Circle of Stones: Interview with Shannon Kinney Duh of Free Spirits Knits

February 12, 2010

I was first introduced to the amazing Shannon Kinney-Duh a few months back, just as her first e-course, “Inside Out” was open for registration. To be honest, I have seen a lot of courses like these, and I just wasn’t too sure what made something like this worthwhile.

By chance, I got an opportunity to explore Shannon’s course a bit further, and I realized that she was not someone who was doing this to get famous, to make money, or to save anyone. This was a person who believed in what she was saying, and had the tools to make a positive change in her community.

Shannon is an artist, a yoga teacher, and a mother. She understands how hard it can be to find ourselves creatively, especially when the world rests on our shoulders, and we search everyday to find a slice of time to call our own.

You all know me, and you know that I believe strongly in the power of the creative spirit, and the importance of self-nurturing. Shannon is a super cool lady, who works hard to bring a small slice of peace into her own life, and the lives of those she meets.

The circle opens. Welcome Shannon

Tell us how your journey of creativity began

When I was in elementary school, in Sioux City, Iowa, my mom was my art teacher. I remember spending the afternoons after school in the art room. My brother and I had full access to paper, paints, glitter, glue and yarn. It was a young artist’s dream comes true.

As I got a little older, my mom led summer art lessons in our home, and it was my job to teach art to the younger siblings of her students. I remember how excited I was to come up with my “lesson plans”, like taking nature walks and making sock puppets.

We didn’t have a lot of toys growing up, which really opened the gateway for imaginative play. We used simple things, like cardboard boxes and toilet paper rolls and spent hours creating handmade props for all of our plays.

Even though I grew up with many creative opportunities, my family went through some tough times, and we moved to Kansas right before I entered high school. I think it was then that my insecurities and self-doubts really started to grab hold of me. That’s when I started believing the labels that people give us. I learned that there’s a “right” and a “wrong” way to be creative. I learned that there were “good” artists and there were “bad” artists.

Thinking I was bad at something I so desperately loved made me confused and sad. A negative mantra developed in my mind that I repeated over and over: “I’m not good at anything” and “I’m not creative.” Giving into my fears led to some feelings of emptiness that I felt from not listening to my heart. These feelings of wanting more out of life led me to yoga, or rather led yoga to me.

After years of self-discovery and creative healing, I’ve let go of the perfectionism that I hid behind for so many years. Once I learned how to step out of my own way, and trust again, I experienced a creative awakening that has allowed me to expand beyond my wildest dreams.

Give us a glimpse into your family life

I’ll be celebrating my 7th year of marriage to my sweetheart, Chris, (a full-time artist), this coming Monday. I am blessed to be the mother of a 2-year-old, tender little boy named Kestan. Being able to stay home with Kestan has been really important to me, and although we’ve had to make some sacrifices, it has been completely worth it. I work from home, around Kestan’s schedule, which is wonderful because it allows me the gift of being fully involved in his daily explorations. I’m the happiest I’ve ever been! I definitely still struggle with finding balance, and it’s a daily practice.

I have integrated my love of art into our daily routine and Kestan regularly asks for his “paint shirt”. We dance, we sing, and we make lots and lots of messes. I want to nurture Kestan’s creativity by letting him develop his imagination through play and exploration, and teaching him that there isn’t a “right” or a “wrong” way to be creative. Whatever idea he comes up with is an idea worth trying.

How has your creative journey evolved through the years

By the time college rolled around, I knew I wanted to be in a creative field but I was too intimated and scared to explore art school. So instead, I became a film major and fell in love with telling stories. This landed me a job in Boulder, Colorado, running a girls’ empowerment program, teaching documentary filmmaking to high school girls. It was a full circle moment for me as I helped teens gain self-respect and confidence through creativity, the very thing I lacked in high school.

Around that same time I discovered Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way. After an intense 12-weeks of consuming that book with a group of amazing women, I realized just how disconnected I was from my true calling.

With time, practice and dedication, I’ve moved from a place of fear and not creating, to a place where I fail, and fail, and fail some more, because I try. I get out there and I try. I accept uncertainty. I accept that my fears will be there and do it anyway. My self-doubt still creeps up, but it’s less intense. I don’t hesitate like I used to and I’ve stopped living in my head. My heart leads me on the path, because I’ve remembered what it means to be me.

Give us a bit of your background

My experience working with teens led me back to Kansas City where I worked at an amazing art studio that nurtures creativity in children and families. I’m a certified Hatha yoga teacher and have been teaching for over 9 years. I’m a creativity coach and teach self-discovery courses.

I’m a fiber junkie, and especially love knitting and hand-felting. (Which is a great activity to do with kids!) I started my business, Free Spirit Knits, as a place to share my whimsical wearable art, and to teach creativity workshops (like YoYa: Yoga and Yarn!), but my interest and classes are way beyond knitting at this point. To knit is to “combine, join, and unite,” and that’s what I practice daily. Through art, yoga, journaling, meditation, being a mom and all of life’s lessons, I am finding union with the present moment, and my deepest passion is in growing, sharing and connecting with others in creative, mindful ways.

What do you think is the most important aspect of any creative journey

I find that I’ve set limitations on myself by labeling and placing judgments on things. This belief that “this is the right way”, and “this is the wrong way,” really clouded my ability to see clearly. I now believe we are all creative, and have a right to express our creativity, and should be expressing our creativity to the fullest to live our most vibrant lives. So many adults I meet say they “aren’t creative.” I think that’s because what we’ve been taught about creativity is so inhibiting. We must remember that to be creative is to see things in a new way. To be creative is to problem solve. To be creative is to create a healthy meal or to play with your child. “Making art” isn’t the only way to be creative, and every single one of us has an innate creativity that needs to be expressed. It makes you feel so alive.

I would say that one of the most important aspects of any creative journey is compassion. Treating ourselves with kindness and less judgment is a great place to start on our path to creative healing. The less we judge ourselves, the less we judge others. The practice of compassion allows you to take small steps towards risk-taking and helps us fears that keep us from fully, deeply and boldly expressing our true selves. Be kind. Be gentle. Love yourself.

What is the common thread between art, yoga, and meditation

Art, yoga and meditation are all techniques that help us step out of our heads, and into our hearts. They connect us to the present moment and remind us that where we are in our journey is right where we need to be. Art, yoga and meditation provide us opportunities for stillness, where the mind gets quiet, the heart gets open, and we can hear what’s deep inside. They all allow us to practice present-moment awareness and help us connect to our creative essence.

How do you keep creativity as a part of your daily life

My husband is a full-time artist and photographer, and my toddler is one big bundle of curiosity, so creativity is a big part of our daily lives. We love our work and can get fully consumed, so we make sure to balance that with breaks in routine, trying new things and taking ourselves on little adventures that keep us spontaneous. Play is the biggest part of keeping creativity alive.

Your e-course, Inside Out, has been wildly successful, and the course is open for registration for a new section beginning in April. Tell us what makes the course unique
My new e-course, “Inside Out: A Creative Adventure of Self-Discovery” is something I created because I had to. I’ve integrated my years of creative exploration with my love of journaling, art, yoga and meditation to offer tools and techniques that open the gateway for personal dreams to flourish.

It’s for people who think they aren’t creative. It’s for those who know they are creative but don’t know how to integrate it into their lives. It’s for mom’s who put everyone first, and never have time or energy for their personal interests. It’s for life explorers that want to live more fully, with greater joy and peace.

I love the e-course opportunity because participants can take it at their own pace; yet still connect to a like-minded group. Quiet reflection and connecting to community are both vital components to self-discovery, and this class offers the space for both.

What is your ultimate creative goal

My personal creative goal is to live a life where I fully embrace the real me and live freely with peace in my mind and joy in my heart.

Shannon has been kind enough to share an audio guided meditation for all of us. This is a staple part of her course, and it has become my favorite way to end my day.
Thank you Shannon for your generosity

The following guided audio meditation will help you open your heart center and connect to your creativity. Give yourself at least 15 minutes of stillness to enjoy.
You may choose to listen to it in a comfortable seated position, or lay comfortably on the floor or yoga mat, supporting yourself with blankets.

Guided Meditation for Creativity

To learn more about Shannon and her amazing work, please visit her blog.
You can find more information on “Inside Out”

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Earth Mama February 12, 2010 at 1:52 pm

What a powerful interview. Thank you so much for sharing yourself with us, Shannon. Your story and words are very meaningful and I really enjoyed reading them.



Gypsy Forest February 12, 2010 at 2:22 pm

I loved this Heather….. the class has been really amazing for me……….


Michelle February 12, 2010 at 2:32 pm

I loved this interview too. I signed up for the course last week and am anticipating the start of it.


Its_Lily February 12, 2010 at 3:24 pm

I'm patiently awaiting the start of her next eCourse.


kyndale February 12, 2010 at 3:59 pm

I always love your interviews Heather. You and Shannon are very inspiring.


Kelly February 12, 2010 at 5:22 pm

this is great! a really great message.


Ann February 12, 2010 at 6:40 pm

Thanks for sharing this interview – a real person – with real ideas. It sounds an amazing course. I am waiting to see if I can get onto 'unravelling' using photography – last time it was sold out in about 8 minutes so I wait and my time will come. Shannon is a real inspiration/
thanks and have a good weekend


Gina February 12, 2010 at 7:46 pm

Great interview. Thank you Shannon for the meditation, and thank you Heather for bringing another great interview.


Andrea February 12, 2010 at 7:56 pm

I signed up for April's course. I am SO excited! 🙂 Thank you for sharing this.


Hip Mountain Mama February 12, 2010 at 8:11 pm

Great interview! Shannon is such a wonderful gal!


Lisa February 12, 2010 at 8:12 pm

Thanks for this Heather – I signed up for the course last night, and am looking forward to it even more after reading this interview!


Julie February 12, 2010 at 9:26 pm

How inspiring! Thank you so much for introducing her us. I can't wait for the e-course.


Nicola @ Which Name? February 12, 2010 at 10:04 pm

lovely. shannon and her blog are new to me!


Lindsey February 12, 2010 at 11:12 pm

I'm so excited to be signed up for the next session of her e-course!!


shelle February 12, 2010 at 11:22 pm

Thanks for the interview, I have been debating signing up for that course. Have a great weekend!


lynda howells February 13, 2010 at 12:59 am

l have just finish her first course. She is amazing. xlynda


Imene February 12, 2010 at 6:31 pm

Wonderful interview. I was very interested by her course when you first posted about it. I will enroll in the next session.


eliz~ so wabi sabi February 13, 2010 at 3:50 am

so much of what Shannon shared resonates deeply with me. I'm very interested in her e-course…and can't wait to do the meditation (hopefully tomorrow am). thanks Heather!


Jennifer February 13, 2010 at 4:02 am

I am unexpectedly, smack dab in the middle of a creative crisis right now. This post really helped me relax a bit about the fact that I currently can't seem to find my way. Thanks to both of you for being so very insightful!


larissa February 13, 2010 at 4:49 am

Wonderful interview. so nice to get to know another creative mama.


AG Ambroult February 14, 2010 at 2:59 am

Inspring through and through. Thanks for the guided meditation. I just did it, and will continue to come back to that, I am sure.


Francesca February 14, 2010 at 5:59 pm

What an interesting journey into the discovery of one's own identity. Well done Shannon, you need not to worry about your little one.


Adrie February 15, 2010 at 7:19 pm

Love this so much – what a great series of amazing women you've put together, Heather!


aimee February 16, 2010 at 3:15 am

terrific interview! i took her course and i loved it!


Valarie February 17, 2010 at 3:17 am

What an amazing interview. The artist way was a catalyst for me about 4 years ago to get out of some negative creative space. I like the way Shannon has embraced all of her talents and this online course looks fantastic. Thank you so much for the meditation. I've really enjoyed it. Take Care.


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