On The Fly with artist, Noelle Dass.

The painted world of Noelle Dass is filled with whimsy, wonder, and wisdom. Influenced by greats Dr. Seuss, and Gary Larson, there is a joyous abandon and sense of adventure in her work that (from the first time I saw it) makes me smile.

After meeting Noelle, it was easy to see where all of that comes from. Soft spoken, intelligent, fearless, and utterly charming, Noelle is everything you’d want or expect from her paintings, and so much more.

Keep reading to learn more about artist, Noelle Dass.

SnS: Hello Noelle! Thanks for interviewing with me today. Let’s start off with some background information. Are you native to the PNW?

Noelle: I’ve lived in the Pacific Northwest for 22 years, but I was born in New York and raised in Vermont. I lived there until approximately age 12, when my family moved to Arizona so my mother could earn her MSW. I moved to the PNW to finish college at the University of Washington.

SnS: I’d say you are naturalized by now. ūüėȬ† How long have you been an artist?

Noelle: I think it’s safe to say I’ve been drawing and painting since I could hold a pencil / brush, so probably since the age of three. Art was my favorite subject in school, and I studied art for four years in college. I’ve been a professional artist (earning my living with art) since 2004.

SnS: That is an accomplishment! Did or do you have a job (or hobby) outside of art?

Noelle: Up until now I’ve been so busy doing the art show circuit that I haven’t had time for much else, but I’m hoping to cut back on art shows next year so I can have a little more of a personal life.¬†¬†For hobbies, I love to read, run, hike, camp, walk my dog Ellie, and volunteer.¬†

SnS: What kind of dog is Ellie?

Noelle: She is a Goldendoodle – half golden retriever and half poodle. She’s still young and full of love and energy.¬† I also have two cats: Sadie and Kabuki.

SnS: Where do you volunteer?

Noelle: I haven’t been able to volunteer as much as I’d like, which is one of the reasons I’ll be cutting back on art shows, so I can spend more time trying to make a difference in people’s lives. There are many great organizations I support. Some of my favorites are Sea Shepherd, Mercy for Animals, and World Wildlife Fund. I also donate to animal shelters that hold fundraising auctions.¬†For the last couple of years, I’ve volunteered as a mission assistant for Angel Flight West. I hope to continue as an assistant, and eventually as a pilot.¬†

Angel Flight West is a non-profit that flies people for free, to medical appointments when they either can’t drive themselves or afford air fare. So, say that you need to travel from Spokane to Seattle 3x per week for medical help. Angel Flight West would take you there. All the pilots volunteer their time, money, and aircraft.¬†A friend of mine, Jim, volunteers with them and he introduced me to it.

SnS: So do you have a pilot’s license?

Noelle: Not yet. I started learning last year, but I’m moving from Oregon to Spokane right now, so it’s on hold. Sadly, I’m moving away from my friend Jim, who’s been kind enough to allow me to use his plane without charge.¬†I’d like to pursue lessons again once I’m settled in Spokane, but pilot training can be expensive, so we’ll see. I’ve been painting commissions of people’s planes and saving those earnings for flight school. In the meantime, I’m finishing my ground school training.¬†

In fact, learning to fly is what got me into painting airplanes. It was a new and refreshing challenge. I have so much fun painting something more technical versus my usual animals. The first ones I painted, didn’t have any pilots, but I felt they were missing some life. So I painted Pilot Dog and once I did, the paintings with him got a really wonderful, positive response. In fact, my two main paintings with Pilot Dog sold. I have one original left, of Pilot Dog in a Pitts Biplane. I’ve also done a few paintings exchanging the client’s dog as the pilot. So one thing lead to another, and it’s been fun and exciting.

SnS: Do you have a favorite painting?

Noelle: I tend to favor newer pieces, because I’m excited about them, like my Pilot Dog series. I also like the joy that dogs exhibit in every day life, so that is a recurring theme. We can learn a lot about being present, and joyful, from dogs.¬†

Still, it’s hard to choose a favorite painting. They all have different feels and themes that touch me in different ways.¬†One of my all time favorites is “Rocks Gazing at Moon” (pictured above), because I like to think of everything on earth as having some sort of unseen spirit or energy.¬†

SnS: Which artists (past or present) do you admire?

Noelle: Stylistically speaking, my favorite artists are Kandinsky, Miro, Picasso, Modigliani, Klimt, Dr. Seuss, Gary Larson, and many, many more. Larson’s often dry, outrageous, scientific / intellectual humor was a big influence on me growing up.

SnS: So where do you find inspiration for your creations?

Noelle: People often ask what inspires me, but in my mind that’s not the same question as how do I come up with ideas, so I’ll answer both.

I am inspired by two things. The first is, being in the act of creating makes me feel alive, calm, and at peace with the universe in a deep meditative way. The second reason I’m inspired to create is that it brings humor and joy to people’s everyday lives.¬†In a world with so much darkness and pain, to bring a smile to someone’s mind / face, bringing them joy for a moment, is the most meaningful gift I can give with my talents.

Both of my parents worked in Mental Health fields. My mother was a social worker for abused children, and I was raised with the understanding that it is our duty as humans to do what we can to help others, and make the world better. And no way is too small. A smile from a stranger on the street has resulted in my going home and creating a painting that in turn, brought joy to many others. I think people often underestimate what they can do to make the world more joyful. 

My art is hanging in a few healing / health centers. Some of my work is here in Spokane. Some is in the Children’s Chemo room at Renown Health in Reno, NV, a children’s cancer hospital in Brazil, and other places.¬† To me that is the most amazing, fulfilling thing I’ve done with my art. To give people in pain something to cheer them up. I would love more than anything, to do more art for healing institutions.

How I get my ideas: Most of my best ideas come from clearing my thoughts and sketching without any idea in mind. Once I start drawing, an idea or design will appear to me, and then I will consciously move forward with it. About a third of the time, I will draw with an idea in mind, such as dog, cat, airplane, or Airstream. Beyond that, seeing my dog play in the snow trying to catch snowballs in her mouth, inspires me. As does learning how to fly planes, give me conscious ideas for plane paintings.

SnS: Your Pilot Dog character seems to really get around. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?

Noelle: That is hard to answer. I want to go everywhere. I like warm and tropical in the winter. I also like outdoor adventures. I found an on-line discussion forum for the sailing¬† community and was able to match up with a couple of people who needed a crew. We met via Skype, exchanged references, and I ended up working two voyages with two different, very small, crews. It was a great experience both times. Of course, Pilot Dog likes to travel too, and can fly himself anywhere. I’m hoping to make a kids book starring Pilot Dog next year.

SnS: Oh, I hope you do! I first saw you at ArtFest here in Spokane. Do you travel a lot?

Noelle: Yes, I’ve been doing art shows full time for 14 years, and that requires a lot of travel. I’ve been doing about 33 shows annually, split between local and out of town. But, I’m excited to be moving to Spokane at the beginning of the new year, and hope to focus more on selling art in my community, on-line, and travel less. That will also give me more time to volunteer and work in the community. I’d really like to volunteer with youth, and spend time with elderly people who may not have anyone visiting or helping them.

Those two areas are very close to my heart. Animal welfare is, as well, but luckily I’ve already been able to help out a lot with that, by donating animal art to auctions, and donating a percentage of sales to various organizations.

SnS: That’s great! So here’s a silly question. Once you are settled into your new home, if you could invite ANY three people (living or dead) to a dinner party, who would you invite and why?

Noelle: Oh that’s tough! I’d invite Jesus, because I think he was cool even though I’m not religious. Theodor Geisel (more popularly known as Dr. Seuss), and the Dalai Llama.

SnS: Now that, would be a fun and fascinating group! Thank you, Noelle, for sharing your time and talent with us, and welcome to Spokane!

If you’d like to see or purchase some of Noelle’s art, visit her website¬†NoelleDass.com.¬† She has originals, giftable reproductions, T-shirts and more. **SquidandSquirrel readers are being given a special $15 off coupon code to use online, with no minimum. Just use code Squid15.

 

 

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Zombie-mode! Uhnngghhh

zombiemode Hello friendly readers!  Well, this months interview went down with the ship. The ship being me.

To say that I’ve been in zombie-mode is an understatement. Between chronic illness, change of season, working on the final edit of my novel, and the demands of everyday life I’ve been pretty out of it. Sorry to drop the ball.

Please hang in there with me. I have a wonderful artist lined up for November. Her work is whimsical, humorous, and filled with child-like delight and wonder. Want to know who she is? Wait for my “Coming Soon” announcement next month.

Until then, have a safe and happy Halloween!!

Your friendly neighborhood blogger,  MJ

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The (Water) Colorful Life of artist Bari Federspiel

The (Water) Colorful Life of artist Bari Federspiel

Playful, sentimental, flowy, or tight, watercolor artist, Bari Federspiel can do it all. Quick to smile, or laugh, this bundle of energy is a member of Mensa as well as an accomplished artist. She is sweet, humorous, kind, and courageous, and I believe this spunky septuagenarian could run circles around me!

Keep reading to learn more about the colorful life of Bari Federspiel.

SnS: Hello Bari, and welcome to the SquidandSquirrel. Let’s start with the easy stuff. Where are you from?

Bari:¬†Well, my parents were attending college in Russellville, Arkansas when I was born. Dad had just come home from the war, and they met in the school band. Dad went back into the military after he got his degree, which means we moved around a lot. I’ve lived in many US states; even Germany for a while, but I’ve been in Spokane since 1991. That’s when my first husband, who worked for the Federal Bureau of Prisons, got transferred here. When we moved to Spokane, I knew that I was home at last.

SnS: All right! So did you attend art school abroad or in the US?

Bari: Both my parents were artists, so living with them was like going to art school. There was always pens, pencils, brushes, Scripto pens, india ink, watercolor paints, and paper. No coloring books, but all sorts of art supplies. 

At first, neither of them had a career in art, but Dad painted lovely watercolors. Mom eventually took up oil painting and ended up teaching for 18 years. So that was my art school.¬†I did take an art class in high school, and one semester in college. But I was a very conservative, very naive young lady, and when the art teacher asked me to be a nude model I thought, “This is freaky.” So I changed to a music major, right there on the spot. I then taught piano for 15 years.

SnS: So you are multi-talented!

Bari:¬†Well, I’m not talented at piano. That’s why I don’t teach or perform anymore. It was nerve wracking. Art came more easily to me, plus I liked it. I do make gourmet pastries, and decorate cakes though. Does that count?

SnS: Absolutely! Where do you find the inspiration for your art?

Bari:¬†Oh, from all over the place. For my ‘Remembering Dads’ exhibit, I took inspiration from what they did. And what they loved. Like dogs, fishing, playing instruments, etc. Because of how this one turned out, I may just do another series. Maybe moms?

I also take photos constantly. 

SnS: Wow! So tell us about your process. Do you walk the garden? Down a quad-shot espresso? Play Tiddly Winks?

Bari:¬†I drink Dr. Pepper. **laughs** Just kidding. I have to clean the room. Before I start a painting, the art room has to have the clutter gone, because as I paint, I make more clutter. Now, if you saw my art room you’d say, “My gosh, she thinks that’s clean?” But everything is in its place, and I know where it is.

Once I have things ready, I draw from the hundreds of photos I have, for paintings. Sometimes combining several photos into one painting, and making some of it up.

SnS: What drew you to watercolors? Do you work in other mediums?

Bari:¬†I just love looking at it. Ironically, most of the paintings I do are not like the ones I’ve admired. Most of them are loose and “juicy”, pastels, and lots of white. Mine are tighter, but I think that comes from 28 years of sign painting. In my ‘Remembering Dads’ series, there’s a painting with pencils in it. They all have lettering on them. That’s the kind of stuff I probably do best. But I really enjoy the chickens.

SnS: I LOVE your chicken paintings! It was one of your chickens that first caught my eye, made me want to interview you.

Bari: Oh good. Chickens are my favorite. They are just hilarious, stupid, and funny. 

To answer your question though, I did oil paintings for several years because my mother taught it. But I only did one or two paintings a month. I hated it because of the smell, and they never turned out looking anything like the watercolors I had always admired.

SnS: Have you always worked as an artist, or have you held other jobs?

Bari:¬†For 28 years I did graphic art, window and sign painting. I even painted a billboard on I-40, and a few gymnasium walls. During those years, I also worked in a bakery, taught at a pre-school, subbed for an elementary school, and was an executive assistant at a small software company. When my husband died in 2003, I decided to do what I’d always wanted to do. That’s when I started taking watercolor lessons. Painting is legally my business now, but I’m 70, and I’m taking care of my mom. I’ve got enough to keep me busy. So next year I’m going to turn painting into a hobby, and back off somewhat.

SnS: So should we all rush out and buy your art while we can?

Bari:¬†OF COURSE!!! **laughs** ¬†I’ll still be painting. I just won’t be as aggressive about it.¬†

SnS: Do you have any artists you admire, or emulate?

Bari:¬†Stan Miller. I took lessons with him for years, and still consult him for critiques. He’s my mentor. I’ve learned a lot about value and composition, the things that really count, from him.¬†

I do like to take workshops from other people though, because I always pick up new techniques, and different ideas. I take away something from everyone of them, and incorporate it into my style. It constantly changes. You can look at my earlier works, against those done more recently, and they don’t even look like they are done by the same person.

SnS: Change is good. So do you have a philosophy of life, or art?

Bari:¬†I strive to glorify God in all that I do, and that’s basically it.

As far as a philosophy of art. . . I like to do what I like. I do what I’m familiar with, and I want to continue to learn and branch out. I think I’ll grow old and die if I don’t.

SnS: If you could travel to anywhere, in time or space, where would you go?

Bari:¬†I would probably choose Australia and Great Britain first, because I can speak their language. Second, our church supports another church in Russia. I’d like to go over to visit, but there are some hurdles to clear. Third,¬†I’d also like to take a cruise down the Rhine or Danube. Ocean cruises don’t interest me. I don’t want to just sit around playing shuffleboard. I’d rather be off the ship looking around at castles, towns, shops, and things. I’d like to go back and visit Germany, and France too.

SnS: Nice! For those of us staying in Spokane, where can we find your art?

Bari:¬†Right now, until the end of September, my Funky Chicken exhibit is hanging in the William Grant Gallery in Kendall Yards.¬†In October I’ll have a painting in the MAC with the Spokane Watercolor Society juried show, and will have work hanging at the Liberty Building. I’ll also be teaching a workshop that month. Then in November, I am showing in the Hillyard Library.

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SnS: Wow, busy lady! Do you have any charities you support?

Bari:¬†My husband and I both support the United Blind of Spokane because my husband’s daughter is legally blind, and my grandfather was completely blind. We give to our churches, World Vision, and Wyran Youth Missions. I’ve also sold a few of my paintings to help raise funds for friends who were fighting cancer, or were going on mission trips.

SnS: All right! Thank you for interviewing with TheSquidandSquirrel, Bari. ūüôā

If you would like to see more of Bari Federspiel’s art, you can find her at:¬†Flootie.com,¬†SpokaneWaterColorSociety.com, or on facebook ¬†as¬†Razzlebari Watercolours.

Getting Down To Business With Artist & Entrepreneur Cameo Townsend

Getting Down To Business With Artist & Entrepreneur Cameo Townsend

 

Hello readers! I hope you all are having a fantastic day. I recently had the pleasure of chatting with young artist / business woman, Cameo Townsend. A gal with a good heart, a ton of chutzpah, a bit of a potty mouth, and a side of snark, she has big dreams for the future. She is clever, sometimes caustic, and super crafty. She dabbles in many artistic mediums, from knit goods to watercolors.

Beyond her art, she is a wife, a mother, and now an entrepreneur! She recently opened a brick and mortar storefront in Spokane, WA called Sticks & Dreams Gallery and Emporium. A true go-getter, this young lady has a lot going for her, and a lot to offer her community.

Keep reading to learn more about Cameo Townsend and her latest endeavors.

SnS: Hello Cameo ūüôā

Cameo: **Gives 2 thumbs up** Hi, I know you can’t see this but there it is.

SnS: LOL no worries, it’ll translate. ¬†So please tell us what drew you to art (no pun intended) and how long have you been an artist?

Cameo: I‘ve been doing art since I was a little kid. I wouldn’t call it doing art exactly, but I’ve always loved drawing. One time I took my makeup and drew a picture, and my mom asked me, “Why did you do that?” and I was like, “I don’t know. Because it was fun and I didn’t want to use markers?”¬†I had a creative child-like mind, I guess.

Actually, I’ve been making art since I was a kid. But professionally, only in the last year. I’ve taken some art classes, but I don’t think I’m a good artist. I think I’m better at helping other artists. If that makes any sense.

I like to try making new things though, so I just make a lot of stuff. If I can give it away, most of the time I do. I give it away so I have enough room to make more stuff. So I guess that’s really my answer. I’ve just always liked art, but nothing specifically drew me to it. There are things that have kept me in art though.¬†

SnS: I was going to ask you what medium or genre you prefer, but it sounds like you are a jack of all trades.

Cameo: Kind of, yeah. I don’t really do one thing, but I guess the most consistent thing I do is watercolor. I’ve used acrylics. I’m not amazing with acrylic. I’d like to take some classes in acrylics, or get new hands. You know, just like slip on some robot hands boop be doop.¬†I’ve also worked with oils. I hate working with oils. Oils are the Devil and they should die.¬†

I’ve also done some found art. I really enjoy found art, where you just stick some stuff on a canvas. I actually did one that was all buttons on a galaxy background. Because I’m the queen of galaxies. It sold the same day that I finished it.¬†

SnS: Wow! So you are basically self-taught?

Cameo: Yeah, I’ve taken a couple of classes. I took a drawing class in college, and a mixed media class in high school which was awful. My teacher hated anime’ so she was really mean to me. She hated video games too, so she was really, really mean to me because that was all I drew.¬†

SnS: Isn’t that what most high schoolers draw?

Cameo: **Laughing** ¬†Pretty much! But whatever, haters gonna hate. I still draw anime’ and enjoy it.

SnS: Good for you ūüôā ¬†So do you have any artists that inspire you, or that you currently admire?

Cameo: Yes, but they are mostly local artists. One of them is my “Aunt” (chosen family member) Isola Olsen who passed away a few years ago. She was an artist who worked in watercolor, acrylics, and oils. She lived here, but mostly showed on the west side of the state, and in Idaho. She did a couple of sessions with me and she was really nice. She kind of solidified my interest in watercolor. ¬†She inspired me a lot, and she kind of got me into continuously doing art.

My Grandma Jan, who also passed away, inspired me too. But she wasn’t an artist. She was just always telling me, “You can do good, kid.” She did all that feeling happy stuff.¬†

Denny Carman inspired me. I mean he helped me get my work out there. He’s inspiring, and awesome, and super helpful. I’m always thanking him and I’m sure he’s going to tell me to shut up one day. He’s going to be like, “Are you going to say thank you? Shut up.”¬†

I have a lot of people who inspire me. Connie Janney is one of the people I aspire to be like eventually, because she’s always just doing stuff. She’s always helping people, always doing classes, and she’s so nice! She’s just one of my favorite people. She’s my friend. We have some of her work in my gallery.

My husband is not the typical artist, but he inspires me too. He helps me with EVERYTHING. He’s a blacksmith, and he makes knives and stuff. But lately he hasn’t had the time to make anything because he’s been running me around to art shows and helping me set up shop. I’m hoping he’ll be able to get back to his craft soon.

SnS: Let’s talk about your shop. It’s called Sticks & Dreams, and it’s located at 903 1/2 W. Garland Ave. in Spokane, WA. What made you want to open a store?

Cameo:¬†Honestly, one of the things that made me want to do art, and build a store right now, was having a near death experience. I didn’t see God or anything, but being so close to dying made me realize that life is too short to do something for a living that you don’t enjoy doing.¬†

I also wanted to help out my friends and fellow artists who were needing a place to sell their work. And to be able to offer fun and artistic things at a reasonable price to people who might not otherwise be able to afford them.

SnS: Wow! Smart and altruistic at such a young age. You are definitely a unique woman Cameo. Now watch me segue. . . Speaking of unique, what kind of things can we find in your store, and in what price range?

Cameo: Every bleeping (*edited*) thing. Everything in here is $200 or under, and I literally don’t think we have anything above $150 right now.

All the art is $200 or less, but all the other little things are $2 – $35, for hand-made stuff.

It’s mostly art, prints & originals. We have wood burnings by Richard Flatt. A woman came in here and dropped off doilies and towels. She also made a thing called a soap cozy and I didn’t have any idea what that was. What the heck is a soap cozy? But as soon as she explained it to me I said, sure you can put that in here! We have wands by Miki Murdoch, art by Oksana Tepp, Connie Janey, Deb Harder, Ryker Murdock, Denny Carman, Leslie Adams, Kevin Montgomery. ¬†

I have packaged prints of my watercolors and calligraphy, as well as Connie Janney’s works in mandala and collage. We have photos by Ambrelle Coy, and digital art by Sarah Russel, and so many others. Oh and we have buttons from Melissa and Misty at Dizzy Bee, etched glass by Cassie Barber, and knit jellyfish key chains by Georgia at PG & Jelly. We have scented hand soaps, bath bombs, and so much more. It’s just crazy and wonderful.

SnS: What kinds of things are you missing that you might like to have in the store?

Cameo: I like outside-of-the-box things. So if you can bring me something that I don’t already have, most likely I’ll put it in here. I don’t have an exact answer for that though, so if you have something unique and weird, you should bring it in here. I have one artist who is bringing in doll heads, in boxes. They are creepy and I love them.

I have some pottery, but I’d like some more. . .

**hint** This is where you local potters should be thinking, “Gee, I should get on that.”

Generally we are kid friendly, as long as there’s no genitalia. **laughs** Sorry I had to refrain from saying something else. So yeah, no genitalia, but some of our buttons do have the “f” word on them. So parents be aware. Most of them though, are smart and sassy quotes that make me happy.

SnS: That’s great! Okay, so if a crafter or artist wanted to contact you to sell their wares, how would they do that?

Cameo: I like it when you take initiative! Come in and talk to me. You can email or message me, sure. But eventually I am going to want to see you and talk to you. Because if you don’t show me that you want to do it, then it’s not worth my time or yours. That’s one of the biggest things for me.¬†

Sticks and Dreams has pretty much every social media account, but if you want to work with me, come see me.

SnS: Speaking of social media, I’ve been keeping track of your storefront via facebook, and you have a few upcoming events. Tell us about those.

Cameo: Okay, so our first upcoming event is on July 22nd. We are having local artist Sam White¬†( pictured below) sitting outside our store doing an original painting from 1 – 4. When it’s finished we’ll raffle it off. The kicker to this whole thing is, you have to be present when he finishes the painting to be able to win it.¬†

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SnS: So you have to stay on Garland?

Cameo: Yes, pretty much. The whole idea is to get people down here to enjoy this area, and stay a while. 

SnS: Great! The Garland district is really growing. It’s exciting to see, and better to share. Now, I understand you are also offering some classes soon?

Cameo: Yes. I am hosting a (non-alcoholic) paint night on July 29th, for 10 – 12 people, with Maria McConnell from Bittersweet Canvas. We’ll be painting a night scene picture (below). The class is $45 / person and we supply everything, including snacks. All you have to bring is yourself, and clothing that is worthy of paint. ¬†

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We also have another class on Aug. 4th, a crocheting class for amature crocheters¬†who know the basics already. We’ll be making an adorable little manta ray, (pictured below) with Georgia Williams. The class is only $15 / person, but you need to bring your own H hook and yarn. We will provide the stuffing and eyes.¬†

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SnS: Wow, you are really going for it! So on top of running the business, you are a wife and you have 2 kids. How are you juggling all of this?

Cameo: I’m not. I’m falling apart backwards and lighting myself on fire.

Seriously though, my 10-year-old step-daughter is pretty self-sufficient. She is happy with her friends and her cell phone. My 2-year-old is really into cars, so that makes life easier. Plus thankfully, we have lots of family to help with him while I’m here. Unfortunately, he left a car in the living room yesterday and I almost tripped over it when I got home. That thing is annoying.

SnS: Just wait till he’s into Legos. The bane of parental feet everywhere.

Cameo: I’m so not ready for that. If that happens I’ll never take off my tennis shoes. I’m going to sleep in my tennis shoes, forever.¬†

Honestly though, I don’t really juggle any of this. I just aggressively multi-task.¬†

SnS: That is an enviable skill. The name of your store is Sticks & Dreams. This tells me that you have a goal in sight, a dream, if you will. Care to share your dream?

Cameo:¬†So, my husband came up with the name. He said the sticks are the brushes and the dreams are the paintings, so that’s been my artist name on all my social media. It’s where I started as an artist, and now it’s turned into this shop.¬†

I guess the dream is to just be able to run. Like, I don’t have to make lots of money, but I want the place to be self-sufficient. If I make only enough money to pay the bills that’s fine. If I make more, that’s awesome. But that’s not really the point of this.

The point is to give local artists an outlet for their work. To get all their art out there, and get people who normally wouldn’t be able to afford art to be able to buy some.¬†

Let’s face it, I’m a cheap-ass. So the whole idea of the store is so that the average person can purchase art, and have something beautiful. That’s why we have so many different tiers of pricing within the $200 or less range. I like being able to sell fun and beautiful items to people who might not be able to afford it otherwise, and I like helping out our local artists. That’s my dream.

SnS: So you are living your dream right now. Do you have a bucket list? If so, have you crossed anything off yet?

Cameo: I don’t really have a bucket list. I mean there are things that I want to do, but none of it is realistic stuff.¬†

SnS: It doesn’t have to be realistic.

Cameo: Okay then. There are places I would want to go. In fact I just want to go. . . everywhere. I’ve only ever been to Idaho and Montana, once on purpose and once on accident. *laughs* My mom is really bad with directions. I just want to go to places outside of WA, ID, and MT. I actually really want to go to NY. And, I’d like to see the Infinity Mirror show.

SnS: I hope you get to do that someday. Last question. If you could host a fantasy dinner and invite anyone living or dead, real or fictional, who would you invite and why?

Cameo: Okay, so this is going to be super clich√©¬†because I would want to bring my Grandma Jan back. I didn’t get to see her for a long time, and the last time I called her was on my first day of college. She was fighting cancer and didn’t know who I was because of all the meds. She died of pancreatic cancer before I could see her again. She was a really great person. She wasn’t a great lady at the beginning of her life, but she really turned it around. That’s one of the things I loved most about her.¬†

SnS: Well, I think she’d be proud of the person you are Cameo. You are amazing. Thank you for interviewing with me, and sharing so much with us all.

If you would like to visit Cameo / Sticks & Dreams online you can find her on Twitter, facebook, Instagram, and Etsy.

 

 

 

‘Emily Trace Mysteries’ author, Sue Eller is one rare bird.

‘Emily Trace Mysteries’ author, Sue Eller is one rare bird.

Author of one novella, a gluten-free cookbook, and two installations of the Emily Trace mysteries, Sue Eller is everything you’d ever want an author to be: quirky, kind, creative, accomplished, and coffee dependent. A self-proclaimed nerd and Star Trek fan, she is fun-loving, intelligent, and a genuinely nice person.

I met Sue at a Spokane Authors & Self Publishers (S.A.S.P.) meeting where she is the current Vice President. Warm and welcoming to this newbie, we struck up a conversation and spoke of our various writing adventures. Of course this eventually lead to my picking up two of her books: ‘Meadowlark Madness’ and ‘Taming of the T-Bird’ – the Emily Trace Mysteries. ¬†20170515_182546

Set in the Pacific Northwest city of Spokane, young widow and newly licensed P.I. Emily Trace has many mysteries to solve. She’d like to find out who killed her husband, and why. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) her small business, E.T. Investigations seems to keep her a bit too busy, drawing strange clients dealing with even stranger circumstances.

Full of interesting characters, nerdy humor, pop culture references, action, adventure, and even a touch of romance, these books are fun to read. Almost as fun as interviewing this amazing author!

Keep reading to learn more about Sue Eller.

SnS: Sue, please give us a little background on yourself. Have you always wanted to be a writer?

Sue: Well, my mom wrote short stories, and even sold a few. So writing was always in my life. As was reading. I grew up on a farm, the eldest of six kids, and the only entertainment besides each other was a black and white TV, or books. My dad loved westerns, and I thought the Mickey Mouse Club was okay, but mostly I read. My mom would take us all to the local library and I would come home with dozens of books at a time. I would devour them and go back for more. 

To be honest, I’ve had delusions most of my life about being the next Arthur Conan Doyle, or Carolyn Keene, or Agatha Christie – without the whole murdering the husband thing, of course – but I actually went to school hoping to be a band instructor. I learned multiple instruments: guitar, keyboards, clarinet, saxophone, and violin, but I was told by an adviser that my dream of being a band teacher wouldn’t happen. He told me, “Women just don’t do that.” So I transferred to Whitworth College and switched my major to Chemistry. I minored in Math and French, and took an interest in computer science.

SnS: Wow, so when did you become serious about writing?

Sue:¬†In 1994 I began writing short stories and articles for a weekly newspaper. After a while I purchased the paper and ran it for four years. It was a good education for me. It was fun, and I learned a lot. After that I wrote my first novella ‘Return From Armageddon‘ in 1991. It was published in 1992 as an audio-book by Books In Motion. In 2012 I released the hard copy and Kindle editions.¬†It was later that same year that I published my first Emily Trace book, ‘Meadowlark Madness‘.

SnS: Okay, now I have to ask. Where did you get the idea for the plot of ‘Meadowlark Madness‘? It’s very unique.¬†

Sue:¬†Growing up on the Palouse, my grandmother would drive us kids to and from Spokane to shop. Every time, she would point out the meadowlarks singing in the fields. After a few times, I let my imagination wander and thought, “What if. . . What if those bird songs are fake? What if they are some sort of triggered sensor?” Somewhere between those thoughts and my love of Star Trek and aliens I dreamed up E.T. Investigations.

I wanted the hero of my book to have a name that coincided with E.T. for the pun factor, therefore Emily Trace was born. Emily Trace is very much like me, an alter ego of sorts. She is quirky, flawed, and totally addicted to coffee.

SnS: *LOL* There is nothing wrong with loving the java. ūüėČ ¬† ¬†So, did the plot for ‘Taming of the T-Bird‘ also come from a real life happening?

Sue: *Laughing* Yes, my husband Ray owned a T-Bird many years ago. He drove it to work and home every day, and every day it would die at the same spot. After a while of this, I began teasing him, saying that aliens must be to blame. The story evolved from that.

I wrote both books with two goals in mind. First, I purposely kept them clean. There is no graphic violence, explicit sex, or harsh language. I wanted it to be something pre-teens could read and enjoy. Second, I wanted to bring in themes that dealt with real life issues such as greed, family dysfunction, forgiveness, friendship, and the difficulties brought on by Autism. I have an autistic grandson, whom I love very much. I wanted my books to shed light on these issues, and one of my favorite moments was when a fan wrote to tell me that my book helped her to better understand an autistic family member.

SnS: That’s wonderful! Now, I’ve heard it said that some authors hear their characters voices in their heads, as if they are real. Are your characters real to you?

Sue:¬†My characters are very real to me. Some of them were inspired by friends or family members. One, Emily’s first client, Archie ‘The Keeper of the Paints’ was inspired by Wile E. Coyote painting a tunnel that the Road Runner ran through. My Darla character, Emily’s temp. was a complete surprise. I imagined her as a typical teenager looking for a job, but she turned out to be a bit of a wise-goth. She’s a good foil for my nerdy main character Emily.

SnS: It seems that you and Emily have a lot in common. You both share a nerdy love of Star Trek. How long have you been a fan and who is your favorite character?

Sue:¬†I’ve been hooked on Star Trek since September of 1966 when the first episode aired. Scotty and Bones were fun characters, but I thought Kirk was a sleaze. My sister loved Chekov, and I loved Spock. To me, Spock was the hero because no matter what, he was always intelligent, always in control. Plus, like me, he was a science nerd.

SnS: We’ve established your nerd credits for science and Star Trek, but I have it on good authority that you are nerdy in many ways. Can you tell me more about that?

Sue:¬†Well, I enjoy Dr. Who, LOTR, and Harry Potter too. In fact I believe that the first page of “The Sorcerer’s Stone” is quite possibly the best first page ever written.

Because of my various fandoms, I’ve attended a few conventions like InCon and WorldCon. I dressed up with a Tom Baker (Dr. Who) scarf and hat for one of them. The other I dressed up as Professor Trelawny.¬†That costume garnered a lot of attention, and a lot of people took pictures with me. It was fun. If you really want to understand the extent of my nerdiness though, you will have to come in and see my office.¬†

**There is only one way to describe Sue’s office. Super cool & nerdy chaos. The space is filled with file cabinets, book shelves, and tables. Every surface is covered by computer tech., books, papers, action figures from many iconic films, and even a life-size sorting hat! The walls sport a large map of Middle Earth, a sepia print of Spock, a lovely painting done by her niece, a paper version of Emily Trace’s infamous bird clock, and a massive story board.

SnS: Wow, you weren’t kidding about being a nerd! How do you get any work done in here?

Sue:¬†I don’t. I mostly work from my kitchen table. I’ve always been a busy person, being raised on the farm, going to¬†school, then work and motherhood. It’s hard for me to sit still for any length of time so I get my best work done outside of my office.

SnS: When you say work, you aren’t kidding. Not only do you write, but you and your friend Kate Poitevin (previously interviewed by SnS) work together as editors, and you are Vice President of the S.A.S.P. ¬†Please tell us about editing, and how you got involved in the Spokane Authors and Self Publishers¬†group.¬†

Sue:¬†My friend Kate¬†and I began our adventure as editors 3 years ago, to fill a need by other authors. We offered a less expensive way to get their books a preliminary edit. We felt confident we could do this as we’d helped Kate’s dad edit his autobiography years earlier, and because of my experience editing for my newspaper.

I got involved with the S.A.S.P. in 2013 after taking part in a multi-author book signing at our local Hastings store. I met some local authors involved with the S.A.S.P. (one being Dave McChesney, also previously interviewed by SnS.) and they invited me to a meeting. At first I wasn’t certain I wanted to join the group, but I went again. After hearing more speakers, and making some friends, I decided to stay and have been there ever since.¬†

SnS: Sounds like you have an extremely full schedule. When can we expect a new Emily Trace mystery?

Sue:¬†I’m pleased to say that I plan on having my third Emily Trace mystery out later this year. The cover art is nearly complete, and I’ve been working on refining the story line.

SnS: Well, after reading your first two, I can’t wait to see your next installment! So where can fans find you on-line?

Sue: I can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Smashwords and EmilyTraceMysteries.com