Creative Careers in the Arts

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Spirited Woman Q & A

Interview with Artist and Swirly Girl Creator Christine Mason Miller

By Nancy Mills | Posted June 1, 2009 | Updated May 9, 2019

Sometimes you just get lucky. People fall into your life unexpectedly and feel like a comet of fresh air. That's what happened with Christine Mason Miller and myself. Christine is a multi-talented artist, world traveler, founder of the hugely successful Swirly Girl brand, and blogger queen.

I woke up one morning to find out that Christine had listed Spirited Woman as one of her favorite sites on her inspiring blog Sparkletopia. How did I know this? Spirited Woman was getting tons of hits. I mean tons.

So, I wrote Christine to say thank you, and a friendship began. We found out that we both lived in Santa Barbara at the same time, loved to travel, knew a lot of people in common, and now basically live within a few miles from one another in Los Angeles. Small world of coincidences. But such a happy coincidence that we met.

I love Christine's passion. Her willingness to take her creative life into her own hands and move forward. Basically to live life as a risk taker. I urge you to read Christine's interview and for those of you in the Los Angeles area, I also suggest you sign up for Christine's Creative Journaling Workshop. I am sure this workshop will help you explore your wildest creative dreams.

Now grab a cup of coffee and read about Christine!

Q. When did you first know that you were creative and what was the experience like for you? How old were you?

A. I have been an artist for as long as I can remember, but my first very vivid memory is when I was in the 3rd or 4th grade, and I used to draw the cartoon characters that were on my bedsheets. My memory could be a bit skewed of course, but I think they were pretty good!!

Q. Creativity is a driving force in your life — did you come from a creative family who supported your quest? Or is this your own personal adventure?

A. A little bit of both. My mom was always very encouraging — one year she got me a giant sketchbook for Christmas and I'd spend hours drawing. She was also a songwriter, musician and writer, and seeing her tackle her creative dreams was very inspiring. My grandma was also a huge influence — so supportive of Swirly, my dreams, my desire to be an artist. She was always behind me 100%. The side that feels like my own personal adventure is the side that believes no one can make my dreams real except me. I have received a tremendous amount of support, which has contributed to my success, but at the end of the day I believe I am ultimately responsible for creating a life I feel passionate about.

Q. Tell us how Swirly came to be. What were your goals with its creation? Did you envision it to grow into this huge brand?

A. I did envision it to be an internationally known brand. That was my "big picture" image from day one, but how I was going to get there was a bit of a mystery when I started. My mission was to inspire people to follow their dreams and I wanted to do that with my art and writing on stationery, gift items and books. I kind of fell into starting a greeting card line, but that was the way it really took off and turned out to be a great way to build an audience.

Q. Are you still involved with Swirly or have you moved on to other areas of your career? What might those areas be?

A. There are still a number of Swirly creations out there — greeting cards, rubber stamps, journals and an entire product line designed for tween girls called Swirly Girl — but I no longer have an agent and I have not pursued any new license contracts for quite some time. I am so proud of Swirly, and it will always be a huge part of who I am, but I reached a point in my life where I knew it was time for a change. A few years ago I began doing collage and mixed media work, painting and writing. I have had a number of successful shows with this work and I am now working on a book that combines my artwork, photography and writing which — if all goes well — will be released this fall. Swirly was about something very specific and focused. My work as an artist now is more about allowing the day to day experiences of my life to spill into my work and vice versa and creating works of art and/or pieces of writing that reflect on what I'm learning with each experience.

Q. You love to travel. How do you work travel into your busy schedule and what type of travel do you enjoy doing?

A. I am SO fortunate to have been able to indulge in my passion for travel more often over the past few years, and it has become an integral part of my life and work. My favorite kind of travel is when I can wander and explore, take pictures, write in my journal, etc. The less each day can be about having to check off various destinations, the better. I prefer to stumble upon things rather than tackle a to do list.

Q. How do you feel your trips affect your art? Does the travel and places that you go fuel your creativity, influence you?

A. Travel is one of my hugest sources of inspiration. Each culture offers its own colors, icons, habits, quirks, details, mysteries, beliefs...I love seeing all the ways humanity differs yet is still connected on a deeper level, and I also love seeing how I respond to various situations I find myself in when I travel. For example, I went on a trip to Buenos Aires with a group of 22 other people, and one afternoon we were walking around the Recoleta, which is a huge cemetery that is basically a human maze. I stopped to take a photograph, and in one quick instant my group was gone, nowhere to be found. There I was in the middle of Buenos Aires with no map and no ability to speak Spanish. I began to panic, but then realized I was totally fine, there were taxi cabs everywhere, so I got in one, gave him the name of our hotel and that was that. So simple, but it was an important lesson about looking for the easiest solution versus imagining the worst (not to mention always having a map!)

Q. You said, "Throughout my career as an artist, my underlying mission has always been to inspire — to encourage creativity, following dreams, living a passionate life." What advice would you give other women to pursue their mission?

A. To remember that fulfilling dreams and creating a passionate life is about the tiny, day to day experiences. I did create my vision for Swirly and then — boom! — it was a huge success. It took a lot of time and a lot of extremely mundane work, but when I think about that particular success, it is those experiences I think of...the hundreds and hundreds of orders I packed and shipped myself, getting my first line of cards printed, painting my office, answering fan mail. Life's "big" experiences are really nothing more than a wild stew of small experiences, and I think it is important to remember that every step matters...every tiny effort one makes towards a passionate life is important.

Q. Christine, why do you feel that you are a Spirited Woman?

A. I feel I am a Spirited Woman because I am living a life that is centered around my highest priorities. At the top of that list is integrity, and while it is not always easy to live, act, talk and create from a place of integrity, it is the only way I know how to live anymore. I have put a lot of work, time and consideration into what my most important values are and I am committed to living by those whenever possible.

©2009 Nancy Mills. All rights reserved.

Next: Interview with Astrology Zone's Susan Miller