I'm so excited about today's interview with mixed media artist Michele Landel! Michele is an American artist living, creating and raising a family in Paris. I find her work captivating and I think you will too. Enjoy:
So many artists (myself included) dream of living in France. How did you and your family end up there? How long have you been there? Is it as romantic as it sounds?
My husband is French and American. We met in NYC. He took a job in Paris and I came along. I think our original plan was to live in France for 2 years. We’ve been here for 12.
I love living in France for lots of different reasons and Paris is beautiful. Sometimes it is very romantic (warm croissants, beautiful museums, long walks) and sometimes it is just life (dentist appointments, traffic, lines). Ido try to take advantage of the city as much as I can and remember how I am lucky to live here.
I think for a lot of artists, there's a tension between feeling called to be an artist and the pull to have a "sensible" career. Have you always known that you're an artist? How has your art career evolved?
Up until a year ago, I have always had a“sensible” but meandering career. I have a BA in fine arts and art history and MA in art history. I moved to NYC in the early 2000s for a curatorial internship but then got a job in event planning and then with an architecture firm...Most recently, I was doing freelance marketing and communications for French start-ups. I always made art, but was afraid to call myself an artist. About two years ago, I started focusing more and more on art and less and less on my freelance career. I still feel the “sensible” career pull, but am really trying to ignore it.
You have a very distinctive style. I'm fascinated by the layering and textures. Can you talk a bit about your process? How has your work evolved over time? What are you working on right now? What's new or different about it?
Since I was little, I have loved paper. I started sewing on paper about six years ago. I don’t remember any more why. I was punching holes and hand sewing layers together. Then two years ago, I spent a week studying with Val Holmes, a British artist, who teaches artist workshops and has a B&B here in France. It was amazing! She taught me machine embroidery on paper and how to burn paper and how to make paper. It really changed everything for me.
Lately, I have been trying to deal with more personal issues in my art. I just finished a series called Postpartum and I am now working on a new one called The Perfect Darned Home.
Are there certain themes that show up in your work over and over again?
Houses and buildings, probably from my earlier career in architecture. Women, I took a lot of feminist art history classes. Circles and holes, probably a push back against postmodernism.
What is your studio practice like? Do you have any rituals or routines that help you get into the creative zone? Do you ever get creative blocks? How do you get unstuck?
I drop my kids off at school in the morning and go for a run. This is often how I get unstuck too. I run 20-30km a week. I try to be in my studio from 10am-4pm four-days a week, but honestly this rarely happens. I do try very hard to make something everyday, even if it’s just with a postcard that arrives in the afternoon mail and bits of paper from my desk.
The book, “The War of Art” has had a big influence on my studio practice.
When I am burning paper or working on my laptop, I listen to podcasts, such as the Jealous Curator and How I Built This. When I am sewing, I listen to Q2 Music radio out of NYC. I found that modern classical music goes really well with the thump, thump of the sewing machine.
I really love your postpartum series. Can you talk a bit about what that series means to you?
I wanted to juxtapose idealized domesticity with the isolation and loneliness that can come with motherhood. I have three beautiful young children. I also had four miscarriages, struggled with infertility, and suffered from prenatal depression. Many of my friends and family don’t even know that I went through this. I think a lot of women suffer quietly while trying to appear perfect.
I cut these women out of modern paintings and Photoshop them into impossibly minimalist interiors from design magazines and books. The women are semi-translucent, over-lapped and repeated so they (hopefully) appear to be in dialogue with themselves. I also ripped, burned, and then sewed the images back together to represent both the fragility and strength of women through the paper itself.
Are you a full time artist or do you also have a day job/side hustle? If you do have a day job, does it tie in with your art practice?
This fall, I am teaching two-classes to forth-year students at a communications school in Paris. It doesn’t really tie into my art practice but it is fun. The students are dynamic and smart.
Let's talk about work/life balance. How do you balance family life, studio time, business and time for yourself?
I don’t really. This is a constant struggle.
Who (or what) are your biggest creative influences?
Feminist artists influence me. Artists I follow on Istagram and things I see walking around Paris inspire me. I am really motivated right now by the Thrive Studio Mastermind group, which is how we met, that I recently joined.
What does being an artist mean to you?
For me, being an artist means saying something visually and having it connect with others. Sometimes I have a clear idea that I want to express and other times it is just an image or idea that I need to get out. I love exploring texture and movement and seeing how far I can push it with paper.
If you could give your 20 year old self one piece of advice, what would it be?
Call yourself an artist. Stop being afraid.
Fall is here and in the Pacific Northwest it's a pretty magical time. The air gets a little crisper, the light is low and golden, the apples are ripe...what's not to love? To celebrate the seasonal change, here is a quick list of essentials for the perfect fall picnic. Enjoy!
- Picnic basket, plates, utensils, napkins
- Thermos with warm soup, mugs
- Artisan bread, charcuterie, cheese, apples
- cutting board, knife
- Wine, unbreakable wine glasses, wine key
- Picnic blanket
- Book or journal
If you live in Whatcom County (WA), check out some of these amazing spots:
This etching was inspired by the Crinoline, one of the many peculiar undergarments of the Victorian era. I find it both fascinating and disturbing the way the female body has been molded through the ages to fit the ever changing ideals of beauty.
Prints are available for sale HERE.
I love being an artist! I can't imagine living my life any other way, but it does get tough at times. Working in isolation can be lonely and trying to pull off this "business-y" stuff, when I'd rather be doing anything else is a challenge. Luckily there are some incredible resources that readily available:
Don't worry, I'm not talking about those painfully awkward networking events where you wear a name tag and pass out business cards. However, networking is important as an artist for so many reasons: sharing resources, trouble shooting, collaborating, staying sane! I've tried a few different online networks and recently joined one specifically for women artists. THRIVE is a mastermind group that meets once a month (in person if you're in Vancouver, Canada or online). Members meet up to share exciting accomplishments, work in progress, resources and ask for help or feedback.
Social media, what a beast! New platforms keep popping up and the algorithms keep changing. It helps to have a resource like Hootsuite Academy to stay up to speed. Canva is a free online image editor that includes a bunch of templates optimized for social media and Square Size app is an easy way to create perfect square images for Instagram. When is comes to posting, it's such a huge time saver to prepare a bunch of posts and schedule them in advance. Later is great for Instagram and has a free option.
Systems & Habits
The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp is a classic. It includes 32 practical exercises for cultivating creativity. James Clear and Leo Babauta of Zen Habits both write about systems for business and life. Megan Minns is a systems coach. She has a ton of useful videos about planning and she sells super affordable, easy to use spreadsheets project planning a tracking.
Applying for grants can be incredibly daunting. The Foundation Center has a lot of grant writing resources as well as a massive database of funding opportunities.
Call for Entry is a great place to look for exhibition opportunities. The website is user-friendly and has a lot of listings to choose from. Artists can apply directly from the site and store image files for later use. Create Magazine is print publication and website that supports artists through online features, call for entries and grants. Open studios and art fairs are great for gaining exposure, making sales and networking. Here is a really thorough checklist for hosting an open studio. Square is a nifty gadget that allows you to accept credit card payments with a smart phone.
Do you have any favorite resources to share? Add them to the comments!
I love Japanese textiles! In this collection of home decor, I've incorporated traditional motifs and added some unexpected modern twists, like in this chevron patterned floral shower curtain. The collection includes four different complimentary prints available in a wide variety of home decor items including: shower curtains, bath mats, throw pillows, duvet covers and more.
Available for sale HERE.
The print shown is a reproduction of a two color etching and is available in a variety of sizes, framed or unframed.
Prints are available for sale HERE.
When I was a kid, my Grandma used to say this all the time: "It's a Great Life Unless You Weaken!" At the time, it struck me as a really negative thing to say, but now I see it as defiantly optimistic or in the words of Elizabeth Gilbert "Stubborn Gladness". Oh, hell yes! When it comes to celebrating optimism in the face of adversity expressed in the medium of needlepoint, I'm in good company. One of my all time favorite artists, Louise Bourgeois embroidered a similar sentiment: "I've Been To Hell and Back. And Let Me Tell You, It Was Wonderful."
Creative writing and journaling can be a great way to unwind and gain clarity, but sometimes it's hard to know what to write about! That's why I love writing prompts to get things going. Here are a few to get you started:
- Describe a time when you surprised yourself.
- Describe a time when you were brave.
- Imagine your life 20 years from now. Write a letter to your current self from this older, wiser self.
- "My favorite way to spend the day is..."
- What do you love about your life? What are you grateful for?
- What do you consider your biggest mistake in life? What did you learn from it?
- What words do you need to hear right now?
- What makes you feel most alive?
- If time and money weren't factors, what would your dream vacation be?
- What are you intensely curious about?
If you need a new notebook, check out my new notebooks here!