Meet Lulu Moonwood Murakami, mixed media artist. You’ll find her creating with paper clay or making an art quilt with a variety of textiles. She manipulates fabrics into 3D pieces and reflects on current affairs through her art.
When was the first time that you remember realizing that you are a creative person?
I don’t have a memory of that, but I do remember the first time my art evoked an authentic emotional response in an adult when I was in fifth grade. My teacher was walking the rows checking on everyone’s work when she stopped and looked startled at mine. I had illustrated a cinquain I wrote that was about a drowning person. (She may have been disturbed, but I was just a kid who was influenced by Hitchcock movies and any old film that showed someone trapped in quicksand.) Anyway, I was moved that my work had some kind of power to make a person feel a certain way.
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What is your preferred medium?
Currently my two-dimensional work is in art quilts and photography, and sometimes in mixed media painting. My 3-dimensional work tends to be mixed media with paper clay and found objects. I really love working with all kinds of material and media.
Where do you find your inspiration for your designs?
Growing up my mother’s old college art history books were around the house and I browsed through them regularly. I also have to credit her design sense for colors and patterns.
My paternal grandmother was another early inspiration as she loved all kinds of handcrafts. She never taught me any of them, but I got to see them around the house.
Since then it’s been anything and everything that inspires me. I marvel at all the patterns in nature, I love folklore and folk art from myriad cultures, I love van Gogh and Klimt and Kahlo and Klee, Bettye Saar, Faith Ringgold, Michael A. Cummings, ten million other artists, interior design magazines that my mother collected… Sigh – I’m a magpie of sorts, only it doesn’t have to be shiny.
Does your work have stories to tell?
Yes, indeed. I might be an illustrator at heart, but working in fabrics or paper clay. I respond to current social issues, fairy tales, imaginary worlds of my own, human relationships, my relationship to the past or the present. There’s a lot going on in there. https://www.lulumoonart.com
What do you do differently? What is your signature that makes your work stand out as yours?
I struggle to recognize my distinction. Maybe it’s that I like to evoke emotional content, but that can be represented in so many different ways.
What motivates you artistically?
EVERYTHING! I am SO inspired by nature, by events, by stories, by other people’s art work.
How often do you start a new project? Do you work actively on more than one project at a time?
I often start a new project every other day just because I saw something that I wanted to try. It’s a blessing and a curse, but that’s how my brain works.
What does your studio look like? Where does the magic happen?
LOL! It’s a disaster!!!!! At this very moment my big table has various doll parts scattered about for a piece in progress, a stick that I want to turn into a magic wand, eggshells I’m saving for the garden, a box of tax papers to get organized later today, and a jar of water for painting which ought to be on different table altogether. Plus scissors, pencils, rulers liberally sprinkled about.
My other work table has a large papier-mâché project going that is a total diversion from the project I ought to be working on. On the floor I have boxes and bags full of supplies for my next school art residency.
I do clean up – hmm, maybe quarterly – but it only takes two days for it to return to its natural state.
If you could have just 5 items in your studio, what would they be and why?
Needle and threads
Because I like working with all these things!
Can you share a bit of your process of bringing a new idea from glimmer to reality?
I might be answering a call for art with a theme that intrigues me or an societal event that yanks at my heart. I mull it over for a while and draw a very loose sketch or write a list of ideas. Finally I start pulling out materials to see what will work, pinning them to a wall, cutting, combining, editing, sewing, embellishing. If I’m creating a 3D figure, I sometimes also begin with a loose sketch, but I might also just start moving the paper clay around to see who emerges.
How has your creativity evolved over the years? What triggered the evolution to new media/kinds of work/ways of working?
In my adult years I started as a weaver because a drawing teacher made me feel that I couldn’t draw. Later I found out about art quilts. I loved the color and story telling I saw in the work of artists of Terrie Hancock Mangat and Jane Burch Cochran. They’re still my heroes, but I’m also inspired by EVERYTHING and have tried a little bit of everything, and I suppose that’s why I love working with textiles and clay and papier-mâché, and I even allow myself to draw and paint sometimes.
How do you know when a piece or project is finished and needs no additional work?
Short answer: when the deadline is up. Artistic answer: I get a feeling that it’s finished because I’ve reached a point of balance in the piece. It feels whole and integrated, my eye can easily move about and stay engaged with the various parts of the piece. And the piece conveys what I wanted it to say.
Do you think that creativity is part of human nature or is it something that must be nurtured and learned?
I believe creativity is a big part of human nature, but that it also needs to be nurtured.
I work as a teaching artist where I go into different schools and guide students through a creative project that is often linked to some subject they are studying. It is always heartbreaking to meet students who’ve never had the opportunity to paint or get their hands messy before. The teachers are always so grateful that I’ve come in to work with their students. I try to encourage them to go forth and teach with some art and playtime integrated into the studies, because it is AMAZING to watch the students who light up and feel empowered by creating something with their own hands!
What is on your “someday” creative wish list?
I would love to have a solo show someday.
What does being creative mean to you?
Being creative is necessary to my physical, mental and emotional well-being. When I taught full time and didn’t have time to do my own art for a whole decade, I was not a happy camper.
Where can people see your work? Do you sell your work? If so, where can people find it?
My website is https://www.lulumoonart.com . I participate in group shows with Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA) nationally and regionally, as well as at Guardino Gallery in Portland, Oregon. My photography is posted on Instagram: @lulumoonwoodmurakami. If I ever go back to selling on Etsy, I shall post about it on my Instagram account. People can also contact me there via direct message if they are interested in my work.
Interview with Lulu Moonwood Murakami posted April 2023
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