New Mexico Artist Christy Schwathe

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Today I’m pleased to introduce artist Christy Schwathe from New Mexico. Her work and story inspires me, and I hope it will inspire you as well!

Can you tell me a little about your background and interests? What’s life like in New Mexico?

I grew up living on the second story of an old house, in a small town in Colorado, where my parents ran a restaurant on the first floor surrounded by vegetable and flower gardens. It was an interesting and busy childhood with days filled with different people and projects and nights falling asleep with the muffled sounds of silverware clattering and delicious smells drifting upstairs. Besides being influenced by the hard work and creativity of my parents, I surrounded myself with artists, both in my family and the community. I figured out early that the restaurant business was way too much work and making art sounded way more fun. Eventually, I ended up earning my degree in art at UNM in Albuquerque, NM, falling in love with printmaking and focusing on that as well as drawing. In the years since school, I’ve worn many hats, all of them creative. I’ve spent time working in art supply stores, printing clothing and t shirts, managing a small open press and for a while I had a small business sewing bags and accessories out of recycled materials before coming back to making my art full time.

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When I found my way to New Mexico, it instantly just felt like home, and I’ve been in the state ever since. New Mexico is a unique place, perhaps a bit rough around the edges but filled with the traditions and histories of many different cultures that make this financially poor place feel so rich in other aspects. There is an inherent creativity here, mostly brought about by necessity, that seems to magically turn everyone into an artist of some sort. Beyond the cultural richness, the creativity, the sunshine and the natural beauty of the place the thing that always made it feel like home to me is how friendly people are here. New Mexico is the kind of place where strangers will not only say hello to you, but will end up sharing their life story with you while you pass the time waiting in line somewhere. Having gotten so used to this friendly, laid-back style, I’m not sure if I could ever get used to being anywhere else.

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For the time being, I am living in the tiny village of Costilla, north of Taos with my partner, Bradley Sleep, also an artist and a silversmith, and a handful of cats. Here, you are more likely to hear Spanish being spoken than English and humans are far outnumbered by the elk, coyote and rattlesnakes, inhabited homes outnumbered by long abandoned, adobe structures slowly melting back into the earth. It is a bit lonely and harsh around here, despite being beautiful, which I find alternately frustrating and inspiring. When I’m not working in my little studio, I stay busy with my other obsessions, sewing, knitting, small scale farming, and cooking (oh how I miss the convenience of take out). And when we find rare moments of time to do something else, Bradley and I head out into the valley to explore and do a bit of rock hounding or up into the mountains for some hiking or camping.

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Many of your pieces combine the female figure or portrait with elements from nature, or are devoid of any context and are simply a portrait. What kind of inspiration do you draw on when creating these?

I’ve always been drawn to the human form as a means of communicating emotion and I tend to gravitate towards female subjects simply because, being female myself, I relate more strongly to them. The inspiration for my subject matter comes directly from my own life, living in a solitary space and surrounded by almost nothing but nature. I think the solitary nature of many of my pieces also speaks to what I see as a trend of people feeling more alone and isolated in our current society. It seems to me that most of us suffer from feeling disconnected, from each other and from nature, and so my own personal experience relates more abstractly to humanity as a whole. I also draw on the sense of strength and independence I see in the people of this area, where people dig their heels in, work hard against the elements and adversity and emerge even stronger on the other side.

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What’s the process like of creating one of your mixed media works? How did you develop such a unique style?

My mixed media pieces seem to surface from the refuse of my life. I have an annoying habit of not wanting to throw anything away and tend to keep and collect little scraps of paper, fabric, xeroxed copies of found things, old books, words and sentences cut from magazines, anything that interests me visually, conceptually or texturally. Seeking inspiration, I’ll start dumping all these bits and pieces out, fumbling through them until I find something I feel I have to use and starting with piecing together a background of sorts. Often, I am wondering what would this or that look like mixed with this or that and maybe with this on top, so I try it and see where it goes. For example, with my ransom poem paintings, I start with a background, then work on painting an image (typically a figure or portrait) on top and end with piecing together the poem, seeking words and phrases that reinforce the emotion I’m hoping to convey while at the same time keeping it all somewhat cryptic, I never want it to lose all sense of mystery.

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My style tends to shift around a bit as I grow and learn as an artist, and I quickly get bored with doing the same thing over and over. I think my style stays unique through it all because that’s just the way it comes out, that’s just the way my hands and my eyes and my brain communicate with one another. There are an infinite number of things to draw and paint and an infinite number of ways to draw or paint them, but no matter how I approach a piece and expect it to turn out it always seems to come out looking like something I made, even when my original intentions are quite different than the finished art.

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How has business been on Etsy so far? Do you have any goals for the business or any upcoming projects that you’re working on?

Sales through my Etsy store seem to come in waves, I’ll have good months and bad months and it provides a supplemental income for me that adds to my sales through my local gallery in Taos, Taos Artisan’s Gallery, and direct sales of my art. Being able to have an online store through Etsy has really allowed me to reach out, from my little isolated chunk of the planet, to the rest of the world and share and sell my art to people who never would have seen it otherwise, so priceless for those of us living in rural areas.

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The latest addition to my little business was the purchase of a really nice printer and a fancy schmancy camera which, after learning how to use both of them, have allowed me to make high quality, archival prints from my originals. These days, I’ve been working on a lot of time consuming, original oil paintings that I sell through my gallery. I love investing so much in each piece, but I realize that it often puts them in a price range that is unattainable for many people. The fact that I can now make prints to order at affordable prices makes me feel like more people can get their hands on my art and I’ve been working on adding more and more prints to my store.

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My long and short term goals are pretty simple and pretty much the same… every single day I get to keep working on my art is a small success!

Make sure to like Christy’s Facebook page and check her out on Etsy!

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Handmade Eco-Friendly Brooches from Dariakash

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Good morning everyone! Today’s artist interview is between myself and Dariaka from the Etsy shop DariakashDariaka’s shop is based in Prague, Czech Republic, and she loves to create fun, eco-friendly brooches from recycled material.

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How did you become inspired to make your mixed media and paper mache brooches?

All my life I’ve always loved to sew, glue, cut, and invent new things. I always liked to embody my ideas in something created by my hands. As a child I sewed clothes for dolls, and invented houses and furniture for them. Then I began to sew for myself, to alter my mother’s old clothes or stuff I bought from a second hand shop. I loved to make original accessories for myself – earrings, necklaces, rings, but most of all I loved to make brooches. My friends wondered why I would make such interesting things for myself and not sell them, but I did not even think it was possible. I had another profession at the time – I was a sound engineer and always had a lot of work, and never time for anything else.

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Despite lack of time,  I always dreamed that my accessories would be worn by other people. Finally one day I met someone in the street that wanted one of my brooches. I clearly realized that I must change my life and do what I wanted to realize my dreams. It was then that I went to another country, began to paint, changed my profession (now I study film animation) and began to make brooches.

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Why mixed media? Because I have always loved trifles – beads, buttons, badges, pieces of fabric … As a child I brought whole pockets, wrappers, pins, stones, most of which I found on the street. Now I am always out at flea markets. I’ve got the idea to connect all these little things in my brooches. A perfect base for me is paper mache, because it seems to me alive, in contrast with plastic. At the same time this technique is very affordable if you compare it with something like ceramics, which requires a roasting oven.

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What kinds of materials inspire you the most? What kinds of materials inspire you the most?

I am most inspired by paper and paper mache, which gives me a kind of artistic freedom that I love. I can make beauty from nothing – there is always an empty egg box, from which I make sculpting bases for brooches- there are always old newspapers or magazines, with which I can paint on or make collages on brooches with.

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What kind of process do you go through in order to create one of your brooches?

For me it’s important to just sit down at the table and start working. To begin to sculpt, to spread out all the scraps I have, to put all the beads in front of me, to open magazines, to start to cut eyes, boots, hands – and then the ideas come – all the pieces begin to connect. Even when I have a concrete idea and I clearly imagine the brooch I want to make, thought the process it always becomes something else because suddenly I see a button that I like, or paints will mix to another color, and then I’ll choose another fabric, and decide that the bird will not have jeans but a shirt.
I do not believe in waiting for inspiration, to me it never came just spontaneously. I am confident that I must work and always look for inspiration, and then only through the process are my ideas born.

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Can you talk a little bit about the eco-friendly aspect of your brooches?

Once long ago I watched a documentary about how our planet is already overcrowded by garbage, which influenced me very much. After that I did not hurry to throw out old stuff. If I did not like my jeans anymore, I would alter them into a skirt – if a chair was broken, I would made a shelf from it. So it is with my brooches – I just don’t throw out the old buttons and beads, magazines and newspapers, the remains of fabric after reworking a dress. With these materials I make a completely new and different thing that brings me joy – a new brooch.

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I also try not use any chemical additives when working. Paper pulp, from which I make the basis for my brooches, consists of egg boxes, wheat flour, potato starch and water – that is all! I also use a non-toxic glue and paint. I had the idea to combine the stained glass technique with paper mache, but because of the presence of lead in solder and toxicity of pastes for soldering I abandoned the idea.
Of course what I do is but a drop in the ocean, but I believe that every little bit helps.

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Make sure to visit Dariakash on Etsy and follow her below!

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Minimal Wood Sculptures by Artist Paul Foeckler

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Artist Paul Foeckler has been kind enough to interview with me! The work in his shop, Split Grain, is refreshingly minimal and unique. Please give his shop and website a visit!

 I love your light sculptures, there’s something so beautiful, unique, and modern about seeing light coming through a piece of sculpted wood. What are your main inspirations and philosophies behind creating these sculptures, and what would you as an artist like communities around the world to know about you and your work?  

Thank you for your kind words. Split Grain is allowing me to explore the hidden beauty in nature in a way that has contemporary design appeal – which I hope helps people notice nature’s subtle beauty more and incorporate it into their modern lives and interior spaces. The project began one day when I was putting an ordinary piece of firewood into the fireplace and thought it too beautiful to burn. The shape the piece took on after splitting it intrigued me but when I started sawing and experimenting with it I found the cross sections revealed incredible shapes that would otherwise go unnoticed. The repetition of slicing the pieces helped to accentuate these hidden details. I started by suspending the pieces from steel armatures and soon discovered how light could accentuate the forms even more and add a whole new dimension. The works are minimal, formal and a bit architectural which mimics a tree’s natural form as well. I hope my pieces help bring nature into people’s contemporary lifestyles and surroundings as well as remind them of the amazing presence of trees.

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You mention on your Etsy shop page that you have been featured in different blogs and magazines, a couple magazines being California Home & Design and Arts Illustrated. What different responses to your work and philosophies have you received from this exposure? 

Most of the exposure I have been fortunate to receive has been with art & design-focused media. I have appreciated the exposure on many blogs but the one that created the most impact for me was This Is Colossal. Chris featured my work very shortly after I launched it and his feature created a real jumping off point. The CAH&D magazine project was interesting as they commissioned artists to do California-centric versions of their work. They approached me and wanted one of my sculptures in the shape of the state of California. At first, I thought it was the worst idea and completely gimmicky but after talking with the editor and seeing previous examples it turned out to be an interesting challenge. Like any creative project, sometimes limitations are good. I’ve been very fortunate as most of the responses I have received comment upon how they have never seen anything like my work before which motivates me to do and explore more.

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This Slice sculpture reveals fascinating contours and amazing growth patterns of a piece of reclaimed California Coastal Monterey Cypress. Details of the outer form and inner grain are thoughtfully exposed. Intriguing from any angle, these diminutive specimens elegantly reveal the wood’s splendid interior rings and odd exterior landscape which occurs from my random splitting technique.

Can you talk a little bit about the reclaimed wood that you use in your pieces?  

All of the wood that I use is reclaimed and I have to say foraging for it is fun but definitely a lot of work.
My favorite wood to work with is California Coastal Monterey Cypress. I used to spend a lot of time on the coast of northern CA at a place called The Sea Ranch. There are hedgerows of Cypress trees there to break the wind from the ocean. Their lives are often ended abruptly in storms. The firewood I thought too beautiful to burn was from one of those Cypress trees. It is a beautiful semi-hard wood that is not considered good for lumber so I am able to reclaim it for sculptures when trees are taken down.
Most recently I found some amazing Incense Cedar from the Angeles National Forrest in Los Angeles where I live now. Forest fires in 2009 destroyed a large portion of that forest but at 5,000 feet elevation there were large cedar trees that were scorched and died standing up. Their bark charred but completely protected and dried the core wood inside. The Cedar has a light aroma to it and has a beautiful grain which gets emphasized when lit in my light sculptures.

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Are you currently working on or planning any new projects?  

What’s consuming my time and energy right now is scaling sculptures up to larger sizes. I have been working on commissions for larger pieces that have been a lot of fun but a lot more challenging. On the horizon I hope to have another project that attempts to reveal nature’s hidden beauty in a different way. I have a feeling it will have to do with motion.

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My Splay sculptures capture the dramatic variations in form that can occur between the top and bottom of a piece of California Coastal Monterey Cypress. I look for pieces that have dramatically different shapes as they begin and end and I reserve them for these sculptures. Each tier is a deconstruction of an entire piece of wood however when viewed from the ends the piece seems to magically reassemble itself. The progression of exterior shape and interior growth rings can be viewed individually and as a singular whole.

Thank you so much for stopping by, please like and share and make sure to visit Paul in his online Etsy shop!

Interview with Artist Bart Schouteten

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Your work is a combination of typography and digital collage, with themes of pop culture and surrealism. Can you talk a little bit about where your inspirations to create this work stems from?

It might sound dull, but I get my inspiration mainly from life itself. With music as my main catalyst during the process of my work. I love working intuitively. Most of the time I already have a theme or subject in my head. Then I choose the type of music which has to represent the atmosphere of the work. During the process the work sort of creates itself. Also my children are a big inspiration to me. Their minds and visions are still so pure. I love the way they can still be amazed by the little things in life which we adults take for granted. Picasso once said: “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” I try to keep this in mind every time I start working on something.

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Can you tell me about the Artbook of “visual lyrics” that many of your portfolio works are a part of?

This project is actually an idea for the future. With that I mean, I don’t know when it will be finished. Like I said before, music is a big inspiration to me. So my plan is to keep creating these lyrical artworks until I have enough to make a book out of it and hopefully get it published somewhere. That would be the ultimate goal! Right now I am busy on my sixth lyrical artwork. So I have a long way ahead of me. The one I am working on right now is based on the phrase “We all feed on Tragedy” from the song Vicarious by Tool.

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Is all of your work done digitally or do you play around and enjoy other mediums as well?

Well actually, most of my work is done traditionally and eventually ends digital. Most of the time I start sketching, painting, drawing, collaging etc. Then I scan all the elements with my flatbed scanner and continue the process in Photoshop. During the digital process I sometimes even print the result to add some more traditional techniques and scan it in again. Just until I get the result the project asks for at that moment. Some techniques are simply hard to achieve digitally.

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So you ask me if I enjoy other mediums as well? Hell yeah! The more mediums and materials the better. Having no limitation as a limitation! Without having any boundaries or restrictions I keep the process of creating fun and exciting for myself.

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What have been some of your favorite exhibitions in the past that you have been a part of? 

There are a few, but the most favorite one was at the Barcelona Art Fair. An exhibition with artists all over the world at Casa Batlló in Barcelona. Also known as the Gaudi House. Not only was it nice to exhibit in such a beautiful city and meet many different kinds of artists… but how fun is it to say that you once exhibited in the House of Gaudi!

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Do you have any favorite artists?

Besides my own children I have always been a big fan of Dave McKean, especially his comics and Graphic Novels. Also Kurt Schwitters, Mark Rothko, Jheronimus Bosch, Henrik Drescher, Sigmund Polke, Karel Appel and Miro are all artists I really admire.

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You can also find Bart here: 

www.eyekitchen.com

bartschouteten.tumblr.com

twitter.com/BartSchouteten

cikalong.deviantart.com

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