We had the good fortune of connecting with Ella Friberg and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ella, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
I’ve been thinking about this pretty much the entire last year. I think “work life balance” is a the elusive unicorn that people speak of that doesn’t exist, but we continue to convince ourselves that it really must be out there somewhere. I have two young children, a 5 and a 7 year old whose lives were also turned upside down when schools went fully remote in the spring. I became very frustrated when they were home because I couldn’t do what I wanted and needed for my art business. Over the course of last year I began to exchange the word “balance” for “harmony”. Balance to me means that I must seek perfect equilibrium between different entities. With that in mind I would need kids out of my studio so I can have hours of uninterrupted time to create and work, then when I’ve had enough solo time I would have the energy to be with my kids and focus on their needs. In seeking harmony, I allow for flow and movement, this may look like moving my kids desks into my studio so they can have a zoom meeting while I paint, or I can lay out paint for them so they can create with me. This became easier, but then school needs changed and we had to find harmony again. I believe harmony can improve over time as we become more fluid and flexible and better at navigating the ebb and flow of work and life.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
My art practice has evolved over the last few years. When I was an undergad, about 20 years ago, I created art to give as gifts and as a means of creative expression. I loved mixed media collages, I incorporated metal into my paintings and I just loved making whatever made me smile. I didn’t pursue art at that point as a career, I received my masters of occupational therapy and worked in healthcare for 11 years. In 2017 I began to paint again, I initially began primarily focusing on watercolor illustrations, I painted architecture, people, florals. I gained more confidence in creating art and sending it out into the world. I love to challenge myself so when I got comfortable in one area, I wanted to try something else. That’s how I painted a few large murals around town…just by asking and stepping out of my comfort zone. I took a class at our art museum on oil and cold wax techniques and I fell completely in love with the medium. I love texture and depth in my work and painting with oil and cold wax allows me so much freedom in creating beautiful depth. I have been painting abstract and figurative pieces in the last year. I seek to elicit joy and peace through my paintings. My subjects may evolve, but what drives me to create is a deep desire to push myself and to explore. Maybe it’s because I get bored easily, but I also know that when I push myself I end up being more true to myself and creating work that makes me super excited. At this point I use all of my painting mediums, from watercolors to oils, they all have a time and place when I am drawn to them more and I listen to that pull instead of fighting it. As an emerging artist it’s easy to get caught up with doing what other successful artists are doing and painting what everyone wants me to paint. It’s taken me some time to be true to myself and paint what motivates and inspires me. When I create for myself, that’s when I create my best work, and that work may not resonate with everyone, but it resonates with the right people.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I adore living in Wilmington, NC. When friends come to visit we would definitely start with some delicious coffee at the many amazing coffee shops we have in town. From the downtown to the beach, there’s a plethora of places to choose from. Bespoke, Casablanca, Social Coffee, Drift, Sundays Cafe…these are just a few of my favorite. Being outdoors is a favorite pastime here. Walking the 3 mile loop at Wrightsville Beach and taking in the fresh salty air is a great way to get blood flowing. Exploring the shops at Wrightsville and soaking up some sun on the beach is a great way to pass time. For active friends I would either sign up for some surfing lessons or stand up paddle sessions along the intercoastal. For the friends who like to lounge around, I would definitely find the perfect beach spot maybe near the Oceanic where we can pop in for lunch or an afternoon drink. There are some fun shops to explore at Mayfaire and Lumina for those who love to shop. And of course the evening would be reserved for our cute little downtown. We have some of the most amazing local restaurants to choose from. A favorite downtown is Manna and DramYard. For dinner with a view there are a few options along the riverwalk including Elija’s, Steam and Cloud 9 at the Embassy Suites. Gelarto for some delicious Italian gelato and then of course all the breweries…there is no shortage of the best microbreweries in town. New Anthem, Flytrap, Edward Teach are some of the downtown favorites for beer. Can you see a trend…food is huge here and visits here definitely revolve around eating and drinking. When I travel I love checking out museums and galleries. We have a great museum here called the Cameron Art Museum, and every 4th Friday (prior to the pandemic), we had an art walk with art openings at most of the downtown galleries. It’s a great way to see discover local artists! There’s a lot to do and see here, we’re a small town, but that doesn’t mean there’s a shortage of activities.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I don’t have just one source, there are different things and people that have contributed to my growth over the last few years. I have a few close artist friends who I am constantly in conversations with about all aspects of our lives, some of these women I met locally through art groups and others I met online. Two friends and fellow artist that I speak to regularly are Jessica and Heather, they are my sounding boards, they push me, they ground me, and they recognize the challenges of seeking harmony with raising young children and the deep inner need to create art. I’ve taken art classes at our local art museum and although it may not have been direct one on one mentoring, the encouragement and guidance I received has helped me evolve into the artist I am today. I took a course called the Blueprint Model with Shanna Skidmore and went on one of her retreats and I continue to return to her guidance for all things business related. I love the book, The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. It’s been around for a while and it’s a book that I will return to often. It helped me start to trust in myself more and listen to my intuition in my creative practices. And I’ve met some of the bravest artists through an online group called The Studio Source, where we learn together and cheer each other on without competing against one another. This year I have chosen to narrow my focus and am a part of a small artist mastermind being lead by Sarah Rafferty of Atwater Designs. I’m very much looking forward to this year and the direction my art practice will go. And in all honesty, I would not be doing any of this if it wasn’t for my husband, Ben, who has always been my number one encourager. He knows me better than anyone else and he is always encouraging me and giving me space to find my own path, with gentle nudges along the way to check in with myself and why I’m doing this.