I have always said that childhood holds more truths than we credit it for. My earliest memories involve myself playing in the woods and collecting things—I would take my gathered treasures and build forts with the large pieces of wood, bark and discarded pieces of furniture we had found at the dump (yes, I said the dump), while saving the little, “super special” bits to bring home in my pockets or place in my treasure box. Then, while in my basement “studio,” with the help of glue, yarn and paint, I would create collages from moss or build creatures, such as mermaids (with bark tails) and unicorns (with twig legs). When I moved from the Alaskan woods to the cornfields of Minnesota, I started making miniature worlds out of cardboard. I loved feeling like I could transform cardboard into something that truly felt magical.
My parents lived fairly inventive lives. We had an outhouse and no electricity until I was ten, and a greenhouse to grow our own vegetables despite the short Alaskan summers—we lived off the land and felt incredibly connected to the world around us. My parents encouraged the creative process, and art projects were always happening at our home. I was brought up to believe we all start out as creators, and I knew that I had to keep being one. Fast forward and skip a lot of “deets”! In 2005, as a young mother of two, I found myself at a crossroads. I had married very young, and it was a devastating reality to accept that my marriage had failed. For all intents and purposes, I had been raised to be a good wife and mother, and it was incredibly difficult to overcome the emotional stress of disappointing my family. With no real way to support myself, however, necessity beckoned me to pick myself up by my bootstraps, so I opened my own business. I had spent years at art markets selling paintings and fulfilling commissioned pieces and had launched my own card line, but it was time to do more.
I had started a business plan years prior and watched my parents run a cafe in our small Alaskan town, which caused me to fall in love with community and service. That desire, coupled with my own passions for art and beauty and a wish to share small bits of joy with others, led me to open Apotheca Flowers—a flower shop, art gallery, and cafe. Our New England town was incredibly supportive, and we have grown every year; however, pouring so much into building a creative business, it became a challenge to create for creation’s sake and to keep that inner artist fed. I was and am blessed to work every day in an art-driven business whose mission it is to share kindness and inspire others, but I have learned that even though I love my creative JOB, it is different than my heart-work. The heart-work is from the depths—it is a soulful exploration turned offering, rather than a fulfilled request. I would steal time as I could—collecting treasures and nourishing myself through other artists, and learning about processes I was dying to explore until I could find time to devote to my “selfish art”. Finally, I delved into working with wax. I learned what I could about encaustics and started to develop my own process. It’s a medium that allows me to take |all of my loves—drawing, painting, texture, and found objects, and let them grow together in one place.
“Don’t wait for inspired moments—make creating a part of your list of necessities.”
I remember selling one piece titled “Under the Apricot Tree”. I had stayed up all night working on her and honestly had not expected her to sell, but shortly after the show began, a woman asked me how much—I stated a price several hundred dollars above what I had sold anything for up to that point. She said, “Ok, can I show my husband?” I told her, “Of course.” A few minutes later, she came back and said excitedly, “We’ll take her!” I literally started to cry— and not happy tears!! While I knew I should be excited, I wasn’t quite ready to say goodbye. The woman purchasing my piece was incredibly understanding, hugged me and reassured me that she was going to a good home. This is what artists do—we release parts of ourselves into the world. What a gift it is to have it received.
In leading a creative life, I greatly hope it inspires our children to do the same. I want them to take risks, to say “no” to what is more and “yes” to what is truly fulfilling. We are born to create, and to enrich the lives of others—nothing makes me happier to see my children doing what comes naturally.
My own sacred place for creativity has been, at times in my adult life, simply a tiny hole in the basement, a small tabletop in an old mill that we used to live in, or a board laid on a bed in the spare room. My studio now is an incredibly special space for me that is set apart. Now “she” occupies four walls, has a sliding door that we repurposed and has windows overlooking our backyard. It’s been a priority for me to always have something physical that says, “Hey! I’m important in your life! I am important enough to occupy space, and I am important enough to occupy time.” Even when I can’t spend as much time in my studio as I would like, I know “she’s” there—patiently, noisily waiting for me to give and glean some of the best parts of myself. Just like Rilke talks about—for artists of any kind we know that in the depths of ourselves we must create. Or in modern lingo, “Makers Gonna Make!”
I love the Nietzsche quote that states that “One must have chaos within one’s self to give birth to a dancing star.” This has become a bit of an affirmation for me—I tend to jump headfirst into things and am so taken by whatever I am creating that I can be a little blind to everything else. My mom used to tease me about the disasters I would conjure in my creative wake. Years later, my grandma said, “I think it can be a strength to have such intense focus and passion for what you are working on so that you see nothing else.” Between Nietzsche, grandma, and Google Calendar (which helps me not forget appointments), I’ve finally learned to accept myself … well, almost.