I’m so excited to feature Creative Lady Gina Abelkop on the blog today. She’s a writer who also runs a DIY feminist press. She took the time to talk to me about her process, her inspirations, and her role models. I really loved her advice for other creative ladies. Thanks to Gina for the interview! You can find her on her blog, at Birds of Lace, and on Twitter @themoonstop. And remember that I’m always on the lookout for Creative Ladies! If you’d like to be interviewed, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What’s your main creative gig (this can be your day job, your freelance work, or both)? Describe what you do on a normal working day.
My main creative endeavor is writing (poetry, prose, something in-between), but my day job is in circulations & marketing for an institutionally-funded literary journal. A normal work day involves me getting up at 6:15am, blearily reading some of the internet before work, and then getting to my desk at work at 8am. From then until 5pm I’m on Twitter/Tumblr/Facebook for my day job as well as doing other things that would be uninteresting to write about here. When I get home, if I have the will/energy, I’ll sit down with some poems I’ve written and edit, or work on a current project which involves creating poems out of mixed-up interviews from one of my favorite artists; I’m also working on tiny poems that respond to her sculptures and paintings. My creative time happens in starts and spurts throughout any given day with not much of a schedule to it.
What are your creative, just-for-fun (not money or career advancement) hobbies?
I run Birds of Lace, a DIY feminist press that I founded in 2005. I do layout (by paper & scissors, still!), design, photocopying & mailing of chapbooks by exciting writers whose words I love. This year I’m printing all the chapbooks and broadsides with a letterpress, which is really exciting! I’m enrolled in an 8-week letterpress class at a local studio, in which I will learn the ins-n-outs of letterpress while also having access to their equipments and ink. I also love making collaged postcards to send to friends far and wide, and have also made wire-wrapped jewelry, created linocut prints and built funny objects out of whatever’s around just for the fun of it. The older I get the lazier I get (sad but true), but I also love creating glamorous encounters on my own body via make up/clothing/hair etc. Additionally, I co-edit Finery, the online journal-arm of Birds of Lace, with Carrie Murphy, so I’m often reading submissions.
What inspires you? Feel free to be as literal or as figurative as you want.
Lately it’s been the following, a mix of all-time favorites and current obsessions:
Visually: The Flintstones, Pee Wee’s Playhouse, Rachel Feinstein’s paintings & sculptures, the Yuba River (specifically Edward’s Crossing), Utah desert, the Italian film ‘The Great Beauty,’ Pedro Almadovar’s ‘I’m So Excited!’ (specifically a choreographed dance routine scene), the ocean, dank/overgrown forests
Sonically: Blood Orange, Sky Ferreira, Dum Dum Girls, Four Tops, Tori Amos, Joanna Newsom, Erykah Badu, a local radio station called EZ FM that plays lots of swoony ’50s ballads, Rufus Wainwright, Beyonce, Marina & the Diamonds, Rasputina, Sly & the Family Stone, Dixie Chicks
Words: Alfred Starr Hamilton, Danielle Pafunda, Lucas de Lima, Anna Joy Springer, Carrie Murphy, James Baldwin, Willa Cather, Emily Dickinson, Jennifer Tamayo, Magdalena Zurawski, Tavi Gevinson
In three words, describe your creative aesthetic/viewpoint.
fetid, femme, uncomfortably-bright
How would you describe your creative “process”? Does it involve a lot of staring into space, doodling, or candy eating?
I’ve never been very good at structuring my creative time, so I generally just work when I feel moved to work. Staring into space happens for sure, and also being sidelined by a song or video or my dog or a tabloid story. So far my timeline for producing a poetry manuscript seems to be about three years, and during those years traveling, seeing live music, going to museums, swimming in natural bodies of water, dancing with friends and various other activities inform the way I write and what I write about.
What creative accomplishment are you most proud of?
Birds of Lace is the thing I’m most proud of and find the most easy joy in. I’m proud of the friendships that have happened via BoL, the networking of like-minded feminist artists, a loose knit community of sorts. I’m proud to be a part of something that helps proliferate voices and words I find absolutely necessary, both pleasurable and useful for living. I’m proud of the writers whose work I get to publish and I’m proud to offer a space for writing that may have trouble finding a home elsewhere due to being too messy/emotional/gross/psychotic.
What’s a big creative challenge/failure/embarrassment you’ve learned from?
Oh gosh. I fail and embarrass myself all the time in my writing, but thankfully it’s rarely public. There are old poems of mine online that I wish weren’t there anymore, which has taught me that a.) one is always rapidly changing their feelings about work they make and b.) not to rush into publishing new work. A creative challenge that ended up being really empowering was making a short video for the release of my book Darling Beastlettes. I’d never made anything with video before and totally winged it– created the music by using a tape player to record music looped on my record player, and had the tape playing live as I shot the video, and also asked a friend to play improvised piano behind me when we shot in her bedroom. Enlisted the help of another a friend and built a backdrop in her yard, made fake blood from a recipe off the internet. Then used iMovie to edit which was incredible– I’d never used it before and it was SO EASY. To feel like you could just do this thing you’d never done before and didn’t know the first thing about doing: yes! Make it up as you go along. It doesn’t have to look “professional”, it just has to look like you made it.
Who’s your Creative Lady role model (this can be a person you know, a celebrity, a fictional character, etc.)?
My friends are totally my heroes. To name a few: Elizabeth who just worked her ass off for several years to become a nurse, Aerin who created Praxis, a community space in San Francisco, Carrie Murphy who doulas and writes and lives with an honesty and sincerity that knock me out, Rhani who offers free queer & trans yoga classes in her apt. Juliet Cook & Margaret Bashaar & Kristy Bowen & Gina Myers & Danielle Dutton & Susanna Gardner & Belladonna* collective & Roxane Gay & JD Scott & Shanna Compton & Joyelle McSweeney & Kimberly Ann Southwick & all the magical others who run indie/DIY presses/journals for wayward words. Joanna Newsom, Laverne Cox, Marina Diamandis, Kate Bush, Annie Clark, Erykah Badu, Carey Mulligan, Rachel Feinstein, Jane Campion, Sarah Silverman: all famous-type folks who make work I find vital to my ability to keep believing in and loving this world.
What time of day are you most creative? Are you a morning person or a night owl?
Definitely night time. My ideal schedule would involve going to bed at 2am and waking up closer to 11, as I enjoy staying up and putting a movie on while I bind chapbooks/collage/look through magazines and books for inspiration, write along to music etc. As it stands I generally try to be asleep by 11/11:30 since I get up around 6am, so I’m learning to adjust my creative time-clock!
Being an awesome Creative Lady can be overwhelming. What do you do to relax?
Walks with my sweetheart & dogs, naps, movies, teevee shows, dancing, reading, vaccuming (ha! but seriously), swimming when it’s the right season, reading lots of trash and not-trash on the internet.
What books would you recommend to other Creative Ladies?
The Vicious Red Relic, Love by Anna Joy Springer (for combining so many written/visual forms)
Lorna Simpson’s photography monograph (for mind-alteringly brilliant photographs that tell wild, important stories)
It’s So Magic by Lynda Barry (to restore your faith in humanity when you need to)
Collected Essays by James Baldwin (Baldwin teaches me how to live in a world that is terrible and difficult and beautiful)
Dance Dance Revolution by Cathy Park Hong (an example of how one can create a world totally their own– make your own rules)
The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown (non-didactic self-help to learn how to live with less shame about who you are)
What advice would you give to other Creative Ladies who want to do what you do?
Do it! Do it however you can/would like to. Photocopy zines, start an online journal, make videos with your shitty camera, collage using discarded magazines, start a press, write write write. You don’t have to show anything to anyone if you don’t want to: keep it locked up in your room or post it online, whatever feels right. Ask to trade your zine with people you admire. Write letters to people you admire/appreciate. Nothing has to look or read or feel a certain way. You need very little to write: pen & paper. Send postcards with tiny poems on them. Make beautiful meals for yourself and your friends. There are so very many ways to be creative and all of them are important and often fun and gratifying (though also often difficult and/or frustrating). Appreciate your creativity and the ways it contributes to the world; appreciate the many creativities of others and try and let that be generative for you too. Be a part of the exchange of creative energy in this world.
What’s your Creative Lady motto?
It’s a long one, and less a motto than words to live by but:
“Art has to be a kind of confession. I don’t mean a true confession in the sense of that dreary magazine. The effort it seems to me, is: if you can examine and face your life, you can discover the terms with which you are connected to other lives, and they can discover them, too — the terms with which they are connected to other people. This has happened to every one of us, I’m sure. You read something which you thought only happened to you, and you discovered it happened 100 years ago to Dostoyevsky. This is a very great liberation for the suffering, struggling person, who always thinks that they are alone. This is why art is important. Art would not be important if life were not important, and life is important. Most of us, no matter what we say, are walking in the dark, whistling in the dark. Nobody knows what is going to happen to them from one moment to the next, or how one will bear it. This is irreducible. And it’s true for everybody. Now, it is true that the nature of society is to create, among its citizens, an illusion of safety; but it is also absolutely true that the safety is always necessarily an illusion. Artists are here to disturb the peace. They have to disturb the peace. Otherwise, chaos.” –James Baldwin
Photos by Keith Aguiar