Welcome to another episode of the podcast. The interview with Linda Kittmer follows below this audio snippet, as it was submitted in written format. Please take time to read it and get to know a little about Linda, as she is delightful and I’m sure you will enjoy the interview. There is a little more info in the audio with a preview of upcoming Artful Adventures.
Kristie: Linda, please tell us a little about yourself and your background.
Linda: I grew up in a very traditional, hard working German family. Being the youngest of five children, and the only girl, there were certain expectations and stereotypes that guided me on my path. I’ve always loved art, and took art throughout high school but it was always seen as a filler among the ‘serious’ academic courses. As such, pursuing art as a career choice was never a consideration. I did take a few fine arts courses in university, but again they were electives that I managed to fit in around the study of child psychology, which was my major. I then went on to get my Bachelor of Education, but it still did not occur to me that teaching art would be a viable choice. Of course, in hindsight, I now wonder why I didn’t combine my love of teaching with my love of visual arts.
As a full time teacher, and later a wife and mother, life was busy and my art was put aside. Then, in 1999 I decided to learn to quilt and that became my artistic outlet. I began as a self taught traditional quilter and although I used some patterns, I quickly discovered that I preferred creating my own unique designs. Being a prolific quilter, I quickly ran out of beds, sofas and cribs to cover. This was also the time when I decided that the traditional quilt guild to which I belonged was no longer meeting my creative needs.
In the spring of 2006 a friend and I started a fibre art group, ‘The Group of Eight Fibre Artists’ or GOE (rhymes with toe) as we refer to ourselves. In spite of the name, the group currently has nine members who meet monthly, encouraging and inspiring one another. Our first group show was in January 2011 and we have six shows and a speaking engagement lined up for this year.
I went from using commercial fabric to creating much of my own hand dyed fabric and I create unique pieces using various surface design techniques such as mono-printing, marbling, rust dyeing, etc.
Kristie: When did you realize you liked to be creative or express yourself through art?
Linda: I think on some level I’ve always know that I like to be creative, but it has certainly blossomed in the last year. I have expanded my choice of media, incorporating art journalling and mixed media work into my repertoire and I’ve also taken a much greater interest in my photography and creating digitally altered photo art.
Kristie: Do you work outside the home?
Linda: I had been working as a special education teacher for the last ten years or so, but due to an accident I have been on long term disability for the last couple of years. It has been during this time, while struggling with depression, that I turned back to my art in a much bigger way.
Kristie: Linda, obviously, from what you’ve shared, art has become very important to you! How much time do you devote to it daily, weekly..?
Linda: I made a conscious choice to spend time in my studio every day in an effort to work through the depression. My art became my therapy and although at times it was extremely difficult to motivate myself, I found that I began to express some of my feelings about what I was going through and that started to make a difference. It was during this time, when I didn’t always feel like working on my fibre art, that I began to sketch and doodle, revisiting some of the things I had enjoyed doing while I was a student in high school and university.
During the ‘darkest‘ time, I created a journal using an altered book. Even now, over a year later, I wouldn’t dare let anyone actually see it…in it I expressed some of my deepest, darkest fears and feelings. But, the exercise of doing that allowed me to get those things off my chest when I wasn’t ready to articulate them or share them with anyone.
It was also during this time that I came upon Joanne Sharpe and her Letter Love 101 online class. This made it easier to keep to my personal commitment to do art everyday since I didn’t have to necessarily be too creative, I just had to follow her lessons.
I now spend most of my day in my studio, while my husband, a woodworker, plays in his workshop. And often, even when I’m not in the studio I’m still working on beading or hand stitching while ‘listening to’ TV with my husband in the evenings.
Kristie: Tell us about your art journey, and how you make art.
Linda: My art journey seems to be ever evolving. I can’t imagine being without the Internet since I love to learn from others and due to various issues online classes are far easier for me to do. I find that I am often inspired by things I see but I like to put my own spin on them. The best thing I think that I have going for myself is a constant need to know “what if”. I love to experiment and think outside the box. I don’t worry about something not turning out. I just jump in and try things and figure out where to take it depending on what happens.
By simply doing Google searches on various topics, checking out Pinterest and visiting other blogs, I’ve found all sorts of free tutorials which I’ve used to learn and expand my repertoire. YouTube is another great source for short videos that demonstrate various techniques and ideas. I’m currently revisiting the Creative Jumpstart 2013 videos and finding new ideas for using things I already have in my stash. Who knew all the cool things you could do with rubber stamps, stencils, etc.
Kristie: Do you create your work with intent and an end result already in mind, or is it more playful and develops as you go along?
Linda: I usually work very intuitively, seldom having an end result in mind. I just finished a piece which began as a wipe up rag my friend used when she was doing some silk dying. It was a piece of white silk, roughly 12” x 16”, with pretty coloured stains on it, but it spoke to me and fortunately she let me have it. I started to hand stitch into it, and after hours and hours of hand stitching, with still no idea where I was going with it, I took it to the sewing machine and did an extensive amount of free motion stitching in the areas that were still white, between the now heavily hand stitched stains. It was only at this point that I started to see something develop. After having spend literally weeks on it…I’m guessing that I had already put at least 20 hours of work into it, I was finally beginning to see where it was taking me.
Sometimes I’ll have some idea of what I want to do, but seldom does a piece end up looking like what I might have first imagined. I know it sounds silly, but I let the piece guide me and I’m open to changing direction as something develops. I never get frustrated if something doesn’t work as I expected because I don’t have an end result in mind, and I therefore just see it as a fork in the road.
Kristie: People are always curious to find out something about where the magic happens. Tell us about your art space! Do you have a little nook, a whole room….?
Linda: I’m very fortunate to have a wonderful studio in our home. The room is 15′ 8″ X 11″ (12′ on the left side with the larger window) and it has one large window and two smaller windows facing the front of our house. Rather than elaborate here, I’ll direct anyone interested to visit my blog and click on the Studio Tour tab where they can read all about my studio and see lots of pictures of it. Suffice it to say for now that I am a very lucky woman.
Kristie: What are some ways you think people can try to expand creativity and not put it into little boxes, which can stifle creativity? (Such as this is home decor, this is scrapbooking, this is card making, this is photography, etc., when in reality we are using design, color, balance… things that are all related?)
Linda: It’s all about keeping an open mind I think. As you say, we use the foundations of design, colour theory, etc. in so much of what we do. It makes me smile when I hear someone say they don’t have an artistic bone in their body, yet they’re dressed beautifully or their home is nicely decorated or whatever. They’ve put basic art principles to work in putting together the outfit or deciding on the organization and colours they’ve used in their home but they don’t think that counts. I used to be in total awe of some of the art I saw and now realize that I’m creating work that I once never imagined that I could. It’s by keeping an open mind and being willing to learn from others that we grow and develop ourselves. I recently created some mixed media canvases that I’m thrilled with, and yet a couple of years ago, my first attempt at putting paint to canvas was a total disaster. You just have to get in there and not be afraid to try!
Kristie: What advice would you offer someone who finds it difficult to work creative time into a busy schedule, like so many of us have?
Linda: I truly believe that we can make time for things if we really want to. This is where some people may say, “Sure, easy for her to say. She’s at home and not working so she has lots of time.” But, as someone who got her Masters of Education while teaching full-time and raising a young son by myself (my first husband had passed away when my son was not yet three), while still keeping summers free to go camping and traveling with my son, I say again that I believe we make time for things that we really want.
Perhaps more importantly, as women, we need to make time for ourselves. Whether right or wrong, we take on a lot of responsibility and we often sacrifice ourselves in the process. I learned early on that if I didn’t take care of myself I was no good to my son or the kids I taught. If you love art, then you owe it to yourself to make time for it in your life. It doesn’t have to always be a lot of time, but schedule in some time everyday for your art.
If you’ve got young kids, set up a little table and chairs in your work area where the kids can create along side you. Set boundaries so they know it is your special time and that they have to work on their activity independently while you’re doing yours. Even the really little ones understand this for short periods of time. If you’re lucky enough to still have little ones who nap, take that time as yours. You can clean house or do laundry when they’re awake! Be creative in finding time. I got Walt Disney to babysit while I worked on my Master’s thesis. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind thirty minutes here or there while you did some art.
Kristie: How important do you think it is to find art friends – others who are willing to explore techniques, products, ideas, their work…?
Linda: I think finding art friends is incredibly important. I guess that’s why my friend and I started our fibre art group. The ability to share ideas, challenge one another, inspire each other, etc. is invaluable. I think that is one of the reasons that Joanne Sharpe has such a cult following. Yes, she’s an incredibly talented artist and a great teacher, but she also had the wisdom to bring her students together in the Facebook groups. And in doing so, she’s opened us up to an endless supply of inspiration and examples of the lessons. As a teacher, I know how important it is for people to learn from others and to use another’s ideas as a springboard for our own unique take on something. It’s the ongoing networking, sharing and encouragement that keeps the learning going.
If you can find a group in your area, or find enough interested people to start one, great, but if that’s not possible for whatever reason, social media is fabulous. I said earlier how fortunate we are to have the Internet and I’ll say it again. How incredible is it that regardless of where we live, whether on an isolated farm in the prairies or in a high rise in a big city, we can sit down at our computer and chat and network, at our convenience, with like minded artists from around the world! In addition to the diversity provided by the international scope of Facebook, these groups are comprised of people at varying levels of experience and skill so that we’ve got regular folks networking and sharing with established and well known artists. Honestly, how cool is that!
Remember, art is the answer…no matter what the question!
Linda’s Blog: http://lindakittmer.blogspot.ca/
Linda on Pinterest: https://pinterest.com/lindakittmer/
A sampling of Linda’s work!