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2012 Twenty Questions Interviews : Sylvie Branch

20 Questions Interview with Sylvie Branch

Artist, Writer, Teacher, and Proprietor of Cleveland's Upcycle Exchange


Sylvie Branch1. What's your name?

Sylvie Branch.

2. Where are you from?

Born in the suburbs of Detroit . . . grew up in the suburbs of Cleveland.

3. Who are you today?

A happy mama of four who juggles a multitude of magical roles.

4. What do you do? (Elevator speech)

I am a creative professional — artist, freelance writer, art teacher, and soon to be proprietor of Creativity Explosion, Cleveland's Upcycle Exchange.

5. What's your story (how did you get here)?

By sheer force of the imagination. Through reading and rereading Julia Cameron's The Artist Way series, and doing all her exercises, I created this mixed bag of artistic jobs. I took her process seriously, and am amazed at how it all turned out.

6. Why is creativity important to you?

Creativity is my only strength, and so I have to run with it.

7. When/how did you realize you had a creative dream or calling to fulfill?

I have always been a big dreamer so it is hard to pinpoint a specific time; in fact I have taken several dangerous detours along the way. But thankfully the calling keeps calling!

8. How did you embrace it?

The first real creative step I took was to accept an enormous mural job. My soccer teammate was opening an indoor playground/laser tag/arcade/party center and wanted jungle murals on every wall and in every room. Accepting this job meant I was a "real" artist. Then another friend asked me to apply for a creative writing teaching position, and that part of me was suddenly "real." Whether I was selling paintings, completing commissions, apprenticing, or teaching my art classes, I embraced it by just leaping off a cliff blindfolded.

9. How did that feel?

It is exhilarating! I am nothing but an adrenaline junkie. Every creative job has a freefalling element; I might as well be base jumping.

10. Where has your journey taken you?

Hmmm, like I said above this journey has taken me into deep dark places in addition to the bright shiny happy locales. Renting studio space in arguably the most dangerous part of the city was not terribly smart, but my time apprenticing with a crazy sculptor and learning the ins and outs of running art shows was immensely valuable.

11. What challenges have you faced?

Ah, so many challenges, so little desire to share. Financially, following a creative path can be tricky. I had to believe it was possible and then scramble like mad to make it so.

12. What worked for you?

Freelance writing was quite possibly my smartest move to date. I have worked my way into a steady income and this makes a lot of my other dreams possible.

13. What didn't work for you?

I try to cast a wide net, so the things that don't work simply fall away. Trying to cram myself into a "normal job" never works, but that doesn't mean I haven't tried. Spent four long weeks working at the Better Business Bureau, tried my hand in a photography studio (which would have worked if I didn't have to sell, sell, sell) and then, even knowing sales was not my thing, landed a great job in sales . . . and then quit. Yeah, go figure.

14. What three tips can you share with those starting on a similar path?

  1. Get to know yourself. How you work. What you like, and just as importantly, what you don't like.
  2. Dream. Be ridiculous. What would you do if you knew you couldn't fail?
  3. Fail. Failing is not the end of the world. Rework the better parts of your attempt and try again.

15. What are you working on now?

A very exciting book project is in the works and . . . I am making plans and gathering ideas for the launch of Creativity Explosion! Cleveland's Upcycle Exchange. This will be a place for artists, DIY fashionistas, crafty folks and art teachers to exchange or donate materials they are not using, and in turn find just the supplies they need at "pay-as-you-wish" pricing. The brick-and-mortar retail shop will also host art classes and have upcycled products and kits for sale.

16. What's coming up for you in the next year?

See above. I have "dibs" on a Cleveland location for a year, so have to get this rolling. But in other news, my two oldest children will be flying the nest within a month.

17. What else do you desire/dream to do?

My ultimate goal is pursue whatever creative opportunity pops up along the way to my hundredth birthday. I really want to be an eccentric old lady someday.

18. How will you make that happen?

Stay healthy, fit and insatiably curious.

19. What question would you like to be asked (or are just itching to answer) that's not on this list?

Of all your creative roles, what is your favorite?

Being a mom has been an amazingly creative experience and gives me a wonderful excuse to play! I think I am proudest of the fact that not only are they are each completely unique; they are all good friends to one another. I am honored to be a part of their lives.

20. What's your Web site and blog address(es)?