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CHS Crow | Heather, Aidan and Justin — ‘I’m actually going to be a starving artist’

Spring is kind of springing up now, and Capitol Hill seemed in good spirits as the CHS Crow scuffle-hopped around the neighborhood once again for the most recent round of conversations. There was some Hill talk, some shop talk, and some life-and-other-meaningful-stuff talk, as we dipped into some deeper territory here and there with thoughtful neighbors, all of whom happened to be artists of some sort or another this time around.


Heather, CHS Crow 2014.03.15 portrait, JOWhat was the biggest challenge for you, good or bad, over the last winter?
Patience. I would say the biggest challenge was — I am transitioning from the current job that I have right now to working at Molly Moon’s — so I would say the patience of trying to find the right next step and not just jumping on anything that was out there. So definitely being patient through the cold, rainy, months. And also realizing that — you know at least, hoping that — there was something better out there for me. Patience with the career, and patience with working hard and there being outcomes.

What, to you personally, is the most important accomplishment of your life so far?
Well, I definitely hope to top it, but, I went to the Culinary Institute of America for baking and pastry Arts, and I did really well there; I was a really big part of the community. There’s a competition called Bocuse d’Or — it is a national competition where some of the best chef’s compete. I was not a part of the competition, but I was chosen, as well as seven other students with the school, to sit down and have a dinner with Thomas Keller and Danielle Boulud and Jérôme Bocuse.

It wasn’t necessarily the amazing experience of sitting down and being able to have dinner with them — I mean it was amazing to meet them — but it was more the fact of being one of the top eight students chosen by the dean and chosen by the teachers and chefs there; to be one of those students — I was the youngest one, I was only twenty and every one else was significantly older than me.

And then after that you know life gets really difficult, haha, because you graduate, and you have to move all over the country and try to be successful.

What did it mean to you to be selected?
It meant for me that all of the hard work I put in to those years there, that I was more than just a very very dedicated student, and more than just having a passion for food — I had a talent.

So, you said you’re from upstate New York, have moved around the US a lot, and have been in Capitol Hill about year-and-a-half. You also said it took a year before you really started connecting with people here. Where have you found people to connect with? What kind of communities have you clicked in with?
I just scored a P-Patch, at the Howell Collective P-Patch, so I’m starting to meet people through that, and I’m in the food industry, so obviously food is my passion, so I’m finding other people that are interested in growing food and cooking food, anything along those lines.

Do you have any particular slant to your interest in food?
Yeah, well, I’m a baker. Actually, right now, I’m reading a book, The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Katz, and I’m really interested in fermentation, just everything about fermentation. I’m kind of trying to learn about it. I make my own sauerkraut every year. I’ve done a couple other projects. I cure my own meats.

You cure your own meats?
Yeah, we do it together. [Heather’s boyfriend Chris had just walked up to join her in the park.] The biggest thing we consistently do is bacon; we cure and smoke our own bacon in our tiny parking lot.

Ok, this last question may seem a bit unsophisticated, but, I’m taking a poll: does art imitate life, or does life imitate art?
I would say that art imitates life, because I would say that is really what came first.


Aiden, CHS Crow 2014.03.15 portrait, JO

What’s been your biggest challenge over the last season, or, say, over the last four months?
I always joke with my friends that I’m still not an adult yet. I guess my biggest challenge is that I need to structure my time, I need to be drawing or painting at least two hours every day. I have a studio in my apartment, so, that’s kind of frustrating at times. But, it’s really about getting in there and making stuff, because eighty-percent of what you make is going to be bad, but that twenty-percent is going to be at least decently good. I think the biggest challenge over the last four months is, I’ve been realizing: I need to just get a calendar, and schedule the days.

I changed my work schedule up. I’ve been so obsessed with having, like, a cushion, just in case I want to move, or I want to go on a big trip or something like that. And then I cut down to four days a week — I have Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday off — and I’m just like: ‘Fuck it, I’m gonna’ be, I’m actually going to be a starving artist instead of just, like, looking like I’m a starving artist.’

I have all this money saved up, and I’m like, ‘I’m just going to buy supplies, and I’m going to go on trips.’ I’ve been living here for six years — I’ve never actually gone to Snoqualmie, I’ve never been to Bellingham, I’ve only been to the Peninsula like twice, because I’ve just been, like, in the city, like, ‘I gotta’ do this, and I gotta’ do that,’ and I want to just, you know, walk around on the beach. So that’s the challenge, that, you know — I think I’m rising to it. I’m not going to buy a car, but I’m definitely going to make more friends with cars.

You’re kind of pulling off the whole Romantic-era “artist as genius” look, with a post-modern twist, right now, it seems to me. What do you think about the idea of the “genius artist,” or the “creative genius?”
I don’t think there’s such thing as a genius artist. I think that my issue with the idea of a ‘creative genius’ is that everybody thinks it’s just like, ‘whatever you make, is going to be great.’ And I think that — maybe this is just the way that I work — it’s not that everything you make is going to be great, it’s just that you have to make a lot of stuff all over the place. And you can’t just like, if you’re a painter, or if you’re like a cartoonist, such as myself, you can’t just be looking at comics, or paintings. Like, you have to be watching films, you have to be going to dance. …

There’s a billion ingredients out there, and everyone’s trying to make their own soup, so you just gotta’ like, pull from all over the place I think.

What can you say about plugging in to the creative community in Seattle?
The beautiful thing about Seattle is that it is so small. It would be even smaller if I just was in the literary community or just in the cartoonist community, but, if you’re here, and you’re making work, go out and talk to people at these events, and I’ll guarantee you’ll meet a dancer, a writer, a poet, a painter. I mean, they’re all there. Everybody’s there. And most of us are going through exactly the same stuff. Everybody’s working at a restaurant, or a bar, or a copy writing thing for Amazon.

This is intended to be a bit tongue-in-cheek, here, but: does art imitate life, or does life imitate art?
I think art imitates life. I think that, well, if you’re making work, capitol “A”-art reflects life. So it’s music, poetry, prose, painting, whatever. If you’re looking around you and you’re absorbing it, and you take this external world with this internal world and you combine them, and you like put them on this other surface or whatever, I think that that’s — it’s a personal distillation of somebody’s experience. And then, the flip side of that, is, like, if you were to make a piece — which is like you’re external and internal synthesis — perhaps I will see it, and then after that I will look around the world and notice the things that you had noticed. So, then it that sense, it’s not so that life imitates art, I feel like it’s just that life gets tweaked by art.

I think that it’s naive to say in this day and age, to say that life is changed by art. I think that if you are really engaged by art, then life is enriched and fulfilled and made so much bigger, I mean, I think my world is so much bigger because of art.

Just a take of what I was talking about dance earlier. I mean, thinking about movement. I mean, that’s why I come to the park, to watch people. Just thinking of the way that people move through space is something that I guess I was always conscious of, but before, like, interacting with dance pieces, all the sudden now I’m like, ‘Oh, isn’t it so interesting the way he shifts his body weight when he does that’, or, ‘It’s so wild when, he’ll … when people will slump their shoulders, or when they’re walking straight up.’ It’s these little things that I never would have noticed without interacting with these performance pieces.


Justin, CHS Crow 2014.03.15 portrait, JOWhat are you reading today?
This book that’s actually kind of interesting — it’s called The Candy Everybody Wants. It’s actually by a really good author, Joshua Kilmer-Purcell. He wrote this really good book called I am Not Myself These Days. With the goldfish. This is his second book. It’s not a true story; it’s just a little made-up story about some kid in the 70’s. But it’s really funny, because, I like to pretend and talk to my friends as if we’re all celebrities in the moment, but at the end of the day, it’s like, we’re all splitting a bottle of Two-Buck Chuck, you know. And I like to pretend as if we were the elite. And this book, it’s about some kid from middle-class America who’s dreaming to go off to LA and being, like, a movie star, or whatnot. So, it’s, like, up my alley, I guess. A funny read.

So you said you are from Austin and have lived in Seattle for about five years, about three of those on the Hill. Are Austin and Seattle really as similar as people sometimes say?
Probably the weather was the only major difference. But, yeah, there’s a lot of similarities within culture, and there’s a really heightened sense of community, and there’s a heightened sense of gentrification. It’s the same, you know. It’s kind of like, strong community, strong gentrification, two different wars, all at once. That sounds kind of negative, haha.

Well, is there anything positive, in your view, about the changes the neighborhood is seeing?
I feel the positives within the changes in the neighborhood are, a lot of local business are able to grow and expand quicker than they would if there wasn’t gentrification, a lot of local artists and local brands are getting exposure that they typically wouldn’t if it wasn’t because of the gentrification. But then I also see a downfall, you know. Cost of living’s higher, and some of that authentic culture’s being pushed further out. So it’s kind of like — you know, in that realm of  local business, local all that — it’s kind of like survival of the fittest, I guess. Pros and cons to both. I think that the problem is that when it’s aggressive gentrification, when it’s happening quicker than people can keep up with. I think that’s when there’s an issue.

What do you do for work?
I used to be a stylist with a large department store downtown, and then decided, you know, it wasn’t really anything I wanted to do, so I just went back to Austin for a little bit, and I’ve just been in Seattle again for two months.

So are you working now? Or just chilling?
I’m actually doing freelance production stuff. So, like, helping out with photo-shoots, just kind of doing that, looking in to getting in to work, you know. Yeah. What I do is pretty much styling, more on the stylist end. I work out of a studio on Pioneer Square. It’s my boyfriend and his friend, and I just help them out. And it’s just something that comes so easily, it’s just very easy, you know “zhoozh-ing” everything, haha.

How would you spell that, “zhoozh-ing” everything? 
How would I spell it? I would spell it by cuffing your pants and pulling up your sleeves a little bit. [Later, and after thorough research, the CHS Crow decided to go with the spelling “tzushing,” a participle of “tzush,” in future references, though there is apparently some debate over how the word in question should be spelled.]

Do you have a life philosophy or a priority to speak of?
Seeing through the bullshit and knowing when to turn it on and when to turn it off, I guess. When to be a part of it, and when to call it out.

What is the biggest accomplishment of your life so far, to you personally?
This sounds so cheese-ball but … I would say honestly right now one of the biggest accomplishments in my life — or whatever — is the family that I have. The family of friends. You know. For once in my whole entire life, I’ve really gotten to the point where I honestly have the best friends. I have the best, you know, I have the best people around me, and that’s something I’m really proud of. That I’ve learned how to pick ’em good, I guess I would say. Haha.

Ok, last question: does art imitate life, or does life imitate art?
Life imitates art. I feel like people are very influenced.

 Previously on CHS Crow:

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4 thoughts on “CHS Crow | Heather, Aidan and Justin — ‘I’m actually going to be a starving artist’

  1. Thanks for the interviews Jacob.

    I’m happy to be surrounded by such beautiful, tender thinkers in my neighborhood. The way they lead their lives is Art in my book and this enhances everyone in their penumbra.

    Connie I.

    • Thanks for the feed back Connie. It’s really my pleasure to get out there to chat with people around the neighborhood and share what they have to say — it seems like everyone I talk to has a compelling story to tell and an interesting perspective to share. And, we’re definitely lucky to have the above folks around, I couldn’t agree more.

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