On Sunday, October 7th from 1 to 3pm, the Luce Foundation Center will host an installment of Beyond the Studio, a lecture and workshop series where participants get to hear from local creative professionals and complete a hands-on activity related to the speaker’s expertise. Each workshop is presented in collaboration with a different local arts collective. Jessica McFadden, the Luce Foundation Center's Program Assistant, reached out to this installment’s artist, Lillian Cox, to learn about her experience as a creative in DC.
What’s your experience as an artist, particularly one based in DC, been like thus far? Is there anyone that you’ve had the opportunity to work with that you’re excited about?
DC’s creative community has been a source of excitement and inspiration ever since I moved here 5 years ago. It shattered my expectations of what living in DC would be like. I came here to pursue a career in International Business, and casually started giving monthly workshops at The Lemon Collective as a hobby that I picked up during a particularly bad case of the winter doldrums. The thing that continues to amaze me most about the creative community in DC is the spirit of collaboration over competition that is so unique to this city. People’s careers in DC tend to be extraordinarily purpose-driven, and those of its’ artists are no exception. The Lemon Collective provided me with a community of creators with similar aspirations and similar hurdles. When one of our collaborators succeed, we all celebrate them. When there’s a struggle, there’s always someone who’s been through it already and has some useful insights to help work toward an easier resolution.
Can you talk a bit about A Strange Flower DC? What was it like to found and build your own business?
A Strange Flower really started as something of a pseudonym, since my name is Lily. I found it to be a great catch-all for the work I’d been doing, once I dove into plants and flowers full time. Finding ways of engaging with nature throughout the year impacted my sense of well-being so acutely that I wanted to share some of this experience with others. When I started making kokedamas, I found the practice to be so fun and such a perfect intersection of arts, crafts, and recreational botany. Kokedamas are so interesting, unusual, and expressive! I truly hadn’t seen any around DC - so I thought it might be fun to see how DC would take to them. Most people that attend my workshops have never even seen or heard of them prior to seeing the listing.
From start to finish, what’s your creative process like, from making kokedamas to making marketing decisions?
It’s an evolution. Creating has traditionally been an outlet for me, so transitioning it into a business has been an exercise in balance: creating the kind of structure for efficient production, and also allowing myself to exist in the freedom and enjoyment of the creative process. Holding an awareness of time, but not allowing rushed feelings. It’s a challenge that I am still stumbling through, but I think it’s the key to achieving a reliable system to continue to remain inspired while running a business.
What advice would you give artists, creatives, and makers that want to pursue a creative career?
Developing a lifestyle such as this is highly introspective. Open up all the lines of communication with yourself. Understand your rhythms and find ways to work with them rather than against them. That can mean not rushing your own process or personal growth. For me, that often means understanding what exactly composes the barriers between myself and the things to which I aspire. Most often, these barriers exist entirely within. Having an ability to check the self-doubt, speak truth, and sense to it has opened up worlds of possibilities. Finally, I would recommend that if you have a desire burning on your mind, talk to anyone you can about it. Anyone whose attention you can hold or whose interest you can pique. It helps gather momentum around an idea and bring it into physical existence. You’d be surprised by the amount of resources you can accrue this way; answers to questions, opportunities, or even just a sense of moral support.
Do you have any upcoming projects that you’re working on?
Yes, in fact! I’ve been working really hard with an incredible team to launch something I’m incredibly excited about. We’re on the verge of opening a plant and flower studio in DC called Rewild. It’s been an absolute dream planning this thing, and I cannot wait to share the botanical love with my DC family. We’re working really hard to make it a feast for the senses, a playground for creatives, assisting and encouraging visitors to build their own bouquets and pot their own plants. We’ll also be hosting a number of workshops on various forms of nature-based art.
Beyond the Studio will take place on October 7 (kokedama) and November 4 (collage) from 1:00 – 3:00 pm in the Luce Foundation Center. Registration (and a small materials fee for the October 7 program) is required. This season’s workshops were organized in partnership with Shop Made in DC and Cultural DC.