Sunday, August 31, 2014

Amy Huff and Her Double-Secret, Undeniable Creativity

Portland Graffiti captured by Amy Huff

I met Seattle artist, Amy Huff, at a Silver Bella art retreat in Omaha, Nebraska in 2008.  This was a fabulous retreat created by artist, Teresa McFayden, who was my last interview.  I remember flying up to Omaha in 2008, leaving my two-year old behind for the first time, knowing that when I would arrive, I would not know a soul there.  For introverts, like myself, this is not something high on our list of things we want to do.

When I walked into the ballroom with 200 other "bellas," I thought I was going to hyperventilate.  They all seemed to know each other, most of them looking like Anthropologie cut-outs, and, to my surprise, inclusive of newcomers, very chatty and gracious.  My skin was crawling.  I got to my table, and there sat Miss Amy with the same look on her face as mine: was it fear, as well?  I wasn't sure, but I noticed she had less to say than I did, which was why I liked her immediately.

She was from Dallas, and me from Houston, and maybe both being Texans unified us.  Or maybe it was that both of us had no one to cling to, and therefore, found some safe harbor with one another.  That first night, I watched her and saw she had mad skills, but the humility of Mother Teresa.  I was representing artists at the time, and had become adept at one thing: spotting talent.  Every artist I tried to represent or did represent had this one thing in common - they were consumed about what they did and their approach to it was unlike any I had ever seen.  Most of them were self-taught, but even if their background was formalized artistic studies, it was their technique that made them stand-out.  Amy had that same quality.  She had the insatiable need to create, get it right, think about it and master it.  I watched at how adeptly she handled making glass Christmas ornaments, sewing a hat, making mobiles, and her double-secret, undeniable mastery at jewelry making.

Peace, Love, Om necklace by Amy Huff

In one class we took together, taught by Kaari Meng of French General, the task was to make a handmade rosary.    Kaari came over to Amy and said, "Your links look professional, and your technique is incredible.  How long have you being doing this?"  Amy, humble as always, was totally shy about it, and probably doesn't even remember this.  I wanted to hit her on the arm and say, "Dude, that was Kaari Meng saying that to you.  You are that good."  Look at the link work below...good perfection.  I've seen artists struggle for years to get this good.  She sometimes sells her jewelry, and has an Etsy site

Mala style necklace by Amy Huff

After the retreat was over, Amy made a necklace for me and sent it to me as a surprise.  The thing I love most about artists is they have the most generous souls.  I've watched Amy grow as an artisan the last six years.  She makes jewelry, blogs, bakes like a professional pastry chef, solders, cuts glass, paints in art journals, but probably my favorite thing to watch her do now is see her photography and Project Life books.  Project Life is a fabulous, innovation that I learned about from artist Ali Edwards that takes the old-school scrapbooking methods and replaces them with methods that are cleaner, less cluttered, easier to keep up with and just plain fresher.  The emphasis is more about documenting stories, capturing simple moments, and being able to do it quickly and efficiently .   

Project Life example by Amy Huff

Poject Life page by Amy Huff

Amy's editing and photography skills are something to behold and I often look at her Instagrams, study them, and  actually write down the filters she uses, in order to try them later on.  The picture below of her daughter, Sophy, is the type of photo you wish you could get even once in a lifetime.

Photograph by Amy Huff

When talking to Amy about how her creative process started, she said something that stood out to me.  "When I was little my mom was always creating something - Halloween crafts, Christmas cookies with all the different colorful icings, sewing constantly."

It was the absence of creativity, when I moved away from home, that made me want to create again.

In 2006, she went to her first art retreat in Dallas, followed by a metal cutting class, and classes with Sally Jean.  Her husband was working nights at the time, and even though, she was working full-time, she would stay up until two o'clock in the morning soldering, metal cutting and making all types of jewelry.  Her studio and how it is set up is something she fights with herself about.  She says, "I fight with myself about this.  If I don't see it, I won't use it. So my studio is organized chaos."

And it's better for her if her studio is a mess.

When asking her about how she handles failure, being a perfectionist, she said it used to stop her if she made something poorly.  Now, she just pushes through it.  And professionally, she thinks a failure has been to take risks.  She recently read an article that stated women only apply for jobs where they think they have 90% of the qualifications.  Conversely, men apply with 60% of the qualifications.  This is something she is focusing on changing.

Her ritual for creating?  Get all pieces spread out in front of me, grab a big mug of tea (dang it, I forgot to ask what type), light a citrusy candle that her friend Randall makes (I want to be friends with this guy), and turn on her Avett Brothers radio station on Pandora (who I was not familiar with, so I listened to them non-stop while I wrote this post, and enjoyed more than my first snickerdoodle).

Favorite art supply? Brown-nose pliers & charcoal pencil
(note to self: charcoal pencil was Teresa's too-I gotta get one)

Worse sense to lose and what you would do about it? Sight.  She'd miss seeing her daughter's smiles, especially first thing in the morning. If she lost it, she would take up quilting, sewing and stitching, in order to have the tactile ability to create.

Favorite TV show visually: Outlander on Starz
(Bob and I checked this one out this the love of all that is holy...turn it on! Even the man loved it).

Favorite Aha Moment for me interviewing her:  Finding out there is another person in the world who salivates over the sets of one Nancy Meyers, and adores the movie "Under the Tuscan Sun."  I knew Amy and I had a lot in common, but since I have every one of Nancy's movies recorded with instructions "that they are NEVER to be erased off our system," it's nice to know someone else has this same affliction.

Dream job if money, eduction or anything else would not hold you back?  Be a professional travel blogger who went to art retreats and wrote about them.

With the amount of retreats this girl has done, her writing abilities, photography skills, and her focus on taking more risks, I like the direction I see her heading in.  One thing leads to another, as one job prepares you for the next one.  Can't wait to see her what she creates in the next 6 years.

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