Happy 2014, Meet our artist of the month of January – Chelsea Genzano from Chelly Beanies
My name is Chelsea Genzano, the team I most dedicate myself to is the DHAA and I’m located in Connecticut, USA. My shop’s name is Chelly Beanies. I started off my shop by creating hats (hence the Beanies part of my name) but I also make Grateful Dead inspired headbands, knit accessories, and all kinds of funky holiday ornaments. Sometimes I post acrylic paintings as well. My purpose and vision is to provide people with something that brings them joy while at the same time bringing joy to myself through creative expression. One of my greatest loves in life is seeing someone wear something I’ve made, or knowing that one of my ornaments or paintings is hanging in someone’s house to be loved and admired for years to come.
My creative process is very intuitive. I’ll sometimes start painting without knowing where I’m going to go with it, then a word or phrase or image will come to me, and I just go with it. In terms of knitting hats, it’s pretty much the same organic process. I was always the kind of person who never really had a plan when it came to making art. I used to sit down with my guitar and write whatever came into my fingers and head. This process translates over everything creative I do, whether that be painting or sewing or writing songs or poetry. It requires a deep trust in myself which sometimes can be hard to find, but when it comes, it’s the most natural thing in the Universe.
I kind of knew from the get-go that I was never going to have “normal” 9-5 job. I was a terrible, yet bright student, who would rather spend her time sketching and writing in her notebooks than paying attention in math class. I wasn’t impressed with music school either, and dropped out in the middle of my third year. I felt that my creative spirit was being crushed and molded, instead of flourishing and developing.
When I was 13 I started my career as a performing singer/songwriter and took crappy coffee shop jobs on the side. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I decided to put more focus on my art. I always considered myself to be “just a musician” and I think stepping out of our boxed up ideas about who we are can be the most liberating part of our lives.
My parents were definitely creative mentors for me. I grew up in a house full of music. My dad taught me the basics of guitar and piano, and always brought home new artistic mediums for me to try. My mom has one of the most beautiful singing voices I have ever heard and she has also been directing and performing in musical theater since before I was born.
My dad was actually the person who taught me the two basic knitting stitches, knit and purl. It’s funny when I tell people my dad taught me to knit, but I grew up in a very liberal, gender neutral household. I come from a family of three girls who were instilled with the belief that we could achieve and be anything we wanted to. To make a long story short- my parents were, and still are, big hippies and I am so very grateful to have been brought up by two supportive and creative parents!
I make and write mostly everything in my small studio space in my home. I spend hours in fabric stores or thrift shops with my tolerant and supportive boyfriend, Jeff, putting together different fabric combinations. My yarn stash is out of control (not anything new for a knitter!) but that doesn’t stop me from discovering new fibers, colors and even methods for creating yarn. If given the choice, I would raise my own sheep and hand spin all of my yarn myself, but my 3rd floor city apartment doesn’t bode well for that. I’m not there…yet!
The first thing I remember about the arts coming into my life was through music. My parents had frequent get togethers with their musician friends. I was never deterred from picking up instruments and microphones and playing and singing along. I remember my dad tuning his guitar into open D so that I could play around with it as much as I wanted to without it sounding like a cacophony. While my mom was giving birth to me, my parents had Joni Mitchell and The Beatles playing in the background. I kind of didn’t have a choice. 🙂
When it comes to art- it was also a natural process. It was always around so I could probably never pinpoint the first artistic inspirations in my life. My dad brought me so many mediums to work with, it was almost overwhelming. We colored, we painted, we made jewelry and worked with clay. I learned to sew by hand and only until recently began honing my skills with a sewing machine. I was immersed and spoiled with art, music, theater, dancing, poetry, prose and nature. A very lucky kid doesn’t begin to describe it.
My favorite piece of art I’ve ever made was this giant, terrible painting I did as a teenager. I have no idea what happened to it because I gave it away to someone before I decided to hit the road for California back in 2005. I love it because I remember being so incredibly proud of the piece and it’s message. I was going through some heavy stuff at the time and that painting helped me sort through so much anger, hurt and sadness. I put it all into the canvas and worked on it for about a month. When it was done I hung it on a wall in my bedroom and began to realize the importance of being able to make a space truly your own by using only your own skills. It was the outward expression of all of the messed up stuff that I was keeping inside of me. It’s not a technically great piece, but most times that doesn’t really matter to me. It’s about getting it all out.
So many things inspire me to create. Mostly music, relationships, travels, life experiences, whether pleasant or more likely, unpleasant. I’m mostly driven to create when life gives me lemons. It’s a therapeutic process. Whether I work through those emotions through song or painting, or even sewing, to get my mind clear again, it’s creation out of necessity. It’s the only way I know how to work through the garbage, to get ahold of the “monkey mind,” so to speak.
I’ve done a great deal of traveling around the US, and taking in the different landscapes, the changes in the air, the people who I meet that all gets incorporated into my art at some point. People and places leave a mark that I sometimes don’t even realize they’ve made until suddenly they are in a song or a piece of artwork.
To say music inspires me is obvious when you know me. I would not be able to be comfortable in my life if bands like The Grateful Dead didn’t exist. I wouldn’t be able to get through a day without Neil Young or Joni Mitchell. I wouldn’t have been strong enough to be who I am in my own skin without Tori Amos or Ani Difranco. My musical tastes are far and wide. I have to laugh when people say things like “I like everything but rap, country and opera”. There is some badass rap, country and opera out there!
The most wonderful thing about running my Etsy shop as been the people I’ve met along the way. The gorgeous, loving humans who are inspiring and supportive. I cherish the sense of community, the friends I’ve made, and helping to support other artists who are making their true passion the focus of their lives. I struggled for so long to find a means of making money that didn’t make me want to scream and pull my hair out. Etsy has been that relief!
I’d be lying if I didn’t say that my innate sense of anxiety and worry doesn’t come through in times of Etsy quiet. That being said, I have so much support, especially from the man I share my life with, Jeff. He fills me with love and confidence and pushes me that extra mile when sometimes I don’t feel like I can walk to the mailbox…literally. I struggle with anxiety, panic attacks and depression, which sometimes can make me completely non-functioning at points. Through the love Jeff has shown me, the love my family and friends have given me, I’m able to transform into a lotus when I’m stuck in the mud. I’m more happy now than I can ever remember being. Happiness is not difficult when you have the right people in your life and realize that you create your own reality. I keep a strong sense of faith that everything works out just the way it’s supposed to be, even if I don’t necessarily enjoy the results.
My parents are both Buddhists, and I practice as well. When times are especially tough I turn to my faith and chant in order to focus myself on my dreams and goals. Nothing bad can ever come from channeling spirit to fully realize who and what you are. Nam Myoho Renge Kyo!
I’m a nature girl at heart with a traveling spirit. In my downtime I especially enjoy hiking and camping. I love going to festivals or seeing other forms of live music. I write songs, play guitar and piano or journal. I’m not that into technology, which is funny considering how much it’s done for me. But I feel best when I’m away from the buzzing of a computer or the inane chatter of that horrible machine called a television. I am a beach girl who grew up spending summers by Long Island Sound. You’d be hard pressed to get me out of the ocean once I’m in it 🙂
One of my favorite quotes that keeps surfacing for me is from Ani Difranco. She says “I am not an angry girl, but it seems like I’ve got everyone fooled. Every time I say something they find hard to hear, they chalk it up to my anger and never to their own fear.” I’m a politically and socially strong-minded woman. I freely express injustices and openly share my opinions, beliefs and research. This can be misconstrued as anger, but what it really is is a passion to change the things I feel are wrong with the world. We need to love each other and care for each other because when it comes down to it, we are all connected.
It sounds a little egocentric, but some of the first musical events that changed my life were my own. I spent over 15 years playing live music with some of the most talented people you could ever dream of. The first time I got on stage with my guitar I was 13 years old. My dad and his friend brought me to an open mic at a bar in New Haven, CT where I played two songs with the house band. It opened my eyes and I was hooked. Other local musicians who have changed my life include people like
Darian Cunning, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yjAwfSRR2TM
Sketch Tha Cataclysm,
and Jareb Liewer,
If you have never heard of these people you will definitely want to look up their work. You will soon realize why they shifted my perception of the musical world. There are many more, but these are the people I played out with the most and our community was incredibly strong, thanks mostly to The Acoustic Cafe in Black Rock, CT and continued all the way to Lestat’s in San Diego, CA.
And speaking of San Diego, CA, one of the greatest and most frightening times in my life was when I decided to pack up everything I owned into a tiny car and move across the country to live in an RV with an old friend and pursue music on the west coast. The trip across (and later back) gave me one of my first looks at the stunning landscape of the US. From getting lost in little towns and running out of gas, to hiking around Sedona, to seeing the Pacific for the first time. Living in a van in a parking lot with no running water or electricity puts the emphasis on the world outside of a “home”. I was able to write an entire album worth of songs within just four months. I’ve always had the travel bug, and if I attempted to tell all my funny traveling stories, this blog post would be ten pages long! 🙂
I’d ultimately love to be living off of my art and music alone. That is my true dream, and it is slowly, finally, coming into realization. All I want is to be comfortable. To have clothes on my back, hot running water, food on my table, good people in my life and a garden as a plus 🙂 Oh, and lots of furry friends, too.
I think of my entire life as an art piece. Sounds trite, but it’s very simple. This can help artists get through anything difficult. Working with the pain, the happiness, the fear, the anger it’s all art. The phone conversation you’re having- it’s an art form. Doing the dishes another form of art. And for us artsy folks, at least for me, it turns the unpleasant or boring moments into something special. Dive in!
Selling Venues: http://www.etsy.com/shop/chellybeanies for my Etsy shop
You can buy music from my live album “Live @ The Acoustic Cafe” on CDbaby and iTunes. Just search “Chelsea Genzano”
Artist Contact info: firstname.lastname@example.org
Social Media Links: Facebook- http://www.facebook.com/chellybeanies Etsy Shop
Twitter – http://www.twitter.com/chellybeanies
Listen to my music on soundcloud for free! http://www.soundcloud.com/chelsea-genzano