To whet your appetite for the upcoming MN Made event on Saturday, April 9th, we asked seed artist, Liz Schreiber to give us an inside look at how she got into the practice of transforming a material best known for agricultural creation into art. Liz will be hosting a seed art activity (the first of four D.I.Y. workshops) at noon as part of the day’s festivities. So start thinking of what portrait you want to make!
What compelled you to start making seed art and how long have you been at it?
The first piece I made was in 2004. I am not originally from Minnesota, but it wasn’t long till I discovered the state fair and all its somewhat hidden gems, including crop art. Along with what became an annual pilgrimage to see the shellacked cow’s stomach, crop art was always one of the big highlights of the fair for me. I fell in love, and as with most great art, it inspired me to want to jump in and make something too.
Are you self-taught or did you have any key mentors or teachers?
Other than just looking at other people’s pieces at the fair, I really didn’t have any formal mentor. A lot of people have compared my work to Lillian Coltan’s, whom I adore, but other than doing portraits I feel like our work is pretty different. I like to work in just seeds without any painting going on in my images. I did refer to the web site cropart.com for a lot of basic info, where to get seeds etc.
Could you describe your seed collection–how many different varieties and best storage solutions?
My seed collection has been steadily growing since I started working with them. I would guess I have about 40 varieties, all in jars to try and keep the critters who like to dine on them out.
Where do you get your seeds?
I buy a lot of basic stuff at the co-op, and grocery store, but have made a couple special trips to seed houses that might carry something a little harder to find. They sometimes charge a fee to open up a big 100 lb. bag, since I only need a pound or so. They usually get a kick out of showing you what they have. One guy was yuking it up with me and put some cheerios in a bag and told me they were donut seeds. Somehow I don’t think I was the first victim of this joke.
Your work tends to focus on portraits of famous people, i.e. Bo Diddley, Colonel Sanders, Joan Jett, to name a few. How do you choose your subjects and do you ever make work that isn’t portrait-based?
I started out doing a portrait of Slim Whitman from an album cover, and have consequently done a number of portraits since. There’s something about the quality of a finished portrait I really love, no matter how good you may be at translating an image, it always retains this sort of naive quality which I think was the thing that endeared me so to it in the first place. Choosing a subject is always the hardest part of making a piece for me. I spend damn near the whole year between state fairs thinking of who I’d like to do. The choice is usually either a commission and chosen for me (in the case of Joan Jett, Gene Simmons, and Gnarls Barkley),or in the case of my choices it’s someone who I’m a little in love with for one reason or another, and begs to be done in seeds. The only other non portrait piece I’ve done was an image of the air organ we play in our band, The Royal Artist.
Are there any seed art portraits you’re dying to make?
The funny thing is I keep thinking about doing pieces again that I’ve already done. I really want to do another Slim Whitman, and I also want to do another Frankenstein but a full body portrait. Both are pieces that I sold and that I miss dearly.
Where do you keep your 2006 1st place blue ribbon from the MN State Fair?
My 2006 ribbon is in a special place with all my other ribbons from State Fair winnings, a little cabinet with drawers that a friend of mine painted and holds other treasures, kind of a 3-D scrapbook.
What advice would you give to anyone interested in entering seed art into the MN State Fair?
I would encourage anyone who is interested to check out the web site cropart.com as well as just seeing some pieces in person. It really is a different experience seeing a piece in person. It seems there are a lot of new people entering the state fair every year, which I love. I encourage everyone that’s interested to give it a try. Also if they are entering the State Fair they need the Ag-Hort-Bee hand booklet with all the rules. A surprising amount of rules actually.
Do you ever exhibit your work at places other than the MN State Fair?
I have exhibited along with some other fine crop artists at a gallery in NE last year, but never done my own show. The pieces are so time consuming I usually am only good for a couple a year, so I’d have to recollect a bunch that are now sold to have enough for a show. I’m not the kind of person who can do a little here and a little there I like to go all out and only work on a piece till it’s done, really focus. The god’s honest truth is I’m usually glad when it’s over. It’s somewhat taxing, but the payoff is sweet.
I’ve heard you play in a Siamese twin polka band. What are you called and when’s your next show?
Lady Hard On is the name of the band. It’s me and my friend Faith Farrell conjoined and each playing our separate half of our air organ. We have a number of outfits I’ve made over the years, and we will be doing a CD/calendar release sometime coming up this year, TBA on our facebook page. Our calendar is out for 2012, just in time for the end of the world.