40 – Crystal Marie of Canary Rising

This week we interview Crystal Marie, an artist and author with a passion for teaching others how to find and discover their own unique voice. Crystal has an established career as a professional artist with gallery representation, a published book on the art of collage, and she’s currently writing a book about the intuitive voice. She teaches online workshops and runs a community for creatives called Canary Rising.

You’ll want to listen closely as Crystal share so many great insights about listening to your intuitive voice and pushing through fear to find the gold. I know you’re going to love Crystal as much as we do.

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Topics discussed

  • Crystal’s Startist story beginning her art career in her 30s after a nervous breakdown
  • How a co-worker transformed her life with one simple action
  • How Crystal rediscovered her inner artist and gave herself permission to play
  • How she started selling her art and connecting with others through eBay and blogging
  • Her shift from whimsical collages to abstract collage
  • Crystal’s exposure to art retreats and how she began teaching at them
  • How Crystal got an offer from a publisher attending an art retreat and how long it took her to submit a book proposal
  • Crystal’s process of writing and photographing her first book, The Art of Expressive Collage
  • How Crystal got gallery representation
  • How to move past fear and go after what you want
  • How Crystal ended up giving Nikki her first encaustic teaching gig in Paducah
  • Living as an artist with chronic illness and autism and how they can affect your ability to teach/work
  • Creating her community, Canary Rising, on Facebook (shifting from Patreon)
  • How Canary Rising grew during Covid when Crystal moved to teaching online, starting with free workshops in her Facebook group
  • Her new website canaryrising.com and the shift to her own teaching platform
  • And finally, Crystal’s best advice for artists getting started and following their intuition

Laura

0:00
In this interview, we talked to Crystal Marie, an artist and author with a passion for teaching others how to find and discover their own unique voice. Crystal has an established career as a professional artist with gallery representation, a published book on the art of collage, and she’s currently writing a book about the intuitive voice. She teaches online workshops and runs a community for creatives called Canary Rising.

Nikki

0:27
You’ll want to listen closely as Crystal shares so many great insights about listening to your intuitive voice and pushing through fear to find the gold. I know you’re gonna love Crystal as much as I do.

Laura

0:41
Hi, this is Laura Lee Griffin.

Nikki

0:43
And this is Nikki May with the Startist Society, inspiring you to stop getting in your own way and start building an art biz and life that you love.

Laura

0:52
We are artists who believe strongly in the power of community, accountability, following your intuition, taking small actionable steps and breaking down the barriers of fear and procrastination that keep you stuck.

Nikki

1:07
Follow along with us on our creative business journey as we encourage you on yours.

Laura

1:15
So Nikki, who are we talking to today?

Nikki

1:18
Laura, today we’re talking to my friend, the fabulous artist, Crystal Marie, of Canary Rising.

Laura

1:25
Crystal, welcome to the Startist Society. We’re so happy to have you here.

Crystal

1:30
Thank you. I’m happy to be here.

Nikki

1:32
So Crystal, I had to look this up, but you and I met online 12 years ago. And we finally met in person three years ago. I first got to know you as someone working in encaustic. I was trying to remember – I think my first connection to you – I’m not sure how I found you – but I bought one of your encaustic pieces of jewelry.

Crystal

1:54
Yes, you did, actually on Etsy.

Nikki

1:56
Yeah. Yeah, so I know, your background is a good bit in encaustic, but I know these days, you’re doing more collage and less encaustic, right?

Crystal

2:06
Well, actually, my background is collage and encaustic came after. So what you’re referring to was kind of the first little fledgling steps into the world of encaustic for me, I first started using encaustic just to seal and protect my collage works. And then I was taking a jewelry metalsmithing class at my local junior community college. And we had an assignment that I just did not want to do. So I started playing with the materials, like making a utensil, and I wasn’t interested. So I started playing with some alternative materials and paper and encaustic then became the structure for that assignment and then launched that whole new line and workshops on top of it.

Nikki

2:52
Okay, so let’s step back even even further. We always like to start with somebody’s what we call Startist story. So can you tell us a bit about how you got started even before that, how you got started in your art career, and just all the different things that you do?

Crystal

3:09
I can actually, I, um tongue in cheek say that the beginning of my art career was my nervous breakdown when I was in my 30s.

Nikki

3:21
Tell us about that.

Crystal

3:22
It really did not look much different than what would be, you know, kind of what would be a breakdown like that. I was a young, single mom with three kids. I’m gonna say young, comparatively, because I was in my 30s. I was very young when I had my first child. And so by the time I met my husband, at that time, who had four children and had also been a very young dad, I had teenagers…were my kids. His were first grade through teenager and and mine were already middle school and up.

Nikki

4:05
Brady Bunch

Crystal

4:06
Brady Bunch was the affectionate term and then the actual reality was more like Brady Bunch Behind the Scenes when Peter and Jan are in the doghouse getting high or something. The reality really wasn’t the same as the TV show. A very difficult thing yeah. And having what at the time was diagnosed as lupus, chronic illness. I entered that marriage as a full time project manager in the printing industry, with my own three children. And then he had four and he had custody of his as well. So we moved. We naively moved our seven children into the same house with one bathroom.

Nikki

4:53
Oh my gosh.

Crystal

4:54
Yeah, and somehow I thought this was going to work and I worked really hard to make it work, because I have a really hard time admitting when I’m wrong.

Nikki

5:04
I can’t even share a bathroom with one man.

Crystal

5:07
Can you imagine?

Nikki

5:08
No.

Crystal

5:09
When I look back on it now I’m like, oh my gosh, I’m amazed that the kids didn’t like, you know, retaliate in some more extreme way, typical teenage rebellion. But it was a very difficult time. And my job as a project manager was extremely stressful, high stress, very low creativity. And I had long forgotten my dream of being an artist, which was my dream when I was in high school. But I was a teenage mom. And I did graduate from high school, but it was in the 80s, so they made me stay home with a tutor while I was pregnant. I was allowed to go back, but I had to go back to the public school. So at the time, I was going to school, a private high school, Illinois State University’s teaching high school. So I had this amazing curriculum of art classes available to me at that school. And my big long-shot dream was to go to the Art Institute in Chicago, which I never did get to do. And by the time I was in my 30s, and remarrying in that household with seven children, I had long forgotten that part of my life. And so after a year of working full time, trying really hard to make a really bad marriage work, and seven very wise and unhappy children, I completely broke down to the point where I just really could not even get out of bed in the morning and brush my hair, let alone think about going to work. So I had to quit.

And this year, I was diagnosed on the autism spectrum. So now I know that what was really happening was autistic burnout, which is – I’ve hit that wall several times in my life and I was kind of hitting it this year when I had to get the diagnosis. And so it’s been kind of revolutionary, but I didn’t know that that was what was happening at the time. So in the process of kind of rebuilding from there, I rediscovered the art side of me, the artist in me. The job that I had, they were pretty good about letting me take a leave and then come back. To supplement our income, I worked part time for a while. And there was a point where I was at my desk working part time on a short term assignment and a woman walked by my desk and handed me a magazine. It happened to be a Somerset Studio magazine, which I had never heard of before. And if you’ve not heard of them, they’re a mixed media magazine, very kind of whimsical, and I’m almost gonna kind of say, some of it borderline scrapbooking, but some of them just wildly amazing art. I opened that magazine sitting at my desk at that job and I started weeping and I had to close it and put it in my purse. It was such a visceral response; I could hardly wait to get home and explore more. And that’s what started my journey into collage and back into art making. It was just one of those silver lining kind of moments or serendipitous kind of moments.

Laura

5:21
And our bodies are so wise.

Crystal

6:48
Very much so. It was something that was just reawakening or something that was recognized that was actually me inside the pages of that magazine, that I had lost or locked up long ago and refused to let out because it was just too painful to try to figure out how to do both, a young mom and also nurture that creative side of me.

Nikki

8:52
Yeah, so Laura and I, neither one of us have kids, but we totally get that closing off that part of ourselves for a long time and it reawakening. So tell us about how you went from that, that visceral moment of Oh, my god, you’re in those pages of the magazine, to actually making art part of your life again.

Crystal

9:15
It was a process and the process was really kind of the foundation of where I’m at and what I do when I teach and when I work today. And it began with just giving myself permission to play. Just giving myself permission to try the things that I saw. So I ran out to the bookstore and the only book that I could find on the shelf at the time that had any tutorial kind of information, and it seemed interesting, was by an artist named Claudine Helmuth.

Nikki

9:44
Oh, yeah.

Crystal

9:45
You remember? Okay, so she had these really cool whimsical paintings with old photographs that she would cut out, and I brought it home and bought all the supplies and tried my hand at it, and it was terrible. I mean, it was just the absolute worst, I still have…

Nikki

10:00
Okay, but how much fun was it?

Crystal

10:02
It was amazing. You know, it was just the worst possible results and the most possible excitement for the process. And I did keep going and would jump online to find her and in the process found all kinds of other artists that were in the pages of that magazine. And this was before, it was actually before Etsy. And before Facebook – Facebook wasn’t a thing for adults then, it was only allowed for college students, we weren’t allowed to be on it. And so we connected on eBay; people were selling their art on eBay at the time. And we had groups on eBay for artists and for all kinds of interests. I think they still do. But I joined groups for mixed media artists, and started doing round robin swaps, and ATC, which was artist trading cards, things like that, and made some really solid connections, started blogging in 2006 on Blogger, at the encouragement of all of the artists that I was meeting on eBay, and eventually started selling my work there.

Crystal

11:11
And I just developed this attitude of what’s the worst thing that could happen. I’ve already had the breakdown, right? I’ve like already, like quit the job, I was so afraid to let go of, we’re already somehow making it. I was scraping by selling things on eBay at the time, which is how I got connected on eBay, I was selling collectibles, to make some cash, you know, to buy groceries. So I just developed this attitude of why not? Like what’s the worst thing that can happen?

Nikki

11:42
That’s a great attitude.

Laura

11:43
It is.

Crystal

11:44
Yeah. So it was that process, I taught myself different roles in the studio than I had in my life. Because I had a lot of rules in my life that bound me and actually helped with like, kind of a catalyst to that breakdown, like trying to be perfect at everything to prove myself to people, because I felt so horrible on the inside about who I actually was. And that process of sitting down at the table and creating art became very healing and very cathartic for me. I didn’t realize that that was what was going on. I just knew I was having fun and enjoying it. And I couldn’t wait to get back in there every day.

Nikki

12:25
And it’s such a great way to just tune out everything else that’s going on in your life for at least that period of time, right?

Laura

12:33
Yeah. And to be in the moment, I find that, when you’re really involved in the process of creating, it’s sort of like everything else falls away.

Crystal

12:42
Absolutely. Absolutely.

Nikki

12:44
So talk to us a bit about how it went from just something you were trying because you were excited about how it felt to your life… it became your life.

Crystal

12:57
So I started developing a style pretty quickly. And my style at the time was very whimsical. And it was all about those old fashioned cabinet card photos that you would find. And so I eventually started cutting out those the people in those old photographs and gluing them to my collages. And all my collages were very whimsical, there always was a theme. And to this day, I still get a kind of a sense of what the work is about that at the time, I would get the sense of what it was about, and it was very whimsical themes. And I would have to glue the words and the people on to the collage so that you knew what the theme was. And of course, all the people always had to have hats and butterfly wings. Because you know…

Nikki

13:48
That was the time, that was very trendy at the time.

Crystal

13:53
It was very trendy at the time and it very much fueled my just my permission to play, because it wasn’t serious art, it was just playful and fun. And healing and exciting. And as I developed my style, some of the people in those groups that I was connecting with and trading with started to encouraged me to try selling my work on eBay. So I thought, well, why not? You know what, what’s the worst that can happen? So it started selling and it started selling well. And I developed a following there. And then I started blogging. And in that time, that blogs were all the thing. So we connected with other artists through our blogs, did blog hops and things like that to promote each other. And eventually my style, I started to look at what the collage… what was happening in the background behind the people, behind the words that I was gluing to. And those stories that were so important to me, I started realizing it was the collage that I was connecting with more than the people or the words on the collage. And I started changing my style and leaving off the whimsical part. And it was back to that feeling of very vulnerable… Now I’ve got a following of people, I’ve got people buying my work, will they reject me? It was a whole big thing to have to let go of all of those fears, and just give myself permission, again, to shift.

Laura

15:28
And I think a lot of artists have those exact same fears of looking at, I have multiple things that are tugging at my heart, and maybe I want to go in this direction, but everybody’s expecting something else from me. And how do I shift? So what was your experience with that shift?

Crystal

15:44
Um most of the pushback was internal for me at the time. I mean, I… not like I had galleries that were expecting me to maintain, it was just an audience. And really, it was more in the perception of my head of what would and wouldn’t be acceptable. But for me, that was part of the core packaging, I grew up in a household with an alcoholic father, and a mother who was very afraid and learned to lessen her fears by controlling everything that she could externally, which she couldn’t control what dad was up to, so she controlled my brother and I, not in a bad way, but just, you know, having high expectations about what we looked like, how we presented ourselves to the world, so that the world didn’t know what was going on, you know, with dad behind closed doors. And you grow up in that kind of environment, and you create rules for yourself without realizing it. And it’s all about what do other people think. And so that what do other people think thing flares up for me when I’m stepping out of my comfort zone. So that was a big step out of the comfort zone. And all the work that I had to do was really more internal than anything, because, you know, of course, people didn’t freak out when I stopped gluing dolls to the front of my collages.

Nikki

17:12
I think we can all relate to that, you know, we have this idea of ourselves that we think people expect certain things of us. And really, you know, we have the freedom to do what we want. We just have to believe that, right?

Crystal

17:27
Yeah, that’s an amazing revelation, isn’t it? It’s taken almost 20 years to figure that one out. But it’s been incremental…

Nikki

17:34
Yeah. So I didn’t come across your work until after that phase, because I don’t even remember seeing any of that whimsical side of it. I saw the more abstract collage.

Crystal

17:47
It’s an interesting thing, because I then eventually, when I started developing a reputation for my style I have now and where you found me, the new “what will people think was in fear of what would they think if they found out that I used to glue…”

Nikki

18:03
Where you came from…

Crystal

18:07
It took me a while to integrate those two sides.

Nikki

18:10
Everybody has to start somewhere.

Crystal

18:13
Exactly.

Nikki

18:14
So talk to us a bit about you kind of, I feel like you came into your own with your style. And how did that turn into things like, I know, you wrote a book about expressive collage, you’re represented in galleries, and now you’re teaching… Tell us kind of how you got from the beginning stages to that.

Crystal

18:40
Well, I got there because I didn’t know any better. Because I did not go to school…

Nikki

18:44
That’s awesome.

Crystal

18:45
Yeah, I didn’t, I didn’t go to school so, I didn’t get to go to college at all. So I didn’t get the art degree, I didn’t get the formal training. I didn’t know how other people did it. You know, I just didn’t know how to apply to be in a gallery or in a show or anything like that.

Nikki

19:03
And what you also didn’t know was that even those of us who went to art school didn’t learn that.

Crystal

19:09
Exactly, exactly, but you have this perception, right? The more you get into the art world, the more there is this perception that there’s a right way and a wrong way to do things. And even within this circle of – or this new group of people that I found, I learned that there were approved ways of behaving and unapproved ways of behaving and I still don’t fit in. I do not fit the norm. And it’s crazy because there’s so many artists and so many styles, that the norms vary from circle to circle, but yet we do come into it thinking that there is just a right way and a wrong way and a right time and a wrong time to even call ourselves an artist, that we have to achieve a certain thing to be allowed to say that and It’s just not true.

Laura

20:01
We had an entire episode all about that.

Crystal

20:03
Did you? That’s one of my pet peeves,

Nikki

20:07
Yeah. So okay, so not knowing what you were “supposed to do.” What did you do? How did you move into those worlds?

Crystal

20:16
So it started for me online learning about different art retreats, where people that were published in those magazines so Somerset Studios and Cloth, Paper, Scissors type magazines, were teaching at these big retreats that would meet for an entire week. And, you know, hundreds of students would show up and take as many workshops from as many artists as they could at once. It was just like a feeding frenzy of creativity. And, and I looked at one of the, I think it was Art and Soul where I first taught and knew that I couldn’t afford to go partake of the workshops that I was seeing. But immediately I wanted to teach at these venues.

Nikki

21:05
And had you taught before?

Crystal

21:06
No, never.

Nikki

21:08
Awesome.

Crystal

21:08
I very much embellished my application.

Nikki

21:12
It’s okay, we won’t tell anybody. Your secret’s safe with us.

Crystal

21:18
On your resume, you know, they say like, highlight your strengths and minimize, okay, so I have my teaching experience, I wrote on my resume or the application for that first teaching position that I had taught beading. And I had on a one-on-one basis when I stood at the counter selling beads. And I had to learn how to like do the bindings and string and all that. So I considered that my teaching experience, and I wrote it down on my resume. But the biggest thing that they’re looking for is your unique style, and that you have developed an audience already because the audience will, you know, they’re the ones that are going to come and pay for the seat in your class. That was the biggest thing that was important to the the host of the venues. I applied for the very first one and got accepted. It was just one of those like, oh, why not? I’ll just try it. And maybe if I don’t get accepted I’ll work towards doing it next year. And I got accepted. And then it was like, oh, shoot, now I have to figure out how to teach.

Laura

22:28
So what did you teach in that workshop?

Crystal

22:30
Um, it might still be in here, but I taught collage. I was very ambitious. I always am in my classes still. I taught collage. But then we did these acrylic cut out sandwiches that we lifted off of that, like they were set out away from the collage as focal points, with findings, jewelry findings. I was mixing all the things I was interested in at the time.

Laura

22:57
Truly mixed media.

Crystal

22:58
Yeah, truly mixed media, but just completely different than what a lot of people are doing.

Nikki

23:04
Do you happen to remember what year this was, approximately?

Crystal

23:07
Hmm, I’ve been teaching, it would have been approximately around the time you and I connected, about 12 years ago or so. So yeah, maybe maybe closer to 14 or 15 years ago now that I’ve been teaching. So actually, one of the, like, the third year that I was teaching, I think I taught wax and wire jewelry, which was one of the pieces that you bought at the time. So yeah.

Nikki

23:31
All right. So you’re finding your own style, you’re starting to teach… what was next for you?

Crystal

23:38
Um, I think the opportunities just started coming. Once you start getting out there, once you start developing, and especially when you’re doing it online like that, because your reach is just so much greater. Now I’ve met people who start teaching and are surprised that I started this way, who think you have to work up by starting at your local art league or whatever. And then it just takes so long to get that kind of following. What happened then was when the publisher started to notice me, and it was the person who does the scouting, actually lived in Phoenix, where I was teaching at one of those retreats.

Nikki

24:18
And are we talking about Northlight Books?

Crystal

24:22
Yes, Tanya Tinney, yes, was my editor and she noticed the wax and wire jewelry line, and reached out and asked if I’d like to write a book about it. And of course, my answer was yes. And then of course, I freaked out and had a meltdown.

Nikki

24:39
Of course.

Crystal

24:41
So again, like back to that diagnosis that I just had kind of revolutionary like why that happens to me, but at the time, it was just like, overwhelming. It was just too overwhelming to think about all the steps that I needed to do to actually do a query and all that stuff. So she’s scouting, but then I have to go through all the steps of submitting a proposal and all that stuff. It took me five years from the time that she approached me to the time that I finally had my query letter and project in mind to submit, and it was no longer the jewelry pieces. So I’m glad that I waited. But the wait was not an intentional wait, it was fear based and overwhelm.

Laura

25:25
But it’s also a proof that it’s okay, if you’re not ready at a specific time, it can take a little longer and you can still get an amazing result, like not to just give up.

Crystal

25:35
Absolutely. That’s a big deal in the studio too. And giving up in life and giving up in on your art before it’s time, you know, it’s the same thing to me.

Nikki

25:46
Okay, so we’re talking as if people know what we’re talking about. But we didn’t actually mention what the book was. So tell us about this book, specifically.

Crystal

25:57
I’m like looking around, oh, there it is. The Art of Expressive Collage. I can never remember all the words after that. It’s The Art of Expressive Collage. Because they did not like the word intuitive at the time, and all in the writing on the inside is about… there it is, thanks, Nikki.

Nikki

26:15
I just grabbed it casually off the shelf.

Crystal

26:18
Techniques for Creating with Paper and Glue. Like mine’s in the bottom of a pile.

Nikki

26:23
It’s a beautiful book.

Crystal

26:25
On the inside, I absolutely abhor the cover. To this day, I cringe when I see the cover of that book. Alright, so for one thing, it looks like a science slide, the way they cropped it and blew it up.

Nikki

26:39
I will say that your work is more beautiful than the cover of the book for sure.

Crystal

26:45
That was an accidental submission and they wound up with on the cover, and all I was doing was trying to give them a few pieces with some expressive mark making in it since they were so insistent on using the expressive in the the title, they did not think the word intuitive would sell. And all the writing inside is about my process and my process is, I call it my intuitive process, or listening to the intuitive voice. And that’s what fires me up. So I have this dream of getting the book republished with a new title and a new cover.

Nikki

27:24
It seems like a reasonable thing to do. So tell us a bit about the experience of putting the book together.

Crystal

27:34
It’s intense, I can either do writing or I can do art, right, I have a hard time shifting back and forth between my writing brain and my my art making brain even though it is the same creative part of my brain. But it just seems to be, I have to kind of immerse myself. So I had to immerse myself in the writing. And then to pull myself out of the writing and do some of the projects…it was a big back and forth process. But publishing a book with a publisher like that is a very long process, which is a surprise to some people. I think from the time that that submission finally happened to the time of having the book in my hand was two years. And that was their schedule. So yeah, so it was actually a decent block of time for me to work through all the things that I needed to work through to get the thing done, but that for me is a lot of talking myself off the ledge of anxiety. I can do this and then and then I get immersed in it and it just you know it starts to flow.

Laura

28:49
And did you take all the pictures that are in the book yourself?

Crystal

28:52
A lot of them. There was a photoshoot involved. So once it was already approved and edited, and we went through all that process, then I did go to Cincinnati for a week to do the bulk of the photo shoot, but a lot of the on location kind of photo shoot with process shots. Yeah, some of the shots were me holding a camera on one hand and a paintbrush in the other you know gluing because I didn’t have the equipment. So you do what you got to do.

Nikki

29:21
We’ve all been there.

Laura

29:23
So at what point did you go from the book then, to being in, I believe you’re in a couple of galleries now? What was that process like?

Crystal

29:31
Um, the first gallery was around the same time and that one is in Scottsdale, Arizona. And so that kind of happened organically in stages. I connected with the gallery owner, which is Jason Horejs, owner of Xanadu Gallery and he has a pretty dynamic blog for artists who would like to get into galleries. It’s an advice kind of blog. So I connected with him first just by reading his blog, Red Dot Blog, which is pretty incredible. That’s something that you want to shoot for is gallery representation. Then I took I, somebody sent me his book, I think is how I found out about him. And so I read his book, it was the first book that I had ever read that made sense to me, it was easy to read, it was easy to follow his advice. So I signed up for one of his workshops, he came to Wisconsin, and I lived in Illinois at the time. So it was a pretty short drive. And the workshop was excellent. A couple years later, I wound up vending at a table at an encaustic conference for a friend standing at a table next to him. And he remembered me from his workshop, which was really surprising because he travels and sees lots of faces.

Nikki

30:51
Obviously, you made an impression.

Crystal

30:53
Well, yeah. Sometimes I’m not sure what those impressions are, but yeah. He was offering 15 minute consultations for artists at that conference. So I signed up to have my portfolio reviewed. And I happened to have a portfolio of my work with me, not just images. And as he was leafing through them, I was asking him, I want to know, am I ready? What do I need to do to be ready to approach a gallery? And he’s nodding and he’s saying oh, yeah, yeah, these are really good. Yeah, I think, you know what, I actually do think you’re ready. And he sat there for a minute and said, as a matter of fact, I’d be happy to represent you.

Nikki

31:36
Hot damn.

Crystal

31:39
Okay, so that’s exciting enough. But to know Jason’s style, it’s pretty phenomenal, because he believes in an artist actually walking in the door, shaking the hand of whoever’s working and asking on the spot, will you review my portfolio, which is pretty gutsy. And it has not worked for me.

Nikki

32:01
A lot of people say not to do that.

Crystal

32:05
And his advice is just the opposite. And I’m sure it would work if I was more diligent, but but it did work with him. And just having him look at my portfolio. So that started, it built my confidence. And then I decided when I was teaching, I would look for galleries in the areas that I was teaching. So the second one came in Seattle, that was teaching in that area. And that time, I just started sending out inquiries to galleries that I felt were good fits for me, I did my research in advance, started sending letters, hey, I’m going to be in the city this week, you know, that week of and I would love to bring my portfolio in for you to review, if you would like to meet with me. And I did get a response back from one of the galleries in Pioneer Square and an appointment. And she did take me on as well.

Nikki

32:56
That’s awesome.

Crystal

32:57
Yeah, it’s just a matter of, I think when you see a tiny crack and a door opening, stick your foot in it and pull that baby open. Like, don’t wait, you know, that’s been my philosophy. I waited till I was 35, I think, before I finally started to reconnect with my art life, and my philosophy was really centered around, I have no more time to waste. I, you know, I lost the first portion of my adult years trying to figure life out and then working at a job that really was not suitable for me, that project management, high stress, low creativity was just a bad fit for me. But I was too afraid to let go of it and to figure out what was a good fit at the time. And once I found art, I changed completely, my philosophy is no longer, you know, holding back because I’m afraid but moving forward in spite of being afraid.

NIKKI

33:55
That’s such great advice, because we so often let fear stop us from even trying, and that philosophy of well, I mean, why not? Why not try? What could possibly go wrong? Right? I mean…

Laura

34:10
Which is exactly what this entire podcast is about, it’s in our name. The Startist Society, because so much of us have a fear of getting started. And that just, once you open up that door, or maybe kick it open, then you you find that there’s so much opportunity there that you didn’t even know was available. But you have to take those mini steps first to have that blossom into something bigger.

Crystal

34:34
My conditioning as a child was so wrapped up in fear, as I shared earlier, but also that I was born in the 60s. And so I feel like in the 60s there were like this divided kind of like we are divided right now, but the division being this very traditional kind of family model and then the new model of you know, the women’s libbers, well I was in that very traditional model, women, you know, we served the men and everything was about the coupledom. You had to, you wanted security in life, your security came from having a secure man or a secure relationship. If you wanted, whatever you did in your life, it was about that coupledom. And for me, now looking at it and realizing how much that conditioning influenced my, up until that point in my life when I had that breakdown, and how up until that point, it was the fear, that would dictate what not to do, right? If I if I was afraid it was it meant, don’t do it, stay away, find a safety. Now my philosophy is everything I ever wanted is on the other side of fear. You just have to push through it. And that’s where the that’s where the ticket is. That’s where the gold is.

Laura

35:55
I agree 100%.

Nikki

35:56
That is so absolutely true. So, okay, I want to switch a little bit and talk about… so when I, when I was getting to know you a little bit, I know he used to teach quite a few workshops in your own studio and traveling to other locations. In fact, I taught my very first workshop because you were going to teach here in Paducah. And for some reason, for some reason you were unable to, and at the last minute, I actually taught not the exact workshop that you are going to teach. But I ended up teaching an encaustic workshop the weekend you were supposed to teach but. So I know that you had to switch from teaching in person to teaching online, I think, because you started having some ongoing health issues. You mentioned that you had originally maybe a misdiagnosis of lupus?

Crystal

36:53
I do have lupus, I do actually have mastocytosis, which is you know, there are all these automatic immune illnesses just kind of cascade and increase in severity over time. And it turns out that the ASD, the autism piece is actually kind of the link for me. But the truth is when you have an autoimmune illness that they do just kind of incrementally sometimes get worse. And so I do have what has now just mastocytosis with lupus at the time. And I would just, I’m utterly exhausted after I teach, whether it’s online or on location. And for the longest time, I’ve known that I need to figure out how to do the thing online that I do because I’m traveling all across the country, I do not travel light for my own personal needs, let alone for my teaching. Because I just don’t, I just bring so much stuff with me that I’m usually pulling, I fly Southwest because of the two free bags and I take every drop of weight they allow me, so two fifty pound bags, and I’m the obnoxious person on with all the carry on luggage that you know, like running into people. And it’s utterly exhausting. By the time you get home, I’m usually in bed for a week. And it would just get worse and worse. Over the years, it got harder and harder. But I’m tech challenged. And the time that it takes for me to learn something new is, it just takes longer, my learning style just takes longer. And so I avoided it. I put it off for so long, because I just never had the time to figure out the equipment, and the editing software and all the stuff that you have to do different online than you do in person. So really wasn’t until the start of the pandemic, and the pandemic forced me to figure it out. And I just kind of winged it, which is kind of how I’ve done my entire art career. Like, okay, here I am.

Laura

39:05
You’re in good company with Nikki.

Nikki

39:09
Really. So I think it’s brilliant that you did that. And you didn’t let you’re not knowing how to figure out the tech stop you you were just like, Okay, what do I have in front of me and you had grown… First I want to backtrack a little bit and talk about the Facebook group, Canary Rising, that you’ve grown over the last few years, and I’m part of that group. And I looked and saw that you have like 2000 people in there.

Crystal

39:39
It just hit 2000.

Nikki

39:42
So I know that you started your teaching, your online teaching through that group. But let’s go back and talk about how you started that group and how you grew such a large and engaged following on that group and turned it into where you started your online teaching.

Crystal

39:59
The group started kind of a fledgling attempt to figure out ways to bring in an income in a way that was more sustainable for me. So I started the Patreon account years ago. And that turned out to be just so much more work for such little income that I kinda started and stopped a couple of times before I realized like, it’s just not going to happen for me. Because really to make Patreon work, the model is all about the tiers of incentives that people that are signing up get, and you’re getting a whole lot away for a little bit, you know, compared to their model, and it’s just not going to happen until you’ve got a larger amount of people. And so the group was one of the incentives for that. And I think I had a couple hundred people at one point, because I just started saying, hey, you know, here’s a new incentive for the group. And it just…

Nikki

40:57
I believe that’s how I found out about the group and joined it to by supporting you on Patreon.

Crystal

41:03
Right. And so it was just such a full time job. It was, again, I kind of did the crash and burn, burnout experience, had to put it on hold, just kept teaching. And then so I had maybe a couple hundred people in the group at the start of 2020, which is why I have such a huge, cheesy grin on my face when you talk about how big it is now, because that all happened from March 2020 till now.

Nikki

41:32
Wow, I didn’t realize that.

Crystal

41:33
Just a little over a year that it’s grown to 2000 from 200. And it started with the free workshop. I taught my last in person workshop in San Diego, in March 2020. On the way there knowing there’s this pandemic thing happening. How bad is it? We’re not really sure. There was lots of conversations between the host and I about what to do. And we decided to, to go ahead and do it. By the time I came home, things were on lockdown or starting to lock down. So we weren’t even sure if I was going to be allowed to fly home. Because airplanes, that you know that was to happen. I jumped online at the airport in San Diego kind of, I don’t know high on the energy of the last class I had taught because it was a really remarkable experience. It was one of those groups of people where that was as rewarding for me as it was for the students. You know, it was just an experience. And I was so high off that energy, I jumped online and did a Facebook Live from the airport and said, I’m going to do this thing. I’m going to come live every day and just talk to you guys, because this thing is happening. And we don’t know what’s going on. So I started tuning in live on Facebook, which is so far out of my comfort zone that I had to do it. I mean, because now it’s not just I’m teaching but I’m in front of a camera, right? And I’m talking and more than 13 people in a room can see me screw up.

Nikki

43:04
Yeah, Laura and I need to listen really carefully here. Because this is what we keep saying we need to do and we’re letting fear not completely stop us, but slow us down.

Laura

43:17
Yeah, we dipped our toe in the water, though.

Nikki

43:19
Yes

Crystal

43:19
It does have a little bit of traction or a drag, that fear does. But I also think that it gives us boosts that we don’t give credit, fear for giving us.

Nikki

43:29
So you went live in, in the group. And you…

Crystal

43:32
No, I went live, I went live on my public account and I taught, and so I announced… I went… by the time I got home, it was locked down. I thought I was gonna do like two weeks of quarantine and go see my grandkids. And before that happened, it was completely, Illinois was locked down. So everything was do it online, or don’t do it at all

Nikki

43:53
Right.

Crystal

43:54
And, you know, I’m driven by hunger, I had no money, I have to go, I have to teach, I have to eat right, I have to pay my rent. And so I had to figure it out. And I just kind of impulsively said I’m going to teach a free workshop. And I’m going to do it about the intuitive voice because that’s my passion. I’m gonna tell everybody how this works for me, and I’m going to use these collage exercises that I’ve been doing ever since I started teaching, I’ve been doing these collage exercises, because the collage exercises were the tool that I used to get past my own fears. Those fears in my studio would show up as, if I glue this really beautiful piece down and then I don’t like the collage I made that I’ve ruined it. It would be these really silly ways that they would show up but they’re huge and they’re crippling feeling in the studio.

Nikki

44:46
And we can all relate to that.

Crystal

44:48
Apparently, because it got… I mean it was pretty wild. I mean, so many people signed up something like 1000 people had signed up on the event page, you know 500… and by the time that class was done, I had 1000 people in the in the group.

Nikki

45:04
That’s amazing.

Crystal

45:05
So I taught the first lesson on my public account. And then I told everyone, hey, if you want the rest of this workshop, you got to come join the group. Because otherwise it’s going to get lost in your feed, and yada, yada, yada. All these reasons why it’s better to get into the group where it’s very much just about this class. So people signed up, people joined the group, I wound up teaching six lessons, just because I didn’t have a plan, it just took that long. Which was, I don’t know if it was every day or every other day, I don’t remember. So it was an incredible experience for me, teaching live on Facebook, with my camera, on a tripod, you know, and just figuring things out.

Nikki

45:47
And that first one was free, right?

Crystal

45:50
The first one was free. And it gave people the ability to see my own style, my teaching style, my ability to manage the view of the camera that they could actually see the projects that has gotten way better over the year, but it started just by, enough people liked it. And, and it also gave me the ability to figure it out. I don’t know software, I don’t know how to edit. I don’t know how to do all these things. But I know how to turn the camera, the cell phone on, and come on live on Facebook, I can do that. So that’s what I did.

Laura

46:28
And I love that that’s starting wherever you’re at. And so a lot of people do get so intimidated by technology, that they’re like, Oh, I just, it’s too overwhelming. I’m just not going to do anything. But in this example, you were like, Okay, I know, Facebook, I know, I can turn my camera on, and I’m gonna make this work. How did that turn into a paid product for you.

Crystal

46:48
So after I taught that first one, and I realized that I actually could do this on Facebook, and that I realized I could actually open Facebook groups. There’s no limit on how many groups you can open. So I just decided to open a private group for the next class. And the next class then was the same class that I taught in San Diego, because it was a pretty phenomenal experience. And I think that was called Collage and the Intuitive Voice. And that was my first paid online class. And I should say, I do have online classes. I had workshops on video before that, but it was the publisher that did all the shooting, all the editing, and all the producing and all that stuff. I just showed up and taught and they told me you know where to sit, when to talk and all that stuff. So this was my first by myself experience doing it. So it just turned into this, okay, this pandemic thing is getting more serious, we are still under lockdown. My bank account is almost empty. And I’m like, seriously, I live from you know, event to event, paycheck to paycheck, just like a lot of people do. And it’s a motivator, right? When you know that it’s all on you. And at least it is for me. And when I know that it’s up to me to bring in an income I have to figure it out. And so that’s how it started for me.

Laura

48:09
So you started off on Facebook, you have these individual groups where you’re able to use that, basically, as your learning platform and the videos sit there, will you be transitioning at some point to a different platform.

Crystal

48:22
So where I’m at now is I am actually in the process of having a website built. After a year of teaching live online on Facebook, I set a really aggressive schedule for myself with workshops this past schedule. So it’s been like I’ve called the my master classes, six workshops that each have six lessons, but they were three hour long lessons. And I taught the first four. And by the end of the fourth one I was entering back into that kind of burnout phase. And actually the schedule was what led me to seek the diagnosis. When the autism thing started entering my radar. I had no idea I had very stereotypical understanding of what it was and so immediately just rejected that that could possibly be something that was at play for me. But then the more it kept popping up and the more I started paying attention to what it was actually versus what I thought it was, the more I realized that’s what was happening, and why it was so hard for me for the schedule I’d set for myself. It was pretty intense for just an average person, let alone for someone who needs great periods of time in between these overstimulating activities like teaching live for three hours online. It was like every other day for two weeks on and then I thought, okay, I’ve got four weeks between to just keep making samples and keep working. But it was kind of two weeks of intense teaching, crash, and then get rolling took some time to start working towards setting up for the next class, like you have to make samples, you have to start marketing, you have to do all the things. And then…

Laura

50:14
Which isn’t sustainable.

Crystal

50:15
It was not sustainable. And so by the end of the fourth one, when I need to boost my income, I throw another class in there. Because that’s what I have, that’s what I can do. And that’s what I have available to me. And I did the last one, it was a seminar, all the tech, all the live, Facebook Live tech, everything that could go wrong went wrong. I was so flustered by the end of that, it was just so painful that I knew that it was I have to do something different now. A because it was frustrating for me, but also it’s getting frustrating for the students that can’t find the videos that can’t stay connected, the live streaming was getting unreliable, for me as well as the users. And so I decided to go to a hybrid format for the for the fifth class, which is the one I just wrapped up. And that was, I decided to record the videos, and do live introductions. And so on the day of the class or day of the scheduled lesson, I would upload the lessons, but then continue with the conversation part live. And that worked out really well for me. Over the past year, I taught all those classes live. But I also taught a class that I did have to record and edit for another host. So that gave me some experience doing that. So it’s just been over time, just kind of getting the experience, figuring it out and going to the next stage. So that led me to realizing that it’s easier for me to maintain my own health, my own sanity, and deliver a better product if I’m recording the classes. I still love to do the live talking, I still love kind of that feeling of connection, turning the camera on and doing a live thing. But the lessons being edited, they don’t have to sit through every angle, camera changes I go through, which is a lot when I’m teaching from station to station, all that stuff is edited out. So it’s easier for me to manage, and a much better product for the student, which led me to start to look around to see what other teachers are doing. And that led me to a platform that actually hosts workshops and has some pretty phenomenal tools available to make the admin part a whole lot easier, but also for the participants. So they can log on to their account and whatever workshops they’ve bought will be in their library, they can just log on watch whenever they want to, at their own pace, always have a central place to find them. You know, so it’s just so much better.

Nikki

53:11
So I know that as we’re recording this, you’re working on getting that platform up and running. But when we release this episode, it should be live.

Crystal

53:21
Yes.

Nikki

53:22
And so tell us about the new website, the new platform and, and how that’s working.

Crystal

53:30
The name of the website and the URL, the canaryrising.com. And that Canary Rising is the name of my group on Facebook. And that was the name that I gave it this past year. It used to just be my name, Patreon group or something like that. Canary Rising the name came about because of my health packaging. The mastocytosis piece. I kept hearing doctors referring to it as being a canary in the coal mine. Because I’m hypersensitive to my environment. I’m hypersensitive to food. I’m hypersensitive to chemicals and all the things. So just like canaries being taken into the coal mine as a early warning system for coal miners, if a canary stop singing, then they know that there’s toxic fumes in the air and that they should leave the mine. So that started the whole canary theme for me. And then really starting to understand more about artists. I believe artists are just by nature, most of us are very sensitive. We’re very sensitive to our world. We’re very sensitive to what’s happening in the environment, politically, religiously, you know, just as human beings, we’re very sensitive. And we have a lot of really important things that we say in our work whether we are being overt the way that I used to be when I would have to glue words to my collages or whether we just have a story or a meaning behind our work which is the way I work now. And the way that I teach, always with a deeper meaning attached. So canaries being very sentient beings, and they’re revered for their songs. Before they were taken to coal mines, they were collected in the Victorian days, it was a big deal to have a canary and they were revered for their song. So for me, it’s a very good illustration of what an artist is, we have important things to say, we have beautiful songs, and we’re truth tellers. And that is how Canary Rising became the name.

Nikki

55:33
I love it.

Crystal

55:34
And for the website, it is not just a place where I want people to come to take my workshops, but it’s a place where I hope to continue to build the community that I started building on Facebook, and I will continue to have that group on Facebook, that’s very important to me. But also, there will be some really good tools and resources on this website, for the group members or anybody who wants to come for free. Because the community building aspect is really important for me. I joke about how I, you know, I stick your toe in that door and push that thing open. But the reality is that doors have been opened for me. I mean, the publisher approached me, the gallery owner said, I would like to represent you, and those doors opened for me. And when I was diagnosed with mastocytosis three years ago, that’s when my illness really hit its peak. As a result, a friend did a GoFundMe; it changed my life. I was at rock bottom, financially, physically, mental health, all of the things. And if it hadn’t been for that huge outpouring of love from my community at the time, I wouldn’t have this story to share, I wouldn’t be building this website. And so it’s important to me, the model being the rise and lift, kind of model. And then also the, the build a bigger table, it’s kind of the motto of Canary Rising is, there’s always room for you, there’s always a seat for you at the table. If there’s not, we’re gonna make a bigger table.

Laura

57:08
I love that.

Crystal

57:10
I have a team of volunteers now, and it’s important to me that they’re not just volunteering, they get free workshops. But it’s important to me that it’s not just about them supporting me. So one of the women on my team is interested in developing her own art career and eventually teaching. So I’m giving her little opportunities to do like demo reviews in the workshops. You know, she’s videotaping trying out products and talking about them. So she can get her own feet wet, and maybe build her own following. So it’s more about we’re in this together kind of thing. And whoever you are, wherever you are, that means you. It’s not an exclusive, right?

Nikki

57:55
You mentioned that doors opened for you. But I think it’s important to note that you put yourself at the door for it to open.

Crystal

58:05
You knock sometimes. Sometimes you’re kind of you just fall on your face at the threshold of the door. But you do have to be willing to walk through it. That’s the big difference. You do have to be willing to look that fear in the face and just go, you know, do it any way.

Nikki

58:25
Well, you have to walk through it. But you also have to approach the door in the first place. And you do a beautiful job of that.

Crystal

58:35
Thank you. Appreciate that.

Laura

58:37
Those are some great words of advice.

Nikki

58:39
Yeah, absolutely. And speaking of words of advice, do you have any advice for other people who haven’t approached the door, but they want to get started with their own art, or they want to get started with their own teaching? I mean, you’ve given us some great little tidbits already. But do you have any advice for people just getting started?

Crystal

59:01
I’d say that my biggest advice will go back to that intuitive voice thing that I was talking about earlier. For me, the intuitive voice means your core most authentic place inside of you. Your intuitive voice is not like your muse. It’s not some outside entity that comes sit in the corner of your studio and visits when it wants to and doesn’t, you know, show up sometimes. It’s actually that part of ourselves that we lock up over the years, and stop listening to when we’re conditioned in certain ways. And we all have our own ways of being conditioned and different ways that fear shows up. And some of us don’t even understand that it’s fear. It sounds very practical. Fear can sound very practical. Like I don’t have the right tool. You know, I don’t have the right tool to do the editing. So I can’t do this. That’s a very practical thing to say, but it’s not true, that’s fear. So for me, it’s all about listening to yourself and learning to trust yourself. That intuitive voice is, if we’re not listening inside, if we’re not paying attention to our own longings, that’s all it is, to me is the intuitive voice is the thing that pushes me to be curious. It wants me to be creative. It wants me to step into those uncomfortable places. And I call the other package of messages, the art critic, when it comes to the studio life. And I’m actually writing a book about this right now. I guess I should have mentioned that too.

Nikki

1:00:30
Oh yeah, let’s talk about that too.

Crystal

1:00:34
All right, I’m writing a book on the art of intuitive listening. So I call this my book without pictures. And my goal is to have the first draft written by the end of the year. And so my book without pictures, the intuitive voice, all about the chatter in our heads, and how it either serves us in the studio or it blocks us in the studio. And to me, it’s the same in the studio as it is in life. So if you have rules that govern your life, you’re a perfectionist in your life, you’re going to be a perfectionist in the studio. If you struggle with feeling not being good enough in your life, you are going to struggle with feeling not good enough in the studio. But digging in and listening to your inside, the part of you that just simply says something like, Oh, I like that. That’s your intuitive voice. That’s your core, most authentic place. And that’s the thing you want to start listening to. Not all the shoulds and the shouldn’ts and the coulds and couldn’ts and the would’vs and all that stuff that’s put on us, that’s our conditioning. Underneath all that – and when you first start listening to that voice, it’s really quiet. It’s a whisper, it’s under it all. The loudest voices in there are the ones that are telling you, No, don’t go, it’s too dangerous. Stay, stay on the shore. Don’t stick your toe in that water. The intuitive voice is like, the water is good, get out here and swim. I will hold your hand. That’s the one that you want to listen to. And it’s okay if it doesn’t work out. We’ll try something different next time.

Laura

1:02:15
I love that. I’m trying to learn to listen to my intuitive voice.

Crystal

1:02:20
I think you guys are doing great with your podcast.

Nikki

1:02:23
Oh, thank you, thank you, Crystal . But that critic is so loud, isn’t it?

Crystal

1:02:28
My collage and intuitive voice class, we named our art critics. So yeah, it’s mine’s Agnes. And yeah, she’s quite a she’s quite a character.

Nikki

1:02:40
I was in that course. It was. It was amazing.

Crystal

1:02:44
Yeah. So yeah, mine’s Agnes. Yeah, she can be a real real nosy…

Nikki

1:02:48
She’s a bitch.

Crystal

1:02:49
Yes, yes, I was gonna say that. Yeah, she’s not very nice. But honestly, our fear-based messages too, that’s part of us, too. So we do have to listen to those and understand what’s driving them. If you can understand what’s driving them, you can get to the core of those lies. Underneath it is truths for you that are really important. It’s important to listen to our fears as much as it is to listen to our curiosity, but in different ways, because there’s messages there for you.

Laura

1:03:24
Yeah., and really getting to the core of what’s true and what’s not. And what we made up that we think is true.

Crystal

1:03:29
Exactly. Yeah, the the Brene Brown story I’m making up kind of model.

Nikki

1:03:35
Yeah. The story I’m telling myself is…

Crystal

1:03:37
Yeah, exactly.

Laura

1:03:40
Well, I just want to say thank you for all of your time today and sharing your knowledge with us about so many different areas about teaching, about your intuition and listening to that voice, about your Startist journey. It’s really been an amazing conversation, and I know that our listeners are really gonna love it.

Nikki

1:03:58
Really, Crystal, I’ve loved you since I first started learning about you and getting to know you online. And thank you so much for sharing all of this with our listeners. We’ve got so many good little pieces of advice out of this.

Crystal

1:04:10
Thank you guys again, so much for having me. I really appreciate it.

Laura

1:04:15
For today’s Startist Society show notes and links to all things Crystal Marie, go to startistsociety.com/crystalmarie.

Nikki

1:04:24
And if you’ve enjoyed today’s episode, we’d love for you to leave us a five star rating and review. Reviews help us reach more Startists like you and keep us inspired to create new episodes.

Laura

1:04:35
Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next week.

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