Published on January 24th, 2013 | by Alicia Coombes1
Interview with Shiloh Sophia McCloud, founder of Cosmic Cowgirls
Shiloh Sophia McCloud has dedicated nearly two decades of her life to practicing and sharing the creative arts. Six years ago, she founded Cosmic Cowgirls, INK – a multi-faceted woman-owned company consisting of a magazine, university and publishing house. McCloud has worked with tens of thousands of women online and in person through interactive journals, workshops, painting classes and coaching.
McCloud and Cosmic Cowgirls use creativity, service and self-reflection to “change lives into legends.” McCloud believes that the women who make up the core membership of Cosmic Cowgirls have had to choose their “Good Girl” side — sacred, loving, care giving — over their “Bad Girl” side — wild, artistic, irreverent black sheep. She is sure, however, that a creative and artistic spiritual practice can bridge the gap between the sacred and wild sides of the women she works with.
Art Animal recently sat with McCloud to discuss her work with Cosmic Cowgirls and what it means to live a legendary life.
Art Animal: You describe yourself as a leader in the intentional creativity movement. What is this movement and what does it mean to intentionally create?
Shiloh Sophia McCloud: Intentional Creativity is a term that has been circulating for quite some time. The way that we use it is to literally create whatever it is we’re creating with mindfulness, conscientiousness and intention. So whether that’s a painting, or cooking a soup, or dancing or planting a garden, before you begin the act of creation you actually intend it for something and bring heart to it.
In order for there to be a movement, there have to be a certain number of people doing it. We have at least 75 women painters who are working with intentional women’s creativity, creating hundreds of images across the internet. So we’re calling that the movement.
AA: Can you give our readers a few examples of other artists out there that are proud about their intentional creativity?
SS: There are all kinds of people that are doing it in different ways. When we first started calling it that we weren’t necessarily studying other women artists, but I would say that there are definitely women inside of my community that are doing that. Elizabeth Gibbons, Annette Wagner — those are women who exhibited at the Celebration of Craftswomen [an all-women craft show in San Francisco], who would specifically say that they are doing intentional creativity. Also companies like Willow Arts, Pomegranite, Brush Arts and Papaya, who are bringing that into their work as well.
AA: How did you begin as an artist? Did you have anyone in your family or circle who taught you or supported you in particular?
SS: Absolutely. I was raised in a very creative climate. My mom was a poet and an artist, and I had a mentor named Sue Sellars. When we train women in our programs, it’s through the legacy and the line of people who have taught me. I was encouraged that creativity was the best and most wonderful way for someone to become themselves, to become who they are. I wasn’t naturally talented as an artist; nobody said, “Wow! You’re gifted,” or “You should draw,” or “You should paint.” Doing that as a career came much later.
AA: Let’s talk a little bit about Cosmic Cowgirls. How did it start?
SS: Cosmic Cowgirls is a woman- and girl-owned company that is both a publishing house and university. We have over 200 members and a lot of those are legal owners in the company. I founded it with the “Founding Mamas” in 2006, basically in response to a couple of different things. I wanted to do what I could to end isolation among women. I would have these women coming to workshops and they would go back home and it was like, “ok, now what do I do?” Cosmic Cowgirls was sort of the answer. Well, here’s what you do: you get involved, you get connected. We work on projects together and we paint together. We do poetry together, both in person and online. It’s a model that has a hundred-year-old business plan that we’re hoping to pass on to our children and grandchildren. In a way, it’s a keeper of women’s mysteries. Our sense is that this kind of women’s wisdom and connectivity is never going to be lost.
AA: Would you say there are quite a few women who came to you from scratch, not really having any creative knowledge?
SS: Absolutely, a lot of the women, including in our leadership base. Our vision is “transforming lives into legends.” It’s our motto; it’s what happens when you show up and do creative work. You start shaping your life. It’s not uncommon for people [from Cosmic Cowgirls] to become coaches, for people to open stores, open art galleries. People are writing books, teaching workshops; people are publishing their blogs. They get on fire to create form. I think that’s one of the great common denominators of our community.
AA: I know Cosmic Cowgirls is deeply involved in the community. What sorts of service projects do members get involved with?
SSM: There’s a real call for service inside of our community. We are working on some different projects: we’re working on a girls’ journal; some of our members are working in recovery centers; we have women who work in rape crisis centers; we have people working with the homeless; we have women working with Wounded Warrior programs. As a company, we don’t really reach out to specific organizations for partnership. What happens is the individual inside of the company reaches out and goes outside of their own communities to form alliances.
This year, in March, I’ll be working with the Women’s United Nations Report Network. I will be presenting at the United Nations on creativity as it connects with women and violence. Another one of our members runs a not-for-profit called Top Angels; she works with women in refugee camps who have been displaced in Africa.
Those are the ways that we are reaching out. Small, individual, close-to-home ways that our members reach out to their communities and teach workshops.
AA: How has Cosmic Cowgirls expanded and grown since its inception, and in what ways do you see it growing and evolving from here?
SSM: In our ultimate vision, it’s still the same things we are doing now, just at a larger level. [We want to be] in a place where we could really spend time creating material, books and videos that are in service to whatever it is that women are going through in the world. It’s really about the evolution of the creation of products and videos and books and audio that make a contribution to women who have experienced trauma — so it has a healing angle. But in addition to that, it’s to grow our membership community so that there’s a culture where women leaders feel fed and nourished and supported and get continuing education, so that they become the people that they need to be in order to go out and do this work in the world. It’s a big emphasis on “train the trainer.” So that women are empowered to do whatever it is that their work is in the world.
It’s really a constellation of women: a fixed group of stars that move. I think of us as a cultural constellation, and inside of that constellation, women come and go with different pieces of wisdom and they offer it back out into the world.