Art is My Happy Place • by Jennifer Hayslip
My Earliest Influence
Since I was a little girl, my vivid, whimsical imagination has inspired creativity in me. My mother always told me that I inherited my artistic gene from my dear grandmother, who first introduced me to art. My grandmother was a talented painter who lent beauty to everything she created, from fine portraits down to Easter eggs I hunted as a child. She loved history, art, gardening, antiques, and collecting, and she lived a social, artful life.
Of all the beautiful styled vignettes throughout my grandmother’s home, I was especially fond of a little glass house that she kept on a table in her formal living room. It was about the size of a shoebox with a glass door that would open and close. She displayed miniature finds on both of the shelves inside—little porcelain figures, seashells, books of poetry, tiny silver spoons, dried flowers, and pretty what-knots. In my five-year-old eyes, it was a little glass house of curiosities. Many years later when Grandma passed away, I inherited her glass house with all of its original treasures and have given it a special place on a shelf in my formal living room. Upon reflecting, I guess you could say this how I discovered my love for small found objects and how I became inspired to use them in my creations.
A Little Girl Named Dottie
Throughout my teens and into early adulthood, I dabbled here and there with crafting, always making things. In my twenties, I picked up pen and paper and began drawing. I created a “mini me” cartoon character named Dottie. Dottie was a funny third grader, who was both adventurous and mischievous. I loved dreaming up silly cartoon scenes starring Dottie, her fluffy kitty, Killer, and pet mouse, Sweetpea. Dottie helped me discover that I have a lighthearted, playful side.
Dottie made my family and friends laugh and they encouraged me to write a children’s book about her. My friend Sonya even made me a Dottie doll and pink Dottie ball cap! All of their encouragement made me feel great, but I lacked confidence in my abilities. I attended a continuing education class on how to write and publish children’s books but I had no formal art training. I told myself that there was no way I was going to put my “doodled chicken scratch” out there!
Dottie became a fun, little hobby that I kept tucked away. Meanwhile, I stayed busy working my full time job and living paycheck to paycheck as a single girl.
Losing Myself ...
In my thirties, my life took a major turn. I left the bright lights of the big city I lived in, my job, and many of my close friends. I married my Southern sweetheart and we started a new life in a smaller town.
During our first year of marriage, I happily busied myself with decorating our home. Magazine clippings and photos of beautiful rooms I’d saved for many years inspired me to design the rooms I’d dreamed of and to create pretty vignettes throughout our house.
When we had our first child, my husband and I both agreed that I would be a stay- at-home mom. I loved the idea of spending his most precious baby years at home with our son, but I began to feel a void deep inside of me. I know I’m not alone when I say this, but I wasn’t completely fulfilled as just a wife and mother. I was seeking personal fulfillment, a purpose.
During this time, I was also facing the challenge of making new friends in a small town. I found myself feeling isolated and lonely while struggling with the emotional highs and lows of being a new mom.
I had a beautiful home, wonderful husband, precious son, and still none of that made my inner sadness or that void I was feeling go away. I knew I needed to do some serious soul searching to figure out what that “thing” was that would make me feel whole and bring me peace.
My Aha Moment
A year after giving birth to my son, my husband and I were away on a beach vacation. I distinctly remember one gorgeous, peaceful, and starry night. I stood alone on the beach with my thoughts that night and felt an overwhelming need to pray for spiritual guidance and to ask, “What is my purpose and true calling in life? Please help guide me and show me the way.”
In the months after that, to my surprise, I began to find new ways to express my creativity. I discovered a whole new world of paper, altered, and mixed-media art.
While searching the Internet, I found artists whose work I loved and I was inspired! This sparked a huge interest in me and I felt excited to follow this path. I wanted to take this self-discovery and nurture it so I turned my guest bedroom into my craft room and started assembling happy vignettes using ephemera, vintage found items and of course ... glitter! I have to laugh at myself because some of my earlier pieces were a true hit or miss! I didn’t care though; I was enjoying myself and having fun!
I flourished and over time, found my own authentic style, which was whimsical, feminine, and fun. I finally had the courage to open an online shop and start blogging. It was then that I started receiving wonderful and encouraging feedback! Friends and admirers enjoyed my work. The sweet supportive messages they shared with me, telling me that my fanciful creations brought a huge smile to their face, meant the world to me! I was very moved and humbled by their kind and lovely emails and it fueled my need to keep creating.
I felt everything suddenly start to blossom for me. My days became sunny again and I felt so much better about myself. Art was giving me back my confidence and sense of self. Being part of blog land and attending art events helped me to connect with like- minded artists who shared the same interests, who loved art as much as I did. I was making cherished new friendships and finding my place.
My Happy Place
In spite of these incredible discoveries, I faced new personal struggles into my mid- thirties. I was dealing with infertility, adoption, and hormonal issues. However, I refused to let those struggles get the very best of me. I made a choice to overcome them, smile, and stay strong.
I knew just the perfect remedy to help lift my spirits during these personal struggles. I would sit down in my crafty corner and create for hours. Creating art became very therapeutic to me. I’m calmer and more patient when I get to create. My artwork unconditionally always lightens my spirits.
For me, the silver lining to creating something with a touch of whimsy and humor is the reminder it gives me to not take life too seriously. Life is hard enough! If I can create a sweet, enchanting art piece to bring a smile to peoples’ faces or warm their hearts, then I feel like I’ve done an important job. Through my art pieces, I’m spreading happiness to others! My art was my happy place, and I’ve finally found my purpose. I am where I’m meant to be.
Evolving and Moving Forward ...
In addition to creating my art, I realized how much I enjoy inspiring creativity in others and started hosting my own art events. Over the past three years, I have used my love of decorating and my background in event planning to create beautiful settings where I have brought together circles of creative, like-minded women for three different long weekend events. It has been the most rewarding experience, watching these ladies create, laugh, have fun, and form friendships with each other.
I turned forty this year and I feel happier, more positive, and more motivated than ever. I keep moving forward and keep evolving by learning new artistic skills and techniques. Writing a children’s book is still one of my major goals.
It feels good to say that I am a confident, self-taught artist who has finally found my passion and purpose in life! I can’t imagine my life without art. I hope I’ve passed on the creative gene to my son, Grant, and heavily influenced my precious adopted daughter, Vivian. I feel extremely blessed and grateful that my husband has been so incredibly supportive of me and my journey for self-discovery and purpose.
Art “saved” me and filled the void I once felt with heart fluttering happiness! I’m excited to see where my artful journey continues to lead me.
To learn more about Jennifer Hayslip, visit jenniferhayslip.com and sweeteyecandycreations.typepad.com.