Heart of a Storyteller, Soul of an Artist

For many years my primary focus was writing and publishing books and poetry for young readers of all ages. I never illustrated any of the books I wrote though. I never really thought much about art because back when I was a scared kid with big dreams a teacher forced me to transfer out of his art class. He said I had no talent. Oh my, that hurt. It hurt bad and I heard that teacher’s voice in my head for many, many years.

I am a textile and mixed media artist with a passion for making handmade books. I take much of my inspiration from nature, especially from my garden of California Native plants, and love to make books from my hand-dyed and botanical printed papers and textiles. But it hasn’t always been that way.

I came to art by way of my native garden and my writing life.

Writers often get hit with writer’s block and often I would go work out in my garden, tinkering with the plants in an effort to work past a plot problem. We had ripped out the lawns in our typical Silicon Valley yard (tiny and surrounded by cement) and put in California native plants. Water conservation was an issue but moreover I wanted to create a wildlife habitat. Over time the birds and the bees and even the worms returned. Suddenly I had a yard full of critters but I had no idea what they were called. I grabbed my camera and started snapping photos and then returned to the computer to try and identify them all.

Sometimes it worked and I learned to tell a chestnut-backed chickadee from a goldfinch. Sometimes it was harder to tell what kind of bug or butterfly I had. But it didn’t take long before I was hooked on the way our garden was coming to life.

But still, writer’s block would plague me from time to time and I needed something else to help me break through the block. I took a collage class and was immediately hooked on torn paper collage. From there I played with mixed media which let me to art journaling which led me to learning how to make books and handmade journals. I wrote less and made more art. Eventually I turned to art making full time.

When we moved from a home with tiny yard in the busy Silicon Valley to  a quiet home in the Santa Cruz mountains I felt I had finally found where I belonged and another aspect of art making crossed my path – using leaves and flowers from my garden in my work. I knew about pressed flowers and loved to use them in collage but then I learned about botanical printing and how to transfer the flowers and leaves to my papers and then use those some papers to create my books.

And suddenly there was no turning back.

Now the California native garden that is becoming a wildlife habitat is also becoming a dye garden and home to plants I grow just because I love the way they print on paper.

My need to create stems from a desire to shine light into the corners of everyday life and the belief that we are all much more creative and able than we might think.

Making things has always been my way of finding my way in the world. When I create something new, it is meant to be shared. It is that connection that completes the creative circle.

I tell my truths and help others connect to the truths in their own lives. When my art or words or photographs connect to someone else I feel the energy move between us, the emotional threads from my life begin to intertwine with theirs and neither of us is left untouched. Once we connect, we are no longer alone. Once we connect, we can shine the light on each other.

We all have the potential to change lives, starting with our very own.

I used to live in constant fear of someone finding out that I was nothing special. I was always afraid of being different and never believed that just being me would be enough. Now I know better. Now I know that if you have a dream in life that is interesting and challenging to you have to follow it.

You know what else I know? That teacher was so wrong.