Uncover Your Spark! An Interview with Artist Elizabeth Palmisano

Do you feel bored, listless, or stuck in a rut in your current situation? Whether you know it or not, creativity lives in all of us and grows when we link to other creative people. That was why I was so excited to meet Elizabeth! When you sit down with Elizabeth, you are at once struck with her depth and her childlike ability to live in the moment. She does indeed sparkle, and it is a light that can ignite your own. Read below to learn more about Elizabeth’s own journey and the many ways that she helps the community and individuals like yourself.

Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk about your art with us.  Could you begin by telling how you first got into art?  And what has been your journey with it?

I had serious struggles with my mental health in my teens and twenties.  When I was 21, I had a friend who I went to local art shows with, and she said, “Elizabeth, you go to all these art shows and you seem to really enjoy art.  I think you might enjoy creating art.”  And then she bought me some paints and canvases.  I started painting and didn’t put the brushes down for 16 hours!  Those 16 hours I wasn’t depressed, experiencing any anxiety, or thinking of harming myself.  Entering that space of flow just hooked me.  I continued to do art privately for myself for years, and then I tried on the hat of being an art facilitator while working with small kids in preschools and daycares.

I have only been a fulltime artist for 2 years now. Before that I had been a professional nanny.  I had been wanting to leave my nannying job for a while but the pay was too good.   Then, about four years ago, I had a back injury leading to a herniated disc at the base of my spine. It was putting pressure on my sciatic nerve and I was in too much pain to do my job anymore.  I couldn’t walk without a cane or stand up straight, and I had to lay down on a mattress in the back of the minivan to travel. This injury finally forced me to walk away from nannying and embrace art more fully.  I found that even in my pain, I could still paint and I could still weave my fiber arts.  A friend said that I should start selling my work and she commissioned me for my first job.  Several commissions followed from that.  It was a natural flow so that I accomplished in a couple of years what it generally takes 10 or 15 years to do. 

Part of that is because I learned a lot from other artists along the way about what to do and what not to do, and part of it is because I changed my mindset.  When I was younger, I had bought into the starving artist mindset.  But there had always been a whispering in my ear, something sitting on my shoulder, reminding me that I wanted to do this.  And now I listen to it.  My art work is my spiritual practice and part of my calling.

I love that!  Speak to me more about finding and knowing your calling. On your website you say, It is my mission to connect with others and invite them to play, be creative, collaborate, and try something new. 

This is my calling because it’s easy for me and it is something I enjoy.  And it isn’t necessarily easy for others to do.  Spirit wouldn’t call us to do something that we are not gifted in and that doesn’t bring us joy.  I don’t believe there is suffering in your calling, although it will often require hard work.  But the key is that it comes with ease and grace. 

When I am in my calling, I feel fulfilled and magical!  I feel the magic of the space.  The ego is kept in check because we are creating this sweet space together.  When I speak to people, I am speaking to the spark inside of them.  It is that childhood spark of playfulness and creativity that got covered up along the way. 

Yes, I see that spark covered up when people say that they are not creative.  You offer sessions for people to get in touch with and build their creativity.  What tips do you have for those who feel like they are not creative or are no longer in touch with that spark inside of them? 

Be curious and playful. Think about what you lose track of time doing.  That is when you are in a space of flow.  For example, when you were a kid, did you enjoy building sand castles? What was it that you loved about it?  Were you drawing out schematics and thinking about how it would end up or were you just enjoying the process of making it?  When you were done with it, did you take a picture of it and try to preserve it, or was it more fun to stomp on it or watch the water take it out to sea? Find the experiences and memories where you enjoyed being in the process rather than worrying about the product.

In some of my workshops, I just put out a bunch of mixed medium stuff and let people “go shopping”.  I tell them to collect 10 things that they are drawn to…a textured fabric, an image, a quote, or anything that attracts them.  I encourage them to bring in whatever they have been hanging on to and can’t trash…like a favorite sundress that is stained now or an old magazine clipping.  I invite people to focus on the what, not the how.  Think about what you need, what makes your heart sing, what makes you feel icky, and then be open to how it wants to play out.

And finally, do it for yourself and no one else.  Whenever I create artwork that I personally need, and when I am in a space of play, that work flies off the shelf.  Because other people need it too.

It sounds like most of your workshops are focused on healing or advocacy.  How do you experience art being used for healing, advocacy, and community building? 

It’s like when a bunch of women are sitting in the kitchen to prepare a meal.  Some women are peeling potatoes and others are shucking corn, but everyone’s talking while they work.  When our hands are busy, our hearts become open.  We aren’t as self-conscious, like “how does my hair look?” and “what do you think of me?”  There’s something about the hands being busy that lets down that layer for deep conversation to happen.  

So creating that space in my art workshops is something that I need.  And most of the people that come to my workshops need it too.  It is not just about creating artwork.  It is about creating art in a community, a safe space that allows people to be vulnerable, and the conversation that flows from that.  So many people just want to be seen.  And this is a space they can be seen and heard.

In the community art projects that I do, I want to help people to advocate for themselves.  So first we locate our voice, and then we take the risk of sharing it with other people.  I am encouraging people to speak for themselves.  And the best advocacy I can do is to tell my story.  My story is the only story that I have license to tell.  It’s mine, I own it, I know why things are important to me, and I can speak with authority on that.  And if I approach myself with compassion and grace, then I can start to do that for others.

An example of a community art project that I recently contributed to is a mural located at Hygee Coworking at 1026 Jay Street Charlotte.  It is in celebration of the collaboration and collective wishes at the non profits located there: Digi Bridge, She Built This City, and Rebuilding Together CLT. All three wish to spark innovation and connections in community that lead to empowering people to learn and share what they’ve learned with others. (To learn more about their collective and individual missions, you may visit their websites. )

Another part of helping people find their voice is getting in touch with their desires.  It looks like you also offer workshops on that such as the weaving intentions and personal power cards.  Could you tell more about your mindset about manifesting your desires and your own journey with it?

I don’t think anyone needs a lesson in manifestation.  I can’t give you anything that you don’t already have.  All I can do is remind you of what you already have.  It is about listening to that inner voice.

For me, it is about getting quiet and paying attention to what makes me feel the way that I want to feel.  If I sit back and hear that voice within talking about what I am being called to, then I can set my intentions and focus toward that.  I think we skip that part too much in our society of asking, “what feels right in my spirit?  what am I drawn to?”  I could want, and then get something that is not for me, and it won’t bring me joy.  Many times, I got something I thought I wanted and it was like getting a chocolate chip cookie…you eat it up in 5 seconds and then it is gone.

There is another important piece.  I can be certain of my calling, a powerful manifestor, and bringing all the things to me, but if I don’t feel that I am worthy of accepting what is being offered to me, it doesn’t matter.  And I can think back to times when I was offered something on a silver platter and I would start thinking, “Oh I’m not ready for that yet.  I need more experience.  I would just mess that up.”

So there is some inner work that needs to be done before you can accept what is for you.  That makes me think of the Love Equals sessions that Shane Manier talked about taking with you.  Could you tell more about that?

Love Equals is about walking through the different words, and going through your childhood timeline, to see what you believe about love.  And when someone is asking you, “Is it this…is it that?”, as soon as you hear the word that resonates for you, you feel it in your body.

For me, my words were “Love equals sacrificing and suffering”.  Once I knew that, I looked back on my life and realized that every time I loved someone, I was sacrificing or suffering for them.  And not only that, but I also expected others to sacrifice and suffer for me. And it wasn’t just relationships but also my jobs or other things I loved in life.  It even applies to self-love.  So if you are saying “I love my job,” what does that mean for you?  For me, it meant I would suffer and sacrifice for my job.

When doing Love Equals I had the opportunity to redefine love for what I wanted it to be for me.  And I defined it as nurture, safety, and acceptance.  It was about setting a new intention, so that the people who insisted that if I wasn’t sacrificing for them then I didn’t love them, kind of faded into the background.  And this experience showed me what a powerful manifestor I was, because consistently, for decades, I manifested opportunities for me to sacrifice and suffer in all aspects of my life.  But now I manifest nurture, safety, and acceptance.

I met John Donovan, the creator of Love Equals, when I was asked to build his website.  As I built it and was reading all his content, I immediately wanted to learn more.  He became a mentor of mine.  He trained me in being a facilitator of Love Equals because he wants to get it out to as many as people as possible as quickly as possible.  And I have found that a lot of women would rather take it with me just because I am closer geographically or they already know me.  But you could take it with him or me.

That sounds like an awesome offering.  If people are interested in any of the sessions that I mentioned, what is the best way for people to get in touch with you?

People can reach me through the contact form on my website or sign up for offerings on there.  I offer a FREE 45 minute session over Zoom called Virtual Tea and Conversation where we can talk about what your specific needs are.  I am all about connecting and so even if you just need some tips on framing artwork or building a website, I would love to talk with you.  Most of my sessions and groups are online but I am offering 1:1 in person sessions following the proper protocol of wearing masks. 

Looking for a holiday gift? Check out Elizabeth’s book The Art of Accepting

About the Author: Julie Glaser is a healer who creates sacred spaces for people to share, release, and grow. She’s in the habit of being in awe and wonder and writes to share her own experiences and curiosities with other inquisitive souls in the process of transforming.

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