Cecília Freire De Mance is a super inspiring woman, and my first interviewee for Goddesses In The World.
I call her Goddess Creatrix, because of how she lives and creates her life, honouring who she is and recreating it at every opportunity she gets.
She’s the creator of the Creative Clay Studio, mother of three amazing human beings (Kira, Maia and Luam), wife to her Chris. Yoga teacher, clay teacher at schools and a stand for her community in Christchurch, New Zealand. Among many other things… as all women connected to their inner Goddess are…
Her artwork is beautiful and inspiring.
A few months ago I had the privilege of sitting with her at her home and talk for what seemed like hours about what it means to be a woman, creativity, permission, self-empowerment and her amazing life journey. I kept the interview as unedited as possible, to reflect Cecília’s depth and all the amazing stories and lessons she has to share.
She shares how she tapped into her own inner power from a young age, her relationship to creativity, motherhood and what she wishes every woman would learn from a young age.
Thank you, Cecília, for the inspiration. Goddess, read on…
Did you always see yourself as a Goddess?
I remember my mum used to go to a psychology group, a lot of her books were psychology books. Sigmund Freud, Karl young. Also Wayne Dyer. There’s a book I read of his when I was only 11 or 12. It was called “Your Erroneous Zones” and it’s about your higher self and I was just fascinated. It kind of answered a lot of questions for me.
We’re not just this body having this reality. We’re so much more. We’re multiple layers of being. If your quest is really deep, that’s what gets your wheels going and gets you intrigued about life and all the layers. There’s things we can’t see, there’s energy, and we tend to forget all of that.
It just gave me the inner strength to be a spiritual warrior. I call myself a spiritual warrior. I want to live my truth, I don’t want to live a life that stresses me. So to me the word authenticity is how I have to be. I may have fallen out with people along the way, I may have made enemies, but I’m true to myself. And to me that’s really important. Otherwise, it’s exhausting. Whether that makes me a goddess or someone who’s happy in their own skin.
It’s funny, some people struggle with being on their own. I never had that problem. I could spend hours by myself. The best gift I gave myself a while ago was to go on a 5 day silent retreat. That was so insightful and I’m looking forward to doing an 11 day one.
This may be a little off track, but 20 years ago when I was pregnant with Kira (my eldest), in Venezuela, women looked absolutely immaculate. They’d wear make-up, do their nails. I often say they don’t even have a pubic hair out of place! And then you feel the pressure and think you have to be the same and put lipstick on. There was a point I realised this wasn’t me and that pressure pulled me to get me to change my ways. This awareness is the opportunity to tap into your authentic self. And that’s been my journey since.
Did you always know what you wanted your life to look like?
Not really. I think growing up in South America gave me an intensity of being. My life has always been about exploring and intense experiences. And through that I find more what I like and don’t like, and then try and do more of what I truly like.
It’s interesting. When I was younger, I thought I wanted to be a psychologist to understand human nature. I moved to England when I was 13 and I hated it. I felt people wanted me to conform and I was a rebel. I got expelled several times. I didn’t want to be the english way and not speak up about how I’m feeling and that made me more of a warrior. That was a big contrast, from living a spontaneous, creative live.
My life has been a life of extremes. And I’ve even shown my kids that. When we lived in Barcelona, my kids went to an upper class school and when we went to England, it was the complete opposite. I think it gave my kids inner strength too.
When did your creativity come into play?
My dad was an architect and my mum was an interior designer and my mum had an art shop and gallery. I grew up with lots of pens, rubbers, pencil sharpeners around me. We didn’t have a TV, so we played with our imagination. Creativity was always an ingredient in my life.
At age 3 I moved from Argentina to Venezuela. My mum’s first best friend was an interior designer and she was a ceramic artist. They’d chat to one another and give me a lump of clay to keep me entertained, so I’ve been creating all my life.
I think the more I’ve delved into my own creativity, the more I’ve learned to share it and be open about it. So I show people how to be creative. Perhaps people don’t realise how generous that side of me is, to see an artist at work, although I don’t consider myself an artist. That’s just a label. I consider myself a creator. We’re all creative. It’s your creation. It’s unique. The only one there is.
My journey has been about self-realisation and stripping myself off the ego, the one that gets inflated, I stay away from titles. Sure, I’m a mother, I’m a creative person, but I don’t see the need to have a title.
The more I delve into my creativity, the more I realise it’s really powerful. The inner strength to change things is very powerful. Some times I do artwork that I feel is perhaps healing the world. I don’t understand it, but I have a sense that I know that what I’m doing is like a ritual, because I’m so connected to a higher force as I’m doing it. I’m just a channel. And I think sometimes it can heal.
So did you always make artwork?
Yes, I always had an imagination to do things. I’ll tell you what, the best year of my life was when we were living in England and Chris, my husband, was offered a 3 month job in Venezuela. But not in the city, just in the outskirts. And we had Kira at school and we didn’t know what to do, so I went up to see the headmaster and said “look, my husband’s going away for 3 months… I don’t know if I could pull my daughter out for that long?” And he said “you know what, you’re a family, stick together.”
So we just packed our bag and went away for 3 months. Hardly any toys, hardly any books, nothing. We just packed the essentials and then his contract kept getting extended and we lived there for a year.
And what was nice about it is that I didn’t have any art – I didn’t have any materials, I didn’t have anything, so I actually created a really lovely life, it was very simple and I had fun just creating from things that I found, you know, shells and driftwood and just I had to be creative and then I had so much time with the children because I wasn’t cluttered with lots of stuff.
It was just living day by day with very little and just beautiful how life just flowed.
I do remember my kids had no toys and I did feel a little bit guilty about that. At some point I went to a garage sale and just got a whole heap of them. And what was lovely was that before we left Venezuela, I got the kids to tidy them all up before we left, put the toys in little bags and the kids gave them away to the neighbouring shanty town’s kids.
We came with no toys, let’s leave with no toys. And the kids were like “Ah!” So that was a nice gesture. Things like that are good for us. You can have very little but you can always gift as well.
In terms of your career, did it always revolve around making things?
Definitely. When I was living in Venezuela, before I had Kira, I was very much playing the artist’s role. I was exhibiting in galleries and it was a real ego journey. I possibly wasn’t a very pleasant person. Because it’s an ego journey, you know?
And then I thought – I don’t know what it was, but something clicked in me as soon as I had children. I think that shifted everything. I realised that my priorities were somewhere else. My priorities were with my family so from then on I think it was more about the community, it made a lot more sense being part of my children’s schools and then I became the artist who would visit schools and do art with different schools.
And I really enjoyed that aspect of it. And I think that’s possibly when I started connecting with children and enjoying their company and realising how spontaneous they are.
Did you always have a studio or was that something that happened when you moved to New Zealand?
I always had a creative space. But I always dreamt from a very young age. I think it was something that I developed at the age of 11. I said to myself, one day I’m going to live in a nice house, and I’m going to have a studio the size of a double garage.
The power of words… I always say to people, that’s amazing, isn’t it how we can create our reality? I always say I wish I’d been a little more specific, I wish I had said, “with a skylight and some under-floor heating.”
There was a time when I lived just outside of Caracas and I had an exhibition to get ready, and we were just renting an apartment and my husband had put a kiln in the kitchen and I put my potter’s wheel in the shower room. I’ve always adapted in order to be creative. It never mattered If it was a small room or a shed, or something else, I’ve always tried to find somewhere where I could create.
And I think because I haven’t always been able to take my kiln or my wheel or anything like that, I’ve always just used other things to be creative. Painting or other things.
What about the community side of things, like teaching classes?
I enjoy leaving something behind. One day I’ll die and it’s important for me to leave something behind, whether it’s just a little grain of sand or someone saying “oh do you remember how she taught us to not be so uptight and enjoy what we create?”, or whatever it was.
For me, community is quite important. I don’t really listen to the news. I have a sense of what’s going on but to me it’s more important what’s happening in my community. So that I can act on it.
It’s interesting. To me, it’s like being a mother figure. We do have to look after the children in our community. A caring, loving person. It’s about making a difference and giving something back. So that’s how I got my passion for teaching.
How does your creative life look like now? Do you have a studio where you do classes, or are you creating mostly for putting your own work out there?
It’s not that I get bored quickly but I’m not somebody that can easily stick to something for years and years and years and years. It has to be really varied. So any classes that I do are always spontaneous. They’re always just people who find me on the internet, they like what they see, they might get in touch, they might come and visit the studio and they might create something that they’ve always wanted to create.
But I don’t think creativity always has to be something that you make. It can be the way you speak, the way you cook, the way you interact, you know. A whole variety of things.
I do teach at schools though. And they love coming to visit me, they love the walk and then coming to my studio and just seeing the studio.
A few years ago the headmistress of our local school knew I did yoga and meditation so she approached me and asked if I’d come to the school and do some yoga and some breathing and some meditation with the children because they’re stressed.
So I did that and they asked me if I could do it with the adults. So I’ve been doing a community class of yoga for the last 5 years.
How do you stay connected with your personal power?
Breathing and nature. And setting boundaries in place so I can create by myself. That’s my balancing act between my giving self and my own space and creativity. It’s my spiritual, creative hub. Balancing children, career and household is tough for many women. That’s where I feel blessed. Everything I created is within my home and that helps me stay grounded.
When I hit rock bottom, I really hit rock, rock bottom when I get sad with the world around me. I learned to treasure those moments and sit with them because they’re the access to rising above.
You have two daughters and a son. What has been the best way to empower them?
Empowering myself and them witnessing that. They get to see the kind of community person I am, someone who gives, not just takes, takes, takes. Being more and more my authentic self, and they can see it.
That and filling their love tanks every day before going to school. I find their love tanks would easily get depleted just with how our schooling system works. I made a decision early on not to rush them or tell them off in the mornings. The mornings kind of became sacred for setting them up for a good day. They still went through (and are still going through) difficult moments, but filling their love tanks in the morning can make a difference in this rushed, impatient world we love in.
What is something every woman should learn?
Self-love. Notice how nature is always offering unconditional love. The way to achieve this for ourselves is through authenticity and accepting life and ourselves unconditionally. Not easy but it must be done.
Check out Cecília’s work:
Now I’ll leave you with two questions. What does it mean to live life in your own terms? If something stops you from expressing yourself, what is it? If you were inspired by Cecília and can see something for yourself, leave me a comment below and let’s discuss it together.