Today's artist interview is with Textile Artist Jen Broemel, whose works combine meticulous craftsmanship with a free-spirited, intuitive process. I loved learning about Jen's creative journey and I think you will, too! Enjoy:
Where in the world are you located? What is it like being an artist there?
I live in the U.S., Indianapolis, Indiana. I love being an artist here. Indianapolis has a great arts community that has been very welcoming to me. I am self-taught so I am figuring it out day by day and am just getting the hang of it. There have been some great opportunities here for me. I am very grateful. I am also so grateful for technology and the way it has made getting your work out there so much less about where you live or being in the right place at the right time. What a wonderful time to be an artist no matter where you live, no?
I think for a lot of artists, there’s a tension between feeling called to be an artist and the pull to have a ‘sensible’ career. Have you always known that you’re an artist? How has your art career evolved?
Yes, I agree that this tension exists. I really was guided by my family away from art because of this and ended up studying architecture. It was instilled at a young age that becoming an artist was not a way to make a good living, and thus I did not really pursue it, I dabbled and definitely had creative outlets, but they were not nurtured growing up, art just Wasnt something that my family was that interested in. I am so grateful for my architectural education and I know it is a part of my aesthetic, but I am also ever so grateful that I figured it out and now know that being an artist is the best living and one that I must pursue. This is a relatively new revelation for me. I really am just starting out, building my portfolio, exploring and figuring out what it is I need to be making. I feel really good about how that is going, and am working really hard, every, single, day.
Can you talk a bit about your process? How has your work evolved over time? What are you working on right now? What’s new or different about it?
I am a textile artist. I like to play with fabric’s color and texture. My process is very intuitive, improvisational. I have an idea of what I want to create, and I get lost bringing it to life. The work hardly ever turns out the way I expect, but I enjoy the process of experimentation, exploration, of doing the work. My work really is about my process, the enjoyment I get from spending my time with it. Recently I have consciously embraced a few of the elements that keep making their way into my work subconsciously, and I think that by following the processes that I enjoy and avoiding the ones I don’t has led me to make the thing in my own way. I am really excited to have a solo show coming up next summer. It has given me license/permission to just create my work in my way. Before this, I was making work for a specific show or theme. Now I just look at the exhibition call outs that my work fits into, rather than making the work to fit into a specific show or call for entry. It is a gift to be at the point where I have a really good idea about what it is I am supposed to be making. I have some really exciting things happening in the coming year. I know that this will ebb and flow as I, and the work continues to grow.
Are there certain themes that show up in your work over and over again?
Yes, when I started out I kept stitching grids onto the intuitively pieced cloth that I had made, and it finally dawned on me that while I am drawn to this intuitive process of putting the fabric together, it is somewhat chaotic and thus needed some order stitched into it. Lately, I have been adding stitched marks by hand to create secondary patterns over the chaos. I am really excited about the possibilities of this and have so many ideas of what I want to do with it.
What is your studio practice like? Do you have any rituals or routines that help you get into the creative zone? Do you ever get creative blocks? How do you get unstuck?
I am a creature of habit and my studio days are very routine. I get my kids off to school, I take a walk, I read or I meditate, and then get into it. I also have a few rituals that I do pretty regularly to get started. I write a few very quick scribbled sentences on a piece of scrap paper and fold it up, I create a smallish improv block that is not related to the larger works I am working on, and I make a quick scrap collage on repurposed t-shirt material and quilt it up. The idea is that these may turn into works of their own one day, but there is no pressure as to what that will be as I make it. It is very quick and is especially helpful if I am not in the making mood or feeling blocked creatively. It definitely gets me there. I have participated in #The 100 Day Project (https://www.the100dayproject.org/) for the last several years and have found that having a daily creative task is very good for me, thus I created my own ‘tasks’ and although I don’t do them every day I try to do them often.
You recently started a blog called ‘The Art of Improv’. What role does improv play in your work?
Improv plays a big role. As I mentioned above it is this process of creating that drives the work. I begin improvisationally and then work with what I’ve created to fine tune/resolve the design. I got the idea for the blog when I realized that lots of artists use improv in their making but that there really is not a lot of information on how they use it or how by using it might help them. I was trying to find this how from others so that I could learn more about how it might help me. Since there wasn’t much research I started to create my own and I got really excited about the idea of talking to artists about this and then sharing it with others. I sent the idea out to some of my personal artist friends and the response has been great as has the discussion. I can’t wait to hear what you have to say!!!
Are you a full-time artist or do you also have a day job/side hustle? If you do have a day job does it tie in with your art practice?
I was an architect, and then a stay at home mom after my third child was born. They are all in school now, and it was in the deciding what to do now, that has led me to realize that art really is what I want to pursue and I am pursuing it like it is my full-time job. I have found a way to squeeze a little part-time job in too. I am grateful to not have it be the other way around. The part-time gig is not related to art or architecture, but a cool company which is committed to repurposing materials and in doing so enhancing my city. I like contributing to that.
Let’s talk about work/life balance. How do you balance family life, studio time, business and time for yourself?
It is a chore, isn’t it? A constant chore. I like where it is for me right now, especially when I can maintain my routine, but it changes with the seasons and the schedules of my family. But I schedule the studio time. I have created a routine and bought into the idea that if you miss your scheduled studio time you need to make it up, just like you would any other job. This has been huge for me, and just thinking about it as a job, has helped give the art the dedication that it must have, because yes, as artists we are driven to make the art, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t really difficult some of the time. It is a lot of work and takes a lot of dedication. I read a lot about art, artists, and creativity. I find it keeps me motivated and convinced that my work is important, that it is a priority.
What does being an artist mean to you?
To me, it really is a way of living and the very best way I can think to live. I wake up every day feeling blessed that I figured out what I am supposed to be doing. It is a recent revelation that has changed my outlook on the world. I wish everyone could feel the way I do, and I think that is part of it too. Sharing what you love about life with the world. Not just through art but by encouraging others to pursue their creative urges. We are creative beings and I think much of the problems of the world are a consequence of people not living their true creative selves, or worse yet denying that they are a creative being. That is what being an artist means to me.
If you could give your 20-year-old self one piece of advice, what would it be?
Enjoy every moment. That each moment is a magical gift to be cherished. Even the bad ones. They have their purpose too. I wish I had known the concept of living in the now and that I was conscious of noticing the little things. However, I would not change a thing, because all of it has gotten me here, to where I am right now. I am grateful to be here, at this point now in my journey, for all the moments that have gotten me here, and for all the moments to come.
Thank you so much, Jen, for sharing your beautiful work and your wise words! For more information about Jen Broemel, please visit her website or follow her on Instagram. Also, be sure to check out Jen's artist interview series, The Art of Improv. It's fantastic!
Do you have any questions or comments for Jen? Add them to the comments below!