"Beautiful Things With My Own Hands"- A Conversation with Fran Meneley, THP Class Instructor
We've been blessed to host Fran Meneley as a long-time THP class instructor. Her artistic approach has been an inspiration to so many creative hands! We sat down with Fran to dive a little deeper into her background and art making process.
What is your first memory engaging with or feeling connected to art/making things? My mom was an art historian and I was exposed to art from a very early age and I think I just absorbed things through osmosis. My grandmother was born in 1893 and so was a maker out of necessity and she gave me my love of handmade things. She was an excellent pie and bread maker, she sewed, she fixed lawn mowers, grew a garden and worked with her hands her whole life (she lived to be 100). I remember being about 10 and she and I tackled a needlepoint kit project of columbine flowers. It’s the first project I remember completing by myself and realizing that I could make beautiful things with my own hands. My grandmother sewed it into a little pillow and I’ve had it ever since.
What can you share about your creative process? I approach my creative process as a practice. And I return to it again and again. Ideas and inspiration are everywhere. I love seeing how different ideas and mediums can intersect. I am a very curious learner and when I want to learn something new I both dive in and give it a try, and I research. I love a good deep dive. When I wanted to learn to make my own watercolor paints from rocks and dirt I had collected in New Mexico, I watched some YouTube videos, got some books on making dyes and inks from natural materials, dove into the internet searching out others who were making their own watercolors, read about the history of paint making and then just started trying it out. I did take a class after my initial trials and only learned a few things that I hadn’t learned on my own. As I have been learning and making my own watercolor paints I have been documenting my process and progress in a visual journal as well as using my handmade watercolors in my New Mexico landscape paintings.
Give an example of your most recent inspiration. The sky! I spent some time in New Mexico over the summer and wanted to learn to paint watercolor skies. I am a beginner at skies and it’s a challenge for me to translate what I see onto paper. But it’s also so transfixing and inspiring!
The skies in New Mexico dominate the landscape, they constantly change and the colors are incredible. So not only did I spend time thinking about all the blues the sky could be and the actual colors in the clouds (even “white” ones), I gazed at the sky a lot! So much beauty and inspiration, it filled me up!
Do you ever experience creative block? What do you do? Creative block for me comes in the form of not knowing what to do next. I will never run out of ideas of things to make, but I get off track sometimes. I get busy with life and I feel rusty when I have time to return to my studio and art practice. I have a couple of things that almost always get me back into creating. 1) I make time on my calendar to create. I write down several blocks of time that I commit to my creative practice – so it’s on my calendar and I won’t schedule over it. Once I have blocked my time, I often start with turning on some favorite music and I clean or tidy my studio. This puts me back in my physical and mental studio space and reminds me of what I had been working on – ideas begin to bubble up. 2) I take myself on an Artist’s Date – an outing by myself that is meant purely to delight my senses (this is from Julia Cameron’s brilliant workbook, The Artist’s Way) – could be a trip to the library to randomly browse books, a walk in a beautiful nearby new place, browse a current art exhibit or museum– no big agenda just a way to get out and experience beauty and let my mind wander. 3) I make lists of projects I’d like to work on or new things I’d like to learn. And before I know it, I’m back to creating.
Not everyone is a teacher. What motivates you to teach classes at Two Hands Paperie? My teaching grew out of my wanting to share what I was learning. So for me, learning and teaching are two sides of the same coin. I’d been learning about, and practicing, visual journaling for about 6 years in 2009 and some friends asked me if I’d teach them. I had no previous teaching experience but I sat down and examined my journey with visual journaling and decided I would give it go. So I developed a visual journaling class, taught my friends at my kitchen table, and went on to teach it at Two Hands and other places for many years. I was originally motivated to teach to share something I loved with friends. I’ve developed new classes based on things I love (Collage) and have pursued in my art practice (Drawing or Mark Making as I like to call it, Watercolor Painting and Embroidery).
I have come to know that we humans are all creative, it’s our birthright and it’s in our DNA and teaching allows me to share that with people and to see them light up when they discover they can make things and bring beauty into this world through their own two hands.
Fran Meneley is an artist living and working in Boulder, Colorado. She’s mad about journaling and has been at it in her studio and on the road for 20 years. A mixed media artist interested in how various media intersect, she loves to cook and eat (not in that order), travel and explore (anywhere, always), garden sporadically (in small containers), museum hop, dance (with or without a partner), teach art making, and scavenge and collect textiles and ephemera. She also facilitates an art retreat in Taos, New Mexico twice a year at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House. Fran is inspired by the intricacies and divine beauty of nature and is a lifelong learner and experimenter. In a former life she was Associate Publisher of a nationally circulated environmental magazine called Buzzworm. You can find her work on her website www.franmeneley.com and in these publications: 1,000 Artist Journal Pages by Dawn DeVries Sokol, Beaded Embellishment by Amy Clarke, 500 Beaded Objects by Lark Books, and in issues of the following magazines: Cloth Paper Scissors, Studios, and Beadwork. Her work is also in The Brooklyn Art Library’s Sketchbook Project