A few years back, I - Hayley - was in my final year of art school. This last, immersive, 5th year of schooling gave me an infinitely greater understanding of my purpose as a creative and challenged my capacity to give love and recieve grace. It was an intense year of professional and personal growth - my heart was just obliterated by the love of my life (no worries, it’s all cool guys, we are married now :p), I was a serial yes-woman and entirely inefficient communicator (I do not recommend this combination), I was taking care of two amazing little boys who taught me endless amounts about unconditional love, and I was expected to make a entire body of work about who knows what, alongside several other slightly disoriented peers and close friends. My creative mind and emotional intelligence were in a seemingly never-ending bikram yoga class - their muscles were heated and stretched. This certainly has not ceased to be true, especially within the last year, however, these professional and personal demands were the catalysts to a defining turning point.
There was often a significant gap I put in between these two fields - the professional and the personal. And I did it for a number of reasons; safety, diplomacy, fear, hierarchy, focus, etc. I did it to appear I had everything together, that I was in control and that I was not in need. I made sure to keep the reality of my personal life out of my professional life for the respect I thought it would earn me and the power I thought I needed. I spoke about my work in a very vague manner and feared what my work would become if anyone knew what events had occurred that were inspiring me to create this.
My work was extremely personal, however, I spoke of it as a professional. The work's main function was to deepen, create and heal relationships, but instead, I hid behind abstraction and geometry (which obviously I am still absolutely in love with) and allowed the discussion around my pieces to become about technicalities or constructed ideas that may or may not be tied to some memory of mine. My creative desire - to rebuild and to magnify my relationships with people - was compartmentalized and, therefore, unable to express itself in its fullness.
After growing exhausted of hours spent chewing on private ideas, trying to squeeze them into something scholarly, I decided to start being a little more honest with myself. Scary, I know. I took a single step to begin making room for the reality of who I was and what I loved, in my professional sphere. It was in this spotlight - that I had to willingly put myself under - where I was made vulnerable, and as a result, had no choice but to be authentic.
It takes a great deal of authenticity in order to truly give love and receive grace.
This is where Fortress comes in.
In this year, I started making prints of really large, abstract structures. All of these were designed after people who had profound influenced in my life and who had served me much like a structure might - providing basic emotional and physical protection - and I very much consider them portraits.
I had made several of these, involving various people I loved. One-by-one, I erected monumental people, and in the attempt to maintain authenticity and vulnerability, I invited the person whom I earlier mentioned broke my heart, to be involved in my work in a very tangible way. This figure - my now husband and creative partner, Jarod - deeply affected me on a personal level, and I wanted to see what would come of it if I were to create from such a honest and vulnerable place. I ended up naming this piece, “Fortress”.
Fortresses are places of intimacy and focus, of domesticity and operation. They provide solitude to those we value, but they also move in action - offensively or defensively - when called. They protect and defend, and they do what they do for what they care about most. The life work of a fortress is personal, and its purpose is clear and defined. They are personal and professional, and it is because of the personal (the people), that the professional (the defense system) moves in action. And it is at this intersection, I found purpose.
This is what the “Fortress” collection is all about. It’s about knowing your purpose. You are a part of the fortress - be it a fortress for a group of people, aka a castle, or a fortress for the individual, aka a suit of armor. Your existence is extraordinarily valuable, and without it, the fortress can not function in its fullness. When the fortress is unaware or not grounded in its purpose, it might not withstand.
So, we made numerous little wearable reminders, each representing a different aspect of the castle or piece of armor. Every accessory has a purpose; a part of the body to protect or situation to provide shelter for. We believe, that when you are reminded you are worthy to adorn, you know you are equipped to overcome and when your eyes and actions are set on your purpose, we all will see a world of love and unity.
Jarod is my fortress and I can see everyday how so much of what he does is because of me. And not only that, how he has helped steer me to where I am today - aka running a creative business to spread a message of value, free billions from oppression and love the oppressors - aka facing head on, via my daily work, some of the issues that have broken me the most. He has developed Apse into something far cooler than I could have on my own and empowered his other half to do something about how she feels. He lives out numerous qualities I seem to really struggle with, and together in love, we can more gracefully navigate an exponentially greater amount of circumstances.
It was always kinda mortifying to think that I could ever make my work about something I felt so deeply and so earnestly about. I steered clear of such a combination because I did not believe I had the strength - there is no way I would survive a job that was so intertwined with my greatest hurts and most intense experiences. No - I will do something I love, but nothing that might make me feel so much pain.
But now, after 6 months of building Apse, I feel as though I’m one step closer to making my work and my self one in the same. To allowing my authentic identity - my passions, experiences, callings - define my work. I am not making the personal professional - but I’m making my professional personal.