Tuesday, June 2, 2009


After participating in Katherine Treffinger's, 'Art and Meaning' project an internet friend asked me to elaborate on the spiritual aspect of creating art. It's something I've pondered upon often over the last few years and I've wondered if it is a spiritual connection that I feel when carving ...or whether it's just a feeling of gratitude or elation that I'm able to escape into the art process and express myself this way.

An extract I read in The Well of Creativity by Michael Toms resonated with me. Michael was visiting an ancient Balinese village, famous for double-ikat weaving. He wondered why anyone would spend so long making something for so little return. It might take six months to make a small intricate piece of cloth, three feet long and about one foot wide. The ikat cloths and tapestries are sold to tourists and though they're expensive by Balinese standards the labor works out to about ten cents an hour. So it obviously wasn't being done for the money.

"So I found myself in this village where they did this work. I was talking to a Balinese man who had some command of English, and I realized as he was talking and explaining this piece of cloth, that to them the whole process of doing this was very much a part of their spiritual practice. It was like prayer."

"It was the prayer of doing it. It was like this realization of the idea of being one with your work and what that really is about."

The Well of Creativity is a series of interviews with well known creatives including Julia Cameron, Natalie Goldberg and Isabel Allende. It's one of those books that I'm getting more out of in the second reading.

"No traditional concept of God is necessary to succeed, only a sense that our personal creativity reflects that of the universe, and as we express our artistic impulses we come in touch with a spiritual world of infinite size and power." -- Michael Toms 

Found inscribed over a doorway at Westminster Abbey   "Of the craftsmen it may be said that in the handiwork of their craft is their prayer".


  1. What is the spirit? Is it something within each one of us that some of us are more connected with? Is spirituality the connection between ourselves and the world around us? Perhaps it is our involvement with whatever we are doing at the moment?

    Although there are those who remove themselves from others in order to connect with their spiritual God, I believe it is our connection with our creativity and our want or need to share that with others that is spiritual.

    I will check into this book. Thanks!

  2. I love this post, Robyn.
    I am so appreciating the time in my studio and have always considered it prayer. It is a time with no memory and no time, where thoughts don't happen or if they do, they express seamlessly. SO fun.

  3. a really thoughtful and thought provoking post Robyn. I know viewing your work feels like a touch of spirit, and hearing a whispered prayer.

  4. I like Michael Toms quote, I think it's very apt.

  5. Your words and pictures are such inspiration. Thank you for sharing.

  6. What a beautiful thought about the ikat weaving process!

  7. i love the last michael tom's quote, robyn... i think that about sums it up for me. one thing that i think making art does, is that it takes us out of linear time. no past, no future, only the present moment. which puts us smack dab where the juicy goodness of Is is... xo

  8. Lovely thoughtful post, Robyn.

  9. My studio is my haven. A place of creativity and solitude. And yes, I can be spiritual in there too. It rained today while I was mosaicing and without thought I found my self incorporating mirror into the piece. Tiny pieces that I had unknowingly shaped as water droplets.

    Thankyou for this post, thankyou.

  10. Nice post. I like the concept of being one with your work. Perfect progression of pictures here too.

  11. Robyn, I like it best when you show us glimpses of your work. This post made fascinating reading. I so glad that you shared it here. I have always thought (very personally), that the process of drawing was being in touch with God inside me. I was so happy when I read that creativity is thought of as a prayer!

    The quote at the end is great too. Though it makes me wonder about the 'spiritual world' of some contemporary artists whose work makes me want to scream and run away ;-)

  12. your words are the perfect gentle reminder that I seriously need to get out of my own way and return to creating as a form of prayer rather than struggle.

    thank you.

  13. With so many tools scattered around you, you carve out some awesome creations and that WIP seems to be shaping up to be yet another masterpiece

  14. Kim, what is the spirit? .....difficult to define it exactly but for me its the essence of me, my inner being, the sacred aspect of myself that connects with the universe....with nature....with wisdom. The more I think about it the harder it is to define. I think its an aspect of ourselves that connects with the greater scheme of things.
    I would love to hear some feedback :-)

    Caroline, no wonder time in the studio is rejuvenating....being able to switch off from all the rush around us.

    Thanks Karin, so sweet of you to say so. I thought of you while writing this post.

    Ro, I love it too.

    Jeane...food for thought..

    Thanks Katelen. I had a quick peek at your blog this morning and am looking forward to visiting again.

    Bindu, I loved the story when I read it and kept going back to read it again.

    Lynne, aahh the juicy goodness :-) You make me smile.

    Thanks Annie.

    HHMBN, I love the sound of your mosaic. Photos?

    Thanks Seth.

    Priya, I can see that in your drawings. Perhaps the artists you referred to are not expressing their spiritual aspect in their art :-)

    Michelle, it is quite a relief when we get out of our own way. When ever it feels like a struggle I have to remind myself that its easier to just relax and go with the flow.....find the joy.

    T and S, thank you!

  15. As I'm not a word worshiper, prayer has always been a hollow form of expression for me.

    The act of art always seemed to be a more direct link with what I call the One Soul.

    Thank you for this post.

  16. Thanks Robyn, I love the "food for thought" this post conjures.
    The quote by Michael Toms is wonderful so is the story of his visit to a Balinese village...the act of art being like a prayer...perfect.

    Love all the rusty bits, wood shavings and glimpses of your precious work too.

  17. I do feel spiritually connected whenever I am in the process of creating. So much of my life is just that, from my profession to my leisure time...so I am fortunate I suppose to feel "connected" quite a lot! There is something so sublime about losing oneself in one's art.

  18. Nice log that makes me stand still by something I always take for granted. When it rains, the water flows from the maintains down to the see, that's what I do, bringing water to the see because I can't stop doing it ;-)

  19. Robyn
    Stumbled upon your blog and found this. I have always felt that my creative time turned off the outside world and left me with or without words. I will look for this book....sounds like something I need to read. Thanks for such an insightful lovely post

  20. Robert, I think many artists feel the same way. I read about a ballet dancer who said that when she danced alone with complete abandon it was her way of offering prayers of gratitude to the Universe.

    Thanks Jo. The thought of art as prayer adds another facet to art making doesn't it?

    Pamela, you sound like a very serene person.

    Wim, yes being in the flow is quite addictive :-)

    Joei, glad you stumbled upon my blog so that I can find my way to yours. I will wave when I'm in the neighbourhood :-)

  21. One - thank you so much for the visit and that I made you smile
    Next - this post of yours is really resonating with me. I am a very creative person, and I am at war with what I want to create and trying to create to make a living - and I have yet to find a happy way to live my life with time to still create and not starve
    I must remember again that this process is a spiritual one
    that makes me remember where the art should really be coming from

  22. Fantastic post Robin! I do feel that when I'm creating the process is very spiritual. I usually start of my days work by saying a little prayer and thanking my Creator. When I"m working I start to feel in the "zone" and I've come to recognize that as a "spiritual zone".
    I'll definitely look for the book!

  23. Over the years I've dabbled in my art(oils and encaustics), but now my spirit is craving this time to be in my studio and evolve beyond where I've been artistically. It's so difficult when you need to go to work to make ends meet and have other responsibilities. How do other people keep the continuity in their artistic lives?

    (PS. Many years ago, I lived in PE...beautiful country.)

  24. Lady P, I've also grappled with the same problem. Doing something I was sure would earn an income or take a chance and do what I really wanted even though I wasn't sure about the results. I now wish I hadn't waited so long.

    Thanks Manon. A great way to start the day.

    Lia, I started off by selling my art while I was working and once I had made contacts and was selling regularly I gave up my job. It was a risk but I'm so relieved it worked out.

  25. This is a beautifully written post on the big question of the spiritual aspects of creating. The rich experience of the creative process leads me to believe I am an intrgal part of the Universe in a way that leads me to gratitude as prayer...all mixed together! I believe we are turning the wheel of spiritual time each time we create.

  26. Beautiful and thought provoking post...all I know is I feel happy and relaxed when I am creating my art. They say your art is a window to your soul?

    I love seing all of your wonderful treasures.

    Jacky xox

  27. That you are leaving something of yourself within an object which may be enjoyed for many years to come is in some way spiritual?

    Does this make sense?

  28. Beautiful post, Robyn. Very thought provoking. Art reflects our histories, our voices, our human frailties and when we put it into a tangible form for others to share, view and absorb, it becomes part of a larger experience.
    Thanks for peeking at my encaustics. You would love working with it.

  29. Nothing like a bit of Creation to put us in touch with that universal Creator :)

  30. you could talk about measurable things like alpha level brain waves when creating and stuff like that, but I think the entire process is far more subjective and personal...

    Sounds like another must have book..thanks for the quotes.

  31. such a nice reflective post, robyn! i find that the well is rarely dry these days when i have time to create. and nothing pleases me more than getting totally lost in my art room, letting the minutes tick by unnoticed, the worries fly out the window and my heart soar in joy. it is truly like meditation to me.

  32. Mary Ann, lovely comment.

    Jacky, it is thought provoking isn't it....I'm still mulling over the meaning of it all.

    Blu, no I don't think that makes sense but I do understand a connection with something greater when creating art or doing anything that puts you in that meditative zone. My mom inlaw used to speak of it after gardening for hours on her own. It's such a great feeling to be able to lose yourself in whatever you're doing.

    Thanks Shelly..."Art reflects our histories, our voices, our human frailties and when we put it into a tangible form for others to share, view and absorb, it becomes part of a larger experience".... I love what you have said and will put your words in my quote book.

    Jo, there's nothing quite so satisfying as being able to create something with your hands is there?

    Grrl, you've made a very good point. There was a time when I read so many books about alpha brain waves. The process is personal. I'm enjoying the response to this post...it's giving me even more food for thought.

    Julie, exactly!

  33. Robyn, This post is so humbling. The bit about the Balinese villagers. Recently I've been in the process of creating some art myself and while the process is what makes me happiest, the whole commercial aspect of it stumps me. I am so glad I read this post today, puts so many things into perspective for me.

  34. This is amazing Robyn!

    I think it is a mix of everything in terms of gratitude and connections to our higher selves that are expressed so eloquently when we tap into our creative and artistic sides!

    It is humbling too I think, to be aware of it. And I know when I am creating and being "creative" I am definitely lifted to a higher state than perhaps any other times.

  35. I love your blog, Robyn. You have a way of posting about things that have been on my mind, as though you can read my thoughts!

    I can't wait to get my hands on that book...

  36. Vineeta, I'm so glad this post was a help. That's what is so wonderful about the blog world. Whenever I'm really needing some sort of reassurance or words of wisdom someone pops up with exactly what I need to hear. It can be in a post or a comment or in an unexpected email.

    Evita, it is humbling to feel this connection....no wonder making art is so healing.

  37. "It was like a prayer"...I love that statement. How true.

  38. hello~

    i think we separate things too much... for me feeling gratitude or elation or joy is also Spirit... the wellbeing of the Self flows and we feel it... the earth the sky the monkeys the wood you carve, the shapes it takes, the breath, its all One. Its all All... we can only point (or we are points of It, expressing).

    thanks for sharing you. :)

  39. Thanks Karine. It often happens to me too. I'll be thinking about something and a post about it pops up.

    Sabii Wabii, I was very taken with the story and that statement especially.

    Mansuetude, I always appreciate your wisdom. Thank you.

  40. It is a great book and the quote sums it up nicely! "loose yourself in whatever you are doing" I so agree, but I also feel that I am reunited with all that is when I am in that moment....Thanks for sharing!

  41. Sometimes creating art is like a prayer to me as well, and the recognition that there is something guiding us, our art spirit maybe, always challenging us to be true to our self...our art. Thank you for this... Roxanne

  42. I am so inspired by this post and always by your work Robyn...to make everything a prayer...my creativity...yes...but mowing the lawn, going to work everyday...well that is what I am working on.

    Your photographs of your work are so delicious, I must say, your world is filled with curiousities!

  43. I am tryting like crazy to get a copy of writing down the bones...had it once...he goblins ate it..no they read it and now they are all on world tours.

  44. Look at all these responses, Robyn, like strumming a guitar chord that resonates for all...