Heather O’Donnell, Embroidery Artist, Cartersville, GA
Heather's work focuses on being as natural as possible, just like herself. A leaf is just another canvas that Heather picked up one day, and embroidery is the old soul in her coming out onto the canvas.
"There’s not too much planned—I just pick up a needle and thread and create what I want to. I don’t often research trends, and most of the time my hair is a mess, my leaves are stuck between multiple books, and we both kind of just go with the flow and see where the wind takes us," shares Heather.
Have you always wanted to be an artist? What inspired you to start creating? I believe that being an artist has always been in me. I did in fact attend art school (SCAD), but at one point I wanted to quit and just become an explorer of the world and an athlete. All of which I want to do every other week. However, I see design everywhere I look— in the patterns of the leaves, the cracks of the sidewalks, the colors of rocks. Nature is my main inspiration, and probably always will be. The best part about my art is that I can take it with me almost anywhere, and I am unable to go long bouts without creating something or finding a way to creatively work with my hands.
Where do you find inspiration? Everywhere. Mostly from nature, architecture, but also occasionally from Instagram and Pinterest. It’s 2019.
How have you, as an artist, found your creative voice? I haven’t. I’m not sure when I will, but I feel like I may be on my way.
Where do you create your artwork? Mostly at home or in some cozy chair I can snag. Sometimes in my car during my lunch break, or a bench outside enjoying the weather.
What is your typical day like? Since my art is more of my side-passion (at the moment), I set my alarm for 4:15 in the morning and many days, I get up. I’ll brush my teeth, start some coffee, drink some water, sweep if I need to, kiss my cats, then sit down in my cozy chair in my dungeon basement studio and embroider. For all of an hour or so. Then I’ll continue my morning routine before I head off to my day job as a rug designer for Mohawk from 8-5 pm. Many times on my lunch break, I will find somewhere secluded (my car) where I can embroider for about an hour. I’ll continue my day job designing (oftentimes get inspired and jot down some leaf embroidery ideas in my sketchbook) then head home at 5. It is rare that I will embroider in the evening. By now, I am tired and my brain is done thinking. Typically I will spend the first part of my evening getting in a workout or if we are out of food, shopping, then making dinner. Hopefully, I’m crawling in bed around 8:30-9pm so that I can get enough sleep to be able to wake up around 4 and do it all again.
Do you have any advice for aspiring artists or creative business people? Make the work YOU want to make. It is so easy to fall into making “what will sell” or work to “make a buck”, but honestly, it’s not that satisfying. Never ever be afraid to hit up other artists on whichever platform is your favorite and ask for advice or for them to maybe share your work. Always always just keep pushing thru. Get out of your comfort zone and sign up for an art walk, show, or market or open that online shop. Research! I’m not the greatest at this, but I have tons of ideas and if I put the energy into it, I’m sure I could make my art my full time career, but for now...I’m happy enough where I’m at. Talk to people about your work. And keep track of your inventory, finances, and expenses.
How do you build community as an artist? How has the creative community helped you grow and share your art?
First, you get on Instagram or Pinterest or where ever and find work YOU like. Whether in the same field as yours or not, find it and then check out the artist. Say hello. Ask questions. Sign up for classes, markets, shows, what have you, then, say hello. Saying hello has helped me a lot. I have gotten lots of great feedback, people have shared my work for me, I’ve made insta-friends and real life friends, and I stay inspired by artists who have already “made it” while I am still trying. I encourage those who say hello to me and share their work with me, but are shy. And you know what? It’s worked a few times! Now some of them are creating killer work and businesses OR I’m able to help encourage them to get out to shows or try something new. Say hello.
What artists inspire you? Do you have any favorite blogs, artists, or social media accounts that you’d like to share? Yes! Rebecca Martin Pottery make beautiful mugs, AND we’ve become real life art besties. Mehwish Wasi makes gorgeous resin paintings, and I was able to help encourage her to start promoting her work more. She now has a space at a studio in downtown Atlanta— a place I would love to have a studio—and is building her work and business. Kathryn Koroff makes gorgeous wood artworks, AND she is probably the most real & down-to-earth (and successful!) artist I have met through Insta. I just love to follow her. Elena O'Neill has the cutest prints ever. And I’ve watcher her account just explode. I am so happy and jealous of her. Celeste Johnston shares the love of embroidery and love of geography, same as me. I love her work. And she’s shared my work and encouraged me. I could go on and on
What are you most excited about right now? Thinking about the future of my work, but also knowing that I can retire doing my work.
What are your goals and aspirations for your business? Honestly, I would LOVE to work for myself and have a home studio. I would love to employ a couple people because I am able to, and I would love to just keep expanding and creating. I have so many ideas, but not enough time or money in the bank to take the leap to try. And that is tough on me some days. I want to show and share my work across our country at various art markets/shows/in stores. I want to create a book or two.
All photos provided by Heather O'Donnell.