Creative Family Series
The Theiss Family
Today, I’m excited to continue our Creative Family Series with the Theiss family. Kristin and her husband Chris are both artists. I love their work and am a huge fan of Kristin’s blog. I asked Kristin if she wouldn’t mind sitting down to share her thoughts on creativity, family, raising a son, and how a two artist household makes it all work. I’m thrilled she said yes.
Everyone, meet Kristin.
How do you define creativity?
I suppose I would define it as how a person interprets & presents their thoughts & views of their surroundings.
Have you always considered yourself creative?
Yes, but I didn’t realize that it was necessarily a special quality or skill. I loved art classes when I was really young. My favorite thing to do in class was to work at a ‘weasel’ or, as we know it, an easel. I loved it when I could do what I wanted & have free access to all of the art supplies – to with as I pleased. From 1st grade to my junior year in high school, I was very involved with dance classes. I took tap, jazz, ballet & pointe. I loved to choreograph dances (& still do in my head). I was also in band (played the clarinet) & enjoyed creative writing & English classes a great deal too. So, my creativity has had many outlets over the years.
How do you nurture your own creativity?
I really do think that being a creative person is a way of life- but it also needs to be practiced like anything else. I surround myself with things that inspire me. Our house is full of colors, textures, things, sounds- that all that provoke a strong reaction in me. I have my materials/ projects accessible all of the time so I can add to things as I think of them. I also think that at a certain point in my life, I started to value what creativity means to me & I made sure to not neglect it. I’m now more aware of what inspires me & what gets my creative juices flowing & I make sure to keep those things in eye or earshot. The biggest trick in nurturing my creativity is that I married an extremely creative person & have a toddler with a stellar imagination. So there is always the sound of creativity pinging around in our house. We bounce ideas & share inspiration with each other often.
How do you nurture it in your son?
We nurture creativity in my son much like I nurture it in myself. I make sure that colors, textures, & things that would interest & inspire him to create, surround him. By walking into our home, you can immediately see what is important to us- we decorate with our hearts – everything you see has meaning to us & a lot is handmade. He knows we value creativity & watches us create all of the time – which I think is one of the main ingredients in fostering a creative kid. He has the tools at his fingertips to create anything that he dreams up – along with books at easy reach & a chalkboard wall in the hallway. He also has learned that if he wants or needs something (like a bridge for his train or an extra garage for his fire truck) that we can make it rather than go buy one. He actually thinks we can make just about anything – which only makes us try & continues our creativity cycle….
What are some of your favorite ways to spend time together as a family?
Both of us work really hard. Over the years, we each had two jobs at a time- a full time gig & a part time teaching job. My husband still does. This means that when we do get time as a family, it’s really cherished. We often don’t have traditional weekends to spend with each other. So simple time just being together at home is fun. Sayer loves to have little mini jam sessions & listen to music with us. We all get out our instruments and rock it out. Another favorite thing is to all get fire hats on & play fire truck & fire station or head over to the neighboring school to play “school”. I do love discovering things as a family. We like going to Seattle & flying kites at Gasworks Park or just going to the local fair.
How have you been able to integrate work with pursuing your creative passions?
This is a question that I could write a book about. As I mentioned, I’ve always had to have a full time job to pay the bills. I think because I’m a creative person, my approach to all my jobs has been creative. I have brought creativity to all the positions that I’ve held in some form or another- whether it’s been writing grants for art centers or starting art programs for the non-profits that I’ve worked for. Since I’ve been out of school, I have taught part time painting classes at the local college at night so that was a way for me to keep my hands in some of my creative passions. However, the integration hasn’t always been successful & there have been periods of my life that have been far less creative than it is now. It needs to be a priority & a constant commitment to maintain I’ve found.
What are you working on now?
Oh gosh, I feel like I am working on everything at once right now. I’m constantly trying to add designs & products to klt:works- that’s ongoing. Most of the time I’m just filling orders & staying afloat. I’m a one-person (with supportive family) business along with a mom to a 3 yr old. It seems like my multitasking skills are getting tested daily. Right now I’m just trying to figure out the balance. I have new designs & ideas rattling around in my brain for the business & I’m helping my husband out with a new venture for his work while photographing & blogging about the whole process.
How did you get involved in designing the KLT line?
This is another long story but honestly, it came about quite organically. It was during a transition in my employment & I was looking for a full time job. I had met some women who had their own businesses making things & I kept those connections during my job search. During that time, I just started working in my studio at home as a way of processing & relaxing. I had the opportunity to be a part of a few shows with the work I was making- through some of my previous connections. I started drawing with thread & making mobiles really early on. The artist, Alexander Calder was my first inspiration for early KLT products actually. I started klt:works in 2005 not really exactly sure what was going to happen, but willing to take the jump & see. While listening to feedback, I started narrowing down my line. The business then sort of gained enough momentum that my search for employment stopped. I also maintained my part time teaching gig teaching painting at the local college too up until I had Sayer in 2008.
Did you pursue coursework in creativity in school (e.g. arts, etc) or do you come by this on your own?
Yes & yes. I think I do come by my creative nature on my own, but I did take art classes in high school- enough that I ended up getting a bachelor in fine arts (BFA) in drawing & painting in college. I did jump around a bit in college as far as my interests were concerned & have a double major in art history & minor in writing/journalism. I always had a real strong interest in design & have studied it a lot on my own as well. I ended up taking my art education even further & went to graduate school at the School of Visual Arts in NYC – so I have a MFA (Masters in Fine Art in studio art) too -so does my husband. My husband & I actually met teaching at the local college. He teaches ceramics & I taught drawing & painting. Between the two of us, we have a pretty strong creative repitour to pull from. Plus we both like learning new things too.
From time to time everyone’s creative juices wane. How do you handle that?
If my creative juices start to need a jumpstart I put down what I’m doing & watch a movie from a director whose particularly creative. That’s the simple solution to my creative burnout. Usually I just need some distance from what I’m working on. Honestly, I hardly ever get completely creatively depleted. General burnout happens more than actually creativity waning. However, I have an ongoing sketchbook with ideas that I can pull from if that happens. I’m one of those people that has way more ideas than time. I have to say, I approach my work in a fine artist sort of way rather than as a designer. The difference is that I just make stuff I like making & then I decide if it would make a good product or not. I don’t really put the pressure on myself to feel I have to use every idea or that every idea needs to be good. This helps in keeping the creative juices flowing. I don’t really let myself get anxious if I’m not feeling particularly creative. It usually means that I need to sleep or get distance from what I’m working on. I also have such a variety of things that I need to do for the business that I just float to another medium. If I’m not feeling creative in the studio, then I go take product photos for example. But along with watching a good movie, I chat with creative friends, listen to music, chat with Sayer about what he is thinking about & it resolves itself in no time at all. I actually started my blog so that I would have a different creative outlet for this reason. I post about things that inspire me. I find that between that & taking photos for it, that my creative juices stay intact.