(All photos were taken by Carleigh herself. If you are not following her instagram go do it now!!! She is a wonderful photographer and captures such stunning photos of the world around her!)
Recently I was on my instagram and saw such a lovely photo with such powerful words, and I realized it was posted by the ever lovely Wildwoodhome, AKA Carleigh.
Not only did the beauty of the words strike me but also the arrangement and care that went into this photo. A few days later this particular photo of Carleigh’s mandala was all over social media! It showed up on my newsfeed from other sites and pages and It made me happy to see that others found Carleigh’s creation just as powerful as I did. Carleigh agreed to do a little interview with me about her nature inspired mandalas.
1. Hi Carleigh tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m an environmental educator with my roots sprawled out in southern Ohio soil. I spend most of my time playing in dirt with little ones, teaching them about nature. In my free time, I’m a maker & aspiring homesteader.
2. It’s a brand new year and many of us look for words of wisdom to drive us forward in our future endevors, including myself. What has driven you to create these beautiful mandalas?
Last year, I found myself really unhappy, not taking care of myself, and repeating the same mistakes. I was extremely blessed to have a month long winter break from December into January. That became a time of immense healing, where I could really take a step back, navigate my internal landscape, and recognize unhealthy patterns in my thinking/behavior. Moving forward became unintentionally very mantra and meditation driven. ‘Stop romanticizing the people who hurt you’ & ‘Nothing in nature blooms all year’ were two mantras that resonated with my soul and I found repeating in my head like a broken record. The mandalas came about circumstantially- being inspired by my sister’s dying flowers on the dining table, and foraging winter weeds for my mother’s milk box. Looking back, I think unconsciously I needed a way to materialize those words & their meaning to me, and the opportunities presented themselves.
3. Nature seems to be a very important and influential part of your life. If so, how does it influence you as well as the photos you take!?
Natural places are truly my livelihood & inspiration from them weaves its way into every aspect of my life. I’m endlessly fascinated with the earth’s complex ecology and the wisdom that can be drawn from it. While I appreciate science, I’m a mystic at heart & I think that translated into the photos I take and everything I do.
4. As a woman do you feel that nature and femininity naturally (no pun intended) go hand in hand?
I do feel in myself an instinctual feminine wildness & intuition pulling me closer to the earth. There’s definitely a deep rooted connectivity to being a woman and experiencing the inherent cycles of the earth. As both a feminist and environmentalist, there are so many parallels that can be drawn between the exploitation & deprivation of the earth and that of womankind. It’s an understanding/awareness that I haven’t fully been able to communicate into words, but I’ll be focusing on and exploring in the upcoming year.
5. Do these mandalas give you a sense of catharsis? Absolutely! There’s something so freeing about creating something temporary to express feelings that are also temporary. It’s a time to channel that negative energy into something that’s life-giving- then to put it away/release yourself.
6. Have you ever done anything like these mandalas before?
I’ve played around with flowers, but never in such a meditative capacity. My perspective has been shifting on art and I’m excited to play around with this new revelation.
7. Your mandalas recently have kind of blown up on social media. How does that make you feel?
I was completely taken by surprise. To know that something so deeply personal to me has also resonated with so many other people is incredible! They’ve ended up on the pages of organizations that empower woman through post-partum and domestic violence- reading through all the comments and stories that have been shared through my photographs is so humbling. A lot of people have been encouraging me to capitalize on them, sell prints & demand credit, but that was never what they were about. I’m overjoyed that they’ve gone out of my hands and have created a life of their own. I’m glad every time I see them shared even without credit, because it’s not about art or ownership, it’s about healing.
8. Do you think you will continue with these mandalas? Do you have any other projects in the works?
I’m going to continue making them in times that I feel personally drawn to. I want them to remain authentic to myself, not wavering from my initial intentions and hopefully they’ll continue to resonate with others. I’m always working on a million projects at once. This month, I’ve been digitizing my antique photograph collection, revitalizing vintage wedding dresses, learning Sashiko stitching, and working on a collage Materia medical of healing plants.
I was so blown away by Carleigh’s words and responses and I really thing she has some great things to share! Make sure to follow her instagram @wildwoodhome for more of her beautiful photos!