#93: Becky Wareing-Steele
Becky Wareing-Steele lives in a world of miniatures, where tiny figures and creatures go about their lives inside tiny bottles and jars and whimsical lockets, and even among the jagged crystals of cracked-open geodes. Her crafting career started with a button-making machine and worked its way into diorama-building; now Wareing-Steele's growing family of miniatures, under the moniker of Becky's Buttons, have become sought-after collectibles at local craft shows and boutiques. How does the world look from outside of those tiny bubbles? Wareing-Steele shared her big picture in the following 100CC questionnaire.
If you could collaborate with anyone in history, who would it be, and why?
Henry Darger. He was the focus of my thesis work when I was in school at CSU. I have always been drawn to the work of "outsider" artists. I am really intrigued by his storytelling ability and the fact that his mind blurred the lines between an existence and a created reality, which I think led to a really incredible body of work. There is something really special about someone whose creativity is untarnished by the everyday world around them. I'm not sure how the collaboration would go, since Henry was a bit of a recluse and didn't interact with people much, but if it was possible, I'd love to work with him to turn some of his works into diorama-based scenes. Seeing the Vivian Girls in 3D would really blow my mind.
Who in the world is interesting to you right now, and why?
My nieces and nephew. Being the youngest in my family, I've never really spent a lot of time around children until now. The four of them range in age from six weeks to three years, and it's incredible to see how they process information and how creative their minds are. I think it's similar to my love of "outsider" art. They are at an age right now when they do and say what feels natural. Their creativity and process is not tainted yet by what others think and societal norms. It's really refreshing to be around someone who just tells you exactly what they're thinking.
What's one art trend you want to see die this year?
Artists undervaluing their work and pricing it too cheap. I fall victim to this all the time myself, and I feel like I am slowly breaking out of this cycle. Artists overall have a difficult time charging what they should for their work and fall into the cycle of thinking, "What would I pay for this?" when really they need to think about what its value is and find that right audience that will understand the value of the work. It's a difficult trap I think a lot of us fall into; even if you are not an artist, I'm sure you've had experiences where you second guess the value of your time and ideas. There's a difference between something being affordable and something being sustainable so that individuals can continue to create and support themselves off their work.
What's your day job?
I am a buyer and manager at Fancy Tiger Clothing. I've been working at the store for more than four years now, and I truly enjoy going to work everyday. It's a very creative environment, and everyone who works there also has freelance work on the side, which makes it a very supportive environment for creative types to be in. If I need time off to work on a new product or fill a large order, everyone is on the same page and willing to help out.
I always regretted not minoring in business when I was in school for my undergrad, but I've learned so much about running a business through working at the store that it really makes up for that. As an artist, it is a unique experience to work as a buyer on the opposite end of the equation. It gives me a competiive edge when I'm approaching new stores about carrying my work. Having this experience working as a buyer for a independently owned boutique, I know how I like to be approached by artists, which influences my approach when reaching out to new accounts.
A mystery patron offers you unlimited funds for life. What will you do with it?
I would first make sure all of my Nana's expenses are paid for, for the rest of her life. She lives in a nursing home in Pennsylvania, and we talk on the phone every Sunday, and every week she says the same thing to me, "Becky, you're going to be a millionaire some day." I always respond with, "And you're the first person I'm going to take care of," and I mean it.
Then I'd probably have to fund that missile silo my dad's had his eye on in Colorado. His dream is to turn it into a huge underground home for our entire family to live in. I'm sure we could arrange for a wing of the missile silo to house an incredible collection of artwork that would be free and open to the public. I'd also really love to travel and experience more of the world and see how artists in other communities practice their art and how my new found fortune could help them with their work.
What's the one thing Denver (or Colorado) could do to help the arts?
I think, overall, that Denver is a very supportive community towards the arts. We seem to be moving in the right direction. Of course, things like more accessible small business loans and grants, along with affordable studio spaces, would help as well, but I really feel like Denver is moving in the right direction.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
I am very inspired by the work of my peers. I met Katrin Davis through Instagram and fell in love with her dioramas. It's refreshing to find someone working in a similar medium, but taking a totally different approach that I never imagined. I know something is amazing when I look at it and think, "Man, I wish I would have thought of that," and that's how I feel every time I see a new creation of hers. She is also a talented illustrator and designer, but you should probably just check out her work and see for yourself. .
What's on your agenda in the coming year?
A book launch and upcoming art exhibit at Fancy Tiger Clothing, tentatively scheduled for early fall. I've been working on this series of photographs entitled The Adventure of Henri & Evelyn, which follows a miniature couple, allowing the viewer to see the everyday world from a different perspective. I really enjoy playing with scale and getting people to look at something ordinary in a different way. If you want to check out the series so far you can search the hashtag #theadventuresofhenriandevelyn on Instagram or follow me at @beckysbuttonsandthings.
Who do you think will get noticed in the local arts community in 2014?
I think she's already on many people's radar, but I'd have to say Sara Guindon. Long before our collaborations, I've admired her work as an artist. There is something about her work that is comforting and nostalgic. I've also had the opportunity to collaborate with her on several projects and getting that look into her process makes me appreciate the work she creates even more.
Learn more about Becky Wareing-Steele and her dioramas online.
Throughout the year, we'll be shining the spotlight on 100 superstars from Denver's rich creative community. Stay tuned to Show and Tell for more, or visit the 100 Colorado Creatives archive to catch up.
To keep up with the Froyd's eye view of arts and culture in Denver, "like" my fan page on Facebook.
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