Today on Tuesday Tours I’m featuring mosaic artist Leann Wooten. I met Leann a few years ago at a gallery opening that featured the artwork she did with Milwaukee Public school students from Keefe Avenue school. It was the first youth exhibit featured at the Gallery@Large in Milwaukee’s Walker’s Point. At the time, I was a fairly new artist educator, and witnessing the work she did with students really inspired me. Over the years I watched as the schools and community in Milwaukee became more beautiful from work created during residencies that Leann developed.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.
I’m a freelance mosaic artist working in Milwaukee. I left the corporate working world to become a full time artist and artist educator about 10 years ago after an intensive study of mosaic art in Chicago. This medium allows me to teach, create, and involve all kinds of people interested in the art form. I love going into the schools getting students involved in big projects, uniting communities, and teaching studio classes out of my own studio. I have exhibited my art, which is mixed media mosaic, locally and internationally.
How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?
I’ve always maintained a studio in every residence I’ve lived, and I’ve moved around a bit, from Nebraska to Texas, then Chicago, and now Wisconsin. I’ve had a variety of studios and they’ve all varied in size and location. My favorite studio was in my backyard in Texas. I affectionately called it the ‘art shack’ and it was home to many artworks and parties! While I’ve shared studios outside the home, I find I’m more productive having my studio in part of my home for the sheer convenience. I’ve maintained my current studio for 4 years, it’s a basement studio, so I’ve put in tons of lighting. The walls are white with lots of paper butterflies floating around to give it some atmosphere. I share this space with my students — half the space is their’s and the other half is mine.
Are there any kind of rituals you do before you start creating?
Once I walk into the space I get motivated to create something because of all the buckets and jars of tile, glass, beads, and found objects around me. This is where I can make a mess and leave it. I do like to organize a clean area first before working, and then I check out all the materials and compile a smaller group of those materials to get started. I work intuitively and I set the tone by turning on some music and getting in ‘the zone.’ It’s a wonderful place to be!
Is there anything you like to listen to while you’re working? What are you reading/listening to now?
I listen to a huge variety of music — Blues, Rock, African, World Music, you name it! Many times I just hit shuffle on the iPod. My husband is a musician and we both love music. Currently I’m reading The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography by Sydney Poitier, and Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson.
Is there any special item/trinket in your space that inspires you?
My whole creative process is usually triggered by the materials around me. I have lots of objects I’ve gathered over the years from garage sales and estate sales.
If you had a couple hundred dollars to improve your space, what would you do?
I would build more shelving, paint the floors, and add a wine bar!
What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
When making your studio be sure you have enough space, lighting, storage, and comfort. Surround your self with things that inspire you, play music, put in your ear plugs, and enjoy this little oasis! This is a sacred place for you to create in!
What are you working on now and where can we find out more about you?
I am currently working on some pieces to be shown at Walkers Point Center of The Arts, April 25th, Gallery Night, the opening is 5-9pm. You can find out more about me at my website –www.brokenartworks.com.
Thanks for sharing, Leann! I hope to have a ‘Girls Night Out’ art workshop at your studio very soon :)