Visiting Artist: Catherine, All Hands On

Catherine, of onelittlestar, emailed me very soon after I announced the Visiting Artist Series about wanting to be part of it and I was stoked. I mean, she’s like… a real artist who makes things that aren’t just words on a page. I’m always impressed by these people. I can’t draw worth shit, and I certainly can’t make 3D objects that are worth anything. The best I can do is some play-dough snakes. But Catherine makes some seriously beautiful jewelery (you should check out at her etsy shop) and some super vibrant paintings. I especially like the “Today I…” series where she paints and sketches self portraits. I freaking love self portraits. And her attitude about being an artist and her love of what she creates is so incredibly deep, reading her words makes me want to work harder, push further, continue learning my craft. Bottom line, Catherine makes me want to do better. 

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I am an artist because I make art.  I like to be creative, I like to make things.  I make jewelry, I paint, I draw, I take photos,  I use fiber and textiles.   I love making all kinds of things and I always want to try new mediums.  I think the things I make are art, and that makes me an artist.

Today It Rained Again

I have always felt like an artist in some way.  I was always told I was an artist ever since I was little, so I guess I always believed it.

The artist title fits into my free time; when I am home from work and on weekends.  I always say I am an artist for fun.  I need a creative outlet. I say it is for fun because I don’t feel like I can say it is “what I do” because it doesn’t support me financially. It is not my profession, but it is much more who I am than my day job.  As a result I feel the need to excuse my occupation to some extent when someone asks me what I do, so I say I am a Mutual Fund Accountant, but I like to make art. I am not at all interested in talking about what is technically my job – I do not feel passionate about it.  I do want to talk about making art, my jewelry and my etsy shop and what I am creating.

I think it is something I am still working on reconciling.

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I think this is something everyone struggles with, artists are not the only ones to have a crisis of identity. What we do at our day jobs is rarely who we are on the inside, is never all we are, yet is always assumed to be meaningful. “Oh, what do you do?” is an easy question that answers some things, but never enough things, about people.

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I am living the identity of an artist by constantly creating.  I am mostly working on my silver jewelry these days but I also draw, paint, take photos and recently have been very into Japanese braiding.  I try to do some kind of art everyday.  Even if I am exhausted after work I try to do a little something….which once I get started can turn into a lot of something.  Once I get going on a project I like to keep working on it.  My husband sometimes has to force me to stop working because it is 1 in the morning and I have to work the next day.  When I am on a roll I really like to stay with it.

My art feels very personal.  I put a lot into it; a lot of time, a lot of thought and a lot of work.  I feel like I am putting myself into my work throughout the process; coming up with an idea for a piece, sketching it out, deciding on the design, carving the wax, getting it cast, filing the metal, finishing the piece. Everything I make is important to me as a result of all that time, effort and thought and I feel very attached to my pieces.

I love coming up with ideas, and carving them into wax.  I am always excited to get my pieces back from casting and see how they have turned out.  I have given a lot of my jewelry as gifts and it makes me really happy to see people wearing things I have made. When people tell me that they like my pieces, that they wear them all the time, or when I see them wearing something I made them in their Christmas card it makes me feel very proud.  It feels really good to make something that people enjoy and that is a part of their lives.

Another way I am living the artist identity is by constantly trying to improve and increase my knowledge.  I am taking classes to advance my skills and get more practice in the areas I know, as well as new areas that I become interested in. I am always looking to improve and learn as well as to create.

I am constantly thinking about my work in the back of my head, new ideas for pieces, how to put things together, photographs, packaging. On the train, on lunch break, getting coffee, going to sleep, my mind is always thinking of ideas.  I have to write everything down.

My creative space is all over the place. I have a notebook that I doodle, write and draw in.  This is always with me.  I have to write everything down and sketch it out otherwise it will fall out of my head. Sometimes I work at my desk, which is where my art space began.  I have my computer on one side and drawing space on the other. I do a lot of watercolor, drawing, and digital art at my desk, as well as photo editing.  I look at images and photos on my computer and look through stacks of books from the library. My studio space then expanded from my desk into the middle of our living room in order to accommodate my growing need for space to do my jewelry.  As I acquired more equipment I needed more space. I also like to work on my Japanese braiding all over the place, on the subway, at lunch, at the beach or on the couch while watching TV. I like to be constantly creating.

I think about things a lot.  Sometimes I feel like it doesn’t look like I am doing anything, but the thinking time is really important to the process.  I designed a friends wedding invitation and I thought about what I was going to do for over a month.  Thinking what it would look like, how to put it together, just thinking.  Then when I sat down to make it I knew exactly what I was making and how it was going to work.  Thinking is a very important part of my process.

It is not all creating,  I am trying to work towards the business side as well. I am trying to sell my jewelry on Etsy which has been exciting and difficult.  It is really exciting when a stranger looks at your work and likes it and decides to purchase it.  It is really fun for me to get the order ready, to put together all the packaging, write out the cards and send it out into the world.  It is also a lot of work getting the piece done, then taking photos, writing up the descriptions, setting prices.

It is hard because I feel that since I started the store it is difficult to separate the business end of it from the pieces themselves.  The worth of my art gets tied up in my head with how many people look at my site, and if I get any sales and if people like me on Facebook and Etsy.  I worry if I am good enough, if my work is good enough, if people feel like it is worth buying. It is something I am working on reconciling in my head.  I try to just make pieces that I love and find their value in what I think of them and not what I can sell them for.

Some days I feel really happy with my work.  I have made something I really like, I have a good idea, I get metals back from casting and they look amazing, and I think I made this, this is awesome.  But there are at least as many days that are equally hard.  When no one has looked at my stuff, I haven’t received any feedback on a piece that I expected I would, or no one has looked at my shop or my blog. It is easy to think that maybe I am wasting my time and money.

It is also difficult when I see other artists and the amount of work they are producing.  I have to remind myself that I am spending 40 hours a week doing something else and only after that I do I have time to work on my art.

In the future, I would like to do craft fairs.  I think it would be a lot of fun, but also a lot of work.  There would be a large money commitment going into a craft fair, and I would have to make a lot of pieces, without knowing how they would sell. It is an exciting idea, but also intimidating. For now, I am going to continue to work on my Etsy store and make many more pieces.  I have so many ideas!

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As always, these are not paid posts in anyway, just my attempt at supporting and understanding the amazing artists that are strolling around our community every day, and who maybe we don’t ever notice. I’m definitely interested in grabbing Catherine’s petal necklace once the next pay-day rolls around. Nothing makes me want to support other artists more than her honest has. We all have insecurities, and I’ve totally been there in my own writing. Catherine, rock on. We’re behind you.

If you, or someone you know would like to be featured here, and undergo my rigorous questioning (it’s fun! no, really it is!), please email me at betterinrealife at gmail dot com.

8 thoughts on “Visiting Artist: Catherine, All Hands On”

  1. Catherine, your work is amazing … and hearing about your process just makes it that much more personal and intriguing.

    And so you know … I just bought the Starfish necklace. It’s going to my best friend for Christmas. She’ll LOVE it … I do. =)

  2. Catherine has been producing works of art for all of her 29 years! Her paintings hang in our house and I wear my crane pin with pride. I love Catherine’s spirit and her art!

  3. I have a beautiful necklace and ring made by Catherine. They are such stunning pieces. Hearing all the thoughts behind crafting her art makes the work even more special.

  4. Wow, these are so beautiful! Great work, Catherine, and thank you for talking about the identity we invest in “what we do” v. “how we pay the bills” (Lauren, too).

    It’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately, because a large part of my identity is tied up in “what I do”, and unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly obvious that this is not currently paying the bills, nor is it likely to improve in that regard in the future. It’s also not going to be possible to do “what I do” right now if I have to end up changing careers to pay the bills. (Science is also a creative process I think, but nearly impossible to conduct out of one’s house, and you can’t really rent lab space like some artists are able to rent studio space. What to do?) Tricky stuff, and you’ve got me thinking. I may have some things to write about it later.

    PS – I’ve just put that petal pendant on my Christmas wishlist! Nobody take it!

  5. Catherine: You are awesome. I love your work and I love the sand dollar necklace you made for me. I wear it often and always think of you. Love you.

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