Photographed by: Katie Jameson | Interview of: Chloé Jane Made
How did you get started?
Every kid is innately creative. We all drew and scribbled and made things simply because we had the compulsion to. For most, that need to be creative dwindles as we age, we become disinterested in it for one reason or another. I never stopped. I kept drawing because I really enjoyed it and because I had supportive parents and encouraging teachers. That can make all the difference when you are young.
When I was eight my mom enrolled me in a summer art camp. I immediately signed up for the cartooning course. I wanted so badly to be a cartoonist like Jim Davis, creator of Garfield. My teacher was strolling around the classroom and stopped at my desk for a short moment and told me simply, “You know Chloé, skies don’t have to be blue and grass doesn’t have to be green.” Hearing those simple words woke me up, my teacher had possibly unknowingly encouraged me to give myself the permission to be as creative as I wanted. My mom still has the cartoon I made in that class hanging in her studio.
I recently quit my corporate job as a user interface designer to pursue a self-employed career focused on illustration and design. Eight year old Chloé is glowing with pride for 28 year old Chloé.
What influences you? Where do you get your inspiration?
I love creating pieces that use elements of nature metaphorically, influenced by stories, symbolism, and myths. I also find joy painting an object from nature with no conceptual intent, simply to enjoy and celebrate its magnificent existence. Nature is never-ending, it is wild and full of beautiful textures. It pairs wonderfully with watercolors which can be unrestrained and difficult to tame. Embracing this unpredictability yields organic textures similarly to the ones found in nature. I’m constantly delighted and surprised by both nature and the medium. Just the other day I discovered a little reptile, the armadillo girdled lizard. When threatened they promptly bite their tail forcing their bodies into a ball that displays their formidable thorny backs while protecting their soft underbellies. A real-life orobours, isn’t that remarkable?
How do you balance your personal time + work? How do you create separation?
I’ve met people that thrive on little sleep. They get up early, stay up late, and absentmindedly skip meals in the name of their passion. I’m pretty sure they are magical. Sleep is one of my best friends and I start my day considering lunch options. I don’t find it difficult to balance my personal time with work because I need them both equally to function. I am very fortunate that my work is what I love doing which makes it far easier to protect my personal time. I can’t be my best creative self if I don’t step away from it regularly.
Because my studio is in my home I am very mindful of creating physical separation between personal time and work. Most of my habits I picked up from friendly advice. I work typical office hours, 9 to 5. I wake up, get out of my pajamas and put on real clothes, even shoes. This may sound silly, but I also close my bedroom door during work hours and vice versa, I don’t spend personal time in my studio. I associate these habits with work and therefore can stay focused longer. I save those slippers for the end of a hard day’s work, a treat for my feet and my mind.
What keeps you motivated? Why do you love doing this?
The boring reality lies somewhere between being motivated by passion and motivated by the need to pay bills. Fortunately I’ve never experienced a creative block. Ideas spill out of my mind sometimes sprinting off before I have a chance to capture them while the next one comes darting past. Drawing and painting are things I have to do. It’s something I owe myself and the world. I can’t stop. However, I can’t make a living bringing these creative thoughts to life if I can’t pay the bills to keep the lights on. I can hear my mom now: “You are so practical Chloé.”
On the day-to-day when I experience those inevitable slow, draggy days, I switch to tasks that are more mindless, but still productive. I take breaks to play fetch with my dog or go to the gym, just to get up and moving. I often use timers, setting them for a period of time in which I don’t let myself do anything but focus on the single task at hand stopping only when the timer chimes. Podcasts and audiobooks also keep me rooted in my chair. I listen to them so much they are basically my co-workers.
Where do you see yourself in 2-5 years? What’s next for your brand?
In the next few months I plan to develop reliable practices for business processes like taxes, invoicing, and contracts. Most folks find this work tedious but I find a strange amount of joy in it. It is all new to me, I love creating systems, and I may have an obsession with spreadsheets.
In the next few years I want to be more involved in the Austin creative community. I’m consistently inspired by the Austin creatives I meet and there are endless opportunities in this city. I’d love to get a solo show at a gallery, participate in EAST (East Austin Studio Tour), and eventually teach a watercolor workshop. My 5 year goal and dream is to first, still be working for myself and second, on the way to having my own studio space. I like working from home more than I thought I would but it would be nice to have a shared space to meet new creatives and learn about their projects and processes.
Beyond all of that, I simply want to continue to produce work I am proud of while improving my techniques.