(#42) Naomi Hudson-Knapp  I  Ink Paper Wire

"All you need is the mindset that living your life IS a creative act. Carry a small notepad and pen and draw while you wait in line for groceries. Arrange your dish rack with attention to form and color. Read one line of poetry every night before bed; it will change the way you think and feel. A few years ago I began a morning painting practice, 10 minutes every day. It became my meditation - simple, brief, refreshing."

 

Where did you grow up? Describe that place and its people…

I grew up in a small town in Southern Vermont. Nature and the changing seasons colored many of my childhood experiences. I spent time in the backyard picking flowers, harvesting vegetables and building snow forts. These natural materials easily became avenues for drawing painting and sculpting.

My mother was a maker, baker and teacher who shared her passion for creating. My father was a minister who modeled deep empathy. The people in our community were hardworking, rural folk who understood the land and made the most of the resources available.

What were you like as a child? What did you want to do/be when you grew up?

I was an observant, earnest and dreamy child, always in the middle of a project - arranging dried flowers, playing out a story in dress-up clothes, coordinating a photo shoot of stuffed animals. Every room in our old Victorian house had a work in progress.

I’ve always wanted to make things, to create and to enable others to do the same. I remember holding craft sessions with friends and bringing art supplies along when I babysat. As a fifth generation teacher and the grandchild of engineers, woodworkers, landscape designers, seamstresses, I have always felt born into this life as an artist and an educator.

I read that you live in LA...Is there something about LA that is especially inspiring to you? Your work?

Los Angeles is simultaneously lush and arid, industrial and residential. Inspiration is all around, whether it’s the speckled eggs at the farmer’s market, the weathered succulents on the roadside, or the anemones at the beach. The diverse character of the city influences the texture, color and form of my drawings. When I lived in New York, I painted in order to make my physical environment and emotional space feel more expansive, to create forms that felt voluptuous and infinite in contrast to the dense city. In Los Angeles, the light and space are wide open, so I paint to contain the vastness and to consolidate the richness. I paint as a daily meditation and as a way to tap into the beauty and wabi-sabi nature of life.

Was there a particular moment when you knew art was what you wanted to pursue?

I don’t think I have pursued art. I think art has always pursued me, sometimes quietly whispering, sometimes shouting.

I love that you make/use natural dyes/inks which I think is so cool. Can you talk a bit about that? What lead you to start making your own dyes? How they become part of your process? What are your favorite ones to work with? and why?

At a residency in Deer Isle, Maine, I wandered into the tiny supply store, looking for something, but not knowing what. I noticed the black walnut ink, bought a bottle and began making drawings. As I told people about my “new” discovery, I learned it was not so new. For generations, black walnuts have been used to make hair dye, wood stain and natural remedies. When I discovered that my grandmother had a black walnut tree, we harvested and made my first batch of ink together. I have been experimenting with producing other inks as well. Avocado pits from the farmer’s market make a lovely pink and cast off onion skins from cooking, make a light peach. The other day, my sweetheart brought me ink he accidentally made when blanching almonds. Each color has its own story, but the walnut ink will always be my favorite because of its visual power and its family connection. I love working with inks that come from the earth and have a social history.

Are you also a children’s art teacher? I think giving kids a creative outlet to express themselves is so important and really pretty interesting...to see what comes out of them. What part of working with kids do you find most rewarding?

I work at Evergreen Community School in Santa Monica, CA as an Atelierista or studio art teacher for two- to six-year-olds. I see my job as being a materials and design consultant for children and classroom teachers alike, working to honor the competence of children and to facilitate broader dialogues. Color, paint, paper, and clay are our mediums for exploration and communication. Some days I am setting up a pallet of 40 colors for easel painting. Other days I am building an immersive environment. The best part is that young children have a sincerity, playfulness and ingenuity that make the day-to-day fun and unexpected. Their thinking is both concrete and flexible. I am proud to support deep and creative thinking in children are a significant part of our present and the leaders of our future.

What is the best piece of advice you were given when you were starting out?

I don’t remember an exact moment when I “started out” or any once piece of advice that served as a guiding light. However, I do remember two different moments during meditation talks that I attended, that lead to a sense of “ah ha.” One, was when Sharon Salzburg talked about “remembering to remember.” This is the idea that we know much of what is essential for us to live beautiful and connected lives, but we often forget. Remembering to remember to breathe, to have compassion, to let go…is what offers us healing. The other piece of advice I live by, is a Thich Nhat Hanh quote, “no mud no lotus.” Without the murky, challenging, muddy times in life, we would not have the elegant, beautiful blossoming of wisdom. The lotus flower is only able to grow in areas where there is an abundant supply of mud. In other word, when times are tough, remembering to remember that without mud, there is no lotus, gives me hope.

What are your biggest challenges? Do you have an achilles heel?

Balancing multiple passions as a painter, teacher, partner, friend and environmental steward, can be tricky, but the biggest obstacle is the fear that painting quietly in my studio is not what the world needs most. It requires me to trust. To believe that engaging sincerely with my practice and sharing my creations with others, is a generous act. To believe that painting makes me a happier, more vibrant and compassionate human. To believe that others experience a sense of beauty and wonder when viewing the work.

Favorite makers/artists right now?

Kate Carr, a brilliant sculptor whose work is both formal and nostalgic.

Alma Allen, an artist who creates heart-breakingly beautiful sculpture.

Bonnie Levine, a longtime friend who is a potter and sculptor.

KikaNY

Ace and Jig who designs beautiful and unique clothing.

Who should we be following?

I do not claim to be in the know, but the following have caught my attention:

mrandmrscharlie on IG

Maria Popova of Brain Pickings

Calicowallpaper, Rachel and Nick Cope

Tappan Collective has a great assortment of artists.

Popandscott

Iwonaludyga, Inspired adornment

Words you live by?

“Just do your work. And if the world needs your work, it will come and get you. And if it doesn’t, do your work anyway. You can have fantasies about having control over the world, but I know I can barely control my kitchen sink. That is the grace I am given. Because when one can control things, one is limited to one’s own vision.” - Kiki Smith

What is something about you that might surprise others?

I love riding public transportation - the anonymity, the diversity, the lack of control and the physical sensation of the train on the tracks.

Do you have any advice for anyone who wants to live a more creative life?

Begin now. You don’t need a lot of time, you don’t need special materials, you don’t need the perfect moment. All you need is the mindset that living your life IS a creative act. Carry a small notepad and pen and draw while you wait in line for groceries. Arrange your dish rack with attention to form and color. Read one line of poetry every night before bed; it will change the way you think and feel. A few years ago I began a morning painting practice, 10 minutes every day. It became my meditation - simple, brief, refreshing.

Any badass women you love?

The mothers and grandmothers of the world, they hold much wisdom.

The artists: Ruth Asawa, Eve Hesse, Agnes Martin, Sheila Hicks, Grandma Moses, Louise Bourgeois, Ann Hamilton (the list could go on)

The educators: Alise Shafer Ivey (look up her TED talk), Lee Emma Running, Rachel Carson, bell hooks, Malala Yousef, Tara Brach (my meditation teacher), Amma

 

Check out more of Naomi's work at Ink Paper Wire