Join me for a cuppa tea?
I invite you to get a cup of tea and a journal. Perhaps a shawl wants to be placed upon your shoulders. If you have it, place your red thread upon your table. Does a candle want to be lit? Is the Muse beckoning? Today I will share with you about the magic, mirth and mythos of this sacred work we call Intentional Creativity.
I am called to share my story of Intentional Creativity and my family with you. This film, Quickening, will share a reading of the Beautiful Bowl about the origin story with Sue Hoya Sellars, a reading of When Women Are Awake, images from my first ever art show and portfolio, a share about my mom Caron McCloud, our Red Thread Cafe context and more about women in my family.
Intentional Creativity is a philosophy. An approach to creating. A movement with women and their families participating worldwide. This is how it began, and my inspiration for beginning! Thank you so much for tuning in. To join us at any time in a deeper creative experience of your own, you can find a way to play here.
And...if you would like to comment about this story, come on over to the Red Thread Cafe Classroom.
A story about the origins of Intentional Creativity through a teaching inspired by Sue Hoya Sellars.
“You can dig and make clay to shape a bowl. This is good hard work that can honor the earth and teach you,” she said, leaning on her shovel then handing it to me, indicating where to dig.
“You have to use your muscles to make clay,” she said, showing me how to stir as she did when I was little.
“You can put what you care about into the clay you are making,” she said, showing me how to wedge clay, like kneading bread.
Then she asked me, “What do you care about the most?” Satisfied with my answer - that I wanted to do my part to end violence against women and children - she went on. If my answer had not pleased her, I doubt she would have told me what came next. I doubt she would have kept teaching me for over twenty years.
“You can shape a bowl to hold soup. This is functional craft,” she said, picking up the wedged clay and placing it on the wheel with a confidence that came from years of working with her hands.
“You can shape a bowl to hold soup, that is also designed to be beautiful. This is art.” She said, inviting me to take a seat at the wheel.
“If you are centered, the bowl will rise. Whatever is not on center will throw you off. But if you are strong and gentle, what is off center will slide off through your hands.”
“You can allow your intuition to shape the bowl, letting it become what it wants to - what is hidden in the clay is longing for its own expression.”
Using an antler horn to mark the newly shaped bowl with a pattern, she said, “You can bring your thoughts into the design. With every mark, a prayer.”
“You can bring the Divine into your work,” she said, placing gold leaf and colored glazes into my hands to decorate my beautiful bowl.
“While you work on the bowl, you can meditate on your life, and meditate on the lives of those you care about, in a good way. You can imagine the care you put into it, going out to them as love. This is happening now. This is intentional creativity. A personal and transpersonal creation,” she said.
“You can also use your imagination and your energy to infuse the beautiful bowl with love for a specific person or people who one day may eat soup from the bowl. This is transcendent love. Practice it. The bowl will become a resonator. People will be able to feel it,” she said, nodding her truth and putting my bowl into the fire. My love was being alchemized by fire. I felt everything in my body stir, my heart expanded to include loving those I do not know, and would never know. Imagining all of them being fed in beautiful bowls.
Stirring her tea by the woodstove, her spoon clinking her cup slowly, she looked at me over her glasses. “If you can hold all of the above, and add an intentional prayer, something like May all beings be able to eat soup when they are hungry, this is the practice of the sacred artist. This is mindfulness in action through art. This is a good life. The life of an artist. This bowl can also be an altar bowl.”
“In time, if you do work in the world which allows you to share the bowls you make with others, then you are a working artist. And perhaps you can even fill the bowls with soup made with love. This is healing the world while you heal yourself. Do you want to do this?” She asked me, and I said I did.
When it was time, she took the colored bowl of green, gold, and blue from the fire and showed it to me with appreciation. “If you are called, you can teach others to make bowls in this way. As well as paintings...writings...drawings...anything you intend can be made in this way - with intentional creativity. This level of intention heals all of us. This is how our ancestors made bowls. This is how we can make bowls, with love. Being an artist is very romantic.”She then took out her notebook and began to sketch a blue bowl with a chip in it, something that was ‘broken and beautiful’.
I sat quietly beside her admiring my beautiful bowl and feeling the whole world and all its needs unfurl before my eyes and into my heart.
This is when I became a student of suffering. This is when I became an artist of joy. Holding both, together.
Special Guest to tea: Later that week she invited a special guest to tea. She told me to tell our special guest what mattered to me. And so I shared while Alice Walker listened, that I wanted to do my part to end violence against women and children. She told me that all women are impacted by violence. It was as if the thought had never occurred to me, that it was all of us. All of us. She had a way of speaking that held severity and beauty. I also told her that I wanted to change the image of the feminine in my life time. I didn’t have any idea how, but I wanted to. I learned from her about meditation and about the relationship she had with her own writing as feeding the soul. I too wanted to feed my soul with my service. When I complimented Alice on her emerald velvet vest, she took it off and gave it to me. With it still warm on my back I shared the seeds of my vision, to somehow use art to begin to end the violence. At the time I had no idea what that would look like, but I felt supported by these powerful women who were truly awake. Their awakeness was waking me. The blue bowl had belonged to Alice. So I could also see how beauty was not in perfection only, in getting it right, but in seeing the beauty where it lived.
Within a year from the day we first dug the clay to the finished bowl, home-made soup was served in that very same bowl for my teacher. She said, “This is a good bowl. This is good soup.” The soup was lentil with coconut milk, turmeric, olive oil and elephant garlic from the garden, finished with a scoop of mayo on top and a splash of soy sauce.
Sue told me we should bring a bowl to Alice and we did. That bowl sat on her dining room table for many years. The clay imbued intentionally with the prayer of the ending violence against women and girls on the table of the woman who woke me to the global reality of this violence through her writings, films, and friendship with my teacher. One day, not long after I had given her the bowl, Alice told me that to be happy is one of the most revolutionary acts. She said I should be mindful of how I choose to fight oppression, and to spend as much time as I could just being happy. She told me - and all of us - that hard times require furious dancing. And so I danced.
A photo of Shiloh Sophia and Alice Walker in her garden. A photo of the bouny from Alice's garden, much of which we used to make the soup.
Alice’s response to reading this Beautiful Bowl which I sent to her right after writing it.
"I love this. It is moving and true. And you, and Sue.
Yes. Sue, You, Me, my mother’s blue bowl. Which Sue took to with such love. She understood its meaning with her soul. Wishing I had a bowl of that soup!
One of these days let us make a big bowl of soup, and count our blessings in front of the same fire…"
The writing about the bowl is not exact language, it is part imagined, yet inspired by direct dialogues with teachings that I had with Sue Hoya Sellars when I was 23 years old. I left my corporate gig in San Francisco and headed for the hills in 1994 for a chop-wood-carry-water mentorship. A mentorship that would last one year and go on for 20 years from that creation and conversation. A conversation that would change my life forever and influence the lives of tens of thousands of women who are shaping beautiful bowls. I work with awakening women through the acts of intentional creativity Sue taught me.
Here we are on the mountain together, which I cherish deeply.
For many years I made art and made a living and provided meaningful work for women. Many intentional bowls and paintings provided sustenance for me and countless others. Then, at age 40, I finally knew how I would do my part. Up until this time, I had served in many capacities with women and had created a great deal of prolific art. And yet, I still didn’t know how I would do my part to end violence. I remember the day I got it. I was sitting outside on the porch. I had just had tea and conversation with Sue about how her art was ‘wake the f*ck up’ art. I knew that I was called to make this kind of art too. I had to take what she had taught me and teach others how to do it. Intentional Creativity is the practice that woke me up and swept me off my feet into a life of service that I loved. I wanted to share it.
Many blessings to my sisters of Intentional Creativity. I am so glad you are here exploring your own creative process in such deeply beautiful and moving ways.
P.S. Here is a share from one of our community members after watching Beautiful Bowl:
I am in awe of your loving power, Shiloh Sophia, your incredible stories and visions, the many ways your life continues to expand with more and more beautiful intentions, and the healing energy of it all. Mostly, I resonate with you because you are a 'Sacred Rebel' and you honor those of us, who may not have had such a beautiful lineage of encouragement, to know we belong too! Thank you from the center of my heart for being a truly legendary artist of consciousness, creativity and community for so many women today. I am blessed by this Red Thread community even though it sometimes feels so distant, while also feeling amazed by the paradox that it is not at all far from my heart abiding in common and shared hopes for aliveness and awareness at this time in our Herstory. Deep bow, dear sister!
Exploring Our Philosophy
What Intentional Creativity is:
Intentional Creativity® is a philosophy for approaching what we make. We infuse what we make with intention, through mindfulness and embodiment. This approach to making our art can be applied to any medium and any thematic topic. Anyone can use it. Anyone. Everyone uses it even if they don't call it that. Our species have always made what we make this way. Good, bad or otherwise, all stuff we make and bring into form has a level of intention.
Our work specifically, is to make this approach conscious, practice it in our art forms and the ways we live. We bring awareness to others about the impacts creating this way can have in our lives. Working with this level of awareness can cause awakening at an exponential level, as well as catalyze healing and move stuck energy. The frequency of Intentional Creativity with the power of love is having incredible impact in our communities - many claim it has been life saving.
When we make something we infuse it with our energy. As it becomes infused, it takes a charge and becomes a resonator. This charge of energy is returned back to us, based on what we put into it. This is reciprocity at the quantum level. We are recieve what we are giving instantly.
If we choose to, we can also send this same feeling energy out to others, and yes, it travels there instantly. This is quantum connection. Even after we are done with what we make, years later it can still carry the 'charge' from our intention in the molecules. This is measurable science, intention in action. And we hope, love in motion.
Intentional Creativity through focused imagination draws upon the energetic through intention with our hearts, minds, and the physical through the motions of our body as we 'commit art'
What Intentional Creativity is not:
A person, a painting, a painting style, 13 steps, a specific process, a brand, a company. Intentional Creativity is not me or you, it is all of us. (Hence Musea) Those of us who are teachers and coaches hold a practiced resonance, a frequency and teachings for how to apply it that we can share based on our experience with this work. The person is not the philosophy, but a practitioner of that idea. Their work may use Intentional Creativity, but that does not mean their style is Intentional Creativity in and of itself. Intentional Creativity as a philosophy cannot be bought or sold. It can only be given.
In addition to MUSEA: Centers for Intentional Creativity we also have our own 501c3. The Intentional Creativity Foundation preserves and illuminates an enduring legacy of four generations of art making. We provide education, research & community building, focused on creating with intention. Our field of practice and study, Intentional Creativity, is an emergent discipline combining creativity with mindfulness. Our projects to share this work with others are piloted by the global Intentional Creativity Guild.
Creating with intentional symbolism to communicate and tell story is ancient and pervasive the world over. From the Red Hand Cave paintings of Aboriginal peoples of Australia, the Japanese Tea Ceremony, Egyptian glyph and myths, Russian icons coded with story and symbol, Shaman drums painted with personal medicine, sacred theater in Ancient Greece, Black Madonna rituals like the Sous Terre in Chartres Cathedral, skin story tattoos of the Hawaiian Islands, Native American beadwork, baskets and garments, Taize Musical Worship from France, African dances for birth and death, to the modern movement of intuitive art being globally practiced – the references are truly ever-present and endless and in every culture in the world. The common red thread of telling stories across cultures, weaves us together.
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