Caitlin G. McCollom, Visual Artist

Blood and White  Series, 2014. From left to right, top to bottom:  White Window, Sacred Egg, Heart, Brain, Panic Cloud, White Specter.  BLUEOrange Gallery, Houston. 

Blood and White Series, 2014. From left to right, top to bottom: White Window, Sacred Egg, Heart, Brain, Panic Cloud, White Specter. BLUEOrange Gallery, Houston. 

The Color Blue 

BY: SOMMER BRUGAL 

Being an artist is like having a brain parasite," says Caitlin McCollom. It’s channeling something bigger than yourself, trying to get closer to what is speaking to you. Embracing that brain parasite allows your artwork to speak to you—to speak through you—and influence your work in a way you might not have expected. It’s a beautiful process, and one that Caitlin embodies with ease and grace. It's a process she described to me while discussing her recent collection, Interior Mortification. Sitting in her studio, she explained the dynamic between an artist and his or her work, between one’s spiritual and physical self. As our conversation continued, the relationship between her works, her self-image as an artist, and her spirituality, became more apparent.

A Space Unknown

In her first series, Caitlin used only white to represent the concept of existentialism, a concept she never fully understood. Depicted by the most sacred of colors, it is the space surrounding one’s body. With a minimalistic approach, Caitlin questioned the relationship between reality and idealism, of absence and presence.

“I’ve always been interested in the idea of existential terror,” Caitlin said, “and I always felt that this uncertainty and unknowing—my obsession with it—needed to be reflected in my work.”

White, and the element of unknowing, is reflected in every piece Caitlin has painted.

Blood and White was Caitlin’s second series. In it, she contrasts concepts of existentialism with “a mystical substance that represents life in the truest sense of the world, and in the experiential nature of God.” That mystical substance she is referring to is her blood. Represented by the color red, Caitlin looks inside her body.

Coated.  Acrylic on yupo. 

Coated. Acrylic on yupo. 

Through Blood and White, Caitlin suggests the physical being is just as mysterious as the world around it. Visually, the series rivals two colors; conceptually, it analyzes the “quiet panic of the disordered mind and the beautiful decay of a diseased body.”

Coated, a piece from her second collection, discusses the presence of pain and the hope for a spiritual awareness. She writes, “How can pain and fear be the only thing here and hereafter? I pray that there is a moment of release, beyond it where you really do meet Jesus.”


In 2014, Caitlin was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis, a rare disease of the colon, and through her piece, Coated, she parallels her diagnosis—her wounds—to the world’s. On paper, and in her world, only God can heal.

Enthralled by both the physical appearance of her inner body and the mystical space that surrounded it, Caitlin layered red and white paint to develop her vision. To attain the aesthetic appeal, she uses wet-on-wet painting techniques.

As we continued to discuss her technique and the significance of both white and red, the relationship between her work and her spirituality became even more apparent.

But it wasn’t until we discussed her most recent collection, Interior Mortification, that I learned the significance of the color blue.

 The Deepest Hue

It was the collision of two interests that inspired Caitlin’s latest series: Garuas—a dense and transparent low hanging cloud—and The Cloud of Unknowing, an anonymous work of Christian mysticism that urges readers to surrender their egos to the realm of unknowing.

Once again, she found herself captivated by an unknowing space. This time, though, it was both internal and external.

“What is completely invisible, absolutely real, and which the existence is only known by experience?” That’s what Caitlin asked herself as she began working on Interior Mortification. Her answer was a cloud.

The Garua.  Acrylic on yupo.  

The Garua. Acrylic on yupo.  

Through archetypical shapes and symbols, she was able to capture the meaning of the cloud and the space between her body and Heaven; she used the color blue to represent water, humidity, and the way to God.

Just like the Garua, and what is explained in the Cloud of Unknowing, her work—and the color blue—represents a feeling only confirmed, and thus explained, by experience. 

Caitlin’s work and use of color describes her physical and spiritual growth. What begins at the lowest level, the space surrounding her body, grows as she questions the relationship with her inner self and the complexities of the physical body. With each spiritual step forward, a new layer—a new color—is added to her work.

Her work is an illustration of what is outside the body and her inner self. The color blue is the surrender of both. Layered together, the colors represent the evolution of her spiritual journey.

Putting It On Display

It’s no surprise her latest exhibition, also titled Interior Mortification, reflects this natural progression and spiritual growth.

“What [the exhibition’s curator] Cassie [Skelly] and I were trying to do was tell a story of a spiritual mystery to a physical mystery.”

The exhibition begins with Blood and White, a more obviously physical collection that portrays the inner body. Followed by Interior Mortification, exhibition goers are taken to a more mysterious series of works that speaks to one’s spirituality.

Interior Mortification will be on display at the BLUEOrange Gallery in Houston through September 28, 2016. You can also catch her this Sunday, September 18, between 1-3pm for a casual brunch and artist talk at the gallery. 

Follow her journey on Instagram @cgmccollom or visit her website cgmccollom.com 

Nate Burgess, Illustrator

Nate's sketchbook

Nate's sketchbook

interview with nate burgess

By: Sara Chojnacki

 

TF: Please introduce yourself and what you create. 

NB: I’m Nathan Burgess, currently a freelance artist/illustrator living here in Austin, TX. 

I love to draw and paint. My subject matter consists usually of dogs, cars, dogs in

cars, skating dogs... dogs? I draw illustrations in a very cute, simple, dots for eyes

kind of style. My favorite medium is pen and ink because it suits my drawings pretty well.

Thin lines, either bright, faded, or minimal color. These drawings are most often what catches

people’s eye, and what I get commissioned to create, but I draw portraits of people too.

TF: How did you start drawing in the first place?

NB: My father is a graphic designer and my uncle is an artist. Everyone else in my family

has some sort of creative talent, so I guess drawing and creating is in my blood. That

being said, I’ve been drawing since I was probably 5 years old or something like that.

Very young! I’ve never had any formal art education. I learn mostly from my favorite

artists and illustrators online. I’ll incorporate a certain style or material they use into my

own work, and if I enjoy what I create, then I continue to build on that skill and make it

even more of my own.

TF: What is your mission as an artist?

NB: I just like to make things, create things, make others laugh. It’s about having passion

and enjoyment in drawing. If I’m not having fun making a particular illustration or art

piece I jump to the next one. Whether I’m making money or not, as long as I love what

I’m doing, then it’s worth continuing to do. BUT, I’d love to make money illustrating

comics or children’s books. That is probably my dream.

TF: What obstacles have your faced on your journey?

NB: Most often my biggest obstacle is myself. Sometimes I’ll see some amazing artist online

whose work completely blows my mind and I’ll think ‘yeah I’m never going to be THAT good’. I’ll

get discouraged and sad and stop making work. After having my head up my ass for a while, I’ll

remember my passion. That’s when I get back into it. Every artist has their own uniqueness to

them, and it’s important to accept that, no matter how much you want to paint or draw like

someone else. Sometimes I think my work is shit, but it’s really up to me to make it better and

get inspired and continue working, and worrying about not being good enough never helped

anyone anyways.

TF: What has been your greatest public victory as an artist?

NB: I don’t do graffiti often but when I do people like it. Public success to me is when I’m

painting a piece out around Hope gallery or somewhere and everyone stops to watch what I’m

doing. A crowd gathers, a lot of ‘ooohs’ and ahhhs’. If people start taking selfies with my

cartoon graffiti once I’m done, then success.

TF: What is the most important lesson you've learned on your journey so far?

NB: I’ve learned to be honest and accepting of others and of myself. I used to do graffiti in

high school and that got me into a lot of trouble. I found it’s best to just own up to your mistakes

and grow from them.

TF: What advice do you have for other artists?

NB: I feel like every artist says this, but just keep drawing. All the time. Good ideas will come and

when they do make them big, especially if you want people to see them. Also, be comfortable

with yourself and your style. Allow yourself to grow.

TF: You do a mix of realistic drawing and more whimsical, cartoon-style illustrations. In which style do you feel most at home?

NB: I love my cartoons, and I hope to start drawing comics or graphic novels someday. I think

that’d be tons of fun. Even when I was a kid I’d draw comics like ‘bug man’ (typical superhero

stuff) or ‘the gory adventures of stinkpie’ (poor character died at the end of every issue). Telling

jokes and stories through my illustrations is more exciting and colorful.

TF: How do you balance creating art with the rest of your life?

NB: Creating sort of just happens in ­between everything. I just finished school and now I have

to work quite a bit to continue living in Austin, so drawing and painting and making stuff is what I

try to do during all my free time.

TF: How has living in Austin influenced your work? 

NB: I came from El Paso, TX, and back home there really is no art scene. In Austin, I feel

inspired every where I go. Book stores, coffee shops, parks, bars, abandoned buildings.

There’s so much energy everywhere and I’m constantly feeding on it. I love especially all the art

markets and craft fairs and conventions. Seeing and speaking with all the other artists

and artisans who are working to make a living doing their own, original, creative thing gets me

so pumped. I’ll be one of them someday.

TF: What future plans do you have for your artistic career?

NB: I hope that someday I can paint portraits of people, and illustrate children’s books or

graphic novels. I’m currently working as an apprentice at a pretty damn successful artist’s

studio here in Austin, and throughout the coming months he’s going to be teaching me the

technique of painting portraits like old master artists. Hopefully that can take me somewhere,

but for the time being I’m still always working on new ideas for stories to illustrate and possibly

turn into something. The future can be scary, but I guess it’s best not to expect anything. Plans

may not always work out, but it’s definitely important to have some sort of idea where you want

to be. I’ve got direction, now I just take any opportunity that comes my way, and have faith that

things are going to work out.

Eloi Studio

From studio art to street fashion

By Sara Chojnacki

Paige Russell moved to Austin because she got the flu. She was on her way to San Francisco from Savannah, where she earned her degree in Graphic Design, and after recuperating for a week in Texas, she never left. “I was planning on moving to San Francisco but it was just so cost prohibitive, and I couldn’t bring my dog, which is the most important thing to me,” she said laughing. “It was much more reasonable in many ways to live here. All that I really require for what I do is warm weather and space to work in, and I knew I wouldn’t really get that in San Francisco. It would have possibly made up for itself in connections, but I wasn’t willing to do the whole ‘New York struggle’ again. I just wanted something easy that I could, you know, afford and not break my back.”

Russell was able to grow her brand, Eloi Studio, from Austin. “I legitimized the company right when I moved here,” she told The Fool. Her eye-catching scarves, which begin as original art pieces, are created by cutting brightly colored construction paper into entrancing designs. These collages are traced, then printed onto silk scarves. One of the appeals of an Eloi scarf is its genesis as fine art; another is its accessible price.  

While her brand has the personality of an extrovert, Russell herself is the opposite. “I’m a true hermit,” she said when I asked whether she has a creative community in Austin. Her home is the ultimate creator’s hermitage: manageable and quiet with windows that let in floods of natural light. Her studio is littered with construction paper scraps and shards; her drafting table the same. As Russell puts it, “I’m definitely living my dream.”

I met with Russell at her home in April to talk about her experience growing Eloi and living the artist’s life in Austin. 

Paige Russell in her Austin studio

Paige Russell in her Austin studio

TF: What was the process of legitimizing your brand and your company?
PR: I wanted to make a brand that was me, because obviously that’s way easier to sell and I’m not good at selling things at all. But I didn’t want it to be “Paige Russell: Scarves,” you know? I got my degree in graphic design so I know a thing or two about branding and it was more just like, getting the identity down and trying to figure out how my work would express itself if it were a human or condensing all of the things I love and believe in.

TF: Your scarves do have a very distinct look and are recognizable. You have a distinct style as well. You didn’t want it to be “Paige Russell” but it definitely is Paige Russell. 
PR: It’s more that I didn’t want it to be “Paige Russell” the name. I really am uncomfortable with putting myself out there as me, so it was something I could hide behind and be the person I truly feel I am, but I definitely think that’s just the nature of being an artist. Everything that you touch ends up being in the same aesthetic realm, whether it’s intentional or not. 

TF: A scarf itself is very versatile because it can be worn many ways but you can also display it, so how has that medium enhanced your art and how long did you know that’s where you wanted your art to take its form, physically?
PR: Honestly, it’s more of a way of making prints of my work, the original construction paper things. I liked the idea of it being a useful object. I love wearable art, and allowing other people to express themselves using my work.

TF: Have you thought about taking your art and turning it into something other than a scarf? 
PR: Yeah, for sure. I definitely am working towards getting into.. I do a lot of custom jobs right now. That’s kind of like my bread and butter. It’s mostly scarves right now and I’m trying to branch out into different work, like for people to hire me to make different patterns so I’m slowly moving into that, but personally I don’t really wanna be the one to have to deal with production, because the more time I deal with production the less time I can make work. 

TF: How have you enjoyed being a kind of one man band doing the design and production? Ideally would you being working for someone else as a designer? 
PR: No, I’m completely unemployable. I’ve tried it many times, which is part of what spurred starting my own thing. I’m such a control freak and I also hate wasting my creative power and energy on other people’s visions. I’m not interested in working for anybody else. But it also gets really tough to do all this on my own. Ideally I would be in the studio all the time just making new work and then handing it over to someone else to deal with production and all the rest of it. I should hire someone, but I want it to be fully me. I’ve hired PR firms before, but it ends up being more work for me because I’m trying to control everything and I’m trying to make sure all the wording is right on everything, and it needs to be me because it’s mine. 

TF: Are you influenced by high fashion or are there designers that you see yourself in step with?
PR: No not necessarily. I try to not look at that stuff, because the more you’re influenced by the things that you’re seeing, the more trendy your shit is. I’m not interested in being swayed by that because I think it’s becoming hard enough for me to create things with a pure vision rather than what’s going to sell, or what has sold in the past. I struggle with that lately, because I don’t want to be making things just because I know they’ll sell. 

TF: You go into any boutique that’s supposed to be original and you see a lot of the same stuff. What is your process of obtaining a pure creative vision? 
PR: I think that for every artist, the second you sell your first piece, everything kind of shifts, and to fight that mental shift in your head that this is what you need to make to sell your work because that’s every artist’s goal, to fight that as much as possible because it’s so easy to sell out and create things just because that’s what people want to buy, and I think that there’s a balance, that there’s a way of spending some of your time creating those things because you need to eat. I think that that’s the hardest part with trying not to shift your work to what people want. Any criticism or praise takes you away from artistic freedom, and you shouldn’t take either very seriously because that also shifts the way you make work. 

All success or failure is based on your own internal conflict.

TF: You mention criticism, which I think everyone would agree with, but how can praise affect your work?
PR: As artists, success is defined by yourself, not by other people, because the second you finish something, you just have to start over again. And it’s a very internal process. You’re proud of yourself for finishing something you think is great, but then it’s back to the drawing board: you can’t bask in that. All success or failure is based on your own internal conflict. 

TF: How much time do you spend in your studio?
PR: I spend every day in there, but cutting actual paper, I’d say a few hours a day, 5 days a week. Lately I’ve been having trouble, like the last month or two, but I’m slowly getting back into it. 

TF: What do you think causes that?
PR: I mean, I’ve been going through some personal stuff. Just like feeling crazy uninspired. It can be like torture, what I’m trying to figure out is how not to beat myself up for not being in the studio all the time. The past month or two, like I said, I’ve only been in there about 25 hours a week. I think that it comes in waves and to not beat yourself up is important you need to just embrace those times you can’t work because that brings on another round of nonstop work, at least for me.

TF: How were you able to get to the point where this is your full-time job?
PR: When I moved here, I had a good amount of money saved up from selling the original pieces, and I was selling scarves before that; I just hadn’t fully branded yet. So I had a few months to get it together. And then just emailing people like crazy trying to get press. Press leads to exposure, leads to sales, leads to custom jobs and stuff like that. 

TF: Do you feel like this is a milestone for you, that you’ve made it in some way?
PR: I wish I could say like, oh yeah I feel like I’ve made it. I mean, I’m definitely living my dream. A lot of artists can’t do this, but it goes back to that thing of yourself judging success. 

TF: What have been your greatest public and private victories on this journey? 
PR: Public victory was when Susie Lau did a write-up on me; that was a total surprise. I had emailed her and I was like in her junk folder. And she has an insane blog, like she has a bunch of high fashion stuff. That led to the Huffington Post which got me so many sales. It was insane. So that was probably the best public one. But then, privately, I don’t know, it’s hard not to equate the private to the public. Being able to support myself has been incredible. I never really thought that that was impossible, I guess I just didn’t even really think about it, honestly. There wasn’t even… well, there was a lot of doubt in my mind, but I never thought about the alternative. 

TF: What advice do you have for young artists who are looking to get into design, or even fashion?
PR: I don’t give good advice. I need some advice. I feel so spoiled because everything just kind of ended up falling into place for me. And I don’t know how. I’m still like “What? How did this happen? Why do people want me to make stuff for them?" I think that more just finding your aesthetic and trying everything until you feel like you’re not necessarily content, but once you find your language, it’s undeniable. If it’s truth to you then people will listen. 

You can purchase one of Paige Russell's beautiful scarves at eloi.us 

Follow her on Instagram @eloistudio

Bea Schuil, Writer & Photographer

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

THE BEA-SIDE OF LIFE

By Sara Chojnacki

Northern Michigan usually inspires thoughts of snow and parkas, but even for those who live to avoid winter, the summers are inviting: sparkling lakes, survivable summer temperatures, and plenty of charming towns dotting the coast of Lake Michigan make it a vacation spot for many. It is home for Bea Schuil, a writer and photographer who has traveled the country on expansive tours: once by bike, another by Ford Escort (which included a stop in Austin, of course.) I was struck by Bea's openness and warmth the moment I met her in Petoskey, Michigan two years ago. Affectionate and inclusive, few people have the ability to engage other humans in the way I've seen her do. She approaches the world as she does people: determined to find the beauty in it, but also holding it to a high standard. She has an aesthetic which values untouched nature and manmade things with integrity.

Her journeys can be followed on her blog, thelowercasebea.com, which features photos and words that capture her surroundings in a way only Bea could. With posts that feature glimpses of both home and adventure, her blog is as welcome and refreshing as a cool lake breeze.

Bea agreed to answer some questions about her creative endeavors and approach to building a brand as a writer and photographer. Enjoy her answers below. 

Elk Rapids, Michigan

Elk Rapids, Michigan

 

B: Greetings, my name is Bea. I am a Northern Michigan native and proud of it. I adore my family, cherish my dog and revere both adventures and espresso. I love to write and take photographs, and I particularly love creating a space where these two passions live happily together. 


TF: Why do you write? 
B: I write as a way of documenting adventures. Be it a domestic discovery or an adversity abroad, I find joy and perspective in writing and regaling my tale. It is both a challenge and a triumph to express treasured moments in time through text and photo.

TF: What is your personal mission as an artist?
B: My mission as an artist is to chronicle content that lends inspiration from a relatable and attainable angle.

Badlands National Park, Utah

Badlands National Park, Utah



TF: What obstacles have you faced while pursuing writing and photography?
B: My path to the present, like any worth taking, has been strewn with its fair share of obstacles. As anyone who's ever presented a personal project knows, exhibiting your hard work can be fraught with feelings of vulnerability and uncertainty. To take myself seriously and stand behind my creativity with confidence has been a learning process. Another challenge I face daily is the line in which I walk between capturing a moment and missing out on it. It's all too easy to find myself overwhelmed by the photogenic nature of an area or, conversely, hungry for just one quality capture in a bland environment. Seeking, shooting and editing can detach me from the joys of being present. The best photos are those taken while engaged in both time and place. Additionally, I have found my passions to lie outside the convenience of convention. Photography and blogging are two platforms of expression boundless by definition and limited to no extent. The advantages of such creative freedom are teeming, however, this circumstance has led me to find fulfillment and success outside the bounds of a formal education. Forgoing a traditional route of undergraduate education has opened countless doors for me, but each opportunity is accompanied by criticism and doubt from peers. It has been, and continues to be, a challenge to pursue a lifestyle and career unfamiliar to many.

Zion National Park, Utah

Zion National Park, Utah


TF: What's the most important lesson you've learned on your journey?
B: Among the countless lessons I've encountered, it has become apparent that grazing for inspiration can be a dangerous road. In lieu of seeking outside influence, choosing to construct a personal creativity board can be a helpful way of avoiding subconscious imitation. Learning to trust my personal creative process is an invaluable lesson that strengthens my ability to create authentically. 

TF: What advice do you have for other young artists?
B: Be confident in your voice. Comparison is truly the thief of joy. 

Big Sur, California

Big Sur, California


TF: Has living in Northern Michigan ever seemed like an obstacle to your career as an artist? 
B: Living in Northern Michigan has played a large role in my work creatively. The constant beauty of my surroundings keeps me motivated and inspired. When home begins to feel too small, I am able to refuel with traveling adventures. And just as casting out serves as creative rehabilitation, returning to the mitten state once again does the same.

My love for creating content follows me. I am constantly creating mental photographs, movies or written ideas. Whether out walking, working, traveling or simply spending time with my people, most moments are worth capturing. 

And in the spirit of traveling, creating and documenting, Austin, Texas, proved a fantastic combination of the three. With incredible food trucks, beautifully crafted espresso and late nights of Barton Springs swimming and live jazz, it will absolutely be a frequented favorite! 

"Fort escort" in Joshua Tree National Park, California

"Fort escort" in Joshua Tree National Park, California


thelowercasebea.com
instagram @beaschuil
twitter @beaschuil

 

Mrs. Glass, Blues Musician

Love, Hate & the Blues

By Eloise Kirn

If you’re upset and hate everything, you’re gonna play the blues.

Mrs. Glass suggested we meet on Easter Sunday. Fortunately, we met two days later, past dinner hour, in a sinful dive bar called the Hard Luck Lounge. Hard Luck is what we got because we caught the musician, legally named Jordan Webster, on a “bad night.” He responded to our first question—why do you create—with a nod toward his whiskey. “I guess it’s more just being a drunk. I play the blues, that’s about it.” His responses to our questions continued to get darker: his only advice to artists in Austin is “go to Portland” and he says he would’ve moved back to New Orleans years ago, if only he could drive.

Needless to say, Mrs. Glass isn’t very happy about the world. He hates pretty much everyone and everything. (Though when pressed, “do you use the word hate affably?” he responds, “all the time.”). His music clearly comes from a dark and stormy place: “The best record I did, I was so smacked out and hated everybody and thought everybody hated me. Then I got sober. And I wrote this record in three days and it was fantastic. Then I immediately went to boozing and I started to have fun again... so that was good. But everything crumbled. And I wrote some more good songs.” He is certainly boozed up tonight, and repeatedly apologizes for the cynicism that falls from his lips as easily as the whisky goes down.

You shouldn’t make life decisions glamorous, as the only way something can be done. Look at Elton John he made all his records totally fucked up. But look at him now, in that fucking wig.

As we sat in Hard Luck’s empty yard, a monotonous rain fell. Mrs. Glass looked out glossy- eyed, chain-smoked, ran out of cigs, and pulled a fresh pack from his suit jacket. We asked about moving to Austin because of Hurricane Katrina, the great losses he’s experienced in life, and the self-fulfilling prophecy of the tortured artist; however, Mrs. Glass connected with one subject only.

Love and loneliness. Love and rejection. Love and hate.

“I play romance music, but it’s not phony soft shit. Love sucks, it’s horrible… Well, love itself isn’t horrible but everything else that goes with it is. Rejection. All of that.” He goes somewhere else for a moment. “Love itself is nice. Love doesn’t hurt.”

 His change in demeanor is strange for someone so guarded and generally pissed off. When he talks on this subject he sort of slumps a little, looks away, and becomes the most vulnerable person in the room. “Do you hear this right now?” He points up to the bar’s speakers. “All he’s talking about is falling in love with somebody and them not being in love with him. That is always the magic in the sauce: love that is not reciprocated. It’s the best thing when it comes to music.”

If there’s not hate in there, it’s not real love.

A melancholic song comes on next. It’s his. “People really like this song, but they don't realize it's about a serial killer and how a serial killer would look at their obsessions.” Despite the mass misinterpretation, he and his audience meet at the junction of obsession. Like through most of his music, Mrs. Glass communicates the humanity in darkness. And as we sat there with him, listening to the music, the void between us began to shrink as well. 

               “Do you feel lonely?”

               “Oh all the time. Sometimes I feel like the loneliest--" He laughs a harsh, throaty laugh, then looks like might cry. "... Do you guys feel lonely?”

IMG_4124.JPG

 

After an hour of this (listen to the audio, if nothing other than to hear his voice), it’s time to play. His scheduled performance takes place in a corner of the bar, in a small wooden chair, under a juke box and $300 painting of Willie Nelson in a field of flowers. The four people at the bar—the owner, a regular, a stranger and Mrs. Glass’ promoter—began to call out song requests. One song is about his father dying of lung cancer. Some are about killing. All are hollow. He shakes his head and says, "I don't even wanna..." Then simply takes a swig, and belts out one of the most heart-wrenching songs we've ever heard.

I’m not a writer. I can’t write a book about anything. I’m not a filmmaker. I just make music. And I guess some people find it entertaining.

Mrs. Glass plays at the Blackheart on Rainey Street every Thursday. He will also take the stage at the White Horse on April 8 to celebrate his band's five-year anniversary. In the next year, he plans to release two full length albums. The first, entitled “Sorry” is due in May, will be an all acoustic traditional blues record. The second album, entitled “Sexy on Film” is due in September, will be a stylistic shift for the band, veering into a pop direction. 

 

 

 

Abigail Hampton, Scent Artist

Interview with Abigail Hampton

 

Abigail Hampton smells of lavender, frankincense, peppermint and a little bit of dirt. Her world is one of dahlias and peonies and oils, extracted from the rocks of Somalia and lemon farms in Sicily. For Abigail, the earth is an infinite source of restorative powers, and she has dedicated her life to bringing plants and people together.

We sat down with the full-time floral designer and essential oils educator on a warm night in Spring. The birds and the bees were out, flowers in bloom. Abigail’s presence was tranquilizing and enigmatic; she drank Kombucha and repeatedly sniffed her palms, almost subconsciously, while professing she’d rather talk about us than herself.

From her purse she draws a pouch full of remedies. Inside lie bottles of some of the most powerful oils found in nature: geranium, juniper berry, grapefruit, cypress, eucalyptus, clove bud, wild orange and ylang ylang. Our noses caught her scents in the breeze.

If you think this sounds frilly, remember you are reading an article on floral design and aromatherapy.

But there is more than meets the nose to this graceful woman. Years ago, Abigail dreamed of going to art school for acrylic painting, but life got in the way. A few weeks before her high school graduation, one of her dearest friends commit suicide. Though Abigail wishes her friend had essential oils in her life, she was experiencing withdrawals from another chemical: cocaine. This experience prompted Abigail to seek out spiritual and emotional guidance. She traveled to India and Africa, where she witnessed poverty, malnourishment and suffering like she had seen before. While abroad, she discovered something else as well: the transformative powers of agriculture, art and compassion.

And so began an outpouring of love and a commitment to restoring everyone Abigail met in her path. She had given away all her belongings and spent over a year empting herself for the betterment of others, before she realized the importance of taking care of herself. Thankfully, Abigail found essential oils and began a journey of self-fulfillment and passion. Now, she designs arrangements at Wild Bunches Floral and teaches classes on health, wellness and aromatherapy around Austin, TX.

Before the interview began, Abigail took out a vile of “Passion/Inspiring Blend” from her pouch of remedies. The potion was composed of cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, clove, sandalwood, jasmine and vanilla bean. She instructed us to dab a few potent drops into our palms, hold open fists to our noses, and inhale.

Essential oils are a plant’s natural protection from environmental threats, insects, and decay. When we inhale an essential oil, we absorb the small and volatile molecules through our mucous membranes. It travels through capillaries, into the circulatory system and is dispersed throughout the body. The nervous system transmits signals to the limbic system of the brain—the area that houses emotion and memory. The result is various physiological functions, such as a release of hormones, relief from pain or a positive shift in mood.

While many discredit "herbal fanatics," some scientific evidence supports the health claims of these natural supplements. And whether it was Abigail’s conviction or the passion blend working, there was something undeniably enthusing in the air.

Fool editor Sara Chojnacki and Abigail Hampton smelling passion blend at Radio Cafe.

Fool editor Sara Chojnacki and Abigail Hampton smelling passion blend at Radio Cafe.

TF: Why are you drawn to both aromatherapy and floral design, and how do you see them as part of the same art form?

AH: I see a huge connection between the two because when you are taking care of yourself, you are enhancing your creativity inside of you. Plants have rejuvenating powers and the more you work with them, the more you are restoring yourself. I mean, Picasso was crazy and he died early, and Van Gogh cut off his ear. Michael Jackson! So even if you are a creative genius but you’re not taking care of yourself, you’re not going to achieve as much as you could. I see essential oils especially as being able to extend the length and quality of life.

TF: Can you describe how you came to be interested in health and wellness and how that brought you to essential oils?

AH: I segued into health and wellness because I wasn’t a healthy person, back in my day. Really, I gave of myself a lot. When I graduated from High School, I went to a bible college in Dallas and I fell in love with different cultures and groups all over the world, which led me to move to India, where I lived for four months. My eyes were awakened to human exploitation and human trafficking and malnourished children and poverty in third world countries and all these issues. I realized that I have a lot to offer because of the position I come from, being an American, I have a lot of opportunities to offer people who are less fortunate. So that led me to move to Africa for nine months, where I worked in a crisis care center for rescued traffic victims. When I was there I became really passionate about restoring people to their health mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually, as well. And so going through that process I became a person that was outpouring and outpouring and outpouring constantly, and I really neglected taking care of myself simultaneously, in terms of me working in a rehabilitation center overseas, I was very passionate about educating those girls on how to find their creative outlet. So we did a lot of art therapy and gardening therapy. And really just opening that gateway for them through a restoration process and then having an immediate action along with that, whether it was drawing something or planting in the garden or doing some sort of exercise, that was really where my passion led: self-care, and whatever that looks like for different people.

So when I left that area I was really burnt, as you can imagine. I had sold everything before I moved because that’s just in my nature—I’m so compelled to restore people. So when I got back, I was dedicated to restoring myself so that in the long run, I was capable of being that vehicle to help other people see their restoration fulfilled. So I went through a lot of therapy and physical/spiritual restoration. In the meantime, I was doing a lot of painting as a way for me to go through that healing process. Then, thankfully—thank God—essential oils came into my life about four years ago. There was an emotional shift, a healing shift. Now I’m very passionate about teaching people how to use oils and also the science behind how they are so compatible with our bodies and why every single person needs them. My passion is creativity and health and wellness, and when you combine those two, I see it’s the most effective in fulfilling your creative outlet and taking care of yourself.

TF: I like the idea that when you’re “outpouring and outpouring” you have to have something that’s pouring back into you and filling you up as well.

AH: Right. For me, it was a spiritual connection with God. And some people call it the universe or Buddha or Allah, but for me it was Yahweh, God, and that was my one on one connection. I had to really see myself as the person I was created to be. And we are all creative in our own units, regardless of our titles and status. But we are created for a greater purpose other than just ourselves compacted in our bodies. Our minds are so powerful. For me, that fuel and energy that really sought me out through the restoration process, which I’m still going through—aren’t we all—was incorporating the spiritual with the physical, carbon—the oils.

TF: Can you tell us why you called yourself an unhealthy person in the past? Was it the experiences from India and Africa or was there something before that, in High School that actually led you down that path?

AH: I was an average, healthy teenager. But I had a friend who commit suicide a few weeks before we graduated and she was my dearest, best friend. She was having cocaine withdrawals so she went through a lot of therapy. And through that therapy—and I could cry, because I really wish she had these oils. I’ve seen a lot of people healed with these through their mental disruptions and health ailments. But she was really my inspiration for me to pour out myself, to give, and to help other people.

People think they have to do these great, creative things to broadcast themselves and get their names out there. But it really is in the smallest, purest action of loving yourself and caring for the person right in front of you. And I think that’s where people miss it. They think they have to have something extravagant to create, but it really is love. Loving yourself first, loving who you were created to be, and then that love for other people.

TF: Today we tend to see those two things in conflict—love for yourself and love for others. There’s this emphasis on egotistical love, not the idea of self care. When you say “treat others as you would want to be treated,” you have to first decide how you want to be treated. So how would you see self-love as actually healthy for you and others?

AH: Essentially, you have three brains: your mind, your heart and your body. And they’re all connected and there’s a chemical reaction that happens in your body between your mind, your body and your heart while you are going through life. And whatever you do, through these experiences, your brain subconsciously records that moment, whether it’s a huge emotion—positive or negative—your mind records that as a belief. And once that belief triggers, it stays there unless you recognize it. So when you are consumed with material possession and things that don’t last, instead of the things that are intangible—like love—you are producing a fruit that people can see that is egotistical. And you’re producing a fruit when you’re loving yourself and it can be beautiful and connect with other people, or you can produce something that’s really ugly and sour, and there’s a huge disconnect. So I think that egotism, you can’t hide behind that. And there is that disconnect in our culture because people think they have to be “great” so people fill themselves with tangible substances without discovering what’ true within themselves.

When you’re working with your hands, it’s all behind your soul and spirit; it’s beyond the body. And that’s why I believe essential oils are so impactful, because they enhance the quality of life—the cellular function, which makes you feel ground and therefore connected with other people and also inspires you to pursue your creative outlet. Oils are wonderful, but whatever form of self-care you posses and want to nurture—do that! And if it’s not working for you, find something else that can really enhance your creative outlet. But it’s truly beyond the skin, it’s what’s beneath you; it’s what’s going on in your mind and your heart and then your body reacts to that.

TF: We know a lot of people at this age who are going through the struggle of becoming the person they want to be and figuring out where they are in the world. Some tend to cling to unhealthy habits like drinking and smoking to relieve the stress. What is it about the oils that got you on the right path?

AH: Before essential oils, I can’t remember life! Just kidding. I’m not saying oils cure all your imperfections and your insecurities, but they do enhance the quality of your life. When you feel better, and are nurturing your health, you feel happier.

These are the purest forms of oils and they contain thousands of chemical compounds. Our bodies are made up of emotions, that are chemicals and that connect with our three brains. There’s a constant chemical reaction that happens, so when you introduce essential oils into your life, it creates a synergistic connection. People think ‘oh oils, they just smell good,’ and I thought that too. But no. They are biocompatible with our bodies. They can change your being, for the better.


Abigail provided us with a beginner’s guide to essential oils. Under the health concerns section, the guide instructs which to use for an array of ailments. Individual oils and combinations can be used for anything from bed-wetting to estrogen balance to head lice to sadness. The guide also contains recipes for happiness (bergamot, clary sage, lavender) and study time (peppermint, orange, rosemary) along with locations on the body to apply. More complex blends offer solutions for deeper emotional struggles: Forgive/Renew “assists in letting go,” the Blend for Women “promotes calm and feelings of beauty,” Console/Comforting Blend “promotes hope,” while the Motivate/Encouraging Blend “instills confidence.”

TF: It’s no secret people are skeptical of natural remedies and often dismiss the health claims of those deemed herbal “fanatics.” Does this bother you and how do you respond?

AH: I can respond to skeptics very well because I used to be one. I was using oils from the grocery store, where they use synthetics and fillers, since there’s no FDA governing body over oils, which is good because they’re plant products, but whenever I started using them I was a skeptic myself. I thought they just smelled good, but had no idea about the power or the science.

I have classes where skeptics come; they’re usually the people with their arms crossed, dragged there by their best friend. Usually they really care about that person and they’re going through something physically or emotionally, they really wanted to help that person somehow. I usually encourage people’s skepticism. I feel like people need to explore their options. And I’m confident that if people try them, they will love them… because they work. They’re effective. So when people come in and are like, ‘I’m not really sure about this stuff,’ I say, ‘You shouldn’t be sure about them! You should try them yourself.’ 


For artists who want to enhance creativity/motivation or overcome laziness and discouragement, Abigail recommends getting on a regimen of the 10 foundational oils: Frankincense, peppermint, lemon, lavender, oregano, deep blue, melaleuca, digestzen, onguard. In order to attend one of her classes or meet with her personally, you can contact her at hamptonabigail@gmail.com or visit mydottera.com/abbydiane

Donnie Jarvis, Jeweler

Building Temples for Crystals and Gems

Video by Eloise Kirn

Donnie Jarvis is a jeweler, crystal enthusiast and entrepreneur. The New Yorker turned Austinite creates one of a kind, handmade pieces, which he calls "temples for jewels, crystals and gems." He founded GeoCraft in 2013 and has been a self-sustained artist ever since.

Contact: geocraftwraps@gmail.com

Emilio Roberts, Tour Photographer

Shot in the Dark

by John drabik

Emilio Roberts is a Tour Photographer who has worked with major artists such as Barenaked Ladies, Dead and Company, Nate Ruess, Violent Femmes, Collin Hay, and Icona Pop.

The table was cluttered with papers, magazines, weeks of accumulated junk mail, and other objects that probably don’t belong there. We both cleared a space by pushing the debris to the far end of the table so we could sit and see each other without obstruction. In the distance, you could hear the sound of a needle dropping and the unmistakable crackle of an old vinyl. You could hear the jazzy sounds of Cannonball Adderley begin to blend with the scents of freshly poured wine and coffee that were placed between us on our half cleared table. This is our home, and this is my roommate, Emilio Roberts.

Emilio packed his life, which consisted mostly of musical equipment, cameras, and clothing when he moved to Austin during the oppressive heat wave of August 2015. The move was fueled by his desire to experience something new and sweat away the monotony that was created by a lifetime spent in upstate New York.

It was only 3-years ago that Emilio took his first photos with the intention of having them published. Now, Emilio currently spends the greater portion of his year traveling the country with internationally recognized bands as their tour photographer. Some people would consider him lucky, but this opportunity was attained by countless hours of hard work, dedication, and being able to capitalize on opportunities when presented.

From the very beginning, Emilio was raised in a family that placed a strong emphasis on the importance of music, and it was rare that the house wasn’t filled with the sounds of a record. He found himself becoming attached to certain albums and began to admire how the album art complimented the mood and message of the album. He described it as, “the marriage of two completely unrelated things that converge to tell a story.” This is a theme that has stayed consistent throughout his artistic vision.

In a profession where perspective is everything, Emilio has always aimed to show the viewer a perspective that is seldom seen. Operating under the assumption that everyone knows what it’s like to attend a concert, where thousands of people are fixated on the small group occupying the stage. Only few know what it actually looks like to be onstage. “It’s an experience that almost every audience member can relate to, and even though you are experiencing the same exact moment at a concert, that perspective changes your entire interpretation.”

John Mayer

John Mayer

As an artist, we are all faced with the question: why are we doing this? A considerable amount of time is spent understanding the purpose of your artwork and why you have chosen to create. In Emilio’s case, “creating helps me gain a greater understanding of my world, and there is so much I have yet to understand.” Emilio describes the most important aspect of creating as, “letting go of all the inabilities and the stigmas attached to being an artist and you become a vessel for your art, as if your art is creating itself, and you’re just here to make sure it happens.” After saying this, Emilio tilts his head back and pours down the last of his wine, he sets the glass down on the table and pauses for a moment. He explains,

Losing control is essential to being comfortable enough to let go of everything you know and allow yourself to create organically.

"It takes up every bit of your being to create. You don’t even realize what is happening when you’re caught up in that moment, I didn’t know until someone pointed out how ridiculous I looked. There is a physical element to creating art, and in that moment I’m not thinking about the physical discomfort I’m putting myself through, I’m just doing any means necessary to take the shot."

The most important lesson Emilio has learned from creating is that, “emotion matters a hell of a lot more than technical ability.” Even going further to say, “it isn’t art if there is no emotional connection to it. If I don’t put my own emotion into it, no one else will get anything out of it.” Through his understanding, he would suggest that if you are an artist, “don’t do it for the wrong reasons, only do it because you love it.” 

Dead and Company

Dead and Company

Barenaked Ladies

Barenaked Ladies

Barenaked Ladies

Barenaked Ladies