Saturday, October 07, 2006

Ebay Artists Choice Awards Interview

Hidden Recesses Of Soul
An Interview With Artist Crystal Neubauer
by Loree Harrell

about the eBay Artists' Choice Awards,
selling art on eBay, and her artistic career.



Welcome, Crystal, I appreciate your taking the time to talk with me about your work. First, congratulations on your wins in the Wearable Art and Inspirational categories in the 2005 Artists' Choice Awards! How did it feel to be nominated by other artists and then to win?

Thanks! I feel so completely humbled by the whole thing. I just never expected anything like this. I had only been selling my art on ebay for a short while. I had developed some really good on-line friendships with other artists through some of the ebay groups, so I was really flattered when some of these people nominated me, but then I saw people who I had never heard of or other artists I had admired but didn't have a relationship with, nominate me and it just took me by complete surprise, completely humbling.

Isn't that great, when you know it isn't just that people like you - although that doesn't hurt, of course - but that your art stands up to the competition? How did you get into collage? Tell us a bit about your process and inspirations.

Well my whole journey into collage and mixed media was a real serendipitous route. I really believe it was a God led journey for me.

I married my husband a little over 5 years ago, he brought 4 kids to the marriage and I brought 3. I was working full time and had this huge new family and all of the sudden an auto-imune illness I had been dealing with for some time flared up and it became impossible for me to do it all. I cut back my hours at work to part time and started selling collectibles on ebay to earn some cash, but eventually I was overwhelmed with how long it took to carefully pack and ship these breakable items and I remember just sitting down one day and praying "God there has to be a better way." Not long after that a woman at work that I barely knew walked by my desk and threw a copy of Somerset Studio on it just saying over her shoulder "here you might be interested in this".

I'd have to say that was the understatement of the year! I had always dreamed of being an artist when I was in high school. I went to a private school and I took some fantastic art classes, but those dreams were put on the shelf when I became a teenage mom and wound up graduating early and going right out to work full time at a bank.

Opening that copy of Somerset Studio and seeing collage and mixed media work for the first time was like opening the hidden recesses of my soul. It all just resonated with familiarity to me. The images, the textures, the emotions evoked. I wanted this, I knew I had to be a part of it!

I began selling paper collectibles on ebay instead of breakables and soon I started putting together some really cool ephemera packs and selling them to other artists. The packs were really popular and I was always amazed at the bidding frenzy that would take place at the close of the auction. As I started checking out the buyers to see what they were making with the stuff they bought from me I was drawn in more and more and soon became bold enough to start listing my own work.

At first I sold collages and then started making little paper dolls out of old cabinet photos. Then I discovered the world of art trading cards and the ACEO group and things just took off from there. I was invited to join ZNE and just through the interaction with so many other talented artists I began to explore more and more different media.

I use very little if anything new in my work. I have always been a collector of odd bits and interesting pieces of the past. I scour flea markets, estate sales, and auctions for unique and interesting cast offs that other people tend to turn their noses up at. I just see so much beauty in the worn out and well used items. I love to see new life come from something discarded. I can relate to that with my faith. I was downtrodden, cast out, but have a new life now that was very much saved through faith.

I very rarely know ahead of time what the piece I am making will look like. Sometimes I know the message ahead of time and focus on that through the process, but usually some element will just call to me and I know I have to use it in my work. I pull things out and throw them on my work table that I think I might use and just start fitting things together and moving them around. I usually just know when something fits and when a piece is done.

Sometimes a piece is finished and I still don't know what it is saying. I will let it sit and just meditate on it for a while. Nine times out of ten I will start to see what it is saying and its like my subconscious knew all along. Elements that I didn't notice I had put together will just have a harmony. The majority of my inspiration is scripture from the Bible, often it is a message that God has been working out in my own life and it comes out in my work.

I find that when a piece is deeply personal and meaningful to me like that, it usually strikes a chord with the viewer. I frequently get e-mails from people telling me that a particular piece or verse really spoke to a situation they were in that week. It feels good to know that. To think that I've touched the life of somebody else in this way.

Wow, Crystal, I think you just finished the interview without me! Show and tell time... right this moment, what is your favorite piece?

Show and tell is a little tough. Whatever piece I'm working on at the moment is usually my favorite! I invest much of myself in so many of these pieces that I get very attached by the time I'm done.

One that really stands out in my mind is a necklace made from an old pair of folding Pince Nez glasses. It had a serendipitous route itself. I started with an old Kodak Jiffy camera and cut the lens out with my jewelers saw. Inside the lense I placed an antique tintype photo. I could see this piece in my mind as a necklace but I couldn't quite bring it together. I struggled with it for months. Then one day I was at this amazing estate sale, a huge old school building filled with piles and piles of antiques and junk and I saw this pair of Pince Nez glasses laying off to the side of a shelf, missing one lens. Just as an after thought I threw it in my basket. The two pieces, the glasses and the camera lens, lay side by side on my work table for a few weeks before it hit me that the camera lens was the exact same size as the missing glasses lens, the piece just exploded from there. There are times when I feel like my assemblages just put themselves together, I'm just the hands. This was one of those times. I wore that necklace for quite some time before I was able to sell it and when I did let it go I made a special altered tin to ship it off in. I couldn't bear to just put it in a shipping box!

I just looked at your Me page, and spent a little time with your blog - still laughing about the teeth. You clearly put heart and soul into everything you touch, and you communicate that depth well in your words and your art. Tell me, if you had a magic wand, and could grant one wish for your kids - collectively or individually - what would it be?

Well that's a loaded question! lol!

Collectively I think my one wish for the kids would be that they would develop roots and attachments with each other in this blended family. When my husband and I were married we had these grand ideas of bringing our two families together as one big happy family, and all would be well. That we would fill a gap in each other's kids lives, Brady Bunch style. Of course there were lots and lots of jokes about us being the Brady Bunch, but in reality its been more like Brady Bunch behind the scenes. You know, Cindy and Bobby hiding in the dog house in the backyard, getting high between takes. Okay, that is pretty candid, but it's reality. Kids from divorced homes have a lot of pain and baggage. Time heals many wounds and over time they are starting to develop a trust level in this family, but we're not quite there yet.

Individually its my hearts desire to see each of them find their true purpose in life. To recognize their own unique gifts and talents and to embrace them. God creates each of us with a specific purpose based on these talents and gifts. To find that purpose and live it out early on, wow, what a blessing!

... and Bingo just about sums that up. Thank you, Crystal, I have thoroughly enjoyed our time.

eBay seller's i.d.

Crystal's blog

On flickr

On zne

On etsy

Loree Harrell is the author of Body Speaking Words and a working artist and writer. She occasionally lists new work on eBay under the i.d. otw_studios. Harrell was a 2005 ACA winner: 2nd in Large Abstract; 3rd in Small Abstract; and an honorable mention in Best New eBay Talent. Her complete original and print portfolio resides at:


  1. What a great interview! I love how you're so honest about your merged family. One can see how God is using you and how He is using past experiences as well to shape you into being able to reach people on a deeper level.

    What a great award to win as well!!! Must've been hard not to brag, huh?

  2. Rande7:14 PM

    I agree, a great interview. You have such a wonderful way of expressing you feelings. I didn't know you when you won the award, but so glad I have met you since then. So a late congratulations. Your work is so unique and inspiring.

  3. Thank-you so much you guys! The older I get the more I'm learning to be transparent about life and just let God use it any way He wants!

  4. Crystal,

    I'm on the Creative Underground Yahoo group with you and hopped over here from your link you posted there. I am so blessed by your faith and art and how it is all wrapped into one. I'm inspired!

    Shari Schwarz