Monday, July 4, 2011

My Trip down Memory Lane: How I Became an Artist

I can't remember a time that I didn't love art, or want to be an artist. From a very young age, It was my dream to create, to be an artist. I was influenced the most by my one of my uncles, who's art I have always admired, a painter extroardinaire! Many in my family have dabbled in painting, my grandfather, uncles, and an aunt. We are also a very "crafty" family. My grandmother's skill with needlework and sewing was bred from necessity, but became one of her most loved activities. My mom can knit faster than anyone I know, she's almost as fast as a machine! Many of us women have done crosstitch, embroidery, knitting, crocheting, even tatting. Paper crafts too, scrapbooking, card making, journaling... the list goes on and on.

I think it was natural for me to get involved in Art and Craft. Even though my heart's desire as a child was to paint, I ended up in fine craft. That's a story in itself. While in high school, my parents were just starting out in their new business. They began importing and distributing various goods from The Netherlands, their former homeland. Some of the goods was jewellery. Dad had some connections there, and a promise from someone at the company that I could get a job designing jewellery, but I would need an education in jewellery design first. So, the next step, apply to a college that has a course in jewellery design. My guidance counselor suggested Sheridan College, School of Crafts and Design. It was relatively local, about an hours drive, in Mississauga, Ontario. One of my uncles commuted daily to Toronto, and it was decided at the time that I would continue to live at home, and get a ride with him, should I be accepted at Sheridan.

I didn't doubt for a second I would get in. I didn't apply anywhere else. My art teacher in high school helped me put a portfolio together, which by today's standards would be laughable, however, it was good enough to "get me in". Sheridan's standards today are very high, and it's difficult to get accepted now. They are world renowned, particularly in the animation dept. Many of Sheridan's graduates are now employed at Pixar and Disney.

This was happening in the late 70's, when craft was getting quite the revival, and even a new lease on life, so to speak.

Some of my old high school art, these were part of my application to get into Sheridan:

 my little brother! I ended up using this design on a T shirt for him, and then later gave him a copy of the drawing. 

A funny story; I have to recall one of my English teachers in high school. He made us write a 1 page essay every week, many of us complained bitterly. His reasoning; he wanted us to be more, have more, do more. Be Better! He continually told us if we didn't learn to write, we'd end up as "basket weavers" from Bangladesh! How we'd be from Bangladesh, I'll never know, for we were all Canadian, through and through. I remember walking around the campus at Sheridan at an Open House, and there were some highly respected "basket weavers" giving workshops to a very interested audience! I think I laughed out loud when I saw that. Here I was, associated with "basket weavers", and it was "OK", even better than OK.

I do understand what he meant, that education is the key to success in this world, and he didn't mean that being a craftsperson in and of itself was a bad thing... but it sure was humorous!
When I joined the Sheridan family, my family was busy getting their souvenir business off the ground. Part of my duties then was to prepare the artwork. It was tedious, painstaking, work. I'd get it done in about 2 minutes now with a computer, but back in the day, it took me well over 2 hours for each one.
You see, my Dad, the entrepreneur, was importing and distributing souvenir spoons. They'd been a big thing in Europe, and was just getting big in N America. It was quite a process, and eventually, they did much of the manufacturing themselves. It started out as a home business, graduated to having an offsite building, and a bunch of employees.

The spoons themselves had a little, plasticized photo on it, usually of a some kind of attraction, like a picture of Niagara Falls, for instance. My job was to put the lettering on top, and make sure that the shape of the photo would eventually fit into the shield shape of the little pictures. There was also some photography involved, and with computers, this too has become obsolete! My classmates, and even my teachers, often be-littled my involvement with this enterprise. But goodness!, it's how my parents were able to pay my tuition!
Those first self-taught dabblings in graphic design turned out to be a foundation for what I'm doing even now!

So, I learned a lot at Sheridan! As it turns out, the basics of good design is quite useful in all kinds of endeavours. I spent 3 years there, and even though I had sorta planned to go to Holland, for that design job, those plans quickly changed... my high school sweetheart, and the love of my life, asked me to marry him. (also to my classmates scorn!), and a new path for my life was set!

I did become quite pleased with designing and making one of a kind jewellery, and it was my focus for many years. I did a lot of craft shows, had my work shown in some galleries, and sold to the retail market as well.

We were raising our family all the while, and I quickly discovered that teenagers need their mom around more, rather than less often, and the craft show sales were declining, and so, I gave it up. I didn't think it would be for very long, but I have not really picked it up again, and I can honestly say I don't really miss it!

I've dabbled in all kinds of other creative outlets, but that's another story.

Thanks for stopping by,
Happy Scrapping!