Most artists know their calling from a young age and enter into the creative world in early adulthood with little to no savings. “Finding your calling” was difficult for one of the legends of the art world, Viola Spells.
Viola was working as a librarian and investing in properties when she attended her daughter's parent evening where she fell in love with the idea of creating jewelry. Join us today as we hear how she was forced to put her passion on the backburner while trying to raise a family, and how she moved into the creative world full-time in her 60s!
As an African American woman in the segregated South, Viola's experiences growing up in the 1950s shaped who she is today. She has returned to her childhood home of Asheville where she runs her Pink Dog Studio, and we hear all about her creative process, where she learned to make jewelry, and her advice to young artists. For all this, and so much more, tune in today!
Finding Your Calling with Viola Spells - Key Points:
- Why the team is so inspired by Viola and her road to success!
- What Viola wants people to know about her work: the lightness and the tactility.
- Viola’s family history and what she learned from her parents and her grandparents.
- How growing up in Asheville in the 1950s influenced Viola’s network and perceptions about race and society.
- Viola’s experience as a librarian, and moving from a small town to a big city.
- Why art took a back seat when Viola was working as a librarian.
- Viola’s lightbulb moment: when she realized making jewelry was her calling.
- How Viola became interested in the concept of the line.
- The difference between knitting and crocheting, and how practice made perfect.
- Viola's process: inspirational vs sketching, and her color palette.
- Teaching kids to make art and how Viola brings out their artistic side.
- Her work schedule, from night owl to preparing for success!
- The Chitchat fashion show, and approaching a fashion event with an open (or a librarian’s) mind.
- Viola’s experience coming back home to Asheville, and making her move into entrepreneurship with Pink Dog.
- The advice she would give to other artists: you have to have plans in place and manage both time and money.
- The changes in the "Segregated South" from the 1950s to the present day, and how Viola coped with these.
- What the artistic community is like in Asheville, and how it’s still segregated.
- Viola's suggestions for young Black artists to break into the community and build a platform.
- Where you can find out more about Viola Spells’ work!
“I was very happy to stay sheltered, and there were different periods of growing up in Asheville when you would venture out and you would do things in the community. But when something negative happened, and I would want to stay home and not go out. It seemed like my mother would have a sixth sense about that, and she would do something positive to bring us out and to shelter us, but to show us that we could survive and still get along in the outer world, even though there were things that were not as nice to us, for us.” — @ViolaJSpells [0:12:26]
“My daughter, she went to a private school in the Bryn Mawr area, in Philly, and they had a very strong arts program. And one day for parent day, I went in. And that was the day she was making jewelry. I knew she was taking jewelry. And when it came time to go to the studio where she was taking jewelry, gosh, it was like trumpets started playing. I said ‘God, this is it! This is what I want to do!’. It was just mesmerizing. You know you used to hear about ministers who would hear the call of God. I thought that was baloney. No such thing! But I actually experienced that!” — @ViolaJSpells [0:20:18]
Finding Your Calling Tweetables:
“Somehow, I knew I wanted to be an artist. I liked art, but I loved books and all that too. But I didn’t know how to go about [it].” — @ViolaJSpells [0:18:48]
“I loved being a librarian. I really loved working with kids and coming up with creative ideas to introduce them to libraries and books.” — @ViolaJSpells [0:19:56]
“It pays to be nice to people.” — @ViolaJSpells [0:27:03]
“A lot of people don’t like red. It’s too bold for them. You have to have an outgoing, strong personality to carry red. I really like red.” — @ViolaJSpells [0:29:41]
“A lot of being an artist is money and being able to get the space for the artwork.” — @ViolaJSpells [0:52:00]
Links Mentioned in Today’s Finding Your Calling Episode:
Viola Spells on LinkedIn — https://www.linkedin.com/in/viola-spells
Zenobia Studio on Instagram — https://www.instagram.com/zenobiastudio
Pink Dog Creative — https://www.pinkdog-creative.com/
Textile Techniques in Metal: For Jewelers, Textile Artists & Sculptors — https://www.amazon.com/Textile-Techniques-Metal-Jewelers-Sculptors
Grind — https://grindavl.club/
Marquee — https://marqueeasheville.com/
Artsville Podcast —
Scott “Sourdough” Power — https://www.notarealartist.com/
Louise Glickman — https://www.louiseglickman.com/
Daryl Slaton — http://www.tailsofwhimsy.com/
Crewest Studio — https://creweststudio.com/
Sand Hill Artists Collective (SHAC) — https://sandhillartists.com/