I first met Maggie Yowell when she came to me for spiritual direction and then later she participated in our Awakening the Creative Spirit program. It was more of a continued nurturing in the program since she had long been awakened through her work in SoulCollage, both as artist and facilitator of the process. In the last couple of years though, her work has really blossomed as she has been defining her work as a Collage Artist, Spiritual Director, Creativity Coach, Life Enrichment Specialist, SoulCollage™ Facilitator, Veriditas Certified Labyrinth Facilitator, Church School Director, and Doula, all through her website Spirit Heart Journeys.
With that array of services, you know she is a busy woman, so I am grateful to her for taking some time to share her own insights into creativity and spirituality.
Are you rooted in a particular faith tradition?
I am an active member of two Episcopal churches, St. Mark’s Cathedral and Saint Andrew’s in Seattle. I usually attend a Sunday morning, Thursday morning and Sunday evening Eucharist. I also am the Church School Director for Prospect United Church of Christ on Capitol Hill in Seattle. My faith is also greatly influenced by Buddhism, Native American spirituality, Celtic spirituality and other traditions.
What is your primary art medium?
I am a collage artist, though I sometimes employ mixed media in my work.
How do you experience the connection between spirituality and creativity?
My favorite elements for collage are text in different languages, fragments from sacred works of art, Japanese origami and handmade papers, leaves, and bark. I also create my own marbled and handmade papers. Working with these small fragments of paper – with color, pattern, texture, words and intricate scenes – I create larger images that embody the richness of each element. For me, these collages reflect my personal theology that all things are connected; everything is a reflection of Spirit.
What role does spiritual practice have in your art-making?
I want to give full voice to my authentic self by sharing and expressing my inner wisdom, spirit and creativity. For me, my art-making is one of my favorite forms of prayer. Creating feeds my faith life, and my faith life feeds my creativity.
What sparked your artistic journey?
Growing up, I was primarily interested in theatre. As an adult, this grew into performance art, as I studied with Rachel Rosenthal, the “Grand Dame of performance art.” Later, I studied Native American arts in Wolf Creek, Montana, learning the sacred arts of beading, basketmaking, and drummaking. I loved that each stitch is accompanied by a prayer. On a two-day vision quest sitting in an eight-foot circle beside and within a mountain stream, I was visited by fish, birds, spiders, deer and owl. On the second night of my quest, I looked up at the trees above and noticed that all of their branches looked like arms reaching out to the heavens above, in a gesture of prayer. Looking to see what the trees were looking at, I saw a perfect cross made of stars in the night sky. This was my vision. When I returned from my vision quest, I made a commitment to be a co-creator with God, bringing beauty to the earth through the arts. As I discovered my love for paper, I began to play with collage. My first collage was the “Tree of Life”, followed by illustrations of the Creation story.
Do you have a particular process you use when entering into your creative work?
I like to work intuitively, using the creative, dream, self – not really thinking too hard about what I’m doing. Sometimes though, I do have a project that grows inside of me quietly for a long time before it becomes manifest in the world.
How does your art-making shape your image of God?
I practice, facilitate and teach the art of SoulCollage™, a process where you make collaged cards that reflect different aspects of your soul. One of the suits is the Council, which is those archetypal images that we all share – Birth, Death, Healer, Warrior, Lover, Great Mother. Many of my Council cards are images of God, and as I co-create more cards, my image of God expands, and perhaps, God’s image of me expands too.
I am so grateful to Maggie for sharing her wisdom with us here. I especially love that last line where she expresses her insight that not only does her image of God expand, but God's image of her expands as well. I have to sit with that one for a while and contemplate the invitation hidden within.
Make sure to visit Maggie's website at Spirit Heart Journeys to learn more about her work. If you are in the Seattle area, she offers a variety of SoulCollage workshops.
(images from top to bottom: Tree of Life, Source, Stone Woman, Creator, In the Beginning / bottom row from left to right: Giving Tree, Spirit of the Ocean, Northwest Views, Soul Mountain)