We had the good fortune of connecting with Annie Schermer and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Annie, how do you think about risk?
Risks have been the defining moments of my life and career. A couple of years after I graduated college I was sort of treading water, working as a seamstress and making my art around the edges, mostly not shared with the outside world. Then my friend Channing encouraged me to move with her to Madison County, North Carolina, to build a life in the direction of our creative dreams. At the time we’d written a few songs together, and had some very early ideas about puppetry, stop-motion animation, and performance art. I had never been to North Carolina before, but I gave notice at my job, got on a plane and moved with Channing and her dog into a tiny cabin off the grid.
We made and performed our first puppet show there, which opened up connections and friendships in music, puppetry and visual arts. It was so powerful to move somewhere new and introduce myself as an artist and a musician to people who didn’t know anything else about me. That was a huge leap of faith, but the risk stimulated years of creative growth and collaboration. It opened a lot of doors and changed the way I saw myself and what was possible. It was a blank canvas; sometimes scary, definitely intimidating, but ultimately we got to paint ourselves onto that canvas in the way we wanted to see ourselves.
I think we have a lot more power to shape our lives than we sometimes believe. And the risk doesn’t have to be moving across the country, that’s just not possible or necessary for everyone. It can be talking to a person you are curious about, or trying a new color in your home or your outfit. Even trying a new food. Applying for the job you actually wish you had. Taking risks makes us feel brave, and when we feel brave, we can do things that surprise us.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I believe art has the ability to connect us to ourselves, to each other, and to the world. I also believe that creativity is a human birthright, as innate as breathing. We live in such a loud, fast time, it can feel really difficult to prioritize stillness and listening. But stillness and listening are central to my creative process, whether I’m working alone or with others. I find the more I pay attention to the world, the more I feel that everything has something to say; everything has a story and is part of a story.
In college, I designed an interdisciplinary degree in Creativity. I was never able to choose between writing, illustration, textile art, and music; so I pursued them all! Themes of personal transformation, cultural and ancestral healing enter my work in story, song and image. I often work with shadows and light, literally in shadow puppetry and animation, and also in the metaphorical, psychological sense. What we exile and bury both personally and culturally is a powerful force in shaping our lives. Working with blockages and fears, and healing those wounds, is work I do personally and also an arc that shows up in my storytelling. The wounds that we experience and carry forward from our ancestors get re-enacted; those traumas need to be healed. Art gives us an opportunity to face pain, to face history, to face truth, and then to respond creatively. Story lets us see through someone else’s eyes as if they were our own.
One of the most important things I’ve learned as an artist is how to be a friend to yourself. It’s something I struggle with and come back to again and again. Self-doubt is such a heavy shadow, especially for people pursuing an alternate career path or a creative vision or project. Capitalism as a system thrives on people equating self-worth with how much money they make. There’s a lot of toxicity in that model: growing as a person and as an artist often means moving towards risk and the potential for failure, not avoiding it. There’s such a pressure to be generating all the time, as if the cycle of creation is a never-ending bloom. In my experience, the bloom is a sweet phase of a long and full cycle of death and rebirth. Rest, dreaming, blossoming, fruiting; that’s just how life works. Accepting myself and working with my own cycles is healing; it is homecoming.
These days I make and perform puppet shows, write and perform music in two bands, teach art to kids, and draw and write every day. I struggle all the time with various shadows and doubts, but I am helped along by so many other artists and creators, both friends I know and love, and others far away who have shared their work and words. That’s the thing that keeps me going when I feel lost in the questions and doubts about whether to make or share something: if I can inspire even one person the way I have been inspired by art and stories and songs in my life, then I am proud of myself, and I have succeeded.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Growing up in the temperate rainforests of the Pacific Northwest, I never realized that deserts could have such incredible life force. You can really appreciate the beauty, resilience, and fragility of life when it emerges in harsh conditions. There’s a larger metaphor there for creativity; something about how, at least for me, beauty isn’t just about being the most colorful or the largest or most lush; it’s about survival and the dance between death and life. It’s about living and creating in awareness of death and suffering, and still blooming, not in spite of that, but because of it. So I would definitely recommend spending time in the Sonoran desert, soaking it in. I also love to spend all day in a good bookstore, so…Bookmans!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I have so many thanks to give for the people who have supported me and believed in me over the years. My family and friends are daily sources of inspiration and love. I’d like to dedicate my shoutout to my friend and collaborator, Channing Showalter. Channing is an incredible artist and musician, who continues to inspire me with her work and life. When you work closely with someone you see their best and worst: Channing has believed in me when I have doubted myself. I don’t know where I would be without the supportive ground of her friendship, artistry and passion.
John Rominger Blake McMeekin