We had the good fortune of connecting with Hilary Norcliffe and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Hilary, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
I guess there was a time when I thought of work and life as separate things, but for a long time now I’ve thought of art as a lifestyle and a way of thinking – not something separate from “work”. Rarely do I get to sit in my studio to make “art”. So I try to bring it into daily chores, teaching, repairing my house, responding to tenant needs or raising my daughter – the “work” that fills my days. What does this look like? Well, in the kitchen I cut off some beet roots and stick them onto oranges to make them look like the 3 blind mice. Repairing my house I find some awesome shaped roots I need to dig up that inspire some new sculpture. Mowing the overgrown lawn, the neighborhood kids come over to play and we make crazy wigs out of the grass. Teaching takes a huge amount of energy out of me – but I’m always trying to invent new projects that clarify concepts and give students room to imagine.
My daughter is 18 now and is off on her own, but I raised her as a single parent and that was really challenging to add on top of a creative lifestyle. So I didn’t try to separate her from my art. We did drawings together. I had paper up on the walls of our kitchen and she and I and her friends would all drawn it. I let her paint on her walls and build things with my tools. Even though she’s gone into the Sciences, she draws now more than anything in her spare time.
A lot of my found object art is inspired by materials I’m having to move around anyway. Plastic going into the recycling bin, wood from a fallen tree – these all become free art supplies that I play with when little windows of time open up – and I think about until that window appears.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I don’t fit neatly into any one category. My current interests are in Children’s Books (writing and illustrating) and Found Object Sculpture – which includes making weird instruments. I have not published any Children’s Books yet (although that is a goal of mine). I have many stories in the works at various stages of development. Since I was not trained as an illustrator or writer, I have joined SCBWI (The Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) and soak up as many training sessions/talks etc. as I can through them. I’m slowly getting closer (turns out it’s really hard to put together a good kids book!)
My fine art sculpture has inadvertently gotten some good exposure recently (pre-covid) thanks to two art friends who I’ve been ganging up with for shows (they are better connected to the art world than I am). Although we all work quite differently, we’ve found a point of common interest in trees/wood and have run with it. We currently have a show up at Cal Poly Pomona (trapped there for the past year) called St. Broxville Wood – Into the Thicket. The sculptural work I have in that show includes 5 instruments made from found furniture, and a plethora of found-wood sculptures that are connected to fables, fairy tales and other stories that might be interpreted from the point of view of the “tree” or forest surrounding the action.
I am completely horrible at networking, marketing my work, self-promo etc. I feel very inauthentic trying to push my work on anyone – so I keep my eyes open for opportunities that can happen more organically. Getting back in touch with some friends who are better tied to the art-world than I am was a good move.
What do I want the art world to know about my story? Just play! Our show got trapped by Covid – so I learned a little video editing and made this: St. Broxville Wood – Rumbles & Thrums https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A5yfAOO7sSk&feature=youtu.be
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Drive around the tip of Palos Verdes to Point Fermin in San Pedro. Swing on the rings on Muscle Beach.
Drive up the 101 and imagine it 100 years ago.
Sushi at R34 in LA.
Surfing lessons with M&M Surfing school in Seal Beach.
Hauser & Wirth in the Arts District.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My parents have been rock-solid supporters of my circuitous journey. Tim Hawkinson fired up my art brain like no one else as I was just starting to get exposed to art.
The MFA program at CSULB (faculty and fellow students) became the “people like me” that I never knew existed – and have continued to be my extended art family for 20+ years.
Sandra Cutuli, children’s librarian and art collector, taught me how children listen and showed me how to read to them. She also exposed me to some amazing books.