I first came to know Catherine Anderson through her book The Creative Photographer while seeking inspiration and ideas for my photography beyond simply printing, framing or (heaven forbid) letting them collect virtual dust sitting on my hard drive. Later, when I became interested in training as a SoulCollage® facilitator, I was delighted to learn that Catherine was a facilitator trainer. Last August, I traveled to her lovely home studio in Charlotte, North Carolina to train with her.
From Catherine I learned so much beyond what she taught me about facilitating SoulCollage® workshops. Her approach to the creative process, the way she honors and protects the space around her practice, and her generosity in sharing what she has so abundantly been gifted caused me to look at my own work in a fresh way. And that studio! Sigh. Much of what has happened on this blog since August and my long term plans are a direct result of the four days I spent with her.
True to form, she graciously agreed to be interviewed for The Creative Contemplative. I'm thrilled to introduce Catherine Anderson, through her words and art, to you today.
Can you describe when you first began to understand the relationship between creativity and your spiritual life?
When I first started making small pieces of art called Artist Trading Cards I found that while I was creating I felt expanded and joyful . Time flew. And all I was doing was cutting and arranging pieces of paper on cardstock! It was the first time I understood that joy could arise from within, and that my feeling joyful was not dependent on what others did or did not do or say to me. It was a revelation as I had always believed that happiness came from outside me. When I was creating my body felt tingly and I felt a sense of deep contentment. It feels as if I am connected to an energy larger than myself when I am creating and fills me with profound gratitude.
Do you have any creative rituals that you practice on a regular basis?
Breathe … Listen … Trust – these words embrace the essence of my creative ritual.
On those days when I have the gift of solitude and space in my studio I start the day by reading something soulful. Mostly I read poetry, but at the moment I’m reading Mary Oliver’s book of essays “Upstream” which is almost poetry. This allows me to connect with the part of me that knows I am part of something larger and prepares me for a short time of meditation – usually between ten and fifteen minutes (with the help of the Insight Timer app on my phone). I consider this my time to listen for any messages the universe might have for me and to become present to my body and my breath. If there is no creative project pulling at me (and sometimes even if there is) I will tear a circle or cut a spiral or labyrinth design out of old magazine pages. There is something about these patterns that centers and grounds me. I then paste them into a journal. They have no purpose except the happiness they give me when I look at them! And then I follow my energy and my joy which means I do the projects that seem to be calling to me trusting that they will show me how to proceed if I just show up and do the work.
How do you make space for creativity in your life?
I make space for creativity in my life by saying no to opportunities that do not support my creative life. When I find I have not been saying no enough, I then consciously put aside time to have “hermit” days in my studio. Alone time in my studio is necessary for my soul to feel alive. My favorite studio days are those when there is no creative project that has a deadline, when I can just play with the materials in my studio that are calling to me. Often my best creative discoveries come to life on those seemingly aimless studio days.
I also use the time when I am preparing materials to teach at my workshops and retreats as creative practice by finding new creative ways to present the material. Often I’ll make little books that hold the materials or cover boxes to hold the materials. So instead of thinking of this as work I think of it as creative time. I believe that we can make everything we do an opportunity to express our creativity – be it cooking a meal, gardening, wrapping a gift or even setting the table for dinner. There are many opportunities every day for small acts of creativity.
Catherine loves to create and is fortunate enough to spend most of her time playing in her studio or discovering magical places around the world with her camera. She believes in the power of the image to call our attention to the beauty and the wonder in the world around us. Her journey of self-discovery has taken her from attorney to photography franchise owner to creativity-workshop facilitator.
Catherine’s passions include SoulCollage®, the labyrinth, photography, visual art journaling, book-making and collage. She loves being a creative mid-wife assisting others in giving birth to their creative eye and guiding them to express themselves in the world. She does this in workshops in her studio in Charlotte, NC, and also in beautiful places such as Ghost Ranch in New Mexico, Orvieto in Italy, Oaxaca in Mexico, and in South Africa.
Upcoming Retreat in Oaxaca: www.creativepilgrimage.com/oaxacaretreat
As I walk my own path of spiritual growth through creativity, I’ve met many kindred spirits along the way. In the Conversation is a series of interviews with these soulful voices who I believe exemplify what it means to be a creative contemplative.