First, please tell everyone what you create.
I'm a sculpture artist and through clay I create small figurines that aim to depict life journeys which mold us into who we become as people. My sculptures capture life, love, loss, fragility, and triumph and allow us to define our personal experiences with something tangible and touchable which we can relate to.
Where did your journey with art start?
As with any artist, I think we see our roots emerging in early childhood. That said, my journey truly began when I was 16 years old. I was emancipated from my parents and living on my own without government assistance. I did work a part time job while finishing high school, but it was not enough money to make ends meet so I began making jewelry and small altered art pieces which I would bring to school and sell at the lunch tables. At that point it really became part of my livelihood and vital to who I was. Once I graduated college and got a full time job, I no longer needed the income I earned from it but at the same time I sensed I *needed* to create artwork, as much as I needed sunlight. Creation helps me thrive and balances me as a person.
Why clay? Have you tried other mediums/art forms?
I have worked in many mediums and liked them very much, but I never loved a medium like I love clay. There is something very therapeutic in the process and clay has been the easiest and most natural form of expression for me.
Your sculptures tackle a variety of subjects, some that seem very personal and some that are often considered taboo. Please tell everyone some of the subjects of your art and why you sculpt those things.
My subjects vary and touch all aspects of life, and I aim to face my art with honesty and bravery. This approach at times brings me to the darker areas of life that people have either experienced or been lucky enough not to. Along with my brighter sculptures, I do create some that pose as healing pieces for grief and child loss, physical and sexual abuse, heartache, and depression. While many of these pieces appear to dwell in sadness, I found that having these emblems to relate to is important and necessary. The next question is a good way for me to segue into why I feel that way.
How did you get to this personal, emotional place with your art? Was it something that happened immediately, or did it develop over time?
In 2008 I struggled in my own darkness and felt no one could relate to me in my rawness. Many people expected me to heal on a timeline and I felt very isolated. At that time I didn't work too much in clay but I had a couple blocks in my studio. I didn't know what would come out of that session but I watched it unfold in my hands and once the creation process was finished I saw that I sculpted a very small figure in a grief position, curled over with head in hands. It was startling and slightly unnerving. I found though that I was able to put it on a shelf and walk away from it, and felt I had taken some of that darkness out of me, acknowledged it and made it tangible, then left it behind. It was a profoundly healing moment. That night I made another and listed it in my shop, vulnerably uncertain if anyone else would connect with it or even like it but since something remarkable had happened in me I was keen to share it. When I awoke the next morning, the piece had already sold and my buyer had written me a note saying that she was a counselor who worked with abused children and planned to use it in her sand tray. She went on to write: "I wanted you to know it will help many young children in their healing process. Please know that each and every time your figurine is chosen, the child and I will thank it when we put it back on the shelf--a nice way to send you some healing energy you helped create."This was more than enough validation for me to see that this line of creation could touch other people's lives as it had my own, and I kept going.
In addition to your art being personal, I have noticed that you seem to share a lot through your blogs and other social media outlets. You talk about your personal losses and triumphs seemingly without fear. How did that develop and why aren't you afraid like the rest of us?
The truth of it is that I am scared every time I post personal writings of my journey. Always within them lies the inherent fear that "Maybe this time I've said too much". Again it goes back to my commitment to approach life with honesty and bravery. What is really important to me in the telling is not to dwell in self pity but to bring a message of survival. There is merit to saying "This happened, it felt awful at the time and is only slightly less awful now, but I am not an awful person because of it. I am a STRONG person because of it." The amazing thing that happens when I write publicly is not what I've written, but the messages that people write back to me, sometimes privately. When someone tells me that I've inspired them to be able to move past something while still allowing it to be a part of who they came to be, then it reinforces in me that all my vulnerability was worth it.
What is your favorite accomplishment, personal, artistic or otherwise?
Without question, my daughters. They make my life more vibrant than anything else in this world. Daily I look at them and am amazed that they came out of my body. I still cannot believe I made them.
Recently, your artwork was used for the images in a book about child loss. Can you tell us about how that came to be and what that process was like?
I would love to tell you about that! In 2011 I was contacted by award winning author, Dr. Melissa Yuan-Innes regarding a book she wrote on child loss after struggling through her own personal losses. Melissa is an amazing person and incredible writer and I was very moved when I read what she had written. It was soothing and reassuring while recognizing the experience of total loss and heartache. So beautiful. I got right on board with her and we spent months going through images and carefully choosing which sculptures partnered with the imagery of her words, and in the end we were able to present a very profound piece of visual and literary art. "Your Baby Is Safe" was published by Olo Books in November 2011 and is available through Barnes and Noble and Amazon.
What advice do you have for other artists trying to make it?
I am always asked this question and the answer is perseverance. It can take a long time to gain momentum and it is so important not to lose hope while things are slow. In my first year of business I made 67 sales. I've been in business almost five years now, and last year alone I made over two thousand sales. That did not happen overnight and if I threw in the towel early on I never would be where I am today. The first two years it took A LOT of work, hardly any sleep, and believing in my dream but I made it. Don't give up.
Finally, where can we find you and your art?
My artwork is only available for sale in my etsy shop at www.themidnightorange.com.
I have an active fanpage on Facebook and can be found here: www.facebook.com/pages/The-Midnight-Orange/105314011660
And my blog is at www.themidnightorange.blogspot.com. I somewhat neglect my blog but when I do post there it is on something highly meaningful to me.