Spirit Session | Maya Donenfeld

I believe we connect with people when we are meant to.

I had heard great things about Maya from attendees at Squam Art Workshops (SAW) but our paths did not cross until the Spring 2010 session.  My first real connection to her was in Spring of 2011 when I happened to photograph her class, at which time Michelle Smith shared with me how excited she was about the reinvention scarf Maya was teaching her to make. I was intrigued by Michelle’s enthusiasm because I felt a bit intimidated by all the knitters and sewers at SAW. I have dabbled in sewing since I was about 8 but I haven’t learned how to get beyond sewing a simple straight stitch. To be honest, I feel somewhat intimidated by my sewing machine’s manual. I have also tried knitting but I knit too tight and again, I don’t learn well from books so I never got beyond knitting a basic scarf. I knew Michelle wasn’t an experienced sewer, and seeing how much she was enjoying making this scarf and hearing that it wasn’t impossible got me interested.

While photographing, I also noticed the coolest bucket bags and skirts lying off to the side of the room and I was overcome with the desire to make them. I strategically came back to “photograph” more after lunch and watched Maya introduce the bucket and skirt projects. Everything about them excited me. Using old t-shirts and old coffee sacs to create the aesthetic, the pieces are just beautiful and totally my style. Most of all, they represent Maya. There is a warmth and comfort about her like no other. She radiates joy and love and is so gentle with her students. Above all, she simplifies things in a way that makes them so easy to understand. Watching her, I felt instantly that I could do either project. I had to muster all my professionalism to continue on with photographing other classes, when all I wanted to do was pull up a chair and take the class.

When I returned home from SAW, I purchased her PDF patterns for buckets and skirts with the intention of trying to make them at home (although I admit, I haven’t taken out the sewing machine yet). Maya and I exchanged a few emails and we began to develop our connection.

When Maya contacted me this summer to set up a Spirit Session for Fall at SAW, I was thrilled because Spirit Sessions are what I most love to do. They allow me to spend time getting to know creative souls on an intimate level. I have always been fascinated by people, especially those who are bold and bound after their dreams to create a life that reflects what they are most passionate about.

Maya and I arrived for SAW at RDC and right after dropping off some bags in our respective cabins, piled into her car and headed to a private place on the RDC campus. We eased into our time together by sharing and connecting. We talked about life, her new book and where her heart was. This is such an intimate time during a Spirit Session, so I won’t go into much detail, but soon we shifted from the grounding part of the session to playfulness. We then got to frolic in the enchanting woods and waterfront of RDC while capturing Maya’s spirit as she heads into the launch of her new book, Reinvention.

Here are some of our favorite images from the session. Below the photographs you can read Maya’s reflection on our Spirit Session.

Thea has the power to quiet our inner critics and heal old self image wounds with her capacity for seeing. The spirit session we shared was far beyond anything I could have imagined.This past fall I was desperately in need of an updated bio photo for various new projects… including my very first book. I had seen gorgeous shots Thea had taken of other artists and hoped she could do for me what she did for them… but I had my doubts. I was exhausted and depleted after just giving my creative all to my book. I didn’t think a decent photo would be possible, but Thea worked a bit of magic into our shoot. She has a great knowledge of  how to illuminate with light and lenses, but her true gift is the ability to first create a safe haven for your soul. She was then able to coax out my true self… my best self. The result was so much more than a great shot or a flattering picture. She photographed that part of me I always hope to share. A significant transformation was set into motion that day and continued when I first saw the images she had captured. It’s as if Thea can see who you are and where you’re headed. I felt like she was shooting my future self as well as the me that was sitting by the lake that day. In this way I now consider a session with Thea to be a form of self-care and will gladly book future sessions as a way of marking milestones and gaining insight into my creative process.

Maya Donenfeld

  • pixie - I’m falling in love with her all over again…beautiful work, Thea.ReplyCancel

  • maya - I love you Thea! Thank you for this beautiful post… I am so grateful for our session at the point. Friendship and trust were found alongside some very important photos!ReplyCancel