Liz Lamoreux is the author of Inner Excavation – Explore Your Self Through Photography, Poetry and Mixed Media. It’s a beautiful book filled with wonderful creative exercises. Liz is a writer, photographer, poet, mixed-media artist and yoga teacher. She chronicles her life in the Puget Sound area with her husband, Jon, their baby, Eleanor Jane, and dog, Millie, at Be Present, Be Here. I hope that by the end of this interview, you’ll understand why she’s loved by many, including me.
1. Liz, you and I have a common experience in our life stories: we both spent our 10th years sewing and baking in 4-H clubs. You tell a wonderful story in your book about returning to sewing 20 years later, yet not quite perceiving your creations as art. How did you finally allow your inner fabric artist to emerge and blossom?
So glad you asked me about fabric and not the experience of being the second to last quick bread judged in a tent in Northern Indiana on a 98-degree August day in 1987. My sewing talents seem to be much greater than my quick bread talents; though, I must admit I haven’t made quick bread since….
Now to answer your questions: When I began sewing again, I started creating bags and aprons and didn’t really see myself as a fabric artist. As I became more comfortable sewing and creating my own patterns, I was drawn to using vintage fabrics and buttons and other sewing supplies. When I began to think about the stories that those items held because the women who came before me had used them, I slowly realized that I was releasing those stories with each stitch. Somewhere in there, I began to see that I was also telling new stories. The truth is, it is all about the stories for me when it comes to creating and art and writing and photography. When I had the aha moment that an apron could actually invite someone to feel just as connected to something real in the same way a painting can, I began to see my fabric creations as art.
2. You served as a poetry muse for so many (including me) several years ago when you co-founded the wonderful online community, Poetry Thursday. You continue to be an advocate for the accessibility of poetry today. Can you share a bit about what poem notes are and how we can use them as seeds for our creative endeavors?
When I started writing poetry a few years ago, I spent some time really caught up in what a poem is supposed to look like. Although I appreciate the world of academic poetry (and the poets that world has birthed), I see poetry as a tool for healing (both reading it and writing it), so the quest for a perfect poem doesn’t really interest me. I came up with the phrase “poem notes” to give myself permission to just write. A poem note might be writing what looks like a poem or it might be the beginnings of a poem or perhaps it is simply a few words linked together that one doesn’t quite yet recognize as a poem. How I wish I could give all people I encounter the gift of realizing a poet lives inside them. I think poem notes are a good place to start. One of my favorite poem note prompts that I use a few times a week is, “in this moment, I am….”
3. Like you, I grew up very close to my grandmother and have a passion for family histories. How can researching our past help us to excavate our authenticity?
Oh I love this question (hence my very long answer). There are so many stories just waiting for us to uncover them. When we sift through photos from our childhood (or the childhoods of others), we find clues that give us glimpses into brief moments that are like one paragraph in the book that is someone’s life. When I look at photos from my own childhood (I am lucky to have quite a few), I take in all the details from the green shag carpet to the spice rack in the kitchen on the wall behind me to the socks I am wearing. I have a memory of being in high school when my grandmother (my dad’s mom) gave me a box of old photos. I was so delighted to find a photo of my dad and his dad and his dad’s brother, so I framed it for him for Christmas. (My father’s father died before I was born, so I am always looking for clues to paint a picture of this man who seems like a myth at times.) I later learned that my dad had turned to my mom that Christmas afternoon and indicated that the photo captured a not so pleasant memory for him. This brings up an important piece of this excavation into the past. Not everyone will want to “go there,” so it is important to choose how far back and where you want to go. This is why I think we should bring a flashlight, so that there is not only always light in the darkness, but we can also choose what we want to shine our light on. I believe that the clues we find help us to understand why we are in this place on our paths in this moment, even when we uncover things that might be difficult or dusty or confusing. I think we must invite ourselves to seek what is real because that is where the truth sits waiting for us.
4. Your baby girl, Ellie, is a poster child for cute. How has Ellie’s presence in your life helped you to excavate your own inner artist?
Thanks for your kind words! Ellie is a sweetheart. And life has certainly changed quite a bit since her arrival. Since her birth, I have found myself spending a lot more time just being in the present moment. Trying to stay right here and not jump ahead to the “what ifs” and the “to do” list. This has meant that I have to use my time a bit more efficiently, but it also means I am pushing myself to listen to what being present can teach me. Some days this means bundling her up and going for a photo walk. Other days this means letting her play on the floor in my little room while I work on necklaces. I am trying to be softer with my expectations of myself and all that I think I “should” accomplish as an artist and writer. For example, watching Ellie discover her hands and how they work and can pick things up pushes me to remember what is real and beautiful about life and a “to do” list is never more important than that truth.
5. One of the things I really admire about you is your dedication to the art of photographic self-portraits. Your Flickr set, what is real, is a perfect example. How have you learned to quiet the negative inner voices that can sometimes come up for women when we’re shooting self-portraits?
In 2006, I spent two months doing a mirror meditation each day (I still turn to this meditation often). This meant that I spent somewhere between 30 seconds and five minutes a day standing/sitting in front of a mirror and just breathing while eye to eye with myself. When I did this, the way I looked at myself began to soften. Over time, I started to see the truths of the woman before me and this helped me to also begin to see my beauty. This has helped me when I take self-portraits as it has pushed me to seek the real and let go of the need to hide. However, what I love about taking self-portraits is that I am in control of the camera. I choose what I want to capture through the lens and what I want to share with others. This helps me soften the voices. And, (most of the time) I give myself permission to just delete photos and see them as bad photos as opposed to evidence that I am not beautiful.
6. Recently you’ve been doing some videoblogging and have talked about “your corner.” What is your corner and how do we create our own?
Recently, I have been moved to look at what energy I put out into the world, and how I can sometimes waste the few hours of free time I have in an evening looking at everyone else’s corner in this little grey box (my laptop) instead of simply being alive in my own corner. I love the connections and beauty the Internet and blog world have provided me. At the same time, I can simply get caught up in wishing my house looked like that house or my studio had more space like this person’s studio or that I had money to buy that new printer like so-and-so or even that Ellie’s birth story was full of only good things like that mom made her experience sound. The list is endless really. I am inviting myself to remember that being my most real self and honoring the truth I know is the only way to do my best work and live my most authentic life. We create our own corner by living, really living, in it. This idea of “really living in our corner” can mean a lot of things I suppose, but to me, the most important idea is that we just show up as ourselves. Of course, this means we have to spend time getting to know ourselves. So, I think the first step is to close that laptop, lean into the quiet, and listen to yourself. I could go on and on…
7. You created Be Present Retreats and will offer several retreats this year, including Inner Excavation weekends inspired by your book. How will Inner Excavation weekends serve as a companion piece for readers of your book?
Inner Excavation weekends will be an opportunity for people to give themselves the space and time to really dig into some of the ideas and themes brought up in the book. We will play with paper and paint and color, dance inside words and find our inner poet, sit in the quiet, go on photography excursions, spend time with our senses, and how the list goes on. So often we flip through books about art and inspiration and then they sit on our shelves. These weekends will give us the chance to put the inspiration into practice.
8. Since the first Inner Excavation weekend will be held in Indiana, I must ask: how would we recognize your inner Indiana girl? What parts of Indiana reside within you no matter where you live?
I feel moved to answer this in a poem note:
I come from
a baby blue Studebaker convertible
the fourth from the top brown carpeted step on Garland Circle
rigid rows of reaching soybeans
her laughter wafting from the kitchen
a solitary singing cardinal atop the dogwood
a day so humid the wallpaper wrinkled
9. You often collaborate on projects and invited several women to contribute to your book. What are some of the best things you love about collaboration?
Collaborating really does make me so happy, and I hope to bring this into my creative life more and more as I walk this path. The shifts in perspective collaboration brings can really impact us. I love looking at different ways people see things and how they can interpret the same prompt or idea. We all bring our unique stories to each moment, and I love how just one phrase or even a word can change the way we see something. We expand as artists and people through collaboration.
10. You create soul mantra necklaces and lockets and sell them in your Etsy shop, The Little Room. If you could leave us with one soul mantra, what would it be?
I am enough.
Blog: Be Present, Be Here
Book: Inner Excavation
Retreats: Be Present Retreats
Etsy: The Little Room
Flickr: Liz Elayne