When out for a walk, Botanical Artist Vicki Rawlins doesn’t power through it to simply check a task off of her to-do list. Time spent outdoors gives Vicki inspiration for her art as well at the materials to create it. She composes her work using only found botanical materials and completes a circle as she returns those materials back to the earth when the time is right.
How did you find yourself on an artist’s path? Always there? Lightbulb moment? Dragged kicking and screaming? Evolving?
I’ve always been there! I remember since around age five already knowing that creating art was what I wanted to always be doing. I was lucky because my parents encouraged it rather than wanting me to do something different or more “academic” with my time!
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Who were your early creative influences?
I loved the bright colors and graphic illustration of Peter Max and Andy Warhol growing up, and still do! I’m not afraid of color and just love the beautiful bold design of both these artists!
What do you do differently? What is your signature that makes your work stand out as yours?
For my foliage art, it would have to be the attention to all the little details. I really try to push the balancing act as much as I can! I’m working with sticks and little bits of botanicals to create a feeling, just like I do when I’m drawing with a pencil or painting with a paintbrush. I’m capturing a feeling or a vibe and want to take the time to bring that out when I can! But sometimes, depending on the foliage, it’s like playing beat the clock so they don’t wilt!
How did you get started working with flowers?
I had a couple of teachers in grade school who used to do “nature art.” I tell everyone they’ve probably already played around with foliage, but just don’t remember it. When I was really young and just playing around, I used to make little homes for my dolls out of foliage and make little scenes and stick people. Many years later I saw some art made mostly with succulents that brought back all those memories. But I didn’t get back to it until about 7 years ago when I found myself struggling to hold a paintbrush. That’s a whole other story told in my book! My mother was a floral designer, so I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree!
Is it hard to dismantle a piece after photographing it? What did it feel like the first time you did it?
The first time I left it on the floor overnight and came out to a shriveled-up foliage piece! If I’m really attached to a piece I’ll let it sit for a couple days and then go back and mess it up before recycling it. Makes it a bit easier.
What is the most important takeaway you want readers to gain from your new book, The Power of Flowers: Turning Pieces of Mother Nature into Transformative Works of Art?
I hope it’s a reminder that we aren’t separate from Mother Earth. Connecting with Mother Nature can be healing and transformative. Whether it’s a walk around your block or sitting in the sun disconnected from technology and truly being present. Never be afraid to sit down like a child and create!
I think my story is a good example of how sometimes just letting go and trusting in a higher power, (whatever you want to call it) can allow for transformation and new energy to enter your life. Things are always working out for us; we just need to accept how they show up and work within that to find our way…
When it comes to creating, are you more of a planner or an improviser?
Both! But I do find that a lot of times when I try to plan, things don’t work out as well as when I’m just in a flow having fun!
Do you have a dedicated space for creating? If so, what does it look like?
I work in my studio. I have a studio in Door County, WI on Lake Michigan. It has skylights and high ceilings to let in as much light as possible. I also have a little studio space in La Jolla, CA that is very sunny with easy access to lots of colorful foliage!
What are the indispensable tools and materials in your studio?
Tweezers and scissors!
Where do you find your materials?
Outside, or sometimes floral shops and unexpected street or sidewalk droppings!
Do you forage daily?
Let’s just say, I walk with my head down, always!
Do you focus on one piece exclusively from start to finish or work actively on more than one project at a time?
One piece always. I want to give each piece all of my attention and allow for a “flow” of inspiration as I’m working.
Do you use a sketchbook or journal? How does that help your work develop?
I don’t draw anything. I just move the foliage pieces around until something sticks. It’s very organic and fun to just play!
What plays in the background while you work? Silence? Music, audiobooks, podcasts, movies? If so, what kind?
The radio mostly. Usually 70’s. I love all different kinds of music, but it needs to be upbeat! Half the time I’m so into what I’m doing I don’t hear it anyway!
How does your formal art education help your work develop? Does it ever get in the way?
I think all the hours of life drawing and portrait painting have helped me transition into building with sticks, for sure! Knowing color and how textures play against each other is something that just comes naturally for me so I think it all works together.
Is your work more content-driven or process-driven? Does an idea inspire a work of art, or do the materials launch an idea?
Do you think that creativity comes naturally to people, or do you think creativity is a skill that people can learn?
I think it comes naturally, but it needs to be nourished to be realized and grow.
How can people overcome the challenges they feel to their creative ability?
Stop comparing yourself to others and just do what feels right and good for you. Ego is never good for being creative. You’ll always get in your own way.
I don’t think as children we’re comparing ourselves to others when creating. That comes in middle school when teachers and parents are comparing and making comments in front of the child. I hear it and see it all the time. It will stifle every creative cell a child has. Then they won’t draw anymore because they can’t do it as well as (fill in the blank). I tell kids who have been back in the gallery that they should definitely try their hand at this and how great they’ll be at it and that they’ll have their very own style and approach!
Tell us about your website. What do you hope people will gain by visiting?
It’s filled with sunshine and good vibes! Our hope is that you’ll get lost in all the pretty things and feel like you’re in your happy place! It’s filled with one-of-a-kind handmade pieces for you and your home, as well as beautiful vintage textiles. And of course, lots of foliage art in the form of prints, cards, a calendar and a book!
Follow Vicki on Instagram! @sistergoldenshop
Interview posted November 2022.
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