Please start by telling us a little about yourself, your family, and your art form.
I'm Irish - born and reared in a rural village in the middle of Northern Ireland and moved to the big smoke when I was 19 where I've lived ever since. Growing up was a green experience - though as a child I didn't realize that. Sewing, knitting, crocheting and rug making were all crafts I learned from my mom and gram as a child while baking and cooking just fell under regular household daily chores. Nothing was wasted at home - food from one meal would typically be re-worked into another meal and vegetable produce that couldn't be used like peelings went into a special bucket which was collected every other day by a lady in the town who used the scraps to feed her pigs. Clothing was passed around siblings and cousins (I got the cousins as I had no sisters), clothes were taken up and in or down and out as required and mended till they became indecent - then they would find a new life cut up to be used for some other sewing project or dust rags. I remember there was always a stash of buttons, zips, broken jewelry and fabric scraps in the attic and I was what we called a plunderer - I loved rummaging through stuff as part of my daydreamer lifestyle.
Lots of relatives had animals - mostly chickens, ducks, geese and a few goats and cows. My great aunt made her own butter and taught me how to milk the cows and later let me help with churning (hard work!) and then patting the butter into shape. I never liked sweet milk but loved buttermilk and remember being able to take a glass out of the earthen dish - so cold and delicious! Collecting eggs was always a thrill especially if there were duck eggs, because I loved those, and she would let me take them home. Geese eggs were alright but a bit too big for me to finish off on my own. Another aunt had a huge garden full of vegetables and it was normal to be sent out to pick the spuds (potatoes) and other veggies for dinner. Fruit was more of a luxury product that we got from neighbors for jam making or from briars along the road - blackberries especially grew wild around town. But I'm digressing!
Art wasn't something that I experienced much until I went to secondary (high) school and while I didn't like the subject I do remember getting the chance to screen-print (once) and that that was interesting and fun. Maybe it's too harsh to say I singled out art as an unloved subject - in truth I hated the school and my time there and spent most of my time daydreaming about out of the place - so I didn't learn much of anything. Well except French - I enjoyed those lessons - because they offered a glimpse into a far away place.
So in essence I grew up during a time and in an environment where people lived close to nature and were thrifty - nothing was wasted. In part that was an economical necessity but also there was a strong awareness that in other parts of the world famine, starvation and poverty were rife. We were blessed - and waste was an insult to all those people who had nothing. So we re-used, recycled, re-purposed without really thinking about it - it was just part of everyday living and the ways things were.
Moving those experiences onto organic was a natural step really - the whole idea of living off the land as much as possible and being close too and respectful of nature is in my blood.
Where and how did you start or learn your medium?
Screen-printing I learnt about 3 years ago and it was a pragmatic decision. I had started to buy organic and hemp clothing and wanted to make a living reselling these as part of being involved in promoting a greener more organic way of life. At that time no one in Northern Ireland sold hemp ... and organic cotton garments were a crazy price. Plus everything was very plain and needed some color and design! Thankfully my friend is artistic and can produce designs - so his designs with me screen-printing led to Green Works. We took a pitch at a local market but most of the local consumers weren't ready to pay a bit more for organic so that was limited and there weren't that many craft events around - so when I found Etsy as a venue it seemed perfect. The objective was, and still is, to make organic and sustainable clothing affordable and more mainstream.
Will you share at least one thing that defines or inspires you as an artist?
Fair play. From a selfish perspective I worked in the social care arena for years and have little to show materially (like a pension) for that - but I did burn out. That sounds a bad and maybe needs clarified - I have always lived simply and never felt the need for the latest gizmo's/latest fashions etc but when working is all about giving your heart and energy and you're left struggling to keep up with the most basic of bills something isn't right. So I reached a point of self-determination that inspired me to work for myself and re-nurture my spirit. From a global perspective I see the earth also being abused and reaching the end of it's tether.
What defines and inspires me is the belief that we can all make a difference that in the end can benefit us as individuals as well as collectively. One of my favorite quotes and source of inspiration is:
“Only when the last tree has died and the last river been poisoned and the last fish been caught will we realize we cannot eat money.” - Cree Saying
The Planet Green design is a play on words - we wanted a design that would overtly promote the green message - while at the same time incorporating a more subtle reminder of the adverse impact of the other green (money) on our planet.
What is the best piece of advice you can give aspiring artists?
Try to find a community of like-minded people for support. Teams on Etsy can be one way if you live somewhere isolated. Go to as many craft fairs/events as you can - they are a great way to meet other crafts people and get feedback from customers. Feedback is very important as I think many (or most?) people who create have more than their fair share of self doubt - which is natural when you think about it - as creating is really about exposing an inner vision in an exterior product.
Do you have any short or long-term goals you would like to share with our readers?
Short term I really want the nuorganics site to get up and running and be successful. It has been in the pipeline for too many years. Short term too I want to master marketing! I need to shed my reticence and put myself out there - all tips welcome!
What first attracted you to using organic materials?
Hemp was actually my first love and as more certified hemp becomes available that is where I see the nuorganics site focusing on. It is such a marvelous and versatile fiber and any plant that can rejuvenate the earth has got to be promoted.
How do you think that buying and manufacturing organic handmade products benefits society?
There are many benefits - the positive health aspects that wearing, eating, using products which aren't laden with chemicals, pesticides etc brings, the fair trade policies and fairer distribution of wealth that genuine organic supporters believe in and adhere too, the global care of our most precious resource - the earth itself, the self determination at the heart of homemade products, the connectedness between producer and consumer ... and if I can dream the ultimate downfall of the large corporate machine as people re-learn how to value themselves and each other :)
Where or how did you come to start selling on Etsy?
I can't remember where but I read a blog article that mentioned Etsy - so I checked it out - liked what I saw and joined.
How did you come to find a home on the Etsy Organic Team?
For me it started way back in April 08 when I first met organicdog another seller on Etsy (who has since left) on the forums. She had tried to drum up interest previously in an organic team but had no joy progressing the idea. We ended up chatting about it over email and it took off from there. The Etsy Organic Team was then founded in July of 2008 and the rest is history.