Do you remember the moment when you started a new project and had that a-ha moment, that “this is it, this is what I was born to do” feeling? For my sister Stephanie, it was the day she took her first quilting class. She has always been creatively driven, but it wasn’t until a structured class that she really could grow artistically. Quilting turned into a business for her, which developed into allowing her to focus on multiple mediums at a time. (You can see some of her work at The Lady in Thread or Hornickelhouse on Instagram.)
For me, that a-ha moment came while flipping through a book I checked out from the library, “Water, Paper, Paint,” by Heather Smith Jones. It arrived in my stack at the most necessary moment, when I was struggling with post-partum depression and transitioning into a functioning human with two babies, wondering how on earth I was going to be ME, when I felt the least like myself. The book’s projects are colorful, do-able, and the author made it sound effortless. It felt SO GOOD to pick up that paint brush again, after a 15-year hiatus.
And so today, I am SO EXCITED to share with you a spotlight of Heather Smith Jones! I hope you are as inspired by her and her work as I have been.
- Name: Heather Smith Jones
- Current City: Lawrence, KS
- What did you want to be when you grew up? I wanted to be an artist. It was my main interest and strength.
- What are you now?
Currently, I am an artist working in a variety of media (watercolor, oil, acrylic, photography, printmaking) and part-time instructor in an arts-based preschool at our local arts center.
- How did you get to this point?
I think one thing leads to another. When I was in graduate school I had the idea, as it was sort of pumped into us at the time, that upon graduation I would teach on the college level. I did teach painting at university and then began substitute teaching within the public schools among a wide span of ages. While I was doing that a friend of mine told me about the position where I currently teach. I applied, interviewed and have been working with 3, 4, and 5 year olds since early 2004. Over the years, I have grown to truly enjoy working with young children in a creative environment more than I probably expected.
- Are you paid doing what you love? If not, what would you like to be paid to do?
I am paid doing what I love. Since I teach part time I am afforded studio time on other days. I work with galleries who promote and sell my work, sell in my own online shops, do freelance photography, have written a book and contributed to many others, and pick up additional projects from time to time. But, I think artists and (early childhood) educators could be better appreciated and paid more!
- Current project(s):
I maintain a few personal projects including a regular sketchbook practice, which I share frequently on my public art Instagram account. I also keep a daily photo and words journal titled “my story today”, where I combine a photo I take each day with written thoughts or prose. At the end of the year I intend to combine the entries into a book. These serial practices express my interest in accumulating specific details into a phenomenological event. Gathering ephemeral moments helps me to see development and patterns within the form of a visible anthology.
- What pop culture are you consuming? (movies, books, podcasts, etc):
I enjoy watching anything from PBS Masterpiece, including Endeavour, Poldark, and Grantchester. The most recent movie I attended in the theater was “A Quiet Passion” about Emily Dickinson; for no particular reason we don’t go to movies frequently. I like reading poetry, Wendell Berry, and think I have read all of the novels by Anthony Doerr. I just started listening to the “Happier with Gretchen Rubin” podcast and have always liked NPR’s “Hidden Brain”.
- How do you express yourself creatively? Watercolor or any visual media, my sketchbook, writing, sometimes baking, arranging things in a space, I love arranging flowers and would like to take a class sometime.
- Have you ever written a fan letter? If so, to whom? I don’t think I have?
- Drink of choice? Right now I enjoy a nice cup of tea each morning, straight up english breakfast. When the weather gets cooler I pretty much drink tea all day long, though in the afternoon I switch to herbal or non-caff teas.
- Who inspires you, and why? Well, I have to say young children inspire me, for all the obvious reasons. Their approach to the world is fresh, everything is a discovery. They are imaginative and make connections in ways that are surprising to adults. They don’t have rules for their creativity. When they make something they are immersed in process and experience rather than outcome and aren’t trying to make it look like what someone expects. It breaks my heart when I hear adults say they aren’t artistic, or creative, or can’t draw, or whatever else. I think we are intrinsically creative as children, yet somewhere along the way it is drilled out by external pressures, expectations, criticism, etc. Maybe some simply aren’t interested though, and that’s fine. But for those who are or were, and at some point were discouraged, that is sad to me. I love to hear stories from those who are rediscovering a creative voice in themselves and exploring art again. That too is inspiring. And when people email me that my book, Water Paper Paint, plays a role in that rediscovery, well that’s just the best.
- Favorite tool to stay productive (for example, a set of watercolors, a specific planner or app, an exercise program…) I think for me this changes somewhat in practice over time but it comes down to a few constants: always having a watercolor palette and sketchbook ready; walking outdoors or yoga, some sort of regular exercise; and keeping a routine.
- Something you have learned this year? I think I’m continually learning resilience, when I am pushed beyond what I thought I could handle and yet I am still here afterward, that kind of situation. Learning acceptance when things don’t turn out like I planned. To embrace the full spectrum of life, the disappointments and the hopes, the struggles and the mountain tops. To allow myself to feel it even when it’s happening all at once. To live within the tension.
- How can people find you? People are welcome to follow my Instagram account @heathersmithjones, https://www.instagram.com/heathersmithjones/ where I post most frequently. My website is heathersmithjones.com Sometimes I post on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/HeatherSmithJonesArt/
- What can people do to make the world a better place? Hmmm, I guess what comes to mind is to find what you are good at and/or enjoying doing or find a way to enjoy what you are already doing. See that you have a place and are of value in that work. I think it’s a mindset, one that takes effort to see through your life or at times is harder than other. I remind myself and say, how can I do my best today or how can I help one person today in some way? (This can be hard when I’m grumpy, or stressed, or pressed for time.) Yet, it’s active, and I think with a kind of practice over time it becomes more spontaneous. For instance, I think simply smiling at others, or holding the door open for someone, or thanking people more often, making eye contact, little things like that help connect us and are moments of encouragement. It’s the little things that can feel big sometimes.
Thank you so much Heather!