Thursday, May 26, 2011

If I were interviewed on Etsy I'd say this.

I'm not likely to be an Etsy Featured Seller any time soon, but that doesn't mean I can't interview myself and answer the same enlivening questions others have answered.

Tell us about yourself.

I'm Robyn Coburn, former theater and film designer and current unschooling parent, artisan and writer. I live in Playa del Rey, CA just by LAX. I make art dolls and other things. Recently I fell in love with scrapbooking, and become a Certified Scrapbooking Instructor at Michaels. I've also just joined the design team.

Apart from creating, what do you do?

I presently work at Michaels Craft Stores and teach Beginner's Scrapbooking. I like to watch classic films, read especially sci-fi, go to the movies, and particularly hang out with my daughter. We used to do more crafting together. I love Dr. Who, Torchwood and The Mentalist.

What would be the title of your memoir? Why?

Couple of options. One is certainly “I Hate Cooking”. Just flat descriptive. I think the volume dealing with my early life should have the word “peripatetic” in the title. I like to think that the latest installment could be called “Becoming Fearless”. That's an aspiration.

Where does your inspiration come from?

My daughter led me into the world of art dolls. She also continually inspires my writing with story ideas. She is definitely the featured visual motif of most of my scrapbooking.

Other than Jayn, much of my inspiration comes from examining the materials and media. I like working with vintage fabrics and repurposed things a lot.

There have been times when my vision outstrips my abilities. I think this is good – it inspires me to seek out new training and information. It only takes a bit of a nudge to push me into a whole new realm of creativity. Actually I have to be a bit cautious. If I learn about a new technique or skill, I tend to want to run away with it, leaving my prior obligations standing around staring at each other.

What does handmade mean to you?

In my own work it means that every piece is something that I have personally conceived and that it has passed through my own hands in the manufacturing process. It means small quantities, even one of a kind and short series. It means the tools are only one step removed from the hand – that they need to be actively operated by hand. Still there are grades of this. I use commercially made fabrics, even if they are vintage or used.

This last calls into the question of whether scrapbook pages can be truly considered hand made when they include elements cut with electronic cutters or dies. However part of my answer to that is to include hand embellishments and alterations to cut or purchased elements, and to combine many sources for elements, so that the combination is truly unique.

Who has been most influential in your craft?

My daughter. My mother especially for wanting me to working in theater rather than some ordinary stable profession. My husband for always saying do it. My mother-in-law by gifting me so many gorgeous vintage textiles. The whole world of the internet including art doll makers. My old teachers at college – especially Ian McGrath. Zika Nester. Taking part in round robins and trades has definitely had an impact on my work also.

When did you know you were an artist/maker?

I did a lot of creative work for school projects, like dressing dolls in historical costume but I didn't consider it to be art. I also worked professionally in creative fields since my first actual job as an actress during the summer holidays when I was 16. I started working as a theater designer when I was 21 at acting school and really preferred it to anything else.

However I didn't consider myself to be an artist until I started writing screenplays and making art dolls to please myself. I've blogged about the difference between artist and designer before.

How would you describe your creative process?

Mostly I have an idea and I mull it around a bit, procrastinating. Then I have a couple of different processes depending on the project.

For writing I tend to mutter and make pencil notes, until I turn on my computer and get down to it. I imagine scenes or processes and then write what I am seeing. Then I follow my own instructions and see how they work. I tend to consider some projects as writing based rather than making based. Usually there will be a couple of prototypes while the instructions are sorted out.

For Art Dolls or vintage redux I think about it a while. Then when the idea will just burst if I don't get it out, I set aside my computer at last and start sketching. There comes a point in the art work when the item takes over. I work intuitively and I leave room for the random. The sketch in this case is just a direction.

For theater or film design, I spend many hours with the script. I do a lot of research, sketching, pulling images from other sources, playing with color combinations. I spend time watching rehearsals of course in theater – and a lot of the work is logistical. I look for the subtext and the themes. There is collaboration to be considered also. The Director's vision must be the primary concern, rather than mine. For costume designs I also try to save the actor work. For example if the costume helps the actor stand or move a certain way that enhances the character, then that is something to which they need not direct their active attention. Even discomfort has a use. I do very detailed final sketches and working drawings which then become the blueprint – with very little deviation. Unlike with art dolls or wall art, the design is relatively set in stone before the construction work begins. Changes are then usually responses to problems, so reactive rather than creative. It really is a whole other mind set.

If you could peek inside the studio of any artist, designer or craftsman (dead or alive), who would it be?

Dead: Leonardo Da Vinci
Living: Well thanks to the internet it is actually possible to visit the beautiful studios of doll artists. I'd like to see Demi Moore's doll collection though. I think my daughter would too.

What handmade possession do you most cherish?

The green leaf earrings that Jayn made when she was 9. I wear them a lot. I like how they are very light and don't pull on my ears. My mother made counted cross stitch bibs and baby quilts for my daughter which are family heirlooms too.

How do you get out of your creative ruts?

I don't have them. In fact I have the opposite problem – too many ideas and projects and plans and crafting directions. If I get stuck in one place, I just turn to do a different thing.

My difficulty is saying no to myself. Prioritizing well is my biggest challenge. Sometimes my heart's desire is to work on projects that are small and for personal use instead of those with the potential to be big sellers. Those intimate, personal ones that only need half a table are so much easier. I tend to desire comfort and ease, instead of risking getting out there. The fact is that if a crafting project doesn't have the potential to generate income or further my writing career, right now I shouldn't be directing my attention to it. Time is the one luxury I don't have.

Where would you like to be in ten years?

Still alive and healthy. Watching my daughter's dreams coming alive. A published book author. A produced screenwriter. Having exhibited in art galleries, possibly sold some work to a permanent collection in the public art sphere. A member of a couple of really high end manufacturer's design teams in the paper crafting world. A successful entrepreneur with three business lines flourishing – Iggy Jingles Crafts, Robyn Crops custom scrapbooks, and something educational I'm not ready to announce quite yet – but I hope it will be a boon to parents and students everywhere. Oh yes – and living a house with an actual dedicated studio/workshop space attached.

No comments: