“Nature inspired me to mimic nature through art. Now nature is my medium, and I tell a story through it. My goals and aspirations are simply to continue to hon my skills and abilities to continue telling you a story.”
– Lydia S Huber
What’s your name and where are you from?
Hello, I am Lydia S Huber. I spent my childhood in rural Alaska and found that, while living in Alaska, one is much more in tune with one’s environment, and nature. Because nature played an important role in our lives, we had to be adaptable, which caused us to be more in tune with it. People also tended to rely on each other more than they do in these parts of the country. Neighbors, were considered neighbors, even if they live five or ten miles away. So Seattle was a bit of a culture shock, however, I remembered being absolutely love stricken by the lushness of the Pacific Northwest. In Alaska, the forests have a lot of tundra/ underbrush, and a lot of thin trees. In Western Washington, the large drooping weeping willows, the enormous conifers, the madrone trees with the red, peeling bark, and all of the flowers were what I remember being awed by, when we first got here. I am actually still in awe. Alaska is beautiful in many ways, although in very different ways.
Where did it begin? What got you started with art?
I have been an artist all of my life. Living in Alaska, the artisan work is carried down through families and most everyone learns how to do basic home, gardening, hunting and fishing skills at young ages. I started knitting, needlepoint, and embroidery at age seven, writing music since age eight (guitar and bass clarinet), ceramics since I was eight, writing creatively, since I learned to write. Other forms of art, to which I have devoted a great deal of time, are painting, silk screening, photography, block printing, and sewing (a favorite past time of mine is to upcycle clothing).
The last five years has been a struggle, as my body has continued to worsen. I have a syndrome, related to ehlers-danlos syndrome. In simplistic terms, the connective tissues, surrounding my joints are degrading. This causes multiple injuries, surrounding my joints, and causes arthritis, and other similar chronic conditions.I have lived a very active life, but have been experiencing the loss of being able to do things I love over the course of time.
Later, I had two healthy babies, but this compromised me even more to the point where I could no longer garden (my main creative activity following music), run around the yard with my children, canoe with them, take them on hikes, etc. When I lost one ability (one love), I would try and replace that activity with something else.I found myself going back to art forms. I had all of these artistic replacements, to take the place of my career, however I would wear myself down after focusing on them before too long. Knitting became too difficult on my fingers, wrists and shoulders.. silk screening- too hard on my back and neck.. ceramics, I had to give up the wheel and move to hand building, but later could not do that either. One winter, I honestly felt there was nothing I could do with continuance, and that was a very dark winter.
How did art and other forms of creativity help you during your dark Period?
During a dark, dark period, in my life I went to a wood turning class. My eldest son was supposed to be with me, as he had expressed an interest in this craft, and had asked for a lathe. By the middle of the demonstration, I had become interested. The teacher was an older woman, who was so humorous and an excellent teacher. I asked her if she would be willing to teach me privately, and I offered to pay her. She said she would teach me, without pay if, I would someday offer to do the same. We wound up developing a friendship. She was determined that I should be able to learn to turn wood, without injuring or wearing my body further down. She designed a lathe stand that would be slanted about 35 degrees and her husband built it for me. It is completely designed around my and my chair’s measurements, and allows me to get close to the lathe, and I’m able to keep my products and tools within reach. When I say this was life changing, I wonder sometimes if I don’t mean life saving series of events.
“I like to create works of art that imitate nature, but it is an expressive/impressionist view, more the emotions that are provoked through the lens of my view of nature, and the ways in which I believe that nature expresses itself to me. “
I am starting to make instructional videos for disabled and/or seated turners, which will be posted to my site for anyone to watch for free. While hand building with clay, I tended to attempt to mimic wood, bark, things one might find on a walk, and then build them onto a structure made from actual log impressions. Now that I work mostly with wood, I feel fulfilled. Now wood is tangible, for me, not something to mimic. I enjoy bringing out a story to share with people. Each piece of wood; (which is, admittedly pulled out of the fire bin, the roadside, and attained by having working relationships with landscapers), each branch has a story. I feel it is my goal and honor, to bring out that story, told by something that was once a living organism, and thus allowing this story and this piece of wood to live again in a permanent existence. It’s important to note that I find or feel that I’m often a “passenger,” along for the ride, in life. Since I don’t often drive on my own anymore, I look out the window and take photos. I call some “drive by paintings.” They are intended to appear as paintings, with an impressionist’s view. So, I know they’re a bit odd, but my style, I find, has changed with the worsening of my condition, and I find that I really like these photos. Here are my photographs. I will also print them onto canvas and continue painting them.
How would you describe your artistic style?
My artistic style is expression/impressionism with a strong obsession with the art nouveau era, and a large dash of modernism. I try to achieve the latter two themes in the wood blanks that I buy. Usually, it is because I am less inspired by a purchased round or square piece of wood, that has none of my personal story tied to it. These are usually also covered in wax, further hiding any independent character from which I am able to extrapolate a story. However, usually, I use these pieces because I realize that people often want functional wood products. Branches, stumps, and raw burls don’t always allow for this. I don’t produce a large amount of functional pieces from branches. So I find I utilize the modernism and art nouveau styles for the blank wood I purchase, and I believe it makes them stand out more, and this prevents boredom from setting in, and keeps me stimulated by my work.
What are one or two things that inspire you to create?
My family history inspires me to create. I learned a lot of creative processes through my mother and brother (who is now deceased). He taught me music, and painting. My mother teaches me how to successfully balance design and beauty. My father’s father was a carpenter, but also my favorite mid-century modern furniture designer. He only designed for his family members, so there is not much of his work outside the homes of my extended families. My father learned how to build homes from the ground up, from his father, and gives me advice, nearly daily on how to work with wood. I’m greatly influenced by my maternal grandparents, as well. They were botanists, specializing in orchids and learning how/teaching how, to bring orchids into the dwelling. They are possibly the main reason we can go to Trader Joe’s in search of one.
I look to architecture, fashion, photography and cultures for further inspirations. Possibly, this is more apparent in my paintings. I love getting design, texture and color ideas from people around the world. The African women from Kayan, the Padaung, who utilize neck bands to elongate their necks have influenced a number of my pieces, including illustrating beauty in the universal female strength, suffering, and resilience. I am currently working on a soapstone sculpture that is based on a potential doll they found, made of stone, at some Anasazi ruins. They say it was probably a doll made for a child, but when I think about it, and while I work on it, I think it was made by a child, for a child. Anyway, that is the story in my head, that a little boy made it for a younger sibling. Images of their ruins have influenced many of my paintings.
How do you handle criticism?
I really do seek out criticism and feedback from everyone. It is the way I learn whether or not I have successfully told a story with every project I create. If it’s not the story I imagined, that’s ok, as long as everyone finds something of interest. If they do not, then I have to decide how I can make the story more visible. I live with three generations, and value their feedback and criticism, as well as from my social networking acquaintances and comrades in art. Sometimes, with negative feedback, I have to discern whether or not this person likes wood design but I always try to look from their perspective, and wonder what would have to change for them to appreciate a piece, and sometimes that work is well worth it. So negative responses do often assist me in an exploration or motivator, in determining whether or not I succeeded in expressing a story that will be kept alive in woodwork. If I am certain, inside myself, then I may disregard negative feedback, because I feel satisfied without it.
Do you have a favourite quote or saying?
I don’t remember quotes very well, though, as a literature major (BA), I have subjective memories of thousands, but few exact words, and often no writer’s names! It’s horrible, I know. A quote that has affected me greatly, and which I have been living by, most recently, I read from a poem by Tomas Tranströmer, called The Half Finished Heaven. The quote being, “Each man is a half opened door, leading to a room for everyone.” What I take from that is, that everyone can find room to let someone into their hearts, and by that same token, there is always hope to find that there is always a person who will allow one in. I have suffered so much loss in my life, best friends and family members; to death and loss of friendships, that it means something to me to believe that there is always some one out there that has room for me, whilst I hold a door open for someone else.
Another of my favorite quotes comes from Picasso. He was being interviewed and was answering some question about what he hoped he would bring to the world, and he was saying he’s not changing the world, or basically that he had no high aspirations of political, socio or cultural goals but simply, that he’s “just trying to make the world a little bit more pretty of a place” (or something like this). I seem to think of this goal frequently, especially as I had been successful in my career, and was cut so short.. with high aspirations of changing the ways in which we work with, view, and provide treatment for the people who struggle in their life long illnesses of chronic mental illnesses. I have so much compassion and respect for them, but I feel my affect cut short. So I do think of Picasso and how his one goal was to continue with his art and hope that it improved the beauty for some one’s world.. perhaps never expecting he would profoundly improve the art world so magnificently. I will not be the cause of some huge political change in mental health treatment, after all, but I can take comfort in just living my life as an artist and hoping that some one enjoys it and finds it makes their world prettier.
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