We had the good fortune of connecting with Shari Elf and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Shari, can you talk to us a bit about the social impact of your business?
This of course helps the community with more people coming to Joshua Tree and spending money here (and that can be good and bad for a community). But there is also a joy and energy many people feel when they visit our space.
I love that I am unemployable, I do not like working for other people, so here people can find an artist who enjoys her art and the wonderful art of crochet and values it enough to celebrate it with a “museum” and roadside attraction.
when I think of all the love that went into making each piece in my museum and they are packed so tightly in there, I imagine all the love and joy one could feel when they walk into that space. As well as the residual love and joy that many delighted visitors leave for future visitors. A wonderful collection of love and joy vibrates from the space and I believe many people feel that and respond to it. So many people tell us how inspired they feel. Many people sit on my chair that reads “Wait here, your soul wants to catch up”
The museum and my store and Art Queen, the whole complex where my store and museum live, gives people ideas of freedom to follow your bliss, tap into their creative ideas and see where that can lead them.
The art I make and have in my store is my therapy, I make it to remind me of things I want to remember or change in my life. Here are a few of my t-shirt. print and art sayings: Where are we going if we’re not going to love?… Surrender to Happiness… What stands in the way is the way…I like myself, so you don’t have to…Why not take a fashion risk?… Why not smash your “smart” phone with this rock?…What Would Cher Do?…I’m OK, You’re OK…Ascend Now, Avoid the Crowds…Call your dog…Jesus with his Kittens…Breathe…Divine Order…Quiet Please…RIP failing forces of darkness…I am Medicine…Welcome to the Fifth Dimension…
I don’t crochet, I only collect for my museum, which got started when my fellow folk artist friend, Ramona Otto, gave me 2 crochet bottle poodles and said, “I think you should collect these”, to which I responded, “really?”
But I kept finding those cute poodles in different colors and styles and sure enough, they looked so really great together.
When I think about roadside attractions, which I have always been a big fan of, I think it is wide open for more of this kind of fun for other creative people to explore and live a life that supports adventure and fun for others.
I consider myself to be of service to others and living my purpose. I have no wish to expand or let anyone try to build my art into something for their agenda (I went through several phases of that happening with my music, art and fashion while I lived in LA and happily none of them worked out, I believe because it was not my destiny and, as I said, I am now living my purpose). I am right sized and following my bliss with complete contentment.
My museum and store is a wonderful example of another way to do life, besides the idea that we are fed by the main stream narrative. I’ve never been a hive mind person, I’m a creative person and I think for myself. Also years of therapy and work on myself, after growing up in a painful home, help me to know who I am. My teacher, Dr. Pat Allen says “You need to be an I before you can be a we or an us.”
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
My art career today started at the flea markets of Los Angeles. At the time I had a sewing business in my little apartment but I was getting tired of it (I wrote a song called “The Seamstress” and 2 months later I was no longer in the seamstress business),I started going to artist support groups and within a few months was coming to the groups saying I was starting to sell some of my paintings at the flea markets. Right away I sold paintings to set directors for the movie Independence Day and my art from trash was perfect timing because the House of Blues folk art was popular and a folk art dealer ended up selling nearby me at the Santa Monica Airport Flea market and people were already collecting from her but then found me, their own folk artist with no middle man. the dealer, Martine, did end up representing me in some Folk Art shows and Festivals.
There would often be people lined up waiting for me to unpack my car when I’d arrive on Sundays and often leave with no art because it all sold.
I think that I’m just like I was when I was 10 years old and liked to build stuff, I still build stuff, fun stuff that makes me smile or laugh and that has beauty to me, often from recycled materials. My inner child is my artist and she’s good at what she does.
was it easy to get where I am today with my art? i believe the support of my artist support group, and we were a 12 step group, which is spiritual and I believe the group and God, my higher power made things unfold often very magically. I could have pushed and tried real hard to discipline myself and maybe had some success, but I give much credit to God and love and the joy that comes from living my life purpose and believing in myself and my art. I had a few challenges in the early days at the flea markets, I knew my art was wonderful because I’d make it and kept looking at it and feeling amazed at how much fun I was having and how much I liked my art so I felt eventually it would catch on and it did. And once it did, I’d eventually have lines of people waiting for me to unpack the art from my car so they could get first dibs on my dogs, queens, mermaids, cats, fish and other fun things I’d dream up that week.
my art has been seen in airports all over the world, HSBC Bank of England put my World Famous Crochet Museum in airport advertisements and I’d get pictures from friends from airports all over the world. The words on their ad said “It favours the unorthodox”
I’d want others to know that a girl who used to amuse herself making fun things out of trash in her room kept that childlike wonder and creativity alive and growing and continues to delight herself and others with her creations and roadside attraction in Joshua Tree.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
In the old days we’d go to Pappy and Harriet’s to the open mike and often I’d sing a song but now it’s a tourist destination and over crowded.
Joshua Tree is getting a lot of visitors. maybe too many, I wish people would stay home and discover the wonders of their own back yard and maybe make a road side attraction of their own, or a really great new restaurant or store that let’s them live their dream.
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?