mind-smiling and creative play with Karina Jean Sharpe {Poetic Collage for gather :: create}


I first 'met' Karina through the wonderful visual world of Instagram. I was immediately taken by her clear images that sang with a story, and made me smile a quirky smile, and touched my heart all at the same time.  The very first time we met in real life was sorta-kinda special. In so much that I felt I already knew her (through Instagram and email conversations) and we could just jump right into the part of being friends and connecting, and could skip right over the silly of having to impress each other. She liked me for just me, and ain't that something grand! Since then every time I've seen her, she's brought her humour, humility and wisdom along, and shared her insights into creativity and sharing and being true to yourself. 

Karina Jean Sharpe is has a background in industrial design and mechanical engineering, yet a whimsical sense of play in her work. She ties these two aspects of her personality together beautifully in her styled images and words. Karina is interested in seeing aspects that other's don't always notice, and she loves to share this sometimes minute worlds that she imagines. Take for example her Thumb Tree Hill video. 


At our upcoming gather :: create workshop, Karina will be sharing her self-learned technical skills in the art of paper collage with a difference, combined with taking a journey along Karina's magical word play and picture connections. Poetic Collage will be a whole new way of looking at magazine tear sheets and interesting images, and help you create a story book of your own visual voice - words and images combined to help you unlock your own inner story.

I asked Karina to share a little of herself with us today. And if this magical story below isn't enough to convince you that a day spent in her presence will shine some lights and make some sparkle, then hang out at her Instagram a little longer.....

What does being a creative mean to you?
Everything. The freedom to be creative means everything to me. The times in my life that I have been unhappy, where the times that I was in a situation where there was no room for creativity. Being creative, in general, is being able to look at a situation, choose how to move forward, follow that decision and end up at a result that would have been totally different had you chosen any other choices. Creativity can exist in all forms of being: making, writing, creating, cooking, parenting, gardening, tidying, cleaning, conversing … as long as you are not a robot I think you can be creative.
The act of being creative, for me, means the opportunity to express my thoughts and ideas and to share them with other people. It is a realm in which I can be my whole self and create things of beauty. 

How do you find inspiration for new work?
Mostly I feel like it finds me. Usually when I am not looking, or when I am playing around with other concepts. I have learnt to listen to all the small inklings of ideas. Some of my favourite work has come from crazy little thoughts, like: that shell could have a trail like it was walking; or what if those flowers came out of a faucet; or how about I cut a horse shoe out of grass – I don’t ignore the crazy stuff anymore. I think the other way I continually find inspiration is that I trust that it will continually show up –if I get uptight and fearful that I have run out of ideas, I begin pushing too hard and trying too hard and I lose the flow. It is completely counterproductive -I’m better off having a sleep. 

How do you push yourself through a creative slump (eg - if the inspiration isn't coming and you have a deadline...)?
If it is just a general slump and I am working on my own stuff - which naturally happens because things are actually cyclic - I either talk myself out it, or ride it though, or stop pushing. In this case my aim may not be to beat the slump, but to get though it without causing damage to my self-worth - as I have learnt that these kind of slumps are temporary if you don’t give them any power. A slump when I am working for someone else is a different matter, in this case, I have found that I work best if I talk to myself out loud. I go back to the brief, back to the aim and back to the purpose. I talk it all though out loud. Then I remind myself that this thing I am doing is something I love, and I see if all that makes a difference. If not, hmm, I either phone a friend or ask for an extension.

Do you prefer to work to your own ideas, or do you like the challenge of a brief from someone else? With both these different aspects, do you approach them differently, or find you come at your work in a similar way?
I enjoy them both. I love the freedom of working on my own ideas, but I also love that a brief can send you in directions that you wouldn’t naturally choose, and as long as there is room in the brief to stay true to your own creative language, there is big opportunity for growth. With my own ideas, my work usually stems from either a phrase or story that I want to depict as an image. I find a brief can often take on a similar state as there is usually an underlying message that needs to be conveyed. I think I like the balance of having both within my creative practise. 

What's your ideal creative day?
Ahhh. Well if we are speaking ideal ideal, then: I would wake up of my own accord around 6:30 am. Kiss and hug and smile at my loved ones, have a delicious breakfast outside in the sun. See people off to school or wherever, enter my big bright airy studio (the made up one will do for now), do some creating, walk or cycle down to my favourite café for a coffee and maybe lunch with my man or another creative being, go home and make some stuff that is glorious, at some stage I would discuss some cool projects with clever lovely people, before welcoming home the young ones and being a mum for the evening. 

What's your favourite material to work with?
I actually don’t really have a favourite material. I use whatever I deem necessary to achieve the thing I am trying to achieve. Sometimes its paper, sometimes its grass, sometimes it’s some other bizarre thing I have thought up. I am a swapper and changer. 

Collaboration - do you like working with someone else, or are you best on your own? How do you bring your own voice to a collaboration?
I love the idea of collaboration, but have actually not had a lot of opportunities to partake. I love collaborations when each person brings their own special quality, material or skillset. I also like when product owners and artists team up to make an artist’s version of that product, or when a piece of work is the result of cumulative contributions from different artists. 

Are there lots of images, pieces, work that never makes it to the light of day - or is everything you make a final "good copy"?
No, there are both. There is a lot that makes it to the light of day. There is also a lot that I sit on until they are my version of good, or that I sit on until I can rework it. There are some that are totally dumb and they are in the archives. And then there is actually a lot in the pipelines - A lot of things in waiting, either for something else to come about, or waiting because I don’t want to move that piece yet – hah like chess ( I don’t play chess). 

In your IG profile you say you want to make our mind smile - tell us about that... what does it mean to you? What makes you smile?
Mind smiles. I love the thought of it. There is a book about graphic design called A Smile in the Mind, by Beryl McAlhone. I haven’t actually read it, but have heard of it from a few places. When I first heard that phrase I couldn’t let it go. I asked myself “Does the mind smile? Can it smile? Do I do that? Does what I do do that to people?” I decided that maybe my best work did, and that it sounded like a pretty good thing to aspire to. I am only really interested in contributing things with an air of positivity anyway, things that leave people feeling better than the state in which they were found. But my aim is not to make people necessarily laugh out loud or snort or giggle – although it is exceptional when that happens – mostly what I do is more subtle. It’s about uplifting the mindset, elevating the mood, creating work that people can feel good from –you know, so their mind wears a cheerful little grin.
What makes me smile? Hmm, that’s such a hard thing to pin down when you try to think about it too hard. The perfect sentence makes me smile. And the prefect title to match an image, with the equal amounts of cleverness and wit. My sons make me smile and scowl in almost equal parts, but they are 2 and 5 so I think that is normal. Finding the perfect final object for one of my neat arrangements – that makes me grin, or air punch, depending on how long I’ve been searching. Oh, and ideas – ideas make me smile more than anything else. And beauty - and whales and cleverness and love and my man and friends and things done with imagination. 

Why is play-based creative making so important to you? And also, why share it with others? Why not keep it to yourself..?
For a long time I lost the ability to play. When I was working in consultancies my role was all computer based, building new products in 3-dimensions using a CAD program. Sometimes even the form of the product had been decided by the time it arrived on my desk. My job was to make it real, and that called for a sophisticated version of ‘staying within the lines’. For instance, a product may have had to look a certain way, be a certain size, with a particular wall thickness, 15 of them might have to fit inside a certain box and the CAD program itself had constraints with which I had to work. I made that product so it ticked all the boxes, and I did it very well, but I was left feeling pretty stale.

‘Play’ just didn’t have an opportunity or reason to show up. And like most things, when you don’t actively do it, you forget how it’s done and then after a while you don’t even realise its missing. I had forgotten how to play, and then, when I began to start to try, I remembered that there was a chance I could get it wrong, and then I was scared to make attempts. I had to step past that, and over time I have practised. I have been my own observer and watched how freeing creative play can be: how it allows you to tap into your own imagination and stumble on things that are more brilliant that you could have imagined. I don’t want other people to get stuck in that sucky place, where you are either operating like a mechanism or too frightened to explore. And that is why I am sharing - It’s not really mine to keep anyway. Creative play brings out individuality, so I actually believe that the more people play and explore creatively - then follow the things that come to their individual mind as a result - the less similarities there will be, collectively. So, I suppose, sharing the concept is actually in my best interest.

******************

Karina's workshops are a thing of sharing and connecting and beauty. I went away from her workshop last year with my mind buzzing with ideas and images, and my fingers eager to be creating. Her workshop at our gather :: create ~ Poetic Collage is the first time she's released this, and it's a not to be missed event. Bookings are essential to secure your spot at the table with Karina (and some delicious cake and other amazing creatives), click here to book or for more info.

If you'd like to see some of more Karina's mind-smile work check out :: 
her website
these beautiful pieces of jewellery she makes. 


** all images used with kind thanks for Karina Jean Sharpe - from her website and Instagram. She also often credits the magazines she uses in her IG feed if you want to check that out.