On Existing as an Artist: Bethany Jane of the Aquariust
this spring, our theme is: synergy.
It’s time to invest in relationships, projects and people that will help us grow. It’s time to create a little synergy.
synergy (n.): the benefit that results when two or more agents work together to achieve something either one couldn't have achieved on its own.
It's the concept of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. In life, at work and in our communities, synergy is that space where the magic happens—where things fall into place, values align and our ideas find a home.
So, what does professional and personal synergy look like? How do we reject cultures of comparison and approach collaboration? How do we protect our own energy as we navigate opportunities, success and failures? This Spring, our programs will serve as a moment to hear from and amplify women and nonbinary leaders in our community who create synergy through their work.
As we prepare for craftHER Market Spring ‘19, we’re interviewing some of this market’s featured makers to learn more about their businesses and the ways in which they create synergy through their work. Read on for a peek into their process.
about today’s featured maker:
The intention behind creating the Aquariust is to allow + encourage space to feel safe to explore, experiment, + empower ourselves thru creative practice. In addition to creating art + wares for sell, our mission is to create one-of-a-kind inclusive + encouraging workshops + interactive environments where people can filter different accessible art forms thru their own unique beautiful creative lens. Click here to learn more.
Tell us the background of your business: How did you get started? How big is your business (employees, storefront, etc)? And where do you sell your work? In-person, online, only at markets?
I started the Aquariust after a solo trip to the West Texas desert at a time when it was imperative for me to re-focus my energy towards allowing myself to exist as an artist openly. This is something that I had always wanted to do but had been entirely too scared to pursue in any serious fashion due to some deep-rooted limiting beliefs + conditioning. Under the big West Texas sky I decided to challenge myself to really give it a go for the first time in my life, to truly invest + commit to allowing myself to redirect towards full self expression and to stay curious and open to the outcome — I decided to create The Aquariust as a broad space for me to allow for all of my artistic practice to exist + to, most importantly, share + gather with others. I’m so grateful that I did because it’s been such an incredible experience + shift.
Hand making + teaching art is the physical incarnation of The Aquariust, while first and foremost this is a daily practice in challenging a faulty belief system that art is inaccessible, elite or irresponsible to pursue as your life’s work. With every piece that I make, and every class that I teach, my true intention is to challenge faulty beliefs, observe the magic, truths + beauty that unfolds, + integrate it all into my life and share with my community.
I currently focus on fiber + textile arts, natural dyeing, as well as community building through music, writing, + creative practice. I am self-taught across the board, I taught myself how to macrame to create a large altar space for my wedding ceremony to my incredible wife! I got so much joy out of this creative process and what the process of weaving + unweaving the fibers taught me about patience + surrender that it really opened up the idea of art and creative practice for me in a way that I hadn’t considered before. I started focusing on materials + practices that were accessible + naturally derived rather than focusing on the limiting belief that not having a traditional art background or access to education/resources/support somehow made me unworthy of this + other artful practice.
An absolute cornerstone of the business is teaching, sharing, and guiding accessible creative practice in my community + a main focus of The Aquariust is representing queer people, people w/ non-traditional backgrounds, trauma, self taught makers to feel seen + above all empowered to explore their own artful expression + creative life.
Every piece from the Aquariust is hand made by me + is currently all one-of-a-kind + all the admin/business side of things is done by me as well. I sell on my website www.theaquariust.com , at local stores such as Tillery Street Plant Co. + Dylan Wylde. I have also done multiple pop ups at West Elm, + I had the privilege to participate in craftHER + Revelry markets last Fall. I guide multiple workshops every month, primarily at CRAFT in East Austin + various shops in town. I also love doing private workshops at homes or studios (Shibori baby shower anyone?) There are new workshop + event happenings coming this year that I am really excited about. I let everyone know about my current workshops via my Instagram + website.
How do you approach collaboration within your work? When and where do you collaborate on making products?
I value collaboration so much, every time a student attends one of my workshops, or a client shares their dreams and ideas for custom piece for their homes, it allows us the opportunity for genuine connection + collaboration.
My biggest art piece collaboration thus far has been with my wife Alyssa who makes ceramics that I then get to custom fit with woven hangers. Open + honest communication, clear expectations, and especially a deep reverence for the other person’s time, vision + needs as an artist are the fundamentals that we practice during our collaborations and I believe are essential in any successful partnership.
I have learned to approach collaboration with a lot of excitement + optimism as well as sensitivity + awareness for the vulnerability + intimacy that can arise when sharing ones art with another.
I have recently taken on a position as curator + creative director at Camp Terralak, a short stay getaway as well as art + event space in the Texas Hill Country. In talking with guests + artists about curating their stays + workshops at the getaway, I really get to stretch my collaborator legs and make amazing connections with incredible people.
How do you balance the creative side and the business side of your work?
This balance proves to be delicate + ever evolving. Fighting off or further understanding “overwhelm” is a daily practice that I am presently developing, it’s very interesting — meditation, therapy, + a healthy support system helps:).
Remaining curious about balancing art + business is something that I try to actively practice every day, rather than making any decisions about what it all means yet, I try to stay open. Daily, I attempt to approach this balance with patience + neutrality, celebrate my victories on the aspects that don’t come naturally to me + stay curious about the areas in which I am still growing rather than judging myself for what I’m still cultivating.
The biggest thing that I have learned in this regard is to stay really present with the task at hand, practice patience + self compassion for the areas in which I am still growing. I love creating + making and could do it all day — balancing the business, personal self care, family, health, finances, all of it, its a really interesting process!
What resources have helped you grow your business? What resources do you need more of? As a WOB what would you like to see more of?
When we are self taught + don’t come from logistically abundant backgrounds, it can be common to focus on the resources that we may not currently have like money, investors, studio space, traditional education, etc. Shifting my energy towards embracing the abundance of readily available + natural resources made all the difference in my own creative experience. Food + spice we have in our cupboards can create gorgeous color, connection + conversation can shift our perspectives in incredible ways, there is so much at that is accessible to us.
I have also been fortunate enough to meet really incredible + generous people who really want to see each other succeed + lift each other up. Bob + Robin from SRSLY chocolate are such kind, open + generous business minded creative people who really want to see their community thrive. Eli + her crew at CRAFT are so committed to creating accessible inclusive space + materials for people to create with it’s so beautiful. Hannah, now at Springdale Station, created one of the most amazing workshop programs to empower teachers + students I’ve ever seen. Lindsey + Melissa + their crew at Tillery Street Plant Co. know everything about plants + do an incredible job curating their shop with local artists + creating opportunities for their community to learn + share. There are so many incredible people that I have met through the experience of The Aquariust that have just blown my mind at how loving, inclusive, + empowering they are.
I would love to keep seeing an increased representation for queer and traditionally marginalized people with non-traditional backgrounds taking up space in the arts and creative community! This representation can provide space and empowerment for others to feel safe to share themselves, their voice, and their art. This is my intention with my role in The Aquariust and my commitment to myself — its really challenging work but if I can help one person feel safe to explore their creative selves it’s energy well spent.
How do you handle perceived failures within your work
Rather than integrating failure or rejection into our self identity or allowing the feelings of fear/worthlessness/shame to permeate when perceived failure arises, we can instead use these experiences as opportunities to open more fully towards expansion + self realization. There is the Buddhist idea that with awareness, we can turn arrows pointed towards us into flowers blooming for us. Humility, personal accountability, + self-compassion are extremely powerful tools that can be used to integrate perceived failures as opportunities for growth + further expansion as an artist + as a person. Learning + practicing awareness around self compassion I think is where we can start to harness this power.
Who is your target audience for your product and how do you connect with them
With the pieces that I create I love playing with the balance of opulence and natural resources with a whole lot of style. I love pieces that make a statement. My target audience for my hand-made pieces are people who are looking to fill their space with quality items that reflect their values, style + self. I like my pieces to be accessible + try to offer a wide variety of goods, from wearable art to home goods to hanging furniture — I like to provide a range of price points and variance in my work so that everyone can join in the fun.
With my classes, my target audience is anyone who is curious about their own creativity no matter the skill level or experience. The workshops that I offer are designed to provide space for students to feel safe to crack open the door towards their own creativity in a fun and encouraging way, or to continue to expand their current creative practice with new skills in an encouraging inclusive + judgement-free environment. Art is accessible to all of us, and exploring our own artful practice and how it can empower us is our birthright.
I connect with my clients + students thru many channels including in-person workshops + lessons, online with my Instagram + website, + occasionally thru pop ups and markets that I have participate in, as well through word of mouth!
Tell us about the production process required to make a single product.
Production looks different depending on my project. If I’m making Macrame, practicing Shibori, hand dyeing vintage clothing with avocados, writing a song, creating a workshop syllabus, etc. each practice has their own respective process.
A quick overview of my production process for creating a naturally dyed shelving or plant hanger begins with sourcing the wood, cotton, + any embellishment/materials needed. I stain the wood or pick the custom size pot + set out to make the natural dye bath. While the dye bath is heating, I cut + soak all of the cotton in a natural mordant to prepare it to receive the pigment. I then boil to simmer the cord, the pigment + material will determine how long the fiber needs to be submerged. When I have achieved the color that I’m happy with I wash + rinse it in the sink then transfer all of the fiber to a rack where I hand squeeze out any access water + set it to dry with fans. After it is dyed I work the fiber with my hands soften it up from the dyeing process and then it is ready to be woven into macramé! I usually make one-of-a-kind pieces intuitively rather than drawing out a pattern!
What is a good leader to you?
My idea of a good leader is one who has confidence in their vision, strong personal accountability + a healthy clear communication style. A strong leader can ask for what they need in terms of delegation but can also open + allow people to surprise them + teach them through their own skills + talents. Holding true + firm to one’s vision while then releasing expectations and holding others in the highest regard can be a liberating idea to practice when it comes to leading others. It allows the release of any tendency towards projection + unrealistic expectations + it truly allows for a situation to unfold + an idea or intention to become fully realized!
What do you wish you knew before starting your own business?
I wish I knew a hell of a lot more about taxes, haha!
Would you like to meet Bethany in-person? Come out to craftHER Market on April 14, 2019 at Fair Market and stop by her booth. Click here to learn more.