Sep 14, 2013


This months Artist Hub Exposé is a quick look into the life of Michelle Ward. 
Michelle is a mum of three, artist, designer, instructor, business owner and blogger.
Before becoming a mum, Michelle began her career in Architecture. 
Missing the daily routine of being creative Michelle revisted making art in her spare time. Collage was an effortless diversion she could sustain when the kids were little but it was a little later when she began exploring paint techniques and her love for spray paint in particular blossomed. 

Michelle enjoyed finding and using interesting papers and ephemera in her early work which were mostly canvas panels and journals. After becoming obsessed with collecting clip art books of old engravings particularly architectural motifs Michelle discovered the world of stamping. She soon became frustrated by the lack of cool stamps so began getting custom ones made. The instant gratification of stamping her own designs was addictive, so its not surprising that before long Michelle became a stamp designer herself working for some large companies. 

As we say the rest is history, we now know and recognise Michelle for her incredibly awesome stamp collections, stencil designs for and of course her very own company which is just filled with so much eye candy you too will be equally as addicted to the diverse uses of stencils and stamping.
So lets have a more indepth look at this incredibly creative woman...

Introducing the amazing....

Here is her story...

Has there been anyone in particular that has been significant to you in your development as an artist?
I call myself a lucky girl and one of the reasons is because I have a handful of close friends, they know who they are and who share my passion for making art. We all have different styles, and various approaches, but we respect the diversity, celebrate the differences and applaud the accomplishments.

I rely on them for honest critiques and communicate with them regularly about new ideas. I credit these friendships as a valuable source of validation, encouragement and motivation that has been integral to my evolution as an artist. There's something so special about being able to call up someone 
who gets it and gets you to exchange thoughts, plans and inspiration.
Tribute goes to my mother for nurturing my confidence from an early age, making me think I could do anything. She likes to take credit for getting me started with paint while still in a high chair. Mom remains one of my biggest cheerleaders and often joins my workshops to observe and participate, enjoying both the process and the community.

I also acknowledge my husband and kids, for tolerating the mess that gets made when mom is in deadline mode and for always finding positive remarks about what I created in my studio. If I didnt have their support it wouldn't be easy and it certainly wouldn't be fun.

Do you keep an art journal and if so how is this an integral part of your work?
Visual journaling is one of the most important components in my bag of tricks as an artist. The practice of working in a journal helps me chronical my process as I make sketches in them, collect evidence of daily life and works-in-progress, and use the pages to try out new techniques or supplies.

About 10 years ago I participated in a collaborative round-robin journal project with a group of talented and esteemed artists, which resulted in the book 'True Colors' published by Stampington & Co. The book captures about 1/3 of the full effort but it is a wonderful display of what journaling can be.

The same group collaborated on two more journal projects and the commitment of working repeatedly month after month helped me to establish a routine of keeping art part of my busy life.

Do you work from home or are you lucky enough to have a studio space?
I work from home. I began with a studio space in the basement but eventually my husband converted our garage so I could really spread out. What a treat!

I work in there nearly everyday and love having all my supplies and have several things going at any given time. I have stacks of journals- two or three are usually open and in progress on my studio table.

I primarily focus on paint and paper and obsess about using stencils, but occasionally I'll try a different medium. I think its a good thing to move out of your comfort zone and learn something new by trial and error. Its inevitable you end up taking away a useful skill or a fresh perspective toward your preferred way of working.

Lately I have been concentrating on working with cardboard so my space looks like I have just moved in, or I am in the town recycling center as there is cardboard piled up everywhere. I'm developing some projects and new products to use with cardboard so I can't wait to get into the studio each morning, armed with a few tools and a notebook of scribbled ideas.

Being in the beginning phase of something new is always exciting as you let you're mind wander through all the possibilities of how the material can be used on it's own or in conjunction with your favourite techniques. I'm excited to be launching some new stencils to use with cardboard this month.

With my studio space being large I began hosting workshops and had fun doing that for several years then graduated to teaching workshops in other locations. I have limited my schedule to only a few events a year, mostly on the East coast of USA. 

Being an instructor is such a privilege- I love getting to nudge artists further down their path, and I enjoy the creative energy that fills a classroom, there is nothing like it.
When the premiere issue of Somerset Studio was released in 1997 I felt like I found a community of artists who 'got it' that craft could be elevated to art. I took the leap and submitted pieces for publication, using their bimonthly themes as my prompts to stay plugged in to making stuff.

For years I've been a regular contributor to the magazine and currently host a column title
 'Make It Your Own' as that is one of my favourite mantras. I try to introduce some basic art making techniques with the encouragement to figure a way to claim the work and spin it in your own unique way so that it looks like your artist's hand and your personal vision were responsible for creating it.

What is your favourite piece of artwork you have created and why?
The predictable answer is that my favourite piece would be the one I'm working on...however, one stands out. It was created for an artist profile feature of Somerset Studio 2005. It is dimensional box with columns of blocks that swivel on rods. The blocks have been painted, stamped and covered in wax. The idea was inspired by perpetual calendars so it has the title 'Perpetual', it hangs in our dining room and always gets attention as we take turns rotating the blocks. I love it because I had a vision for it and made it happen in one day- just one of those things that came together and felt right.
Another favourite is 'He loves Me'. I was teaching a workshop and we were observing and collecting plant life outdoors when I grabbed this dead flower from a garden and the entire root base came up with it. I included roots in this painting for this very reason. I thought it was a daisy but the original flowe was purple- but I'm glad I never knew that, as I much preferred the dried up version. 
This neutral color palette has become my favourite default.

What is your greatest influence and where do you find inspiration?
I think my greatest influence is that I'm constantly curious. I want to know how things are made, where things come from, and I want to keep experimenting and pushing forward. I am always striving to figure out a way of making something that hasn't been made, or designing something useful that hasn't yet been invented.

My eyes are like cameras- capturing visually interesting things while making mental notes about color combinations or compositions. I love that when my focus shifts to a certain subject matter I suddenly see my surroundings differently. For instance, if you become interested in crayon rubbing over textures you can't stop seeing fabulous patterns everywhere- like the bottom of shoes, tires, sewer covers, hardware and stencils and- well you get the point.

Eleanor Roosevelt nailed it when she said being interested in one thing leads to other things.
To finish off here is one of Michelle's favourite ways to play with her stencils, in a digital way yay, gotta love her!
It was such a pleasure to get to know you Michelle, your fabulous stencils and artworks are so inspiring. Your clever play on texture, pattern and colour is so emotive and beautiful. Thank you for sharing so much insight into your creative world and were looking forward to seeing your new release of stencils!

If you would like to see more of Michelle's incredibly beautiful artwork and keep up with all the wonderful workshop dates head on over to her blog 

Oh and check this link out for some clever tips on storing unmounted rubber stamps. Michelle has a great system for ease of use and clever storage. 

Happy Stamping, happy stencilling and have a great day!