Spokewoven's Genga is truly an inspirational artist; her giant dreamcatchers are sure to catch your eye as well as your dreams. Not only is she innovative and talented, but she is also immensely insightful. She's a college graduate whose life took a dramatic turn toward fulfilling a lifestyle of creativity. Her story of letting the magic of creativity take over and become her career is thought-provoking, and it makes you wonder about your meticulously planned out career path. I was fortunate enough to ask her a few questions in order to gauge her perspective on the importance of creativity in everyone's lives.
Stephanie Haenn: I’ve been admiring your work for a few years, now — from afar. It is a pleasure to finally get to talk to the creative mastermind behind the massive dreamcatchers. Your work is visually captivating and spiritually inspirational. Where did you get the inspiration to create giant dreamcatchers?
Genga: You are so kind. Thank you for your really lovely words. I guess almost 8 years ago now, I lost my job. It was literally the job I thought I'd spend the rest of my life doing and then, all of sudden, it was just gone. I was in complete despair. A black hole. It was awful. I couldn't imagine myself ever moving on. At the same time, my best friend, Pamela Love, was launching her first jewelry collection and doing an installation at Milk Studios in NYC. She sat me down, and basically told me to pull myself together- I was too talented to wallow away and she said I want you to make me the biggest Dreamcatcher in the world for my presentation. I had no clue how to even begin -- but something guided me. It took me several days to figure out the weave (and it wasn't very good haha) but I put my whole heart into that piece. For Pam and for myself and for the scared art that I could feel was already healing me. That was the first one. It changed my life. It saved my life. It was what started me on a new path and was the beginning of what I see very clearly now as my true identity.
SH: The traditional Native American purpose of dreamcatchers is to capture nightmares. As an artist, you have the liberty to define your work. Do you intend any purpose for your pieces beside their aesthetic value? Do you think that if your clients use your art outside of the realm of traditional Native American intent for dreamcatchers that they are guilty of cultural appropriation?
Genga: What is amazing about the experience of making these pieces is that the vision is completely collaborative with every client. There are some people who have trouble with rest or nightmares, but there are also people who want to celebrate the life or death of a loved one, pay homage to a friend or mentor, cherish a new born baby and protect them. It is always a unique vision and there is always something very sacred and personal in each piece.
SH: On your website, you say that making dreamcatchers is “cathartic and healing and full of growth and spiritual connection.” It sounds like you truly love what you do. Did you always want to be an artist growing up? Could you explain the catharsis making dreamcatchers affords you?
Genga: I wish I was so cool to have grown up wanting to be an artist haha. I think I wanted to be a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader? I was born in the 70's and grew up in the 80's and 90's. I ended up really moving towards literature and creative writing in my college years and had decided I was going to be a screenwriter when I graduated. I applied to graduate schools and got into the Masters Film program at Boston University. I guess in hind sight I always liked to do creative things- but I never really honed in on it, because it just wasn't realistic. I have very pragmatic parents who sort of weaned me in a practical direction rather than a dreamy one. Not that I have any resentment about that. I believe these things happen to you at exactly the right moment. I have worked my butt off and I still do - working a full time executive level day job and having this beautiful part of me to explore and grow in the other time.
When I was in film school I always dreamed of being like Maya Deren. Queen of the avant-garde, master of cool. And I was really good at watching and critiquing films, but when it came to making them, I don't know that I had that "thing" that makes you great. That vision. It was a very expensive lesson to learn, but I wouldn't change a thing about my decisions. Graduate school shaped my perspective in a way that would never have happened anywhere else.
SH: I first came across your work when flipping through Foam Magazine on the beach, the vibrant colors of a massive dreamcatcher tugging at my vision. Tucked into the corner of the page boasting a spread on Mara Hoffman, perched your work. The image stuck with me, and even inspired me to learn how to make my own dreamcatchers, though they are not nearly as beautiful as yours. The article didn’t mention the beautiful dreamcatcher decorating Hoffman’s office, so it took me a little while to finally find out who the artist was. I later put a name to the dreamcatcher when I found one of your pieces on the Urban Outfitters website. Your collaborations are always beautiful. Do you have a favorite collaborator?
Genga: I'm sure your Dreamcatchers are awesome! I've loved every collaboration I've done -- there has always been a lot of learning and vision. And a shared vision is always opens new perspectives. I did love using Mara Hoffman's fabrics. That was very cool.
SH: Your work always includes natural elements such as rocks or feathers. What is your favorite material to incorporate into your dreamcatchers?
Genga: My favorite materials are the hand dyed fabrics, crystals and arrowheads. I love to really get dirty making a piece and I dye the fabric in the bath tub (my husband helps me too) and we get just covered. The bathroom turns that color and we are basically enveloped and living in the color of the client's vision. It's kind of wild. And I love the stones. They have such power and meaning. I love working with people to create the perfect balance of crystals and stones on their piece.
SH: As a college student who isn’t studying art, it can feel suffocating to be learning solely through books. I often crave a creative outlet and dream for an artistic purpose. Obviously, your dreamcatchers invoke a yearning to dream. What advice would you give to young, creative dreamers?
Genga: Let your dreams be boundless and undefined. Let them break the rules in your brain.
SH: On a more serious note, college students are often active advocates of social reform and active participants in political discourse. Do you think creativity plays a role in the pressing movements of our nation?
Genga: Absolutely! I think creativity is crucial in terms of crafting solutions to our constantly evolving world. From environment to education to equality, health and economy - creative perspective and vision is what will take us into the future successfully and full of growth. I think the amazing thing about creating is that from ideation to completion the object is changing and layering -- morphing into whatever it is that it will become. Allowing your mind to move with that process is what I believe adds all those levels of truth that guide us to form our beliefs and passions.
SH: Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions. You are truly admirable and inspirational!
This is the first installment of a series of articles emphasizing college students' need for creative satisfaction. The purpose of this series is to derive an inkling of inspiration for busy college students in order to drive home the assertion that there is more to life than constantly having your nose in your textbook.