of life. In the throes of this introspection, what you start to see is the grand scale of the forces at play and inadvertently a sense of your own bit space. One understands very quickly that one is but a cog in the wheel that is designed to move with or without you. For me personally, that is the definition of god and in doing what I do I’m forever aware of his presence.

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

As I write a poem, I start from taking a broader, magnified view and narrow it to the finer, situational view. In doing this I feel like I’m on a journey that takes me around the different vistas of life, visiting and verifying what I need until finally it’s time for me to get off at my destination. While on this journey I feel like I’m connected to, as you call it, the divine flow, as if I see the intrinsic circuitry of life and understand its enduring inter-connectedness.

While not intentional, it’s certainly intuitive and is what I experience as I create my poems.

How do you connect differently to your creative source when you work solo versus when you are collaborating with others?

ANayar bookMy book of poems, Eggshells of the Soul is a collaborative work of six poets including myself. While the book is a shared collection, the poems in it are very much each poet’s personal expression.

How do ideas come to you?

I think it’s all about how you are perceiving the world around you at any given moment. In a sense each perception could potentially be a trigger for a poem. Sometimes three or four ideas come to me just in listening to the news or reading an article or from a bit from a conversation I might have had a week ago or simply from the sights and sounds around me.

How do you decide which ideas to pursue?

Over the years I have learned not to rate ideas or judge them as worthy of perusal. Writing a poem is the device by which I explore the trigger. While I may go into it having one thought, many a times what follows is something entirely different from the original sentiment. There are times when I myself am surprised by the chain of thoughts and the climax that they lead me to. What I see at the start and what I conclude with at the end of my poetic examination could be completely unexpected and radical.

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 would strongly recommend that the individual be in tune with himself, with the things that stay in his heart and those that don’t. Live your life in the big moments but more importantly live it in its smaller, everyday ones. I guess it would be fair to say that being an active participant of your life is critical. The phrase, live life to its fullest, while a cliché, is certainly a necessary requirement. It is where you get the inspiration from. Additionally be a lover of your language. It is from scouring its depths that you can find that perfect metaphor that will season your poem much like a cook seasons his dish. As we know, when it comes to seasoning, all one needs is a dash of this and a pinch of that.

How has your art affected your spiritual evolution or spiritual evolution affected your art?

I think that both are intrinsically related and affect the other spontaneously. That said I do think that who you are and the leanings of your spirit will color the way you approach your art. What you choose to advance with it or choose to take-away from it is also a function of the state of your spirituality. In that sense my spiritual evolution has constantly informed the choices I make with my art.

Thanks Aarti!

Find out more about Aarti in this interview with Colleen Walsh Fong on the blog site Eve. Aarti’s book Eggshells of the Soul is available on Amazon and Booklogix. Her work has been featured in several issues of CountryLine magazine. See her poem Niagara Falls on page 25. Aarti’s poem titled I sit watching. . . (as cancer consumes you) is featured on page 22 in this issue.

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 (@) if you would like to be a featured artist on Art as Worship. Namaste!


Sean Beeson: Relax and Have Fun with Your Creative Process

Sean Beeson picSean Beeson is a world-renowned composer, pianist, educator, and owner of the award-winning Sean Beeson Studios LLC. His piano works have been heard over 20 million times by people around the globe, and are published by Serenity Studio. Sean’s sweeping orchestral scores can be heard in over one hundred video games, films, and trailers.

How do you create your compositions?

I create music by using computers to realize elements of music, ultimately compiling them into pieces. From sole piano melodies to complex orchestral colors, technology is at the core of what I do.

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

As far back as I remember, I have thought of myself as an artist. Or more perhaps like an inventor or explorer. I love to experiment, and when I received my first synthesizer/keyboard I got really into music technology and creating sounds. I haven’t stopped since.

How would you describe your spirituality?

I am Roman Catholic. I believe in Father, Son, Holy Spirit, and follow the Tradition of The Church that has been passed down for two millennium.

How does your spirituality find expression in your art?

My art is a celebration of the gifts God has given me. I always strive to express my gratitude in my music, but also bring my music to the faith through various projects I work on. SBeeson Christmas Dreams

Although not directly through my art but through my craft, I try to be a model Christian by making moral, ethical, and positive decisions.

Can you share a story of how creating your art expanded your awareness of God?

For me, I think it worked the other way around. Having grown up in the Church, music was always a big part of my praising! It was my love of that “art” that really strengthened my art.

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

I don’t know if I connect with a divine flow, so to speak. I would love to think that God is influencing my music, but I can’t really say. I do pray for intervention in my work and career though, asking for God to open my heart and mind to how he wishes to form my career and music.

I try to offer up everything I do to God. Without his graciousness, I could not be doing what I am doing today.

How do you connect differently to your creative source when you work solo versus when you are collaborating with others?

There are times, when working with others, that my art really becomes more of a science/math. It is still art of course, but what I am asked to collaborate on dictates that I become more of a supporting creative contributor as opposed to being a director.

How do ideas come to you?

That is a good question! I still don’t always understand how or where my ideas come from. I think a lot of them come from REALLY far back in my mind and are influenced heavily by my earliest exposures to music. The rest stems from my training as a composer. I rarely have to grasp for inspiration, but I tend to approach some of my compositions as if they are mathematical equations that need to be “resolved” versus creative dreams that are stuck in my brain and need to be exhumed.

How do you decide which ideas to pursue?

I tend to trust my gut instincts. It doesn’t always result in the most original music, nor the most advanced work, but it does allow me to focus on creating art for clients, meeting their deadlines and keeping my business afloat.

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?

Relax and have fun. The creative process (at least mine) can at some times be stressful and frustrating. Don’t let that weigh you down, and instead focus on the positive. Relax and have fun with what you do. You can pour yourself into it, you can get heavily invested into, you put sweat, blood, and tears into your work… But have fun and relax.

How has your art affected your spiritual evolution or spiritual evolution affected your art?

In my personal experiences they have worked together. It is hard to explain to someone that isn’t me (as I am sure it would be for a lot of artists with a similar mindset!) how art leads to a greater understanding and appreciation of God, and how focusing more of my craft and time on God has given me a better understanding of my role in music with my spirituality.

Find out more about Sean and his music at or go to Serenity Studio’s Youtube channel.

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

Roz Zollinger: I Am a Channel

Roz Zollinger has an international reputation for her therapeutic work and instruction in Reflexology and Aromatherapy. She has 20 years of experience in the practice and teaching of these healing arts.

 “I ask Source to help me, help my client. I am a channel and touching them is really touching God. I do my best work when I let go and let God use me.” ~Roz Zollinger

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

Roz qualified in Reflexology in 1983 through the South African Institute of Reflexology in Johannesburg, and in 1984 trained in Aromatherapy with the Institute of Clinical Aromatherapy in London. She subsequently pursued advanced Aromatherapy studies with the Pacific Institute of Aromatherapy in California, and has taken the International Training Program in Essential Oils at Purdue University in Indiana, USA.

Roz says, “Essential oils have energy and there’s always something that can help a person. Roses, for instance, have the highest vibration of all flowers and being in a room with beautiful fresh roses changes the energy.”

Roz founded the Heal Center in 1992 and currently has multiple practitioners offering a full range of natural therapies. The center has gained a national reputation for its therapeutic services and instruction. Roz lectures at regional and national conferences in addition to teaching courses and workshops from their Atlanta location.

She developed the BodySystems Method of Reflexology and Aromatherapy, which stresses the interaction of all bodily systems and addresses the physical, emotional and spiritual well being of the individual.

She says, “People think that I love feet because I work on the feet, but I love the connection that the feet give me to the soul of the person.”

Roz is co-founder of the Georgia Reflexology Organization and is a regional director for the National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA). She is Assistant Director of the US Branch of the International Institute of Traditional Herbal Medicine and Aromatherapy (ITHMA), which is based at the Heal Center.

Find out more about Roz and the offerings at the Heal Center 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!

Carrie Newcomer: There’s a Spiritual Current in My Work

Carrie Newcomer is a rare breed of singer/songwriter: the kind who illuminates life with startling depth, humor and clarity. Her ability for sharp observation of the world lead the Dallas Morning News to rave, “She’s the kind of artist whose music makes you stop, think and then say, ‘that is so true’.” She has been described as “a soaring songstress” by Billboard, a “prairie mystic” by the Boston Globe, and Rolling Stone has said that she “asks all the right questions.”

“There’s a spiritual current in my work because there’s a spiritual current in my life. ~Carrie Newcomer

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

She says, “When someone creates a work of art or when we hear a song and a person has put their finger right on the open palm of something true, it shakes the world just a little bit.”   

In the fall of 2011 Carrie released her fifteenth album, Everything is Everywhere, as a special benefit project for the Interfaith Hunger Initiative on Available Light Records. The Interfaith Hunger Initiative is an organization including faith leaders and laity Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Sikh congregations, dedicated to the common cause of providing for those most vulnerable in our communities. Carrie says, “In a time when we are encouraged to fear difference or diversity, Everything is Everywhere was created as an alternative to fear and an affirmation of creative and compassionate engagement. I am one of a growing number of people who are choosing to not put the Sacred in such a small container.” 

She says, “We live in a world of distractions and it’s easy to not be present in our own lives. But when I’m here, when I am present in attention, I start to see miracles and I sense the sacred everywhere. At the center of what I am doing is an artistic practice but it’s also a spiritual practice. It’s to be here and to be open — to what’s right here, right now in front of me — and then write about it.”

Carrie internationally facilitates workshops and presents keynotes on the topics of songwriting, spirituality and vocation at colleges, universities, and spiritual communities, retreat centers. Newcomer, a Quaker, cuts across secular and spiritual boundaries. In recent years, she has emerged as a respected and recognized artistic voice for the progressive spiritual community.

Find out more about Carrie and listen to free samples of her songs at Click on the link titled Messages from Carrie to read her poems and articles. I wonder if Carrie’s poem titled “The Dare” will offer as much encouragement to you as much as it has to me?

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

David Greer: What Will You Do for the First Time This Year?

David Greer, entrepreneur, songwriter and filmmaker, looks back at the end of a year and says “What did I do last year for the first time ever?” In this interview David shares examples of pursuing new venues of creative expression by giving himself permission to NOT be perfect.

“I think everyone has a creative vein in them and anybody can be creative. How many times do you stop and think that’s probably not any good or I’m not an artist? I just encourage people to take one step at a time and not be so consumed with the outcome.” ~David Greer

David talks about how a practice of daily stillness fuels his creativity. He says, “I’m open to things coming into your brain from sources unknown.”

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

More about David:

In the world of business, from marketing to publishing, and now in music and film, David Greer believes it all starts with a story.

For more than 30 years, David has harnessed the creative tools of the day to tell the stories of clients and causes – in print, online, through images, video, film and song.

His use of creative messages to achieve concrete business goals has garnered him a stellar reputation in marketing and media, while newer endeavors in the music and film industries have brought those mediums to the art and craft of his storytelling.

Extending his work into new mediums, David recently ventured into the world of filmmaking. David’s first screenplay was a quarterfinalist in the 2007 Slamdance Screenplay Competition, chosen from more than 2,200 screenplays. David’s first short film, produced and shot on location, was accepted into the International Family Film Festival in Hollywood, California.

He’s written songs like We Light A Candle and All Are Our Heroes, to benefit all those touched by cancer. The song and social media campaign became a touchpoint and a sustainable campaign to raise awareness and funds for the Cancer related charities.  Recently the Heroes Project has morphed in to a new endeavor called Faith On. Greer says seeing cancer survivors incredible faith inspired him to explore the role faith plays in every day life. Anybody can face a hardship… be it unemployment, rebuilding after a hurricane, heartbreak, illness and many other hardships. Greer seeks to use storytelling and real world examples to inspire folks to press on in faith. So far the campaign has reached 20 countries and throughout the US and a new song is in the production stages along with a Faith On Magazine and social media sites. A benefit concert is planned for 2012.

Find out more about the project at or “like” the FaithOn Facebook page for daily encouragement.

An entrepreneur at heart, David launched his own marketing and media company in 1996, Tillman Allen Greer, enabling him to combine his technical knowledge with problem solving and creative applications in the marketing arena. A believer in vision with a keen focus on a quality outcome, David is known for balancing practical business sense with creative endeavors.

Tillman Allen Greer has provided strategic marketing services, including economic development, business development, public relations, advertising and creative design, video production, Web site development and collateral production to key organizations in the metro Atlanta area and throughout the state for more than a decade. The firm has produced award-winning work for Gwinnett Technical College, Gwinnett County Public Schools, the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce, Discover Point Child Development Centers, the Gwinnett Center and the The Brand Banking Company. David is the creator of the now famous Gwinnett County development campaign Success Lives Here.

In the media realm, David has launched several award-winning publications. He is the founder and publisher of both Gwinnett Magazine, the area’s definitive lifestyle and business publication, and the Gwinnett Business Journal.

Listen each Wednesday at 9am Eastern on Empower Radio to hear another artist’s story. Recommend an artist for us to interview or share your comments below or on the Art as Worship Facebook page. Namaste!