Wednesday, January 23, 2008

greenstarstudio: danamarie hosler

it would be safe to bet that when it's all said and done, this post will take me a good 2 hours to generate. no, not intentionally, but in keeping with the way i do just about everything. yes, i am meticulous. i'm picky; it takes me 30 minutes to buy apples. i'm detail oriented, so don't try to tell me you didn't say that thing you said, because i heard you and i remember it! i get bored easily, so i like to keep busy with worth while things (i'm typing this in between coats of matte medium on that box i just painted). i'm completely controlled by aesthetics (is it blue? is it soft? are there birds on it?). i'm drawn to things of quality. i guess that's why i have distinct memories of shunning children's books i was given as a child, if the artwork in them bored me. the books i loved the most had intricate illustrations; illustrations with depth and history, places to visit again and again, pictures that rewarded me for paying close attention to them. i was still in elementary school when i first started writing and illustrating stories & asking my art teacher why it was that the artwork in kids' books was so much worse than the artwork in museums.

why do grown-ups always get the COOL stuff?!

so, it's probably not too surprising to anyone who knew me then, that i grew up vowing to NEVER make bad art & pass it off to children as acceptable. I knew i wanted to be a children's illustrator, and i wouldn't put it past me to have chosen that career in retaliation for what i considered an assault on my aesthetics! (in case you are wondering... yes, i was THAT kind of child---noticing everything, forgiving nothing, always making & doing). drawing kept me busy in fancy restaurants and allowed my parents the luxuary of a quiet baby or the ability to sleep in on weekends. for me, "making" gave me a sense of self--- i could create things that were all mine. i started going to a magnet school in 4th grade and i got to spend half of every school day for the next 8 years "making". i was 9 years old, but i knew how important art was... plus, art kept me out of P.E. and that was awesome. i grew up in miami, florida and spent a lot of time looking for ways to feel more connected to a city i wasn't connected to at all. so, i initiated a
painting mission as part of a community service project in 6th grade. the project started at one elementary school and spread to others; for years, i got up early every single saturday and painted murals on previously graffitied and under appreciated walls. by the time i'd graduated high school & over 3 dozen murals later, i like to think miami and the kids who walked passed those murals everyday had learned a little more about art appreciation.

when i came to baltimore (to go to MICA), i was immediately impressed by a buzzing sense of connectivity. baltimore struck me as a unique city and one with pride in itself; a city that appreciated art, but one that needed love and a little help. i started volunteering for various outreach education programs and once again, i found myself recharged and motivated to make the kind of art i thought people needed. as an illustration major, my main focus was preparing a portfolio to impress publishing compainies, making artwork that would attract a client; as a teacher & mentor, i was more interested in making artwork that would make a difference. i taught mural painting at an "underserved" elementary school over the summer, and watched otherwise "bad" kids make amazing leaps... the kids OWNED this art they'd made; they owned the experience of making it and they beamed knowing all of it--- the experience, the praise & the final product was all of their own making. i illustrated my first children's book in my junior year of college (it was published shortly after i graduated). Two Lives Publishing is committed to publishing and distributing quality (there's that word again!) books for LGBT families; books that depict families like their own (with GOOD artwork and strong narratives). I loved the idea of working with the "underdog", the little guy, the people with vision--- that my first book would be the first book coming from a company that shared my beliefs and goals; a company i knew would never compromise the art of ART.

over the four years i spent at MICA, i was given access to so many different kinds of opportunities, but probably the MOST exciting (and accidental) of all came half way into my sophomore year. i remember sitting in my art history survey class and watching this one girl aimlessly knitting argyle socks... every week she'd be working on a different pair. i don't know her name (or if she passed the class), but i know that she taught me quite a bit. being from miami, i'm not sure i'd ever even TOUCHED real wool before, but when i went home for the winter break that year, i ordered yarn from new england and taught myself to knit. i started with socks and had made ONE before i found myself noodling and experimenting with something else. it wasn't long after that the Knitimals™were born. in early 2000, i found myself absolutely, totally, miserably sick--- stuck in bed and staring at the wall in front of me, at a painting i'd done in haste, while cleaning off a palette. the main character was a stripey, colorful cat with lop-sided eyes and a sweet smile and i remember a shockingly lucid thought (i was heavily medicated) "i wonder if i could knit him?" and i set to work. days later, BeeCat, the first OFFICIAL Knitimal, was born. without missing a beat, i snuggled myself to sleep, and believe it or not, BeeCat and i woke up the next day feeling 100%.

cut to today... i have been fortunate enough to participate in major juried art festivals, exhibitions and shows all over the country, to win accolades & international awards for my work and to have the support of local (and not so local) retailers who share my vision. as a published illustrator, i am happily sharing my carefully considered paintings & drawings with as many people as i can. i'm thrilled to have been selected to paint a number of murals around baltimore and beyond. i work in the education department at the walters art museum and babysit during the day. so, i still get to see, on a daily basis, how critical art really is to the world--- particularly children. greenstarstudio is based around the idea that art should be accessible and available to all people, in all forms, decorative, framed or cuddly. i don't see a distinction between art made & hung in museums and art made and slept with when you have the flu.

I like to think that my work is imbued with my humor & heart. every single thing i make is one of a kind... i won't repeat a design; i don't use patterns and don't believe in copying. because the Knitimals are based on my original characters & illustrations, each one of them is completely unique. each one is hand knit, hand sewn (no machines here!). from start to finish, the average knitimal takes about 8 hours to make, and every single minute of that time is my own.i am very picky about my yarn... i even drive all the way up to maine to pick it out. ok, if we're being totally honest, i would drive all the way up to maine to go to a gas station... but still, the yarn is really important to me. to keep costs down, i try to buy yarn in bulk and i do make knitimals in a range of sizes and using different kinds of yarn, so you can pick out the one that best fits your lifestyle and budget. i aslo make some knitimals using very expensive hand dyed baby alpaca... so, you know, there's a good mix. each doll comes with a hand drawn name tag and care instructions (including a little card about the "story of the knitimals"). it's very important to me that if i am going to put my name on something, i can promise that i know everything about that piece. mass production is scary. i don't like mass-production and i try to stay away from it as much as possible. i think we have enough "things" that anyone can get at anytime from any store. i like unique. the knitimals aren't ugly, they aren't "monsters", they aren't beasts, they're friends. they are snuggly and warm and comforting like sweaters and baby blankets, and i think each one really does belong to one specific person the minute i sew the final seam closed... i've seen that connection made too many times to not believe it. i love the idea that a child could (and they do) come into my booth at a show, walk right up to a knitimal, form a connection with it, and walk away that day not only owning a very cool new doll, but an investment in an art object and knowing that they now have something-- ONE thing, that not one other person on the planet can have. now, that's cool.

1 comment:

Sweet Pepita said...

I think that's cool, too, Dana! There are some very lucky kiddos out there!