I think the photo of me sucking my thumb is as good a place as any. Let’s go.
Here’s my story.
I was born in 1970, which I still think of as ‘thirty years ago’. Thumb-sucking was my first true love. I’m the third of four children. My mother was a educator and my father was a Marine. We weren’t wealthy, but I never felt like I went without anything that I wanted. I always had books, music, art supplies, various types of extra lessons in art and music, and a never-ending stream of pets. I learned how to make-do and up-cycle anything from clothing to furniture to cars. I loved weekends wandering around antique and second hand shows with my family, or going to the yard-good store for fabric and clothes patterns. I spent time with both of my grandmothers, and learned how to sew by hand at a fairly early age. Crocheting took many decades longer. Much of my childhood was spent drawing, painting, creating doll houses and playing with my dolls and my cats. My middle and high school years were spent devoting my time to playing music in various school bands and creating art and my cats. I knew from a young age that art was going to be a very important part of my life, perhaps even my career, so after high school graduation, I headed off to art school.It should be noted that at this point in my whole eighteen years of existence on the planet, I had pretty much decided how my life was going to go. I had already written the story of my life inside my head. I would simply follow the storyline I had imagined and have the life that I wanted. The life I expected. I was young enough and dumb enough to actually think that this is how the world worked. I thought it would be a cake-walk. (Insert jaded, maniacal laughing here.)I went to the Herron School of Art and got a BFA in Graphic Design. I think at the time, they were calling it ‘Visual Communications’ or something like that. I loved art school. I finally felt like I was someplace where I knew what I was doing. I was kind of good at it too. I got good marks in my course work. I took a lot of interesting classes in illustration, book binding, and multiple forms of printmaking. I learned a lot and enjoyed myself a great deal.
Success in my chosen field wasn’t something that came easily for me. I learned much, much too late that I’m just not emotionally well-suited to being a graphic designer. I didn’t like having my artwork changed around. If I designed something a certain way, that’s the way it needed to be. I became resentful of art directors and clients who wanted me to create what I thought was bad design, that my name would be signed to. I have NEVER been able to hide a thought or emotion from anyone. So…you can see why I wasn’t a good graphic designer or illustrator. I ended-up spending a lot of time working paste-up jobs and doing a lot of stunningly forgettable freelance illustration work.
I did became an insanely good office temp worker though. Of course, this was because I was unable to be do the job I had a degree for. My life plan was beginning to look less like a cake-walk and more like a game of dodge ball. And man, I suck at dodge ball.
I did manage to work for an advertising firm for almost a year. It did not go well. I was fired. Man I hated that job. I think I actually hated everyone in that office. What’s more, I hated myself more than anything. I guess this job counted as a dodge ball to the face?
I worked for the next year as a file clerk. At least as a file clerk no one told me I was “doing it wrong”. I saved my money and I moved across country to the southwest the following year.
I still thought that graphic design was what I needed to do. More paste-up work. More forgettable illustration work. More freelance. I finally did find one place where I felt like I was good at a graphic design job, but the company went bankrupt in the early 2000’s and I was terrified. INCOMING DODGE BALL!
I was offered the chance to return to university by the state I was living in. So, I went back to university to become an art teacher. Since I was still so close to the gaining of my previous BFA, I decided to get a Post-Baccalaureate degree in Art Education and went on to teach art at the elementary school level for a decade. I loved teaching art to children. It has been the best job I have ever had. I felt more myself as an art teacher than I ever did as a graphic designer. I felt as though I was doing something that was for the good of society. My worst days teaching were still better than my best days as a graphic designer.
Through my entire life, every job, every move, creating art was always with me. I never stopped creating art, even when my life seemed to be nothing but dodge ball and no cake. I primarily created illustrative work at first, using colored pencil, watercolor and gouache paint. The creation of dolls became my primary artistic output during the late 1990’s and early 2000’s while I was working at my last graphic design job. This only increased after I began teaching art in the public school.
My job was teaching art to children. I never felt like a job, because I enjoyed it so much. My personal artwork began to change at this point. I began exploring different mediums, returning to others that I had loved while in art school. Increasingly, my artwork began to become much more mixed media and far more sculptural. The dolls I created were very large. They had specific themes. I spent increasing amounts of time on details like embroidery, jewelry and elaborate painted stands.Then, I got married. You can find my amazingly patient and talented husband Berin here, and here. It is safe to say that I could not do what I do without having him as my partner. I consider myself to be a large, pampered house cat, who meows and as if by magic, food appears and IT problems are managed in such a way that said large, pampered house cat does not feel stupid.
Oh. Yeah, we also decided to move to Finland.I left my teaching position and we moved to Jyväskylä, Finland with my husband so that I could attend the university and study for my masters in education. We both have come to love living in Finland and hope to make it our permanent home. I cannot adequately express to you how much we love living here. While I type this, I’m looking out the window and I see our neighbor walking his tiny, brown, long-hair chihuahua and an elderly couple, in robes, holding towels, walking down to the lake to have a swim. Everything is green and vibrant and growing. And I love it just as much as I love the incredible cold, white, silence of late December and January. I don’t think I’ve felt as though I “fit” anywhere that I’ve ever lived. Finland is the one place where I feel what it’s like to begin to fit and feel true contentment with my life and where it’s going.
Does this mean that there’s no more dodge ball and it’s mölkky instead? Perhaps.
While creating artwork has and will always be with me, my work has continued to evolve since moving to Finland. I have, in many ways, radically changed my use of materials and added new techniques that have given me great sense of creative satisfaction. I created the largest body of work with my Creative Experiment Dolls. I created over two-hundred small dolls, through which I explored new ideas and materials, as well as my personal creative processing. You can read about the Creative Experiment here. This two year experiment has changed the way that I approach my the creation of my personal artwork as well as the kind of artwork that I make. My artwork is continuing to evolve and current work is affected by the time I spent working on the Creative Experiment Dolls.
Creating artwork is what I need to do. I don’t think I could stop making art if I tried. Making my own artwork and teaching others about art and art creation are two things that I want to do for the the long-term. Teaching allows me to share my knowledge with others in a very satisfying and direct way. I want this website, with the gallery, blog, shop to be a place where I can connect to people who are interested in what I’m creating and how I go about creating it. This is a place in which the artwork tells my story. It’s also a useful place in which to physically launch my artwork out into the world, via my shop.
While you may see a continuum of style, technique and materials within my artwork, I want to make sure that you know that even though I make dolls, I only make a doll once. I create and use my own patterns, but those patterns are used once only. I will never make another Oliver, Lucy, Delft or Orvokki. Each of my creations is unique. Each have their own names and their own story. I don’t repeat the names I give each doll. The dolls that I create are artwork. If you want to adopt Piiing Treee know that once she leaves my shop, I won’t make another one and place it in the store with the same name and the same story.
I hope that after reading my story, you feel you know me a bit better. It’s always hard for me to judge whether I’m really getting the information across to another person if I’m not in front of a classroom of students. I can easily see if I’m communicating well then!