Meg Werner takes photographs. She loves to travel. She has lived and studied overseas, and she recently returned home to the U.S. with a degree from Oxford. She sells prints of some of her dreamy, evocative photographs on Etsy, along with other handmade treasures.
Can you tell us about some of the things on your inspiration board?
I just realized that right now there is more of my work on my inspiration board than what is usually up on my wall, which I think is really evidence of my wanting to bring bits of nature inside. (I promise I am not usually so self-centered!)
Instead of bringing in pine, I snap a photo of it and hang it up. I also have a little moo card by Jenny Vorwaller, as well as some prints by Maria Vettese of Port2Port Press which have really inspired me lately. The prints are from last year but I keep going back to them for inspiration, and they are especially appropriate because they inspire holiday cheer.
There are also some polaroid postcards from Maditi (last year’s), which I just love. You’ll also find a half-hidden photo by Hannah, as well as a print I ordered from Liz Shuman.
Normally I also have more tear sheets posted, but the ones that I am loving I’ve been carrying with me as I sort out a few projects I’m working on.
How often do you change your wall?
Sometimes every week, sometimes not for three months. I think it really just depends on how much the arrangement inspires and stays with me.
I am always taping things up. The poem on the wall is A Story That Could Be True by William Stafford. The last stanza topples me over every time. It’s so good.
Who or what is inspiring you right now?
Oh, what a tough one! Memories (I always get rather nostalgic in winter; I have no idea why), tartan and plaid, the scent of wild sage (a friend gave me the best candle, goodness), the chilly air, the starkness of winter contrasted with the warmth and coziness of a home decorated for the holidays, Léon Gimpel, the compass rose, this window, this star garland, acoustic John Lennon, stars, The Outsider by C. Wilson, Maditi’s black-and-white Holga shots (+ this one, a favourite I am always returning to, at least once a week if not more), peppermint tea… the list goes on and on.
What do you do to “refill the well”?
I usually head outside for a walk or two. Being outside in the fresh air and forcing myself to look at things a little differently usually cures me of the blahs. If I’m still feeling unproductive or uninspired, I promise myself that I won’t work on any projects for a week. Usually I declare this on my blog. But then once the pressure is lifted, I usually feel inspired again! Sometimes I think a lack of inspiration is the result of too much pressure, whether it is pressure someone else places on us, or pressure we place on ourselves. Once I let go of that, I’m fine.
How do you come up with your next idea?
Hmmmm. I think I come up with my ideas on my own, either from past experience, a great memory, or the need to capture something on film. I get so many of my ideas from travelling and appreciating the outdoors.
I have to say, however, that often when I think I've come up with something on my own, a few months later I’ll stumble upon something in my journal or take another look at my inspiration board and realize that I was inspired by someone else. Lately I have really loved conifer, and after looking at my inspiration board for this interview, I’m wondering if this inspiration didn’t come from one of Port2Port’s prints, or maybe a photograph I saw last year on flickr that I love. Sometimes the source of inspiration is so hard to pinpoint.
Tell us a little bit about your blog and business.
Well, my blog was created as a way to connect with my friends in the USA as I was living abroad for an extended period of time. Then I was lucky enough to start making connections online. I think the first blog I ever commented on was Shari’s. I had read her blog for a long time and loved it dearly so I decided to brave the comment waters. She ended up commenting on my blog quite a few times after that one little comment, and that really encouraged me to comment on other people’s blogs.
So while my blog is not wildly popular by any means, I’ve found a few treasured blog friends online who read my blog, and that makes me enormously happy. From my blog came my Etsy shop, and that is a place where I can sell a few prints that I really like (and that I hope other people like, too). Truthfully my Etsy shop was more about proving to myself that I could put my work out there and be confident that it would be worth something not only to me, but also to somebody else. I was hoping for even one customer. The fact that more people have ordered my work than I ever dreamed has me on cloud nine, and it really encourages me to get out there and take some more snaps.
How long have you been taking photographs? How did you start?
I have been taking photographs in a serious way since I received my first manual SLR camera… I was about 16, I think. I started photography because I was required to meet a fine-arts graduation requirement at my high school. I really dreaded it, because I had formed this idea about who I was, and “creative” wasn’t a word I would have used to describe myself. I was incredibly academic and politically active at that time. But I really grew to love photography over the duration of that semester. I loved that it allowed me to edit my world, to communicate how I saw things, to capture those fleeting but important moments, and for a perfectionist like me, it was a blessing that in photography, there is no going back. In drawing class I would ruin drawings with the amount of erasing I did, and that was truly disheartening. Photography gave me the freedom to toss the eraser in the rubbish bin and just have fun.
What is your background?
I just graduated with a second BA from Oxford University in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics. It will eventually turn into a MA as it is a “read” (researched) and not a “taught” degree. Oxford is funny like that. For my undergrad I studied French, Philosophy, and Institutions and Policy. Right now I’m looking for a job in consulting for a few years. I really want to push myself in that field for a little while and get some experience under my belt before I pursue work in the microfinance field. That said, I take my photography very seriously. I just fear that if I pursued photography as anything more than a hobby I’d grow to resent it. I wish I functioned in such a way that my passion for arts and music was transferable to self-supporting work, but I know myself too well to know that eventually I’d end up frustrated if I were to put pressure on something that I enjoy so much. Silly but true.
What other talents do you possess that we might not know about?
I’ve talked about it a little bit on my blog (once or twice?) but I planned on studying piano performance and music theory at university until I was about 17. I play the piano pretty well still, and at one time I could play oboe and viola well. (Not so much anymore, though. I took my oboe out the other day and frightened myself! Ha.)
Do you make other types of art or crafts?
I sew quite a bit, actually. I’ll be revealing a few things on my blog soon. The past three years have been difficult because I’ve been living abroad without a sewing machine, and I’m not one for embroidery. Now that I have access to a sewing machine, life is good.
Where does your training come from? self-taught? college/art school?
Both! I have taken a few classes and picked up a few things doing photography and working in a darkroom at Oxford (as an extra-curricular activity), but otherwise I’m self-taught.
How do you keep things fresh?
Sometimes I worry that I don’t. Usually I just try to follow my heart and do that which speaks to me. It might not be fresh, but if I like it, I like it. I try not to make excuses if I’m behind the trends or marching to my own drummer.
What do you do to keep yourself motivated and avoid burn-out?
That’s hard. I’m feeling a little burnt out right now, to tell you the truth. But I’ve decided to shake things up a bit and post less on my blog; I’m hoping that frees up time to do some more exploring. I’ve also realized that I want to be more serious about my photography, to really develop long-term projects that mean something to me. I’m excited about that, so perhaps my answer is this: burn-out is often unavoidable, but it’s part of the creative process. I just embrace it, eat some chocolate, and be patient. Stepping back and slowing down always help, too.
What’s your perfect creativity-inspiring day?
Early morning, sunshine, fabulous cup of coffee, twenty rolls of film, time with a special someone, my sister, my friends, a visit to few fabulous blogs (including this one!), and a walk outside.
What are some of your current projects?
Right now I’m working on a series of garlands inspired by my travels and all of the Tibetan flags that I came across. You can see a peak at one of the first prototypes on my inspiration wall, and there’s another beginner’s garland over here (already sent out to a friend who I knew wouldn’t be bothered by the lack of polish). I’m also working on a few handsewn teddy bears made of tartan fabric. I also have a few ongoing long-term photography projects that I’m working on, but they are secret. ;-)
Any advice to the many people who are inspired by you?
Have fun! And also, really be proud of what you do. There are only so many hours in the day; I am impressed by anyone who makes time to pursue their passion and/or explore the world, especially those women that hold down the full time of job of being a mum or working in an office (or both, crikey!), and who have to make time for their craft. Even if people don’t have time for major projects, I’m impressed by people who can even maintain a blog. Being creative is rewarding but it’s hard work!
What is your favorite inspirational quote?
“I am done with great things and big things, great institutions and big success, and I am for those tiny invisible molecular moral forces that work form individual to individual, creeping through the crannies of the world like so many rootlets, or like the capillary oozing of water, yet which if you give them time, rend the hardest monuments of man’s pride.” — William JamesI think James was right. Big success is a wonderful thing, but I hope people are proud of those small successes that accumulate over a day, a week, a lifetime. Making someone feel better, spreading kindness, inspiring laughter… that is the good stuff, you know?
Meg’s Etsy Shop