Friday, February 3, 2017

An Interview with Lisa Estabrook

Today I'm chatting with Lisa Estabrook, "a mother, a graphic designer, an artist and an obsessive gardener". Through her art and her blog she shares a spiritual, healing connection to the world of plants and flowers.

I'm delighted to have her here sharing her story with us!

Artist, Gardener, Lisa Estabrook, Artist Interview, My Giant Strawberry

ab: Lisa, you are an artist, graphic designer, gardener, wife and mother. Can you share a bit about your background? Did you major in graphic design in college? How did you come to start painting flowers? Where did your obsession with gardening come from?

le: I grew up in London, England, which is probably one of the biggest cities in the world. But there is an area that goes all around the city called the “greenbelt” where fields, parks and houses are preserved, and this is where my home was. So I was fortunate to be able to spend a lot of time outside as a child, walking everyday across the fields behind my house to school and I had plenty of special places I would visit and play. I can't say that I was obsessed with gardening as a child, it was certainly more of a chore, like raking leaves, but again there was much time spent outside.

In English high schools the junior and senior years are devoted to A-levels, where we would study in depth only three subjects for the two years. Art was one of my subjects, so I really got to study in-depth and build quite a large body of work. Of course I never felt like I could make a career out of being an artist, so when I went to college I studied for a graphic design and marketing degree that I thought would make me more employable (successful?).

After graduation, and a couple of years working for EuroDisney in Paris, I moved back to the US with my American boyfriend. For six months or so, while we were trying to figure out what to do with our lives I picked up my sketchbook and started painting. Funnily enough, even back then, all my art involved flowers. We then moved to Maine for my soon-to-be husband to study traditional wooden boat building and I got a job in a design studio. Maine, unlike the UK, has very distinct seasons and the call to be outside for me is strong. It didn't take me long to start my first garden.

Forget Me Not, Artist, Gardener, Lisa Estabrook, Artist Interview, My Giant Strawberry

Every house that we lived in, and we moved a fair bit, I would make a new garden. It started as a creative urge and a desire to create a beautiful outside space. It was my main creative outlet and the garden at each new house was a new blank canvas. But that only scratches the surface. Gardening became integral to my health and well-being. It was the place I would go to be alone for a while, my therapy, my workout (making new garden beds is a lot of work!) and often a source of food. I always felt a little sad when we moved because I would never get to see the gardens mature. Bit of a metaphor really for me and my heart's work, because it was at least another 15 years, three daughters and five new gardens, before I felt I could put my roots down and flourish.

Artist, Gardener, Lisa Estabrook, Artist Interview, My Giant Strawberry

ab: Like me, your garden is an extension of your studio. Tending the plants and connecting with them is part of your art. Tell us a bit about your garden and what your workspace is like. What is your creative process? What helps you when you’re feeling stuck or uninspired and how do you nourish your creativity and stay inspired during the long Maine winters?

le: My gardens are a constant work in progress (just like me). We bought our current home in 2010. The land originally was wooded with a typical suburban lawnscape around a fairly uninspiring 70’s home. I could see the potential though. Each year I create new beds, restore some aspect of the woodland and let bits go wild to see what surprises the land holds. It’s always changing shape, evolving. There is sort of an overarching plan, or vision, but mostly I’m just winging it and just working intuitively with the land. The exact same thing could be said for my artwork.

Garden, Veggie Garden, Vegetable Garden, Raised Beds, Artist, Gardener, Lisa Estabrook, Artist Interview, My Giant Strawberry

In 2012, after 12 years as a stay at home, homeschooling mom, finances forced us to put the kids in school and I opened up my graphic design freelance practice again out of my finished basement. We sectioned a portion off and called it “the studio.” It has one small window but a good amount of natural light. As soon as we can we have plans to put in a full-size window and replace the door to the outside, also with glass. The studio is functional and not so beautiful…(yet), but it has a wonderful, calm energy to it.

Work in Progress, Studio, Artist Studio, Work Space, Poppy, Painting, Artist, Gardener, Lisa Estabrook, Artist Interview, My Giant Strawberry

It was another year before I picked up my paint brush, and I had no idea what I was going to create, but out poured my gardens. I've always had a keen interest in herbal medicine, alternative and natural health so it didn't take me long to connect the dots that each plant I would journal, sketch and paint was exactly the medicine than I needed in my life at the time. The Soulflower seed was planted.

Sketch, Botanical Sketch, Yarrow, Artist, Gardener, Lisa Estabrook, Artist Interview, My Giant Strawberry

Life is busy with three kids and my primary income is from my graphic design work, so it's not every day that I get to sit down and paint. I try to carve out time one day a week for my own artwork, and in between I walk everyday, whatever the weather, write and sketch in my journal, and take a lot of photographs. After years of unsuccessfully trying to create some structure and security in my life, I am learning (slowly) to approach each day with an open heart and without too much of an agenda. That way when I feel the inspiration to paint, the subject matter, the thoughts and the relevant experiences are fresh in my mind and current with my day to day life. I always refer back to my journal, photographs and sketches where I magically find a trail of “seeds” that sprout into a new painting and simultaneously a new understanding of my personal journey.

Painting, Work in Progress, Borage, Botanical Watercolor, Artist, Gardener, Lisa Estabrook, Artist Interview, My Giant Strawberry

ab: What strikes me about your art and your business is the openness with which you share difficult truths about yourself. On your blog you reveal uncomfortable feelings, fears, challenges. What inspired you to be so open? Was this difficult for you? What has the response from readers, customers, family, friends been like?

le: Oh yes! What I know is that when I create, part of the process is in response to what is going on in my life, and part of the process is how nature always, always, always supports that process. So I felt actually, and after much soul searching, and beating about the bush, that if I was to truly share my work with the world, I needed to share all of it. I have been opening the door to my process VERY VERY slowly as I learn to trust that what I have to say may help inspire and support others in their lives, and I have a deep understanding that this sharing, in whatever form it may take (art or writing or speaking) is part of my soul’s purpose. While it has not been easy, it has also been super helpful in my own personal growth and understanding. And amazingly, every time I feel fear creeping in about what I am doing, someone will write or comment, and tell me how much my work has helped or inspired them in some way. My family is supportive too, although they always give me a little bit of a hard time, you know, asking me if I can hear the carrots screaming as I try to prepare dinner etc.

Sketchbook, Dandelion, Botanical Sketchbook, Artist, Gardener, Lisa Estabrook, Artist Interview, My Giant Strawberry

ab: One of the things you have shared on your blog is your need for solace and healing. You had been struggling with headaches and generally began to realize that things weren’t quite right in your life. How did you come to understand what you needed and how did you find solace and healing? What tools and practices do you use to help fulfill your mission “to deeply understand [your]self and [your] life”? How do you nourish yourself?

le: There is a general human consensus that life is hard and then you die, and we spend a good deal of our lives not accepting responsibility for our actions, our health or well-being. and instead look to external sources to blame or to fix us. A whole lot of fear and suffering. Of course this is part of my story too. The process of trying to figure out what was/is causing my headaches, and fix them, became a personal journey and more of a process of elimination. A peeling away of layers upon layers of stories and beliefs that I have carried, perpetuated, and that do not align with who I am, what I believe or how I want to be in this world. I came to understand my headaches as a catalyst for this healing work. They were in fact a gift! And every time I shed or reconcile a layer of what I am not, I can feel my heart open and expand to encompass all that I am. I can’t imagine a life where positive personal growth is not a thing. I can't imagine a life that is not meant to be lived with love and joy, in spite of (and in honor of) the suffering.

Sketches, Sketchbook, Work in Progress, Studio, Artist Studio, Workspace, Artist, Gardener, Lisa Estabrook, Artist Interview, My Giant Strawberry

For me there is a constant curiosity. A need to understand. This probably contributes to my headaches. :) But we can’t possibly understand all the whys, so we have to trust and we have to find balance and I try to do this in all areas of my life. So, everything in moderation, learning to follow my heart, discovering where I find joy and the overall intention for my life to positively impact others. Positive ripples right! And I find great peace in that. Self-care is not my strength and I am learning how to nourish myself, but I do know that I need a lot of alone time and a lot of time outside, nutritious food and a tidy (if not clean) house to live in.

Garden, Artist, Gardener, Lisa Estabrook, Artist Interview, My Giant Strawberry

ab: Your signature product is your Soulflower Plant Spirit Oracle Deck. It includes 44 plant spirit cards and 2 more informational cards. Each of the plant cards is illustrated with one of your beautiful paintings and also includes information about the properties, energy and spirit of the plant. This is clearly a labor of love and I find it so intriguing! How did you embark on this project? I’m also curious about your definitions and descriptions of the plants’ energies. Did your conclusions come entirely from your own experience with plants or did you also research them? Can you share a bit about how you use these cards and how you’d recommend others use them?
Soulflower Plant Spirit Oracle Deck, Artist, Gardener, Lisa Estabrook, Artist Interview, My Giant Strawberry

le: My Soulflower Plant Spirit Oracle Deck took almost two years to create and represents not only my journey of healing and self-discovery but also me learning to trust that there is a reason why each and every one of us is here and it is often so much more than we realize. I didn’t think I could do it, but every step of the way, seemed to just fall into place. I had no idea how many cards there would be but the first one was Dandelion.

Dandelion, garden, Artist, Gardener, Lisa Estabrook, Artist Interview, My Giant Strawberry

It sounds so contrived, but I really was trying to figure out my purpose in life and Dandelion was my prayer, my wish if you like, to discover my way. And so then I was off. I had a mission and one by one the plants made it known who was next! All of them grow in my gardens or in the woods surrounding my home and I am very familiar with them all. The words, the messages, are definitely my own experiences and what resonated with me both physically, emotionally and mentally. I have a long history with most of them so I was well aware of many of the medicinal qualities and that contributed to my understanding. Of course, I did look to see what others have said. And sometimes it has resonated and sometimes it hasn’t. There is also so much more to say about each one, and every time I revisit one I learn something new. I hope that my blog posts will expand on the messages by directly sharing my experiences, but it’s not so easy to always put these into words! Another work in progress and maybe I will make a book somehow out of them in the end?

Sketch, Botanical Sketch, Hawthorn, Artist, Gardener, Lisa Estabrook, Artist Interview, My Giant Strawberry

I use the deck everyday. It is part of my morning ritual and often I simply ask, “For my own highest good, and the highest good of all, what message do I need to receive today?” Quite simple really, and always thoughtful, it gives me a place to start my day and I almost always reflect back at the end of the day any insights and experiences. It’s fun to see the patterns that occur and how appropriate the messages always seem to be.

Plant Spirit Oracle Deck, Artist, Gardener, Lisa Estabrook, Artist Interview, My Giant Strawberry

I also use the cards when I am feeling stuck or in situations where I find myself taking my (transient) feelings too seriously and not connecting to the underlying need that wants recognition. It can help you discover a new perspective and/or challenge your thinking, and always, always is a supportive way to tap into and trust your own heart’s wisdom. The more I do it, the more confidence I have in my ability to be well and prosper and the more awareness I have of all the support the universe truly has flowing towards each and every one of us.

Clover, Red clover, Artist, Gardener, Lisa Estabrook, Artist Interview, My Giant Strawberry

ab: What suggestions do you have for tapping into the energy and healing of the plant world without using your Oracle Deck? Are there resources, tools or practices that you would recommend? What techniques do you use to gain understanding and to banish negativity and embrace joy and gratitude in your life?

le: Oh that is easy! You don’t have to have my oracle deck to tap into the energy and healing of the plant world. Everyone is aware of the energy of flowers for example, they just don’t always remember. Just think how flowers have the power to light up a room, how we bring them to people feeling unwell, or use them to decorate for special occasions and I think you will remember. So you can purchase flowers, you can take photographs, print out pictures from the internet, whatever, and look at them often and you do need to spend time outside. You need to touch the trees, touch the grass, pull the “weeds’, rake the leaves whatever. You need to take a deep breath in, in awareness of the magnificent gift of the plant world that is the oxygen we breathe, and you need to breathe out sharing your carbon dioxide back to them. Such a beautiful simple thing and it reminds me daily how supported and connected I am to the Earth. Breathe. Simple really.

Winter, Snow, Dog Walking, Artist, Gardener, Lisa Estabrook, Artist Interview, My Giant Strawberry

Thank you, Lisa, for sharing your art and your story with my readers and me.

Studio, Workspace, Artist Studio, Artist, Gardener, Lisa Estabrook, Artist Interview, My Giant Strawberry

Dear readers, you can find more of Lisa's art and her new blog musings on her website.

You can also follow her on instagram: @my_soulflower

and Facebook: SoulflowerPlantSpiritArt 


Missed any of my past Artist Interviews? You can catch up here.

*Photos in this post © Lisa Estabrook. Used with permission.

9 comments:

  1. I really enjoyed reading this Anne and Lisa! The oracle deck is a vibrant and useful work of art and unlike any I have seen before. Beautiful photos and inspiring and thoughtful words too. :)

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    1. Thank you, Simone! I'm so glad you enjoyed the interview.

      :)

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  2. What a great interview Anne and Lisa. I loved every word of it. The deck is beautiful. I really wish I knew how to create a garden or better yet had the space and sun for one. Thank you for sharing so much with us.

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    1. Thanks, Dana. I'm glad you enjoyed the interview.

      I wish you had sun and space for a garden, too, but you seem to do pretty well with your plants. I was envious of your gorgeous zinnias last year.

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  3. This is such an interesting interview, Anne. I love Lisa's artwork as well as her history with gardening and her artistic journey. Discovering purpose in life is such a strong pull, and Lisa's description of how her relationship with flowers and nature has helped her with that is inspiring! Wonderful questions, Anne, and so good to discover another great artist.

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    1. Thank you, Judy! I'm so happy that you enjoyed the interview!

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  4. Lisa has such a beautiful way of relating to nature and sharing that experience with us. I love the vibrancy of her artworks. Thank you for haring her art and life thoughts on your blog!

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    1. Hi, Sharon. It's always my pleasure to share these inspiring stories of artists following their passions and finding their way in this world. So glad you enjoyed this interview, too!

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  5. I often ask if the flowers that I purchase are organically grown. This is to avoid any potential chemicals or insecticides that might cause cancer. Many people handle their flowers and don’t simply look at them in the vases they are placed into. I prefer to avoid absorbing dangerous chemicals, so I only use organically grown flowers.

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