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Imagination Abounds - The Art of Amy Rawson

The River Guardian. digital art © 2004 A. L. Rawson.
Used with permission. All rights reserved.

My early college memories consist mostly of rehearsing, hanging out in the music building, hanging out with music majors in the dining hall, going to recitals and so forth. It was a fairly limited sphere. This was before I was aware of Women's Studies or Goddess or even Paganism. It was also before the Internet. There was another music major, a saxophone player, who lived upstairs and down the hall. Her world seemed very different from mine. Her room always seemed to be abuzz and creativity thrived within. It was a room alive with dragons and imagination. Even then, I envied Amy Rawson's spirit and singularity.

As we morphed into sophomores and juniors, Amy became one of the costume mistresses for the opera productions and was always working on a costume or project in her room. I recently had an old roll of film developed which included pictures from a Halloween party our music sorority sponsored, and there was Amy in her hand-made, emerald-green wizard's costume. In a way, I've always associated her with Halloween. Evidently I was on the right track. When I asked Amy if Halloween had any special meaning or connection for her, she responded:

Aside from being my favorite holiday? Halloween has always been a fun time for me because of the costume connection. Any excuse to make and wear silly clothes is great in my book. My experience as a costumer is partly what led me to the type of sculpture I do now. Making art dolls involves making the costume as well as the character that wears it.

Mab Morrighan. digital art © 2004 A. L. Rawson.
Used with permission. All rights reserved.

When I began looking for artists to feature in this column, Amy sprang immediately to mind. I hadn't seen or spoken with her in years, but the last I knew she had begun to delve into the visual arts as well as paganism. One of my favorite shops in Des Moines carried little fiber dragons that were created by her. I was so pleased, when I began to search for her, to find that she had not only continued in visual art but had developed into an accomplished painter and doll artist. I began speaking with her about doing this article back in February, but I knew I wanted to feature her at Hallows. Little did we know how appropriate this would be.

Multimedia Artist

As you can see on her website (, Amy is a talented painter both in physical oil paints and in digital media. Her works cover a wide range of subjects from mythology to nature scenes to cityscapes. One recurring theme that caught my attention was that of ravens. The digital painting on this issue's cover, Hugin and Munin, was a study done in preparation for her sculpture of the same name. Her digital painting Mab Morrighan was done in honor of a friend of hers who is dedicated to the Celtic goddess. Amy says:

Being a doll artist involves working in many different media on a single project. Often I am sculpting, pattern drafting, sewing, and painting all on one sculpture. This complicates the choice of medium, because there are many decisions to make at every step of the process. I work in several different types of clay, usually polymer clay, epoxy clay, or paper clay. Choice of clay is determined by the structural needs of the piece and type of armature. Sometimes a sculpture is a combination of soft sculpted and hard sculpted parts, and sometimes it will be fully sculpted. Paint is applied according to the type of clay used and could be acrylic, enamel, watercolor, or cel vinyl. Clothing and details are made out of anything and everything — fabric, leather, feathers, beads, wood, mohair, bones, shells, chains, etc. I tend to collect random art supplies because I never know when some small object is going to be exactly what I need for a shoe buckle or a hat.

sculpture © 2004 A. L. Rawson.
Used with permission.
All rights reserved.

Art as Spirituality

Although Amy often finds inspiration for her works in stories, myth, and legend, she also explores her own imagination as a resource. Her technique for creating art is much like my own for writing music. "I always have plans for projects waiting in the back of my head" she says. "Sometimes they queue up like so many people waiting in line at the bank, but I tend to go with the flow when it comes to deciding what order to let them out of my head." But discipline and technique aside, what is truly important and rewarding about making art is the connection to source. Amy says:

I think that art itself is a sort of spirituality. People have asked me before what my path is, if I follow any particular religion. Sometimes I'll jokingly answer, 'I'm an artist, that's my religion.' But really it's only half a joke. I'm not trying to say that artists are these amazing godly creatures; it's not that sort of spirituality. I think it's just that any artist worth their salt will worship their own muse more than any other deity out there. So in that sense, all of my art is spiritual, because I could not create it without putting myself into that place where the art comes from.

A Samhain Year

Amy's affinity for Hallows extends beyond costume making. She told me:

Samhain as a holiday is a special time to me. I have always loved the threshold moments, like dusk and dawn. Samhain is one of those thresholds that reminds us that every ending is just another beginning. Time is a circle, not a line. In my art, I am always trying to tell a story, to capture and preserve a moment in time. In that sense, my work is like a threshold itself, leaving the viewer to wonder what came before that moment in the story, and what might happen next.

sculpture © 2004 A. L. Rawson.
Used with permission.
All rights reserved.

In the months that followed our initial contact, Amy's life underwent dramatic transformation. Her husband of ten years experienced a religious awakening that drew him back to Christianity. After many difficult months of relationship trials, he sought a divorce and Amy experienced what our society calls a breakdown, but what we Goddess Women know is really a break-through. At one of her lowest points, Amy channeled her emotions into a sculpture entitled Lost.

The power in the expression of this piece left me breathless. When I talked to her recently, she said of the sculpture:

She's probably the first sculpture I've ever done purely out of a need to release overwhelming emotions. Most of my sculptures take me a month or more to complete from concept to finished piece, but she was finished in about 48 hours. I had to let her out.

Lost, however, was an anomaly during this time. For months she found herself unable to do creative work. Amy has since moved on with her life with impressive strength and resilience. She has set up a studio in her new home and is working on new projects. As Samhain draws near, Amy finds herself at a threshold, coming to terms with her old life and facing a new one ahead of her.

To learn more about Amy Rawson's life and art, please visit her website at If you'd like to learn more about doll art, her link page is an excellent place to start.

Graphics Credits

  • River Guardian, Mab Morrighan, Finnoula, © 2004 A. L. Rawson. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
  • Lost, © 2005 A. L. Rawson. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
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