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Conversations with Pamela Olin

Today we’d like to introduce you to Pamela Olin. 

Hi Pamela, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
When I first moved to Florida, I was thrilled to discover there was a TEDx presentation here. In the course of that presentation, the audience was asked if anyone had ever been curious about speaking at a TED Talk. I was one of a few who raised their hand and before I knew it, I was on stage being asked a question to respond to. That question was “Tell us about the first time you fell in love”. My response was, (remember we had no prep time), “When I first picked up a pencil and found the nearest wall. In that moment I realized (as a child) that I could change the world. That was my first time falling in love.” 

And, truly, that’s where it all started! I was lucky enough to be born to parents who appreciated creativity, and who would put up with all that that meant! My Dad had a small studio in the house where we would make all kinds of things – paintings, sculpture, models, all sorts of things. There was no doubt that I was not going to take the “normal” path growing up! 

Throughout high school I pounded the pavement in the Chicago gallery district with my portfolio, meeting and learning from the gallery owners who would give me feedback on my work. Eventually, I cultivated a relationship with a few downtown galleries that started showing pieces of mine. Over the years I have been represented by several galleries and groups for both corporate and healthcare facilities, as well as commission clients. 

When I was 7.5 months pregnant with my son, I had an idea of a sculpture I wanted to make and steel was the material I wanted to use. The Universe cooperated and one day in the grocery store there was a flier for welding lessons (really!!). I waddled into the artist’s shop, watched his eyes get real big and the first thing I said was “you’re NOT the father!”. He laughed and 5 weeks after I had my son, I began a wonderful adventure learning how to weld. It was the best, most amazing experience being able to control liquid steel and build things larger than myself pretty quickly. 

Fast forward 20 years, I recognized an opportunity when talking with a woman in a college welding class who felt like she was listening to a foreign language in class. So, I wrote a curriculum for a course called “Zen and the Art of Welding”, taking yoga terms and concepts and using them to teach women welding. Harper College in Chicago said “you know, honey, you need 6 people for this class to run” I replied, please just put it in the catalog. They did and 300 students later, they admitted I had a good idea. Fast forward 10 years, I have since brought it to Ringling College Continuing Ed, where I met wonderful people! 

As much as I love to create, I also love creating with others! The fun of enabling people who don’t normally operate in the arts to be involved in the creative process is a particular passion of mine. I offer a presentation called “Exploring Creative Process” where there is no physical project – the participants ARE the project! I also produce creative experiences for all sorts of purposes, from team building to teaching specific skills to celebrating milestones for groups or individuals. Most recently (pre-covid) I produced 2 experiences for the Cross College Alliance. Throughout the pandemic, over Zoom, the creative process continues by connecting minds and sparking change! 

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Smooth road!!! That’s a good one! The struggles are how we learn and grow. There were plenty. Probably the biggest one, in the beginning, was that I work in various media, while pounding the pavement I was most often told that my work doesn’t all look the same so they didn’t feel it would be recognized as an Olin work. To this day, I continue to choose the media based on the message I want to communicate. My messages stay the same – stay curious, be open, see the world around you, touch things, laugh! That is where I am consistent, be here now. 

Money was also a struggle; you have to be creative when figuring out how to make a living being creative. Less so now, but it took a while! 

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
My art is all about transition. Life has changed in so many ways, my work is evolving with me. Making connections is what drives me. The medium I choose to illustrate ideas changes based on how/what I want to communicate, the excitement of working in different media enhances the process. 

I believe in stepping out of our boundaries to gain perspective on our lives, creating with steel, bronze, copper, brass, stone, wood, and various found objects. These elements, combined with paint, canvas and life, enable me to evoke deep emotional responses within viewers. In addition to traditional art-making techniques, I also works in the digital arena, creating art that starts on the computer and is realized using cutting-edge technology. 

Got a group that wants to play? I produce creative workshops designed to expand people’s perspective and create a new vocabulary for better communication. Great for team building, getting people to think outside the box, and getting people out of their comfort zone so they can grow. Also, tons of fun for just getting together with a few friends 

My specialties include teaching “outside the box” thinking, commission artwork for hospitals and schools, creating sculptures out of products for trade shows, and working with kids to create public artwork for their school. 

My teaching philosophy is one of learning by doing. Experience is everything. The exploration of materials and meaning should allow self-expression and reflection. Process is as important (and sometimes more) as the product. Evolving as a person and making art is a completely intertwined process. The decisions made when making an art object are as important and meaningful as the art piece itself. 

I have operated my own design studio for over thirty years and worked with all kinds of clients, both corporate and individual. My work includes marketing and display materials, creative Donor Recognition Systems for non-profit organizations, interior graphics, consulting, design & fabrication of creative trade show exhibits, custom home furnishings, and commissioned fine art – including public art as well as curating art exhibitions for various venues. 

What’s next?
Looking ahead, I’m excited about becoming more involved with the National League of American Pen Women and continuing with my work to engage with the community and inspire creativity in every aspect of life! I have been working with interior design clients using my artist’s eye to help them create their personal space with style. Working with clients this way lets me create commission artwork that’s incredibly personal, involving the clients in the creative process. 

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