Creative Careers Interviews
By Molly Anderson | Posted 12/9/10 | Updated 7/10/22
I'm thrilled to bring you this inspiring conversation with writer and performer Angi Sullins. Self-proclaimed The Muse, Sullins marries inspirational messages with tangible life experience in her books, workshops, and social media.
An artist in her own right, Sullins is also a photographer and collage artist. She is the founder, president, and one-half of the creative team at Duirwaigh Studios who collaborates with her talented husband, Silas Toball, to create films, books, greeting cards, and calendars that inspire conscious creativity.
Q: How was Duirwaigh Studios born? What was the original spark of inspiration that spawned this creative powerhouse?
A: At twenty-eight years old I was paralyzed on an operating table. I had arrived at a hospital in St. Louis, Missouri, for a discectomy, which would remove a herniated disc from my neck and replace it with bone to alleviate the pain from several pinched nerves. If all had gone according to plan, the operation would have lasted six hours and released me the following day. Instead, I faced three surgeries, weeks in the hospital, months of paralysis and years of crisis. I lost just about everything, including my faith and fervor. I tell that story and its miraculous outcome in my book Doorways and Dreamfields: A True Fairy Tale, but suffice to say the long struggle to regain my confidence and charisma taught me many things about survival, and the vast difference between surviving and thriving.
I started Duirwaigh because I wanted to encourage others to live, really live. While surviving this world with our soul intact is truly a feat worthy of Olympic praise, I feel we are designed to thrive. I wanted to be a doorway (duirwaigh) to that heightened state of living, and the best way I knew to do that was to inspire the soul through the power of art and story.
Q: What has been your biggest challenge in your creative journey so far?
A: Trusting the process. For almost a decade, I helped others find their voice and their market. I worked as an artist agent, supporting and encouraging artists from around the globe. I exhibited and sold their works, licensing and publishing them as well.
In 2005 I knew it was time for a change and began the process of uncovering my own artistry. I began to write, perform and create mixed media paintings with my husband Silas. Silas always knew he was an artist. For him, the challenge was about gaining support for his vision and attracting an audience. But me? It took me 30 years to claim the artist in myself and then trust the process of unfolding. Someone once said that we teach what we need to learn. I have to agree. I now offer workshops and e-courses to help others discover the artist the creative powerhouse at their core. It's all about opening up and allowing what is already inside to manifest.
Q: How did you overcome this obstacle?
A: Silas was a huge influence. He gently nudged then forcefully pushed me into the spotlight. But ultimately it's about confidence. I'd be lying if I said that confidence comes naturally to me. For me, and I believe for lots of us, confidence is a decision to give ourselves permission. We wake up, face the world, and decide whether or not to create consciously. I believe we're all creators. We can't help it: what we think on grows. Thoughts ignite experience. Words create worlds. We decide each day if we're going to allow ourselves to create the world, and the self, we wish to see. The more we allow ourselves to inhabit that power, the more confidence we embody.
Q: Is it sometimes difficult to work so closely with your husband? How do you two separate your home life from work-a-day stresses and keep the light of passion burning bright?
A: OK, this just makes me laugh. Why? Because "so closely" has multiple meanings in our household. We live in a tiny adobe and have allotted 90% of it to our studio. We sleep on a mattress in the loft so that we can dedicate more space to creating art. The fact that both of us have such a huge passion for art-making, and respect (and more than a little bit worship) each other, certainly helps us keep our priorities in sync.
But I will be the first to admit that I could not dream of having this kind of intense creative relationship with anyone else. Before I met Silas, I kissed a lot of frogs, and while some of them were princes, none would be able to tolerate me 24/7. (My nickname is Hurricane Angi and Silas is the only man I've met who knows how to batten down the hatches). But Silas and I have so much passion for the same things, it's natural for us to work, play, and live together. Of course, my addiction to traveling solo (or as I've come to think of it, "soul-o") doesn't hurt. Silas's creative juice is derived from extended periods of time in his studio. My juice comes from journeying. These moments apart serve our passions well and go a long way to keeping our relationship and our collaborations snappy.
Q: What inspired your film, A Knock at the Door? How has this project impacted your career?
A: I wanted to let my artist friends know how much their work inspires me, so I put words and music to their pictures and A Knock at the Door was born. This was several years before YouTube was all the rage, so we posted the film on our website and it circled the globe via email, receiving praise from millions of viewers. Since the film was a love letter from my soul, the overwhelming positive response told me the letter was well received and I needed to be writing more of them.
It took us a few years, but in response to popular demand we finally released a book and DVD set which is now in its second printing. We love that the film continues to gain new fans, as its primary message is one of creative empowerment, and this is what we strive to deliver in all our projects. We believe each product and experience should transport its audience through the portal of wonder and into the limitless realm of soul, where impossible things happen every day. With creative wild abandon and imaginative play, with a belief in the infinite possibilities of the human psyche, with feet on the ground and heads in the stars, we endeavor to knock at the door of the human heart, reminding ourselves and each other that once upon a time is really here and now.
Q: What's next? Any upcoming workshops, performances or new releases you're getting excited about?
A: As far as writing goes, my book Doorways and Dreamfields, and my audio book (perfect for artists and fellow soul excavators) Flaming Muse: Matchstick Tales that Ignite the Soul has been released.
Silas and I have a tutorial art book release, Digital Art Wonderland: Creative Techniques for Inspirational Journaling and Beautiful Blogging. It's filled with our art and lots of how-to's and tips for those who like to paint digitally.
Q: Famous last words inspiration and advice?
A: Do it now. Do it for love. And never let reality get in the way of your dreams.
Angi Sullins is the President of Duirwaigh Gallery, representing mythic and fairytale artists around the world. She's the author behind A Knock at the Door, the little film that continues to make a big splash on the Internet. ...
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