A series where we highlight a member of our Minted artist community. Featured this month: designer and photographer Whitney Deal, who lives and works in Wilkesboro, NC.
Whitney Deal interned at Martha Stewart Living magazine and studied fashion design at Parsons before moving into photography. Here, the multidisciplinary artist and maker shares a peek at her creative life in rural Wilkesboro, North Carolina.
How did you end up doing what you’re doing now?
Years of making and experimenting. I started out as a graphic designer, moved into photography, took a few years to learn the craft of garment design, and now my creative life is a mash of all those things. My husband and I ran a successful photography business for several years until we had children. We opted for a less transient lifestyle after that, so now I’m solo, blending my passions of photography, sewing, painting, quilting, and simply making all together, with a touch of freelance design on the side. Most recently, my second daughter had heart surgery as a newborn in 2014 which has led me to pursue an interest in medicine. My life and work is a blend of past experiences and a range of interests, and that’s the way I like it.
Did you study photography formally in school?
I have two undergraduate degrees, one in graphic design, the other fashion design. I started a grad program in photography but skipped out after a year because it wasn’t the right time for me.
Where do you currently reside?
A small town in western North Carolina where I was raised. I’ve had the opportunity to live in different types of places (Savannah, NYC, Raleigh) but now that I have a young family, the slow pace and familiarity—you just can’t beat that.
Can you share the schedule of a typical day in the life?
Along with all of my creative endeavors, I also stay home with my two young daughters, so most days are structured around them. I maintain an Etsy shop with PDF sewing patterns, so I’m often found sewing up new designs or managing that store. I paint to relax, so when I have a few minutes to myself, you can find me with my watercolors. And of course my photography, which on a typical day means snapping memories of my girls.
Please tell us about your studio space.
I keep my sewing machine out, a table to spread out on, and a pin-up board beside me. And light, lots of light.
What are some of your own “rules” for living + working?
I get pretty excited and energized by productivity and it has taken me a long time to understand that unfortunately I can’t add more hours into a day; so learning to accept that sometimes you just have to surrender to the day and start again tomorrow is a rule I try to live by when balancing life and work.
What objects have been most significant to you lately?
It’s always been a sewing machine and my camera.
What is your creative process like?
I typically start with an idea and then it’s GO time. When the juices are flowing, I’m making. I have to remind myself to slow down and reflect.
When did you take up photography?
After college I interned with Martha Stewart Living magazine in the art department. I enjoyed what I did with that department but I was most intrigued with the photo shoots and what the photographer was doing. As soon as I finished up that internship, I bought a camera and took a few photography classes at a local art center.
What are your favorite subject matters?
I’ve always had a thing for still life. Give me a bowl of fruit on a table any day!
Do you primarily shoot digitally or with film?
Now I shoot digitally, mostly because of the expense of film, but every now and again I’ll pull out the film cameras and take it slow.
Click through to read more about Minted artist Whitney Deal and her work…
Is there a movement in art history that speaks to you?
I’ve always been intrigued by the feminine and decorative characteristics of Art Nouveau. I love how it is a blend of beautiful and soft, yet often over the top.
If you could sit down with any artist past or present, who would it be?
Ray and Charles Eames; not only are their creative contributions still with us today but they were so multi-faceted in their work, something that I relate to.
How do you approach your art?
With enjoyment. There’s not much point in making something if you’re not going to enjoy the process.
How would your describe your artistic style?
Simple and soft.
What do you do when you encounter artist’s block?
Walk away and then push through by working in a different medium.
How did you first hear about Minted?
I believe I joined in 2008, back when I was a designing baby. It was around the time I got married so that must have been how I heard about Minted.
What do you enjoy most about being part of the Minted community?
Seeing the interesting work of everyone else. It’s a great community and is very well-curated.
What does Minted mean to you as a working artist?
One of the hardest parts about selling your work is having to promote and hustle, and I appreciate the way Minted is that middle person. It takes the pressure off and allows me to spend more time making.
Says Whitney, of her Minted photography art print Going For a Swim: “I submitted it
on a whim in a Minted contest and had no clue it would resonate with so many
people. I love seeing where it ends up in other people’s homes!” Photo: Aubrie Pick
How has your work changed over time?
I think naturally I’ve fallen into a style that reflects my personality and inner being. I find that it shines through in any of the mediums that I’m working in.
What are you working on now?
I’m getting ready to release a new digital sewing pattern, it’s for beginners and I’m super excited for it. I’ve recently moved houses and with the warmer weather, I’m excited to explore and shoot my new surroundings.
Please describe your last month in a word.
Can you share an as-of-yet unrealized project with us?
I’m interested in fusing fabric and photo. I picked up modern quilting over a year ago and I’d like to take a few of my photos, print them on fabric (via Spoonflower), and then reconstruct them into a quilt.
What are you serious about?
Having to make. I’ve told my husband that if I go too long without stretching my creative muscles, I get stiff and irritable.
Please tell us about your family.
My husband works locally in insurance and we have two young daughters, ages 1 and 3, so we’re busy!
How do you balance work and family time?
By making sure that family time trumps work time, especially with the support of my husband.
How do you encourage creativity in your own children?
I’ll be the first to admit that a pet peeve of mine is messy children so I’m not type that lets them fingerpaint on our dining room table. But I’ve found that if I keep my creative process in their presence, they naturally seem to gravitate towards it. My oldest daughter has been sewing and taking pictures for years, and she’s only three.
What advice would you give other artists?
You have to make a lot of bad before you can honestly make anything fairly good; and then on top of that I never have a clue what others might gravitate towards. So what works best for me is just to make what I love and enjoy the journey.
Whitney’s Favorite Things
We asked Whitney to share her current favorite cultural and art inspirations.
Who inspires you: My family
Favorite charity: Mended Little Hearts, my youngest daughter has a congenital heart defect
Favorite color: Mint
Fashion idol: Lela Rose, designer
Favorite city: Charleston, SC
Last stamp on your passport: Aruba
Daily website read: Instagram, even though it’s not technically a “read”
Song in your head: “Travelin’ On” by Nora Jane Struthers
Favorite pieces of art in your home: Photographs of my family
Stationery: Rifle Paper Co.
Favorite flower: Dahlia
Favorite neighborhood restaurant: Glenn’s Tastee Freeze
Favorite drink: Sweet tea
Favorite dessert: White on white, buttercream cake
Coffee-table book: Design*Sponge at Home
Favorite snack: Plain yogurt with fruit and granola
Favorite camera: Contax 645
Favorite camera gadget: I prefer no gadgets, just a camera body and lens
Photos: Courtesy of Whitney DealComments Off on Meet a Minted Artist: Whitney Deal