Wednesday, December 17, 2008

WWRW: Leslie Hamer and Girl Week!!!

Hello everyone and welcome to last Women Who Rock Wednesday until the New Year! For those of you who don't know, every Wednesday, I blog about (and usually interview) a female artist, musician, author, or other amazingly talented woman who rocks my world. They also usually give out a fabulous prize to one random commentor. I'm extremely excited about my guest today because she's someone I've known since I was 15 years old, but I will introduce you to her in a sec....

First I want to talk about Girl Week, which is being hosted by Steph/Reviewer X on her blog. This is what Girl Week is about in Steph's own words: "a celebration of strong female characters & feminism in YA lit!" You can read more about it here and see the table of contents here. I was honored to be on of the authors that Steph asked to guest blog. Since my character Emily Black from I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE deals with having a bad reputation, Steph asked me to blog about double-standards when it comes to sex and the stigma of being labeled a slut. I was labeled a slut in high school and it's safe to say that it messed me up pretty bad. So the guest blog I wrote was one of the most personal I've done. You can check it out here. Steph is also giving away a signed copy of IWBYJR here, so enter to win!

But now, I'd like to introduce you to Leslie Hamer, today's Woman Who Rocks! As I mentioned I met Leslie back in high school. Thanks to the glories of Facebook, we've been back in touch and I was really proud to see what an amazing artist and entrepreneur she's become! She has a website and an etsy store that you should definitely check out. And if you need custom design work (weddings in particular are her specialty), you'll want to get in touch with her. I love the clean style of her drawings (I don't know if that is the best way to describe it, but I'm no artist) and she was sweet enough to send me a drawing she did of the Berwyn Car Spindle (a landmark near our childhood homes that was torn down earlier this year for a Walgreens, I blogged about it here) which I'm framing ASAP. The drawing is to the right and guess what, you can win one!!! Just read Les's interview and comment! It's a must read interview for any of you who have ever dreamed of starting your own business!

Without further adieu, here's Leslie!

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about how you got your start as an artist? Who are some of your art-world influences (whether they are known artists/crafty folk or teachers, friends, or parents)? Also I'm a writer, but music heavily influences my stories, what are some of your inspirations outside of the art-world?

Leslie: This is actually a tough question! The last "art" class I took was actually in 8th grade and was a requirement. I remember trying to sculpt a bust of myself, and the nose kept falling off. In my youth I always considered myself a writer, and even got a degree in writing for small screen at Columbia here in Chicago. I did the LA thing, hated it, came back to chicago and got engaged. I despised all the girly, swirly, invitations out there and set out to make my own. So I kind of started right there, at 25, teaching myself how to draw out of necessity. I remember in the beginning looking a lot Shannon Gerard's comics, I love the way she draws hair, there is no much texture, it makes her characters so touchable and real. My favorite artist of all time is Diana Sudyka, I couldn't tell you why, I just love every piece she makes.

Outside of art I find myself listening to my itunes playlist on random a lot when I'm drawing. I'm sure that sneaks in somewhere.

Q: You have your own business, a website and a store on Etsy where you do posters, invitations, custom artwork of all sorts for all occasions. We've had a lot of artistic entrepreneurial women on here, but haven't really talked about starting your own business which is a really cool thing to do and also I'd imagine difficult in these economic times. Can you tell us a little bit about your business? When did you start it? Are you able to do it full-time? What are your dreams for it?

Leslie: First of all, I've always wanted my own business. It's always been my dream. I didn't care what kind of business it was so long as it was mine! Here's how it happened.

When my son was a little over six months I took a job as a chiropractic receptionist. I hated it so much - or should I say just as much as every other job I've ever had. I've worked at the Chicago Board of Trade, I've washed hair, waited tables, done the retail thing, been a barrista, worked at Guitar Center, I was a bank teller, and there I was 26 with a bachelor's degree and answering phones. I used to lay awake and night and try to think of ways to start my own business, just some way, any way, to not taking someone's messages for the rest of my life.

It was around then that I stumbled upon etsy, and on a whim listed the wedding invitations that I had made for myself. My shop took off right away which was a total shock. I soon realized that it is practically impossible to be a receptionist, business owner, and super mom all at the same time so I dropped my job and never looked back. There really wasn't a lot of debate between my husband and I whether I should start my own business or not. It was a no-brainer. Not too long after that my husband quit his job too to go back to school. I bring home modest bacon, but we get to spend oodles of time together as a family, which to me is a great trade off.

As for the economy, we live very simply and don't buy much to get through the rough patches. My business has stayed fairly stable though, probably because my invitations and designs are extremely affordable compared to what's out there. I'm knocking on wood of course, along with every small business owner out there. Yet, I'm hopeful about the economy.

As for my dreams for my business I really feel I'm almost there. I do something I love every day, and the thing that I do brings joy into other people's lives. What could be better?

Q: Since I'm in the middle of revising my book right now, I'm thinking a lot about process. Can you tell us about your creative process? How you go about creating your artwork?

Leslie: It's so funny that my degree is in writing for television, because it really prepared me for what I do. When you are studying writing you get told a lot to write everyday even if your don't feel like it, even if you have nothing to say. That is my process. Just go into my office everyday and draw. All day. If I'm not pleased with how anything turns out, I just try again the next day.

They also told us in college, not to get attached to your writing, because some corporate Joe is going to come along and change it into something you hate, and it's still going to have your name on it and there will be nothing you can do about it. In a funny way that totally prepared me perfectly for working with brides. I once had a bride have me redraw her nose at least 15 times. It was a little tiring, but, in the end the art is for her. So what does my opinion matter? I try not to get attached to my drawings.

Q: Please show us one of your favorite custom pieces that you did, tell us about it and why you enjoyed doing it?

Leslie: Wow that's tough! I always love something the day I make and then hate it a week later. I love when I get the opportunity to draw stilly faces and poses as they make for the best drawings. I did a drawing of a little girl and her mother recently that was a thrill to draw:

Q: In addition to your wedding designs and custom pieces, you also have some prints in your store like the Spindle poster which you will be giving out as prize. Can you show off one of those pieces that you are quite proud of, maybe something you did just for you and tell us about the story behind that?

One of the first things my husband and I did when me moved in together was to get a kitten. When we went to the ACL (animal care league) this little striped kitten just cuddled up to us and didn't want us to leave. We went back the next day, and the next, to visit and she would run right up to us each time we arrived. It was a few days after we took her home that she first got sick. We had to rush her to the animal emergency hospital, and she had a seizure. She fought for a good year against a rare form of FIP. We did everything we could to make her comfortable, and enjoy our time with her. She passed away at 17 months, a few months after our wedding, at home in my arms. I was around 2 1/2 months pregnant. I had just started to draw then, and I drew this picture of her:

Q: I always ask two standard questions of my Women Who Rock. What was the first album you bought and the first concert you attended? Be honest, we don't judge.

Leslie: The first album I bought with my very own pennies was REM Green. The first concert I went to without my parents (my parents took us to lots of concerts) was Nirvana at the Aragon Ballroom. It was absolutely horrible. It still stands out as one of the worst shows I've ever been to. I would like to mention that my son bought his first record for his record player this week, the soundtrack to Return of the Jedi.

Q: Please dish about the moment where you felt most like a rock star. Maybe it was an art opening or a moment of big success in your career, an "I'm Not Worthy!" Wayne's World type moment where you met someone cool, or a time where you just got the rock star treatment.

Leslie: I recently got asked to design matching tattoos for a couple of their dog who is very old and will pass away soon. I felt so honored I almost cried.

Okay guys, I'm a total sucker for animal stories, but I kinda think the dog tattoos might be one of the best rock star moments I've heard yet. What about you? And don't even get me started on the kitten story. I cried! But most of all, I just feel completely inspired by Leslie's story about starting her own business. Much like the musician Jenny Hassler who I interviewed last month, she had a dream and she went for it. I think we all need stories of hope like Leslie's in times like these.

So comment away about the interview and you'll be entered to win Leslie's awesome Spindle drawing. I'll pick a winner next week and announce the interviews I have coming in the New Year so be sure to check back!!! I'm still looking for Stephanie from Blogger to contact me about winning Paula Yoo's book. If she doesn't by next week, I'll need to pick a new winner!

Remember check out Leslie's store and the other stuff on etsy if you are still in need of unique gifts for the holidays or any upcoming occasion! Support artists!


Annika said...

Oh my gosh. I love Leslie's stuff SO MUCH. I am totally going to get married again so I can use her invitation posters.

Steph said...

Just dropping in to say thanks for mention Girl Week! I need to read this interview in more detail later but must go out now! =) Shall be back later.


Liviania said...

Most of the pictures aren't showing on my comp. :(

Her stuff is lovely. I'm glad Leslie's etsy store succeeded so that she could do something she enjoyed.

Stephanie Kuehnert said...

Hopefully I fixed the picture problem. It works for me! Let me know if it works for others!

Anonymous said...

I checked out the store, she has got some great stuff in there.