We had the good fortune of connecting with Molly Meng and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Molly, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
I used to work non-stop and everything was a priority and it all had to be done at the same time! It was a frantic way of working. It felt like I had to keep up with, or out-do, everyone else to create and to make and to present something constantly, just to be noticed. The pandemic really changed all that: Not only were things shutting down and therefore it couldn’t all be done at the same time, but the silence brought clarity. I write out a lot of to-do lists, so i’m able to check things off as I’ve listed them. I let myself go outside and sit in the sun with my dogs for 30 minutes (or more!) in the middle of the day, as if I’m taking that ‘break’ an employer would give you. I now schedule a trip to the post office every two weeks, instead of going immediately when an order comes through. Instead of responding to emails all the time, which made me feel scattered, I respond at a given time or day. When I create a social media post, I tend to take it across all platforms in the moment, with slight tweaks, instead of trying to “invent the wheel” every day. The longer I take with silence and stillness, the more clear I am for balance the next day, the next artwork, or the next project. The pandemic made me realize the best thing I can do is be super honest with my followers/clients/customers and give them more of my personality and less of an attempted perfection all the time.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
It took me ages to call myself an artist, even after I had my own business designing & making greeting cards for ten years, even after selling multiple artworks and having multiple solo art shows, that title, “artist” felt so big! Once I took on the title, things started rolling. It’s difficult to promote yourself and your work, because it’s so incredibly personal and vulnerable, but it’s the one thing you have to consistently do to keep in the loop. Promote your work, say yes (to most!) opportunities, or seek out those places/people/magazines that highlight your work or avenues that are dedicated to showing your work. You need to decide if you want to make things en mass, and to creating a ‘product’ or if you prefer to work at your own pace, make artwork, and sell that. I learned, over many years, that making a ‘product’ like the greeting cards, something that can be made over and over or ‘produced’ was not what I really wanted to do. I like making one-of-a-kind, unique artwork that is purchased by an individual or shown in a gallery. These days, being out there on social media or interacting with other artists has been an important part of being/staying self-employed. You don’t have to sell your soul, but you do want to engage maybe a bit more than you thought you ever would. I love teaching creative workshops because it allows me to work with people who may have only known me by a piece of work they’d seen of mine. Keeping this diversification has allowed me to continue in this fairly crowded field of artists. My work has both evolved over the years and kept a similar thru line. I’ve moved over to textile art much more and enjoy the possibilities that brings. But collage, in both paper and textiles, is still my main communication. The work I do is different from many, so I could just rely on the idea that people who love my work will seek me out, but people still have to find you and they can’t do that unless you’re putting yourself out there!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I would definitely take them downtown LA: Grand Central Market first thing! to eat, drink and eat some more! The Last Bookstore and all the shops on the second floor (we’d have to go to Fold Gallery to see some of my work they carry, of course) I’d take them to Guisado’s in SilverLake for fabulous tacos and L&E for oysters. I’d spend some serious browsing time in Skylight Books & their juicy annex next door! We’d get a coffee at Go Get ’em Tiger and then take a walk along the LA River or hike in Elysian or Griffith Park to get our nature fix. I’m a big thrifter, so I always love hitting up Goodwill or St Vincent De Paul, too.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Big shoutout to my loving husband who supports everything I do; to the amazing French General, here in Los Angeles who supports, mentors, loves and encourages me, as well as keeps me busy in the world of teaching creative workshops; and to Janine Vangool of Uppercase Magazine who supports all artists and gives a million opportunities to be seen in a gorgeous light.
all photos taken by me, molly c meng