Tell us about yourself.
I grew up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where I quickly learned that the seasons merge from somewhat warm into chilly cold. I spent a lot of time outside, gathering natural things and building small forts. I was very interested in collecting insects and trying to save small wounded animals from the menacing jaws of our house cats. When I got older, I became interested in making art as a profession, but never really thought that I needed to decide on one specific thing. Now, as an adult, I make art to show or sell. I work multiple jobs and enjoy the variety as it allows me to maintain a decent amount of time to create.
How would you describe your work?
Many hands come together to create the art objects that I create and a few of those hands are actually squirrels’ hands. They came in on round two, when I needed an extra finger to hold down the middle of the bow and they never left.
Who or what has been the biggest single influence on your way of thinking?
I suppose the way I was raised helped to influence the way I currently think. My parents never told me to decide who I was going to be or what I wanted to do when I grew up. I never really wanted to decide anything, I just felt the things I felt for reasons I can't really explain other than instinct. I think a lot about animals living in a world like ours, jobs, spouses, kids, pets. I think many people I encountered that 'shaped me' enjoyed the goofy things I thought up, so this is who I have become, a sort of chattering squirrel wearing a dress and a golden locket.
Do you have a piece of work which stands out in your mind as something you are exceptionally proud of or that is particularly important to you?
One piece I made when I was in college stands out. I like to keep works that I have made in smallish boxes inside of a larger box for safe keeping. I go through these boxes every once in a while when I clean or rearrange my studio space. The piece I am thinking about now is a brooch. It was made to look like a very small hot air balloon. The balloon is made of stitched fabrics and my hair threaded among the stitches. The basket is made of a foraged nut that I cut on the medial line to expose a flattened section. It has a beautiful inner structure that is a natural space to hold something safe.
What new projects do you have on the horizon?
Well, I always have a project up my sleeve, or as I like to think, on reserve, tucked away in my hamster cheeks. I have been working on a children's book for a few years now. I am writing the story and illustrating the pages with fine lines and watercolor. This is something I think about all the time -- writing little stories that make some sense and some non-sense. Currently, I am continuing to soldier on with my new business, Opal Stone Jewelry & Fine Art, making affordable quality jewelry that align with my fine art concepts.
What do you want others outside of the creative workforce to understand about careers within the arts? How can communities, specifically Grand Rapids, better support the creative workforce?
Creatives are sensitive creatures. I feel bad when I work a non-creative job, and a I feel bad when I give up the non-creative job to be creative. Even though I enjoy making art, it's been a slow and often dreary path of ups and downs. At the end of the day, it all comes down to everyone as a whole, not just one place or one person, and what we can do to lead more meaningful, stress free lives together.
What are you passionate about besides your work?
Many of my non-art based passions revolve around animals and nature. I enjoy long walks with my best friend Violet (my dog). I like to think that she is the explorer and I am just a passenger on her mission to find lost scents. Film is a pretty big part of my life and I always wanted to be an actor or a costume designer. I day dream quite a bit -- mostly about animals talking and people turning into claymation chickens and going about their day-to-day business. Of course, bowling and shooting pool are other great pass times when you need to kick back. I can see it now, a bowling league of talking chickens in matching club shirts and specialized bowling shoes...
What’s the best piece of advice you have heard and repeat to others?
One day my sister told me that she likes to mention the following quote while in an interview-type setting, “If you have time to lean, you have time to clean.” I don't know where she heard this, but I'm happy she shared it with me.