Oh Creative Lady: Meet Amanda from barley and birch
It has taken me way longer than usual to organise this Oh Creative Lady post from Amanda of barley & birch. Mainly because throughout this interview, Amanda recommends so many interesting and ace things that I became very distracted (Google the Christmas cards of Hilma Berglund! Subscribe to the Making Oprah podcast! Check out Smudge!)
Amanda’s suggestions, her words and her insights into her life all confirm something I’ve suspected for awhile now- Amanda is one insanely rad lady.
In the grand scheme of online FanGirl relationships, we haven’t been InstaBuds for that long. But y’know when you come across somebody online and you think “how has this person not been in my life for longer?!” Well, that.
(You may recall we recently celebrated 80s Week together.)
Enough with the gushing. Introducing the very fabulous Amanda.
I am… Amanda Eldridge, hi! I run barley & birch & put together small modern art collections by day, just started teaching creative workshops for kids & families by night, and quietly tinker with various side projects in the background.
Currently, I live in the Midwest with my very large, extremely huggable Golden Retriever, Thor. I love traveling and LOVE (in caps!) moving to new places, so also enjoy living fairly simply. When I picture my perfect life I have a 1988 Jeep Wagoneer, a rehabbed trailer, my dog, art supplies, and a camera – and we just motor from place to place around the US. I’m skeptical this would actually go at all well in real life, but I love daydreaming about it!
I’ve lived in NYC, Chicago, Cleveland and San Diego, and Southern California will always be one of my favorite places – a big part of my spirit is forever a California girl! I love being outside, especially being near (or in!) the water, and take every chance I can to get out and play. I’ve tried my hand at quite a few different professions – reinvention is one of my favorite things! I love experimenting with all different kinds of art mediums and am outrageously jealous of the abilities of good illustrators, but am trying to practice more. I’m a digital and visual tinkerer, I can easily spend a day playing around on my computer editing designs, figuring out some little trick in a program, or moving 2 pieces of paper around to determine how they’re going to look best together.
Laughter is my own best medicine and I love making other people laugh. I’m a movie buff (new and old), a habitual Bette Davis quoter, and armchair singer/dancer during musicals. I’m an extroverted introvert, so love being with people, but need my alone time and privacy on the regular. Revealing anything about myself on social media still feels very, “ohhhh gaaahhhhd”- it’s been a challenge, but I’m slloooowly wading in…!
I find inspiration… Anywhere and everywhere. All the classics: nature, art, books, working with kids. Those are the big ones. Some *extremely* specific things I’ve found inspiration in lately, just for fun: The podcast Making Oprah (and *actual* early ’90’s Oprah) Jim Henson, the Christmas cards of Hilma Berglund (google them!) the artwork I made when I was little, the designs and illustrations of Olle Eksel.
I’ve been really into learning more about creating art materials from nature this year, and I’ve found amazing inspiration in the IG feed of The Toronto Ink Company – the colors, the textures, the layers – don’t even get me started. I also subscribed to some monthly newspapers and zines from small independent presses this year – one called the Smudge has become the highlight of my mail and is absolutely jam-packed with things I pull ideas from.
Another hobby (or…maybe more accurately a hobby I like to daydream about) is film-making and animation. You’re either a Wes Anderson fan or you’re not, and I AM. There are so many scrumptious details in Anderson’s style, aesthetic and process that have given me ideas for kid-related projects or concepts. Instagram is also just an endless fountain of inspiration for me – everyday I find a new person to follow or see something that I HAVE to save.
I am excited about … So many things! In addition to my art work and planning some new things for barley & birch, I’m also teaching some very small family creativity workshops. This is my first time teaching kids, and I’m still slightly terrified before every class, but as soon as we start working on something that melts away, and we’re all just making something together. That’s exciting to me.
I’m also thrilled about the new people I’m meeting through barley & birch! For anyone who works from home, I think the lack of physically-present work peers can be a challenge in that it sometimes feels lonely and isolating. Every time I make a connection through b&b’s social medias I have the sense that I’ve gained another “coworker” and I find myself buoyed by the community (so many of you!) almost every day.
When I’m in a creative slump, I… On a good day, I take my dog for a walk or bike around for awhile. We tend to walk the same routes, and I’ve resisted succumbing to the boredom of it by becoming a stellar observationist. Doing anything over and over and over again is a great way to learn to appreciate the smallest of things! I think it’s also helped my brain to stay on its toes, observe everything, appreciate sensory changes and practice the ability of seeing one thing in a variety of ways. It’s also just refreshing to walk away for a bit!
Of course, those are the good days – on a bad day I pound coffee and lose myself online, or just give up and stream Mad Men for hours at a time.
For what it’s worth, I think days like that have their place too.
I’m really proud of… To say I’m a commitment-phobe is probably an understatement, so when I stay committed to anything for more than 2 hours I am more proud of it than I deserve to be. I have worked really hard to stay committed to barley & birch, finding helpful purpose in what I do and using my imagination every day. All three require the others to function successfully as a whole – that’s been a magic combination for me, so I’m MOST proud I never gave up on finding it.
Someone once told me… One of my favorite books as a kid was Miss Rumphius – if you haven’t read it, the main character is advised to “go to faraway places, live by the sea and do something to make the world more beautiful,” and that’s hands-down some of the best advice I’ve ever heard.
Another important one for me was being told to “sit down and do the work”. As a lifelong serial procrastinator, I’ve spent quite a bit of my adulthood working at “doing the work”. More good advice: listen and observe as often as you do anything else.
My grandma would say we should all lay out in the sun more, and to be completely honest, I think that’s rock-solid wisdom!
My advice to you is … Come at life with as much informed optimism as you can. It’s under-valued, under-appreciated and often the hardest choice. People have a tendency to write it off as silliness, naiveté, or even willing-ignorance, but the truth is that it’s hard work that’s totally worth it and always ten times more productive.
You can find me at …
Or just say hi! Send me your hellos at firstname.lastname@example.org