For the month of May our Featured Artist is the very talented Donna Hamlin. Donna is a relatively new member to the Westchase Artists Society and we're thrilled to have her as part of our group. As a glass artist Donna brings a new element to our group. So without any further delay, here's Donna's interview!
Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
D: Being a native of Tampa, Florida, I was born, raised and grew up in this city. As a child, I lived in an area called Wellswood, where I spent most of my life going to local schools, church and recreating with the other children in the neighborhood. Many of my childhood experiences took place in natural settings where the wonders of nature inspired me and shaped my character. Since my parents were both hard workers with strong moral character, they instilled in my two sisters and me the values of hard work and honesty. Growing up, we had three aunts all of whom were educators, so it was a foregone conclusion that we would be as well. Teaching became a lifelong dedication for both of us. We spent over three decades of our lives teaching young children, but now, looking back, it seems like it was only yesterday that we began.
Upon graduation from University of South Florida, I received certification in Elementary and Early Childhood Education. While working in Hillsborough County Schools as a Primary teacher, I was passionate about my work. I would spend hours creating fun instructional games that fostered in children the love for learning. Being a teacher of writing, and with the God given talent of creativity, I wrote volumes of poetry which I used to teach children the reading process, as well as the love of language. Currently, I am working on a compilation of original poetry, along with lesson plans, to teach young children the process of reading. It is titled, "Poems to Teach Literacy to Emergent Readers." Since I used them in the classroom, I saw the excitement that they generated in children as they learned to gain command of the language.
Art was another subject I loved to teach. Artistic expression is an important component of cognitive development. I, also, strongly believe that creativity is an innate characteristic of all people and if not stifled, it will manifest itesef in all areas of life from problem solving to creation of beautiful works of art.
Q: What first made you want to be an artist?
D: In retrospect, I don't really know what inspired me to be an artist. I really think it was a God given blessing which I was born with, and as I grew this innate ability was nurtured and blossomed because of the love and dedication of my parents and many extraordinary teachers. I remember in junior high school, I had a remarkable art teacher who wore her hair up twisted in a bun on her head and rode a bicycle everyday. She was beautiful inside and out, and she always made every child feel special and talented. I, on the other hand, was always very critical of my own work, as they say, "I was my worst critic." but this attitude allowed me to finally realize that true art is not in perfection, but the essence of beauty comes from the attention to detail.
From the time I was a young girl, I loved stained glass works of art. When I attended art shows, like a moth to a flame, I was drawn to stained glass creations. I found glass a mesmerizing medium, because of its ever-changing visual imagery that is created at different hours of the day by the passage of light through the medium. What we see when we look at a stained glass creation is many times an ever-changing illusion. Ten years ago, I said to myself, "I can do that," and so I embarked upon a program of professional glass design by some of the most talented artists in the trade who became my mentors and friends. By natural progression, I later navigated into glass fusion and began to incorporate that medium into my stained glass creations. After that, I got involved with designing jewelery with fused glass, crystals, and gold wire wrapping. I did the art circuit locally, displaying and selling at local art venues such as art shows and craft fairs. Since I am prolific in my work, I am currently desiging a web page for marketing. I create panels, vases, mirrors, ash trays, dishes and wall decor. Glass is so exciting! The possibilities with it are limited only by one's skills and imagination. I guess that's true of most mediums.
Q: Describe your creative process.
D: My creative process occurs randomly and unexpectedly at various times of the day or night. For that reason, I always keep readily available a camera or notepad. I remember once seeral years ago, while teaching a thematic unit on fairy tales and fantasy, I spontaneously wrote the beginning of a poem about a unicorn on the board, but suddenly stopped after one verse, not knowing where to go with it. Later, after typing it, I placed it in a drawer for several months where it remained, until months later, during a thunderstorm, I pulled it out, and verse after verse lilterally flowed out of my head like a dam filled with water that had burst. It turned out to be a narrative poem about a sad unicorn who told an ecological tale about "saving the earth." (Coincidentally, the day it "sprang forth" was Earth Day!) The children loved it. It is now earmarked for publication, not only as a poem, but as a picture book as well, titled "Tale of the Unicorn." Many times, also, my dreams are a source of inspiration for stories or poems. Always, regardless of the time or place, there's a pad and pen within reach.
Q: Favorite books, movies, websites, groups.
D: Books - "Gone With the Wind" by Margaret Mitchell, "Jonathan Livingston Seagull" by Richard Bach, "Five People You Meet in in Heaven" by Mitch Albom and "Trinity" by Leon Uris. Also books of poetry by some poets such as Kahlil Gibran and Lawrence Ferlinghetti.
Movies - "Gone With the Wind," "Avatar," "The Ten Commandments," and "Splendor in the Grass."
Groups - Rolling Stones, Yanni, Stevie Nicks, Simon and Garfunkel, and Taylor Swift.
Q: In ten years I'd like to be...
D: This is a question that I do not contemplate. I try to live everyday to the fullest, treat others the way I would want to be treated, engage in activities that promote spiritual, mental, and physical growth and enrichment. Most of all, I thank the Lord for all the blessings and talents that He gave me. I live by the thought that Life is a gift and that is why it is called "The Present."
Donna, thanks so much for taking the time out for your interview. It was great to get to know you a little bit better. Stay tuned for the Westchase Artists Society's next Featured Artist of the Month.