As far back as I can remember, creating art has been an intricate part of my life journey. In fact, it’s downright necessary for my mental health. I feel most alive and connected with myself when I’m elbow deep in a project, and I definitely notice the effects when it’s been too long since I’ve gotten my hands dirty creatively. Whether it’s designing a mosaic, collaging, painting, experimenting with mixed media, or hand-making someone a super cool gift, I love being in the zone.
I distinctly remember starting this mosaic on my birthday years ago following a senseless mass shooting that left me with a heavy heart.
Since today is National Live Creative Day, Lauren and I decided to share some of our personal creative endeavors with you and talk a little about how creativity outside of work is important to both of us. This particular annual holiday was initiated in 2016 by the company Creative Promotional Products to encourage people to openly display to the world how they feed their creative beast, so feel free to show us whatcha got!
There are 1,394 handcut squares in this one – yep, I counted ‘em!
I’ve chosen glass mosaics as the medium to passionately prattle about today. I’ve been breaking glass for six or seven years now, although I’ll admit that I haven’t been doing it as much as I’d like lately (I’m in the midst of stage managing for a production of Little Shop of Horrors, which I also co-directed). The thing about mosaics (like live theatre shows) is that they are a labor of love, especially because I prefer to use full-sized reclaimed windows as my canvas – though I’ve been known to down scale, as well.
My sister’s cutie kitchen window showcasing a smaller piece I made her!
I remember the first mosaic I ever worked on (an homage to my Piscean nature) and how infused with joy I was with each glass bit I laid down. Watching it unfold was a sensational, arousing experience, and I couldn’t wait to get back to it. There was a magic about all of these parts and pieces fitting together to form something greater, something whole, something aesthetically pleasing and completely cathartic. I was hooked.
The origin mosaic that started it all...
Since this is a hobby and not the bacon maker that pays the bills, I tend to only have small pockets of time to work on a piece – unless I get completely consumed, which has happened before. Sometimes I have an idea in mind for the mosaic, and sometimes I just feel like playing and letting the glass guide me. For a few recent ones, I used scrap glass from other projects as-is to give myself a challenge, and also upcycle the bins of loose pieces I have floating around my art room.
A funky scrap glass mosaic before grouting.
I prefer to freehand cut all of my glass pieces versus scoring and snapping them into specific conceptions or purchasing glass in pre-cut form. I love the way freehand glass takes on its own shape and establishes movement within the piece. Compared to some other mosaicists (yep, that’s a real thing), I also like to leave a little more room in between my pieces to allow the grout to really accentuate and differentiate. Though, in all honesty, grouting is a messy, painstaking step and my least favorite of the creative process – but it truly ties everything together, just like a great rug (shout out to The Big Lebowski).
It never ceases to amaze me how contrasting mosaics look when they’re flat versus lit. You can’t truly see the essence of stained glass until it has light behind it; which is why I’m that crazy person holding glass objects up to some kind of light source when I’m shopping in a store. One of my favorite places on Earth is a stained glass warehouse in Frederick, Maryland called Anything In Stained Glass. When I walk in there, I’m like a kid in a candy store – my eyes are giant gumball orbs taking in all the magnificent tints, tones and shades. I literally want to live in that space forever.
The glow from this one gives me goosebumps.
Clearly, I could go on, and on, and on about how much I love making mosaics, but I’ll give the floor to Lauren and let her do some artsy fartsy rambling, too. Bottom line: It’s crucial to find things that feed your soul. I think one of the loveliest aspects about creativity is that it comes in so many shapes and forms. There are endless avenues for expression, and I’m constantly being blown away by what people are out there making. We all have the capacity to be creative, so if you say you don’t possess this ability, you just haven’t found your medium yet. Keep looking, keep playing. Let it find you. Let it fill you. Let it heal you.
My first attempt at human form with groovy Earth Goddess vibes!
Having been the owner of a handcrafted jewelry business for over 12 years, and an artist my entire life, being creative feels as crucial to my existence as breathing. However, owning a creative business tends to suck a lot of the joy of creating (and the actual act of creating) out of my life. What started out as creative expression has grown into a larger functioning machine with many more tasks to manage - production, stock management, supply purchasing, fulfilling orders, customer service, advertising, relationship building, wholesale research, client prospecting, in-person shows and events, donations, social media management, a constant stream of digital content creation, reading about algorithms and SEO, decision making about budgets and business plans...on and on. Not to mention the ongoing torturous education of trying to remain relevant and a leader in a field full of cheap copycats, supply price fluctuations, increasing bills, global politics, and the interweb foundation beneath me constantly changing.
Needless to say, soul-feeding creating is now maybe 5% of what I get to do at work. And even then, my creativity is the driving force behind my livelihood and that of Brittany. So when it just isn't flowing, there is nothing new to make - nothing new to share - nothing new to bring in the revenue we need to keep the lights on and food on our tables and roofs over our head. Sound like a lot of pressure? Damn right. And you know what pressure does? Stifles creativity. It's a brutal, total crap cycle. And it's hard. But you know what the best medicine is? Pushing through it and doing something that's just for me. Something I don't have to sell, something I don't have to show anyone, something that is just funneled from me into the world for no purpose other than I wanted to make it.
Paper collage of the Tongass National Park in Alaska
Much like B, I express my creativity in many ways. I have a background in music and writing, a degree in fine art photography (with a focus on alternative film, specifically Polaroid), a passion for DIY, a modest talent for cooking, and a deep love of old school collage. (Not digital collage, real-ass cutting paper and gluing it together kind of collage.) And also much like B, I'm not going to inundate you with all of those - I'll just share some of my collages since they bring me the most soul-feeding creative joy of all.
Paper collage of a Muskie that I made for my father in law
I pull inspiration from so many different things. But sometimes, inspiration doesn't come - though that corked creativity is still there, building pressure, needing release. Or sometimes, the infinite possibilities of what I could make become so overwhelming that it paralyzes my creativity in a new way. I find that limiting myself with a self-inflicted challenge really helps get the juices flowing again. A few years ago, I had a VERY heavy and long-term case of artist block which was starting to cause some significant depression and anxiety. Rummaging through my supplies, I found a bag of old small matboards from my previous job at a gallery and frame shop. Each had a window of about 3" x 3" and I thought "huh, I should just throw together a series of mini collages. With this limited space, my options of what I can create are narrowed dramatically. Don't think! Just make!"
Can you tell my love of the cosmos permeates more than just our jewelry?
I ended up knocking out 8 mini collages that day, most of them surrounding a space theme. CREATIVITY ENGAGED.
But sometimes I get lucky - the creativity is just waiting there, beckoning, ready to be tapped into and cradle me like an old friend. On those rare occasions, it is so enriching and cathartic that it becomes a spiritual experience. This next one in particular was created on a night that was one of the most soul-satisfying creative evenings of my life.
A New Moon Rises
This one was during a very difficult time for me personally. I really needed to take some space for myself and heal from some ongoing trauma. It happened to be a new moon that night, which is always a good time for reflection and to gather up courage to face what comes after the dark. Many people find it to be one of the most spiritual phases of the moon cycle. So I decided to take the day away from the studio, had the house to myself, and spent this quiet time doing things that nurture me - and doing them with intention. I did a long, drawn out yoga practice in the sunshine; I meditated on things I needed to let go of and things I needed to embrace; I opened up all the windows, whispered a mantra, and burned sage; and I sat down to make art. This piece, to me, encompassed all of my darkness and all of my light and the struggle to rise above what was holding me down. And if I couldn't rise above it, to try and find beauty in it. This will always be one of my favorite pieces I had ever created - not because it's aesthetically perfect or pleases anyone else, but because it channeled something deep inside of me and brought it out into the light. If you've ever experienced creative and spiritual clarity and bliss, you know what I mean. It's a high you'll never forget.
One of my favorite things to do in life is travel. And it's one of my favorite things to draw inspiration from when I sit down to collage, too. This is one of those pieces - inspired by the extraordinary vibrancy of a colorful January morning in Iceland.
Anything You Want To Be But Free
Politics and feminism are also two themes that bring me to my art a lot as well. The past few years in particular have been extremely painful in these facets of life, and I take solace in channeling that pain, sorrow, and rage through creative expression.
I Remember the Glow
And sometimes, everything feels good - and that should be expressed, too. It's wonderful to sit down and just create something beautiful because you feel like it. It doesn't have to carry meaning or a burden, it can just be pretty and joyous and free. It also doesn't hurt to be inspired by someone else's creative expressions and art. Like this piece, created while listening to a musical artist I love. Anyone familiar with the song this collage is named after and was inspired by?
Thanks so much for letting us share this side of ourselves with you! Do you also create? How do you deal with artist block? Drop us a note in the comments to tell us all about it, or tag us on social media if you're sharing your projects!