Portraits

Surface Creator: Ginny of Erickson Surfaces

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You know those cookbooks with really pretty pictures of food?  Yup, all those images are meticulously styled to make you want to cook and try that food. You probably know that there’s a photographer taking the picture and a stylist or art director placing the food/props in just the right place.  You may not notice it, but there’s another key element that makes the photo look as amazing as it does - the surface. And chances are, a lot of the food photography you see use portable surfaces created specifically for food or product photography.  Ginny, of Erickson Surfaces, hand-creates these photo surfaces that have been featured in dozens of cookbooks and hundreds of blogs.

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Discovering Your Passion

I doodled or did crafts on Pinterest every now and then, but art was never an active part of my life.  I didn’t define myself as an artist. My husband was (and still is) a school counselor, but he built headboards in the garage and listed them on Etsy.  When he was making these at 10 pm, I told myself, “I can either sit here complaining that I’m by myself or I can go out in the garage and we can be together.”  So I started helping him and then found different techniques of painting the headboards.

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A portrait photographer found it and requested a 6 ft by 6 ft double sided platform for her studio.  We thought, ‘Hey, maybe other photographers might be interested in something like this.’ So we listed those boards as well.  Then a food blogger found us and asked, “Can you make it smaller?” She came in and designed a couple of first pieces and I started thinking, “Hey, maybe there’s a need for this.”  

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I had just been laid off from a real estate job I had for 12 years.  I had been a Stay at Home Mom, but my kids were about to start school, so I was wondering if I should get a “real job.”  My husband said, “Just sell 10 boards a month and we’re good.” That month I sold 20. I was elated. “This is what I’m meant to do! I love this!”  I sent about 50 emails to bloggers. This was back in 2013, so people like Pioneer Woman and Joy the Baker. Joy the Baker got back to me and I started screaming and crying.  My husband said, “I don’t think you were that excited when I proposed.” I’m like, “It’s JOY THE BAKER!”

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When we started this business, you didn’t really see anybody doing this.  And throughout my marriage my husband told me that he wished I found something I really enjoyed doing.  I never really found something I loved doing until I found this. It was so exciting. We got kicked out of our condo because people were complaining about the noise coming from our garage from all the woodwork, so we lugged everything to my sister’s house.  Then, our friends encouraged us to get a space. “This is happening. This is good.” They said, “But you need a space.” In 2014, we got our first space and in 2015, we got this current space.

Stifling or Inspiring Creativity?

It’s easy to fall into the “Oh, I’m not good enough” mode.  That’s what stifles creativity.

I spent so much of my time last year kicking myself saying, “I’m not good at this and that with the business.  I suck at this part. I’m not like so and so.” One morning I got up and thought, “Why am I kicking myself? These things I’m not good at, I can just hire somebody to do those things.  The things I’m good at are really good, so embrace the parts I’m good at and get help with the things I don’t like doing because I cannot be good at everything.  So now we have an awesome team and I get to work with some really great people. At the end of the day, I want to invest in relationships and care about the relationships I get to form through this work.

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When you get to create beautiful work, you inspire others.  I love that we get to make art that helps other people make art.  Our mission statement is: “We exist to equip artists to craft beautiful stories.”

Once I create a surface, I can’t imagine what will go on it.  I just like the way the surface looks. But some people will see a surface and instantly start imagining so many ways they can use it.   I have a client who’s become a friend who instantly dreams up things you can do with the surface. One time, I made a custom board. She had a shoot with a chef the next day.  At first, they weren’t thrilled with the photos, so she brought out the surface I made from her car, and it changed mood the entire shoot. They came out of that shoot with images they loved.  I love that the work we create can do that for artists and businesses.

Macramé Artist: Elsie of Reform Fibers

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Who knew that rope-tying could be such a beautiful art form?  I didn’t, until a few years ago when I discovered modern macramé - a form of textile, or fiber art, where you create patterns by tying cords together.

Elsie Goodwin of Reform Fibers decided to be a Stay at Home Mom when she had her first daughter six years ago. She was looking for a way to keep her hands and mind busy. Two years into motherhood, she discovered macramé and taught herself the craft from YouTube videos.  

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The Beginning

“What I loved about macramé was that unlike knitting and crocheting, the rope is thick, so the projects come into form much faster.  So I was able to do substantial projects during nap time or before they were awake in the morning.

What’s cool about macramé is that you can tie a knot and untie it.  It’s very therapeutic for me just going through the process and figuring it out.  I think that it is like a moving meditation - it’s repetitive, but there’s a purpose for each act for the larger picture. If it doesn’t come out the way you want, you take out the knot and do it again.  I enjoy the process of that and don’t look for perfection.”  

Entrepreneurial Spirit

“I had experience recognizing and reading patterns because of my experience with knitting and crocheting for almost 20 years before I picked up macramé.  I realized that there were not many modern patterns out at the time. You saw a lot of the vintage pieces, but there weren’t a lot of patterns out there that would go with modern homes.  I saw it as an opportunity to write my own patterns.

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The majority of my business stems from creating and selling beginner to intermediate DIY patterns on Etsy.  I love teaching and connecting with those makers, who want to keep their hands busy like I did. I also get commissioned to make custom pieces.  That’s where I get to be really creative in making a piece. I also do workshops, house parties and team building events.”

Finding a Style

“Initially, I tried to use everything - rope and yarn, crocheting within macramé…  hand-dyeing yarn, (which was really time consuming) etc.  And I even did some weaving and took a weaving class for a year.  I love the art form, but I quickly realized that I have too many ideas and not enough time.  By the way, the floor loom in my studio is for weaving. Macramé doesn’t require extensive equipment. So I realized I need to focus on the things that are most fulfilling for me and that is macramé.  So now, I am more attracted to clean looks lop and the natural colors of the rope and I don’t hand dye them anymore.  

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I have a background in the fashion industry as a buyer for retail stores.  A skill you learn when you’re buying and working with brands and collections and seasons and trends is learning to edit.  Knowing when enough is enough and allowing the piece to be the piece and not everything I see other artists and I myself have imagined it to be.  Maybe it can be this or maybe it can be that. But sometimes you just have to say, ‘Let the wall hanging be the wall hanging.’ It’s a lesson I’ve learned to pull back and edit.”  

The Beauty of Crafting by Hand

“There is more work that goes into preparing to make a piece than people typically assume.  Sometimes, when people look at a piece at a craft show or market, they may say to themselves, ‘Oh, I can do that.  No need to spend money on it because I can do it.’ But I think people underestimate all that goes into it: thinking about the piece you’re going to make, how much rope to need, how to cut the rope appropriately, how to set the piece…. You see a lot more mass produced fiber art these days and that’s fine if that’s what you’re drawn to.  But I enjoying gifting and giving to people who appreciate the care and time that goes into making a piece by hand.”

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Ceramic Artist: Andrea of Luna-Reece Ceramics

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Let’s play a word association game.  What image comes to your mind when you hear the word “ceramics”?  Let me guess. Did you think of clay spinning on a potter’s wheel?  Some of you may have even thought of the movie-post worthy scene from the movie Ghost.  While the use of a potter’s wheel is commonly associated with pottery, there are other ways to create pieces out of clay.  

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Andrea of Luna Reece Ceramics is a ceramics artist in Costa Mesa, CA.  She creates fresh, whimsical and modern handcrafted pieces out of clay using, yes, the potter’s wheel at times, but mostly with casting molds and by hand.

When she was 7 or 8 years old, she got a toy potter’s wheel.  She was hooked and took ceramics in high school.  She’s always been a creative kid - always drawing and painting. When she went to college, she thought she was going to be a drawing and painting major, but when she got took her first ceramics class, she knew that clay was going to be her medium of choice.  She ended up graduating with a BFA with a focus in Ceramics.

Upon graduating from Cal State Long Beach, she worked with an independent punk rock record label doing publicity and advertising.  She says:

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I thought this was a regular job I was supposed to do.  It was safe. I didn’t really think of becoming an ‘artist’ even with a degree in art.  But I realized after a few years that I really missed my art. I missed having that creative outlet.  So I quit my job and started creating again. I started with painting because it was the easier to set up, but after a while, I realized that I missed working with clay so I started doing ceramics again.  

When I pursued my art again, I did it without any agenda for it to become a business.  I created to simply create. There was a breakthrough moment when I got into a craft show and began selling items in shops so the growth into a business happened organically and over several years.

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I’ve done other forms of art, but I seem to always come back to ceramics.  I love the feel of the clay in my hands. I’m very drawn to that aspect of it.  With clay, it’s so tactile and I’m forming something with my hands. And after all these years, I still get excited when I open my kiln up.  I’m like a kid at Christmas because I’m excited to see how each piece turns out.

What kinds of misconceptions do people have about ceramics? 

Pottery is a long process.  It takes several days to dry.  It takes another 24 hours to fire it.  And then there’s another glazing process.  For one piece, although you create multiple pieces at the same times, it takes about a week or so.  The process also depends on the weather. If it’s cold or wet it takes longer to dry and if it’s too hot then it can crack.  People think, that you just throw it on the wheel and it comes out, but it takes time.

What do you consider to be beautiful work in ceramics?

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I love all types of work with clay.  When I go to the supply store, I have to touch it and feel the different clay and tiles.  I look at piece and wonder how thick or thin did the potter wanted this piece to be. I also love the handmade quality of a piece.  For the hand built pieces or even in painting the pieces, each of them look slightly different. The edges aren’t perfect. It’s not mechanical.  There are bumps and grooves that give it an organic, human touch.

On her website, she shares her vision and heart, "I want people to have a piece that brings them joy so I try to design and execute pieces that are modern, fresh and can add life to a space.  Light is the inspiration behind my paintings... the light that shines out of the fractured and the broken." 

It’s satisfying knowing when you are doing what you’re meant to do.  For Andrea, she has a deep connection to creating… a gut feeling, a passion that calls her to create.

Floral Designer: Hannah of Milieu Florals

Milieu is a French word (pronounced mil-yOO) which means ‘atmosphere, surroundings or environment.’  It’s the name Hannah Koo took on for her flower business because she truly believes that flowers have the ability to shape and transform the atmosphere.  Beautiful floral designs can evoke strong emotions and set the tone.

Speaking of “milieu,” (yes, please do say it with a French accent and a beret) Hannah grew up in a creative milieu.  She paints and her educational background in college is in studio arts (UCI) and jewelry design (OTIS).  Her mom did flower arrangements on the side and her dad was a landscape artist.  “Maybe that’s why I was so drawn to being creative with natural things,” she said.

She started working in the floral business 15 years ago when she worked at a flower shop.  

 "When I first started working at a flower shop right after college, it was intended to be just a part time job to save up enough for travel & prepare for Grad School for the Arts.  However, within the first week of working there I fell in love with the whole business aspect of it.  The idea of owning your own shop, so I ended up staying there for 5 years, soaking up everything it took to run a business.  For the first 2 years, I didn't do any design work but was assigned to just cleaning buckets, processing flowers & menial shop duties.  I really worked my way  from the ground up." 

She is now in her 10th year as the owner and designer of Milieu Florals.  Her floral designs have always had a very natural and organic feel to it, even before the “natural and organic” designs were popular.  And maybe her background in painting contributes to her approach to her floral work.

"I work with the color palette rather than the variety of flowers, so I will sometimes use different textures that aren't necessarily flowers, like fruits, branches, and acorn to stay true to the color scheme & feel for the event."

What’s something you would do different in your journey as a florist?

I would probably pick a name that people can pronounce [laughs]. I would be more ok saying, “no” to work and be more selective with the amount of work I took on.  It led to feeling burned out at times because I sometimes took on 60+ orders per year. Now, I feel like I’m finally at a place where I do have the freedom to be more selective in my work and give myself more time for myself and my family.

What do you LOVE about your work?

 I love being able to make people happy and how flowers can change the ambiance of a space.  I love the flexibility of my work.  I like working Wednesday - Saturday, even though I sometimes work 15+ hour days.  Before, I would try to take all the work that came in, but now I’m finally at a place where I have the option to say yes or no.   

What aspects of floral design is least expected by a typical person who may not be familiar with what you do?

 People think, “Oh, it must be so pretty and fun working with flowers.”  But I don’t think people realize how much grunt work there is and how physically demanding it can be.   It’s definitely not as glamorous as it looks and can involve some back-breaking, arthritis causing work.  

Once you bring back the flowers from the flower market, you start processing it - chopping all the stems and preparing all the buckets of waters.  That takes about 3-4 hours. A typical Wednesday morning starts at 4 or 4:30 AM and I get to the flower mart by 5. The early fish gets the goods!  I’m at warehouse for about 3 hours, scanning the whole warehouse for the best quality, best color, and best price. I drive back home and start processing them.  By 1 or 2 PM, the flowers are then ready to be designed.  I spend the rest of the day and all day Thursday and Friday designing and arranging the flowers mostly for weddings and sometimes Dohls (First Birthdays).

 

Hannah's arrangements look natural.  It looks like they were picked that way from the wild and just transplanted into a holding vessel.  But this organic look doesn't happen haphazardly.  It requires intentionally placing each stem by someone as meticulous and detailed as Hannah.  It's like how master musicians, dancers, and craftsmen make things look so effortless.  In this case, there were countless hours of back-breaking labor to create these works of beauty.

Modern Calligrapher: Angi of Angelique Ink

Back when she started calligraphy as hobby at the age of 12, there weren’t any online classes, calligraphy communities, Etsy, or Instagram.  You certainly would not think that you could make a living doing calligraphy. Nobody ever said, “I want to be a calligrapher when I grow up!”

She started her business, Angelique Ink, in late 2009, when her husband introduced her to Etsy. Now she teaches calligraphy workshops; creates custom invitations, stationary, wall murals, logos; and sells a line of products online that all incorporate hand-written calligraphy.  Here is Angi.

Creative Process
My creative process varies depending on the type of project.  Most of the time, it starts with gathering the information from the client.  Then, I sit on it for a while in my head and let it marinate. Then at some point, I think “Oh my deadline is coming up” [laughs] and I’ll just start writing.  I have some kind of a blank canvas in front of me and lots pencils and pens and I’ll just start writing.  There’s no rhyme or reason to it. I’ll often write the word or phrase. I jot down things that come to mind and it looks like a bunch of junk on paper.  But that’s what gets the wheels turning. And then I usually put that down for a while and then I come back to it in a couple days and I’ll refine the work from there - looking for things that match or go together, looking for spaces and letters that read back into each other.

Embracing Imperfections
I like traditional styles, but find that too many rules impede my creativity which I like about my work and gives me a distinctive style.  So I stay away from being too tied to traditional forms of calligraphy in order to have the freedom to be creative.   

Breaking away from traditional scripts can sometimes look ugly or careless, so my goal is to makes these deviances look beautiful and intentional.  You embrace the imperfections. The lines move in a free and unique way like a song and dance.  Even though it’s not perfect in typical calligraphy standards, for me, there’s more room to connect emotionally with something that is relatable, emotional, free and unique.

I think that people can have emotional reactions to any art work.  In calligraphy, it can be through the way the lines look or the flow is happening or the placement of a word or line.   

Poetic Flow
I think my work has a certain poetic flow to it. [Yes!  Her lines and strokes make the words come to life!]  I do get a lot of inspiration from poetry and thinking through the emotion behind words and how that’s expressed.

I recover from creative block by going to the garage and just working with my hands in a different way than calligraphy.  So shaping a piece of wood or building something, and seeing how much detail and intricacies are in a small piece of wood - even the grain in wood - can be inspirational to me.  

[Angi takes me to her garage where she does her wood work.  She drills holes in pieces of wood that become inkwell holders for herself and her workshops.]

Comparisons + Social Media
One of the challenges for creatives is the comparison game.  Everyone struggles with wanting to be better or wanting to be like someone else.  And it's hard when you personally want to grow in your craft and are not feeling like you’re making progress.  For me, when I start feeling inadequate, I don’t spend a lot of time on social media for my personal sanity. I sit down and do the work that’s in front of me and not worry about what other people are doing.  

Social media can be a great tool.  I do use it. It's helped my business a lot, but it’s a black hole so I set up strict boundaries for myself so I don’t get caught up in it.  It’s a great way to connect with people. It can be a very affirming environment, but you get addicted to the affirmation.  And regardless of how social media makes you feel, you just need to keep working and creating.


She is constantly writing phrases and words.  So she’s come across countless wise and profound sayings.  But on her own body, she’s chosen to ink, “We’re better for all that we let in.”  Thank you for sharing your open spirit that embraces people and opportunities!

Watercolor Artist: Susan of Rae + Lily

I sat down with watercolor artist and designer, Susan of rae + lily in her home studio.  Here is her story.

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I started art classes when I was only 5 years old, but my educational background and career is in design and architecture so I associate a lot of my identity with being an architect.  But since starting rae + lily, I currently use watercolor and digital software as my medium to design and create things.

I like how using the combination of traditional paints and digital software gives me a lot of flexibility to play when designing.

Beginnings

I left my corporate job because of health reasons.  I enjoyed being an architect, but believe it or not, my last job was pretty stressful.  After leaving, for the first couple months of 2017 I was in and out of doctor visits.  To keep myself busy with something to do and to find an identity again, I picked up watercolors and started sharing my work. Because I associated so much of who I was with what I did before, it was nice to have a sense of purpose and a community of people - even if I only knew them through the internet!  I had a background in art from when I was very young through college so it wasn’t too hard to collect supplies I had leftover from college and start painting.  I was actually really shy about sharing my work and decided to join this 100 day challenge.  I challenged myself to work with watercolors because it was a medium I hadn’t worked with before.  It was something I wanted to try and it was nice to have a daily routine around it. Somehow along the way during that challenge, a small business was born.  

I always had an entrepreneurial spirit though. I had tried different things before, like starting a food blog, doing photography, but I realize now I think I was scared and always stopped myself because I didn’t really want to put my work out there. This time, I decided to really give it an earnest try and be braver about sharing my work and some amazing things happened as a result.

The first time someone wanted to buy an original painting, was a real breakthrough for me - and they were in Italy!  I couldn’t believe that someone actually wanted to buy something I painted.  That’s when I knew I could keep painting and maybe it could become something that I could call my own.

Inspirations

Finding inspiration and getting into a creative mindset is sometimes challenging.  When you’re a creative running a business, you end up working on the business component 80% of the time.  20% is the actual fun, creating part of it.  Often times, I let the 80% get in the way of the 20%.  I actually don’t mind the business side of things - doing administrative tasks, corresponding with people, etc. But I need to remember to give priority to creating and really set aside time to do that.  I have to remember to allow myself to have fun and be creative.

I definitely recommend joining a challenge or giving yourself structure by setting small goals to complete a little at a time when it comes to creating. It’s not so different than any other goal you want to accomplish as big things can be done by making a little progress everyday. The 100 day challenge is a great one and can feel overwhelming but if you approach it a day at a time, you’ll get to day 100 and wonder what to do after it’s over!

Another great byproduct of making time to create is actually generating work that you can use for your business or personal creative projects. Sometimes this can happen unintentionally and sometimes on purpose.

I also think taking online courses is a nice way to make time to create because they keep you accountable and you learn new things! I’m taking an online course for watercolor sketching right now and it’s been really fun.

Creative Process

For me, my creative process starts with cleaning.  I need to clear my space so it’s ready to use. I also get a lot of inspiration from traveling and being outside. For example, the puffins piece that I’m currently working on making into a print was inspired from our trip to Iceland last year when we went looking for puffins but only saw two or three.  

[Since our interview, Susan has written more about her creative process here!]

My favorite part about watercolors?  The unknown. With watercolor, it’s unpredictable and unexpected - the way the water and colors move and mix together. Sometimes you think you’re going to hate it, but you could end up loving it after it’s settled and dried.  You want control it, but it does the best things when you let it do its thing. Being pleasantly surprised by what you end up with makes it fun to work with.  

What would I do differently in my journey?
I’d be braver earlier on.

Susan was extremely gracious and generous during my visit, which is evident in her business too.  Her work is clean and simple, but at the same time, the details are not ignored.  In fact, the details make you stop and say, "Woah~" while admiring the different gradients of color.  All the best to Susan and rae + lily

 

Peggy Artist Portrait Photography {Orange, CA}

Spending some time with this woman makes me want to be her best friend.  She is absolutely lovely and as she transitions into an actor and ukulele instructor, I hope she find fulfillment in her post-retirement season.  She is committed to people and pours into her community.  As we walked around Orange for this session, she said, "Hi" to strangers.  I thought she knew them because she spoke so comfortably with everyone as if she's known them for years.  

We worked on some headshots and also Artist Portraits with her ukulele.  I hope we can work together again!  All the best to you your new adventures!

Irina {Into the Woods at Whiting Ranch}

She's graceful on the dance floor.  You can't stop watching her!  When I first met her she was the assistant in my swing dance lesson at Atomic Ballroom Irvine.  How she's an instructor herself.  Next time, I'll have to capture her dancing, but for now, I had the pleasure of doing a session with her out in nature, looking gorgeous.  No make-up until the final few shots... just Irina and Mother Nature.  I personally love the black and white shots.  Messy hair and free spirited, honest smiles....

Happy Two Years

For our second anniversary, we ended up having Korean BBQ for lunch and doing an impromptu photoshoot at the Great Park because we missed the dollar theater show time.  Keeping our celebrations simple.  :)  This private man's willingness to be photographed shows his support for my desire to grow as a photographer.  That's love.