Become a Free Spirit!
Welcome to Shannon Kinney-Duh of Free Spirit Knits
I told you that I had some exciting new things planned for the blog, and one of those is my interview with Shannon Kinney-Duh of Free Spirit Knits. She is one of my favorite artists and bloggers, and her e-course “Inside Out” was a brilliant introduction to art journaling and this awesome blogging community that I’ve grown to love.
I took Shannon’s course during the summer of 2010, thus beginning my journey to where I am now, which is a pretty good place. I think Shannon’s class took me by the shoulder, shook me a little and woke me up to the fact that I wasn’t quite living up to my potential.
I signed up on a whim; I wanted to see how an e-course worked in case I ever wanted to teach one someday, and the artist part of me thought it would be fun to stretch my creative muscles a little. Since I was able to hold a jumbo crayon, I have loved art and making things so it seemed like a great summer project that I could enjoy on my own and with the kids.
What I got was a reminder of how much I missed that creative part of my life. I grew up with an artist grandmother who spent her days making and painting and crafting and collecting and all along the way, telling me stories. Those days in my grandmother’s studio were the foundation of who I am, but since adulthood, I had let that part of me go. I didn’t paint much, and when I did, I stuck it away somewhere because I didn’t think it was very good. I colored with Harper Lee and Isaac, but I never just sat down with my own art supplies and painted or doodled or created fun messes just for the sake of creating. Shannon’s class brought all the good things that come from expressing myself creatively flooding back. It even helped me get back into creative writing.
Since her class, I’ve filled up numerous art journals, created a few pieces for myself and for friends, begun trying new mediums and projects, signed up for other classes, completed an impressive number of writing journals, and made the leap to writer/artist as my job, and I’m happier than I’ve been in ages. There was a lot of work in between, but I credit Shannon’s course for giving me the jump-start I needed and for reminding me what is really most important.
Shannon is a self-proclaimed free spirit who believes we should all be bold explorers of our lives and live with an open mind and heart, and she encourages those she comes in contact with to do just that with her warm smile, words of encouragement and brilliant example. And she was gracious enough to agree to do an interview with me for my readers. Here’s what she had to say.
Shannon, tell us about your own creative journey. How do you incorporate creative living into your everyday life?
I was longing to live a creative, authentic life for a very long time. It wasn’t until after I graduated from college and had to start looking for work that I really dove deeper into my creative search. I just wasn’t happy doing work that didn’t feed my soul. I met a group of women who were on a similar journey at the time, and we read “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron together. And that was the start to my healing through creativity.
I think my path took a more courageous turn when I became a mother. There was no hiding at that point. Meaning, I cried every day I had to drop off my 5 month old to daycare, so it forced me to take bigger risks towards living a creative life, because what I learned is that ultimately I wanted to be home with my children and do the creative work I so enjoy with them and around their schedule.
So now I incorporate creativity into my everyday because it’s pretty much essential when parenting two small children! We have an art room where we spend a lot of time together. We paint, we build, we discover, and we get messy together. I teach them a little, but mostly I let them lead the way and they are the ones teaching me.
You often say that we are all creative beings. What do you mean and how would you respond to people who say, “I’m just not creative”?
I was one of those people who used to say, “I’m not creative.” I definitely did not believe I was an artist, and that was a very limiting belief about myself. So I know what that feels like and I still meet adults every day who say the same thing.
I learned through my own self-discovery, art exploration and yoga practice and study that we are the creator of our own lives. That can be a hard concept to grasp, but when you get it and start believing that you can create a life you love, rather than one you don’t, you start to see that anything is possible.
My yoga practice also taught me that thoughts become things. I learned that when I kept repeating the story, “I’m not creative,” well that’s exactly what I became. So when I learned to change my thoughts to something more positive is when I saw real change in my life.
What do you think is so important about embracing your creativity and expressing it?
I feel that creativity is the gateway to your intuition. The more time you make to explore and express your creativity, the more connected you stay to your authentic self. And when you have a clear connection to that inner place, the more in alignment you are with your true path. When you get more comfortable expressing your creativity, you will learn how to enjoy the process of creating, rather than worrying about the outcome. And being in the flow of the present moment is when you’ll hear your inner voice, feel your inner strength and see a connection between the two.
It seems that many people are looking for ways to “be happier.” Why do you think there is such an overwhelming number of books, websites and programs devoted to the idea of happiness? What do you see as the “key” to unlocking this concept that many people find so elusive?
I think from a very early age we are programmed to look for quick and easy fixes. We learn how to please others, how to fit in and we get really good at looking to outside sources for approval. This continual search outside ourselves keeps us disconnected to the happiness that truly lives within. So we keep searching and looking “out there.” But eventually, hopefully sooner than later, we learn that nothing “out there” can truly make us happy. Happiness does come from within. So slowing down and finding quiet stillness are “key” to reconnecting to our heart centers – the source of our wisdom. When we start from the inside is when we’ll find peace of heart and the happiness we are all looking for.
I often view creativity, in its many forms, as a type of spiritual practice. What connections do you see between being creative and being spiritual?
Life is a school and we are here to learn from it. Our journey is a spiritual one as we are beings having a human experience. Trying new things, thinking new thoughts, exploring, being curious, facing fears, and making mistakes – which are all aspects of creativity – are just as important on the spiritual path. We aren’t here to be perfect, just as the act of creating or our spiritual practice isn’t meant to be perfect. The more we fail the better because it allows us to learn along the way.
I see that when I face the blank page and get ready to paint, I can easily get nervous. I may want to turn back, resist, organize the art room yet again – do anything else but face it. But, when I remember to be kind to myself, to have fun with the process and that it’s just paper, I can usually get my hands messy and begin. And that’s very similar to the spiritual process. There may be challenges in our lives, like that blank paper, that bring up fear, but if we can accept the fear, embrace it, and walk forward, that’s when the true learning happens. That’s when the true creating occurs. And that’s when the spiritual practice expands to a new level.
What advice would you offer someone who wants to explore his or her own creativity but doesn’t know where to begin?
Simply begin. Take yourself to the art section at the bookstore. Look through some magazines. Start reading creative and inspiring blogs. Sign up for that class. Find those that are doing what you secretly wish you could do. Because once you start surrounding yourself with that kind of inspiration you will soon learn that YOU can do those things, too. Even though you don’t feel creative now, remember, many of those people you see creating used to feel the very same way. Look for community and surround yourself with support. And remember, there will always be fear when learning something new, so accept that fear will be there, and then slowly face that fear with one small step at a time. And remember to be especially kind to yourself along the way. (Negative self-talk does you no good!)
Tell us a little bit about your logo, “I’m a Free Spirit.” What does being a free spirit mean to you?
A free spirit to me is someone who is less interested in conforming and more interested in diving deeper into her own heart. She is a life-explorer who thinks freely, with an open mind, heart and soul. She has the courage to live her truth and as she discovers the beauty and joy within her and all around her, she inspires others to do the same.
Tell us a little bit about some of your projects that are currently underway and any new projects on the horizon?
The 6th session of my e-course “Inside Out: A Creative Adventure of Self-Discovery” is coming up January 23rd, 2012. This course encourages you to become a bold explorer of your dreams and inspires you to celebrate your authentic brilliance through art journaling, writing, guided meditation and yoga principles, all while connecting to a like-minded community of women from all over the world.
I will be taking the entire next year to work on creating my newest e-course, “Mothering with heART” which will invite mothers to enrich their creativity alongside their children, while reconnecting to their authentic way of mothering.
I also have a new website coming out in January, which will host my blog where I write about creativity, wellness and mindful living. It will also offer a safe online community where free spirits can connect with each other.
And of course my biggest and best project is to continue creating space in my life, being present for and with my two little boys, and making lots of messes along the way!
Thanks, Shannon, for all you do to help others recognize the treasures they hold!
Check Shannon’s art and blog out at www.freespiritknits.blogspot.com and be on the lookout for upcoming e-courses. It is so worth it!