Julia Elmore is an Artist and Writer.
I asked Julia a few questions about her creative work.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
The words that always stand out to me are, “Done is better than perfect”.
I cannot remember exactly where I first heard them or in what context they were said, but when it comes to making art or writing, we so often make excuses and put the brakes on before we have even started. We avoid doing the thing that we most want to do for fear of not being good enough. Perfectionism can be crippling, so long ago I learned, that there will always be a reason not to do something, but if I can park that reason (which more often than not comes down to fear, if we’re honest) and just get on with it, there is so much joy in the process.
Same goes for getting your art or your writing out into the world… make your art, write your story, but also share it. In sharing your imperfect painting or novel, or whatever your form of creative expression is, you give other people permission to make their imperfect art and tell their imperfect stories and share them with the world and that in itself is just perfect!
Name something you love, and why.
Teddy, our guinea pig. He is part of the family and lives indoors. He reminds me of what it felt like to be a child and brings out the very best in my eldest son.
Name three artists you’d like to be compared to.
Niki de Saint Phalle – for the way she used art to express her emotions and for the honest simplicity of her drawings. For her sensuality and her collaborations with other artists and her monumental Tarot Garden with a bedroom in which she slept in the breast of The Empress. Oh, and we share a Birthday – though some 39 years apart.
Michael Atavar – for his engaging and inspiring workshops and books.
There are many other artists I admire, be would not wish to be compared to. I don’t encourage comparisons, so I don’t have a third, but it would be a compliment to be considered in the same breath as either Niki de Saint Phalle or Michael Atavar.
Favourite or most inspirational place?
The Rock Garden of Chandigarh is a very special place for me. I became aware of the work of Nek Chand when I was in my early 20s and was enchanted by his story.
Born in the Punjabi village of Barian Kalan, Nek Chand and his family moved to Chandigarh during the Partition of India. Chandigarh was being redesigned by the architect Le Corbusier and was to become the first planned city in India. Whilst working as a roads inspector, Nek Chand spent his spare time collecting curiously shaped rocks, discarded materials and items from demolition sites. He recycling these to create his own enchanted kingdom, hidden on a piece of government land that he knew would not be built upon. Here, he worked away on his project in secret for 18 years before it was discovered in 1975. By this point, he had covered 13 acres, building walls and interlinked courtyards filled with mosaic concrete sculptures of musicians and dancers, goddesses and animals. As it was built illegally, his work was in danger of being demolished. With the public on Nek Chand’s side, his work was saved and the government made the enlightened decision to give him a salary and a workforce. The Rock Garden was inaugurated as a public space in 1976 and became one of the most visited tourist sites in India. I had the pleasure of meeting Nek Chand on several occasions and was lucky enough to visit him in 2001 to join the celebrations of the Rock Garden’s Silver Jubilee.
Closer to home, I find inspiration out in nature – in particular, in the woods.
Name something you don’t love, and why.
Baked Beans. I can hardly even bring myself to type those words. I never liked them, but ate lots one day as a child when I went to a friend’s house for tea, because I thought eating all your food was the polite thing to do. I quickly developed what can only be described as a hatred of the things. It’s the closest thing I have to a phobia!
What is your dream project?
It used to be to create a public sculpture garden, but these days, I would love to develop a supportive community of individuals who come together regularly to make art and have deep conversations. The scale and the form this would take is still quite fluid in my mind, but it would involve bringing people together to create and connect and in doing so to build the kind of support network and sense of community that many of us are lacking. I have started this in a very small way with my Creative Connections sessions at my home, but I would love for it to grow – to become a movement.
I have a feeling that my desire to create a sculpture garden may return in later years, but for now, simply connecting over creativity ticks all of my dream project boxes.
What wouldn’t you do without?
Time out of doors. I breathe more deeply and feel more connected to myself, to the world and to my children when out in nature.
What makes you angry?
Injustice of all sorts.
What does “being creative” mean to you?
Self-expression in so many different forms.
It can be about messing with a recipe; the way you move your body; the distractions you use when your kids start to fight. There are no rules and no limits. And yes, I do believe that everyone is creative in some shape or form.
What kind of creative patterns, routines or rituals do you have?
My creative fire tends to burn brightest late at night. This can be tricky when the alarm goes off at 6.45 and I have worked until the early hours. Sleep is important, but sometimes creating feels more important.
When I was at Uni, I used to come home, sleep for a few hours, then wake up late at night, draw, paint, write or move my furniture about for a couple of hours, then sleep again until I had to get up for college in the morning. That pattern worked well for me and would suit me now again, was it not for the day job and the school runs.
I walk daily out in nature. Walking the office dog is part of my job, so I head to the woods and this is where I feel most grounded in tune with everything around me. Words, ideas and learnings come to me when I am out amongst the trees and I tend to use the voice recognition button in Notes on my iPhone to get things down, then edit at home.
What are you trying to communicate with your art?
Whatever is inside me at the time. Sometimes it can be my feelings of connection with nature, sometimes my anger or frustration. Even when I am not trying to communicate my feelings, they come through in the photographs I take or the drawings I make. It is only when I come back to them that I see they so often express exactly how I was feeling at the time. Art is my meditation and my therapy.
Can you describe the time when you first realised that creating was something you absolutely had to do?
I don’t think there was a moment when I suddenly felt this. I just always drew. As a young child, it was always horses (in my magical thinking mind, I thought that by drawing them, I could bring them to life). At senior school, I doodled to concentrate whilst listening (still do, in fact). I went to art college after school and then drew and painted my way through a degree in ceramics and only for a few years, whilst working at an art magazine did I slow right down in making my own art, but even then, I was still taking photographs, making short movies of other people’s art.
Art has always been in me, bubbling away if not on the surface.
Which creative medium would you love to pursue but haven’t yet?
I quite fancy trying my hand at stone carving. I remember visiting the stone quarries in Portland, seeing the carvings made in situ there and feeling it was something I would like to try. It scares me a little bit. Working with our mistakes to create something new and more interesting is an approach I always encourage in the classes I run. We call them “happy accidents” in Art Club, but carving into stone seems quite final. One wrong chunk of stone chipped out and what then? Only one way to find out! I guess I need to feel that fear and give it a go anyway.
There is also something in me that has always wanted to be able to build a decent brick wall. Not what many would call a creative medium, but there is something about the repetition and the thought of being able to build my own home or studio that appeals.
Pop back soon to learn more about her forthcoming book.