Meet Vesna Taneva-Miller, folk dancer, quilter, painter, jewelry maker, crocheter and crafter. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing her for years, since she dances with the Phoenix International Folk Dancers, but I didn’t know how talented she is in the arts until another dancer told me she saw a rope bowl made by Vesna featured in Phoenix Magazine. (Click this link and scroll down. It’s in the Textiles and Home Décor section.)
You are a wife, the mother of two children, and you work for Alaska Airlines. How do you find time for your art?
I don’t always find time, and I am not always a perfect mother and wife. It’s not like I have dinner ready, dishes done, laundry folded and put away and now it’s time for art. Sometimes none of those things are done, but I am at my table creating because that’s what I need to do at that time. It’s really give and take and you put time and effort into the things that matter.
You’re active in many media: drawing, painting, jewelry making, sewing, crochet—have I missed any? What is your favorite way to make art?
Ah gosh, I don’t have a favorite. I go through cycles, so I have times when doing watercolors is my favorite. A few months later sewing is my favorite and so on. Sometimes I am a bit jealous at artist that focus on one media and get really good at it. I am not a master at anything, I just like to try everything.
What inspires you to create?
Many things. Nature for sure. Places, experiences, feelings. Other artists.
Do you have your own dedicated workspace for making art?
I am lucky that I do. It’s an addition to the back of our house that was already there when we bought it. It didn’t initially have a/c but we added a window unit. It’s always in a state of disarray, a total mess, much like the rest of my home.
Do you have a theme or an underlying message in your art?
I love bright colors. For me it represents life and playfulness, easygoingness, peace, comfort.
Some of your art is sold through Art-o-mat. Tell me how that works.
Art-o-mat is a community of artist that sell small pieces of original and affordable art at $5 in vending machines that formerly were cigarette vending machines. I first saw it at the Vision Gallery – downtown Chandler, AZ. They have one. I bought a few pieces of art and was hooked and wanted to be a part of it. Each piece is handmade, so therefore an original. It’s the size of a box of cigarettes and it’s like a surprise machine for adults. You put in a coin, you choose an artist represented by a small plaque and possibly what you may be getting, but each piece is different so you never know what you get until you get it.
You teach for Skillshare. Did you have to shoot your own videos? Is it difficult to give instruction in front of a camera?
I’ve only done a couple of classes for Skillshare. [ARHtistic License says: Don’t sell yourself short–I counted six!] I keep breaking my own promise of doing more. Yes I have to film the videos myself. Luckily my husband edits them for me, although that’s a struggle for me because I am so uncomfortable with asking for help or asking someone to do something for me. I do find it difficult to talk in front of the camera with no one standing behind it. Filming my hands making stuff is much easier for me.
What is one of your most favorite pieces that you’ve created, and why?
I am not sure if I have a favorite piece. I have a lot of fond memories making small art quilts. Jewelry – necklaces made with fabric. Doodling mandalas with watercolors.
What is it about creating art that gives you the most satisfaction?
It’s like entering another dimension where you don’t have to worry about whatever is happening in real life. It’s like an escape. A coping mechanism.
Cactus from Vesna’s art journal
What challenges have you encountered in your art, and how have you overcome them?
I need to stop comparing myself with others. It’s a challenge. It’s really hard in a society of social media where everyone shares their best, mostly. I have to remind myself that I am me and they are they. That I just have to keep doing my thing.
What is the best creative advice you’ve ever been given?
Tell your story. Share your process. Blog. Of course I have not been consistent in doing all of these.
Who is your favorite artist?
I have a few: Colette Copeland, Kathy Cano-Murillo, Alisa Burke, Sharon Nullmeyer, Cassie Stephens.
What is a project you’re looking forward to making?
One day, hahaha, I’d like to have my home in a perfect state, decorated, custom upholstered, cool murals…….one day, one day. I ask myself why not today and go crazy at the size of the project.
You love to travel, and your job helps make that possible. Where are some of the places you are planning to go in the future? If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you make your home?
I’d like to go to Iceland. Also I’ve never been to Montana. I am not sure that I know where I’d like to make home. I’ve lived in a few places that I am conflicted. Each place has part in my heart as home. So I am not sure for now.
You’re from Macedonia. How did you end up in the United States? Given the current political climate, do you experience discrimination?
I came to the US when I was 16 as an exchange student. This was in the mid 1990s. I’ve never felt bluntly discriminated, although I have felt alone and different and that I don’t always belong, or don’t know how to relate even though by now I understand both my culture and this culture very well. But I am not sure if that’s just a personal issue or discrimination.
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