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Artists Chatting With Tea

Artists Chatting with Tea: LIVE Instagram Artist Interviews

With (and by) Lauren G. Koch

(Associate Artist FBAC)

The COVID-19 quarantine has left us reeling as our lives have been turned completely upside down. We have been trying desperately to maintain our identity as artists all while holding onto our sanity and preserving connections with our communities of friends and colleagues. Our classes have been cancelled or moved online, partners and children are home all day (personally I’m enjoying that part, but of course I have cats rather than children), art openings have been cancelled, exhibitions postponed indefinitely, our studios are now all over the kitchen table and house (which let’s be honest… isn’t very odd for me anyway), and even routine trips to the grocery store have taken on a completely new context. Within this rapidly changing environment of quarantine life, being an artist is a good thing because we rarely run out of things to occupy our time and we are a resourceful bunch, making our own butter and protective masks. Unsurprisingly, new and interesting social-media based, artist outreach programs have sprung up around us, just like the blooming Spring flowers.

How Artists Chatting with Tea started….

A colleague of mine, Dane Winkler, started organizing and prompting Instagram LIVE artist talks, just over two weeks ago. I was among the first wave of presenters. While I’ve been doing artist talks for years this was a completely new, anxiety inducing, way of doing something that already makes me extremely nervous. But I forged ahead because I love sharing my processes and adventures (once you get me started talking it’s hard for me to stop when it’s a topic I know well). After watching each of my friends present their work in various interesting styles, I was filled with questions about their work, inspirations, processes, and their presentation style. All I had to do was message them to get my answers but that seemed so selfish. I knew that a broader audience of creators and their supporters would also be interested in these conversations.

Also, I quickly noted that many of my friends had a mug of tea or other beverage close at hand, while doing their artists talk. In fact, several of my relationships have revolved around our mutual love of hot tea. Immediately, I messaged Dane and several of my other friends to see how much interest there was in chatting about art over tea, but with a kick. Since we couldn’t meet at our favorite coffee shop or café, we would be chatting in comfy spot at home with our favorite mug, but instead of just FaceTiming each other we would be LIVE broadcasting it to our friends, colleagues, supporters, and maybe even future collectors. There was so much support and interest that seemingly overnight Artists Chatting with Tea was born. Never in a million years, would I have imagined hosting a podcast much less a LIVE, unedited broadcast of a quirky, yet genuine conversation with fellow creatives about art, travel, and whatever else that pops up. Something about taking the formality out of the process and being armed with my favorite mug of hot tea seemed to make everything more fun and inviting.

A quick evolution…

Originally, this was going to be something that happened twice, maybe three times, hosted on my personal Instagram handle @lace.anvil_lgkart. However, after talking with a few more of my colleagues and finding out how much interest there was in something of this nature, it became something much larger. At that point, I made a sketch of one my teacups, ran it through Photoshop to create a quick and simple logo, and made a new Instagram handle @artistschattingwithtea. As soon as I posted the first post, I was having misgivings. I figured as soon as I hosted a few artist chats, interest would dwindle, and the page would have the same fate as my previous blog attempts. Deep down, I knew I wanted it to be so much more… Something that lasted long after quarantine… Something that would morph and change… Something that would bring my fellow creatives together and act as an interface to bring our work to a broader audience.

It was like I was living the scene from Field of Dreams, where Kevin Costner hears a mysterious voice saying “If you build it, he will come”. Immediately, I was met with so much support and interest. Not only was I receiving messages from my close colleagues, but also acquaintances, friends of friends, even complete strangers that thought it was great idea and wanted to participate. Briefly, I had mixed feeling and so many things were running through my head.

I have created a monster!!!

This is so exciting, people actually want to participate…

I don’t have time for this, why am I creating more work for myself???

You’ve always been told, you can do anything if you put your mind to it…

Who do I think I am… I know nothing about organizing or hosting anything like this???

Who cares, fake it till you make it… right!?!?!?!?!?! Learn as you go…

make this happen… this is something people want, maybe even need…

Just DO IT!!!

All of that overthinking, transformed my whole approach to the project. I went from taking my time and planning my first chat for mid-April to calling one of my best friends, Alyssa Imes. On March 31st, I asked if she would be my Guinea pig for this adventure, starting the next day. Of course, she said yes. I posted my list of April artists that night and started prepping questions for the interview the next day. I had messages pouring in. I knew I had my work cut out for me and it had to be approached just as I would organize a syllabus or course descriptions.

- First step was type up an outline of the project so artists would know what to expect before agreeing to chat with me LIVE.

- Second step was creating a way for folks to sign up and keep all the information in one place. That turned into me stumbling through Google Forms to create a self-editing sheet that would update dates and hold information for me.

- Step three was having a confirmation email describing how to connect with me on Instagram LIVE.

BOOM!!! it was done… well sort of… there were definite hick-ups, but hopefully I’ve corrected them all now. Let me just say, after years of arguing with Excel sheets and cobbling together crudely working forms, the time that we live in is amazing. The apps available to streamline organizational documents, while making them look aesthetically pleasing and still professionally functional, makes life so much easier.

Artists Chatting with Tea has transformed so quickly. It started as a chance for me to catch up with colleagues I only get to see at conferences and has morphed into an internationally reaching project. I can’t wait to see how this project continues to evolve. I am now a week into organizing everything and I’m booked through mid-September with some weeks featuring two artists. Now that I have had a moment to take a step back and look at what’s happening, no longer I am surprised that I’m creating something like this for artist talk about their experience as an artist in a totally new and fresh manner. Just a few weeks ago, I was finishing writing my MFA thesis draft… explaining how my work is about storytelling, memory, and the inherent need of humans to share and be heard. It has become clear this is yet another way of telling a story… of sharing. Artists Chatting with Tea is a collaborative piece combining a glimpse into collective memory woven with the personal narratives of my friends, fellow creators, and myself.

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