Today’s artist spotlight highlights the work of my friend Elise Watness, artist, educator and gardener. She’s the founder of Joyful Plant, the company through which she explores the connections between creativity, placemaking and nature.
Our collaboration is growing, and I will be launching new cards with Elise’s artwork in the coming weeks. I love that Elise believes Nature + Love = Happiness, and I think you’ll enjoy our inspiring conversation! Let’s dive in:
MB: Oh Elise it’s so great to chat with you! Thank you for joining me. I can’t wait to share a little more about who you are and how your work comes to life! Let’s start with who you are and how you spend your time.
EW: I am a painter, printmaker, and botanical photographer. I’m a mother of two boys and a bilingual Montessori Guide (or “Teacher”). Our family stewards land originally inhabited by Coast Salish people. My great-grandparents immigrated from Denmark and Norway in the 1800s. I originally founded Joyful Plant to offer produce and flowers at local farmers markets, which transforms and fosters deeper connections with nature through art.
MB: It's been such a pleasure to work with you via Joyful Plant. How do all these pieces of your life contribute to or inspire your artwork?
EW: I love discovering how science-arts can strengthen human connection to a place. Growing food and watercolor painting in the garden are two ways to easily experience this. Traditional Norwegian Rosemaling (flower painting) calls to me more than any style of visual art. I love the feeling of oil painting on wood, as did my ancestors. Specific strokes, colors, and composition foster unity and appeal. The designs from our home region of Setesdal are most attractive to me because of their harmonious abundance of detail.
MB: And you’ve been really leaning into becoming a rosemaling artist these last few years! It’s exciting to watch. We started working together on greeting cards years ago, when you were mostly focused on watercolor. How has this experience of collaborating been for you?
EW: Creating a line of greeting cards and prints with The Bremerton Letterpress granted me an opportunity to consider my art works on more of a designer level. Always striving for balance of passion and profession, purposeful art can help us find grounding. The line of floral and vegetable watercolors reminds me that art can convey the importance of gardening, cooking, and eventually the ability to achieve planetary balance. This can holistically remedy crises in food sovereignty, education gaps, human health, and connections to our place and peoples.
MB: I love how you find so many connections between all of your passions! Let’s shift gears and talk about the changes that the COVID pandemic and 2020 brought. Now that we’re deep into 2021, what shifts, if any, have you had to make this last year and a half?
EW: My baby was three months old when quarantine hit, so there were several awkward adjustments of adaptability. Each home has become a whole village. Dedicated to infinite and tangible education through nature, my kindergartener experienced my style of education that may include daily cooking-math, chore-yoga, and flora-fauna care. I transposed my Montessori Spanish curriculum to online classes. Labels for Warrior Peak Botanicals' goods were painted while I was nursing my infant in a rocking chair. I have been enjoying the accessibility of Norwegian folk art classes online with Vesterheim Museum. This year has helped me discover more of the simplicity necessary for sustainable survival.
MB: I love that! For me simplicity has been crucial. What else has been happening in your life lately, where has your focus been landing?
EW: Watching the community grow at an alarming rate, I hope the people moving into this area will love the nature here as much as I do. I am curating several sets of "Life Recipes" that can empower humans' practical life skills in a way that we can enjoy daily responsibilities and restore health on Earth. We now know that building soil carbon through gardening can reverse the effects of climate change. What feels genuinely good is that way for a reason. I realized how holistically healing gardening can be for our bodies, minds, and the planet.
MB: Gardening is such a practice in slowing down. Speaking of which… how do you feel about snail mail?
EW: It’s the real thing. Nothing substitutes for the feeling I get when I see beautiful script handwriting written by a real person. Letters can be infinitely inventive. Exchanging heart-thoughts on paper is so thoughtful and creative. It is deliberate and intentional - the receiver of a hand-chosen, handwritten card knows they are cared for.
MB: Yes! You’re speaking my language. Now, if you could make one magical change to your artistic routine OR to your art studio, what would it be and why?
EW: In Montessori training I learned that the most important component to focus is a properly prepared environment - holding a space for creative flow. An orderly mise en place (with all tools at hand) for all members of the family may allow a mother a chance to do other work she enjoys. Perhaps a magical bubble of focus and flow would allow the inspiration to work through my hands with ease.
MB: A magical bubble indeed! Which brings me to my final question: What is your vision for the future of our greeting card collaboration? And tell us a little about GPC, the charity you’ve chosen to support with our collaboration.
EW: I like to incorporate the visual styles that get me excited to live my best life. Life recipes and produce charts are fun and purposeful. Watercolor info-art that inspires garden-to-table connections can incorporate classic rosemaling design. Traditions are important to human existence - and they adapt to the needs of the planet. We can do this!
And being on the west side of the water, I’ve chosen to support the Great Peninsula Conservancy. They protect the wilds of Kitsap Peninsula. The Farm was donated to them to be protected, and they continually buy land to conserve.
MB: Thank you Elise! What a joy to hear more about your inspiration and the values that motivate your work. I appreciate your time, and wish you all the best with the many irons you have in the fire. Be well!
Thank you for reading! To learn more about Elise follow her online @joyful.plant, and learn more about her work at www.joyfulplant.com. And be sure to check out the great efforts of Great Peninsula Conservancy at www.greatpeninsula.org.
Always in collaboration,