Today I’m interviewing Sue O’Kieffe, owner of Sacred Circles Mandala Art, a fellow mandala artist I came to know shortly after I created a Facebook page last year. When I joined Facebook I did it primarily to promote my art, but was surprised and delighted to find that it brought me connections and friendships with many fellow artists and mandala lovers. Sue has graciously agreed to tell us her story of art, healing and living the heart’s desire.
What were you doing before you started Sacred Circles Mandala Art? What’s Sue’s story?
I was doing lots of stuff my heart did NOT desire and I was very unhappy. I acquired different skills along the way that I still use, but the work environments I found myself drawn to were energy drains. Looking back on it now, I manifested what I thought I was worth. Most of the situations, for various reasons, were set-ups for failure.
In 2002 I was laid off from a job I had held for 15 years. I look at this time period as the beginning of an incredible story of transformation. I was totally panicked, exhausted and clueless about what I was going to do next. I had already started working with a life coach, because I saw the writing on the wall and I needed some support. My life coach helped me move through a lot of stuck energy as well as feel better about who I was. Her coaching orientation was in alignment with my spiritual beliefs. Around that time I also began a big time love affair with computers which has not ended. I remained unemployed for a year, got another job which I hated but held onto; after four months I was laid off. This time I began to get serious about looking at what it was I really wanted to do with my life. I investigated looking into re-training programs offered through the county, and in 2004 went back to school for a year learning digital media software programs as well as taking some art and advertising classes. My intention was to become self-employed doing desktop publishing which I did for six months. There were so many aspects of being self employed that I was not prepared to face, and I got really depressed. A friend asked me what I wanted to do, if I could do anything at all, and my little voice inside replied “I want to go back to school and take another semester of Photoshop.” At this time I was also introduced to the teachings of Abraham-Hicks and began learning about the Law of Attraction. And I began to attract like-minded people into my life who were also interested in these teachings. I remembered a website I had seen years earlier called Earth Mandalas around this time. I began creating mandalas using Komra Moriko’s Earth Mandala tutorials from that website. One day I had a vision of creating mandala art that people could access and use for their spiritual growth, and I knew I needed to develop my Photoshop skills further in order to do that. In January of 2006 I went back for another semester of Digital Imaging at the local community college art department.
How did you move from that to starting your own art business? What made you decide to start your own business and what supported you in doing that?
It’s happened in stages. The first stage involved a medical crisis. In June of 2006 I was diagnosed with a non-malignant tumor on my carotid artery. When the lump was first discovered, I had no health insurance, and no income to speak of. All the way through the process of having my first ultrasound to MRI to final surgery, there were series of events that helped me realize how well the Universe was taking care of me. While I was waiting for the paperwork to go through for my surgery, I spent all my time creating mandala art and focusing on healing. I asked for help and the Universe provided. I met women online who agreed to send reiki healing. I began working with a local healer who used a healing modality called Soul Memory Discovery. My four hour session with Sandra cleared out old energetic gunk (including a ghost who had attached itself to me me when I was five years old!) as well as reveal my major life lesson in this lifetime. The tumor was a block between my heart and my head. In a past life I had been strangled to death for telling my truth, and my soul said “well enough of that.” The tumor was really blocked energy that manifested as a tumor in this lifetime and was created at the point of strangulation. Even now, when I put my hand to my throat, I can imagine that point of contact. Thankfully, the tumor was found early. My major life lesson continues to be about speaking my truth no matter how afraid I am and standing in my power.
Recovery from surgery was much harder than I ever would have imagined. Returning to work full time in 2007 and being laid off 14 months later asked me to really get REAL about my art; and my focus remains on moving forward with my mandala art against what often feels like unbelievable odds. I know that there are lots of us mandala makers out there, and I operate from the belief that we have all been called back to the planet at this time to be Lightworkers. It serves me not and us not if I shrink back at a time when I know my purpose is to be here as fully as I possibly can. If I can move through my stories and my limiting beliefs, then maybe I can help others as well.
Depth of Wonder © Sue O’Kieffe
How is your life different now from how it was before you started your business, both in day to day practical ways, and on a more psycho/spiritual level?
My faith grows stronger every day. I am totally committed to my healing and in assisting others to know who they are through my art. I don’t worry as much. I’ve let go of my attachment to drama and anger. This is not to say I don’t have my moments, but I know that there are other, more appropriate ways to speak my truth. I’m more confident/less jealous. I’ve grown up. My heart is wider and deeper and I trust more in the process of life, in my own intuitive knowledge, and my vision. I have attracted like minded people into my life. It feels good to know I am not alone and to walk with others who are also healing and waking up to Life in the Large.
How are you marketing you art? What ways are working for you and what aren’t? And how are you using social media in your marketing?
So far I have primarily used social media as marketing tools – through my blog, Facebook, and somewhat on Twitter. I’ve made some nice contacts on Facebook that has resulted in sales. I opened up a channel on YouTube and created a mandala video and want to do more. I heard somewhere that YouTube was either the first or second best way for people to find artists’ work.
Every fall for the past 4 years I have created a mandala calendar and those have been well received. I have a monthly newsletter. I give away three of my mandala greeting cards every month to one of my subscribers in a random drawing. Newsletters are good, but my experience is they have low return in terms of people actually opening the email. Right now I think it is especially challenging to tell what works and what doesn’t work because of our shaky economy.
Summer Blessing Mandala © Sue O’Kieffe
Beside mandalas I know you do Sue’s Doodles. Can you tell us what that is and how it fits into your life and work?
Every November Leah Piken Kolidas conducts Art Every Day Month from her website, Creative Every Day, where all of us are encouraged in a non-pressured way to focus on being creative every day through the month. In 2008 I decided I needed to find ways to be creative that would take me away from the computer, and so I began a practice of doodling every night before I went to bed. This practice has served to dispel a long held story that I cannot draw, and I actually have been quite amazed at people’s response to my whimsical drawings. This alone has been another confidence builder that has helped me see that I can do whatever I might set my intention on doing. I still doodle most nights before I go to sleep. I am drawn to lines, patterns, and symbols. Doodling is calming, centering and lots of fun. I know that they come from a deep place within. I am still defining how they fit into my work. One of these days there will be a big AHA shouted that can be heard around the world. You’ll see!
Goddess of Creative Power Web © Sue O’Kieffe
In what ways do you see the life you are creating now fulfilling your heart’s desire?
When I was five years old, I told my mother I wanted to be an artist when I grew up. She told me I would never be good enough. I spent years and years and years trying to please her to prove her wrong. Now I call myself an artist and don’t have to prove anything to anyone. I also am calling myself a healer and know that I don’t have to take care of anyone. I have just begun to explore shamanic journeying practices, which assists me in my interactions with both nature and the spirit world. All of these desires have been in my heart for a long long time. It’s just taken me a while to name them and move forward in manifesting.
Are there other desires your heart has that you would like to manifest? (Perhaps some of my readers can support you in this manifestation.)
Recently I entered into a collaboration with Pamir Kiciman , who I initially met on Twitter. We have furthered our online connection on Facebook. Together, we created a beautiful and powerful collection of healing mandala greeting cards that need to be seen everywhere. I believe in their ability to assist others on their healing journeys. I do have them available locally as well as on Etsy and 1000 Markets. One of the dreams is finding an agent to help in the national distribution of these cards. In the meantime, I am searching for New Age shops, healing centers, and other related businesses that I can approach about carrying this line of greeting cards in their stores and centers. If some of your readers could offer suggestions of shops in their areas that would be appropriate to carry this line of cards, that would be super to receive.
My desire is really to help people see that healing is possible, change is possible, and that we are all connected and in this together. I want to encourage anyone who has ever wanted to explore their creativity to do that. It’s so worth it and so much fun. I want to help people discover the beauty and awesomeness of their True/Authentic Selves by creating a mandala for them that will be a personal symbol for meditation and reflection. I will be disclosing more about this in the next few months, but it’s in the works now.
If there was one thing you could have or change in your current life, something your heart really wants, what would that be?
Ahhh for now, that is between me and my heart *wink*
Thanks, Atmara, for this wonderful opportunity to tell my story so openly. I hope others may be inspired to know that they can really embrace a life they want to live.
Yes, Sue, it’s wonderful when our stories become teaching stories. We are all here to support each other. Thank you so much for your contributions!