This interview with Oklahoma’s own Amanda Weathers, has been a long time coming. Like I mentioned in the last Mean Hustle article, basing a project on the idea of being able to track down some of the hardest working women out there, and then ask them to stop long enough to type out an entire interview… Is an admittedly shaky plan, and it is asking a lot. But just like always, the work got done. I am so thankful Amanda agreed to be a part of the project!
Amanda and I have been playing email tag for some time! To me, our correspondence was always quick but kind, matter-of-fact but understanding, and probably the truest testament of just how difficult this project can be. The snippets of her incredibly busy schedule accompanying an update, were EXACTLY why I wanted to start The Mean Hustle Project in the first place.
“So sorry, in the garden.” “Coming soon! In the studio.” “Almost there, been out in the community.” She would write. Probably the most excellent build up ever, because I wanted to know more. Nailed it, girl. Nailed it.
(I must admit, once her part was complete, my own schedule got pretty intense and I am about a month, a MONTH! behind schedule. Better late than never!)
Ever since Amanda was nominated by past Mean Hustler, Amy Young, I have been doing my research. I was familiar with her work, but through scouring her website and following her on social media, I was becoming a fan! But what I hadn’t expected, was that it all would begin to feel strangely familiar. I hadn’t been able to put my finger on it until I was able to sit down and read the interview she emailed back.
The familiarity wasn’t in knowing how to work with her chosen mediums. Because some, I don’t. It wasn’t in our art sharing similar subject matter, because it doesn’t really. It wasn’t even in our circles of friends sharing edges, even though they do. What struck me about Amanda, turns out, was that we shared a desire to do something different every day. To try it all.
What happened next is my favorite part of every single interview. The part where the universe aligns and I learn something new that maybe I didn’t know I needed, at the exact right moment I needed it, from the most unexpected teacher.
…After reading Amanda’s impeccable words, I realized that I think the reason I felt a connection to her work and to her, is because of the motivation behind it all. Specifically, a new-found care and respect that she’s pouring into it, and into herself. But it is not the fact that I myself am operating with this same M.O. It is that I am afraid I am not. I believe the connection is that she is further along on a journey that I also knew I needed to make, but am only at the very beginning of.
The Mean Hustle Project aims to focus on work for progress. Historically, I have personally tended to focus on work for work’s sake… Keeping insane hours, concerned about my health, and constantly checking my motivations. Reading this interview brought some of my own deep-seeded concerns to the surface, and was inspiring in just the way that I hoped this project could be. I learned that in this, I am not alone. We are never alone.
I am excited for others to be able to read the story of a fellow women, artist, entrepreneur, who is hustling- but decided to do it on her terms, for the right reasons. Her reasons. Quality over quantity. Quality over everything. Amanda’s courage to recognize what she needed, and then to demand it, is so important. Thank you, Amanda, for speaking so candidly about your journey, and for being part of The Mean Hustle Project!
Without further ado! Amanda Weathers is an artist and entrepreneur from Edmond, and this is her hustle.
Who are you? Where are you from? What’s your story?
I am Amanda Weathers. I was born and raised in Edmond, where my family has had a small business in the downtown area for over 50 years. I began doing art when I was 16 after my grandmother passed away. She always encouraged me to do art and after her passing I realized why. It became a way I could release all of my thoughts and feelings. The first time I put color on a surface I felt alive in a different way that I had ever felt. I taught myself how to draw and paint and immersed myself in the small art scene in the city. I would pick up a Gazette and look at the art events calendar and put all the openings on my Calendar. I got to know a lot of people through going to events and volunteering though OVAC. I had a studio in Paseo for a couple years and in 2008 I opened up an artist made retail store and gallery in the Plaza District. I sold the store about 3 years ago and have been going through another career reincarnation. I was so stuck with the identity of being an artist for my entire adult life, that I did not even entertain options to explore or try different career paths. I am currently building a new career and lifestyle for myself based on my core values: minimalism, community, service to others and sustainability. Gardening has been a big focus over the past few years, as it allows me to engage my love for community and sustainability. I am currently working on a cut flower production garden in the Paseo with my friend Megan Cisco of Circleculture Farms.
Can you give us a run-down of your 9 to 5, and also your passion project(s)?
One of the things I have realized about myself is that I do not want to do the same thing every day and I LOVE working with my hands on my feet. With that, I have pulled in several different kinds of work that integrate my core values. I do house cleaning every other week for a few clients because I love helping others and improving spaces. I do natural, organic and pollinator friendly yard care every other week in the growing season because I love sustainability. You could also call that a passion project because my goal is to educate people on the importance of keeping pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers out of the environment. Twice a week I visit an older artist lady who needs company and errand running so that I can be of service to my community. Honestly, right now I am passionate about everything that I am doing, but I guess my side hustles would be my gardening and jewelry making. Once a week I work on my garden and once a week I’m in the studio creating jewelry and selling it online and in a few local stores. I also take on at least one big mural project a year. Public art is so meaningful to me because it is not just for those who can afford it, it belongs to everyone.
“I am a very hard worker, but in the past, I have used hard work or over work over things that hold more value. It was an addiction. Right now, I just want to be happy with my life unfolding, trusting and observing the lessons I need to learn along the way.”
Obviously, I wanted to talk with you because you've got one Mean Hustle! I am always interested in the "why" of the work. If someone just loves hard-work and it's instinctual? Is it a means to an end? Or, is it one big push until they arrive at an end goal? What is the "why" of your work?
I have always thought that we were put here on this earth to do what we are passionate about, so if we are not doing that every day, we are not truly living. Narrowing into my core values allows me to pick and choose what I want in my life and get rid of things that drain me of my life force. I think we as a society focus so much on success, money, lifestyle and generally what our lives “should” look like to the detriment of our inner values and overall happiness. I have done that and now I am learning a different way of being. I am a very hard worker, but in the past, I have used hard work or over work over things that hold more value. It was an addiction. Right now, I just want to be happy with my life unfolding, trusting and observing the lessons I need to learn along the way.
From just clicking around your website, you have so many irons in the fire! How did you ultimately choose the mediums that you work with primarily, and can you share a little bit about what it was like learning to use the materials in the very beginning?
I have tried a lot of different forms of art from painting, to metal work and paper. The one that has stuck with me the most over the years is the metal working. I make jewelry using a soft solder technique that is what my grandfather used to repair circuit boards in his TV repair shop. When I began in 2011, I was initially looking for a metal working technique that would allow me to work with the things I collected like wood, crystals, minerals and rocks. I tried electro forming, but did not like the idea of being exposed to so many chemicals. I love dripping and forming the solder over each piece and seeing what it looks like in the end.
No one truly sees the blood, sweat, and tears that go into doing what we love. To everyone else, the finished product just appears! On your busiest and toughest day, gettin’ down and dirty, what are you doing?
I have been in the process this year of having better boundaries with my work and really evaluating each project and weeding out anything that causes more work and stress than value. I have gone through the most unhealthy cycles of overwork. Before, at my worst, I was waking up at 6 and working until 10pm almost 7 days a week to get all my money-making work out of the way and having time to get in the studio. There have been times that I have had a deadline that I can’t focus on anything other than the deadline. That means conversations with others, eating, bathing, cleaning my house and even damaging my body through repetitive motions. I have been in PT more than once from hurting myself busting out a deadline. Bottom line, I am done working myself into unhealthy patterns and so that I can earn that capitalist badge of “hard worker”. I know I’m a hard worker. I want to be a healthy worker that makes the most of my time so that my time off is honored and respected just as much.
“Instead of sitting around complaining about the bias, I would ask someone straight up, where are the women in your show?”
Mean Hustle aims to be a platform to discuss the barriers and biases women deal with on a daily basis. Have you been met with obstacles in your own career that were gender related?
I have definitely noticed the lack of diversity in group art shows and public art over the years. It made me also examine how the lack of representation extended even further away from POC. It made me start questioning those around me. Instead of sitting around complaining about the bias, I would ask someone straight up, where are the women in your show? Because whether it is intentional or not, these questions need to be asked and we all need to be challenging ourselves and each other to be more inclusive.
One of my favorite things I ever did was include myself in OKC’s first public art event. My friend Erin Cooper was friends with the director of a district holding a mural event and she noticed straight away that there were no women included in the event. When the director countered with “Well, would you like to be one of the artists?” She was taken aback and then responded “yes!” She had never painted a mural before so she called me and our other friend Lauren Miller. The district also asked another female artist to paint one the walls, and it is one of my favorite in the whole state! I had the most experience, but it was limited to maybe 120 sqf. All 3 of us painted a 2000 sqf mural and won the viewer’s choice award.
I think we all have this flame of hope that the strides women are making today, will make things easier for girls tomorrow. Realistically, there is such a long way to go that the best we can do immediately is arm them to protect and stand up for themselves. Do you have any advice or tools for young woman who may dealing with discrimination in their personal and/or professional lives?
Don’t be afraid to call out lack of representation. Sit down and have conversations with others in charge, but if they don’t or won’t give you a seat at the table, make your own!
The hope is to build this into a storytelling community. To offer advice and back-up, and to establish that it is 100% OK to ask for help if you need it. Has there ever been a time in your life when community was key to your success, or even survival? And has that impacted you moving forward?
Everything about being an artist and business owner is 100% support from your community. I am an introverted person by nature, but I grew deep ties to my community through volunteer work, owning a business and just attending art events to support others. I wouldn't have been able to support myself through all my artistic endeavors throughout the years without the rich small-town type community in OKC. Now that I am moving into a different passion with gardening, I am finding how there is crossover from the art community and also a richly diverse gardening community that I am getting to know.
What is the most important “tool in your toolbox”, physical or otherwise?
Staying aware of how I feel each day. Asking myself how the day went, how I can improve my workflow or bring more joy to my life outside of my work.
How do you define success for yourself, and are you there yet?
I think everyone would like to say it would be having financial security into old age, but really there is no security, no matter how much you have in the bank. I am doing what I can to secure a good future, but I don't want to sacrifice the daily moments and overall joy of life.
Since I have had the time to reflect on where I am through answering all these questions, I would say that I am there. Success is honoring your needs/passions/desires and refusing to run on automatic, checking the list of things that society says are the definition of success. i.e. go to school, get a job, get married, have kids, retire, and then falling apart when any of these things doesn't happen in order, on time or at all.
I am rich in relationships, I am rich in creativity, I am rich in community and daily blessed by the wonders and mystery of the natural world.
Looking back, are there any failures that you consider important? Something that was necessary to get to where you are now, but maybe felt insurmountable at the time?
Yes. So many lessons. Lots of failure. I think the biggest thing that I have been knocking my head against for the past few years is that I don't have to spend my life tied to one identity. This has allowed me more financial and emotional stability. Also having a GOOD accountant if you are self-employed. This means not a cheap accountant. I cannot stress how much this means when you are getting notifications from the IRS about seizure of assets.
Best day of your career so far?
I have had a lot of good days! My very favorite days were painting my first large scale mural “Oklahoma Aiukli” on Western Ave. with my friends Lauren Miller and Erin Cooper. I literally felt high all day every day for 2 weeks.
You have to teach someone a random skill that you are knowledgeable in, in 5 minutes or less. What is that skill? Novelty skills absolutely count!
I would teach them how to put a plant into the ground.
Let’s pretend that I have two toolboxes. You must blindly choose one toolbox, which for the rest of your life, the contents would be the only tools you are allowed to use. Materials & mediums are still free-game. Which do you choose?
-Toolbox one: drill & bits, scissors, hammer, Phillip’s-head screwdriver, trowel, adhesive of choice.
-Toolbox two: Sawzall, torch, needle nose pliers, duct tape, paint brush, needle & thread.
Toolbox two, contains most of the things I need to make my art!
What female musicians/female fronted bands are you listening to, or are part of your personal soundtrack?
Last fall I was listening to LP nonstop! I would look up her live acoustic sets on YouTube and play them on repeat for hours. This Spring I am enjoying Little Dragon again. My go to regulars are all my favorites from high school though: Ani Difranco, Bjork & Portishead.
If there is anything else specifically that you would like to talk about, please do!
One thing I tell artists is you cannot be an artist if you can't handle rejection. Everything you do is a gamble. You never know if the products you labored over for months will sell, or the art work you slaved over for a couple years will be met with rain on your opening day and no one showing up. When that happens it’s all on you and you have to be ready to let it roll off.
I also hate the saying “Find what you love and let it kill you.”
Passion matters but you also have to be realistic with yourself when the need to chase that passion starts to erode your overall well-being.
Thank you for being a part of Mean Hustle and sharing your story! One last question. Is there any one specific woman on your radar right now who you look up to in terms of mean hustling, and/or doing impactful work? Who are they, and why?
My friend JUURI is a crazy amazing artist who has been doing murals across the US for the past few years. Not many artists from OK are doing murals nationwide, not to mention ladies. The fact that she is out there is an inspiration to me