Double Exposure Mixed Media & Transfer © Heidi Rand
Where do you call home? Are you married? Do you have children?
I live in El Cerrito, California, which is a small town a few miles north of Berkeley and east of San Francisco. I’m married to a wonderful man, George McRae. We have no children, but we do have 2 cats, several turtles & tortoises (ask me about Woody, quite a character!), and various other critters living in or visiting our house and garden.
Have you had formal art or photography training? When and where? Do you feel conventional schooling is necessary for one to be a "true artist"?
No, I’ve had no formal art or photography training. I’m self-taught from books, online research and groups, and experimentation. I’ve taken a couple of workshops, one on inkjet transfer taught by Angela Silva, who people on the inkjet transfer yahoo group might know, and one on handmade books by Alisa Golden, who has written several wonderful books on the subject. If you need conventional schooling to be a true artist then I guess I’m not one.
Does your shop name "GardenDelights" allude to your wonderful butterfly garden?
I named our business “Garden Delights Arts & Crafts” to refer overall to my subject matter, which is nature, including a wide variety of animals and plants. Many of my photos are of the domestic animals we live with and the wildlife that we attract to our garden by providing habitat and protection (including the butterflies you mentioned). Similarly, many of the plants that I photograph are grown by my husband in our house and garden, including California natives, orchids, plants intended to be larval hosts or nectar/food sources for birds, butterflies and other animals, and anything else that takes his fancy!
What drew you into this type of "gardening"?
Actually, I don’t garden at all. My husband is the “Garden” part of Garden Delights Arts & Crafts because he has the green thumb and is also very knowledgeable about animals, both domestic and wild.
Is photography your "first love"?
In grade school and high school I was always looking for a creative outlet and did some writing, mostly short stories and poetry, but wasn’t ever fully fulfilled creatively. An uncle and aunt gave me my first camera after college and that really clicked for me. I did darkroom work for years, including color printing, and really liked alternative darkroom processes like solarization. I also loved unusual forms of photography such as infrared, light painting and double exposures. The photograph I use as my avatar for some websites is a double exposure I took of myself years ago, which looks like I’m
reading my own palm.
You also print your own fabrics and do incredible textile work. How and when did you realize to mix all of your passions to become the artist you are today?
I have always enjoyed my solitude, so taking photographs of people didn’t appeal to me much. I agreed to photograph a friend’s wedding once, which was a catastrophe! For a period I attended a lot of political demonstrations and shot many rolls of film recording them. Now, having the nature subjects that my husband provides for me to photograph is ideal. The images, colors, patterns and elements are endless and I find them very compelling. The subject matter also gives me a target audience of animal and nature lovers with whom my husband and I have a lot in common politically and philosophically. The kaleidoscoped designs I create from my photos are ideal for fabric, and I get a bigger thrill designing and printing on fabric than doing anything else. I feel very lucky to be working now, when the technology and products used to print on fabric and other unusual surfaces are evolving and becoming better and better.
Lavender Rust Art Quilt © Heidi Rand
(Tutorial on hanging technique can be found here.)
What role does your husband play in your endeavors?
See above! As well as being an accomplished naturalist and gardener, George makes handmade soap from natural ingredients. We call this line of our business “Bubble Queen Soaps & Scents” which comes from one of our silly inside jokes. He’s a professional actor and much more outgoing than I am, so I’m trying to persuade him to be my sales rep, but that hasn’t happened yet. He’s my main cheerleader. As the first person to see any work that I produce, I don’t feel it’s finished until I show it to him. He also helps me a huge amount when I do local shows and sales, or exhibit in galleries. I’m a member of a local art group, the Pinole Artisans, and I show my work in the gallery that we run (at this point we have two galleries, but one might shut down in January). George usually does me the favor of dropping off my work for a new show or picking it up from the old show. The ladies doing intake love him because he’s cute and charming. He also often works for me there, since when our art is in a show we’re required to work four hours a week sitting at the gallery.
What or whom would you say have been your greatest artistic influences?
Photographers I really admire include Diane Arbus , Andre Kertesz, Laszlo Moholy-Nagynd and Joseph Cornell. Big influences and inspiration in my exploration of alternative digital processes are Theresa Airey, who has written several books, and the members of the Digital Atelier, who wrote Digital Art Studio. Gloria Hansen, an expert in printing on fabric and a wonderful gracious person who is always helpful on the many Yahoo Groups of which she’s a member, including one on inkjet printing on fabric. She has written several books, and her most recent, Digital Essentials, is incredibly helpful. I reviewed it on my blog. And of course, my husband, for educating me about nature and providing endless beautiful or intriguing subjects to photograph.
Do you strive to convey a specific message and/or theme within your work? What would that be?
Appreciation of nature, conservation and protection of wildlife and habitat. Innovation in techniques and materials. Incorporation of art into everyday things and making art accessible. I included the word “crafts” in the name of my business to acknowledge that many people might not consider what I do to be “Art.” I love to make art quilts and mixed media art pieces, but have just as much fun putting my designs on light switch plates and making bookmarks for people to use everyday.
Egret in Flight on Lutrador © Heidi Rand
I know you give many lessons and workshops. How does this contribute to your "artistic life"? Is teaching something you truly enjoy and find a need to do, or is more of a way to financially sustain your artistic habits?
I was an English major in college, so people assumed I’d become a teacher, but at the time that was the last thing I wanted to do. It was actually a shock when I realized about a year ago that it was time to start teaching art workshops. I tried one and really loved it, so I’ve sought out several different places to teach locally and hopefully will soon be offering online workshops as well. I find that getting ready to teach a class forces me to focus on the subject matter in a way that I hope improves my own artwork. Teaching also has lead to me doing more writing. After I wrote an extensive outline for my inkjet fabric printing class I realized that I could expand on it, spruce it up a bit, and offer it as an ebook for sale. Given the slow economy, I have also used teaching to try to replace some of the income I had been getting from sales of my work. It doesn’t bring in much, though. Let’s say that I definitely don’t do it for the money, but I probably wouldn’t do it for free unless I had a lot more free time.
You’ve received some great news recently regarding some of your fabric and a new clothing line. Could you share some more on that; how it came about, and what your hopes are for that endeavor in the future.
Etsy was the matchmaker in that partnership. I posted about my first fabric printing class to my local SFetsy team, which led a dressmaker based in a nearby town, Michele Battise of Dress Maker In a Box to my shop and websites. My nature themed fabric really clicked with her. She chose a few of my designs to incorporate into her garments and I printed several yards of fabric for her. She has just released her winter line, which includes a dress, skirt and suit using some of my fabric on the collars and cuffs. (Her blog post about it is here) This is truly a dream come true for me, and I have great hopes for my further partnership with Michele. She’s a very creative designer and gifted dressmaker.
As for the future, I would love to form partnerships with other textile and home decor designers. One problem I am grappling with now is that the current technology doesn’t provide for economical printing of fabric for garments in small runs such as what Michele needs. I would like to print the fabric myself, but am limited partly by the size of my printer and partly by the fact that the company that sells the best pre-treated washable fabric in rolls is totally unreliable. Many people have heard of Spoonflower or other companies that print fabric by the yard from your designs. Although the price is very reasonable, there are serious quality control and color matching problems with the companies I’ve tried. I’m currently dealing with a San Francisco company, DPI, and hope that they will be able to do any fabric printing jobs that I can’t do myself.
Do you have an "outside/day job"? If so, when do you create? How do you balance both aspects of your life?
I do! I work full time at a court in San Francisco. I do my creative work in almost all of my spare time, which aggravates my husband at times. As a homebody I rarely travel and haven’t taken a normal vacation in years. I’m a very neglectful friend, and I’m sure my friends and family are tired of hearing my excuses about why I can’t make it their events and parties. As for balance, my day job and creative work have little in common, although I believe that the writing I need to do for work has improved my writing skills overall.
Where and how does Etsy fit in? What advice would you share with other artists (and Etsyians) also caught in our difficult economic situation?
I started out using Etsy as a place to show my handmade work. I don’t sell a lot, but now I use Etsy mostly to network and connect with artists and crafters doing what I do (the Melange Team being the prime example). It’s hard to give advice to others, especially because I’m not selling much, but I’d say that what successes I have had came from my participation on the forums and on teams.
What are your long term goals? Where do you see yourself in 5 years? In 10 years?
My long term goals are to continue creating and innovating with my photography, printing, and artwork. I would like to write (and have published!) books and articles. I would also like to expand my workshops to offer them online and on DVD. I would love to be able to license my designs for fabric and home decor, and to forge partnerships with other businesses using my designs. This isn’t a goal, because I don’t think it’s ever going to happen, but my husband and I have always dreamed of having a brick and mortar store for Garden Delights Arts & Crafts. We envision a shop with my artwork and crafts and with his orchids and the other wonderful plants that he cultivates.
What does a typical "art day" look like from the outside? Where do you create? What tools or supplies are always by your side?
My typical “art day” is cobbled together from hours here and there during evenings and weekends. I create at my computer/printer and in my studio. I’m heavily dependent on my equipment, starting with my beloved camera and moving on to my computer, where I work with my images to make blended collages, kaleidoscopes or mandalas, and other types of designs. The next step is usually my printer, where I produce either the fabric that I’m going to use in a piece, or I print on Lutradur, wood, metal, or onto some variety of transfer material. I rarely print on paper these days! I do most of the sewing and assembly of my pieces in my studio (aka our laundry room). My camera is rarely far from me. I also have a small camera that I carry with me everywhere.
What, if any, music would we hear in the background. Do you have a view beyond your palette?
I would have music on for all of my waking hours if possible, usually folk, rock or blues, especially Richard Shindell, Dar Williams, Be Good Tanyas, etc. The view beyond my pallette is my husband’s wonderful garden, which I can see from the windows of both my studio and the room where I have my computer and printer.
Tell us something we don’t know about Heidi. Do you sing in the shower or avoid cracks in pavement or hate brussel sprouts?
I was painfully shy for much of my life, and am still emphatically introverted. However, doing art has transformed me into more of a social butterfly because I’m not content to create something and keep it to myself. I find I need the feedback and interaction with people who either appreciate my work or are doing the same kinds of things that I am, so in a way making art has freed my “inner showoff”. For me, interacting online with members of the Melange Team and with people on other Etsy Forums and Yahoo Groups is perfect because I can control who I deal with and how much time I spend doing it.
What simple little thing makes you smile?
My husband always make me smile, although he is not a simple little thing. ; )
Heidi, thanks so much for taking the time for this interview, and for allowing us to get to know you a bit better. It's been a marvelous Monday morning treat!
To keep up with Heidi's adventures, you can follow her on her blog here, and her gorgeous artwork can be purchased directly from her Etsy shop here.
Our next Artist Profile will take place on Monday, January 4th, 2010. Yep, that's next year!