Ever seen a piece of art you want to hug? A piece that seems thoughtful, welcoming, a bit ethereal — much like the maker itself. In this case, I’m talking about artist Meghan Shimek and her larger-than-life woven roving creations. And I legit want to hug every piece of art she’s made as well as all the soft spools of brightly colored roving in her studio.
Anjelika Temple here, Founding Partner and Chief Creative Officer of Brit + Co, would-be weaver, lover of textiles, and (duh!) huge fan of artist Meghan Shimek. I first came across Shimek’s work on Instagram, of course, and was thrilled to learn that she’s a Bay Area babe as well. Since first swooning over her woven pieces, I’ve seen her work all over the city and have even taken her Intro to Weaving online class — right here on brit.co! ;) Now, I’m beyond honored to be able to share a snippet of her story with you in this edition of Creative Crushin’.
The moment you enter Shimek’s studio, you can’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of calm. Something about being surrounded by fuzzy fibers, soft woolen spools of roving, and Shimek’s own calming presence all come together in a very cozy, zen-like way that makes you want to zone out and make things. In fact, I feel like my heart, mind, *and* soul would all benefit from a few more hours spent in her studio.
Read on for more about Shimek’s creative process, what keeps her inspired, and tidbits of advice she has for crafters and artists looking to find their way.
Brit + Co: First, the basics.
Meghan Shimek: I am from Flint, Michigan. I have a BA in History and a BS in Dietetics. I have a son and I am a single mom.
B+C: Did you always know that you wanted to be a professional artist?
MS: No! My family was very practical and to them that meant going to college and getting a job, ideally in an office setting and pursuing a traditionally professional life. Art was always seen as more of a hobby. I never expected or planned that I would have the opportunity to pursue this as a profession.
B+C: What types of day jobs did you have before you were able to focus fully on fiber art? Tell us about your career path.
MS: I spent most of my early 20s working in a bunch of different bookstores while I pursued both my degrees. After I finished my nutrition degree, I moved to Washington, DC and worked for an adolescent healthcare non-profit organization, and on the weekends, I worked at a farmers' market running their EBT/food stamp program. Community nutrition was my passion; when I moved to California, my dream was to work in farmers’ markets full-time, and I did! I also taught nutrition classes to low income populations. This is where my interest in agriculture really started to blossom, and from there, I became interested in wool and sustainable materials, which eventually lead to what I am doing now!
B+C: Did your fiber work begin as a passion project on the side? What was the turning point like when you realized you could dedicate your time wholly to your artwork?
MS: It began as a passion project that I definitely worked on passionately! I spent every moment I possibly could working on fiber-related projects. At the end of 2014, my father passed away and I went through a divorce. This is when I decided to dedicate myself full time to my artwork. It was really more of a sink or swim situation.
B+C: Was it scary taking that leap? What’s been the toughest part about being a full-time artist?
MS: It was definitely scary then, and it is still scary now! The challenges are different, but being a full-time artist is scary. There is the constant hustle, the push to be productive every day, trying to find and be inspired, innovating so you and your clients are excited by your work.
B+C: What advice do you have for emerging artists who are considering taking a risk on themselves and going full-time?
MS: First of all, there is nothing wrong with having a side job, having a steady paycheck, health insurance, etc. is magical. If you are ready, be ready to work, be ready to say yes, be ready to try everything and say yes to everything until you know what you need to say no to.
B+C: What do you love about making things? Tell me more about that intangible force that drives your work.
MS: I can’t imagine not making things. If I am not making art, I am making food! I think my hands have to be busy. My work is special because it brings me peace. It calms me down and gives me joy.
B+C: Your work is so unique, calling upon both old school and new school fabrication techniques. How did you get started with weaving?
MS: I began by taking a weaving class in my parent’s town, just a simple class. I quickly became completely fixated on weaving and had such a desire to learn more every day. Over time and studying with different teachers, I found that the wool began to speak to me, and I created my own technique.
B+C: And how did you hone in on your particular aesthetic?
MS: My big breakthrough occurred when I was going through a time of loss; my father had just passed away, and my husband and I split up. I felt so broken and lost and turned to weaving to help get me through. I began using roving and twisting and weaving the strands and really using my body to guide me. I was able to move my entire body and it felt not only meditative but alive, and in doing this, I found my voice as an artist.
B+C: Where do you turn for inspiration?
MS: My biggest inspiration is in looking at architecture. I love seeing old buildings and looking at how the lines interact with the sky, how the paint peeling off reveals a layer of something else underneath. I really love exploring in South America and seeing the color stories of the architecture because it is so completely different than what I see in the Bay Area.
B+C: What does creative flow feel like for you?
MS: I find it comes the most naturally at nighttime when I can stop being distracted by daytime things. There isn’t much of a need to look at my phone, everyone is sleeping. I can just lose myself in the process and feel really good about what I am doing.
B+C: I imagine that working full-time as an artist involves a good amount of solo time. What does your support system look like? Are there artist communities or groups that you turn to for support/inspiration/etc?
MS: It can definitely get lonely and feel very isolating. I am definitely a homebody and I love being alone, but sometimes you need to leave. I go for walks a lot to clear my head and get space from my studio. I am fortunate to have a lot of other artist or freelance friends, and we all text a lot during the day to help each other get through tough spots or talk through creative problems.
Trivia About You: I’m double jointed and I can touch my tongue to my nose.
Go-to Karaoke Song: "Islands in the Stream"
Favorite Art Tool: My hands
Late Night Snack: Popcorn
Currently Reading: Black KKKlansman
B+C: Aside from your fiber work, are there other types of art-making that you explore on a regular basis?
MS: Does LEGO building count? I love to paint (poorly) and cook.
B+C: How do you manage your time? Do you come up with set hours for yourself or just go with the flow?
MS: Not well! I mostly go with the flow. I work best in the afternoons and night, which can be tricky when I have a child and should be working while he is at school. I find it very difficult to be productive and motivated during the first part of the day. But I am always trying.
B+C: When you get creatively blocked or burnt out, how do you reset? Do you have tips you can share?
MS: Generally I have more ideas than I have time. I think I am sometimes fortunate that I am a single parent because half of my week, I am forced to stop, to spend time with a child, to not be focused solely on work, and it gives my brain a rest that allows me to reset. I also rely on walks and meditation. I find the most new ideas when I allow my brain to get totally quiet, although this sometimes leads to unintentional napping…
B+C: I know you’ve taught in-person workshops and online classes. Tell me more about your relationship with teaching.
MS: I have taken a bit of a step back from teaching. I initially wanted to share weaving with people because it changed my life. I still love teaching, but at the end of 2017, I realized I was stretched way too thin. I wasn’t doing anything well and something had to give. Teaching was the thing that was incredibly time consuming and really hurting my relationship with my son, so it was the logical thing to take a step back from.
B+C: If you could tell your younger self one thing, what would it be?
MS: You are exactly where you need to be. Don’t judge yourself based on what other people are doing; we are all on our own journey.
Because Shimek is as down-to-earth as she seems, I did in fact get to hug multiple weavings of hers as well as a few bundles of roving. Check out more of her work at @meghanshimek on the 'gram and at MeghanShimek.com.
Author: Anjelika Temple (Video: Michael Sullivan, Photography: Kurt Andre)