When Rae Dunn finds herself in HomeGoods or TJ Maxx and is approached by fans, she's still taken aback. "It's very surreal," she said of being recognized out in public, "I never would have imagined it."
Before Rae's hand-lettered pottery collection went viral, she had been producing art since 1994 and her process never really changed. Since day one she was using words in her work, so even well after her work started spreading like wildfire—something she attributes to the power of social media—she hasn't really gotten used to the attention.
After all, she's shy, she told me. So when her editor suggested she write a sort of "how to" book to help her followers, she thought, "No way, I'm not going to tell people 'how to'...I don't even know what I'm doing, I just do it." Instead, they came up with the idea for, —a sort of "leading by example" guide where she offers 17 chapters, each highlighting a way for readers to ignite their creativity and inspire them to draw.
One chapter even notes that she has a sketchbook for drawings done with her non-dominant hand. "I think it’s a good way to open up your creativity," she says before adding, "I feel like when you draw with your left hand you’re not expecting it to be good, so you just do it with intuition and that’s when it actually is good." Below, catch sneak peek photos of pages from the book, available May 7, 2019 (and ), and the inside scoop from Rae herself:
What have you learned since your collection went viral?
It has created such a sense of community, which was a big surprise to me. I will never really know what to expect, and I am continually surprised by things, which I think is the beauty of life. Out of the hundreds of things I have created during the past 25 years, I never would have imagined that it would be my work with large handwriting that would go viral. Often, the things I really love aren’t necessarily the things that other people love! It’s a humbling lesson...
Some people have found collecting my work to be therapeutic and even helpful with counteracting addictions, depression, boredom, et cetera. I receive a lot of letters thanking me because my pottery has added meaning and happiness into their lives. This always makes me happy and makes my job so worth it.
What’s your best piece of advice for creators who are in a slump or having trouble finding inspiration?
For me, going for a run, or other physical exercise, clears my mind and makes room for new thoughts. Some of my best ideas come to me by complete surprise this way. I also try to do the artistic version of musical scales: simply writing the alphabet over and over, painting simple squares or lines of color, et cetera. just to get in the physical mode of hand-to-paper. Starting out with something very simple and elementary can warm you up for something more complex and meaningful.
What's the most surprising or unexpected thing that inspires you?
I LOVE being surprised by an unanticipated source of inspiration, but because it is entirely unexpected, the source is always varied. The point is to always be open to inspiration because it is everywhere! This is why I am continually going to new places and trying new things. Even just changing your path by walking down a different street can open your eyes to something new and inspiring.
One way I can be inspired is by watching a movie, especially on a big screen in a movie theater. I find inspiration in the colors, the costumes, the sounds, the set design, the props, the cinematography, et cetera. I tend to get lost in the details of the visual aspects of the movie, and am often not even following the storyline.
What went into creating your book, In Pursuit of Inspiration: Trust your Instincts and Make More Art?
This book is a compilation of drawings from my personal sketchbooks and pre-existing photos that I had randomly taken with my iPhone from my daily life and travels. It's an actual glimpse inside my life and of my creative process. Since 90% of the book’s content already existed, it was mostly a matter of curating and assembling it in an order that made sense, much like piecing together a puzzle.
How long have you been working on it?
I was given the deadline of one year, but the bulk and the most challenging work was compressed into the last three months. I'm a bit of a procrastinator.
What else can we expect to find inside the book?
I’m hoping that people will walk away realizing that having an art practice doesn’t require going to a fancy art school or living a lavish lifestyle. We were all born as artists with capabilities that just need to be tapped into. I had never intended for anyone to ever see the inside of my sketchbooks so I feel quite vulnerable publishing them, especially because of my very strong private and introverted nature.
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