In the Studio with Julie Williams
What does a day in your art practice look like?
A perfect ‘home’ day starts with an uninterrupted hour of drawing and journaling. Check my email then up to the studio to work for a few hours. Exercise and eat lunch, then back to the studio for a few more hours. Time at the computer for research and admin, then cook a nice dinner and rest or read. An ‘away’ day I would be teaching at a local school or non-profit. Of course, it always feels like a struggle to achieve this kind of a balanced life on a daily basis! Things take longer than I want, email is a black hole and interruptions are a constant. But I keep trying and feel gratitude for the times when I can put creativity first and still take care of my mind, body and responsibilities.
What advice would you give your younger self?
The same advice I give myself all the damn time! Lighten up, relax, and have fun with your creativity. Stop fretting about doing things correctly or comparing yourself to others. Just do what interests you and brings you joy as beautifully or as badly as you can and be in awe of either result.
What is the best advice you’ve been given?
I have had so many great teachers and mentors but one moment comes to mind. I asked her “How should I do this” and she said “Tell me 5 ways you could do it” That flipped me instantly from powerless to powerful. I use it all the time. If I make one of something and I’m whining about how I don’t like it, I assign myself to make 10 more. It takes all the pressure off of finding the one right solution and makes it a game of how many ideas I can think of. So liberating and playful. Perfectionism is debilitating.
If you could change anything about the art world, what would it be?
I would fully fund the arts as civic institutions and flood the schools with interdisciplinary arts education to normalize human creativity as an integral, valuable part of life and culture in hopes of blurring the lines between artist and non artist, between high and low art.
What do you wish to accomplish with your art?
After a career in graphic design, I went back to school to study where art could be used as a fulcrum to accomplish other things. I thought I needed to make political art that would move people to change the word. Working in alternative settings, with justice involved teens, with adults facing housing insecurity, I very quickly learned I have no clue how and almost no power to change the world, but my creativity and my attention can be useful. Helping someone find or reconnect with their creativity is a joy. Creating human connections and community is powerful! I still love a deeply researched and politically astute project, but in my own work and teaching I am becoming much more interested in the personal and the joyful and bringing light and playfulness into our everyday lives. Life can be so brutal, I want to fight back with thoughtful silliness.
How do you make the leap from an idea in your head to the action you produce?
I wish I knew because it can be so different for different projects. Some projects start with a lot of research into the history of things, materials, and subjects. Some ideas start with collecting and touching objects and noticing shapes, texture color and relationships. Some ideas percolate for years and years, then others seem to pop out of nowhere fully formed. I usually just figure things out, full size, 3-D, cardboard and tape and chalk on the patio floor. I just problem solve (and curse a lot) until I find something that engages me. I love recycling, reimagining, and transforming materials. Until a few years ago I rarely drew or sketched. Now that I draw regularly I am just amazed by the things that flow out of my hand if I give it the time and space needed for the back of the mind to come forward! My current interest is how to translate the loose playfulness of cartoons and sketching into the luscious, solid, forms that come from working with ceramic and glass.