I have always known I was an artist. Ever since I could pick up a crayon I have been drawing. I have always seen the things around me in terms of their use in creating art; whether it was the rocks I picked up at the beach or the random bits of metal found while digging in the back yard.
There are things each of us just knows about ourselves, things we are drawn to with our heart. For me, being an artist is one of those things. Being an artist, to me, is about being creative. By that I mean, spending time creating. An artist is who you are: someone who creates.
For myself that has meant exploring many mediums and techniques before finding the mediums and techniques that I would hone and explore in greater depth. Before now, I have worked with clay and leather, made books by hand, practiced weaving and crochet, block printing, oil painting, watercolors, and pen and ink. I have done sewing and basket-weaving, gemstone carving, metalsmithing, and mixed media sculpture. Even my non-artistic interests are rooted in creating: gardening, cooking, and home improvements.
OK, step back a moment – I also had another interest while I was in high school – computers. I had learned computer skills and some programming before most people had a computer at home. Bought a modem and connected it to our PCjr. Found friends in the world of local bulletin board networks. Later, while minimally employed, got into computer graphics and bought an Amiga computer, which I used to teach myself 3D modeling and rendering.
When I decided to make a serious attempt at university (after having failed quite miserably right after high school), I knew that I wanted to pursue an arts career. Having grown up making art, I couldn’t see any other option as personally rewarding. But I had also grown up with a mother who was an artist, and who never made a living as an artist, and learned subconsciously that there was no such thing as a career as a fine artist, unless you came from a wealthy family.
So, with my existing computer knowledge and plans to earn a practical living, I studied art and focused on graphic design and computer graphics – at a time when computer programs for graphic design were still new, and businesses had the idea that they didn’t need a graphic designer, all they needed was a computer program.
I learned HTML while the internet was in its infancy and had built a few personal websites before 1996. I remember being asked to build an online store that year, and as I watched the pages for products they wanted on their website spewing out of the fax machine, I realized this was a bit bigger project than I’d hoped for – in 1996, there were no content management systems, and websites were all made from scratch – including any updates or changes.
A couple years later, I graduated and started working. Managed to make an OK living as a graphic designer. And I kept doing some art: drawing and painting, mostly. Had a small stint where I was laid off from a job and tried making a living as a freelance illustrator for a few months. I kept thinking about how I wished I could have majored in Metalsmithing.
I’d taken some metalsmithing/jewelry making classes at the community college in the early 90’s and really enjoyed it. Took the basic classes and then a term of independent study. I was also able to take some metalsmithing while I was in my last year at the U of O.
My boyfriend bought me a torch. That was the start of my metal studio. I still have it – it’s a great torch. A Smith air-acetylene that runs off a “B” tank. That was, I think, about 2002? Since then I’ve continued to make and sell metalwork and jewelry. At least up until the last couple years. I loved doing it and as much as I wanted to, I couldn’t make the transition to full time metal artist.
Then I had a rough year in 2016. I was starting to have a lot of joint pain, especially at night. I was tired a lot. I was having migraines. Strange autoimmune rashes. Life felt pretty unpredictable and I stopped selling my work; I needed to take time out.
Since that year, I’ve been able to get some of my health issues under control. I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism around 2005 and was never really given much information at the time, other than I needed to start taking thyroid hormone replacement daily. I think some of my recent health issues may have been related to my thyroid disorder, but I think as well that I am prone to autoimmune issues. My joint pain is likely a rheumatoid-type arthritis; my migranes are likely due to hormonal fluctuations. Since taking daily anti-inflammatory drugs and keeping triptans on hand for migranes, I’ve been able to take control of my life a little.
This year, the year of Covid-19, has been a year of thinking and reflection. One thing that has shifted for me is how I see myself as an artist. To be able to work across disciplines and mediums and translate my ideas in many forms; to be an artist who uses mediums as language and is able to share ideas through all forms. To recognize and pull together all my skills, as an illustrator, designer, metalsmith and digital artist, so that they intertwine, and reflect who I am, as an artist.