This month, I’d like to introduce you to Anne Marie Bennett of KaleidoSoul.com. Anne Marie is the facilitator who led my first SoulCollage® workshop (over the phone, no less!) and I was hooked! A little over six months later, I drove to Massachusetts to meet her in person and become a facilitator myself.
If you haven’t come across Anne Marie before, you are in for a treat, and if you are already familiar with Anne Marie and her site, I’m sure you’ll learn something new about her.
Anne Marie has created a wonderful, inexpensive, experiential and simple introduction to making SoulCollage® cards. It is in the format of an e-course (the lessons are emailed to you) called “Create Art For Your Soul.”
Tell us a little about yourself, Anne Marie.
There are many words I use to describe myself: writer, author, artist, SoulCollager, wife, facilitator, cat mother, teacher, stepmother, sister, friend, web builder, control freak, community creator, cancer survivor x 2, chocolate lover, creative entrepreneur, and probably most importantly, Queen of the Projects! I love having things on my art table and laptop and writing files that beckon to me, call to me, invite me to dive in and create. Having a blank slate, or no list of what I can create next, is a foreign concept to me!
Creativity has been an archetypal energy since I was a little girl, writing novels in three ring binders, making doll houses out of shoeboxes and writing/directing/starring in backyard summer plays with the neighborhood kids. I love writing essays and short meaningful (I hope!) pieces about my life’s journey, making SoulCollage® cards, putting together mixed media collages at my art table, and building my website, KaleidoSoul, which is dedicated to the art and practice of SoulCollage®.
Lately, I’ve been getting back in touch with the part of me who loves to write fiction, to just make up stories for the sheer pleasure of making up stories. This part of me has been buried pretty deeply and I’ve been totally ignoring her for years (ok, decades!). I have recently dug out all my old files of stories I started and completed and even those I gave up on, and have been slowly reading them and getting very excited about writing fiction again. Not to publish, but just because it makes me feel good to create other worlds and inhabit other peoples’ bodies and minds and hearts for a while.
My biggest passion is the process of SoulCollage® which is more about self-discovery than it is about art. However, the process, which was created by Seena B. Frost (also the author of SoulCollage® Evolving), is designed so that everyone makes beautiful cards for a personal collaged Deck, and they end up looking like beautiful pieces of art. Each card represents a part of our inner or outer worlds, and as such, is a reflection of our own beautiful souls and journeys.
How did you discover your interest in SoulCollage®?
Well, in 2005, I was in a huge transition from a customer service job I’d had for ten years… and into… well, I didn’t know what, but I knew it was time to be leaving. I was beginning to explore the idea of myself as an artist, and I attended an Art and Soul Retreat in Portland Oregon. I took classes from some nationally known teachers in the realm of watercolor, mixed media, altered books, and art journaling. One of the workshops being offered that week was SoulCollage® and as soon as I heard the word, I was madly in love, for I’d stumbled upon a process that combined two of my favorite words in the whole world! How could I not take that class?
I followed my passion for SoulCollage® into creating a website (KaleidoSoul.com) for SoulCollagers to come and play. It started out as a small site designed to be a resource for the people who came to my workshops in Massachusetts after I was certified as a facilitator in September 2005. But the magic of the internet is that pretty soon, people around the world were finding KaleidoSoul, and its meaning and scope broadened and deepened. I created a community called KaleidoSoul Kindred Spirits and we now have almost 400 worldwide members. We offer online workshops of all shapes and sizes, relating somehow to SoulCollage®. In fact, Nancy Norbeck has one coming up, so you should check out her Soulful Decluttering class here.
I second that suggestion! Anne Marie, what’s been the biggest surprise in your work so far?
I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned since beginning this journey, is that I don’t have to always know what’s coming next. That is a huge surprise to me, because I am one who really likes to have a tight hold on control! This is especially true of the collage process, because you can’t really control exactly where all the pieces are going to go/fit in, even if you have a good idea when you begin.
It was also true of building my website. To be honest, when I began, I had no idea how to build a website, or how to create an audience, or even how to create a web page. But I learned, very slowly, and I found that Doing the Next Thing became my mantra. And that has become a way of life for me too.
Last year I was diagnosed for a second time with cancer, this one specifically related to the breast cancer I’d been treated for in 2002. My life went from “normal” to “medical” in a single phone call, and I found that if I could continue my mantra of Just Do the Next Thing, it made getting through all the appointments, procedures, surgeries, and chemo treatments, that much easier.
I used the process of SoulCollage® to help me through all of this as well. You can see the cards I made and the writing I did with them here.
What rituals or practices help you get to work on your projects?
I find that I am more centered and able to focus on my creative projects when I am able to keep my daily meditation and journaling practice going. I practice a simple breathing meditation as taught by Thich Nhat Hanh and Sharon Salzberg. And the journaling style that I love and benefit from the most is what Janet Conner teaches in her book Writing Down Your Soul. If I can do both of those things every day, then my day goes much more smoothly. Not perfect, of course, but I experience more comfort and ease.
These practices help me to stay connected to myself, and to Spirit, and for me, that is the first step in any creative process. These also mesh beautifully with SoulCollage® which is all about connecting with myself, with others, and with Spirit.
What’s the best side benefit that’s come out of your creative process/creations so far?
As a SoulCollage® Facilitator and Trainer of Facilitators, my biggest joy is introducing others to the process, and being there to witness their first cards, their first aha moments of inner discovery. I am thrilled each and every time I do a workshop and watch new dreams arising in people, and see them claiming and accepting themselves exactly as they are.
One of the best things about SoulCollage® is that it is so easily accessible. You don’t need a lot of fancy materials to do it (just magazines, scissors and glue). It’s simple. You don’t have to be an artist to make a beautiful SoulCollage® card. And because of this, it meets people exactly where they are, wherever they are on their own personal journey. It’s a joy and a pleasure to bring this process to others, and to watch them grow and change and connect with others as a result.
Are there any other creative dreams you hope to get to someday?
One “project” I have on the back burner right now is finding a way to connect women who have been diagnosed with cancer, in an online community where we focus on keeping ourselves connected to Self, Others and Spirit. This is one of the biggest lessons I learned on both of my cancer journeys.
I am going slowly with this project, as I’ve learned to do in the past, following my inner guidance, and doing the next thing. It promises to be another amazing creative adventure!
That’s a wonderful project, and I’m sure it’ll be a success—and be greatly appreciated by the women who participate.
Receiving, by Anne Marie Bennett
- Well, I took that workshop, and it was “love at first card!” The very first card I made, although I made it totally intuitively because I was drawn to the magazine images, had a lot to say to me about transition, and leaving things behind, and moving towards what was truly calling me.
What’s your favorite way to get in touch with your inner child?
I have a SoulCollage® card for my inner child (of course I do!). Her name is Julianna and on the card, she is running by the ocean with a cape flying in the wind behind her. My favorite way to get in touch with her is walking or just sitting by the ocean (or anywhere in nature for that matter). Also, Julianna LOVES SoulCollage®! Cutting and gluing and making cards has this curious, creative little girl smiling in no time. She also loves animals so any time we play with our yellow lab Suzy or our elderly last cat standing, Minnie, she is very very happy.
I am definitely going to have to make a card for my inner child and get to know her better! Thanks so much for sharing your creative process with us, Anne Marie!
Julianna, by Anne Marie Bennett