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Conversations with the Inspiring Elise Williams

Today we’d like to introduce you to Elise Williams.

Elise, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I grew up wanting to do something in the medical field. All through high school, I planned on majoring in biology or chemistry when I went to college and going on to medical school after. I’m not sure what the change was, but when it was time to declare a major I chose art. Something in me had to give it a try. Aside from a handful of drawings and paintings, I had done in high school I had basically no art creating an experience. It was definitely a leap of faith, but the best decision I have ever made. I cannot imagine not having art in my life on a daily basis and being an artist myself.

I went to Georgia College in Milledgeville which is a very small town. There were some art opportunities, but I knew when I graduated, I wanted to move to a larger city to experience a real art community. I’ve been in Atlanta for almost four years now. It took a lot of persistence and constantly reaching out to get to this point in my art career. There’s so much more to do and learn, but I have loved this journey and am very happy with the opportunities I have had so far.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
I’d be surprised if anyone has had a smooth ride trying to build a career as an artist! While it hasn’t been a super rocky road, I have definitely had to overcome a few obstacles and still continue to overcome them. Aside from recognizing that nothing happens overnight and that patience is key, one of my biggest struggles is self-motivation. I know a lot of other artists face this too with their own work. It’s so easy to complete a big project and then goes into art hibernation for a couple of months. This is something I have to frequently try and pull myself out of because the only way to get better is continuous practice! The best advice I could give would be to just keep moving forward, keep going! Try to keep that creative energy flowing, whether it’s actually making something or just keeping a notebook where you can write down ideas and thoughts.

Please tell us more about your work, what you are currently focused on and most proud of.
I love working with paper. I studied printmaking in school and worked two-dimensionally for pretty much my whole time in school. I became extremely interested in how I could turn my two-dimensional works into something more sculptural. It wasn’t until about 4 years ago that I decided to give it a try. Through a lot of trial and error of different materials, I landed on coffee filters. This medium has been a game changer for me. It’s so versatile. I have discovered different ways of dying to add pops of color into my pieces. I have a specific “rolling” technique that I use to create a cone shape with the coffee filters that allows me to fill a structure of chicken wire with them. The texture created when the coffee filters are massed together is quite beautiful.
My goal is to create pieces of art or installations that bring out the curiosity in the viewers. I hope that people will be drawn to my pieces to take a closer look, spending more than just a few seconds to investigate the structure and materials.

For a long time, I would get really hung up on the questions of what does your work mean, why is it important, what are you trying to say with it? I felt like I had to have a reason for why I was making what I was making. I have recently begun to understand that maybe I don’t need to answer those questions, maybe I don’t have answers for them. So, I have let go of the pressure of those questions and have just been creating pieces because they are fun for me and I love the way they look! The thing that would make me the happiest is if my work can bring the same joy to someone who sees it.

Do you have a lesson or advice you’d like to share with young women just starting out?
Keep moving, stay focused and positive. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people or places about putting artwork up, it’s hard to get your name out there and you can’t wait around for someone to reach out to you first. Lastly, prepare for some disappointments, you won’t get everything you apply for or want to work on but don’t let it stop you from continuing to try!

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Cristina Marie Kameika, Modou Jallow

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