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The Power of Art :: by Qaadira Allen

Qaadira Allen
As a visual artist and transformative art facilitator, I have long witnessed the power of art to heal, empower, and transform. One of those moments stands out more than the rest.

A few years ago, I was hired by The Wellness Community of Philadelphia to design and lead a workshop for people with cancer. Because of my extensive training in the use of arts in healthcare settings, I wanted to make sure that everyone in the group would be able to engage fully (and comfortably) in all the activities planned for the half-day workshop. In fact, I specifically adapted many aspects of the session during the planning stages: simplifying the art-making process as much as possible; choosing easy to use and non-toxic art materials; ensuring the room was odor and fragrance-free; and paying special attention to the temperature and seating arrangements.

On the day of the workshop, I greeted the attendees as they began to arrive. It was clear that several of them were currently in treatment (radiation and/or chemotherapy) while others were many years into their recovery. A few wore the pinched facial expressions often noticeable in people who are experiencing physical discomfort or pain.

One older woman in particular, who was escorted in by a friend, appeared to be in a great deal of pain. She was slightly hunched over and very thin. It took her some time to get settled into her seat. She also seemed distracted or bored, as if someone had to persuade her to come to the workshop.

When the session began, there were several activities that the woman did not participate in and I wondered to myself if she would get the full benefit of the day if she were unable to engage in the main art-making activity.

But when it was time for the group to move over to the long tables set up for creative work, her eyes widened at the array of colorful paints, fabrics, beads, stamps, and ribbons spread out on the table to choose from. Although it took her some time to pick out her materials, she got right to work on her “dream pillow”.

Because the art-making portion of the workshop would last about an hour, I made a mental note to check on her every ten minutes or so, but by the third “check-in”, it was obvious that she was totally engrossed in her painting and was not having any trouble whatsoever.

As we neared the one-hour mark, the entire group was in active creation mode, busily gluing and stamping their pillows and swaying to the upbeat music playing in the background. Suddenly, the woman I had been concerned about cried out “Oh, my God! My pain is gone!” Every head in the room turned toward her. “When I came here this morning,” she said, “I was in so much pain, but I haven’t had any pain since I started making my pillow”.

I’ll never forget the mile-wide smile on her face and the light shining through her eyes.

You see, even though I could name research studies documenting the fact that hospital patients who participated in bedside art activities often requested much less pain medication and even left the hospital earlier, it was only in that moment that I truly appreciated how deeply rejuvenating (and perhaps even life-extending) the simplest acts of engaging art and creativity can be.


Qaadira Allen is mixed media artist, educator, and transformative art facilitator who creates powerful experiences designed to inspire, empower, and heal. She has facilitated more than 400 transformational group experiences in the U.S. and the Caribbean, and is the founder of The Center for Transformative Art, where she mentors other creative change agents who want to transform the world. For more info, visit


Limited Only by Imagination by Deb Dunn

ART SAVES ... two small words, a tiny powerful phrase, close to my heart and one I know to be true.

A serious automobile accident drastically changed my life overnight. Multiple injuries including herniated discs in my neck and permanent nerve damage led to a chronic pain condition. Working on crafts I once adored (knitting, crocheting, painting, sewing, multi-media collage) as well as gardening - which I was passionate about, were just too difficult. My days instead of creating were filled with physio therapy sessions. In a desperate effort to reduce pain, I gave each one up. Just looking at my bookshelves filled with crafting and floral design books proved to be too painful, and I made the difficult decision to have them boxed up and donated to local charities. I felt, at that time, like those bookcases ... emptied.

And then, a few years later, I spotted a book on scrapbooking while out. I made a mental note of the author's name and googled it once home. This in turn directed me to her blog, something totally foreign to me at the time. One blog led to another and seeing photos and reading about the crafts I once enjoyed sparked an interest in me once again. Very slowly, I began introducing crafts back into my life, thinking up creative (and at times, hilarious) ways to sit comfortably and remembering to PACE myself. That became the hardest part, pacing myself. Once I started it felt like I was playing catch up. I also began my own blog shortly afterwards to share in this wonderful, creative, on-line community. This was 2006 and I have been blogging ever since!

The positive impact creating once again spilled over into every other part of my life. There is a very therapeutic element to creating art and working with different textures, colours and dimensions. It helps with flexibility, loosens tight muscles and helps focus your mind on the here and now. Crafting serves as an incredible coping strategy giving the mind something positive to think about. There is such a sense of accomplishment working on and seeing a finished project. In Art, your only limitation is imagination.

Chronic pain drains energy, but an enforced slower pace can send forth a creative power surge. On those days when the physical act of creating isn't possible, I use this as a quiet reflective time and keep a journal to jot down ideas and thoughts of what I want to create. Some of my best ideas have happened from these "down times" and it keeps me from feeling that I have wasted yet another day due to pain.

It's sad to remember and write about "those days" but I am proud of my own personal creative journey, and grateful looking back, at just how far I have come.

ART SAVES ... it really does!

Learn more about Deb Dunn at


Managing Migraines through Mixed Media by Trisha Moschella

trisha moschella
I have a Master's in Elementary Education & a license in cosmetology. So you would think that I am a very successful person, right? I am successful in terms of doing what I love, but something has been in my way for many years. That something is Migraines. It has been very difficult to keep jobs because as we all know employers don't like it when you call in sick. Migraines are debilitating and are not like a regular headache. Often times you can't drive or do any of the daily activities you need to do and they can last hours.

I am a person with a lot of motivation and drive, but when you are fighting with head pain it can make you feel depressed at times. So, I turned to Mixed Media Art. I have always loved Art. As a child and teenager my family painted holiday windows and signs. I could create fluffy snowmen, and candy cane lettering in a snap. But, with the changing economy people weren't paying for holiday designs as much. Window signs have really declined in the past few years too. So mixed media art allows me to create all the fun characters I grew up designing while being in the comfort of my own art studio.

My migraines are manageable now and I'm doing what I love.

Learn more about Trisha at


Love and Art :: by Diana Gonzalez

The creative process has always been a method of healing for me. When I was a child, I wrote poems and drew pictures that told a story. As I got older, I continued with my poetry, and unfortunately found many sad things to write about in my life.

I grew up in a dismal home. For me, what really saved me was love. But love and art coincide with each other. How? It is simple: I feed that which I love. I feed my art and my poems, with love and nurture, in a similar manner in which I care for my children, or my body. What you feed, grows. What you love, grows.

Did you know that it is scientifically proven that an infant needs affection and love in order to thrive and grow? It is true. It is also true for anything in your life. That which you love is what saves you.
When you love your art, it heals you and saves you. I realized this truly when I became a mother. When I held my daughter in my arms for the first time, it was truly a well of love that I was overwelmed with. Being a new mother somehow made me want to pursue my creativity again, so after years of not doing anything remotely creative (besides writing), I began to carve stamps, and make cards and things like that.

For me, what makes are healing is that is a sort of meditative process. Little by little, you focus just on your project, while your creative juices are flowing, and that process is what empowered me to heal from a lot of the junk from my past. I became a mother again, and it convinced me that love and art truly go hand in hand.

My husband is always telling me that art is everywhere around you. Growing up in the church, I heard that love is all around you. I feel that these two things go hand in hand. Art is everywhere. Love is everywhere. Embrace the two, and self evolution shall come indeed.

Learn more about Diana at


Still Going Strong :: by Ilysa Ginsburg

My mother was very creative and passed that on to me, I have been making things my entire life and started making jewelry at age 5. I found my passion in my early 20's when I moved to NYC (with only $300 to my name and absolutely no prospects). A trip to my bank in the Park Slope area of Brooklyn one day literally changed my life. There was a young woman outside selling gorgeous jewelry and I stopped to see more of it, I asked what it was made from and she told me it was polymer clay and the technique was called millefiori and there was no paint every color was clay. I was mesmerized by the intricate designs. Needless to say I bought a piece and asked for earrings to match and she said she was actually looking for someone to make earrings for her. Of course having been making jewelry since I was 5, I offered my services.

We met up once or twice and she showed me the basics of working with polymer clay and then ended up moving away to go to college. At that time there weren't many brands available and the clay was hard as a rock but I was hooked. That was in 1989 and I am still playing with the clay. I have a book coming out in the Fall with F & W Publications called Polymer Clay Art Jewelry, How To Make Polymer Clay Jewelry Projects Using New Techniques with my business partner Kira Slye.

Kira and I met in 2006 when I started a street team on to help spread the word and share with others about polymer clay, the group is called the Polymer Clay Artists Guild of Etsy. I thought the group needed a website to represent us and put a call out to the group to see if anyone was interested in helping and Kira answered the call. After working together we realized we both lived in FL and less than 400 miles away from each other.

I decided to purchase an Ipod for myself for the holidays and started to download and noticed something called a podcast. I poked around to see what they were all about and noticed there were only a few craft podcasts and I had an idea that I wanted to create a podcast about polymer clay and that Kira would be the person to help bring it to fruition. We met 1/2 way between where we lived, which was Orlando, FL and hashed out the plans for the show and on June 1st 2007 we launched Polymer Clay TV. We have a You Tube channel with over 200 videos and we can be found on Itunes.

We are still going strong and have since started a second show called Things Crafty and a community of about 1000 artists at
We have a design team of 7 women and Kira and myself. We have live craft demos every Tuesday on our show Tuesday Shmoozeday. There is always something fun going on and we love to share. We can't wait to see what the future holds.

Learn more about Ilysa at

Ilysa welcomes email at


Orphan, Mother, Sculptor :: by Kelly Theil

Here is a story about a mom. My mom. My best friend in the whole wide world. When I was a kid, she did the normal mom things, like cooking dinner and making us brush our teeth, but she also did other things. She taught me to grow vegetables in the garden, and how to cut the asparagus when it was ready. I still see her squatting down with that old steak knife, surveying the asparagus stalks. She taught me that in order to eat a healthy meal, there needed to be a lot of color on your plate. She also taught me to have a lot of color in my life! She showed me how to live openly, be yourself, and that home was your safe place. She also taught me to break the rules sometimes, and just have fun. I remember one day in middle school, she checked me out of school, and told me we were taking a road trip to the beach. We stopped for a dozen glazed doughnuts and then headed for a distant beach in our old ratty convertible car. It was one of the best days of my life.

Fast forward a few years. I'm out of college and my mom and I are still very close. We speak on the phone every day, even though she lives in a different city. My then-boyfriend (soon to be husband) and I decided to move to Charleston, SC, and 6 months later, my mom also moved to Charleston. While I was worried about the close proximity, it turned out to be one of the best things that had ever happened.

My mother had done a lot of oil painting when I was younger, but it had been so long since she had picked up a brush. I had the thought to get her a gift for Christmas - real painting lessons. When I told her about it, she paused, and said, "you know, I think I'd rather take a pottery class". And then I paused, and said, "Wow, that sounds cool, can I take it with you???" And that it was it!! We never looked back. Our pottery class turned out to be not so great, on the teaching side of things, but it was enough to get us hooked on clay. It wasn't long before we purchased a wheel, then two wheels, and then a kiln and a slab-roller. Oh man, we were in business!!! It didn't matter how cold or how hot it was, or how many mosquitos bit us while we were throwing (since our "studio" was in an unheated building outside) we made pots. And we made more pots. We made pots until we were overflowing with pottery, and then it was time to sell. We started doing retail shows together all the time. We traveled to different states, stayed in a variety of hotels, doing lots of good and bad shows. Each one is a precious, precious memory.

Then, all of a sudden, things changed. We were driving to a show in Florida in early 2008, and my mom got confused on the road. She didn't know how to drive, or how to handle the fork in the road. I knew then, that something was very, very wrong. Not long after that, she was diagnosed with cancer. Stage 4, in the lungs and in the brain. The tumors, all 40+ of them, are what caused her to forget how to drive that day. I was 5 months pregnant with my first daughter.

10 months later, my mom passed away. I had a 5 month old baby, and I struggled each day. I went through the blackest time in my life. When I should have been celebrating life, I was struggling with death and depression. I stopped doing anything creative whatsoever, and just tried to make it through each day.

When I ever so slowly began to come out of my fog, I knew that I was almost ready to go back to the studio. I also knew that my pottery work was going to change dramatically. Hugely. Finally, the day came when I was ready to try it. I sat down at my work table and let my hands just sort of play. And birds came out! This was good; it felt right. I kept making birds, and then I realized how I could manipulate them to show emotion and concept, and I could use birds to express everything that had happened in my heart. I never went back to my wheel. I still have my wheel though, and I will use it when friends want to play, or if my daughters want to try it. But I am done throwing. It doesn't suit my patience anymore. It feels better to slap, squeeze, and squish the clay into forms that I want. I work intuitively sometimes, other times I have a sketch I use.

I started making bird sculptures, and I felt a tiny release each time. Sometimes I cried while I worked, and other times it made my heart happy, but it was what I needed. All of it. So I started focusing on my sculpture. Letting go of all the functional pottery I had made in the past. It was done.

That was 4 years ago. I'm still loving my sculpture process, and my birds. I am excited each time I get to go to my studio and be with them. So now, looking back on that time in my life, it's no exaggeration to say that it was THE life-changer of my life. All at once, I became an orphan, a mother, and a sculptor.


Learn more about Kelly Theil at
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Art is a Way to Create my Vision for Life :: by Michelle Shackle

I have always loved art, and it's always been a pretty big part of my life but there was a time when art helped save my life. In high school I became very depressed in the midst of family problems, an abusive boyfriend, school stresses, and a borderline eating disorder. I didn't know how to deal with all these problems and I learned to shut out all emotion. Sometimes not feeling anything is worse than feeling sad. That's when I started cutting in an attempt to feel something, anything. I had to break through the numbness I was living in. Knowing that cutting was bad I tried other things to get my mind off of the negative things around me. That's when I ran to art.

Drawing helped me escape my messed up world and create my own. Art gave me the opportunity to create the things I wanted to see. Since that time art has become a life saver in many ways. When I'm feeling down I get out my sketchbook or grab a canvas and some paints. It has become a way for me to express myself, and a way to communicate my ideas with others. Art is no longer a way for me to feel, it's a way for me to create my vision for life in a way that others may also see.

Learn more about Michelle at

Michelle welcomes emails at


Through 50 Years by Sharon Stanley

Sharon stanley
Has your life been changed by the power of art for good? is the Crescendoh question that catches my eye as I browse Jenny's site. As I begin to reflect on it, my mind drifts back through 50 years.

I AM 6
I am 6, seated in front of the TV with my shoe box of crayolas, construction paper and a few paper doilies. Captain Kangaroo takes down his own shoe box of crafty goodness and begins today's project. I cut, paste and color my way through this, and countless other mornings happily "pretending" to be an artist.

My mind fast forwards to high school art class. Little has changed really, in my world of art. The crayolas have changed to clay and paint perhaps but the feeling of "pretending" to be an artist is much the same. It's the 70s and everywhere you look, color and styles scream "do your own thing." It's thrilling just to be experimenting with beads and decoupage and this new "express yourself" person I am becoming enjoys all of it.

THE 80s
I blink and it's the 80s ... As I plan my wedding and move to the farm, I busy myself decorating my new home with stenciling, needlework and quilted creations, once again "pretending" to be a bonafide artist injecting a bit of myself into this new way of life. In a few years, we add a little boy to our family, but the charmed Beaver Cleaver life I've lived up until now, screeches to a halt. There is a problem and this child is "handicapped." Art takes a decided back seat to daily maintenance and doctor's visits. When time allows however, I pull out that shoebox of craftiness, now a closet of paints, ribbons, fabrics, paper and other assorted finds, and escape the weariness of worry with a bit of cutting and pasting. As he grows, I delight in the "artwork" sent home in his little pre-school bag place there by caring therapists and teachers...the traced hand-turkeys and carefully strung macaroni necklaces.

But once again, life takes an unexpected turn, and the object of our love and attention is taken from us suddenly. The inconsolable grief has us in it's grip. The shoebox sits untouched on the closet shelf. Months and months pass and I realize if I am to have any semblance of normalcy return to my life I have to make an attempt to move forward.

Out comes the shoebox once again in the form of a small gift basket business. Ever-so-slowly, glimpses of joy return as I source goodies and craft doo dads I know will be fun to receive in these brightly wrapped baskets. More years pass and I am pregnant but forced to spend my last 10 weeks horizontal on my sofa with only infomercials and fear for company. The shoebox comes out this time in the form of handsewing and doodling. Soon, our son is born healthy and happy but much more interested in tractors and cows than paints and paper. A second one follows and the true joys of motherhood, homework, play and farming intervenes. Once again the shoebox sits lonely on the shelf. But then an idea forms in the back of my mind.

In my "spare" time, I frequent thrift shops buying up unwanted treasures tossed out by those who cannot "see" the potential that lies dormant in the piece. My now-retired handy-man father and I re-purpose these finds into funky "art." My sweet spouse makes a huge concession allowing me the use of a barn in which to hold sporatic sales of these now desirable finds. I channel my 1970s self by painting and sewing and hammering and building with 2 small but willing helpers. Wildly popular, these sales scratch my creative itch for a number of years as I "play artist" once again.

It's now been over 50 years since that 6 year old first opened the shoebox. The little helpers are now grown. The shoebox is now taking the form of children's picture books. It's so exciting to have a new project. Next year I will have the pleasure of seeing three of my picture books published. So I ask myself the question Jenny asks...How has your life been changed by the power of art? For me, art has been a faith, family and friends, always steady, always changing but always there waiting to be lovingly taken down off the shelf. I think Captain Kangaroo would approve.

Learn more about Sharon Stanley at


True Colorful Passion :: by Alisa Steady

The power of art helped save my life. My story isn't about a struggle with alcohol, or drug addiction – but another kind of soul sucking addiction - depression. It sounds so cliché for an artist to suffer with depression, but it's a very real, debilitating condition that can affect anyone anywhere. I think of depression as an addiction because as the negative thought processes infiltrate daily life, it is extremely difficult to get back to "normal." It’s like being sucked into a tar pit up to your chin. So you succumb to the patterns that come with depression like not eating, and sleeping all the time.

I've always been creative ever since I was a kid, spending vast amounts of time drawing, painting, doodling, making 'pictures' on construction paper to sell to cars at the neighborhood stop sign. As I grew into my teen years, depression hit hard. My family thought it was me being surly and rebellious but, looking back, it was more than that. Black moods were something I couldn’t control. As I grew older, I found ways of coping. In art school I focused on deadlines, and a full time job which supported my schooling. Ironically, as busy as I was, depression manifested itself into a year long eating disorder. During that strange time, I also met and fell in love with another artist. The relationship didn't last very long, but the outcome of a painful break-up heightened depression to new and dangerous levels. I suffered through twelve years of dark, foggy days, and hours upon hours of feeling heavy inside and out. Inspiration and desire to paint took the back seat kicking and screaming because I didn't have the energy to create. Miraculously, during those dark days, I met and married my incredible husband.

But even happily married and starting a new life in a new town, depression was still a huge daily battle. It manifested itself in tremendous migraines, and days at a time spent hiding in our bedroom. I don't know how my husband handled it, but he supported me through it. Finally, after being convinced I needed medication, I went to the doctor. Medication helped and took the edge off, but it wasn't a soul saving cure. During those years, my beloved art supplies, books, and desire to make things were boxed away in our basement.

When I turned thirty-eight, something happened. I think it was FORTY looming on the horizon. I decided the time had come to go back to my artistic roots. Four years later, which brings me to today – I am no longer depressed! In fact, I am a new woman! Creating art, getting paint smeared all over my hands and forearms, and staying up late to play on canvas was a life saver. A true colorful passion restored and renewed my life. I have found my wings and have not stopped flying since I put pigment to paper in 2010. Do I still battle depression? Sometimes – but it feels different now. Lighter. Manageable. Controlled. I can power through it just by showing up to my studio and starting the process of creating.

The power of art has made miraculous changes in my life. I am happier. My marriage is healthier. And although I keep a close check on my depression, I can honestly say I have never been happier in life then I am today.

Learn more about Alisa on her blog at Alisa welcomes email at


Fight for Archer :: by Ashley Maple

Ashley Maple

My son, 23 month old son Archer, was diagnosed with a rare and fatal genetic disorder in March. Although devastated I felt and overwhelming desire to do something, to fight this disorder with everything I had. And so, Art for Archer was born. I call it "a unique celebration of art". Art for Archer will be held on October 20, 2012 in Meridian, MS. AFA will offer an arts/crafts sale, make n' take crafts for kids, and artists demonstrations. AFA has given me something to do in a nearly helpless situation. I am not only organizing AFA, but I am creating pieces for it as well. This creating has given me a way to fight for Archer.

Ashley welcomes email at
Learn more here.


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