Don’t Make Art, Just Make Something with Miranda Aisling

Today we’re talking with Miranda Aisling: artist, teacher, singer-songwriter, and author of Don’t Make Art, Just Make Something. She’ll be teaching a Skillshare class of the same name. We love how passionate she is about empowering people to create!

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We really appreciate your emphasis on executing your ideas (rather than just sitting around wishing you could make them happen). Tell us a little about your evolution as an artist and a thinker. How did you grow into an “idea person”?

Although I’ve always considered myself very creative, it wasn’t until my senior year of college (as an art major) that I felt comfortable calling myself an artist. You see, I was never the “art kid” in school. By which I mean, I wasn’t the kid who could draw something really well. I made tons of cool things both in an outside of art class, but because I couldn’t realistically render with a pencil, that was it. I wasn’t an artist. It wasn’t until I was standing in the middle of my senior show that I looked around at my collection of large abstract paintings and realized, “Oh, I guess this does count.”

That’s when I figured out that all this stuff I make, the knitting and the doodles and the fictional worlds, they can be art. All the ideas that I’ve always had suddenly seemed to matter. The truth is, I’ve always been an idea person, and I think most people are. That’s what humans do: we think of cool new things to make. The problem is, our willingness to act on our ideas and our confidence that our ideas are “good” or “artistic” is often stamped out of us. So though I did have to learn to be an artist, I never had to learn to be an idea person. I just had to accept what was already there.

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You practice many forms of art—music, painting, pottery, writing, knitting, and more no doubt! How do your various passions inform and inspire one another?

One of the best things about having so many different art forms is that I’m always in the mood to make something. Even though I’m a painter, sometimes the last thing I want to do is paint. Thankfully, if that happens, I can write or knit or play guitar instead. This has helped me develop some resistance against a culture that is obsessed with specializing. Because I didn’t specialize in just one art form, I’ve realized that my passion isn’t for my oil paintings or songs or stories. Instead, I’m passionate about the actual process of making things.

In fact, I just realized that I follow pretty much the same process in every art form: get a new idea, plunge in, start to really like it, ruin it, debate whether to give up, stick with it and finish.

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Are you a Boston native (and if not, what led you here)? How does the local arts community support you in your work, and conversely, how do you build community through your work?

I came to Boston in 2011 to get an M.ed. in Community Art from Lesley University. During my time time there I wrote Don’t Make Art, Just Make Something, the book this class is based on.

If we get right down to it, community is my work. In the past year I’ve also started Miranda’s Hearth, which is currently a local creative community and will grow into the first-ever community art hotel. Through Miranda’s Hearth I host Dinner, Art, & Music nights (which everyone is invited to!) where I get to share my own work, see the incredible work of the people around me, and introduce people who really should be working together. Because what’s creativity without community?

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What advice do you have for artists (both beginners and the more experienced) who are looking to “step outside the box” and see the world with fresh eyes?

First, go find something and try to figure out its story. Who made it? Why did they make it? Who owned it? Why did they buy it? Unless you’re standing in the middle of an untouched mountain, everything around you was at some point thought of by a person. Which means there’s a story. And stories are the best inspiration.

Then, give up on art for a little while.

Everyone gets so obsessed with that word and what it means that they forget to actually make stuff. I’ve found that the only way to actually make art is to just start with something which turns into something else and something else and eventually, possibly, ends up where you wanted it to be all along.

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What can Skillshare participants expect to gain from their time with you? Is any prior art experience required?

Participants will walk away with an appreciation of process and a bit more confidence to jump into their next project. They’ll make something and, since creativity is a chain reaction, they’ll leave wanting to make something else. The hardest part is building up the nerve to jump in, and that’s just what I’m here to help with.

No prior art experience is required.

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See more of Miranda’s wonderful work on her website. You can also connect with her on Facebook and Twitter!

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