Artist: Carol Wiebe
Business name: Silverspring Studio
Location: Kitchener, Ontario, Canada
Carol, how do you describe your work?
I’ve followed the creative path in many different ways in my life: drawing, papier mache, stained glass, crochet, painting, sewing, pottery, collage, computer art. At this time, I feel so fortunate, because I can now combine the skills and actual materials from this diverse skill set into what I call mixed media art quilts. Basically, I paint on fabric, or paint, draw and make prints on paper. These are then sewn together in a quilt sandwich. Afterwards, I paint the quilt surface, as well as add clay elements, crochet, papier mache, hand stitching, collage, etc. It’s exhilarating to integrate all those paths into one grand, mixed media highway. Many other artists I’ve communicated with have expressed a similar sense of freedom when they embraced mixed media. Anything goes!
What is your creative process like?
My creative process is one of unfolding and revealing, step by step. I actually tried to explain this one on my blog, after watching a Virginia Cobb DVD about 20 times. She was so articulate about her process, and it felt absolutely familiar to me. She talked about building a painting, one step at a time, and this is how I work. Each step builds on the one before it, which tells or suggests what might follow. Suddenly, you have a piece of work before you that is a marvelous surprise; something I would have had great difficulty planning.
I usually have quite a few pieces on the go (sometimes 10) and when one stops speaking to me, I let it rest and go to another. There is always a piece that is ready for a conversation! As long as we’re communicating (the piece speaks and I am able to hear it, and act upon it), I keep going! If there is total silence, I can always make monoprints, or doodle, or read an art book. Or go on the Internet and find a site like yours, Cyndi. There’s constant stimulation and inspiration in the digital universe!
[Editor's note - flattery will get you everywhere! ]
What kind of training did you have which helped you achieve your current level of artistry?
I used to dread this question, because I didn’t finish a fine arts degree: I went on into more “practical” areas (teaching, and library school). I thought I wasn’t a “true” artist because of this “lack” of training. But I wised up to the fact that art is all about fun, and discovery of your world and yourself, and I’m quite content to leave art criticism to the miniscule part of the population that actually comprehends it. I look for workshops that are enjoyable, non-judgmental, and informative. Yes, I said informative, because having enjoyment includes honing my skills and knowledge. Workshops and DVDs are also invaluable to my growth as an artist.
And somewhere along the line I turned a corner and shifted my attention away from “lack” to “joyful engagement.” I simply decided to let myself revel in the exuberant play of making art, and found myself eager to share it with others. Am I a “fine” artist? I do not know, or care. What I do know is that there are those who appreciate my art, because it speaks to them, and there are those who don’t. Both are okay with me: both contribute to my practice of disengaging the critic and the ego from my work.
This does not mean that avoid being analytical: every work has its stages where I am in the orgasmic throes of spontaneity and serendipity, after which I study what has “happened” and figure out if and how I can improve it. For example, I quite literally go down the list of the elements and principles of design. Sometimes sheer energy trumps conventional wisdom.
Is there a tool or material that you can’t imagine living without?
Beyond the obvious materials that I need for my work (fabric, paper, paint, thread), I would have to say the computer! It is so integral to my process, now, that I would be hard pressed to create without it. Of course, I like to think that in its absence, if it came to that, I would then find another way or path.
What inspires you to create?
Everything! I keep seeing constant inspiration, no matter where I go. The way colors and shapes dance together in a carpet, someone’s shirt, the plants in the garden, the words on a page, a chance song, a friend’s words, a magazine in the mail. Once you open your arms to the world showing you what it wants you to make, there is no end to the number of images and emotions that answer your invitation, and embrace you in return.
What inspires you to keep going when the work gets frustrating or tough?
If a work has stopped speaking to me, I switch gears and begin a new work, or simply grab a pad and doodle, draw, or seek inspiration from one of the books that I am so fortunate to have inhabit my bookshelves in droves! I must say that almost every piece I make has an ugly stage. That was my ugly little secret until I heard a few other artists talk about it. Few pieces just roll off my hands with minimal effort. I have to listen really hard to some of my creations–for that next step I talked about. Sometimes it certainly looks like I have misheard or misinterpreted, because my results, so far, are not pretty! The bright side of these seemingly dark situations is that I’ve gained valuable tools and strategies by having to deal with them!
What is your best piece of advice for those who would like to rise in their level of artistry?
You have to free yourself of that inner judge that stymies your creative expression. Topple the judge and nurture the inner student, the one who studies, pays attention, tries, practices. Many educators use the term “lifelong learner.” As artists, this is a crucial attitude for raising our level of artistry. And let’s not forget celebration. Celebrate well, and often. I don’t subscribe to the notion that misery makes a good artist. Joy is my favorite juice. So tap into joy . . . . it’s delicious and nutritious…
What takes up the majority of your time besides your art?
Reading, although much of it is about art! I am delighted when an author transports me into the world of her novel, or deeply affects me with powerful emotional and spiritual insights.
What’s your favorite comfort food and other favorite things?
I am totally addicted to soy chai lattes. Give me my favorite beverage and a good book, and all is right with the world. Currently, I am reading The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd, Who Would You Be Without Your Story? by Byron Katie, and Confident Color by Nita Leland. All three books, by the way, are helping me become a better artist.