Saturday, March 30, 2013

Incredible Artists, Wonderful People: Charlene Lundgren

As many of you know, every few weeks I like to introduce you to some of my favorite people & artists, this month I have the honor of introducing to you, one of my new favorite emerging artists: Charlene Lundgren! :)

I had the pleasure of meeting Charlene through SF Etsy and the SF Etsy Annual Interview Swap! I couldn't be happier with my teammate! :) She is not only a fantastic and highly creative artist, with a rich background that translates into the diversity of beautiful pieces she makes, but also a wonderful person, full of life and great energy!
Besides being a talented artist, Charlene is happily married, has two wonderful children; Sandrena 21  & Ander 24. She also works as a registered nurse and finds time to play with her beautiful dogs.

Here is our interview:

1) Tell us about your background and how influences your work

I was born and raised initially in South Africa in the dark ages of Apartheid. My parents however were English and Swedish, and I feel I have always had a unique perspective on life given the richness and colors of my South African roots and the elegance of my English and Swedish descent.
My work is influenced by who I am; The colors and history of Africa, the lovely headdresses African men and women wore for special occasions and the desire for all people to get along. My creations are very eclectic.  I sew, I paint and embroider on silk, I crochet, I make bears and ethnic style dolls, and I make exotic fanciful theatrical head adornments that can be used for special occasions, weddings, or for Halloween.

2) Does your heart tends to lean towards one country more than another, or do you find yourself mixing the cultures in your art?

I have lived in the USA for 26 years now.  Although I like it here, I sometimes feel very much like a fish out of water. South Africans are a unique breed, having a unique sense of humor and culture. I also lived in London, Brussels Belgium,and West Berlin in 1979 before the wall came down. I spent 6 months living in Central France working for Club Med as a Costume Designer when I was 24. However I have lived in the USA and raised my children who are now 21 and 24 here and I think this is probably more my home than anywhere.
It was in Berlin where I worked as an au pair and lived with the former costume designer of the Burg Theatre in Vienna.  I had never been to art classes and she sent me to art classes and taught me the basics of costume design.  When I first came to the USA I went to college at worked in the theatre doing costume design.  I took this skill back to Europe and worked for the Club-Med in Paris and Pompadour designing and making costumes. I also worked on some shows in London.

3) You mentioned that you would like to open various etsy shops to display all of the things your love to create. Would you mind sharing what is it that you enjoy the most? why? 

My work is very theatrical and spiritual in nature. I love to dress up and wear costumes. I love to create things that have meaning. I am not a materialist so that is important to me. I always have. I Love fiber, and textures, and color. I love the intricacies of designing a gorgeous piece of clothing. But I haven’t had much time to do anything with raising two children and going to nursing school when they were little and then getting my Bachelors degree at age 51.
My silk Dreams:  I find very meditative and soothing. I start with a piece of plain white Charmeuse or Habotai Silk, upon which I create my design.  I then paint , quilt and embroider the design and back it with different sensuous  materials, silk, velvet, cotton, chenille,or flannel  I create Prayer shawls, scarves, baby blankets, spiritual shawls with inspirational messages on them.

Crowning Glories:  In July of last year, I broke my ankle, which allowed me sometime off work to create.
I decided to make one beautiful thing everyday, and I made these exotic headpieces.  I would get an idea in my head and just disappear I made over 70 head-pieces in 3 weeks. I sewed, I glued, I painted and I beaded. This fulfills my creative and theatrical need. I made hats, wedding crowns and theatrical head wear of which some were very reminiscent of my youth in South Africa.

Wedding crown:
This is a Princess Bride Wedding crown that I made for a lovely young Bride named Rachel who commissioned this from me.

Wrap Rascals: The truth is I love to do many different things. My grandmother taught me to crochet and I think of her every time I crochet a hat or a scarf.  But I try to put my own touch, a theatrical touch to everything I make. I call these creations.

Bare souls and Bottled Souls: 

I love to make Bears – a dear friend gave me a bear he made and it got me going. But that is another ETSY store. I have not found the time or place to create bears since I opened my Etsy store.  I hope to open another store towards the end of this year.
 I also make dolls called bottled souls, in the spirit of African Tradition of making dolls out of used bottles and recycled pieces such as old socks.
  4) when you create art, do you create it following your soul or do you create with the end user in mind? 

Intrinsically I feel this intense spiritual need to create things that have meaning that inspire the purchaser, or receiver to live a fuller life. I married a Jewish man, and when my children had their Bar/Batmistzvahs, I took it upon myself to make their prayer shawls.  I painted on silk, and embroidered them, and filled them with symbolism for their  own characters and for them to live fuller meaningful lives. I embroidered Hebrew letters that had hopes and wishes for their future. I even tied the Tzitzit – and the praises were overwhelming I realized I had to make something out of this to touch all people.
I created the name – ‘Mindful Presents’ for my shop because I want people to give from the heart. To be in the present and to give mindfully.

5) Do you find any challenges as an artist?

Yes I do.  I am brand new to all of this. I used to make things for people.  I was inspired by the receiver and now I have to imagine people who might benefit from my work.  It is much harder when you don’t know who the gift is intended for.
 Aside from my education in Berlin and my theatrical background I have had no formal training, and although I think of myself as quite computer literate, social media has taken off and left me with a lot to learn. I need to create my own website.  It is hard work to network and work as a Registered Nurse in Critical Care, and keep up with all the new ways to promote oneself. I also have to be in the right space and time and sometimes with the kind of work that I do, I am just not in the space to create and have to wait for the inspiration.

6) Where do you find your inspiration?

My inspiration is either theatrical or based in my early roots or from nature depending on what I make.
My inspiration i is also spiritual. I hope deeply to have people wear my creations and feel that they were made from the heart. I hope to inspire, and remind people they are beautiful, remind them to breathe, to live life fully.  I am inspired by the person for whom the item is intended.  I am inspired by love, by the seasons, by fun.  I am inspired by the desire to live life to the fullest and not be afraid of what people might think of you.  Some people would never wear my crazy creations on their heads, but life is short
Please check out my store for my latest collection of Easter Bonnets made out of …… Placemats…  Yes – Colorful  Placemats inspired me….
I am always looking for fun ways to create things and As a nurse I see people suffering from many conditions that they did not cause themselves, and I would like people to feel special. I see pain and suffering around me every day at work,  I am also so very much aware of how short life is, and how we have to make the best of it.  So even if my work is considered ‘ a little out there’ I want people to give themselves license to express themselves freely.

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