Art Saves • by Sarah G. Stevenson
My Creative Mentors
Throughout my life I have been surrounded by strong female creative mentors. My earliest memory of creativity and making was with my grandmother, Laura. She was an incredible baker, knitter, and project maker. I remember taking the bus to her house after school and looking through her magazines and picking a project for us to do together. She would never say no and would jump right in without hesitation. In addition she would allow me to pick my birthday cakes from her cookbooks and would create whatever I asked for—one year, a five-layer rainbow cake, and another year a gingerbread house. She also knitted clothes for my Barbie dolls. They were beautiful, tightly stitched, and very colorful. I still have many of them in my small box of mementos that I keep from my childhood.
Both my aunts also were a huge creative influence. My Aunty Kirsty is a graphic artist and illustrator and freelanced during a lot of my childhood, so I got to see close up how an artist worked and created. She later joined the staff at the NGA (National Gallery of Australia) in Canberra and we would go and see all the exhibits that she had a hand in creating. She has designed books, exhibits, shops, and products for the museum over the years and always remains an inspiration to me. She still works at the gallery and is instrumental in the creative side of many of the special exhibitions.
My Aunty Sal is a writer. She also has encouraged creativity in me since I was very young. She would read every night to my cousin and I and her love of books, art, and writing has become a huge part of who I am today. She always encouraged imagination, play, and seeing the world through an artist’s eye. Any opportunity she could have to teach me about art, artists, books, and the larger world around me she would take. One of my fondest memories with her was having lunch in a cafe and her stopping mid-sentence to take out her notebook and write down parts of a conversation happening at the table next to us. You never know when or where creativity can strike and if something catches your attention, you need to be able to document it quickly.
My mom, Jane, has also been a creative influence. She is a journalist, a writer, and an incredible photographer. She would have her camera with her wherever we would travel and she took unbelievable photos of everything. One photo that stands out in my memory she created on a trip to the Black Hills in South Dakota. She had traveled to visit a Native American tribe and when she returned she developed a photo of a teepee on the shore of a lake with its reflection on the water. It was the most stunning photo I had ever seen and I was in awe that my mom created it. She gave the photo to someone but to this day it is etched in my memory. She never actually shared her skill with me but over the years I developed my own love of photography, and it is a huge part of my creative process today.
My Creative Journey
From my childhood, I moved into my own creative journey and became an Interior Designer. My career took me to Chicago and to work for several very large, very prestigious corporate interiors and architecture firms. I moved up very quickly in my career and eventually had a staff of about 20 that worked underneath me with some very well known Fortune 500 clients. My position was rewarding and taught me about project management, strategic planning, move coordination, construction, and working with clients. But I never felt creatively fulfilled. I worked very long hours with very intense deadlines so there was not much time to pursue outside creativity. Eventually it took a toll on me and I got serious burn-out. During that same time, I was given the opportunity for a very creative and exciting design project in our office. Because of the burn out, I was unable to create. I sat at my desk each day and could not develop a creative idea. Eventually, I asked to be removed from the project and a few months later decided to be a stay-at-home mom and raise my son.
In 2000 we moved west, I had another child, and we designed and built our dream home. Slowly my creative life started to resurface. It was not until a shoulder injury and subsequent physical therapy after surgery that photography became a huge part of my daily life. During that time, I was in therapy 3–4 days a week for 1½ –2 hours each time. One visit I came in and just could not do the therapy session. The therapist sat me down and asked this simple question: “What do you like to do?” My answer: “I really like photography and art, but I don’t have time to do any of it.” Instead of our session that day, he sent me out with my camera for an hour and told me to take photographs. I did and those first photos are part of my business website as a reminder to begin, and to allow yourself time to breathe and know that YES, you are creative.
The artists I am sharing this week have been instrumental in my own journey back to creativity and are a huge inspiration in my life. They all work in different mediums but also use photography as part of their own creative process. They are also all women. I believe that creative women are an incredible force when put together and as a collective whole can move mountains when the right collaborations take place. I personally know most of the artists that I am sharing with you and several of them have collaborated with me on my projects. They are painters, knitters, mixed-media artists, a magazine editor, authors, chefs, bakers, psychologists, teachers, poets, life coaches, and most importantly artists. They share a love of their craft with their audiences and show their hearts on their sleeves. They have all come from different backgrounds and have not always made a living from their art. They support my creative endeavors and I have a deep respect and love for each and every one of them. They are my tribe.
ENJOY their lessons and thoughts and most importantly, make some time to ask yourself the question, “What do you like to do?” Then, give yourself the gift of time to do it.
To learn more about Sarah G. Stevenson, visit sarahgstevenson.com.