I wanted to interview my wonderful friend, Michelle Young-Wilson, as my next artist interview but because she has kept me inspired by how she leads a creative lifestyle. Also I wanted to offer this celebration of my lovely friend this week as this is the week of her birthday which works out perfectly! Michelle isn’t a practicing artist but her way of living, her daily activities, our exciting adventures together, how she cooks, her recipes, and her creative projects have kept me smiling and bright inside for several years already!
Michelle is one of the few friends who I can be silly with or have spontaneous adventures that seem outrageous but so much fun; or create imaginary worlds with just sticks and leaves! I have such fond memories of so many types of adventures we’ve already had and its rather exciting to think of the adventures yet to come!
So today is an interview with a creative in the way she lives her life and perhaps some moments into our adventures together!
Franceska: Do you have a morning routine before you start your day?
Michelle: Yes. Because I have a dog, I do.
Otherwise, I’ve never had much of a routine and I have trouble doing anything consistently. I rather invite change and transformation…I think I like the stimulus.
My morning routine, at the moment, is all about my dog, Hawkeye. He wakes me up at dawn and we go for a walk and I have come to love our walks together. I really get to observe the seasons change. I see the first flower buds and leaves on the trees in spring and get to watch the leaves explode into color in the autumn. Hawkeye is always living in the present moment and he is constantly reminding me to return my focus to the present. I love him for that.
After our walk, it’s time to make breakfast for him and myself and sometimes, my husband, Bob. Breakfast has become its own sort of meditation. I think I love cooking because it keeps my focus and attention from start to finish and since breakfast comes together quickly, it is almost a fluid dance. Just think about it: biscuits in the oven, bacon frying, tea kettle whistling, eggs scrambling and you are working for it to all be completed at the same time hot and delicious! With the right perspective even something as mundane as making breakfast can be artful. After breakfast and cleaning up, my day is entirely random. I get my work done as early as I can because that’s when I have the most energy and focus. I am always wanting to add yoga to my morning routine, but it just hasn’t fit in, yet.
Franceska: When you were young, how did you use your imagination in play?
Michelle: I remember playing alone a lot in my room. I liked setting up scenes with my dolls. I would make sofas from Kleenex boxes and little cakes from York peppermint patties. I made a circus trapeze once for a Barbie doll out of straws, string and scotch tape. Then when she fell from the trapeze, I made her crutches from straws and a cast from toilet paper and scotch tape. Something funny I remember, is that I set the scene as if to take a picture of them, I never was good at coming up with any dialogue. When I was playing with my older brothers, I was just trying to keep up and be tough. We did things like set firecrackers off under our GI Joe’s. It seems like the boys were always playing at war or car racing and I was always wanting to make something pretty.
Franceska: When you cook, do you have a plan or do you prefer to experiment? What have been the best experiments?
Michelle: It depends on who I am cooking for. If it’s just me, it’s an experiment. I may use a recipe for inspiration but I change it to use the ingredients I have on hand. But if I’m cooking for someone else’s pleasure, I take it much more seriously and strive for perfection. I recently made Christina Tosi’s (of Momofuku’s Milk Bar fame) Strawberry Lemon Cake for a friend’s 70th birthday. It is the most complex cake I have ever made. It has 6 elements that you must make separately and then you assemble it and freeze it for 12 hours to set. It was worth it! Absolutely delicious and everyone who had a slice agreed. If I ever make it again, however, I’ll do it as a trifle and not freeze it at all.
Franceska: In your work, how were you able to use your own creativity and was it often a challenge?
Michelle: I worked in the Art department in the Film and Television Industry for 14 years. I am truly grateful to have been able to use my creativity everyday in my career. When I interviewed a new potential employee I would tell them that being a creative problem solver was one of the most important qualities for any film-maker. And even though, I have moved on from that industry, I still use my creativity daily. Creativity can be utilized in all things. A mechanic can be creative about the way he repairs an engine. I think challenge breeds creativity. Isn’t all work a challenge?
That’s why we have this love/hate relationship with work. We want the stimulus but we resist the challenges. I believe we need challenges to grow and advance and become. Using creativity to overcome challenges is part of human nature. My dad, really inspires me in this respect. He is a creative problem solver, I learned so much from just being around him. If we had dropped something down a drain, for example, and couldn’t get to it, he would craft some device out of whatever was around to retrieve it for us and he loved doing it. He instilled in me a sort of confidence, that no matter what, we can figure this out.
Franceska: Are there any books you read growing up that you feel made an impact on who you are today?
Michelle: Absolutely, yes! There are so many books that I read in junior high school specifically that I believe shaped my moral character. Julie of the Wolves, Island of the Blue Dolphins, The Witch of Blackbird Pond and Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry are the first that come to mind, though I am sure that there are more.
Franceska: Do you have any creative projects you have done in the past that you really enjoyed?
Michelle: I’ll be like Jesus and answer your question with a question: Are there any creative projects I have done in the past that I didn’t enjoy?
Even the hardest creative projects I have worked on, the ones that felt like a huge pain in the ass when I was working on them…looking back it all seems like great fun.
Franceska: What inspires you right now in your life?
Michelle: My focus for the last few years has been on the spiritual and mystical realm. I light up when pondering our infinite and essential nature. There is so much to explore and nothing is concrete, which delights me to no end. In a more tangible respect, I find a lot of inspiration in cooking. I am at home in the kitchen. The process of creating with food pleases me because I always finish (unlike many of my paintings and drawings) and once it’s eaten it’s gone….clean slate for tomorrow.
Franceska: What is your favourite colour and has it changed over the years?
Michelle: I love them all and I can’t pick just one and why should anyone ever have to? I am intrigued by birds because they have more color cones in there retina and can see a range of colors that humans can’t see. Isn’t that exciting. The idea of new never-before-seen colors!
Franceska: Do you have a favourite dessert and if so has this changed over the years?
Michelle: Oh, Franceska! I’m really not good at picking favorites. I struggle to think of a dessert I don’t like. If I have something sweet, I want it to be well worth the calories. I would choose buttery breakfast pastry over a cupcake. I don’t like things that are sickly sweet, I often go for something that has a hit of tartness to balance sweetness which is why I enjoy fruit in my desserts. But then there’s chocolate and who could pass up a good slice of chocolate cake? Not me. The choice is impossible. Absolutely impossible!
Franceska: What are your hopes for your future?
Michelle: I am a person who works hard at being present, but I do think that daydreaming and visualizing is a good tool to use when creating the future you want. I recently made a vision board for not only my current human existence, but also, for my next transformation. For my next life, I would like to be a Beautiful Bridge Builder who makes breathtaking bridges between planets and galaxies with her wand that works much like a 3D printer. (and I can fly effortlessly) How’s that for hopes for the future?!
Franceska: Oh my goodness! I've read through your answers with wonder, agreement, laughter and lots of lots of smiling! I know I completely relate to all and so love that you let me interview you during your birthday week about your life! That was lots of fun! Thank you Michelle for sharing!
- Please note that any highlighted words in this interview will send you to the items they are talking about.
- The images selected above.....
top left - "Candy Cobbler & Window Cobbler" sketch by Michelle Young-Wilson for a potential window display;
top right - set from the "Dallas" series created by Michelle Young-Wilson with her words about it, "It shows a huge piece of artwork that I created from colored torn paper. Of course i also selected and placed everything else in the photo."
bottom left - "Voodoo Bathroom" set from "Queen of the South" TV series with one of the drawings from me, (Franceska McCullough) of Jesus Malverde;
Bottom right - "i thought about the Save the Date pic I sent out for the Bob and Michelle wedding. I had run out of time and wanted to do something a little different so I just arranged flowers and leaves that I found in Costa Rica on my walk that morning….it was just plants I found along the road."
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My name is Franceska McCullough and I'm the owner and artist of Toothpickmoon. Here I will share my studio practice in all it's forms.
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