Meet the Artist: Taylor Lee
We sat down with the artist herself for a fun little Q&A sesh. Enjoy!
Q: How long have you been painting?
TL: I have been painting ever since I can remember! When my sister and I were young we lived with my grandmother. As my mom worked long hours as a bank teller to make ends meet, my grandma took care of me and my sister. We didn't have cable and only had one or two VHS tapes ("White Lightning" with Burt Reynolds and also a Dolly Parton movie that's a little fuzzy), so we had to entertain ourselves creatively. My grandma was constantly creating something crafty, like birdhouses from scratch or painting little porcelain figurines she found at the dollar store. I spent most of my time either watching Bob Ross paint on the PBS channel or watching my grandma paint. She taught me a lot about it at an early age! Even though I didn't take art in school or college, her lessons and creativity stuck with me my whole life. About 6 years ago when I went into treatment for an eating disorder, I was introduced to art therapy. That is what combined my natural talent as a painter with a respect and love for abstract expressionism. For the last two years, I've really focused on developing into a professional artist, and here we are today!
Q: What is your biggest source of inspiration as an artist?
TL: My biggest source of inspiration as an artist include several things - I can't tease them out to tell which is stronger! I'm inspired daily by North Carolina and the South in general. We literally have over 500 shades of green represented in the wildlife of NC, which is amazing to someone like me whose whole job is color! I love driving down Wade Avenue in Raleigh - it's so green and the trees hanging over the road have such gorgeous movement through the leaves as the wind works it's way through. I try to depict that a lot in my work. My other source of inspiration is my experiences with mental illness. In particular, I experience mania via bipolar disorder, which essentially means that my mind is constantly buzzing with ideas and energy. Sometimes it can be overwhelming, but it also inspires me to work relentlessly on layers and layers of color and shape in my work. My art is all a combination of my inner and outer world. Both are beautiful to me!
Q: What is your favorite piece of M&L jewelry?
TL: Don't make me pick just one! I am obsessed with the Phi Phi tassel earrings and always have been! They are so much fun! I literally have all of the colors. I'm also so inspired by the confetti collection you did with Thimblepress. One of my favorite moments from visiting your studio in Apex was meeting Jane (with her glittery glasses), who was working on some of the drop earrings at the time and let me look over her shoulder. Finally, I have to say the work you all do with acrylic. I can't choose a favorite from that material...it's just so innovative! I haven't seen anything like it before, and I can totally understand how y'all became known for the acrylic monogram!
Q: If you could trade places with anyone for a day, who would you pick and why?
TL: This is a tough one! If I could trade places with anyone for a day, I would be Lisa Frank! I want to just pour over all of the artwork in their vaults and relive '90s nostalgia!
Q: If your personality was color, which would it be?
TL: My personality is definitely teal! If you look at it one way it's more blue, and the other way more green. This duality reminds me of bipolar disorder. Teal is also bright and fun without being super loud (I'm introverted for sure!).
Q: What is your favorite quote?
TL: Pablo Picasso — "Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working." I love this quote because it truly speaks about creativity as a habit and this makes it so accessible to everyone! I really dislike hearing people say, "I'm not creative," when they probably mean that they don't feel very "expressive." We are all creative and we are all capable of expressing ourselves! I don't view creativity (or inspiration) as some force of nature that strikes like lightning on some random soul. I believe that we all hold the power inside of us and that as long as we work hard and persist toward our dreams we will experience those magical artistic moments.
Q: What did you use as inspiration for your Moon and Lola Collection?My inspiration was inspired by two key elements in Moon and Lola's designs - their close tie to North Carolina and the amazing color choices they make in their jewelry. First of all, in these pieces I wanted to use the pinks, blues and neons that I've come to associate with Moon and Lola's collections and brand. Last year they rolled out the Thailand collection featuring tassels and beaded work and that has stuck with me. I looked to that collection and decided to bring it in to the way I see our home state of North Carolina. The coast of North Carolina is full of these beach towns that represent a range of adventure, from pastel coastal homes built in the '90s to the wild and mysterious nature of the inner islands, like Roanoke Island, that are overgrown and full of tales of the Lost Colony and Edward Teach (Blackbeard the pirate). I love the juxtaposition of bright colors and mystery, so all of these pieces are named for attractions along the NC coast. I use colors inspired by Moon and Lola's signature pieces that I have also seen along the beach in my 27 years of vacations taken to the coast every single year. This collection celebrates the current energy of North Carolinians as well as the nostalgia I have for those childhood summers in the '90s.
Q: What is your favorite fashion trend right now?
I love the '80s and '90s nostalgia that is going strong right now! The sort of pastel '90s colors, the fanny packs, the glittery sequins...all of that stuff is so much fun! With it comes mom jeans and crop tops which is a little bit tough, but I found a scrunchie the other day that looked like spiral telephone cord! To me that is just so fun! Ban.do is doing a lot of this stuff right now. I feel like some of the acrylic earrings you did with Thimblepress reminded me of '90s prints, so I descended upon those pretty quickly!
More from Taylor
Where I'm from: I was originally born in Williamston, North Carolina! This is where I grew up, and I went to college at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (go Heels!). I've taught middle and high school in Apex and Charlotte (respectively), and lived in Raleigh for many years where I met my husband. I currently live with my husband, John and our pug, Frida in Charlotte, NC.
Current favorite song: Strange Desire, Bleachers
Favorite podcast right now: The Creative Pep Talk podcast with Andy J. Pizza
Current read: Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston
Favorite movie: Moulin Rouge! Baz Luhrmann, 2001