My favorite part of doing this blog is highlighting artists’ work. I have been friends with Brooke Palmer since we worked together at the NM Museum of Natural History and Science Foundation. She is smart, funny, creative, and one of the nicest, most compassionate humans on this planet. I am honored that she sat down and answered all my questions and am thrilled to show everyone her amazing work! Enjoy!
Have you always made art?
I haven’t always made art. It was for a long time something that my elder sister did, she was considered the “artist” in my family. I flunked out of a water color class one summer when I was about 10 years old and I carried that failure around for a long time until I moved to New Mexico almost twenty years ago and was inspired by the arts and crafts that I found here. Back east, people who make art always have all these heavy credentials and it can be intimidating. When I moved to New Mexico, I was struck at the unbridled creativity I found here. People here aren’t hung up on credentials, they just do their thing. I found that incredibly freeing.
When did you start making these fabulous paper quilts?
There used to be a great Japanese paper store on Nob Hill, now reincarnated as Creative Culture Albuquerque. At the outset, I bought tons of paper not knowing what I was going to do with it! But I loved the colors, the patterns, and the thick, almost fabric-like texture of yuzen paper. So, whenever I had some spare cash, I would buy a sheet or two.
At that same time, I had a stressful work situation, so one evening I just started cutting up the paper as if it were pieces of fabric and started to arrange it like crazy quilts. I loved the effect and then added Victorian ephemera which I had also been collecting.
What other types of art do you do?
I started to bead a few years back-yes, you guessed it, I am a bead hoarder too. I love the texture, colors and shapes and learning about the stones. My sister helped me with a few simple beading techniques. Later I worked in a bead store in Albuquerque and learned more about stones and designing jewelry. And because I love fabric as well, I dabble in making lap blankets for my hospice patients.
Are you self-taught?
Yes. I am definitely self-taught. I look at my earlier work and cringe a bit now. I’ve picked up some new techniques from a class or online video along the way, but primarily I am self-taught. For the most part has been by trial and error in experimenting with new materials. I’m interested in taking some art classes to push my work to the next level.
Where do you find inspiration?
I get a lot inspiration from other artists and their work. I love textiles, tilework and patterns. I learn a lot from going to museums and looking at other people’s art and especially collages. I recently saw the Arts Thrive show at the Albuquerque Museum and it was very inspirational.
By the way, Lita, your Dia de Los Muertos cigar shrine workshop still stands out as hugely inspirational for me!
Do you have a studio? If not, where do you make your art?
For the long time I worked in a small office space I had in my apartment in Old Town. And because my work tends to be small in dimension (usually less than 8”x8”), I worked on a desk top space. Fast forward a few years, my husband recently made me a work table that is massive! It’s intimidating it is so big! But the ability to spread out my materials out and leave them out still thrills me. Though honestly, I still make small pieces and work in the same small space-I guess it’s a comfort zone.
Is this a full-time business for you? If not, how do you find the time to do it?
I wish it were full-time! I started making art as a good way to relieve anxiety. I’d give my pieces away to friends who were very complimentary. Then I became a little bolder and started to do arts and craft shows with my sister (she does great jewelry) here in New Mexico. When the 2008 recession hit, we stopped going to shows and I started pursuing a nursing degree at CNM. So, my art got sidelined until I finished my nursing degree and got a full-time job as a hospice nurse.
Lately, with the new space to work and the pressure of being a new nurse, I started to pick up my art again as a way to unwind. When I’m working with the paper, it’s meditative for me. I get peacefully lost in my projects. Finding the time to do make art is always hard, but I remind myself that this is my self-care.
Do you craft shows, or art/gallery shows? Where you do sell your art? (shops, events, website)?
I have done both in the past. I’ve been in the 12×12 show at the Harwood for several years, as well as a three-person show at the Outpost Performance space a few years back. Currently, my work can be found in Onyx Swan Gallery in Old Town off Romero Street. I’d also like to start reproducing images of my work on cards and other items and get a website going.
How do you decide to display your work?
When I first started out, I’d mat and frame all my pieces. Sometimes, I would get odd looks from folks – as if they had no clue what to do with my art because it is small and takes a few minutes to appreciate all the detail in it.
I then experimented with making the paper quilts on wooden panels and using an acrylic resin to protect them. Bingo! The colors in the yuzen paper showed up much better and I was more able to incorporate more materials such as pressed flowers, die-cuts, fabric and other ephemera for better effect.
What has been your biggest artistic achievement?
To be perfectly honest, my biggest artistic achievement is when someone sees my art and likes it enough to buy it! It’s a wonderful and flattering feeling to know that my art is going to be in someone’s living space and make them as happy as it has made me while creating it.
As the child of a fabric hoarder, I got dragged to all the old New England fabric mills on weekends. From my mom, I learned to love textiles, sewing, and making art from things we found outside in the woods (my mom was way ahead of Martha Stewart). I also loved all things Victorian and have enjoyed collecting Victorian ephemera, die-cuts, old photos, advertising cards, and linen post cards for years.
Combining Japanese yuzen paper and Victoriana seemed a natural fit to me. Living in New Mexico for almost two decades has given me the inspiration and courage to make art for myself; and share it with others.