Sadie and I went to high school together a million years ago, give or take. As I’ve been getting my feet wet in art and learning what makes me an “artist,” Sadie has been there to answer random dumb questions, provide insight and offload her hand-me-down table saw and woodworking tools to me. You’re the best!
Non-Idiot Artist: Sadie Young
Etsy Shop: @TheInspiredDragonfly
Quick background: Sadie Young, The Inspired Dragonfly, is an artist whose pieces are created using lumber and reclaimed wood-based materials. Some works are beautiful, others whimsical, most pretty dang heavy!
When starting a new piece, do you go into knowing ahead of time what you’re going to do, or is it whatever pops into your head at that moment? I’d say a little of both… When it comes to new wood patterns, like my wavy herringbone or hexagon pieces, the idea may float around my mind for months before I actually make the item. This is usually because I am mentally refining the process for cutting the wood into the necessary funky shape or angle and assembling the piece, though it is sometimes just due to a lack of time. That being said, when it comes to colors, I often just have a rough idea of what I am going to do beforehand, such as neutral, light, bright, or colorful. I’ll generally pick the specific colors on the fly when I am ready to paint. One thing I always do on the fly is arrange the blocks as they will end up in the actual piece. I will set a rule or two, such as how many pieces of an accent color I will put in each row or that I will not put two blocks of the same color next to each other, but other than that, I try to let the piece create itself. I think it helps me let go of my own perfectionism and gives my pieces a more organic look.
What materials do you prefer to work with and has this evolved over time? I generally prefer to work with wood. When I was a kid I dabbled in oil painting, which I was never going to be great at. My making art from wood was born out of my furniture building hobby. I had all of these scraps left from projects that I couldn’t stand to throw out, so I kept them until I began to see art pieces form in my mind that were made from them. My art evolved from there. I will say that I LOVE using upcycled/recycled wood whenever possible because I hate waste and love to give trees the chance to evolve in their journeys (from tree to building to art) instead on being tossed out like trash. When it comes to what I do buy, I used to buy 2x2s and 1x2s when making pieces that require those, but I got so frustrated with the quality of wood available that I now cut my own versions of those sizes of wood out of 2x4s.
What materials are you dying to work with that you haven’t tried yet and what has prevented you from trying them so far? SO many materials fall into this category!!! I have plans to start making my own clay out of sawdust (another instance of not liking to toss materials in the trash), and I want to try marrying solder with wood. I haven’t tried either of these yet simply because I haven’t had time, but as soon as I get a chance, I will work on these. Also, I have wanted to work with metal for a LONG time. I am sure I will do that one day as well, but learning to weld will take longer than learning to use sawdust clay, so perhaps that will be my retirement gig!
What has been the weirdest material you’ve worked with and what did you create with it? Have a photo of it? Well, I do so much work with paper towel rolls that I no longer consider them to be a weird material, but when I tell people that my rosettes are made from them, I get some pretty fascinated reactions! Most people who see these pieces in person think they are metal. I have similar rosettes planned that will be made from prescription bottles, which are weird and a bit hard to come by in large quantities, and I also have a piece coming up that will be mainly made of corn husks.
How do you feel/what goes through your head when someone calls you an “artist,” and do you call yourself one? This has been quite a journey for me! I have always loved art and created art, but I spent 12 years selling mattresses before going back to school to become a mental health counselor. Neither position is exactly similar to being an artist. The last time I took an art class was in 9th grade. In that class, three people were INSANELY talented. I would say I was in the next group down talent-wise, but there was a REALLY big gap. I think that gap always made me feel like being an artist wasn’t a possibility for me. When I began putting my art out in the world (mainly in the counseling offices where I used to work), people would refer to me as an artist, and I would laugh it off as absurd. It wasn’t until I started selling my art consistently that I decided to try to refer to myself as an artist. The first… well… hundred times I said it, it felt very weird to describe myself as that, but I can now call myself an artist without flinching!
Have you had any odd requests for work that pushed your creativity? What was the result? Oh, I am forever amazed by the requests I get! Most often the odd requests I get are for color schemes that just feel completely wrong to me. I am usually able to try to see the scheme from the client’s perspective and rally my creativity to make it work. Sometimes I even love the results! Other times, I just have to realize that my taste is completely different from my client’s taste and that my not liking the final product probably means that he or she will love it, and that’s ok. My goal is for my clients to be happy with what they purchase, and I don’t always have to love it.
Who are your favorite current artists right now and what do you like about their art? The person who comes to mind as a current favorite artist is actually a friend of mine, Miles Davis (not to be confused with the jazz musician Miles Davis) who runs Massive Burn Studios in Atlanta. While I love his style of painting in general, what captivates me the most about his pieces are the faces he paints. They are so expressive and whimsical – I can almost read the story of the scene in their eyes.
If you had a favorite artist when you were younger, who were they and why? I’m going to have to go with three people, who are a bit cliché, but I was a kid, right? I loved Dali’s work because it felt like an illustration of a dream to me, and I loved being able to immerse myself in such a world during waking hours. I also loved Monet, and impressionist painters in general, because of the beauty of a piece of work looking completely different up close and far away. Finally, I have to put Bob Ross on this list. I watched him as a child, and he was my inspiration to paint. His demeanor and encouragement made me feel like I had the power and talent to do what he did… and what fun would life be without his happy little trees and stories of the creatures that lived in his landscapes?!?!
When in need of inspiration, do you have anything you do or anyplace you go to find it? Color-wise, I find inspiration everywhere from flowers to signs to fabrics and even stacks of junk mail that form interesting schemes. When it comes to patterns, my best ideas always come in the moments of the morning when I am half awake. As long as I am in that state, the ideas don’t stop coming. Lately, I have also been looking to quilting patterns for ideas that I think would translate well to wood. Generally speaking, I would say that ideas and inspiration are my strong point… My weak point is being able to shut the flow of ideas off long enough to sleep!
What has been the best reaction to your art? I always love it when clients tell me that I have somehow plucked their vision from their mind and made it real. That’s when I know I really nailed what they were going for, especially when said vision was hard for them to describe.
What has been the worst reaction to your art? He will kill me for saying this, but my husband probably had the worst reaction. He is a very practical, function -oving, non-artsy kind of guy. When I first started making wooden art, I showed him a piece and asked his opinion. He completely innocently told me that the piece looked like “colored sticks.” He didn’t mean it as an insult in any way, and it was technically true, but I can’t say that the reaction made me feel warm and fuzzy.
Any upcoming gallery events? Not at the moment.
Any upcoming things you’d like to mention/promote? I am currently focused on creating a guide for my shop that will make it easier for clients to order custom pieces. It will include sample colors to choose from, as well as a gallery of wood pattern options and things to consider when designing custom pieces.
If you were allowed to revamp any national treasure or landmark, what would it be, and what would you do with it? This was a really hard question because I tend to think that historical landmarks lose meaning if they are revamped to a large degree, but there is one building that comes to mind that I would love to change. Every time I go to New Orleans and pass the Super Dome, I am haunted by visions of the horrible place it became after Hurricane Katrina. I couldn’t imagine actually going to a game there. I would revamp it to be a dome that is covered in windows, to let in light and has a retractable roof to let in air. On the inside, I would cover the walls in local art/murals that depict the resilience of the city and its people, and I would set the whole building up to serve as a proper shelter, in the event that one is needed in the future.