Roben-Marie Smith Q and A
For some time now, I have wanted to include some folks from the more visual worlds of storytelling in the Q&A series — scrapbooking, “scrapmoir,” art journaling, for example. I got my wish in Roben-Marie Smith, who hails from very near my former home in Central Florida. Delighted to introduce readers to a form of storytelling that may be unfamiliar to them.
Bio: Roben-Marie is a little kooky in many ways and clearly OCD in others. She doesn’t like wearing shoes, is a loyal friend, would rather give than receive, is afraid of heights, is an introvert who works hard to be an extrovert, and her favorite color is green.
She has been married for more than 22 years, digs football, can converse on many subjects, is a God’s girl and a computer geek. Her favorite movie is Pride and Prejudice, she is a college graduate, likes to read historical fiction, embraces a variety of music genres, once rode a camel, and she makes amazing made-from-scratch brownies, or so she is told!
She is into a bunch of craft and art forms, including mixed media, art journaling, sewing, digi designing and more. She likes to laugh but sometimes take things too seriously and one day would like to say that “making things for others” is her job!
Paperbag Studios was formed seven years ago when mixed media artist Roben-Marie began designing rubber art stamps to reflect her distinct altered art voice. Featuring a collection ranging anywhere from children to doodles and houses to shoes, Paperbag Studios offers a unique mix that appeals to not only the rubber stamper but visual and altered artists alike.
In addition to designing products, Roben-Marie shares her love of mixed-media art, handmade journals and scrapbooking through her inspiring blog, Every Life Has a Story, offering video tutorials, step by step how-to’s, give-aways and workshops.
Q&A with Roben Marie Smith:
Q: How did you initially become involved with story/storytelling/ narrative? What attracted you to this field? What do you love about it?
A: A spiral notebook and a pen were my beginnings into narrative. I was a teenager committed to recording my outfits each day which may sound a little silly, but I was all about making lists and maybe in some way that helped me feel in control during those difficult years. These notebooks evolved into a dumping ground where I expressed the frustrations of a teen missing her military father and dealing with the day-to-day life of a family under pressure.
The evolution continued throughout college as the notebooks became a collector of ticket stubs, photographs, and feelings. Memorabilia joined words and the pages began to express a fuller view of my life. During my early 20s, I took a break from journaling when I got married and began my career as public-relations consultant.
When I was introduced to art journaling, through the work of Kelly Kilmer and Kira Harding, a fire was ignited to learn as much as I could about combining artful expression with words. I researched art journaling, stamp making, and mixed-media artists and found a form of expression that was a great fit for me. I started my artsy stamp company, Paperbag Studios, began developing my art-journaling style and never looked back.Q: What has been your favorite or most meaningful story-related project or initiative and why?
A: “Points of Two” was a year-long weekly project that I did with fellow artist Kira Harding. We approached each week based on a different theme, prompt, or art supply.
Kira and I are very different in age, geography, lifestyle, and stage of life, which made for a diverse juxtaposition in our viewpoints. This diversity was illustrated from the very beginning with our first prompt — “where I live,” which featured sand and beaches for me and fresh snow for Kira.
This project pushed me into new territory as we took turns choosing the weekly prompt. Kira often chose things that were outside of my comfort zone. She pushed me to use more words, to become more vulnerable and to share more openly. The response was overwhelmingly positive as my readers identified with my emotions.
The week that garnered the greatest response was “how to be a miserable artist.” Our project resulted in a treasured thick art journal that was featured in both Art Journaling and Somerset Digital Studio magazines.Q: You seem to have become successful in the art-journaling world, andyour work has appeared in many venues. Given that lots of people do art journaling, why you? What do you think made you so successful and driven to share your knowledge?
A: I attribute my success to a combination of things. I work hard to find the right balance between business and personal life. As a woman of faith, I believe that blessings are given to those who serve. Being accessible to people whether by teaching, blogging, or correspondence allows me to encourage and support other artists along that way.
I feel driven to share what I have learned with others. Inspiration is a two-way street. A desire to learn, to stretch and an unquenchable curiosity keeps my fingers inky and my heart happy.Q: What has surprised you most in your work with story/art journaling?
A: There was a turning point in my evolution as an artist that was very unexpected. I took a class with mixed media artist, Traci Bautista in Hampton, VA, where I was teaching at an art retreat. Up to that point, my style was very vintage and lacked color and vibrancy.
Traci taught me how to embrace color in a way that stopped me in my tracks. My world was literally exploding with vibrant color and after class I filled my hotel room with works of saturated color. Every surface in my room was covered with drying art pieces.
That experienced changed how I viewed color and myself. I realized that I had been reticent to use color as I felt that was the domain of “real artists.” My fears and presuppositions were erased and my confidence grew. I became a different artist that day, embracing both color and my talent in a new way. It changed everything!
Q: If you could share just one piece of advice or wisdom about story/storytelling/ narrative with readers, what would it be?
A: One of my favorite quotes is “Comparison is a thief of joy,” by Theodore Roosevelt. Realizing that each voice is unique and valuable is key to fighting the negative thoughts that bombard you as you put yourself out into the public arena. Art, as with story, is meant to be shared — to encourage and inspire others. There is a reciprocal relationship that strengthens both the artist and the audience which makes facing down those fears worthwhile. It can be intimidating at first to put yourself out there but I have found it very rewarding.
I encourage every person with a desire for art in any form to start, just jump in, no delays. Be bold and just DO.