Creative Q&A

Welcome to a new series of posts where I chat with creative people about their art, work and inspirations. Kicking off the series is someone whose creative evolution I had the opportunity to witness firsthand — my mom, Leisa!

When did you start thinking of yourself as a creative person?

All my life. I remember when we used to hang around with Mary and Debbie all the time, I was always saying “let’s make something.”

What did you make as a kid?

Handmade Barbie clothes. Mary and Debbie’s mother taught us how to embroider. I made clothes for myself in middle school. I made a bunch of different things in Girl Scouts.

When do you think it stopped? Because I remember — I must have been in middle school — coming in from playing outside to see you drawing an underwater scene using colored pencils and that sort of kicked off you drawing and doing art shows.

Because of our schedules and being a working mother I didn’t have time to be creative on a daily basis. Daily responsibilities took up all my time. And then I guess when you were in middle school I had a nagging desire to take an art class and Janis McCarty [art teacher who went to our church at the time] said she was only teaching after school kid classes. Since I had never done it she agreed to let me attend a kid class. She couldn’t believe I had never done art before. And then when I showed my work to the art teacher at my school she actually cried.

Wow! Why?

That I had waited so long to show my talent.

Mom's sketchbook

Teaching herself how to draw.

Mom drew this from a childhood picture of her (right) and my aunt Dinah.

I remember when I was doing summer art classes and you guys didn’t know where the talent came from. Obviously it came from you.

Well I didn’t know I had it in me.

What evolved out of the drawing?

When y’all were in high school Mom found the quilt that Mamma [Leisa’s grandmother] made for me when I was five years old. That started a fascination with quilts and an appreciation for the work that goes into them. Plus, I was teaching US history and I made a connection between the two. And then Patty Taylor [mother of a friend of Stef’s from high school] and Laila gave me each a lesson on quilt making and I’ve been doing it ever since.

Mamma's quilt on display in the house.

Some of Mom's quilts.

Now you’re really into finding antiques and things at thrift stores and fixing them up to either keep in the house or try to sell. How did that start?

It was our trip to the East Coast and seeing all the historic sites come to life; it gave me a new appreciation of vintage and antique. It was a quest to find some of my own, especially since I had made the connection with Mamma’s quilt.

Also, one of my favorite stories ever is when I was in high school I wanted to paint my room and you said I could only do the two walls you wouldn’t see if I had the door open when you walked by. Now every room in the house is a different color.

Well, honestly, I think around the same time I started developing such an interest and appreciation for various patterns and colors in quilts I found myself applying that same color essence in other areas. Once I saw how well colors blended together outside of a quilt, I started coordinating my rooms with colors that compliment each other.

How are you creative/artistic day-to-day now?

I’m constantly repositioning items for the right composition. I make vignettes in my house. My hands are always busy, either embellishing items to improve their appearance or stitching something. Cross stitch, embroidery, needlepoint, quilting. It relaxes me.

Mom's current sewing project, which I think is going to be a pillow.

What kinds of things are you still interested in trying?

That class y’all talked about, Painting with a Twist. I wouldn’t mind, although it’s not prudent, taking a more advanced class of quilting. I would like to carry this decorating/design element into the outer spaces like the backyard. I have already carried it on to the front porch, but I’m not feeling it out there (*waves hand toward backyard*).

Do you remember your parents/sisters being creative or artistic? Not even just when you were a kid, but any time.

Dad was always building something. Mom enjoyed sewing. Dinah used to dabble with drawing and poetry. Robin likes photography and Susan’s gotten into design and decorating and antiques.

One of the topics in “The Artist’s Way” is whether or not a person has supportive people in their lives when it comes to their art. Do you think you have a good support system? And I know I tease you a lot about the amount of stuff in the house, but that’s just me being a smart ass.

I get a lot of positive comments from people who come into the house, even repair people. I get many compliments on my space at the store. I was even chosen as one of three to decorate the store window fronts. So I guess, yeah.

But not the family?

Not until you asked me to make you a quilt. I was also really good in English classes and in writing, but I didn’t have a passion for it to pursue a career in it the way you have. But like that little poem I wrote? I did that in less than five minutes. It just popped out of my head.

The quilt I requested two years ago. It was my Christmas present. 🙂

I like to hear about where my own creative juices come from.

Dinah’s creativity is also in her cooking.

Nat’s creative, too. I’d say Dad, too, because he loves to cook and has a good vision when he builds things.

Yeah he really enjoyed building the shelves [in the house.]

Dad and I built this table for my apartment, too.

When do you feel the least creative or artistic?

I’m always conscious of it but I’m not always acting on it. I also have absolutely no desire to be creative in cooking. I hate it.

Which is funny because the rest of us love it.

I know.  When we were in a staff development class we had an activity that we did to determine if we were more left-brained or right-brained and I was the only one in a faculty of 90 people that came out equally both.

That doesn’t really surprise me. Because you’re obviously artistic and creative, but…

But it has to be organized.

Right.

I have organized creativity.

Mom's craft room. She's mad at me for this photo because she thinks it looks like a mess. I think it looks like creativity!

What advice do you have to people who want to be creative or artistic in some way but don’t feel like they have it in them?

Push yourself to try things. Don’t limit yourself to other people’s expectations. If that was the case you would have squashed my creativity a long time ago.

I told you I’m just being a smart ass!

I know but telling people to buy my stuff as they come into the house… that’s funny.

Are you happier now than during the years when you weren’t being creative?

Most definitely.

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10 thoughts on “Creative Q&A

  1. Pingback: A geek for a theme: “The Night Circus” « stefawrites

  2. Love this story! The artwork and quilts are beautiful. I’ve always admired your mom’s creativity. She makes it look so easy. Thanks for keeping the creative spirit alive!

  3. Yeah, the organizer in me winced when I saw the craft room picture! I had just purchased some items to “tweek” to sell at the store and the bags were all over the floor. It’s kind of hard to run a business out of your home and keep things looking decent. That’s one reason why I wanted a craft room when we had an addition put on the house. I think everyone should surround themselves with things they love, albeit at times it looks like clutter. It’s organized chaos. Thanks, Stef, it was a fun interview.

    • Thanks for doing it. Did you have to breathe into a bag when you saw that pic? 😉 When I posted the photo of the sewing you’re doing right now, I thought it would make a cool panel for the center of a quilt. See what you’ve started?

    • As a matter of fact, I invited her to this month’s. 🙂 I’m going “shopping” in her house for Night Circus-y things to use to decorate my table. She has some perfect things.

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