i am so honored to have the opportunity to interview the amazing lisa whitesell, of the awesome 5 orange potatoes blog! her nature-loving, creative blog has been one of my favorite sources of earthy, artsy ideas. lisa was kind enough to answer some of my questions about her life, work, and inspiration AND to give away one of her adorable owl pillows to one of my lucky readers!!! enjoy her story below and enter for your chance to win at the bottom of this post.
jen: your 5 orange potatoes blog has long been a source of inspiration for me. i am so very drawn to the way you incorporate the spirit of the earth in each of your creations — from herbal remedies to nature art activities to upcycling sweaters into the most amazing plush creatures. can you tell us a bit about what most inspires you and the work you so beautifully offer to the world?
lisa: I’m just your basic natural earthy girl that loves the Earth and prefers natural to artificial- from the food we eat, the medicines we use, the art supplies we use, and the clothing we wear. I have Appalachia roots and my granny is always comparing me to my great grandmother and the way she lived her life. I’m sure I was a peasant witchy woman in another life, a bit of a recluse, with a large herb garden making concoctions for the village people and what ails them -OR- maybe it’s because I was born on the very first Earth Day (April 22, 1970)! I can’t pinpoint what exactly drives me, it’s just something in me, seems to run in my veins!
jen: you and i are kindred spirits in experimenting with medicinal herbs. i especially adore all of your posts on lavender, dandelions, and those honey herbal coughdrops! (the soothing gremlin softie is one of my favorite ideas of yours, as it blends your offerings of herbal remedies with your talent for creating such fun characters.) how did you first begin your love of herbology? can you share with us some of your favorite resources for learning about herbs and teaching your children about their healing properties?
lisa: Being raised in the country, with parents that always sent my sisters and me outside, and working in nature, with youth camps, really sparked my love of nature and herbology. My first taste of chicory coffee made from fresh chicory roots and a fresh salad made from wild edibles, sent me over the roof, really connected me to the wonderful bounty that Nature provides. Forget the man-made and artificial junk! Hildegard of Bingen, Juliette De Bairacli Levy, Rosemary Gladstar, Michael Tierra, Maud Grieve, and Jeanne Rose are some of my favorite go to herbalists. These amazing herbalists have fantastic books that make up a large part of my herbal library.
jen: my daughter is blessed to have a couple of your creations. her winking fox, who is now called nuki, has brought so much joy into our home. i admire how you use thrifted sweaters and vintage fabrics to create them, in true earth-loving fashion. each of your plush creatures has such personality – the ones created from the upcycled sweaters are my absolute favorite! how does the idea for the animals’ patterns and images come to you?
lisa: My girls’ drawings are what inspired me when I first started making plush, but now I simply look at an animal’s eyes and the inspiration will be there or not. The actual critter has to inspire me before I can create it, this makes it hard when a customer asks me to create an animal I haven’t made before. For example, I’ve been struggling with a turtle design for the past year, I would LOVE to make one, but the design just isn’t there yet!
jen: it seems that your way of creating has gracefully piqued your daughters’ curiosity about nature and art. it is so wonderful to see them concocting potions and sewing on your blog. can you offer any words of wisdom to us about your philosophy on how to inspire children to connect with the earth and to create with their hands?
lisa: That’s simple, if they see you doing it and making it part of everyday, they will follow. Get outside everyday with your child and explore together, not only will you influence them but they will see and point out things you’ve never seen before! I really believe that experiencing nature with a child is the best way to learn and discover.
jen: what are you most passionate about creating about RIGHT NOW?
lisa: Our basement flooded last Spring and all of our holiday ornaments got ruined, so we will be working hard on creating new decorations for this holiday season.
jen: i’m sure it’s not the first time you’ve been asked, but i’ve been curious: where did the name 5 orange potatoes come from?
lisa: I get this question all the time! I asked my girls to throw out some names, Araina (5yo at the time) said “5 orange potatoes,” I loved the corky sound to it and kept it. It really works for us too, being vegetarians we eat a lot of sweet potatoes and I have red hair that looks a little orange in the sun. I shared this story with a man at a recent show and he laughed because his 6yo nephew named his goldfish “Roastbeef,” you really can’t beat the creative power of a young mind!
and now for the giveaway… [CLOSED]
lisa is generous enough to offer one of her amazingly adorable owl pillows, hand sewn with love from vintage fabrics or upcycled sweaters, to one of my readers! that could be YOU!
to enter for your chance to win: first click here, which will open a new browser window where you will visit the 5 orange potatoes etsy shop to peruse the beautiful wares. choose which owl pillow is your favorite (that you’d like to win!) and come back here and let me know in the comments which owl you’d choose. *make sure your valid email address is attached to your entry so i can contact you if you win.* you need to do the above entry to be entered, and for THREE MORE chances to win, you can do the following and leave an additional comment (read: entry into drawing) for each of these actions: like 5 orange potatoes on facebook follow 5 orange potatoes on twitter share a link to this blog post giveaway on your facebook page, your twitter account, and/or on your blog.
i will choose a winner using a random number generator this thursday night (november 10) at 9pm pacific/midnight eastern.
*CONGRATS TO WINNER, TARA C!*
and now for my unsolicited PSA: while you are on lisa’s 5 orange potatoes etsy shop, keep in mind that the holidays are fast approaching, and these make for amazing gifts for special people in your life. if you’d like to support artists and the idea of a handmade holiday (as opposed to store-bought, mass-produced goods,) please consider shopping on sites like etsy, at your local holiday faires, and, of course, making your own holiday gifts this year (and every year!) occupy the holidays!
*all images courtesy of 5 orange potatoes.