When I design an altar, I draw on the deep connections between nature (the wood, the metal, the stone), the Divine, and the complexities of our own spiritual journey drawn out between them. The process seems most supported by listening and observing, especially going into this place where the Divine touches us and we once again open to the beauty and truth of things here below and there above. In this inner place one finds healing and courage, as well as forging and refining fires. The part that thinks it knows learns to reconsider. The part that is afraid is asked to come forward. The part that hangs on tightly begins to let go. In order to make an altar, the artist must come to the altar, listen, and seek this place of personal and artistic revelation/transformation.
At some point the second stage of design kicks in. Here there is indeed 'invention', long experience in the shop, and knowledge of history, design, materials, and liturgy. These two distinct movements inside the artist (vulnerability & skill, let’s call them) can come into a respectful, even loving, relationship with each other. This is very interesting, because in a small way it mirrors Genesis 1. Something "hovers over the waters" - lovingly, and full of curiosity. A spiritual chemistry ensues which allows for a new creation.