Your Story: Elise Wehle with Uncommon Goods

("Girl Looks Back" Print by Elise Wehle, c/o Uncommon Goods)

Today, I'm partnering with Uncommon Goods to bring you a special "Your Story" with one of their Uncommon Artists! Uncommon Goods is an online shop based out of Brooklyn, NY. They choose to do good by supporting artists and designers, sharing uncommon facts on their blog and giving a portion of each sale to non-profit organizations. The Wall Art section (browse by clicking here!) is full of beautiful prints by artists like my guest today, Elise Wehle. (See more art prints here!)

Elise Wehle is an artist with a beautifully fresh perspective. She's sharing about how her dreams took off after winning a contest, how 30 days of creating kept her on track, and why she feels it's important to step away from technology sometimes and work with her hands. Check it out and be inspired!

Elise, tell us a little about your story and what got you started as an artist... 

Weirdly enough, I never wanted to be an artist when I was a kid. I actually wanted to be a zoologist or veterinarian because I was obsessed with animals. To my embarrassment, I think I owned over 300 stuffed animals. Along with that collection, I also had a variety of sketchbooks where I either drew my favorite animals or created my own. I drew in it constantly. I think my mom still has a drawing I did of a floppy eared cat (you have to love supportive parents).

Sometime during middle school I realized that I enjoyed drawing animals more than studying them. I soon dabbled in other subject matter and discovered that I loved drawing that too, and by eighth grade I knew I wanted to be an artist.

Your artwork is beautiful! I feel so easily connected with it and also completely intrigued and calmed by the textures. Can you tell us a little about your process and why you choose to do paper cuts?

Thank you for the compliment! Part of the reason I do art is to get away from technology for a while, a challenging thing to do in today’s world. I don’t hate technology, but I tend to overdose on it, and that usually makes me unhappy. I try to incorporate hand-intensive processes into my work that connect me back to tangible material outside of the ones and zeros. Paper cutting definitely helps me do that. After a long session of art-making, I’m covered in paper pieces, and my fingers and wrists ache. That sounds negative, but I love it. I feel connected to something real.

Concerning the art process, I usually start an artwork by finding an image or a photograph that I really love online. I like the idea of taking something that only exists as bits and pixels and turning it into something physical again. I materialize the image by creating a transfer of the photo. Sometimes this is done through intaglio, a printmaking process I learned while in college, or sometimes I use gel medium and transfer the photo directly to paper. I then try to incorporate some type of hands-on technique into the artwork, usually in the form of weaving, paper cutting, or embroidery.

I found your artwork through the "Uncommon Artists Gallery" on the Uncommon Goods website. How did that partnership come about and what is it like to work with another company selling your art prints?

I came upon Uncommon Goods when I entered their art contest. I figured that I had nothing to lose, so why not? At this point I had sold the occasional artwork but mostly to friends. I felt pretty insignificant. I worked as a receptionist and did art in my spare hours after work. So my expectations of winning the competition were practically zero. I was happily shocked when I received the call from Uncommon Goods that I had won. It instantly led to a dozen other opportunities, and between the money I earned from my prints and selling original artworks, I was able to quit my day job and do art full time. And that was a dream come true.

Working with Uncommon Goods has been fantastic. They’re a great company with great employees, and I couldn't be happier. They've done a lot to promote me and make me feel like I’m an important part of their business.

I noticed on your website that you do commissioned art as well. What's your favorite and the story behind it?

My favorite is one of my most recent artworks titled “And Joy Reigns”. The title comes from my client’s personal mantra, which, as she described it, “is brave, no victim-hood, and has nothing to do with rose-colored glasses.” I fell in love with the optimism and yet reality of the phrase. It resounded with my personal experiences. 

The artwork I made centers around a woman looking out of a window at a passing storm. I found the piece very tranquil despite the rain on the window, and I wanted to convey that joy is most powerful during times of turbulence, anxiety, or suffering. At least for me, that’s when joy has been most empowering.

Do you ever get discouraged or lose your creativity? How do you keep yourself going? Any advice for my readers?

After graduating college, it was really hard for me to make art. I suddenly didn't have any professors or deadlines, and I realized that no one in the world was there to keep me accountable except for myself. And that was hard. In response I started a project with a couple of other artist friends in which we made a new artwork every two days until we reached 30 artworks. Every two days! It was challenging at first to find the time, especially when I was working as a receptionist, but I developed the habit of constantly making art. The wonderful part is that it was so fulfilling. It was hard to get hung up on one piece when I knew I’d be making another one so soon.

I've discussed this quote before, but it gives me tons of encouragement. Andy Warhol said, “Don’t think about making art. Just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.” Whether you’re in the mood to be creative or you’d rather do anything else in the world than make something, you have to keep making art, music, stories, or whatever it is that you’re passionate about. That’s what I learned from my 30 art challenge. Even when I didn't have the desire to, I learned that I could still create something. Some of my favorite pieces were made during really lazy, unmotivated moods. So my advice would be to not get hung up on the outcome of your creative process and instead just start. Sometimes you’ll make something great and other times you’ll make something terrible, but just keep going and creating. I promise you’ll be glad you did.

What do you hope someone who sees your artwork will feel or see? 

Yikes, that’s a hard question. Sometimes I’m so focused on the creative process that I don’t always focus on the outcome. I guess I’m more a journey-not-destination kind of girl. I’ll try to answer your question though.

I definitely want my work to be uplifting. There is so much ugliness in the world, and while that ugliness can be very real, and I don't want to discount it in any way, I think that beauty is very real too. I don’t mean beauty in a superficial sense, but the beauty that comes from something deep within a person or a place. I want to celebrate the beautiful and remind people of it while avoiding clich├ęs. I don’t think I’m always successful at it, but it’s definitely one of my goals.

Be sure to visit Elise Wehle's WebsiteFacebook PageTwitter & Store including exclusive prints that can only be found at Uncommon Goods (click here!

This post and the print above are c/o Uncommon Goods. Photos, styling and opinions are all my own. 

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