Here I am!

First off, thanks for joining me on my blog!

This will be the home of my adventures in art, natural dyeing, and growing dye plants. My name is Winthur Sempliner. I’m an artist living in Portland, Oregon, and my work is inspired by and created with plants. I use natural plant dyes and inks made from scratch, growing or foraging the plants for my colors locally whenever possible. I use my background as a textile designer to literally build my work from scratch, turning the traditional painting on canvas into a series of integrated processes, from making the color to weaving or knitting the material myself. The work evolves organically, building momentum as it is created. I like the work itself to remain in control, calling the shots and willing my hands to do the work. I feel as if I’m simply connecting the dots between ideas that have always been there, waiting to be linked. I make my creative decisions intuitively, and I work until it feels right to stop.

The road to get here, working on my art everyday, identifying the need to create a blog for my work, even just being comfortable with the idea of calling myself an artist professionally, has been bumpy. I grew up in a creative household and identified with being “into art” from a very young age, attending a high school that was heavily focused on art and eventually heading to Rhode Island School of Design for college. After graduating, I worked as a commercial textile designer, and did so for the past 15 years. Although I tried to maintain a balance of making art for myself and making art for the customer, after all that time a person inevitably gets confused. I left my last corporate job in October of 2017, and I can honestly say it’s taken me this long, over a year, to detox from being a 9-5 “creative” in the business world.

It was so frustrating to finally have the freedom to make my own work, to express whatever I wanted to express in whatever way I wanted to, and to realize I had lost my voice. Not only that, but I had developed some pretty nasty coping mechanisms to deal with my anxiety and fear of failure, habits that permitted me to make commercially viable artwork on demand without fear of being judged, but that completely hindered my ability to make the authentic, meaningful work I longed to make. Over the past year I’ve done some really serious and quite painful peeling back of layers and layers of very tough skins I’d grown. I’m happy to announce that underneath it all, that soft, fragile, delicate flower I was expecting to find wasn’t there. It was just me, able to breathe deeper and look longer, with my feelings and thoughts reunited. I realize now that finding and maintaining this unguarded mental space that I need to create my work in is a really hard and necessary part of the job. I make time for it and I’m aware when it is in jeopardy.

Enter the blog I’m writing! I’ve found it is really hard to see the forest through the trees at times, no matter what type of work one does. Many days I wonder what I’m doing at all, other days my vision is clear. Everyday I feel alive and carried forward by the art I make, and that keeps me going. I’m completely enthralled and captivated by the plants and processes I use in my studio. So enthralled that I’ve found myself nearly in a complete vacuum, save for my family and dear dog. I think it was important for me to go solo for a while to find my voice and develop my practice, but now I’m really ready to rejoin the living. I miss talking to people and sharing ideas.

If you’re reading this, I hope to connect with you in some way. Although I am not Buddhist, I do believe we are all interconnected beings that don’t function or grow well in a vacuum for very long. Our ideas and thoughts are meant to be shared in order to grow. Buddha says, “Since this exists, that exists, and, since this does not exist, that does not exist. That is created because this is created, so if this disappears, that disappears.” Whether we want to admit it or not, we are all in a symbiotic relationship with the universe. We are never really alone, and if we are feeling lonely that’s a choice we’ve made for ourselves. So I’m throwing open the windows and doors! I planted a little seed in this studio all by myself, but it needs the brilliant light from all you other creative beings to truly thrive.

Winding skeins of yarn for dyeing on a sunny day in January.