It's Wise Women Wednesday, each week I interview a woman that I believe is inspiring, living abundantly and following her passions. These are all women who live a life of abundance and bring creativity into the world.
Q. Who are you? What is your background?
A. I am Cassandra Liuzzo. Born the daughter of an Italian immigrant artist who died too young; raised in Greensboro by an entrepreneuring mother from NY-by-way-of-PA, and a North Carolina-native DIY Renaissance Man who left his smaller town for this more bustling place.
After my idyllic Nickelodeon-fueled childhood, I left Greensboro for a brief-yet-formative 4.5 years in the mountain wonderland of Boone, never expecting to return to my hometown. However, through a series of decisions and concessions, I completed my Art Education degree in this place – at once the place I grew up, and yet a new city entirely.
I stayed despite a majority of my friends leaving for more skyscraper-filled pastures, in the hopes that implementing my ideas here would contribute to a culture for which other people would choose stay.
Q. What is your work?
A. I am the owner of Shelf Life Art & Supply Co. I am an artist, a teacher, a learner, an advocate for sustainability, intentional community and social justice. I practice yoga, and I practice being the best me I can for the benefit of those around me.
Q. What is one project you are excited to be working on right now?
A. Besides working on creating a fully-functioning educational program at Shelf Life, I'm really excited to be working in my home art studio again. When I opened the store, my studio became a place where I shoved everything I couldn't bear to look at from the rest of my house. Over the past several months, I've been uncovering the trash and treasure hidden behind that dreaded closed door.
I recently finished my annual Christmas ornament project in my studio (my roommate was pleased it didn't occur on the dining room table, like last year) - and it felt like I was returning to myself. To turn a small idea into a little object - wonky and handmade and beautiful - and know that it will make someone I love very happy. Everyday, I get to enable that for others through my business – it's a less-frequent pleasure when I get to do it myself.
Q. What is one thing you've done recently that's scared you and took courage, but you're glad you did?
A. The two scariest things I've ever done occurred within two months of each other, in the Fall of 2014.
First, I travelled by myself to visit my Italian family, for the first time since I was 11 years old. For years, I had been scared to visit because of both the language barrier and because of the expectations that I felt were placed on me as the only child of my late father. I have never cried more in my life than I did on that trip. It shattered my walls, and rebuilt them with such an unexpected and unconditional love that I hadn't understood before. These were my people, and they wanted to know me for who I was, and they already loved me, and they were going to keep loving me no matter what!
I was very fragile when I returned. Hyper-sensitive to emotion, but fortified in my pursuit of surrounding myself with and giving freely of love, and knowing that now that I had accomplished this life-long goal, I could tackle whatever challenge was placed in front of me.
A few weeks later, I opened Shelf Life.
Q. What is the work you most want to be doing and are you doing it? If not why not what's stopping you?
A. Where there is a will there is a way! I am in a constant process of evaluating all the work I want to do with my life (it's a lot!). I believe that meaningful work takes time. I believe that I don't have to do everything I want to do, to the full extent that I want to do it, immediately. I prefer working measuredly, and making sure changes in my life that are worth making can be sustainable. I don't really think of anything is stopping me from accomplishing my goals, but I do find myself managing my expectations frequently.
Q. What would you tell your high school or college self?
A. As I'm approaching the last few months of my 20s, I've been reflecting on how I've spent this decade. I think I've spent a lot of time trying to build myself back up from hurtful relationships. I would tell my younger self to stand up for herself more, and be less of a people-pleaser (ahem, pushover). To listen to her intuition, and especially not to worry about other people's feelings at the expense of her own. But all of that, and everything else, should be done from a place of love, not fear.
Q. What's one piece of advice or motto you love and use in your daily life that you would like to share with my sweet readers?
A. Everything is absurd, everything is of the utmost importance.
Q. What keeps you creating when you don't feel like it?
A. When I was 18, someone I respected a lot told me that they had decided to never say, "I'm bored." There are so many things to do possibly do in this world, and humans are creative and inventive by nature – we should be able to come up with something to keep our brains occupied. I immediately adopted that outlook.
At this point, for me, creating is not a choice. I used to call it a compulsion. But I don't even consider it that anymore. It's the only way I know how to make sense of myself. It doesn't have to be art. It can be food, relationships, a business, household projects, growing plants, personal mental growth.
I had to really reconcile that when I first opened Shelf Life. I was pretty hard on myself
for not having the time/energy to make art at that time. I had to remind myself that I was still creating every day, just, it was a business and not something I could hang on the wall. Every time I go to yoga, I am creating a better me, but I can't sell that in a gallery. When I make food for my friends I am creating a delicious path to their hearts, but that doesn't go on my CV. But it's all creating, and it's all fulfilling that part of my brain that finds meaning in that act.
Q. Anything else you'd like to share?
A. I'm so very honored that you considered me to be featured here amongst such other inspirational women! May we continue grow in community together. What a world that would be.
Q. What's your favorite yoga pose?
A. I will love forever the strength I feel in Warrior Two. I have a background in martial arts, and the stance of the legs is familiar to that training. But the opening in the chest is very anti-martial arts. It's vulnerable. And I think that juxtaposition between strength and vulnerability all at once is really beautiful and truthful.
Q. How do you live a life of abundance?
A. Being grateful for what I have, sharing what I can, taking care of my animals, and loving my people wildly.