The Feast Table of Love
~ A Story of Intentional Creativity Inspired by
the events of a true story with Sue Hoya Sellars
By Shiloh Sophia
A young woman artist is going for a visit to see her teacher, the Master Artist. Her teacher lives in the deep woods, and she must hike up the hill to the brick red studio with the white roof. On her last visit she had shared with her teacher her dream of opening a gallery. The teacher greets her warmly and invites her student inside to see her latest creation.
The project that sits in the middle of the studio is a broad, luminous table of great beauty that is glowing in the sunlight. The teacher strokes the wood of the table affectionately, smoothing the top with her weathered hands—hands that have worked the land. The birch wood is golden in the morning sun, and the table is big enough to seat eight. There are also matching benches.
The teacher says, “This table is really special,” gesturing towards her creation.
The student nods in appreciation and asks, “Will you tell me what is special about this table? Truly, it is the most beautiful table I have ever seen. I would like to hear how it came to be . . .” In truth, the student is astonished that her teacher has made a table with her own hands. She knew the older woman was ever so talented, but this is beyond the scope of what she had imagined or seen before. Her teacher is an elder, yet she is strong in her advanced age, with a level of confidence that the young artist rarely saw in anyone else. A confidence she hoped to have herself one day.
The teacher begins, “Every work of art has its own story. But first, some tea.” The tea takes time, since the kettle is warming on the woodstove. The ritual of making the tea is done in silence, except for the sounds of crackling wood, the whistling kettle, and the spoon stirring the sweet honey and fresh goat milk into the clay cups of English Breakfast.
Now the women are sitting at this special table together, warming their hands on thick, handmade clay cups—cups made with clay dug from the land. Cups painted with symbols and glazed blue, with little charms connected to them. A goat head, a bird, a small hand, vesica pisces intersecting circles, a heart. The teacher has promised she will teach the student how to make the cups one day.
They warm their hands on the steaming cups of tea and sip quietly at the table. The student waits for the teacher to be ready. There is always something magical that happens here, when the student is ready for the teaching.
The teacher begins. “There is always a catalyst when you are making art. Sometimes it is a need. At other times, it is a random message or inspiration from out of nowhere—the Earth or the Cosmos. Sometimes, the catalyst is pain, and the desire to transform suffering. Or it could be the urgency of a project that has been commissioned. There is always something that ‘happens,’ that lights a spark for creating. The creative process for making this table went something like this . . .”
The student leans forward. Her hands are on the mug and her eyes are focused on the wizened face of the old woman she has come to learn from. The Master Artist works with paint, pastel, pen and ink, clay, metal—and, apparently, now wood.
“I am inspired to make something—but what? My imagination reveals choices that will shape the creation. What medium am I called to? What tools want to be used? What is the shape or form? How long will I need? These questions inform the creation. But there is something more—something even deeper than the form—and that something is love. This project arose when I looked in my heart for where there is suffering in the world. My heart went out to those who do not have enough to eat. There have been times when I didn’t have enough food myself, so this ache is very real for me. I know that I will include healing, nourishment, and sustenance in the creation.” The teacher pauses and smiles. “Only then does it come to me: I will make a table.”
Tears rise in the eyes of the teacher at the thought of being hungry. The student feels her own tears rising, too, as she considers how the desire to feed the world has gone into the table. Suddenly, the table seems so full of life that she feels it is humming. She nods in awareness and in appreciation of this idea—how a desire to end suffering translates into the making of art. She wonders how this idea actually works, how others’ hunger gets tended by those who do eat. She makes a note in her mind to ask her teacher how it works. This is a big idea, but it has moved her to think of where she longs to tend those who are suffering.
The teacher continues. “A decision is made based on the initial spark: ‘I think I will make a table.’ The spark for the form arises from a need and a desire to make art that serves others and centers around an idea that matters to me. I then envision what this new piece of art will look like, feel like, be like—in coherence with the energy of my choice of form.
“I set an intention: ‘to make a beautiful table where many loved ones will gather and where good food will be served.’ Then it comes to me: this table will be a feast table! I have a vision of people eating at this table and enjoying good company and conversation. This vision makes me smile all over, and I know that such a table is what I will make. There is often joy here in my process. I begin to feel the flow of energy increase—an amplification. When you work this way, the works of art become resonators. They carry their own charge of energy.”
The teacher takes a long, slow breath and looks off into the distance, as if feeling the joy of the vision all over again. The student feels expanded sitting in the presence of this story. Her skin is feeling star-sprinkled with little bumps, and she feels so blessed to be here, learning this way. The teacher continues in her own time.
“I create a context for working—that as I work, my love attends to my needs and also the needs beyond my own life. I gather the materials. I spend time preparing as much time as is needed, without rushing, because this is a sacred act. I choose to work outside, in the sunshine. I bring all the tools I need to set up for a week or two, and I organize them in a beautiful way. This is a ritual act for me, organizing the materials, honoring the tools.
I invite the flow of intuition and the rigor of structure to inspire and inform a design that is both beautiful and functional. I sketch it out, over and over again. I think of tables I have loved. I think of my own teacher’s table. My mother’s table. Café tables at museums. And a little, tiny one at a café in Paris with people I loved very much.” The teacher taps at her heart, remembering those tables. The student thinks how she had never thought about tables in this way before. And about how—now that she is thinking about it, she, too, can remember the tables in her own life.
The teacher stands up and begins to touch different parts of the table “I dream about my creation. Even when I am not working on it physically, I am working on it in my consciousness. As I set up my space for working on the table, I really involve my body, because my body loves to work. For this table, I gather wood, saw, sandpaper, measuring tape, golden shine varnish, and a workbench. And tarps to protect it at night from the mist. Don’t leave your tools out overnight unprotected.”
The teacher pauses as she points out how the dowels on the sides are intentionally random and explains how symmetry is not always the best choice for design. The student now sees the beauty in the randomness, although she hadn’t noticed before. The table is new, but it also looks somehow old. It has curved, rounded sides, it has been rubbed first with dark stain, over the birch, then sanded, then sealed with the amber-colored shellac. Where the darker stain of walnut is sanded down, the original wood is stained with the amber color of gold. The legs and feet are shaped by hand and are sturdy—but more than just sturdy, formidable. The table looks as if it might belong in a farmhouse from another century.
Noting the student’s observation, the teacher continues. “I begin to craft the raw material into a shape that resembles the beginning shapes that make up a table—seeing the whole, while honoring and crafting the parts. I am learning how things fit together. How they want to be together. I respect the materials—they have a life of their own.”
The two artists sip their tea as the teacher looks out the window at something far away, her grey eyes remind the student of a bird’s. She goes on. “I intend that the table be strong and beautiful. As I work, I receive the gift of strength and beauty in reciprocity. It is a sacred reciprocity. As I work, I listen for what this material tells me that it wants to become. The wood beneath my care begins to whisper to me. I whisper back into the wood, knowing my breath is moving into the particles. My energetic intention is impacting this matter.
“As I get to know the material, I become more familiar with the information inherent in the wood. I also imagine that it is getting more familiar with my hands, my story, and my intention. We are co-creating, this table and I. This feels amazing. Do you understand?” The student nods, reaching for understanding as she begins to grasp all that has gone into the table.
The sunshine streaming through the studio window catches the silver threads of the old woman’s closely shorn hair. In the forest around them, the ravens are calling to be a part of the story. This is a sacred moment of pure beauty as the Master Artist takes the ideas to another level of awareness. “I exert my unique influence, and I am influenced. As I get to know the material moving in my hands, the story of the tree arises. This wood that was once a tree rooted in the Earth, nurtured by air, water, wind, and sun. It is now transforming into a table through my relationship with it. I see myself as part of the lifecycle of this wood becoming a table. I honor the life of the tree, truly, and all that went into it—and the gift of having it now in my care. An artist is a steward who shapes materials with respect. Are we making the art, or is the art making us? The answer is ‘Yes.’”
The student remains silent across the table but feels the calm certainty of having just heard a truth she knows she doesn’t yet understand but somehow feels in her whole body as she nods her yes. When she is with her teacher, she feels the stretch in her consciousness as new ideas inform her way of thinking and the art she will make.
“My story of who I am goes into the making of the table,” the teacher resumes—quiet, but with a surety, as if she is sharing something she knows deep within her bones. “The story of the artist always goes into the table. This is the relationship between the maker and the made. When I am conscious of this relationship, what I make begins to change form, and I am often surprised by what is revealed. Delight is part of my experience when I bring this level of awareness into my work. The rest of the world drops away as my focus increases. I feel that the art is requesting my full presence. My intention is flowing fully into the table and returning to me amplified.”
Her expression lightens, as she recalls pleasure of this moment, when all other thoughts and worries fade away, and only the making of art is relevant.
“I respect the emergence of the art. I discover a deeper awareness of this relationship, as the work takes a shape that is both influenced by me, yet is independent of me, as the unfolding art honors the contours of what the wood wants to become.
“As I work, I note thoughts arising—both connected to the work at hand and to other things that are stirring within me. I may include the arising ideas that I want to work with, like making ideas into a pattern. At times, I make marks that mean something only to me. With some ideas, I observe them as clouds passing by, as my teacher before me, taught me. At times, I also think of the earliest women artists and how they made marks on the cave walls to map out a constellation or a relationship with a great animal. I will show you those images soon. We have always been here—women artists making art of our ideas.”
The student is listening with her whole self, and she feels a vibration moving up her legs. She hopes she will be able to remember all of this—to write it all down, so she won’t forget this. Before this teacher, when she took art classes, none of it was about this—and this, this is everything. She risks speaking to her teacher—uncertain as to what she wants to say.
“This isn’t just about duplicating nature or a design, but about intentional creativity and how it changes what we make and how what we make changes us,” the student says.
“Good. Yes,” says the teacher. “When I focus, I marshal the relevancy of my thoughts into the project. I adjust as new ideas and insights are revealed, seeing the revelations as an essential witnessing of my creative process. As much as I am moving through the work, the work is also moving through me. This is a sacred relationship that brings me into awe. I like being in the space of awe. This is a good place for an artist to find themselves in. I think we should create as if we have all the time in the world. Being an artist is a romantic idea.”
The student smiles at the teacher in agreement. The teacher is trying out new things with her student today, and the message is getting through.
“As I work, I revisit the purpose of this table as a place to eat,” the teacher continues, aware of the student’s desire to hear more—she is visibly leaning in. “I imagine people eating at this table, enjoying themselves while having an abundant feast from the Good Earth!
Suddenly, I see not just the people I imagined coming to eat at this table, but other people, as well—ones I don’t yet know! I am amazed, and I understand. Spontaneously, I send love to the people I know—as well as to those I do not. I feel that my love reaches them in real time, because this love is real. Just as real as this table that I am working on. This table is somehow making this transference of love more possible. This is the beautiful science of intention at work. My body, heart, mind, and my field are in action, in motion, and in the flow of life’s current. I am making this table for love, from love. For love, from love.” She pauses, taking a deep breath and acknowledging this truth in her own body. “I feel this love moving as I work. I am consciously blessing this table, transforming every movement I make into a blessing. These are all choices that I am making, as the artist.”
While the hot tea warms the young artist’s body, she also feels warmed by the wisdom and understanding that is passing over the table from the teacher into her. She feels the magnitude of what the teacher is trying to pass to her.
The teacher has gotten up and is standing in front of the fire now, warming herself. “The ideas surrounding the table grow larger in my heart, without my needing to think about it. The thoughts are thinking me. As I work, I picture that there is enough food for everyone. In a cosmic—yet very real—way, I know this table is somehow transcendent. The idea and energy of ‘enough food’ goes beyond this table to all those who hunger. Feeling the sensation of this exchange changes me.
“As my awareness increases, my relationship with the table as my teacher grows. My intention is infusing the table with the specific awareness I am bringing to it, in any given moment. This table is now an artifact of an artist’s journey—my journey.
“I am making the table—and at the same time, the table is making me. I transform the table, and the table transforms me.
“As I am completing the table, I am in inquiry. What is needed to complete this table in a good way?”
To emphasise her words, the teacher comes over to place her hands flat on the tabletop in front of her. “I newly place my hands on the table, and I intentionally put my LOVE into the particles of the table. There is so much more to this table than meets the eye—a greater whole, of which I am only a part. The sun that helped to grow this tree is in this table. My light has also gone into the table as love.
“When the table is complete, it begins to have its own life as art. I know I will always be a part of this table, and the table will always be a part of me. This Feast Table has its own life now.
When I tell the story of how this table was made with intentional creativity, my original intention is activated. Whether or not others who eat here, draw here, or talk late into the night here at this table know it—love resonates FROM this table as a resonator. If they know there is love in the table, perhaps that love can be felt in a moment when someone really needs it. This is the story of ‘The Feast Table of Love.’”
The teacher stops, looks intently at the student, who is deeply engrossed in the transmission of this message, and says, “Now, you can tell the story of this table.”
The young woman brings her hand to her chest in delight and surprise. She wasn’t expecting this in any way—a gift of such magnitude.
“I can?” she asks. “How can I tell this story? How will I remember all that you have said? This is an honor . . .”
“I am giving you this table to have feasts with those you love, or to use for whatever purpose you are called to. Perhaps it will live in your new gallery. You, too, are an artist. Perhaps you will draw and write at this table. I am an old woman and will not have as many people over to enjoy this table as you will—so this table is now yours.” Her teacher nods her head with assurance of her choice.
The young artist is silent. She feels the great responsibility of stewarding this sacred gift that is being shared with her.
“I do have one request,” adds the teacher.
“Of course!” says the student, feeling overwhelmed with what to say or do next. “What is it?”
“Tell the story of this table,” says the teacher with gravity.
“I will,” the young woman promises, laying the palms of her hands on the table in the same way the teacher had. She is receiving the gift and imagining the many feasts that will be shared around this Feast Table of Love.
The teacher places her hands on the student’s hands, saying, “Now I will show you how to make tables like this—I have set materials aside for just this purpose. Your gallery is going to need more than one table. Shall we begin?”
There have been hundreds, maybe thousands of gatherings around the Feast Table of Love. The young artist went on to open a gallery and so the feast table not only hosted much good food, but the creation of art and deep conversation. And of course, tea with the Muse. And now the young artist is becoming the Elder, and telling the story of The Feast Table. One day she too will pass the table onto another artist, for many more feasts to come.
hold my hand
holds the tool.”
~ Lenore Thomas Straus
These women are my linage and teachers. Intentional Creativity can be applied to any kind of art form where love and devotion pours from your soul. I am deeply honoured to have been trained in and to teach this powerful work as part of my offerings in the world.
Are you desiring to be in communication with yourself on this deep level? If so, click on the below link to discover how we can begin our work.