APPALACHIAN ARTIST CRUSH
local artist interviews
APPALACHIAN ARTIST CRUSH is a series of interviews with artists from around the East Tennessee region, whose work I admire and who I want to share with the world. These artists have given themselves to the creative process in an area of the country that isn't often remembered for its artistry. Read on.
I think many creative people, like visual artists, musicians, authors, etc., can at times suffer from a lack of self-confidence and motivation. One of my biggest hurtles was to take myself and artwork seriously. I realized in graduate school that if I wasn’t invested in my own artwork and didn’t care enough about it, then no one else was going to either. I came to realize that I needed to make my artwork for myself first. And if I thought it was worth doing, then it would have something of value to offer others.
I've always appreciated classic art. I don't care for contemporary or modern art, and have always been very drawn to the impressionists. About a year after we moved to Tennessee, I kept gravitating towards my art books that are now all in my studio (they used to be up in my living room). I'd study them at night. I'd pour over Monet and I'd say, “How can I do that in fabric?” I had no idea that there even was such a thing as fabric art. All I knew was traditional quilting, until I went online and I searched for “impressionist fabric,” and all of a sudden it showed up for me.
It's super satisfying to see the lines come out and meet up perfectly. It's very spontaneous--whatever comes to me--and depends on what I feel and my sensory input and response. The ones that flow out from me and feel very natural are always the best. The ones that I work really hard on are more difficult because they don't seem to come from the same place.
I don’t really think it’s unique. The difference between me and somebody else is that they looked at modern art and said, “Well I could do that,” but then they don’t do it.
Out of necessity of both time and money, I finally became practical with my art process after my son, Strummer, was born. I cannot always produce art objects or physically paint or sew whenever I want to, but, I can very easily write down ideas or sketch simple studies a they come to me (usually!), which I then later elaborate on and fully expand. I now spend much more time planning the overall construction of a piece (conceptual themes, choice of medium and materials, general measurements, cost) so that when I am able to be in my art studio (or, sometimes it’s the living room or dining room or porch) I am able to make better use of my time, and, make artwork that is more successful, visually.
A big part of my process is finding the right pieces of wood and looking for certain qualities that will show up once everything is done. For anyone who has not worked with wood, 90% of the job is carving, planing, shaping, and lots and lots of sanding. It is amazing what you can accomplish with hand tools and time.
What makes my creative process unique or different is how I transfer the colors I see and experience in nature into my abstract paintings. Everyone sees differently and I try to show people how I see and feel through my artwork. No one has my sense of color or mark-making. No one sees as I do either.
I usually have painting, writing (poetry and fiction), and photography going on in my life at the same time. They all feed from one another for energy and subject material. One idea prompts another constantly, so I’m seldom without an idea for new work.
Just doing. It doesn't matter if you feel like it, or you're "inspired", action is the magic. Within action you find your inspiration. I know it isn't romantic or exciting to say "DO", but that's really the key.
I make a mess! I have clay all over my house: bags of clay, fired clay, finished pieces, stamps I’ve made, tools, little inspirations. Since it's me in my house with two dogs, this works really well. I would love a studio space, and I would really love for clay to not be everywhere, but this is what works for me for now, and I get work done this way.
I do not think my creative process is unique; nor is it particularly static. The way I got to “here” might be unusual, or perhaps the method to my madness. But really what I do and how I do it is just a combination of curiosity and habit. I will want to know how something works — a particular camera, emulsion, process, etc — and then I work it forwards and backwards. i.e., this is how it works from beginning to end, this is what happens if you break down that protocol.
When you turn your passion into a job, it’s hard to always see and remember the love. I have to find a balance of really leaning into the creative process, while making sure that it will pay my bills. It can be a slippery slope sometimes. It’s a similar issue as making something for yourself without inhibition versus making something for someone else with total awareness. I try to find a balance.
I honestly feel when I approach making with a clear head and no end result in mind, man those days produce the best pieces. I really love the open-endedness of my process. Removing rules and restrictions has allowed for me to continually push my making, and I look forward to where it’s going to go.
What I always loved about art was that it was a little universe of your own creation and I would just find my self absorbed in it, no matter what was going on around me. The creation of little worlds is still something that absorbs me in my work as an adult. I like getting lost in them.
I think what makes my work unique is honestly that I haven't seen anything else like it. The world of fiber arts is vast and there are so many ways to use a variety of materials, so it's not surprising to find a lot of fiber artists doing completely unique work. My process for knotting is taking a simple macrame knot and repeating it and manipulating it in ways to create a desired shape and design.