Sarah Simmons is a mixed media artist working with unwanted and discarded materials to communicate her ideas about human relationships and environments. Her home-based studio is small and packed to the brim with fabric, thread, old books, and other interesting tidbits. We were thrilled to squeeze in with her to talk about her creative practice for our August interview.
Where are you from?
I'm from the DC suburbs in Maryland.
What neighborhood do you live in now?
Moon Township, PA in the West Hills.
Why do choose to make art in Pittsburgh?
I came to PA for college and I ended up in Pittsburgh for a job after college, non art related. I never planned on staying and I just ended up staying. The cost of living is good and the city is great. We're not super close to it but we're close enough.
What is your favorite part of being an artist in Pittsburgh?
I found recently since I've started networking just in the West Hills, that there's a nice little group of creative people in the West Hills. I think there could be even more of us but we just aren't necessarily connected at this point. I feel like the city has a really strong network of artists but we don't as much out here. We have the West Hills Art League but a lot of the members tend to be a bit older. I've learned just through work at the library and meeting other parents at school functions that there are these artists who are looking to reconnect with their creative practice.
What would you love to see more of in the Pittsburgh arts scene?
More connection and offerings in the West Hills. It's not that I don't want to be involved in Pittsburgh, but with the kids, it's not always feasible to get into town. So seeing more connection out here would be great.
What's your favorite music to jam to in the studio?
I usually listen to WYEP or an audiobook. I'm an audiobook junky. Or, it might be quiet so I can make sure the kids aren't killing each other in the next room.
What other things do you do when you are not making art... that is, IF you have any free time?
I have two sons, I work at the library, and I run. I have a marathon in October. I haven't done one in two years because of some health things so I'm kinda getting back into it.
What would you tell other artists who are just starting out?
My biggest mistake that I made was telling myself that I had to wait until I figure out what I'm going to make. In college, I didn't really fit into a particular program. I was in metals but I wasn't really because I was doing other things. I did a little bit of this and a little bit of that and I kept thinking I have to make a living at this. I kept asking myself, "What can I make that people will buy?" Don't worry about what you can make that people will buy. I feel like I trapped myself into that for too many years trying to make a product that people would buy. It doesn't have to be lucrative. You are going to make your best work if you are making whatever is inspiring to you.
I started making handbags before realizing that I didn't really want to make people's handbags. If I could make a different one every time, that'd be great but I didn't want to make the same one over and over again. Same thing with the book jewelry- I'm trying not to do as much of it because it's not really what I want to be doing.
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