Sometimes, mindless internet browswing, jumping from link to link for hour after hour, turns into a gold strike. That's exactly what happened when I inadvertantly stumbled on Brooke Schmidt's Flickr stream a couple of months ago. Her amazingly fresh perspective on crafting, exploring nature, and making a home practically knocked the wind out of me. I hope you enjoy this interview with her as much as I did.
Q: What artistic mediums most inspire you?
I spend a lot of time when I'm outdoors picking things up ~ birds' eggshells, pieces of wasp nest paper, feathers, mica, sea glass, rocks with holes in them, shed snake skins and unusual seed pods. The textures, details and colors are so intriguing, and the symbolism that they can hold can be very inspiring. Some of them are direct results of metamorphosis, and all of them are exquisitely formed.
My work tends to mirror these kinds of textures ~ I often dip paper in beeswax and then draw into or sew onto that. Velvet, all sorts of natural fabrics (the thrift shop is a great place to look for fabrics: I look in the clothes section for silks to cut up), and wood are all enticing as well. Beautiful old cloth-covered hardbacks are the base for my altered books, and I hand-sew on linen, which has a nice heft. When I explore a material I try using it in many different ways ~ my desk is such a mess, which helps because when everything gets jumbled up I can see connections I might not otherwise think of.
Q: How did you first begin making art, and where do you see yourself going?
As a child I was powerfully affected when I saw special plants or animals in the wild, as if they were talismans or something magical ~ kind of how you feel when you find a 20-dollar bill on the sidewalk; that shock of pleasure. I drew and wrote a lot, took art classes, finally going to college two years after high school and ending up with a BFA in painting. This took me 7 years to get because I followed a very roundabout manner, taking a lot of classes that didn't go towards my art degree, and pausing to travel. Art-making and creativity to me wasn't limited to technical critiques and skills but embraced many topics and most cultural and natural events. I still follow this way. The more we take in and absorb, the more we have to say: the bigger our inner reservoirs become, the more deeply we learn our own personal language of expression.
"Art-making, for me, feels essential."
I love making things, writing and taking photographs. It isn't always fun or comfortable, especially when ideas drive to come to birth, or I'm running dry and I don't want to be dry. Overall, though, I feel satisfied and deeply complete in a way which no other experience has ever given.
What I most hope for the future is to remain interested and able to make things. My work has become more and more inspired by and linked to nature, and this may be a lifelong pursuit I'm happy to follow. I think I'm better at what I do in the studio when I'm also having fun in other creative areas, like cooking, reading (I looove reading ~ have any recommendations?), gardening, and catching up on great conversations with friends. Living life roundly and richly is what I think many of us aspire to. I feel happy and privileged to be here, doing what I'm doing.
Q: Do you worry about your artistic process taking over your home, or do you just roll with those artsy messes?
I am fortunate to have a studio in our extra bedroom with a big wooden table and lots of bookshelves and trays holding projects. I can't stand a dirty mess, (like when I find mold in a teacup) but there is always an overwhelming encroachment of materials ~ piles of embroidery floss, loose feathers, lots of cut-out words from books for my poems, and the like. I keep a big cardboard box for paper recycling right next to my desk, and on my other side is the trash can, so I try to clean up things as I go. At the end of the day or whenever I stop working, I try to tidy up but not too much ~ I want to come back to my desk and be able to jump right in.
The basic pattern of my work cycle generally goes as follows:
- I have a lovely clean desk to sit at happily with a project.
- I have an epiphany for another project; I begin that immediately too.
- I begin or continue art-making until I have to move onto the floor (putting baby gate up in the door so the dogs can't trample anything)
- This continues until I have to hop through my studio from empty spot to empty spot on the rug. True.
- I start working on trays downstairs, avoiding the studio altogether, until...
- I can't stand it and spend a confused couple of days trying to bring order into the studio.
- Once this is done, I sit happily down at my spacious desk with a project...
Q: What is the most unexpected place you have found inspiration?
My kitchen: I've actually used a lot of cereal boxes in my work. It's free and on-hand when I think of a project I must do at an inappropriately late hour. The cardboard is very flexible and fun to work with. This piece is made using cereal boxes.
Thank you, Brooke, for your inspiring words and for sharing your artistic life with us! Readers, if you like what you see here, be sure to check out the goldmine that is Brooke's blog and Flickr stream. Added bonus? Brooke has an Etsy shop, so you can take her artwork home.