Visiting Artist Series: Helen and Lindi, And a Tale of “DIY Till I Die” Teamwork

I am loving this series because it is on the self-indulgent side. I get to chat up all of these amazing people who do things I wish I could and who have brains that work in ways I don’t always understand, but greatly appreciate. I do not make… things. I do not have a hot glue gun, I do not knit, and I don’t paint (walls, furniture, canvas, you name it). When I want something my first inclination is not to make it, it’s to run out and purchase it or suffer without. I believe this comes from some sort of lazy gene passed down from my mother who also doesn’t make shit but who wields a Nordstrom card like a ninja.

But Helen and Lindi are of the magical set who actually consider making things… like face scrub… or wedding invitations. And then they… do. They make things from A-Z, they sell things (Visit their etsy shop), they are photographers (Check out their website), they are partners in life and in art (and in crime). They are an inspiration to people like me to finally get off our buts and do something about all of the awesome ideas we have floating around in our head before we decide to just up and take a nap.

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Helen: I think that art is whatever you make it. Lindi and I do photography together, make jewelry and such to sell on Etsy, and embark on lots of fun artsy projects for ourselves (Card making! Metal stamping! Chair painting!). I think making art (and enjoying it) is a pretty integral part of who I am, and actually, who we are together. Our artistic endeavors are one of the things we do for fun, and working together on projects brings us closer together as a team.

Lindi: I used to have a really hard time owning the word ‘artist’ or even ‘photographer’. I think we often get hung up on these words because we feel like we have to be producing a certain quality of work before we can call ourselves an artist, but that just isn’t the case. By creating something, we are artists and that’s pretty amazing. I love that this is something that Helen and I can do together and creating art with someone, any kind of art, is always kind of a moving experience. It’s enjoyable to see what sorts of things we draw from it as a team and to see how we take something shared and make it our own. Plus, the instant gratification of having her feedback is sort of awesome.

Helen: I agree with what Lindi said about judging our worthiness as artists based on the perceived quality of our work. I think it’s partly on how we judge the work ourselves, especially in comparison to others’ work, and also how much others value it.

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Yes!!! This is an amazing point, and I agree 100%. It’s a difficult thing to shake, the need to have other people tell you the value of your work in order to give it any value at all. I think it’s part of capitalism. Everything has a price and the higher the price the more valued it is. How do you value creation and art in a world obsessed with numbers and the bottom line?

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Helen: Growing up with a sister who is an absolutely amazing visual artist and a mother who went to college for art and teaches high school art in my hometown, I never really felt like I was an artist at all. Even though I did artistic things- I’ve been taking photos and working with paper since I was much younger- to me, the definition of an ‘artist’ was someone who painted, drew, etc. I did/do none of those things, and frankly, am pretty terrible at them. Over the course of my life, I’ve found myself saying things like, ‘Oh, I’m the non-artistic one in the family; I just _________” (scrapbook, take photos, etc.) As I’ve gotten older, I can definitely see how my definition of the title ‘artist’ has changed. Now, I see that the work Lindi and I do together is definitely art, even if I’m not doing it with watercolors or charcoal.

Lindi: I think that I’ve finally just begun to accept this title, because I, like Helen, come from a pretty creative family. My mom was quite the artist growing up and one of my sisters was always very involved in visual arts. I liked drawing and painting, but I never considered it anything more than a passing hobby. I certainly wasn’t passionate about it the way they were. I didn’t have extensive portfolios and I mostly only did it to pass the time. When I was much younger and started taking photos, my family sort of indulged me and started buying me film for my grandmother’s point and shoot. It was a fun hobby, but I still did not consider it art at the time. As my eye developed and people started valuing my work, I had to step back and see that I was creating something really worthwhile. It’s funny that that was sort of a shocking revelation, but it definitely was.

Helen: We started doing artsy things together basically from the day we met. We were friends, then more, and now we’re married (eee!) and we’ve been collaborating on projects the whole way. I can definitely see how the relationship between us and the arts evolved, though. When we met, I did photography on my own and would model for Lindi quite often, but we didn’t do photography together very much– and now we have our own photography business where we work together all the time. (It helps that we have two cameras now…) We have done hundreds of crafty/artsy projects together, and it’s always so much fun. I definitely feel more motivated and excited about taking on new things, now that I have someone to share it with.

Helen & Lindi

Lindi: Helen actually really changed the game for me. I was pretty crafty before I met her, but I hadn’t really started working as a photographer yet. Helen would model for me in ridiculous dresses, in rivers, in the snow. She was a really good sport. I think it was with her encouragement that I started finally letting people pay me for things. I think the most wonderful thing about doing something creative with your partner is that you have a cheerleader, someone who supports you and lifts you up, but isn’t afraid to tell you what they really think either. I can’t really imagine not having that sort of support in my life. I know it’s made me a better artist. I’ll admit that I can sometimes be really terrible at completing projects. Before working together with Helen,I would often start things and then forget about them. Now I have someone who can tap me on the shoulder and say: ‘Hey, are you ever going to finish that?’

Helen: I’m working full time as a receptionist while also doing photography/Etsy as almost another full time job- usually about 30 hours a week. It’s exhausting sometimes! Even at its most overwhelming, though, it is 100% worth it. An actor friend of ours recently referred to her day job as her ‘survival job’ and that’s how I feel about mine, too. It helps pay the bills, but what I really look forward to is the creative work we do together and individually. Eventually, our goal is to do photography to support ourselves full time. We’re working toward that!

Lindi: I think that we have several identities, different ‘hats,’ so to speak, but artist and photographer will always be two of the most important to me. I will never stop creating or expanding my vision. I think that I am often at my best when I am making something, whether it is food or photos or scrapbooks. I really love that feeling of inspiration and creation, so I don’t think I will ever stop moving toward that. Right now though, we have to also have other means of supporting ourselves and, for now, I’m okay with that. I feel like we’ve come such a long way in the last three years that I can only imagine where we’ll be in another few. It’s a really exciting thing to look forward to finding out!

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I love asking artist what their favorite things are. I think I’m not alone in assigning either little personalities or, at least, deeper meaning to each story I write. It depends on where I was at the time, subject matter, how much fun it was or how much of a pain it caused me and what happened with the finish project. Some of my stories I look at fondly, others I would love to punch in the face, and even others I wish I could pull into my lap and cuddle. So an artist’s favorite things are usually some of the most interesting…

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Helen: Photography-wise, one of my favorite photoshoots ever is the one we did with vintage dresses from the fifties, balloons and a lace parasol. It was a bit of an adventure getting all the balloons blown up with helium and in the car, and it was incredibly windy, but to date it remains one of the most creative and freeing shoots we’ve done. As for other craft/creative things, I made a series of headbands last year out of dupioni silk, and I really loved working with that material. It was pretty yummy to the touch.

Lindi: As far as photography goes, I totally agree about the vintage, balloon photoshoot! But overall, I think my favorite things have been the journals we’ve made. I don’t even know if you’d call them journals. They’re books. When Helen went to study abroad the first year we met, she made me a huge box of wrapped trinkets and letters- one for every day she was going to be gone. I keep a journal of my own, but I also made one for her that year. It’s full of photographs, letters and poetry by our favorite poets. I wrote in it every day. Sometimes more than once a day. It became a sort of tradition after that. We now have several books like this, one for every time we were apart for an extended period of time. Helen even made one for me when she studied in Ireland! What I love most about is how the books went from being just a journals to these bursting-at-the-seams works of art. They are some of the most beautiful, most precious things.

Helen: Yes! The books! We were actually just talking the other day about how when we had to hide in our (tiny) downstairs bathroom when there was a string of tornadoes here in our part of the country, those books were one of the few things we grabbed. We had us, our two cats, our cameras, some food and water, and those books. They’re amazing.

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Of course I ask everyone what their creative space looks like. I’m obsessed with how people work. Being a writer so much of my work is done alone, inside my head, thinking and scribbling. So when I get a chance to pick the brains of other creative thinkers I love knowing how they work and what their process is.

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Helen: When it comes to crafting and jewelry making? A really big mess. Hah. Really, though, we tend to kind of explode in a flurry of paper scraps, fabric, beads, mod podge and ink. It’s kind of ridiculous. We’re always trying new projects- some of which turn out wonderfully, and some of which flop. That’s okay, though. I think part of the fun is experimenting, even if the end result isn’t what you expected. As for photography, no matter where I am, no matter if I have my camera with me or not, I am always looking at the world as if I could take photos of it– framing things in my head, thinking about color and light and form. Both businesses, though, also come with a heap of paperwork and financial stuff (taxes! so many taxes!) and as the more business-minded of the two of us, I’m also thinking about that a lot.

Lindi: I think that everything I do creatively is a bit of an explosion. Helen teases me all the time for my inability to not completely destroy the kitchen when I’m cooking and it’s sort of the same way when I’m making jewelry or scrapbooking or whatever it is I happen to be doing. I usually find it’s best for me to work on the floor or in an open space so I can spread out. It makes the mess more manageable and makes it harder for me to lose things (something else I’m really, really good at). I think my mental state is far more organized than my physical state most of the time. Sometimes I have very specific ideas in my head of what something should look like, though I think it is often good to remember that just because it doesn’t turn out exactly as you planned, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t still really freaking awesome.

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After reading through Helen and Lindi’s amazing answers and conversations with each other I realized we aren’t talking to ladies who hone in on just one craft, this is their life. And to me, that means one thing: DIY till I die.

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Helen: We make just about anything we’re able to (and, at times, try and fail to make some other things that we are apparently NOT able to. Hah.) We made all of the invitations for our wedding from scratch- including four different types of paper, mounting squares, vellum and paper cutters. We make our own holiday decorations and ornaments and gifts. We also love to experiment with homemade replacements for storebought things like kitchen cleaners and Biore strips. It’s a lot of fun. (Editors Note: BIORE STRIPS?! I love it!)

Lindi: My family teases us about how much we make on our own and how crafty we are, but in the end, I think they’re actually impressed. My grandma goes on and on about how awesome Helen is at making jewelry. I don’t think that there is a time when we aren’t working on something, whether it is making a scrapbook or finding ways to make our own face scrub. I think I’m a scavenger by nature. I love being able to find things around the house and make it into something new. I mean, there are certainly a few things I wouldn’t do on my own. I will never, ever change the oil in my own car, for example. But give me some paper and glue and I’ll make a pretty thank you card for whoever does it for me.

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I could never, ever, ever imagine sharing my creative space with another person, let alone the one I’m married to. That’s right – Kamel is not allowed to be a writer (yes this sounds crazy, but otherwise our marriage would not work). To find two people (like with Lizzie and Isaiah who were featured earlier in the year) who can co-exist in life and in art blows my mind. So, of course I had to ask about fighting and jealousy. And of course Helen and Lindi are beyond awesome and are both way more generous people than I could ever be…

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Helen: Yes, indeed. Lindi is definitely more ‘artistic’ than me in the sense of how I grew up understanding the word (that is, she can draw and paint), and so I struggle with that sometimes. We also have different styles of editing photos, and sometimes it’s hard not to compare our photos from the same session.However, I think that’s actually a really great thing– it would be boring if everything we did looked exactly the same! On the whole, we tend to do a really good job at working as a team when we do projects, and that’s pretty wonderful. We really enjoy working with a lot of the same materials (craft-wise) and also some different ones– for instance, I love making jewelry but don’t paint or draw very much, and Lindi draws all the time but doesn’t really make jewelry, and we both love working with paper and fabric. It’s a fun mix.

Lindi: Just as much as Helen compares her photos to mine, I do the same to hers. She’ll sometimes ask me if her photos are as nice as mine and I end up asking her the same thing. I think it’s impossible not to compare your work with other people, but I think it’s our differences that make our partnership so strong. As far as ‘creative headspace’ is concerned, I think that we are usually in a very similar place. We both tend to like the same colors, the same light and texture. These things seem small, but they can really set the mood in artwork and photography. As long as we start out on the same page, we tend to create work with, at the very least, a vein of similarity. Helen is right. It would be so boring if we took exactly the same photos or created exactly the same things. I think this goes not just for art, but for marriage in general. You want someone who is similar to you in all the big ways, but still brings something refreshing and new to the table.

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 Series: Helen and Lindi, And a Tale of “DIY Till I Die” Teamwork”

  1. Great interview…just discovered their work and love it. So much about how they perceive themselves as artists resonated with me.

    So hard to claim the title of being an artist.

  2. I loved this, and scrapbooking, never thought of it as art, but I have a whole stack of journals with printed, highlighted emails to my best friend when we were not in the same country, news cutouts, photos, and lots of quotes of whatever it was I was reading and marked me, and all kinds of paper thingies like metro tickets….
    And wow, that is some amazing work you girls are doing 😉 Way to go and wishes for success.

    1. I think it’s definitely art! Or they can be if you mean for it to be, at least. I love that someone else has done the same thing we did! Good for you. 🙂

      And thanks. 🙂

  3. Oh you guys, I just love you more and more. And the books are great! If you don’t mind my asking — what kind of journals/books to you use to fill up? I’m trying to start a new scrapbook and I’m having a hard time finding the right book-thing.

    xoxo

    1. Erin, they’re these black plain-paper sketchbooks from Hobby Lobby. They’re cheap- only about $7, I believe- and we’ve kept using them year after year because you can break the spine of the book to fit EVEN MORE STUFF in them. Otherwise, they’re more or less a poor girl’s moleskine- basic, black cover, unlined heavier weight paper, about 6″x9″.

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