Thursday, April 24, 2008

Featured Makers: Interview with the Rays

It's been awhile since I've done a featured maker article here so this one is a triple feature!

Laura of Pogoshop:

Danna of Groundwork:

Jen of Corduroy:

Laura, Danna and Jen Ray are all artists who really delight me and I often check in on their shops for a jolt of happiness and inspiration. When I made the connection that they are all related (Laura is the mother of Jen and Danna) I just couldn't believe that one family contained such a potent dose of talent! Naturally, I had lots of questions....

I noticed that you mention in all of your Etsy profiles that you grew up in a log cabin in a wooded area. That sounds romantic. How do you feel that growing up in that environment shaped you as artists?

Laura: My husband and I built the house when we were in our twenties. John cut the trees, notched the logs, and built it from scratch. He had never built a house before, but was a man who could do pretty much anything he set his mind to do. The girls grew up with stories about how their father fixed up an old truck to haul the logs, found salvage materials for the interior, created steps out of stones and concrete… Every detail of our house and barns and land had a story. So they learned early on a DIY attitude and had a strong sense of place and home.

Danna: The abundance of life in the woods was always fascinating. I wanted to learn the names of every plant and animal, and I wanted to be able to draw each of them. I wanted to learn to talk to animals. I knew this was possible because my father could call owls from the woods to the trees around him. As a twenty six year old, I'm much the same. I like to draw and paint nature as a means of studying life, with the idea that reality is fascinating and a little blurry. I still try to call owls when I get the chance.

Jen: Growing up in the log home my father built, with acres of surrounding forests and fields, absolutely shaped who I am as a person and as an artist. We were so able to breathe and be creative. And I think it bred a wildness into us as well.
I struggled with the urge get away and experience other things. The city, other people, other cultures- I wasn't afraid of anything and wanted to throw myself into it all. And I did. But home and nature have always been a huge part of me.
Our parents didn't just respect the profession of being an artist, they thought of it as a high calling. It was their dream for us to do whatever we were passionate about.

Your styles are very different but seem like they reflect wonder and enjoyment. All of your shops really make me smile. Since my blog is about collecting pleasures; I was wondering what all of your delights are and if/how you translate them into inspiration for your shops.

Laura: My childhood home was our old family home place here in the country. So I love space to roam, cozy nooks, beautiful smooth wood, old paint, and primitive antiques. I'm obsessed with streams and moss. I love objects that seem to have a story and things that feel great in your hands. I guess my Pogoshop reflects that. Etsy has made it possible to live in the woods that I love and send my work to faraway places. It's a wonderful discovery.

Danna: Hot teas, fresh herbs, handmade imperfections, saturated color, graphic patterns, scandinavian design, small worn objects, small fuzzy creatures. I try to surround myself with these in our home, so they naturally appear in my work. I'm always trying to balance my love of minimalism and scratchy imperfections with graphic pattern and saturated color.

Jen: I find that my drive to make art is rooted in humor and exploration- I like tiny things that run deep. Simple things that are complex, not complicated. Animals, color, mate tea, brave love, funny wounded souls, plants and flowers, champagne and beer, gardens, boats, wood fires, dirty old bars, punk rock, folk music, the ocean, the woods, new and old friends, cooking, a hammock, fecal face dot com, good books, chocolate, wild stories, dirt, paint, good design, patterns and fonts, old cameras, good light..I could go on forever so I'll stop now.

I'm curious if you make other types of things besides what you have for sale in your shops. Also,what occupies your time when you are not making art?

Laura: I taught first grade for many years and now have a part-time university job that I enjoy quite a bit. I also love to garden, to bake, and to treasure hunt in thrift shops.

Danna: I bought a very shabby house in 2005, which I've been renovating ever since. So, I've spent a lot of time laying flooring, painting, installing fixtures, building, etc. But, what I enjoy much more is traveling, gardening, cooking, reading, rock climbing, and cycling. Besides the artwork in my Etsy shop, I also make larger work, and children's illustrations.

Jen: I'm a photographer, and that takes up a lot of my time. I make larger (and smaller) paintings for gallery shows. I draw constantly. With the rest of my time I guess I like to spend time with friends on adventures and coming up with ideas and telling stories, help organize events and shows and getting people stoked about things, get outside in the water or in the woods, get my hands in the dirt planting, cook food, hang out with family, hole up by myself and read or watch old movies, and run around with my dog Ollie.

Were the three of you always creative together or did you each develop into artists more privately. Do you currently use each other for critiques or collaborations?

Laura: I think the three of us always thought creatively together, brainstormed and solved problems together. We do talk often to each other about what we're making. Their work has been a tremendous delight to me over the years. I've always known that the next surprise, the next amazing painting, design idea, or sculpture could appear at any time. The anticipation is wonderful.

Danna: Mom always encouraged creativity through open ended activities. We were constantly drawing and painting at the kitchen table. The three of us baked and decorated cookies quite often. Jen and I liked to make costumes.. I remember a siamese twin costume we made from oversized fluorescent colored t-shirts. We used the leftover sleeves to make matching hats. We liked to surprise Mom with costumed performances and our special recipe brownies (these were usually hard as a rock and colored green or purple with food coloring).

Jen: Yeah, we were always creative together, as well as with my father. He had a different, quiet kind of creativity, but was always thinking up new ideas and ways to make and fix things. But much of our creativity came from our mom. She nurtured and encouraged us from the start, and has always been both our biggest fan and biggest inspiration.
We run work and ideas by each other constantly. I value their input and opinions on my work hugely.

The conclusions I've drawn from this interview:
1. The Rays are as fantastic as I suspected and extra nice.
2. If I ever decide to make some kids, I should try to build a log cabin first.

I really appreciate that Jen, Danna and Laura took the time to write such thoughtful responses. They are fascinating ladies and seem like lots of fun. If I wasn't already so attached to my family; I'd totally be trying to convince them to adopt me.

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