Artist Stefanie Vega as Mother Crone

Mixed media artist and poet Stefanie Vega lovingly assembles doll sculptures that are magically imbued with intention. Wistful and holding hidden knowledge, her plaintive creations embody the shadow self.

Shamanic, Vega’s work challenges the viewer to confront buried pain and find a way to make it serve instead of hinder. Her work is about healing in a way that honors the suffering.

When I first encountered Vega at dark art gallery shows around Los Angeles she was a gothic queen. If you’ve ever seen her sweep into a room enrobed in sumptuous textiles and textures you’d know that she is a living work of art.

I was so intimidated by her initially, but underneath the elegant wrappings is the most generous person I know. She’s helped me grow in countless ways. I cannot bear to imagine my world without her being and her art.

We were last together about a week before Los Angeles started shutting down. And she reminded me to make time to create meaninful things.

When I need to make sense of things, Vega is someone I always know I can turn to. So I gift you her words in the hopes that they may help you find your own path through this dark time.

You work from your enchanting home studio in Los Angeles.  How has your daily life changed since the spread of Covid 19?

Most assuredly our life has changed. And not felt in gradual increments, but witnessed seemingly sudden, and by swift and violent sword.

My heart bleeds for those affected personally… none more so than those who will die alone. Or those who know their beloved is dying but can hold only empty space. For them I pray for the crimson duvet.

I live a remote area, so my home studio has always been my L’Hermitage. Such is the artists life.

Alone with the muse, I am a solitary practitioner with ghost companions.

I do live a blessed life, and it has been hard-won.

The work, however, has taken on a sort of urgency and I continue to chase inspiration wherever she may lead.

My husband has been working at home again, so I am enjoying more time with him. And for that I am grateful. As I age, dependency fears that arise at a time of crisis trigger all those issues buried deep regarding survival and my own individual capabilities.

His loving presence in my life, during this vulnerable time is a gift.

The Saddest Tale by Stephanie Vega incorporates a music box which plays “In Praise of Death”

Has your creative process been affected during this time?  Are you making art?  If you are making art, what have you been working on?

Constant is the call to create, and I am forever the faithful. But there is a subtle change in the way I assemble the work. it feels both inconsequential and more necessary at the same time. Regardless, I pour all this emotion into tiny dolls and trust they will carry the weight for me,

I hear a lullaby in the tender tones of a violin or cello…and I sit with my limitations. My ghosts resonate in harmony with these familiar tunes. The current work are broken vessels of song and sorrow. Broken strings. Instruments unable to be played. Bodies broken and disassembled, I am reminded of the collective limitations and confusion.

Stefanie Vega’s most recent work is being created in her studio in self-quarantine

Writing poetry helps me step away from the distraction and go to the source.

You have been through brutal personal health battles and come out with your grace and sanity intact.  How do you use your artwork to process pain? 

Pain is just one of the greatest teachers. Cruel, yet kind, she has forced my hand more than once. Certainly, it is an exhausting burden, but not one without merit.

I create a dialogue with the pain and scan my internal catalogue for reasons. All roads behind lead to where I stand. My perception is always the key and where liberation is found.

The wounds themselves contain their own gracious healing. It is my intention that the artwork tell the tales of great sorrow, loss and terrifying healing.

La Dame Blanche by Stefanie Vega

Additionally, as someone burdened with chronic health and pain problems that place limitations on your days, do you have any perspective to offer to people who are newly burdened with pains and limitations?

Do what you can. Honor the limitations. Take them in your hand and see that they are valid because they are yours, but see within them a hidden universe of possibility. That is where so much can be revealed.

In your twilight sleep state, see the whole picture and feel the pain of the loss. Ask what is your own personal song? What is your story? What is it that you need to see? When you can shine a light on it, there is always more of yourself to own.

There resides within all of us a liquid cosmos never seen.

“Far and deep beyond the mind,
Beneath the flesh and bone
In liquid cosmos never shown
Lies more still left to own”


This is the first time in our lifetime that we’ve witnessed sickness crippling on a global scale.  Given that many of your sculptures address mortality, do you have any thoughts on how we can reckon with our fears?

Death is a part of our life. But our culture does not speak openly of mortality. So we sit alone with our fears and confusion.

Make no mistake, life is hard, accept this moment by moment, but see beyond just yourself.

When you are alone with fear, you have entered the dark night of the soul. This is the time to investigate the source and honor it in the moment.

The gods repeatedly offer you chances to be bigger than you were the moment before.

True in the face of adversity…be brave, with all its tragedy, there is always light somewhere. Search for it.

The more you are accustomed to seeing it, the more there will be.

The Call from The Hero’s Journey Series by Stefanie Vega

Your work liberally draws from the collective memory we share: a deep pool of folklore, fairytales and mythology to express facets of the human condition.  We are currently undergoing a shared trauma.  What role does the artist have in creating a visual narrative to help shape how this period is remembered?  And do artists have a responsibility to create work that deals with the pandemic?

I trust that the cumulative artwork created during this time will surely run the gamut from victim to observer to politics and everything in between.

I am the eternal optimist. I believe ours is the tremendous responsibility to give voice to the shadow. The unspoken yearnings, fears and uncertainty.

Folklore and faerie tales historically were imbued with life lessons and moral tales. Reminders to hold true those virtues of kindness and forgiveness. Dropping blame and moving forward with the tasks at hand, often drawing help from magickal means.

Just as artists are illuminated by the muse, we, in turn must inspire others with our vision.

Again, I move to poetry to express the artist’s responsibility..:

“In a crisis of the human soul
Where torment lives and takes its toll,
The artist can articulate this pain.
They’ll pontificate a diatribe
And so eloquently they’ll describe
The exclusive tormernt
They reluctantly distain.
The misery they celebrate
Gives them cause to illustrate
The private torture they so willingly sustain.
But all the while another soul
Will feel this torment take its toll
But share no genius talent to explain.
All he knows is that he’s alone
With nagging sorrow in his bone
Enduring, but refusing to complain.
Consumed by heartache and distress
And the inability to express
The simplest of words to ease his pain.
It’s now that the artists work can heal
What he expresses, others feel
And his exclusive rights to torment,
Purely vain.
The ability to express what’s real
Is a gift to share, so others heal
And so the ego must renounce the claim.
The feelings that some reveal,
That others feel, but conceal…
In deepest truth, the pain is just the same.”
The Handless Maiden by Stefanie Vega

So much of your work from The Handless Maiden to the Afterbirth to The Stump Sisters grapples with loss.  Loss is pervasive on every level of life right now and while much of it is likely temporary, some of it is decidedly not.  What advice do you have about making meaning from loss?

My work is truly a labor of love through the loss.

Another teacher, terrifying loss is, in itself, power…

In your twilight sleep, ask what it is that you need to see

Be open to the answers.

Within the loss is a tremendous opportunity to remake ourselves and challenge our own boundaries.

“If great loss is perceived as a gift..
Then believe gracious healing that waits will begin..
Our old wounds confess tales of great sorrow and betrayals
Proving scars are more telling than skin


You and I speak often about making the space to recognize magic.  I have to admit that I’m having a crisis of faith and magic seems farther away than ever before.  What are your thoughts on magic in the world right now?  Is it hibernating or do people such as myself who feel bereft need to adjust our perception? 

Right now, what we are actually given is time.

Take this precious gift of time and reevaluate your beliefs and how you walk in the world.

This can be “the dark night of the soul” or our retreat in the ‘Underground forest’.

Wherever you are in the dark, tune into the higher frequency and be gentle there.

So often we need not look further than nature for answers, the beauty in balance and forgiveness. Or dig deep within your own soil for those seeds planted long ago by ones whose words you were too wild or too young to sow. They are still there.

But above all, stir the pot of inspiration, then magick and alchemy present themselves in the most obscure ways. And see that you are capable beyond our imaginations.

The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”

W.B. Yeats

Along the same lines as the last question, what kind of shadow work feels appropriate for this period?

We are called to stop and take notice. Just as the body creates injury or illness to cause us to stop..our beautiful planet is doing the same.

It’s time to wake up and create the change so desperately needed. The shadow is our dark companion.

What outdated thought patterns do we still carry? Do they still serve?

The challenge is not to surrender to crippling fear, but to stand firm in the dark and consider what kind of world we want to create that will support a higher vision. This is the inner healing work that will clear and heal emotions and traumas from the past.

The Ward by Stephanie Vega, lovingly named Deirdre by author Dahlia Jane. Deirdre is a world traveller who has been all over the United States and Europe.

You created a doll for me named Deirdre.  She has a scar from a lobotomy and when you gave her to me you explained that the space from the lobotomy was there for me to put my burdens.  I took that completely to heart of course, but I do not think most people understand how emotionally attached I am to her.  Dolls certainly have a long history in both magic and therapy.  Do you have any advice for someone about creating their own talisman or totem, imbuing it with power even if that person does not consider him or herself an artist?

Assemble all the things you love, that have meaning to you, Cloth, hair, bones, teeth, feathers, wood, and sit with the energy. Call on the ancestors to guide your hands in binding with string, leather, cord…lose yourself in the creating.

Know that you are in good company and magick is orchestrated through you.

As the Caretakers of Burden, dolls are the perfect totems and are willing recipients of our sorrows, joys, hopes and fears. They can be the effigies of yourself. They are a loving reminder of a precious child…you.

Each one of us can create that special being. Do so without judgement or critique, but if it is there, ask her to hold it for you. She will show you how to bear it.

I have a doll I call Sophia Not (so fear not) who showed me just that.

Your work seems so tightly controlled.  But you’ve said that when you listen to what the piece wants to be and let go a bit, you create something better than what you’ve imagined.  Do you have any advice about balancing control, experimentation and faith in the process that might apply to the current moment when so much is uncontrollable? 

Facts matter, logic holds it together with truth. When there is truth, there is balance. As a reflection of the self, there must be integrity in the work, in its stability… that is the foundation that can support anything.

Be authentic. These are the times that forge character. We are living through a great something. Though we may resist it..there is a destiny unfolding…trust this.

“The robes of the queen are not what they seem,
They are bulky and itchy and old.
And the cumbersome weight of this burden is great,
Yet a task of this critical role.
When you first take the robes, they’re oppressive and cold,
And your shoulders may ache from their size.
The hem is too long and feels awkward and wrong
And you doubt you are noble OR wise
Yet, the robes of the queen are just what they seem
As this duty is yours to uphold.
So learn to embrace and accept them with grace
And you’ll find
They’re embroidered with gold.
Pussy by Stefanie Vega

Your wonderful parties take the art of hospitality to a new level.  You’re also surrounded by well wishers at gallery shows.  Do you have any thoughts about maintaining a tribe when we must exercise social distancing?

From one of my favorite movies, the Cloud Atlas, this quote

Our lives are not our own. From womb to tomb we are bound to others, past and present.”.

We are connected. Organically, we are inspired by eachother’s individuality. All alchemists, we…transforming and translating magick we see into treasure..

I believe this life we live as creatives binds us together with a golden cord. This is the cord whose origin is from those that came before us, and what we’ll leave for those who follow.

We will never be lost in the labyrinth. The tribe continually contracts and expands. We will always find each other. Isn’t it a wonder how the relatively short time we spend together leaves such a residual imprint on one another?

I know we sense each other even as the distance divides us.

We all whisper in each others dreams.

We are in spirit, always.

I join you in spirit. Merci pour tout ce que tu m’as appris ma soeur magique.

To see more of Vega’s work you can visit her website or follow her on Instagram. Many of her life-changing doll sculptures are available to purchase.

Dahlia Jane

Dahlia Jane is a wicked writer living in Los Angeles.  She writes about the dark arts scene, goth life and fascinations with the macabre.  Dahlia spends her free time obsessing about skulls, devouring true crime and occult books, sewing and making messes.

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