The Orange County Arts Commission, in collaboration with the Department of Community Relations and the Orange County Public Library, presents Creative Orange Works, a celebration of our Orange County employees who also hold creative passions, hobbies, and backgrounds.
As the pandemic resurges, we seek spaces in which we can make sense of uncertainty and feel even briefly in control of our environments. We need sources of rest and joy as part of our lives in order to continue showing up for our communities, enduring, and offering compassion. Within times of great uncertainty such as this, creating art can offer us such steadiness and time for refueling. Creating art in this time can provide a direction for meditative concentration and a sense of purpose. This month, we talked to two Orange County employees who are also craft artists, Marlene and Alison. We are particularly excited to feature Marlene and Alison because their art forms are both born from creating beauty out of the everyday, from transforming recycled materials and ordinary objects into sources of light and color.
Director of Sales for Visitors Bureau
Several years ago, Marlene, who had always described herself as crafty, found a project in creating recycled glass bottle lights for her family’s Christmas presents. Now Marlene’s illuminated bottle artwork is more than a hobby; it’s a business. Marlene began LiteEmUp Bottles in 2017 and has since shown her art at countless fairs, shows, and festivals, including FestiFall and Carrboro’s bazaar.
At the beginning of LiteEmUp Bottles, she would use twine and glass stones of all different colors, filling the bottles with micro-led lights so that the entire bottles would glow. Now, after receiving a bottle-cutter from her son, she makes all kinds of hand-cut bottles, which she styles with twining and reclaimed wood. Of course all of those light up as well, these with LED votive candles. Marlene explains that while these hand-cut bottles take longer to create–requiring cleaning, sanding, and more–she loves being able to work with bottles of all different colors, shapes and sizes.
In the future, once art shows and craft festivals return, Marlene hopes to try a technique called hydro-dipping in which she would spray paint and dip the bottle such that it comes out in a a tie-dye pattern. In the meantime during the pandemic, she’s been making wind chimes from bottles for her neighbors and her co-workers at the Visitors Bureau. For Marlene, her artistic work and creative thinking remain separate from her work with the Visitors’ Bureau, though she very much enjoys doing local shows in community where she works.
Transportation Specialist for Department on Aging
Alison has always considered herself a supporter of the arts rather than an artist. She is married to a graphic designer, she shows up for arts communities, she cheers on artists, but until recently she never would have considered applying the label “artist” to herself. Creating mandalas for nearly two decades, however, has changed Alison and helped her identify creativity within herself.
Alison began creating mandalas around the time she was pregnant with her now-18-years-old daughter as a way to steady herself during a time of great change. She explains that as a scientist, she is drawn to order and logic, but also understands that one misses out on a lot in this world if dictating order and logic for everything. Pregnancy and children of course bring tremendous change and a good dose of chaos, to both your body and world. For Alison, the absorbing and meditative process of creating mandalas, along with a building yoga practice, helped her to navigate these changes. Today, she often finds herself making mandalas during large events in her loved ones’ lives in a similar steadying practice.
Alison’s mandalas began as spirograph drawings made with paper and pencil, projects which would take about a week to complete. Over the years, the designs have evolved and become increasingly elaborate. Alison now spends a month of more on a single mandala creation, building it on canvas or wood and “blinging it out” with bright found objects. Her works of art are colorful, cheerful, wonderfully textured creations.
Alison began working in Orange County’s Aging Department about 6 years ago, and she feels no doubt that the creative mindset she cultivates in making mandalas helps her with her work. She explains that there is a certain spontaneity, creativity, and openness needed when working with older adults, particularly those experiencing cognitive decline or mobility limitations. Creative practice has helped Alison find this more playful and open aproach. “There’s no way to relate to exactly what they’re going through, but you can connect with them in a very playful way that brings them joy,” explains Allison. “You’re not giving them a diagnosis, you’re not giving them instructions. You’re just being with them.”
To our Orange County employees: Are you a painter? A musician? A professional balloon animal sculptor? Whether a hobbyist or pro, if you have a creative outlet and are willing to share, we want to hear from you. Take our survey here.