The art of isolation: Mount Hood, Sandy artists work to create while quarantined, unemployed
While it's a well-known stereotype that artists like to work in seclusion, what's the effect of having to work in self isolation because of a global health crisis?
Three artists in the Sandy area took on that question last week.
"My daily life didn't change much," said artist Frances Waddell. "Everything's felt really normal to me until the past few days."
Waddell lives just east of Sandy and creating art in her home is her full-time job. She added that she already was home most of the time, but over the past few weeks "the feeling of the weight and sadness of everything" has started to set in.
When Waddell began focusing more on drawing with ink and paper a few years ago, she was drawn to it as a coping mechanism. Her go-to medium is ink and her usual topic is botanical prints, often drawn in the shape of an anatomical heart.
Initially art was a childhood pastime for Waddell, then it became an outlet recommended to aid in Waddell's sobriety. Now it's also helping her cope with the emotions brought on by our current crisis.
"I came to art to process a lot of heavy emotions," Waddell said. "Going through something like this reminds me where I came into art in the first place. It'll be interesting to see what comes out of this time."
Lately, Waddell said, she's been doing a lot of "inner child work," besides still creating her usual botanical prints. However, not all of that work will be shared — it's mostly for her own mental health.
"Inner child work represents our scared, small child self," she said. "It helps you respect and feel the feelings you're having and sooth yourself."
Aside from this work, Waddell said she's made a point of collaging her emotions each morning by cutting up old magazines and piecing together a piece to depict her current feelings.
As a full-time artist, Waddell said she's definitely feeling the economic effects of this crisis, though she's fortunate to have a husband who's still able to work. Waddell typically sells her art through shows in local spaces like Sandy's AntFarm Café or Café Delirium in Gresham. She also sells stickers she designs herself. That business has now rapidly declined.
"Last year was my first year selling art full-time and I did well," she noted. "I don't have the income I normally do right now."
Before the crisis, Waddell had a commission lined up with an Oregon tourism company, but because of economic hardships and lack of need for tourism during the stay-at-home order and restrictions on travel.
"It could've been a turning point for my career and leveled me up," Waddell said.
She's also working right now with limited sticker supplies because her usual manufacturers are being called on to produce essential packaging for medical supplies. However, Waddell is working to improve her online systems of selling and appreciates all of those still ordering her art.
"I'm trying to embrace this time," Waddell said, despite the drop in income. "I'm a pen and paper artist and this is really pushing me to think what I can do on the internet."
Sculpting a new business
Also making a push to selling digitally is Carolanne Platt, a ceramic artist based on Mount Hood. Prior to the crisis, Platt worked as the manager of AntFarm's Mount Hood Farmer's Market. A few weeks ago she was temporarily laid off because of economic hardships at AntFarm and says "it's been kind of a shock to me."
Working at AntFarm, while a passion, was also a way for Platt to support her art. Now she's gone from being paid for 40 hours a week to zero and isolating at home and it's quite the transition.
"I've definitely been inspired artistically, but it's a weird transition to go from having a full-time job," Platt said. "I think just how everything is changing and is so uncertain can be inspiring, but it can also be such a buzz kill (for art)."
The upside for Platt is that previously she'd wanted to change up her business, and now she definitely has the time. In the next few weeks, Platt hopes to transform her former Blue Raven Pottery business into a new endeavor. Under the name Kitchen Window Ceramics, inspired by her grandmother, Platt will create a lifestyle blog where she still sells and highlights her pottery, but also talks about aspects of sustainable living and shares other's stories.
Most of Platt's ceramics work is smaller functional items, with a few prints and decorative pieces.
"Everything I make is so small and often ends up on people's kitchen windowsill," she noted. "Working with the farmers market I think has inspired me to take this next step with my business."
She plans to launch her new shop in May, taking a step further into the online marketplace.
While she says "nothing beats being at the farmers markets" where she's traditionally sold her work, "online is definitely going to be more popular right now."
Poetry of solitude (almost)
While Platt and Waddell make use of the virtual gallery and marketplace, Mount Hood Poet Hana Grisbeck, who writes as Hana Darling-Darkness, is utilizing her time quarantined at her Zigzag log cabin home to finish a book of poetry.
As with most people nowadays, Grisbeck says her mood definitely fluctuates affecting her work, but she's determined to create something in this time of unemployment.
"Some days I just want to get up and bake and cook and pretend it's a normal day off," Grisbeck said. "I'm often losing myself in caring for my house plants and pets."
Up until March 17, she worked as a docent at the Mt. Hood Cultural Center and Museum in Government Camp. It was a job Grisbeck said finally felt like the right fit for her life, and for her need to be able to still create.
She wanted her job to have meaning and keep her from the inspiration-draining exhaustion that her former career of bartending created.
"I felt like I was starting to have a pretty good balance," she said. "Now it's definitely hard to feel the same motivation. I think by the end though I will have created something."
Grisbeck also regularly posts her poetry, as images printed from a typewriter on a natural backdrop, on her Instagram account at thedarlingdarkness.
The topic of Grisbeck's poems often reflect that flow and change in inspiration as well. "It's unprecedented how this affects us," she said. "(Inspiration) comes in waves like everything else right now. Making art trapped in a space also means you're writing about only what's surrounding you. I've noticed I'm only writing out of despair and then hope and there's not much in between. I'm also writing a lot about my environment around me — the river, mountains, moss and animals."
For the sake of her mental health, Grisbeck said, she's been keeping a "Corona journal" on the side.
"I'm trying to check in every day and it keeps me writing," she explained. "I'm trying to remember this time that will hopefully not happen again in our lifetime."
In that same vein, Grisbeck also tries to disconnect from the national news as much as possible so as not to feed "existential dread."
"It's so easy to get consumed," she noted. "And we don't know how long we'll be in this in between time."
Though Grisbeck does hope to get her book — titled "DEATH DANCES" — out soon, she also is trying to be kind to herself and not force her inspiration.
"To all the sensitive, creative people: don't lose hope and find comfort in creation," she said. "I think we'll look back and feel better if we used this time for good instead of just being scared (but) we shouldn't feel guilty (for not creating as much as we wanted)."
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.