Life Over Lattes: Creating Beauty in the Everyday with Claire Daniel
When you first meet Claire Daniel, chances are several things will take place. First, your eyes will become mesmerized by her radiant ear-to-ear grin. And don’t think for a second you won’t recognize when she walks into a room, as her beaming smile will speak for itself. No matter your current mood or state of mind, once you’re around Claire for just a couple of minutes, your heart will start to bubble up with happiness. Her infectious laugh and sparkling personality tends to do that people. It’s one of the many qualities that makes her, well, Claire.
Oh, but how she is so much more than what meets the eye.
Although she will never admit it — she is as humble as a person can be — Claire is one of the most talented people I know. An artist of many forms, what makes Claire so special is her enthusiasm for life. As someone with an endless sense of wanderlust, she uses this world as her own treasure chest for seeking inspiration. She continuously creates beauty in the everyday in hopes of inspiring others along the way.
Words cannot express how excited I am to share Claire’s story with you today. I feel honored to not only know this talented artist and call her my friend, but also have the privilege to call her my sister.
So, without further ado…
Name: Claire Daniel
Location: Blanch, North Carolina
Before we dive deeper, can you share where you went to school and what you studied?
Sure! I went to school at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and after a few years of denial to my inner truth I became a Fine Arts and Design student. My favorite studies included color theory, painting and fine art photography.
After earning your undergraduate degree, you worked as a waitress to save up enough money to travel back to Manchester, where you studied abroad in college. How do you think this experience shaped your career as an artist?
Yes, I suffered many long nights and sore feet to get back to the city that had my heart. The charm of Manchester for me was undeniable. Whether it was the city itself, or just the entire package of the people I met and the memories I made in that city, I will always adore that pocket of England.
Why were you so gravitated toward this small city in England?
I believe my Manchester experience did influence me as an artist. Maybe not directly in what I studied while I was there, but the need for travel and influence by places unknown brought me so much inspiration!
Once returning to the States, you landed your dream job working for Anthropologie as the Visual Display Coordinator. Tell us a bit more about that experience.
What were the most rewarding parts about working for a company that puts such a strong emphasis on handcrafted artwork?
Anthropologie is such a unique company in so many ways. The brand incorporates the handcrafted element, while also allowing the creatives to be, well, creative. That was what drew me in and kept me there for right around five years. I appreciated how company gave me reign to elaborate on a concept and work large if the space yearned for it. That was my jam!
On the other hand, what was the most challenging?
As far as the challenging aspects go, Anthropologie is still a corporation and there are many chains of command that you have to work from. An idea must always trickle up the ladder before being able to be executed. And then there’s the possibility of over working the idea until the luster is gone. That was a real struggle for me.
But that kind of struggle is a challenge in many jobs, and it can only be expected sometimes. I continue to love what Anthropologie and their design teams create. And I applaud them on keeping the exploration and creativity alive within a retail environment. It’s not only inspirational, but it also keeps so many artists thriving!
How do you incorporate creativity in your everyday life? What are some of your favorite sources for inspiration?
I always try to keep the “eyes wide open” mentality. By that I mean seeing and taking in similarities and differences in all things visual.
I also find love nature walks, yoga/meditation to be incredibly inspirational. And being quite the social butterfly, I am always staying engaged and inspired by the people I surround myself with!
Who would you say has been most influential in your life as an artist?
I would have to take it back to the younger years and say my Grandmother, Anne Daniel — a woman of so many quirks and talents but in my eyes, an artist. She would always encourage free expression and stand firm in her belief that there are never mistakes in creating art, just opportunities for tweaking. She still inspires me at age 87 with her bold lipsticks, visual sharpness and creativity.
After working at Anthropologie for about five years, you left to teach English in Spain. Sounds like a dream! There, you even collaborated with local artists on a few projects.
Can you tell us how those experiences helped you grow not only as an artist, but also as an individual?
The experiences I have been able to make abroad will be always be the ones I will forever remember. I don’t mean to give off the impression that special memories cannot be made on your home turf, because they definitely can! But there is something about being overseas immersed in the unfamiliar that sparks something inside me.
And Spain was just that! Going on my own with no real set plan and no familiar faces. It was a full submersion into a new culture. I was lucky enough to choose the perfect Airbnb hosts, whom I later found out to be the two most beautiful people: Emily, an english teacher as well as an artist. And then Pablo, an artist who managed an art & music school. Like I said, perfect right?! I truly could not have hand-picked a better match for my time there.
I was able to spend time at Pablo’s school, and even had the opportunity to create a handmade cacti installation that I left behind for future students to enjoy! While I only made a small legacy mark there, they both made a huge mark on my spirit!
Inspiration from people, places and things — I was granted all these wonderful things through my time in Spain.
To say traveling is a big part of your life seems like an understatement. What is it about exploring new places and meeting new people that intrigues you so much?
Do you think it’s important for people to incorporate travel into their lives?
Most definitely! I may go as far to say if you could strip me bare of it all — materials, wants, needs — what fills my soul is travel, people (old and new) and the ability to create. For me, travel and people are the drivers behind my creativity!
So please, if you can save the money, buy less and immerse yourself in experiences! They are of the most importance, as they are the stories you can share with future generations.
Some would say you are a jack of all trades. You paint, sketch, build, and create so many unique pieces of art. Can you dive a bit deeper in your creative process?
While I appreciate that compliment, what about the possibility of a jane of all trades?! Go WOMAN POWER!
So when it comes to my creative process, I would say the experimental phase is where the magic happens. Just creating to create and then seeing where that step will lead me to and so on.
I will contribute most of this learning to my beginnings at Anthropolgie, as there would be days dedicated just to this process. The final piece from the experiment may turn out to be the ugliest thing you have ever created, or the most beautiful — sometimes it is about the journey, not the destination!
So always be aware of that time when you are working and observing, adding & subtracting. That’s the real magic!
What has been your ultimate favorite project you’ve worked on thus far? One that you’re most proud of?
Oh my goodness, this is a tough one! I think I would have to choose the mural I did called Lavender Fields while I was at Anthro. It was my first prototyping experience and there was so much time in pushing it to the best possible place.
We received a printed mural and we had to reflect the image in an artful, handmade way for the window. I was able to make a grid, and foot-by-foot recreate what I saw in a systematic way, while also keeping it expressive. Each little piece was its own work of art, and then there was a dyed paper element added to give dimension/ interest. Definitely one of my favorites thus far!
It may have been the opportunity and the process more than the final piece itself, but I was a happy girl for those few weeks of creation!
Your dream is to one day be a full-time freelancer (and own your own antique shop!) As a part-time freelancer now, what have you found to be the most surprising about freelancing?
We’ve all read freelancing is hard work, but how hard? What have been some of the biggest obstacles you’ve had to overcome?
Hmmm… my right brain wants me to say the financial/organization business aspect of things — wah wah! —but no, surprisingly it is the marketing and consistency of it all that you have to uphold to keep those jobs coming!
For me, that is where I find my biggest weakness, as I want to be busy making instead of constantly trying to perfect other marketing tactics, such as curating the perfect post for Instagram, contemplating what my website include, or how many business cards to print. The list goes on and on.
Overall, I would say consistency has been my biggest obstacle. Consistency in all aspects.
As an artist, do you ever feel pressured to constantly promote your work on social media? How do you think social media has changed the creative process today?
Yes and yes — see my answer up above. HA!
Social media and I have a love/hate relationship. Because I love the exposure it can provide with just a simple post, tag, etc. But my hate for media comes with the unrealistic aspects it can portray at times — all pretty, yet no ugly. Just as with anything beautiful, there are blemishes, and sometimes we need a dose of real. For me, a dose of the “NITTY GRITTY” every now and then is refreshing.
If you could have lunch with anyone, who would it be and why?
It would have to be… Kristen Wigg. Laughter is the best medicine, and there is no better midday pick-me-up than with a a funny lunch date!
What is one piece of advice you’d give someone seeking to venture out on their own?
Be resilient, give and take, and be flexible with your ideas and time. There will be late nights to get things done, but the end result always triumphs.
Lastly, what does creativity mean to you?
Bold, unique, and a personal connection from your hands to heart — hopefully yours and others. Create to make the world lovely, and be open to all it has to give!
Thank you so much, Claire. You are truly one of the most talented people I know, and I look forward to following along your creative endeavors. Keep making the world a brighter place to call home!