Inspiration week Day 5: Cathy Cullis of Novembermoon
I have to say I was thrilled when Cathy agreed to be interviewed. She and I became connected through our love for handspun yarn. You may not realize that when she isn't painting, drawing, writing poetry or working magic on her teeny tiny sewing machine ( that is just how I imagine it to be to make her machine writing tangible) she is wandering around her house with a drop spindle spinning up beautiful hand dyed roving ( that by the way she dyes herself) to use for her terrific dolls. It was just last year that I suggested a monthly swap of handspun fiber that would inspire us to knit beautiful little things to share with each other. During this year of exchanges I became increasingly aware of just how uniquely talented this lovely person is. She even sewed an entire poem by t.s. elliot on a piece of cloth for me to use in a future, very special project.
What inspires you in your creativity?
I'm inspired by so many different, often quite intangible things and ideas. I'm inspired by beautiful objects and moments. But mostly my work is about self-expression and about how so often there are silences - girls are told to be a certain way, I was never able to really express how I felt as a little girl. As a woman I've gone on a journey of learning to express myself. So I'm inspired by my own life experiences and the stories of other creative women.
If you tried to trace back the series of events that lead to you making things and opening an etsy shop where would it begin?
Ah, it has been an interesting journey for me. I knew for many years that I really wanted to develop ideas and share my visual work, professionally, but it took a series of unhappy events to get me there...... In 2005 my marriage ended, so I was single with two young children. It was not a happy split and I found myself going through a very challenging period, emotionally and personally. A new relationship began, it was wrong for me, so that ended. At this time I was hardly paying attention to my creativity at all, I just felt desperately lonely - I now know why I felt that way. I hit bottom and had to get myself out of the hole..... A few good friends of mine, who knew me well, encouraged me to start using my skills to make things and get some self-worth back. So I started out making very simple decorative items in fabric, using anything that I had already and friends gave me fabrics and so on. I started to sell my work but I wanted to be more creative about it and slowly but surely I developed my ideas and started to feel more like myself...... I decided I was going to use my creativity positively. Now I had actually got an opportunity to really express so many ideas and produce work that meant something to me. This was not an easy process at all, there was so much going on of course. I came across Etsy totally by chance - one day, just looking around, there it was this opportunity to sell my work online...... So much has happened in the past few years. A lot of hard work and many changes. But I will always be grateful to my friends and close family for their encouragement.
How did you learn your crafting skills?
I've always enjoyed constructing bits and bobs to make something attractive and/or useful. As a child I liked to make dolls out of pipe cleaners and old fashioned pegs. My skills were quite basic though, until I was at University where I studied English and Art. Then I got the opportunity to try different art processes and I also taught myself to sew, embroidery. I became interested in Outsider Art and wanted to try stitching and sculpting and so on... That just continued on. When my daughter was a baby I would use her nap times to teach myself how to use a sewing machine. I've not really been taught by others, I've mostly tried things for myself and used trial and error. I did a pottery course several years ago and that taught me skills that are not just about using clay. I am still learning and challenging myself.
Can you describe an environment : time, place and company ( people or pets) where you feel most creative?
I like to work at home, in my own small space, usually by myself. But my children are very good critics:) I often feel my most creative first thing in the morning, that is the time I have a new idea that is making me get out of bed early....
What do you have planned 2009?
I would like to continue developing my ideas in mixed media and stitch. This year I particularly want to develop ideas in three-dimensional pieces with paper as a main material and to use more hand stitch embroidery. I like the idea of making domestic objects, such as cups. Also, looking back over my 2008 work made me realise how I enjoyed my rather grungy painted journal pages with handwriting and layers of paint - so I want to develop my ideas and create some new paintings that are rather like journal pages. I would like to continue on with selling my work online and would love to see my work in a few more galleries and/or shows. That is a goal to work toward. Also, I really would like to work on a few collaborative projects with other artists.
What advice or encouragement would you offer another creative person contemplating taking a big step to open a shop or blog in 2009?
For opening a shop - Be wise to what you need to do professionally, as far as taxes and so on in your country. Remember this is going to take up time and it is really exciting commitment. I would suggest you spend plenty of time researching your chosen creative 'area'. Look about at latest trends but remember they are just trends. Look at a wide range of resources such as magazines, galleries, books - and be focused on what matters to you creatively. I feel it is a good idea to find a style of working that you feel is right for you, but don't be afraid to experiment in public a little either:) I know from reading blogs and sharing with others that people really appreciate seeing how an artist can develop their ideas, evaluate and learn. Be wise about yourself, as far as you are able, and use your best skills. Personally, as a collector, I really value work that has a distinctive, personal look and I like a shop that has a friendly seller. I think a blog is essential if you want to open a shop:) A blog allows the opportunity to express ideas and give some insight into your way of thinking. You need not be too personal about your day to day life. I choose not to discuss my children very much, that is my personal choice and that's ok. I never seem to have enough time to read all the blogs I would like to read, but I do make time to visit blogs when I can and enjoy being part of the online creative community.
Just in case you didn't catch that Cathy is looking for artists to collaborate with and I can't think of a more wonderful, talented woman to do so with. I imagine her inbox will be filled with offers shortly. Tomorrow I have an interview with someone who definitely should have a blog but she has an etsy shop and a very busy flickr account. She is an artist , married to an artist and they both live a midcentury modern life. Can you guess who I am talking about?