Lynn Radford is a mixed media artist and writer who loves to reuse and re-purpose all manner of items in her work. She is the creator of Trash Bubbles and Cigar Band Collage Coasters. Collage and assemblage are her favorite mediums. Lynn is the resident artist at The Studio at Piney Creek Acres in Pennsylvania.
Carrie: When did you first realize the importance of the arts in your life?
Like many children, I loved to color and draw. It was my father who showed me that art could be other things, that there could be collaborations… He would fold a sheet of paper in half, drawing a circle, or egg shape in the middle. He would refold it and draw half of a face. I wasn’t allowed to look. He’d turn it over and pass it to me so I could draw the other half. The results delighted me.
Later, my creativity afforded me the ability to escape into worlds of my own making. Since then, I have vacillated between the visual arts and creative writing, sometimes incorporating the two for most of my life.
Carrie: What does your workspace look like?
When my youngest daughter moved out on her own, I took over the spare bedroom she left behind. My studio has three different workspaces, shelves, drawers and a variety of storage. The most recent addition was a WWII era parts cabinet that I found at a yard sale for $25. (They usually go for upwards of $300!) The height of the work surface allows me to stand to work now, which is a treat because I was sedentary most of the time and that was taking its toll.
Much of my inspiration comes from my collections which are housed in what I like to call Living Collages. Printer trays and divided crates display my eclectic stash of vintage bits openly throughout the room. The rest of my goodies are displayed in clear containers and jars so I can see them. I learned long ago that if I can’t see it, it doesn’t get used.
Carrie: You have a unique interest in using recycled and repurposed materials, tell us more about it?
My passion for picking up discarded bits and bobs I find on the ground began in childhood. I never outgrew it. I still collect roadside trash like others hunt sea shells. In the early 2000s I began incorporating these bits into my artwork and by 2012, I had created Trash Bubbles.
Trash Bubbles are self-contained ecospheres of trash within discarded consumer packaging. Usually, they contain a message or trash poetry. Often, that message is inspirational and uplifting, or it touts the benefits of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Recently, I was awarded the Awesome Pittsburgh grant to pursue an exhibit of my Trash Bubbles. I am looking forward to further developing this idea and bringing it to the public.
In addition to Trash Bubbles, I reuse all manner of materials in my assemblage art. I truly believe that just because an item is no longer relevant to its intended purpose, doesn’t mean it’s destined for the landfill. I give new life to pieces that inspire me, reusing this, repurposing that. My quirky collages and assemblages bring vintage bits of this and that together with mixed media art techniques to create unique, whimsical art with a story.
My Cigar Band Collage Coasters were born from my appreciation for the art of the bands. I learned that many cigar smokers felt the way I did, hanging onto their bands because they were beautiful and interesting, but not knowing what to do with them beyond that. They have become a staple in my Etsy and art shows and I find that cigar smokers are eager to custom order coasters created from their own bands.
Carrie: You have other creative interests and art explorations as well; how do you decide when and where to focus your creative energies?
Unless I have a hard and fast deadline, I work on what I’m feeling up to at any given moment, going with the flow. Sometimes, priorities arise as I work and then I’ll shift gears to accommodate.
I tend to save up gluing/collage until I have a pretty sizeable amount to work on in one sitting. The same goes for painting and anything else that requires intense clean-up. I find that this kind of batching takes the pressure off, allowing me to be productive in a relaxed manner.
Sometimes, I end up with too much on my plate and I have to make choices. For example, I love mail art and swaps, but it’s easy to fill the time making these small works and have no time left for things that matter more, like my Cigar Band Collage Coasters and Trash Bubbles.
Carrie: How do your interests outside of art fuel your artwork?
I find that when you are truly living a creative life, it’s difficult to separate the art. Everything is art related for me. My reading, both fiction and nonfiction, fuel my creativity, the same with music.
Walks are where I find great trashy bits for my Trash Bubbles and found objects for my assemblages. Our excursions to visit yard sales, flea markets and antique stores provide fodder for use in projects.
Even my online surfing provides inspiration. Cooking and other homemaking chores yield stickers and consumer packaging… Even playing Scrabble (a favorite pastime) has inspired cut up poetry that has gone on to become art. I could go on, but you get the picture. 😀
Carrie: How do you know when an artwork is finished?
For me, it’s all intuitive. I just KNOW when to stop working. If I feel unsure, it usually means there’s more work to be done. I may not know exactly where to go with it, but I know it needs something more. When this happens, I’ll walk away, sometimes for months, if necessary. The resolution usually comes to me when I’m doing something else and I’ll either jot down notes, or move back to the project in question.
Carrie: What is the first thing you do when you feel stuck working on an artwork?
Moving onto something else, letting the stuck project stew for a while, gives me space and allows me to keep making progress. Because I have so many irons in the fire, I can always find something else to work on. I keep a running list of steps I need to take on any given project and this helps me to stay focused.
If nothing on the list appeals to me, sometimes I will turn to the business side of things as a distraction. Sadly, that is often the only way I get business related tasks accomplished because I avoid the mundane at all costs.
Carrie: What has been one hurdle you’ve overcome as a creative and how did you navigate that problem?
Silencing my Inner Critic has always been difficult. There was a time when I would easily become paralyzed by the voice that told me I was inept, had no talent, had no business calling myself an artist, that my work was garbage…. I would retreat into myself, give up writing and creating for months at a time over it.
It took me a long time to realize that I was only punishing myself. I am a miserable person when I’m not creating. Things changed when I discovered that I needed to be firm with it, as one would a small child.
I’ll never forget the day I stood up to my Inner Critic for the first time! It was running on about how much something I was working on sucked… I took a deep breath and told it sweetly, “Thank you for your opinion, but I’m going to keep working anyway.” I felt as though I’d just shut the mouth of the awful school yard bully.
Thankfully, although it continues to mouth off, I now give it very little credence. I refuse to allow it to have the kind of power over me that it once did. The freedom I now experience in my art and in my writing is my reward for standing up for myself.
Carrie: You were a recent member of my community The Circle (And I’m fortunate to say twice!). Can you describe one or two benefits you experienced from being part of the program?
For me, the accountability factor was huge. Putting my hopes, aspirations and goals for my art out there (in The Circle community) continues to be a valuable tool. The support I’ve received has been more than I could’ve hoped for. Now that I know the difference it makes in my productivity, in my taking chances and seeking out opportunities, I don’t think I can function without it. That might be why I hope to join again for a third time!
The ability to ask questions in the monthly Q&A sessions has also been important as I am stepping out and trying new things. I find that insomuch as I am creative, I am technologically disadvantaged and lack the knowledge to make things work on the business end without assistance. Sometimes just getting feedback, or having a question answered will propel me forward, inching me ever closer to success.
Carrie: What is one creative resource you can’t live without?
My artist community, my inner circle, is made up of folks from all walks of life and all manner of disciplines. I rely heavily on them for support, guidance, and critique. Without them, I would be winging it alone. I am thankful for both their input and their presence in my life and I couldn’t do it without their support and encouragement.
Carrie: Who/what inspires you?
Color and texture are two of the things that inspire me the most. They are what I see first in the found objects that wander into my life. They are the springboard to all I create.
One color might suggest a palette for a work. The texture of a piece may suggest a composition. Though one works without the other, I cannot work without either. They are the foundation upon which I build and grow in life and in art.
Carrie: What does the word artist mean to you?
For me, being an artist means creating, regularly and often. It means not being able to turn away when an idea comes knocking. It means taking risks and facing fears.
Creating takes lots of forms, but it also incorporates many skills: listening, seeing, touching, feeling, intuition, communication, interpretation, the ability to see potential in an object, an understanding of form and function, the ability to define composition, and the list goes on….
I find that when I call myself an artist, I am giving credence to all the skills in my arsenal. I am acknowledging that what I do has value. Now, am I a classically trained artist? No. I am self-taught for the most part. Does that negate the fact that I create? No. Rather, it encourages me to do more, try harder and to always be on the lookout for unusual ways to present an idea, for the things that will set me apart.
I am an ARTIST. I CREATE art.
Be Creatively Courageous: What is a go-to sentence you can have at the ready to call our your inner critic? Prepare for that day your inner critic is talking too loudly by sharing a response for your inner critic in the comments below.
Additional Contact Info:
Email: radford.lynn at gmail.com