Vicki O’Dell has been featured on various television shows, including DIY, HGTV, and PBS. She considers herself “an experimenter, an explorer, and a mad scientist of creativity”. . . and her art is pretty unique, too!
As a child Vicki could entertain herself for hours with just a pencil and paper in hand. Today, she spends hours being entertained by life itself. It is her life, and the life of other artists, that influences her artwork and allows her to reach outside her comfort zone to turn ordinary finds into extraordinary works of art.
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Alyice: One of the areas I love most on your blog is the “Thrifting” Thursdays. How did this come about? And have you always been a thrifty shopper?
Vicki: I’ve always loved going to flea markets, estate sales, tag sales and thrift stores. I started as a little girl going out and about with my mother. I enjoy digging through things, getting my hands dirty, smelling the old musty smells, and the excitement of a good find. I love to look at a vintage item and make up stories about who owned it, where they wore it/used it, and how it ended up where it is.
When I started my blog I didn’t have a clear idea about what I wanted to write about or what I wanted it to be. I just knew I wanted to start a blog-to start writing somewhere other than in my journal.
One day while I was digging around my computer files for inspiration, I came across a huge file of photos I had taken of my “thrifting” finds and realized I had enough photos to keep me posting “regular” thrift spots every week, for a few weeks. And so the blog began.
Sometimes I’ll just post a photo of what I found that day. Other times, I’ll do a whole blog post about something I found a few weeks ago and what I did to change it-to create art out of it.
Alyice: When you visit thrift stores in search of objects that can be transformed into works of art, what do you look for?
Vicki: Really I don’t look for anything in particular. The things find me. I know that sounds silly, but I’ll illustrate with a story.
I found a miniature vintage greenhouse at a favorite spot not too long ago. I walked by it several times but I didn’t buy it. The metal was rusty and the Plexiglas was very yellowed. It needed lots of TLC. I went home with a few other little goodies but not the greenhouse.
That was really silly because I had told myself for ages that if I saw one, it would be mine. I had seen one on a television show and loved it. I didn’t love what the owner did with it, but I loved the little building and I knew I could do something I would really like if I had one. Oh, the possibilities! But then I left without it. D’oh!
I thought about that greenhouse for two days until I could get back to the shop. I went in and I looked and looked but I couldn’t find MY greenhouse. I even asked the owner if she had seen it but she didn’t know what greenhouse I was talking about.
THEN two weeks later I went back to that shop because it’s one of my favorite places. (It’s all dingy and dirty and it has rooms off of rooms that ramble on forever. It’s one of those places you can wander around in and get lost in your day dreams.)
I walked around a corner and saw it—MY greenhouse. I couldn’t believe my eyes! I snatched it up, headed straight for the cash register, paid for it, and went straight home. It waited for me to return!
I have cleaned it up some and replaced the Plexiglas but that’s as far as I’ve gotten, for now. I have three competing ideas for it and until I settle on one, it will sit. When my ideas have simmered long enough and a concrete plan bubbles to the top, I’ll act on it. Not until then.
Who knows, there may be a piece out there waiting for me that needs to be a part of that project. It just hasn’t found me yet.
Alyice: Aside from creating art out of thrift store finds, you also spend a lot of time “green crafting”. Can you explain how “green crafting” may differ from “thrifty crafting”?
Vicki: Gosh, I haven’t thought about that one! One difference that comes to mind is that green crafting can be harder on the wallet. These days you can purchase lots of “green” art supplies and more are becoming available every day. That’s all well and good for our planet but not so much for my budget.
“Green” products generally have a higher sticker price that the regular standbys. Thrifty Crafting on the other hand tends to be more budget friendly. I can get a whole shopping cart full of goodies for less than $20 at one of my favorite stops. That’s quite a bit of craft material!
Other than buying products that are labeled “GREEN”, I tend to think of them as being similar. Both Green and Thrifty crafting keep peoples’ cast offs from being heaped in a landfill. Thrifting IS green.
Alyice: So being a green crafter is really about reusing, repurposing, and upcycling items so they don’t end up in the city dump. Can you explain what effect green crafting has on our society?
Vicki: Green crafting has been around for AGES. Every elderly person I know who has lived through The Great Depression is a green crafter. My sons’ fraternal grandmother makes a Christmas sleigh every year from the Thanksgiving turkey carcass which totally cracks me up. She also makes Easter bunnies from milk jugs and crochets kitchen rugs from plastic bags.
One thing I’ve noticed more recently, however, is that I’m starting to see three piles of garbage on the curb in my town; recycling, trash for the dump and another pile of FREE things sometimes with a sign and sometimes just set apart from the regular trash.
The free pile is for things people don’t want but they think someone driving by might like. It’s like homeowners are inviting thrifters to stop by and take what they want.
There are also groups popping up here and there that collect refuse from interior designers, industries, and dumpsters. They’ll pile everything into a room on a given day and open the space to local creatives who drop by and browse the offerings, then take home what they think they can use.
I think that green crafting lets us do more with less. It lets us live larger and we can feel good about it because it also serves a higher purpose! I call it “Affordable Lux”.
Anyone who knows me or follows me online knows that I’m a “more is more” kind of decorator. I love layers! I can have layers of rugs or curtains in my home if I’m only paying a few dollars for them. I can have candles on every surface if I’m paying 25 cents for the candle holders and I can set a fantastic table for a party or holiday for next to nothing. All things I love doing but could never afford to do if it weren’t for thrifting.
Alyice: Do you have any tips when it comes to repurposing thrift store finds or repurposing items you already possess?
Vicki: Sometimes it’s hard to make that first move. To take the lace off grandma’s wedding dress for a mixed media piece or to whack the head off an old knick knack for a sculpture. It’s hard because we attach meaning to many of the things we have in our possession.
Either we have fond memories of how we acquired it or who it came from. But really, are you going to keep it in a drawer forever? Who gets to enjoy it then? No one; not even you.
If you put that memento into a work of art that you can put on display, maybe with several other mementos attached, then LOTS of people will enjoy it. And your memories of that little bit or bob will still be with you.
Alyice: Your zebra squirrels are an unconventional take on what is perceived to be normal, yet they don’t seem out of place on your blog, or in your home.
Any tips for helping artists follow their muse and feel confident in their decisions to create what they create without falling into the trap of worrying about what others perceive to be “true” or “acceptable” art?
Vicki: Ha ha! Thanks, I think. Like lots of creative kids, I took art classes in High School. In one of my classes there was a boy who had lots of what the art teacher considered talent and skill. That teacher let it be known that he thought Steve was a real gem – an honest to goodness artist.
That same teacher often criticized my work. He said I didn’t have much skill or talent because I did things my own way, not how he thought they should be done.
Personally, I thought Steve’s work lacked originality and imagination but who was I to criticize? This was the art teacher talking. He must know what he’s talking about, right?
Needless to say, I didn’t take art classes in college and it took a long, long time for me to start being creative again. It was there, it was always in my head, but I didn’t let it out through my hands.
Now and again, I would write a short story but I never shared the stories and I very rarely made any other kind of “art”. I suffered because I believed that teacher. I thought I lacked what it took to be a “real” artist.
Sometimes I think art school can ruin people. They are taught that only this one way is true or acceptable, only this one thing is ART. That leaves a lot of beauty out, a lot of paintings that don’t see the light of day, and a lot of people walking around feeling sad and depressed. They won’t let that beauty out because they feel like they aren’t REAL artists.
It took a lot of life (divorce, death, remarriage, many moves, trauma, happiness and love) to help me get rid of the stuff that art teacher put in my head. It also took a lot of stubbornness on my own part to finally get where I am now. Now, I say the heck with it, have fun!
The entire time I was painting my squirrels, I laughed. When I took photos of them I actually laughed out loud there in my back yard. My kids were around and I didn’t care if they thought I was weird. I had FUN! Then I made up a silly little story about the squirrel family on my blog and posted the pictures I took and I laughed some more.
It made me silly happy. I had fun!
Alyice: Who, or what, has been your biggest influence?
Vicki: Life is a pretty big influence. Look around. See the colors, smell the smells. Hurt. Cry. Laugh a whole lot. Look inside. Who are you? What do you like? Who do you want to be?
We are all influenced by what we see and hear, an ounce here and quart there. This person, that grief, insecurities, family, travel, and love all influence us. Take it all in, keep what you like, what feels right, and let the rest go.
Try things, don’t take yourself too seriously and learn from your mistakes. Be your own influence!
Alyice: Before you go, are there any “green crafting” products you can recommend to our readers and why?
Vicki: My favorite “green” crafting product is bees wax. Bees wax smells divine when it’s heating up. My whole studio smells wonderful when I heat bees wax!
It can make a humdrum collage look dreamy and soft and it’s great for attaching media to a piece. It can be made to look smooth or left lumpy and bumpy. I can scratch into it and add color to the scratches or build up layers and layers adding a bit of this or that adding depth and richness to a piece. Beeswax is divine!
And if you really want to amuse yourself listen to Persephone’s Bees while heating up beeswax. You can’t help but be happy!
To learn more about Vicki and her work, stop by her website at VickiODell.com
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