Creativity Everywhere- Embrace your roots
What is "Creativity Everywhere"?
Being an "artist" isn't black and white. Creativity isn't something that only saves itself for those painting in a studio or clicking away with a camera. It isn't something that is easily defined or pinpointed. Creativity often seeps out in many different forms-- ones that sometimes, are hidden and overlooked.
I am hopeful that by curating these blog posts, we can unveil together some of the amazing careers, places and people that the creative process lies each and every day. Where does the creative mind take shape? How do these different creative fields relay energy and make a difference in our modern world?
For my first guest, I'd like to introduce the lovely Marissa Huber.
"I’m like everyone else. I look at a perfectly curated photo on Instagram or see an article in a magazine and think that my life would be as effortless as endless Saturday mornings if I could just “arrive” at some milestone. Then I remember real life does not work like that.
I believe that people like us are on a journey to keep learning, discovering, and becoming better versions of ourselves. When we stop growing and learning, it ends. I don’t know what happens next, but I’m not ready for the end. Think back 15 years ago. How many things do we take for granted now that were huge goals back then? I don’t say this to be discouraging, rather to show that if we accept that there will always be something, we can pace ourselves and enjoy both the little and big accomplishments."
An interior designer, mother, artist, and go-getter who is taking social media by storm with her collective "Carve Out Time For Art"- joined with friend and fellow artist, Heather Kirtland. Marissa was the perfect person to chat with regarding the topic of creative backgrounds. She has a lot to say about where she's come from, what experiences have formed the artist she is today... and where she is going next. Indulge in some motivating advice, stories of strength and vulnerability, and unending courage by reading her story below:
Me: " Where did your creative career start? What influences from your past led you to the Marissa we see today?"
In my twenties, I graduated with a degree in Interior Design in 2003- just when most firms began laying off their employees. Like most college graduates, I didn't land my dream job right away as promised. Shortly after the crash in 2008 hit, stripping me of all close offers. It’s honestly making me laugh right now, but If I want to be melodramatic, it was a slightly soul crushing at the time.
Looking back, I realize my identity was so tied up in being a designer because I wanted to be in a creative field. I didn’t have the ideas or confidence to be an artist, and being a designer gave me access to the creative community.
Me: "So...where did this leave you?"
So what happened? I moved to Philly with (my now husband) Mike when he left to attend graduate school. I was recruited based on my interior design background to do Space Planning and Move Management. Not that interior design is actually glamorous, but in the world of design, my job was the bargain basement to the designer store. I managed a database to track who sits in what workstation and what department owns that space. I also reconfigured office furniture, and moved people around. It’s not a bad job at all, but when you really want to be a designer, it’s not the best path because you get pigeon-holed. But the pay was decent, the people were really nice, and I thrived there. When I was working there, my 24 year old brother Andrew died after relapsing from a drug overdose. I was surrounded by wonderful and supportive people who went looked after me. I was grateful. Losing Andrew was heartbreaking and gave me more perspective than I wanted. If I had complained about work before and not having a job I loved - it suddenly seemed petty and childish for a 27 year old.
Me: "What an awful tragedy-- my heart breaks for your loss. Something so catastrophic must have turned your world completely upside down.."
I felt so lost and probably a little guilty after Andrew passed. I felt awful that he didn’t have more time to accomplish his dreams, so I vowed that I would try extra hard for my own - both for myself and for him. We had a love for drawing, and doing that again made me feel connected to him. Having a stable job that required a lot of mindless data auditing allowed me to think of all the creative things I wanted to do outside of work. Around 2005, creative blogs were huge, and I started one for my knitting projects. The practice of documenting my work, looking for beauty in mundane life, working through grief, and sharing it publicly was one of the best things I ever did. I connected to kindred spirits and saw the magic that happens when you exhibit some vulnerability and make yourself accountable. The mindset of looking at your own life to find moments of beauty shifts your perspective. It made me realize that small thoughts, goals, or stitches knit on a sweater can develop into something grand if you give it enough time.
Over the years, I kept working at the same place but advancing into new roles and learning new skills. I attribute the the loss of my brother and blogging which helped me to be more positive in my thinking. Also my mom has a good attitude of looking at the world which helps. After losing a person you love so much, the rest of your problems seem trivial. I may have not gotten jobs I wanted, but I focused on the positives. Having an easier job and stability allowed me to have time to focus on my knitting, drawing, and small adventures. Instead of sitting at a desk redlining drawings all day, I got to have small projects and some autonomy to run them myself. Who cared if they were reconfiguring one person's office using khaki furniture? I got to schedule the meeting, have my own process, connect with the people, and complete the work.
Me: "With all that you've been faced with, what has been your greatest struggle when it comes to creativity? "
I struggled plenty, and my poor Mom and husband had to hear complaints over the years about how I wasn’t doing what I wanted to do. But how many people really get to? “Love what you do and never work a day in your life.” Yes, some people do get to do that. BUT, for everyone out there thinking they failed because they’re not there - there is hope. Maybe we redefine that it only has to be for our career. Or perhaps we have a 5 year plan to get there, and you go through a few years of a non-dream job to pay off debt and change your lifestyle. I believe figuring out what your priority in life is and finding a way to do what you love in any capacity is where we can start. Also, the key is to just start.
I think when you have to work hard for something, it can mean more when you do achieve it. I still didn’t have the guts to put myself out there. And in many ways, I’m glad I was a little bored with my professional career creatively. It made me crave it outside of work. In fact, I don’t know if I would have been creating art if I had had an interior design job. Looking back, the more I felt stifled or bored with my career, the more I would channel that energy into my side work.
Me: " Where did this creative energy lead you? What began to give you the confidence to pit yourself out there in an artistic sense? "
Telling and showing people what I was doing had the biggest impact on where I am today. I would draw and paint all the knitting projects I wanted to do. I illustrated holiday cards for my boss one year. I messed up the printing and had to hand paint all 100 I think, but it was good experience! When my local yarn store needed illustrations for a pattern book, they asked me to do them. I said yes even though it was scary. My friend Rachel asked me to draw their house for their Christmas card. That was my biggest break. I ended up getting so many commissions to paint houses by word of mouth from Rachel, and had the confidence to open up my Etsy store again and list that as something I offered. To my surprise, I received quite a number of orders to do those. Rachel worked for an up and coming interior designer at the time who saw the holiday card I’d done for Rachel and asked me to do work for her portfolio and website. Mind you, I’m not a professional artist, but all of that work gave me more and more confidence, and helped pay bills when I needed the money. Each small step made it easier to get to the next step. What once was scary became ordinary. I try to remember that when something seems overwhelming now.
Me: "So as you began re-developing that voice as an artist, what were some of the biggest lessons you learned?"
The common thread is that one opportunity doesn’t change everything. It is saying yes again and again to scary things that then become easy until you move to the next scary thing. It is finding a path you want to be on, and opening yourself up to the opportunities that come your way, even if you’re not ready. It is taking what you’ve learned from other areas of your life and translating them to other things. When I was selling commissions, I felt so comfortable dealing with clients due to my dayjob. Communicating with clients, covering myself, and being professional came very easily and I just had to worry that they’d like the artwork! When I worried too much about them liking what I made for them, I’d remember that no matter what happened, it would never be as bad as losing a family member of something terrible happening. I sometimes like to visualize the worst that can happen and realize it’s laughable. For example, if I’m that scared a client would hate my artwork, I would give them back their money. When you look at it that way, it’s not that bad.
Me: "You're also a mother to a beautiful boy- which is something I admire greatly. How did all of this fit into your creative journey?!"
Well, re-wind... back to when Rachel hooked me up with her designer friend, and I was about to have my baby. I agreed to more commissions to help the designer because we had done a test run and I knew I could do it. I also knew my mom would be helping. Having a baby and doing a few commissions while on maternity leave made me realize how much I needed art to feel like myself. That idea made me hypothesize that mothers were more efficient with their creative time and were less likely to procrastinate pre-child. That experience of finishing commissions with a newborn made me want to rebel even more against people who said mothers could not be artists, or that mothers could not have 5 minutes to themselves. The confidence of completing those commissions helped me to say yes to painting a watercolor interior each day for The 100 Day Project in 2015. That project led me to collaborate with a Philly artist to try to get a show and understand the power of having a creative partner to stand by you in vulnerable situations. I didn’t get a job I really wanted in 2015 that made us decide to finally pick a place near family and try to get a job in Florida. When I couldn’t get a job in Florida for a bit, it led me to try to sell my artwork more earnestly and do a consulting session with a social media person. Through her, I grew my following and connected with amazing women who push me and empower me to go bigger daily. Confidence and like minded creative friends make you brave and a little ballsy.
Me: "And eventually...carve out time for art was born. can you touch upon that whole process? "
The ideas on motherhood and being inspired by brave friends who took chances led me to ask 10 women to be interviewed for a blog series called, “Carve Out Time for Art.” That led to me becoming so passionate about it, that I asked to interview about 65 artist moms. One of those moms was artist Heather Kirtland, who put herself out there answering my “what’s your big scary dream question” to say she wanted to collaborate on a book with me (an idea I had had since January 2015). This led us to talking and agreeing to creating a book proposal..which also led us to becoming creative partners for COTFA. All the putting my money where my mouth is led me to painting more and pushing myself to share my work and grow. Coincidentally, as I look back on my path, I’ve returned to art and realized I can own that part of my identity.
^ Check out these incredible conversations, artist take-overs and more at @carveouttimeforart ^
ME: "Is there a goal, small or large, which you have had the pleasure of meeting in your creative career?"
One huge piece of advice: cross things off your bucket list and be loose with your goals at times. I had a goal to be published in a magazine. One day.. I realized that a designer I had sent a small work on paper had tacked it on her studio inspiration board, which was photographed for an interview and included in a magazine. Dammit if I did not run around my house cracking up yelling to my husband, “I'm in a magazine! Do you want my autograph?” Ha! But why not?! It counts and I will cross it off my list. Small wins!
^ Be sure to check out Marissa's watercolor painting and short essay-- recently published in Maker's Magazine Issue 2 ^
ME: "so... what's next? and is there any advice you can offer to those afraid to let their artistic voice shine? To those who graduated with a creative-based degree and didn't land that dream job? "
So I don’t know what is next. But I do know that I’ll look back many years from now and see how the connections led to each other. For right now, I’ll focus on putting myself out there, doing things because I want to, and following the passion and the side projects.
You can do whatever you want! You don’t need approval from someone, and if you do - I give it to you right now. Go do what you love. Go find a hobby. Go do something just for fun. Go explore and see where it takes you. The things you do because you love it and cannot stop thinking of them are what get you places and fuel you to continue with them even when it can be a drag (and that will happen). But go try, and fail, and don’t be embarrassed. There are more people impressed by you trying than jealously making fun of you for “failing”.
My last bit of advice. Work hard. Figure out what you want. Prioritize those goals. Change them if you need to. Self evaluate. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing. Trust your instincts. Find your creative community. And support your peers. Good things will happen, I promise.