One of the genres of art that I love is portraits. No matter the style, there’s just something about seeing a portrait through an artist’s eyes, and getting an inside look at how they view the human form. While artist Vicki Rawlin’s work isn’t solely portrait work, although this is what initially drew my interest, I love how she uses the natural world from petals to twigs to create her artwork. Another fact that I can’t get over is nothing is ever glued or adhered to the paper that she uses as a background for her portraits and nature scenes. Everything is carefully placed, photographed, and returned back to nature.
In this interview, Vicki shares about where she finds the materials for her artwork, her process, and how Sister Golden (the website, and brick & mortar store that she co-owns with her daughter Brooke) maintains a healthy working relationship with the artists who are who sell their products through the shop.
Nothing taped, nothing glued, just Mother Nature balancing delicately on itself. The actual act of creating each piece, for me, is therapeutic, spending lots of time outside walking and foraging, truly in the moment, my eyes scanning every square inch of my surroundings.
A fallen leaf goes into the bag, later it may become an eyebrow or dog ear. I pick up thin twigs, hoping they’ll work as a cheekbone or chin. The possibilities seem endless!
Once back in my studio, the twigs go down to form the face. Sifting through fresh rose petals, I’m in search of the perfect pair of lips. Next, being very careful not to sneeze, I use my tweezers to place the white petal of a German Statice as the finishing highlight in the eye. There’s a freedom in knowing everything I’m doing is temporary.
After I finish the piece, I document it with a photograph, being very careful not to bump the table and Mother Nature’s house of cards. The last step is to recycle it all back into the earth or into my next piece. — Vicki Rawlins
What or who inspired you to become an artist?
I never remember a time in my life where I was not being an artist. My first memory of realizing that this (being an artist) is what I wanted to be doing was at age 5! My biggest inspiration now, and then, is nature. I was always encouraged by my parents and teachers, who were always letting me know that this is what I should be doing.
Where do you find/source the natural materials you use to create your artwork?
It’s a mix for sure! In the summer, I’m foraging outside for most everything I use. In the winter, I do most of my work in San Diego, so I do a mix of foraging and getting flowers from my favorite flower shops in town! Sometimes I do a “drive-by clipping” (haha!), which means I keep scissors in my car just in case I see something pretty on the side of the road! Sometimes customers will gift me plants from their gardens, which is really special!
What is your favorite natural material to work with?
I love peonies and succulents, but I use things like eucalyptus bark and dusty miller for all sorts of things in so many of the pieces I do. I always keep them around.
Tell me a bit about the process of creating one of your pieces…
Sometimes I have ideas around a piece I might want to do, but when I go out to forage, what I need I can’t find it! This usually leads to something beautiful because I’m forced to go back to my studio and “play”! Once I get foliage to work with, I dump it out on my table and just start pushing things around and start creating. I never draw anything, I just use scissors and tweezers to build each piece, never using glue or anything to adhere the foliage to a surface. This means I need to be VERY careful!! I barely breathe sometimes, because of one bad move, and things will move out of place. I don’t have a ceiling fan or a cat, ha! Once I get things looking the way I want, I photograph the work, and then put the foliage back outside!
You create absolutely gorgeous portraits and nature scenes. How do you get your inspiration for a new piece?
I live in a beautiful part of the world where flowers grow beautifully and the stars in the sky are brilliant! The nature scenes are all inspired by Door County, WI, time spent on the west coast, and lately my spiritual practice.
What were some of your favorite pieces to create?
That’s like asking me to pick my favorite child, lol! Right now I love creating my inspirational women, like “Free Spirit”, and new garden scenes, like “Moon Garden”. And of course Frida Kahlo…I’ll never stop recreating her!
Your Balancing Mother Nature Collection has been featured in well-known publications such as HGTV Magazine, Better Homes and Gardens and Real Simple. How did you feel when you saw your work in print?
I’m truly honored and feel so blessed that it’s making people happy!
You co-founded Sister Golden with your daughter Brooke in 2004. Although you aren’t based in the same city, what do you enjoy the most about running a business together?
I get to work every day with my daughter! I feel so blessed and yet it just feels so normal. We work so well together because we both play different roles within the business. But, when it comes to things like merchandising the shop and buying, we are a wonderful team! I can’t imagine a better partner!
Sister Golden collaborates with artists around the world to bring one-of-a-kind pieces to your customers. What is the most important part about maintaining a working relationship with your fellow artists?
Holding each other up and making sure we support them and their small business is so important. We love giving them a place where new people can learn about them and their art. We understand the artist who’s a mom to three kids and is working her craft after the kids go to sleep. I used to be that mom! When we get a shipment from one of our artists, it’s like Christmas no matter what day it comes!
Vicki and daughter Brooke
Website: https://sistergolden.com // Instagram: @vickirawlinsart & @sistergoldenshop
All images in this post are via Vicki Rawlins.