Take 5 with Artist Vera Pinho
Welcome to the Take 5 series, where we take five minutes and ask Lehigh Valley professionals and personalities five questions.
Name: Vera Pinho
What I’m Doing With My Life: Making art! I’m currently hand-making artisanal soaps.
Favorite Crystal: Dalmatian Jasper
My Ideal Saturday Night: Hanging out with my close friends and laughing until one of us cry-laughs.
Weirdest Job I’ve Ever Had: Being a flight attendant. You never knew when your flight might change completely–we would end up in Cape Verde and I would have on a winter uniform and sweaters in my carry-on. I own far too many neon Aruba t-shirts.
1. It’s easy to compare your art to other artists, especially online, and maybe feel inadequate. How do you stay confident, positive, and focused on your own work?
It’s exactly that, my own work. I made a lot of work in the past that was more work and less art. Now I really make art for myself. I focus on things that get me excited–that are personal or interesting to me–and then challenge myself to explore and create in a way that allows me to be present and learn new techniques throughout in the process.
Most artists research projects before they start them, and I think it’s important not to get discouraged because someone else has already made it. The idea is to make it your own anyway, to go through the process of problem solving, innovating, and creating. A lot of art making is problem-solving! Watching the DIY video doesn’t reveal that the artist bought 3 different types of materials, had several catastrophes that made them question why they were even doing it, not to mention the bunches of failed attempts and enormous amounts of time they put in, before they are confident enough to put it on video. Throughout all of that, the artist is learning and growing and perfecting, and this will ultimately lead them to the place where things spark and originality happens.
Just because other people make soap, doesn’t mean they do it the same way, with the same materials, or event the same technique. So I tend to see what everyone else is doing and then find what jives with my artistic style. For example, most people use a microwave to make their soaps; I chose the double boiler method. I also really enjoy tying my interests together; I am working on making hand painted crystal shaped soap dishes out of clay as well as little trinket bowls.
2. We talked a lot about postpartum depression in this story. What would you say to someone struggling with postpartum depression right now?
Don’t be so hard on yourself. Be gentle with yourself. Self care is the most important thing right now and you should find small and easy things to try and engage yourself in. Nothing that will be overwhelming or has too many steps. Baths, walks in nature, and eating well were some of my first steps. Also, I loved to read but couldn’t seem to really enjoy it in that state, so rather than feeling defeated that I couldn’t get into a book I knew I enjoyed in the past, I would color. There is no right or wrong way to color, no one is correcting it, there are a lot of materials that you can use. You are bound to find a topic that interests you. I would force myself to use happier colors and listen to happy music. Some days my brain would comply, other times not, but ultimately, I started to notice I looked forward to my little coloring sessions and I was always glad that was how I spent my time. I would even hang them up if there one I was really proud of! Slowly but surely, I started to regain my footing.
3. What other soap shapes are you thinking about pursuing?
I am interested in some of these hand built soaps. Rather than using molds, the soaps are hand built like little sculptures. I haven’t tinkered around much yet, but it’s definitely something I want to explore more.
4. What are your favorite things about the Lehigh Valley?
The Banana Factory, Zoellner Arts Center, Shakespeare Festival, and of course, my favorite–Christmastime!
5. Why is the Lehigh Valley a great place for artists?
Well, I think it is important for an artist community to have places to view art and also talk about art. Bethlehem has a well-established appreciation for the arts. There are organizations like ArtsQuest that hold events such as Musikfest that provide lots of great performers, but are also fantastic venues for selling and viewing art. First Fridays are still a personal favorite because it establishes an non-intimidating way to view and talk about art in a fun and social way that also makes it super accessible for everyone. It’s not a pretentious art scene. It’s social, fun, and has lots of opportunity for artists to talk about their work, and it includes people who might not otherwise be exposed to art to talk to artists about what they do.