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Creative Folk: Joanna Harker Shaw

“When I get stuck with a character I’ll paint them”

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Joanna Harker Shaw is a novelist, photographer, and artist.  In this interview they talk about the stubbornness needed to complete a novel, charity shop finds, and combining visual arts and writing. Their twitter is: https://twitter.com/JoHarkerShaw and their website is: harkershaw.wordpress.com

 

What is your main creative practice? 

Mainly, it’s writing my novel, but I also take photographs and draw a lot. 

 

What drives you to do you do what you do?

There’s a simple inclination that has me always picking up a pen, stories that run round my head that I want to share – but actually finishing one novel is sheer stubbornness and determination. I have to rise early and work at it. At this point the drive is to have something to share. 

 

How do you edit or structure your creativity/projects? 

At the first rush of inspiration I drop whatever I’m doing and get that enthusiasm pinned down. Once I have the outline of whatever it is I then take some time just looking at it, trying to work out what it is, what the shape of it is, what the best way round it is. Then I break it up into tasks. Organise them with little (easily achievable) targets. Then go for it. 

 

Who influences your work or practice? 

I try to absorb a great amount of art and literature, free galleries, recommendations, an unknown book in a charity shop – sometimes I turn up gold (I’m into surrealist painters and novelists right now, starting with Dorothea Tanning and working out) and sometimes not, but even the things I don’t like help me to define my practice. On the daily, I’m encouraged and inspired by my wonderful colleagues at the university who keep me on whatever side of sane I’m on. 

 

What other art forms influence you? 

Combining visual art with verbal greatly aids my writing process. For one I make pinterest reference boards – for details like period clothing (my current novel is set in the 1820s), but also a general mood board for a character. When I get stuck with a character I’ll paint them; it’s a meditative act that allows me to just sit with the character, not asking direct questions, but coming to an emotional state through colour and shape. 

 

What other creative pursuit would you like to try? 

I do wish I had skill at musical composition. A few times people have set some of my writing to music and it’s wonderful to hear, but it’s an art I just don’t understand. It’s magical to me. 

 

How do you feel when you’re creating something?

Quite tense, but also gleeful. It’s the upbeat before the main theme. A difficult place to live sometimes. 

 

What do you do when you’re not being creative? 

Teaching professionally. For relaxing… walking my dog in the woods or watching quizzes on TV. 

 

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blog Creative Folk eddus interviews

Creative Folk: Lori Smith

 

“I like the way my brain works when I’m creating something. I get lost in the process of idea construction and realisation…”

 

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Over the summer I interviewed a few friends about their creative processes, as a poet, I wanted to hear from people who were creative in other ways as a way of seeing what we all share as creative folk and what we can learn from each other’s processes.

Lori Smith is a writer and researcher with a firmly held belief in the power of using clothing to shape our identities and improve wellbeing. She likes her fashion to be sustainable, and her feminism to be intersectional. You can find her sharing colourful outfits photos over on Instagram as @lipsticklori. In this interview she discusses having an appreciative audience, using Instagram as a diary, and Darth Vader glitter flats.  

 

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What is your main creative practice? 

Getting dressed in the morning! It might sound strange but putting together an outfit, an overall look, is a fantastic creative outlet for me and also a way of improving my mental health. Seriously, who cannot fail to be cheered by the sight of their own feet when they’re wearing leopard print shoes with big red hearts on the toes?

 

What drives you to do you do what you do?

It really started when I began working at London College of Fashion and realised that I didn’t have to save any clothes ‘for best’, as my colleagues were the most appreciative audience and would never question why you were wearing something, only comment on how glorious it was. I have worn dresses to work that many would think better suited to a wedding, and have been told that even a look I deemed to be quite casual was “100% more put together than I’ll ever be on a good day.” When someone notices that I have picked up the colours in a silk scarf and used them throughout the rest of my outfit or make up, that always makes my day. Also, I love it when strangers on the Tube tell me they love my shoes – my Darth Vader glitter flats from Irregular Choice get a lot of commute love!

 

How do you edit or structure your creativity/projects? 

When planning an outfit, I usually start by considering if there’s one item that I really want to wear today/tomorrow, or if there’s a particular colour I want to include in my look. Then I build the outfit based on a combinations of garments and accessories in my wardrobe that I know will work together. An outfit is often also affected by what I am going to be doing on that day (e.g. doing lots of walking, or working in a cold building) and what the weather is like, as some of my shoes are sadly not waterproof! Occasionally, I’ll scroll back through my old Instagram posts to see if there are any outfit combinations that I’ve not worn in a while and use those for inspiration. I wrote a post last year about how to use Instagram to document your style, and think that my account is now a much better representation of my personal style than it was a few years ago so I am often my own inspiration. Most of my outfits start with one key thing and build from there – today it’s my new Fenty Beauty lipstick, which is red, and I wanted that colour to feature strongly in my overall look.

 

Who influences your work or practice? 

I’m influenced on a daily basis by lots of the people I follow on Instagram, many of whom have great sense of colour or style. They can be fashion bloggers or influencers but many are friends and colleagues. Basically, anyone with a strong personal look who is happy in what they’re wearing has a positive influence on me and how I dress.

 

What other art forms influence you? 

I’m hugely influenced by photography, and not just because it intersects so beautifully with fashion. I love how a creative art form that is so democratic – available to all of us via that little handheld computer in our pockets – can still be pushed to such exciting creative limits by anyone with the desire to make interesting images. It takes time to hone those skills and patience to practice them, but the results can make us stop our endless scrolling and take a minute or two to just look. I went to see Rankin being interviewed at the V&A last year and was completely in awe of how arresting his work can be, and how he is using his platform to raise awareness of issues such as the lack of diversity in fashion imagery.

 

What other creative pursuit would you like to try? 

I’ve tried so many that it’s more likely to be a choice of which one I’d like to go back to! Many years ago, I used to paint and draw a lot, then I got into photography in a serious way. More recently I’ve tried embroidery, both by hand and machine. I really enjoy learning how to do/make something so that I better understand the process and have a deeper appreciation for the work of others who are using that skill. I think that I’d like to try learning digital illustration next, perhaps by taking a short course or teaching myself how to use Adobe Illustrator.

 

How do you feel when you’re creating something?

I like the way my brain works when I’m creating something. I get lost in the process of idea construction and realisation, ignoring distractions for once. I guess this is a sign that I need more creativity in my life!

 

What do you do when you’re not being creative? 

I can usually be found in an archive, doing fashion history research, or relaxing in front of the telly. Good TV shows combine great storytelling, cinematography, performance, costumes… so many different forms of creativity working together! The last thing I watched and was completely absorbed by was a German show called Dark, on Netflix. I’m also trying to read more books to inspire me to write one of my own.

 

 

Thank you Lori for generously agreeing to be interviewed! Lori can be found:

@lipsticklori on instagram 

http://www.rarelywearslipstick.com/