2011 Summer Interview Series | Renee Garner at Wolfie and the Sneak
I first found Renee several years ago writing at You Grow Girl when Chris and I started getting into gardening more in Florida. I think she was giving away some seeds and I was lucky enough to get some from her. I wish I could remember what they were! Anyway, from there I found her blog and then made her a contact on Flickr and subsequently the rest is history as I became an avid blog reader of hers, even if I’m not always commenting, I’m always reading! Lately she’s been busting out the garden inspiration and I thought she’d be a great addition to the interview series, plus Renee is an awesome artist and creates beautiful pieces she sells on Etsy.
First off, give us an idea of who you are, why you blog and your geographic location.
I’m Renee, one half of Wolfie and the Sneak. My main squeeze, Charlie, is the other half. I studied fibers (as art) at UNC Charlotte, and have since gone on to be a secretary by day, gardener by afternoon, and drawer/maker by night. I live in Matthews, NC, a suburb of Charlotte, with Charlie, our little girl Mabel, 2 cats, 2 dogs, 7 chickens and countless goldfish.
When did you begin your creative exploits and what inspired you to pursue the type of art you create?
I *think* (though I don’t remember that far back) I started as soon as I could put things together. My mom likes to remind me that I took my (unused) diapers and made a bird sculpture out of them. Sometime in early elementary school my dad gave me a couple books from the series 50 Simple Things Kids Can Do to Save the Earth. He also took my brother, sister and I on walks and teach us to identify trees by their leaves and bark. Between those and all the time we spent outdoors I was bound to become a nature freak, right?
Do you have any tips for artists looking to expand beyond selling online, how to get into art and craft shows and events, and resources for learning to market themselves?
The only way I really know how to do it is to just get out there. Push yourself, challenge yourself, cry if something doesn’t work out and then get back out there. One step in front of the other and all that. Also, it helps to have friends that encourage you. We all need a cheerleader! The internet is a vast resource, but at the same time approach it with intelligence and don’t trust everyone that contacts you with a too-good-to-be-true offer!
You’ve written numerous times on copyright and intellectual theft on the internet. How has this affected your creativity and art, has it made your more vigilant? How can one find out if they’ve had their creative works stolen or copied?
For a while it completely disabled my creativity–worrying about others whose work is similar to my own and worrying about making work too similar to others. I believe the collective conscious exists, but I also believe “Nothing is original” is an excuse to be a lazy maker.
Now I limit my exposure to other artists’ wares and make things based around personal experiences and visual responses to them. If I live it, I can tell an authentic story through my work, and I hope that’s what resonates with my drawings.
Usually the instances of stolen work have come up by word of mouth–someone saying they had their work stolen by so-and-so. I think it’s naive and maybe even escapist to say, “Don’t seek it out” but I have made that a rule for myself. When you start digging, it can uncover a very ugly, hurtful world. If you let the situation rise to the surface your response can be much more logical and organized, then you can plan steps to remedy the situation. I hope that makes sense? Theft is a deeply personal experience, and when you feel victimized it’s very easy to let emotion choose the path towards remedy–and it usually picks a rocky, uphill trail.
Simple living seems to be ingrained in your lifestyle. How do you balance the indie and simple life with the modern and fast paced ‘need it now’ atmosphere that abounds around us?
I haven’t figured that out yet, but I’m learning to buy things that I love, rather than things I can afford. Sticking to that rule is teaching me to think desires through and take pause in my wants. Is it a want or a need? We spent a long time buying all of our wants, and now we’re stuck with a houseful of distracting “stuff”. It’s easier with a little one, I want to be protective of her in the over-stimulating environment. Less TV, more play for her translates into less internet and more play for me, too!
How do you incorporate your independent thinking and lifestyle with raising your daughter?
We spent the first couple months buying her lots of cute clothes–they’re so cheap and readily available thanks to big box stores. One day Charlie and I both opened our eyes and said, “We don’t need to buy that.” and then and there our heads both exploded. Since then it’s been mostly handmade and thrift store shopping. Same for toys, plus she already has so many we can avoid the toy section. Also, I bought her a blank sketchbook–she’ll scribble in it for hours. Sometimes I’ll draw a picture and she’ll color it in, sometimes she’s just happy with playing with the different colors. I hope those actions plant seeds that will grow with her throughout her life.
You grow an extensive garden, how much do you grow to eat? What has been your favorite food to produce?
Most of what we grow is edible–to put it in perspective, we have about 700 square feet of edible garden beds (mixing annual and perennial edibles and medicinals) and 100 square feet of ornamentals. We’ve also added a few apple trees, plum trees, elderberry shrubs, and blueberry bushes around the yard. Usually it’s enough tomatoes and basil to last until the next tomato season. The past 2 years we haven’t done much since Mabel was so small, but this year we’re back into it with a serious vengeance. I haven’t grown them in a while, but I love growing carrots. Also, potatoes, chard …anything that’s easy to grow but gives big yields.
Recently you took a Master Composter class. Is this similar to a Master Gardener course? What were some of the most valuable things you learned in the class that every gardener can incorporate into their garden?
It’s a little bit similar and a little bit not. Both are volunteer based learning opportunities, where you learn a whole lot and then pay the organization back through volunteer time. Master Gardeners around here (and I think they’re different for different states and counties) learn many aspects of insecticide, pesticide and herbicide. We talked a little bit about herbicides (and by a little I mean maybe 30 minutes), but the majority of the course was based around soil building techniques to create a healthy, balanced environment.
What artistic and gardening inspiration do you draw from?
I love flickr (and the Unpretentious Garden Group) and bike rides through the neighborhood for gardening inspiration, which later translates into walking around the yard with Mabel, picking bouquets of flowers, seed heads and weeds can give me pages and pages of materials to draw. I also love thrift store shopping, which I think affects my work by giving it a vintage lilt.
And finally, tell us the five people you’d love to have over for dinner and why!
I’d just love to have five people over for dinner! With all the projects we work on, there’s a constant and embarrassing mess. We rarely have people over, but I do love to have giant dinner parties with wine and great, provocative conversation. The next time that happens you’re all welcome to come on over!
Renee blogs are Wolfie and the Sneak, contributes to the Modish blog in the form of Petals and Pedals and sells her work in a Big Cartel shop and a Etsy shop. All photos and artwork copyright Renee Garner.
Thanks for participating Renee!