Makers To Know: McKenzie Jones

McKenzie is an abstract painter (and dancer!) that I met through Instagram a few months back. Her work is just as lively and fun as she is! I'm happy to learn a little bit more about her today.

mckenzie jones

BB: For those of us who are meeting you for the first time, how did you get started? 

MJ: I am a dancer turned artist. Since the age of 3, dance is all I have ever known. As a dancer, I grew up expressing myself through the unspoken language of movement. Crossing over into the language of art has been a continuation of my exploration of expression. I find it so liberating to get out my feelings without having to utter a single word.

My curiosity about learning more about expression led me to get my Bachelors in Fine Art in painting and drawing at Utah Valley University. That sure sounds nice and fancy… but it was sure a journey to get there! 

I took a painting class as an elective while I was a dance major… and I was literally the only person in my class that had never painted before. It just sounded fun! But man… it was love at first stroke. It was like the heavens opened and I knew this is what I needed to be doing. And to my surprise I didn’t suck either… like... I was kinda good?? It was a hidden talent I never knew I had! So as scary as it was, I switched my major to art and dove into the world of the unknown. 

I began my degree as a deer in headlights feeling so lost and thinking that I didn’t belong. What had I gotten myself into?! I was just a dancer girl ya know?? That’s all I’d ever been. So, going out of my box and becoming something else, even though in my heart I knew it was right, was terrifying! But with the guidance of my amazing mentors I was able to find my own artistic language and all those insecurities fell away. By the end, I had found myself and the confidence to say "I am an artist". 

BB: As you've started to establish yourself in the art world, what has been the biggest challenge that you've faced? How have you worked through it?

MJ: My biggest challenge has definitely been comparison. I still feel relatively new as an artist, even though I have a degree in it, and I get intimidated! Thinking I’m not good enough. Why am I even doing this? Am I making a difference? Does my work matter? I sometimes find myself deep in another artists feed envying them. Thinking ‘they must be doing something right’ or ‘why can’t I do that’. It is such a double-edged sword. I get so inspired... but then I get hard on myself.

To work through it I have befriended the artists I admire. I ask questions. I learn from them. I have gained so many amazing relationships over social media with other artists from all around the world! That is how I met this lovely lady of WildHumm, Bianca. I bought her sketchbook last year and got to peak inside her brain… and I found that we have a lot of the same hardships! We all live to create and we all struggle through it sometimes. It’s incredible that we have this tool where we can connect and uplift each other along the way. Heaven knows I need it! 

BB: Your paintings are abstract, experimental, and have a lot of energy. What are your biggest sources of inspiration? 

MJ: MOVEMENT. Having such a strong and passionate background in dance definitely shows through in my work. It is in the root of every decision I make when I am creating. 

My fascination with movement led me to study water for my BFA thesis. In my studies I read the book The Hidden Messages in Water by Masaru Emoto, which I highly recommend. It brought so much understanding to my art and to my world. Plus… I’m secretly a mermaid, so to explore water I felt like I explored my soul! Haha ☺ 

Ever since then, I focus on the ever-changing qualities of water in my work. It is a part of my process now. I use a lot of water and keep my materials moving and alive. I let them guide me as I guide them through each fluctuating mark.  

BB: Have you ever felt creatively stuck? How do you work through creative block? 

MJ: Yes. Of course! With my work being so experimental sometimes I feel like I loose focus easily and just don’t know what to do next. To get back to where the juices are flowing I do a few things:

  • Change the music. Since my heart is so tied to music… every melody affects me in the slightest ways. Sometimes I just gotta pump up the tunes and get my body movin and groovin! 
  • Stop. Walk away, eat some food, bask in the sun with my cat.. hahah ☺ then come back to it.
  • Change material. I’ll grab a tool I rarely use or a color completely opposite of what I want. Sometimes out of the unexpected magic happens.
  • Step on it. Crumple it up. Tear it. Doesn’t do anything for the piece… just makes ya feel better… hahaha. And it makes some sweet stuff for collage work! 

BB: Aside from painting, are you working on any other projects? 

MJ: I sure am! I am a dance teacher and choreographer and I absolutely love it. I thrive in the dance studio. I love connecting with other people through movement, energy, and emotion.  Over the last few years where these two art mediums have collided in my life my soul has been so enriched. My paintings feed off my dancing. My movement is inspired by my art. My life is consumed with a constant cycle of creating… its awesome! I also just started a job as a custom framer. It’s been so fun to learn the aesthetics of framing and how I can use it to improve my own work. Plus it’s nice to save some money on framing my stuff! Woot!

BB: If you could give one piece of advice to emerging artists, what would you say?

MJ: I would tell them something I always tell my dance students… to find your soul. Use it. It’s yours. Go to that truly human place and become vulnerable. It is so scary yet ever so rewarding. When you come from that place of honesty, only then can you move people with your work. Strive for that. Strive to move souls!And lastly, I’ll share my current artist mantra: 
Create something bigger than myself. Do greater than myself.

Keep up with McKenzie here: 

facebook

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Makers to Know: Samantha Leung of HandmadeSam*Made

This week, I'm thrilled to talk more with Sam, the maker behind Handmade SamMade. She creates modern interpretations of the traditional Himmeli, which often become a new home to air plants and flowers. Her designs are versatile, minimalistic, and lighthearted - a perfect addition to any space. Fun fact: the geometric mobile that she created for me has hung above my bed for months, and I'm certain that this is why geometric lines have made their way into my work!

BB: For those of us who are meeting you for the first time, tell us a bit about your background. How did you get started?

SL: I have been a maker my entire life. And to be totally honest - I thought it was absolutely normal to wood burn, solder, and do carpentry before the age of 10. I remember being 5 years old and building my own playground set with my brother and my Dad. I dug post holes, poured and mixed cement, and helped measure and cut wood. It wasn't a chore - it was exciting. We didn't get those fancy package play sets. We went to the lumber yard and bought wood. As a result, we were the only kids in the neighborhood to have a bridge, and to have closable windows in their tree house. 

I got my first real job when I was 14. And I started my first creative entrepreneurial business when I was 16 - we got together in between clubs at school and my other job. With two friends, we made custom costumes and clothing. People would e-mail us a photo of what they wanted and their measurements and we would make our own patterns.

And I started Handmade Sam*Made after a cross country move. My husband and I relocated to Seattle from Chicago. I didn't have a job, and I didn't know what to do. So I started selling things that I made, and here I am.

BB: You make brass geometric mobiles, aka, himmeli. What drew you to himmeli? Can you tell us a bit about their significance to you?

SL: I was initially drawn to himmeli because they were these beautiful complex, geometric shapes. These mobiles were so complex, intricate and layered. Historically these himmeli mobiles are made out of reeds or straw in Finland and Sweden. They hang them over their dining room table during the holidays, and believe that the larger the himmeli, the larger their rye crop will be in the coming year. 

The reeds or straws were made from a previous harvest, used to make something new to foreshadow the future.

Like the history of these pieces, I initially utilized a lot of the original shapes from traditional pieces, and have helped to create something more. Something new. New designs that have been brought into the modern world.

BB: What has been one of the biggest challenges for you in choosing to have a creative career, and how have you worked to overcome that?

SL: The biggest challenge, by far, has been to continue to evolve. To keep pushing myself to make something original.

Collective consciousness, being inspired by others, and incorporating traditional styles and techniques are all very real things. Taking all of that - or even trying to shut all of that noise out, and creating something original is where the magic is.

BB: Do you have any big dreams for your shop? Where do you hope to see yourself & your work 5-10 years from now? 

SL: For long term goals - it might be a bit abstract, but I think that I just want to be happy. Either doing this, designing and making Himmeli, traveling the world with my husband, owning an alpaca farm. Life is a process of continuous evolution. I am simply happy to see where life takes me.

BB: What does a typical work day look like for you? 

SL: First of all, I am a night owl, so I wake up between 8-10AM and start out by checking on all of my plants and air plants. The best time to water and care for them is early in the morning. It regulates their life cycle. Right now my husband and I are also growing mushrooms - so I like to ensure that the substrate is looking good.

Then it's off to work in my office. I begin by evaluating what has come in overnight. And I respond to messages, e-mails, quotes and custom requests for the first 2-5 hours of my day. I take breaks to post to social media, to respond to comments, DMs and PMs, drink about 3 cups of coffee, and have lunch.

The rest of the day is determined by what needs to be done. I have a few notebooks and planners that I utilize to keep me on track and to ensure that nothing is missed. Right now I use the Simpified Planner by Emily Ley, the planner by Craftsposure, a continuous to-do list by Bison Bookbinding, post its, and a bulletin board.

If I am scheduled to build, I then prepare all of the materials for what needs to be made that day, and build himmeli.

My husband and I love to cook, so each night we take the time to make dinner from scratch. It ensures that we have time that we are not only together, but that we are being mindful, focusing on what we are doing and spending time together to make something delicious. We had the most incredible Miner's lettuce salad last night. The recipe for the dressing was by Matt Dillon - and we're slowly making our way through Chrissy Teigan's cookbook "Cravings" and all of Fuchsia Dunlop's cookbooks.

And then after dinner, it's back to work. I'm fortunate to have my husband do my accounting for me - so each night he works on accounting, while I work on orders, or whatever is on my schedule.

He heads to bed around 1 or 2AM, I will continue working until around 2 or 3AM, and then I catch up on news and read in bed until around 4AM. Right now I am reading "Big Magic" by Elizabeth Gilbert. It's absolutely wonderful so far. 

And then it's rest, and repeat.

BB: You clearly have a love for air plants, why do you think that these plants make the perfect pair for your geometric creations?

SL: Air plants are one of the easiest plants to take care of. They add such a beautiful natural element to my geometric pieces. From the solid, straight minimal lines of my himmeli - they contrast so nicely with their bright coloring, free and wild leaves.

BB: Aside from himmeli, wall sconces, and mobiles, are there any creative side projects that you're working on?

SL: I have several collaborations in the works right now. I love working with other creatives, especially when their mediums are so different than mine. I have been fortunate enough to meet and get to know so many other artists both on-line and in person that I am happy to call my friends. Their artistry inspires me to look at my work differently.

Right now I have a beautiful and truly collaborative piece with Nalani of Knottybloom. We have woven together her modern macrame with my modern himmeli into a stunning and original piece called "Cascade". And with Kate of The Cobra Lily, this week I have released our limited run collaboration with her elegant and hyperreal paper peonies with an original himmeli bud vase. Bud Vase & Paper Peony.

Besides that, my husband and I have been learning to slip pour, wheel throw, and hand build pottery and ceramics for a few years now. I am teaching myself to weave whenever I make the time. And I just received a Melanie Abrantes Spoon Carving Kit for my birthday - which I am ridiculously thrilled about.

BB: If you could give one piece of realistic advice to anyone starting out in their own creative business, what would you say?

SL: Owning and starting a business is hard work. Incredibly difficult, time sucking, isolating, hard work. But if it's what you want to do then you should not wait for that "perfect" day when all of your ducks are in a row to start. Get in there, get messy, and make your dreams come true, because no one else is going to make them come true for you.

Find more of Sam's work here: 

Shop: Handmadesammade.com

Instagram: @handmadesammade

Facebook.com/HandmadeSammade

 

Makers to Know: Naomi Ernest

Naomi Ernest is an artist and photographer whose work is the perfect balance of delicate, intricate details and minimalistic composition. I'm thrilled to give her work the spotlight this week and learn more about her roots. 

BB: For those of us who are meeting you for the first time, can you tell us a bit about your background? How did you get started?

NE: When I was younger, creating was a core part of growing up. My parents were both artists-on-the-side, so my siblings and I would spend time painting roses with our mom, posing and cheesing for our dad’s camera, writing stories, starring in our own self-produced plays, building tree houses, and digging up clay from the field to make pottery. In high school, my work was entered in various inter-school art competitions, and I was voted class artist my senior year. Despite a childhood of creating, it never occurred to me that I could choose a creative career. I enrolled at the University of Michigan as a pre-med student.

Eventually I returned to what I really enjoy and graduated with a degree in English and Literature; writing will always be my first and everlasting love. After I married and started a family, any personal aspirations were put on hold while raising five young children. Still, all during that time, I continued to create, on my own and with my kids, just as my parents had done. After my children all began school, struggling to discern my path, I eventually began a middling portrait photography business, which gradually transitioned into acclaimed art photography. And finally, after almost a decade of searching, it suddenly and decidedly occurred to me that art was where I need to be, and I embraced it wholeheartedly.

BB: Your paintings are detailed, delicate, and geometric. What inspires you to be drawn to waves, galaxies, spheres, and birthstones?

NE: The essential element in all of my work is an overall simplicity of composition made up of myriad details. The inspiration for any one subject isn’t usually much of a revelation. My wave line drawings are inspired by Michigan’s Great Lakes... my birthstones began after learning about gems with my 4-year-old... my galaxies bloomed from my husband’s perpetual interest in space exploration. They all start as rather humble sketched thoughts, and I develop them until I feel I’ve mastered and exhausted a concept. Hint: I haven’t yet mastered and exhausted a concept; they continue to evolve. 

BB: When you begin a painting, what does your process look like? How long can a painting take to complete, and how do you decide that you're finished?  

NE: All of my work is very intuitive and process driven. I am ceaselessly inspired to try new textures or color combinations, to replicate various techniques with paints or inks, or to experiment with different tools. It is important to me to have a good, simple composition, but as I paint,I allow the details within the composition to reveal themselves, often surprising me with beautiful intricacies.

Deciding where to begin is often the most difficult task. Once I’ve begun, the success of a piece seems to pivot on how freely I allow myself to work. I often add additional elements like spot gilding or ink details, and deciding on those details sometimes requires letting a painted piece simmer quietly for weeks or even months. I know intuitively whether or not work is finished; some pieces look lovely enoughbut don’t feel finished, so I wait until I discover what’s missing. And then suddenly it’s done. I’ve found it’s so important to be patient with the process, to allow ideas to simmer until they’re ready.

BB: What has been a challenge that you’ve faced as you’ve established yourself as an artist, and how did you overcome that? 

NE: 2 things: First, it can be somewhat complicated to work in various mediums—painting, drawing, photography, writing—though I see connections in all my work, it can feel very scattered at times. Yet I remind myself each medium informs the others, and the more I work, the more cohesion I discover. For me, it’s good and necessary to have multiple projects, so if I need a break from one, I can turn my attention to something completely different. As I grow my art and business, I’m becoming less timid about sharing those other facets.

Second, I am not professionally trained and my background is erratic. Like other self-taught artists, I have had many feelings of self-doubt and insecurities about my work’s worth. Taming that self-fed monster? Just get over it. Trained or not, the value of the work comes when you put something of yourself into it. The really difficult thing is finding your voice, which is intrinsically a journey of self-discovery. But when it begins to speak authentically through your work, the value comes in sharing that bit of yourself with others. 

BB: Aside from painting and illustration, you're also a photographer of dreamy, blurred, organic images. How would you describe your style of photography and the meaning behind it?

NE: In all of my artwork, I experiment a lot. I learned so much from my portrait photography about creating properly exposed, tack-sharp images, so I began to stretch and test those standards. My impressionistic photographs area result of challenging the norms of photography—intentionally overexposing, blurring focus, using physical obstructions in the foreground of an image—creating nebulous compositions to address mood rather than subject, all with an overall simplicity. In this respect, I discover many parallels to my paintings. 

Find more of Naomi's work here:

Shop: www.naomiernest.com

Instagram @naomiernest

facebook.com/naomiernestphotography

 

Makers to Know: Ambivalently Yours

Ambivalently Yours is an anonymous feminist illustrator whose work is unapologetic, pink, and completely badass. I've admired her work for years and I'm beyond excited that I had the chance to interview her this week! 

 

For those of us who are meeting you for the first time, can you tell us a bit about your background? How did you get started?

I’m a feminist artist who works under the pseudonym Ambivalently Yours. I started this project in 2012, when I was studying feminist art and working in the fashion industry, which seemed like a huge contradiction at the time. At work, I was the feminist killjoy every time I raised a concern about the sexist undertones in our campaigns, and in art school I was the fashion girl who many assumed was duped by the patriarchy just because I liked cute clothes and girly colours. I felt caught somewhere in-between two worlds that I both loved and hated, in other words I felt ambivalent. I eventually decided to embrace my contradictions and Ambivalently Yours became my way of unapologetically exploring my feminist questions from this in-between place.

Your work is unapologetically feminine, pink, and confronts issues & stereotypes that women face today. What is the motivation behind your artwork? What inspired you to take a stance and speak out with your art?

My work is a result of the intersection of my personal experiences with my feminist education. In other words, once I learned more about feminism, I realized that a lot of my internalized pain and anxiety was caused by a larger political system that did not value me because of my gender. I started writing and drawing about my thoughts and experiences online, and eventually people on Tumblr started sharing their own stories with me, which I decided to respond to with drawings. I embrace all things feminine and pink in my work, because even though they are often dismissed as frivolous and weak in our society, the empathy they inspire can be effectively used to create social change. Furthermore, I strongly believe that women should not have to become more masculine in order to be taken seriously.

Why do you choose to remain anonymous?

My desire to remain anonymous online was initially motivated by fear. When Ibegan this project, I was mainly being critical of the fashion industry, which also employed me and gave me the wage I needed to live. I decided to make my work anonymous to ensure that my artistic work would not affect my ability to make a living. The Internet can also be a volatile place and my work is always inspired by personal experiences, so I found that the only way I could be honest without making myself too vulnerable was to be anonymous. In other words, my anonymity was a form of self-preservation, which in turn gave me courage to be more daring in my art. Later, I realized that my anonymity allowed for people to find themselves in the lack of specificity of my online persona. People often assume that I live in their country, or that I am their age or attribute me with any other form of similarity they are looking for. With this, Ambivalently Yours becomes less of a reflection of my personal self and more of a representation of the ideas behind the work. With anonymity I am exploring ideas of connection through ambiguity and ambivalence.

What has been a challenge that you’ve faced as you’ve established yourself as an artist, and how did you overcome that?

Being an artist is difficult. It requires long hours for little to no pay. People seem to love art but they hate paying for it, which makes it hard to make a living wage. I’ve also had to deal with a lot of plagiarism and copyright infringement, and the subsequent victim blaming where I’m told that it was my own fault for sharing my work on the Internet. There is also the constant unedited feedback from close-minded people and trolls about my work. I’ve had to learn to shield myself from the volatility of the Internet, to not read the comments, and to take everything with a grain of salt. The trick is to try to find a balance between the work and living a healthy life. I still struggle to find that balance, but I’m working on it.

If it weren't for art, what would you be doing? Could you see yourself pursuing any other career?

If there was some sort of career that revolved around binge watching TV shows designed for teenage girls, I think I would be really good at that.  Until then, I’ll stick to the whole art thing. It sounds so cheesy, but art is the only thing that makes me feel fulfilled and happy.

On your site, you encourage others to submit their ambivalence. How has the response been, and what do you hope to achieve by including people in this ongoing project?

When I created Ambivalently Yours I began making drawings inspired by my ambivalence and posting them on my Tumblr page. Eventually, people started responding to my work by writing personal messages to me online, to which I began answering with more drawings. While often people ask me for advice, I’m in no way qualified to tell people what to do, nor do I think I have all the answers. Instead, I try to offer alternative perspectives and reframe their questions by turning them into drawings. I knew I always wanted my work to have a collaborative aspect, which is why I put it on the Internet, but I never expected it to become so interactive. My ambivalent questions have become a sort of online conversation, based on empathy, feminist ideas and the celebration of contradictions.  My hope is that I can maintain this practice while also allowing it to grow and mutate into unexpected and exciting things.

Ambivalently Yours ❤ 

ambivalentlyyours.com

ambivalentlyyours.tumblr.com

twitter.com/AmbivalentlyYou

facebook.com/ambivalentlyyours

instagram.com/ambivalentlyyours

Makers to Know: Carve Out Time for Art with Marissa Huber & Heather Kirtland

Marissa & Heather have created something that art world desperately needs: a place for moms to connect, and share how they manage to balance art and motherhood. Carve Out Time for Art (COTFA) isn't exclusive to parents, it could be for anyone who is working a day job, or full time students - anyone who makes the effort to carve out a few minutes a day for creativity. COTFA deserves more attention than I could ever give it, and I'm so excited to have these two women on the blog today. 

Marissa Huber in her element

Marissa Huber in her element

BB: For those of us who are meeting you two for the first time, can you tell us a bit about your background? How did you get started in painting?

MH: I’ve been creative and have painted throughout my whole life. I never thought I excelled at one thing so I didn’t think I was an artist. Years later, older and less self-conscious, I realized everyone has fear and self-doubt, and I should probably get over myself if I ever wanted accomplish anything creatively. Against what most people would think, having my son in 2013 was the best thing that could happen for me artistically. Having a child put me into survival mode, especially since I worked outside of the home full time. I had to eliminate excess and streamline my life just to function at first (it got easier by the way). When I scrutinized my life, I realized how much I needed art– not for fun, but to feel whole, fulfilled and happy. That realization put art to the top of my priorities in terms of free-time, and I realized I must be an artist if it was that important. I also became more selfish with my precious art time and now use it to paint whatever I want, not what people ask me to paint. It is empowering.

HK: I grew up in a creative family, although neither of my parents were artists in the truest definition, they were both very hands on. They were always building, fixing, crafting etc. So I was encouraged from a young age to be creative.  I attended The Maryland Institute College of Art and a majored in painting.  Most of my undergraduate work was figurative oil paintings.  My work started to change after studying abroad in Italy.  I began to create more abstract compositions.  For the most part I have been painting ever since.  There have been times in my life when it’s taken a back seat, but not for long.  

Heather Kirtland, glowing with joy holding one of her paintings.

Heather Kirtland, glowing with joy holding one of her paintings.

BB: How did the two of you meet, and when did you decide that you should write this book and start Carve Out Time for Art?

MH: I met Heather where I meet everyone…Instagram! At the time, I was looking for more artist moms to interview. As I did with most artists, I scrolled down to see if she had kids, saw she did, and immediately reached out. When I read her interview, I stopped in my tracks when I read “I’d love to write a book on this topic of art and motherhood, maybe a collaboration Marissa?!” I had never told anyone, but in January 2015, I wrote down that I knew I was going to write a book for artist mothers one day. I just didn’t know how that would unfold. I believe that when you put yourself (and ideas) out there, that things start happening. Especially if you’re ready. I’m so glad Heather took this chance, because our book and our community are stronger because of this partnership. At the beginning of this process, it felt like a crazy idea yet we both believed in it so much. I didn’t even tell my family yet. But we are both so passionate about empowering other women, and we felt this was bigger than the both of us. It’s a calling. Also, it’s more crazy that more books are not already written on this topic. There are thousands of books on making art and crafts with your kids, but a mother wanting encouragement to work on her own creative dreams? You’ll have to search a lot harder.

HK: Funny story…. Someone I followed on Instagram did an interview with Marissa for Carve out Time for Art, and I was over the moon with excitement.  “Yes! I thought THIS is what I have been waiting for!!”  So I commented about my struggles and experience, and Marissa invited me to be interviewed.  When I was working on the responses I lit up.  I had been wanting to articulate this for so long, and as I got more experience as a mother I wanted to go back in time and tell myself “this is possible." Her final question was about goals or projects that I wanted to do.  It was the first time I ever typed the words for this dream I had to write a book.  A book that was a resource to mother artists. The book I wished was there when I was new at it.  Marissa had already been doing these amazing interviews, so I thought maybe she’d like to collaborate.  So I took a deep breath and typed it out.  That lead to a few emails and then a phone conversation.   Once we talked on the phone, we knew we’d be a good fit. We felt like we had the same vision and man it’s less scary when someone else is doing it with you.  I’m so happy to be working with Marissa.

Heather's kids getting in on the painting fun.

Heather's kids getting in on the painting fun.

BB: What has been the biggest challenge that you've faced during this project, and how have you worked to overcome that?

MH:  Nobody will be surprised to hear it’s time. But we both knew that when we committed to this project. In fact, we knew it would take away the most from our art time but it’s worth it. This is where being crazy and naïve to writing a book helps us! We don’t know any better. We hijack time where we can. I commute about 12 hours per week. That’s a lot of time that I can dictate to my phone and turn that into an email later, chat on the phone, or mull things over in my head for later. Being moms make us more flexible, focused, realistic, and decisive. We don’t worry about perfection, we just get the work done the best we can and fine tune things later.

HK: Carving out time, ironically.  Somehow we make it work with texts, emails, and phone calls during our commutes. I think it helps that we haven’t put too much stress on ourselves.  We know that it’s hard enough without beating ourselves up.  So although we are working hard, we aren’t pressuring ourselves with hard deadlines.  It’s a passion and a joy to work on this project and to be a part of such an awesome community of artists.  Whether they are stay-at-home mothers, hold a full time job other than their art, or just come by to find inspiration. 

Some of the conversations that happen on the COTFA instagram page. 

Some of the conversations that happen on the COTFA instagram page. 

BB: What does the process of writing a book look like? Has their been any part of the process that has surprised you? 

MH: My process is to google a lot, try not to overthink things, stay focused, and keep consistent with our overall vision. It’s hard to not want to cover everything, but that’s not what makes a good book. You need to keep it quite specific in order to truly explore at topic. Again, it’s prioritizing like with the free time. If we tried to cover everything, we’d only scratch the surface on a bunch of ideas. We’re going in with an excavator. I was surprised that it’s so hard to find books on artists who are mothers. There are books that touch on parts of what we are doing, and we’re hoping to bridge some of these bigger ideas.

HK:  Since Marissa and I haven’t met IRL yet, we brainstorm, and then Marissa is great at putting that into coherent content.  We write and send google documents back and forth.  The biggest things that have surprised me are how when we talk, so many more ideas and concepts are born out of a conversation.  The process is similar to creating visual art in that way.  For instance, the artist takeovers and new ideas for the blog and collaborations have come from book conversations.  We are so blown away by the community, and get daily inspiration from everyone involved.  We’ve got some cool things coming up!  I also consider the fact that we are making something happen that neither of us had even said out loud a year ago,  seems totally magical to me.  

BB: My favorite thing about Carve Out Time for Art is the great conversations that happen between artists. What have you learned from this growing community of creatives?

MH: We love these conversations! It happened so organically and I look forward to it each week. Seeing the passionate responses, vulnerability, honesty, and encouragement makes it clear that we have a special community. I see us as one branch of a larger interwoven community that inspires me daily and makes our efforts completely worth it. I’ve also learned that this group is a lot of fun and I want to visit everyone’s studios and paint with them one day.

HK: Oh my gosh!  Me too! I have been so inspired by this community.  I am humbled by their honesty and talent.  I am so grateful for their support and the advice that they share.  Marissa and I say we get “ALL CAPS” excited by things.  The followers and commenters truly make me ALL CAPS excited when I am scrolling through.  It is also inspiring to know that these smart, talented artist see the need for this book and are so supportive.

BB:  There is this long-standing belief in the art world that women have to choose between having a successful career as an artist and having children. Tracey Emin most recently stirred up the conversation by confidently stating, "There are good artists that have children. They are called men." How would you respond to this statement, and how do you find the balance between art & family life? 

MH: Oh, Tracey. My blood boiled at first when I read this statement, and then I read the specific article to understand it more before answering. I’ll go with Amy Poehler’s phrase of, “Good for her, not for me.” Here’s what I think. Tracey Emin grew up in the 60's which was entirely different than my experience. She stated that if she were to have been a mother, she is the type of person that would have had to be 100% mother or 100% artist. I respect her choice of pursuing what was most important to her. I think her comments and perspective are shaped from a specific era, art scene, and ideas of what it means to be an artist. When I view her comments, I see them through the lens of someone fighting their own battles of gender issues in art. A generation later, perhaps our battles and struggles are similar yet  different. I find it the most sad and feel sorry that she felt she had such a limited choice or thought that she did based on what she had seen of artist mothers. I’m sure many other female artists felt the same. Look at how artist women married to artist men were asked about “living in the shadows of greatness” such as Lee Krasner or Elaine de Kooning. Let’s be gracious and cut Tracey some slack, and hope that this comment is not the only one females hear when they’re wondering if they can still create art and raise a family.

Her comments go back to what the conversation always goes back to. What is art? What makes art good? What makes someone an artist? We’ll be having these conversations forever. There’s too much to write!

Me personally – I don’t have aspirations to be a famous artist or be featured in the MoMA. I don’t know if my work will ever be great, nor does it matter. We don’t all have to be the best, we just have to grow to the best of our abilities. To me, what matters is that I take the time to put my work into the world. I’m sharing my work with people I care about. I’m connecting with like-minded individuals who appreciate what I appreciate. Would I still be doing this if nobody were there to double tap on an IG photo or comment? Yes, I would. It makes me feel fulfilled to create and not just consume. It’s not for glory. It’s for the feeling I get when I am painting and time slips away. It’s for the feeling of peace and accomplishment that makes me feel fulfilled and a better version of myself.

In terms of balance? It’s a see-saw, not a balance as I’ve heard stated (I think by Joy Cho of Oh Joy). I can’t have it all. But I already have so much. I have a healthy family, I get to create, and I have a job that pays the bills. I’m very aware of struggles of people all over the world, and know how fortunate I am. The fact that my biggest struggle is having time to create is hard sometimes and I get cranky, but it’s in perspective. I do the best I can, cut myself slack, am kind to myself, and try to banish mom guilt and encourage others to also. That’s my balance!

HK: As far as the Tracey Emin statement, every time I read that article I have to talk myself down.  It hits a hot point with me, probably because this theory was an undercurrent during my college years.  It was a very male dominated painting department and this concept just seemed to be a given.  I didn’t see it affecting me, mostly because I wasn’t even thinking about children at that time in my life.  My head was down and I was painting.
 

What I think bothers me the most is that this is a successful woman artist who has the platform to be heard and she uses it to further this misconception.  She speaks to the discrepancy in the art world based on gender and then goes right into supporting the biggest reason it’s there.  Perhaps it is a true statement for her, if she left it at that I’d support her opinion.  For me, I feel that the experience of motherhood has pushed me to make better work.  

I feel like “balance” is a mythical concept that was made up to give us something else to attain.  In truth, there are moments of balance but they don’t last long.  I am truly learning as I go.  I find that I try to be fully devoted to the task at hand.  I schedule studio time, and even more importantly time to sketch, think and have mental space.  This allows me to focus on my family when I am with them.  Now it certainly isn’t a hard and fast rule.  There are times in my day that are pretty chaotic and I have to address the business side of my work immediately and that looks like me scrambling to type something one handed while my two-year-old uses crayon on my office desk, and my five-year-old is asking me a million questions.  I try to involve them in creating side by side with me (Great for the 5 year old, unintended collaborations happen with my two-year-old – not the good kind).  I also am constantly writing down ideas and sketches as they come to me, most inconveniently that usually happens the most while driving. Which leads to some pretty humorous talk-to-text notes.  I also have post it note ideas everywhere, as if I am some sort of mad inventor. Some days go better than others. 

questions to the community on COTFA's instagram page 

questions to the community on COTFA's instagram page 

BB:  Aside from painting and writing, are there any fun side projects that you’re working on? 

MH: Those are my fun projects, which makes me smile. Yes, I have always wanted to be fluent in Spanish. Living in South Florida again and working in Miami means I have so many opportunities to practice. I love the Spanish language and it’s so much fun to learn more. I’m also looking to do fun collaborations this year with creative friends. But I’m letting those happen slowly and organically so I don’t spread myself too thin. I’m crazy, but realistic!

HK: Our house is an on-going project and I would love to finish painting the molding and a few rooms in our house.  Oh wait, you said fun.  I am in the idea stages of curating an art show that brings some unique artist together.  I am also dreaming about collaborating with other creatives, possibly outside the art world on some ideas too. I am trying to stay open for whatever comes my way.

Thanks for reading! Keep up with Marissa & Heather and be sure to check out Carve Out Time for Art at the links below!

Marissa Huber: 

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Heather Kirtland

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