As so many of us, all over the world, every kind of person, have endured the stultifying boredom and disconnection of stay-at-home orders, it has been emphasized to an even greater extent than normal how very crucial artists are to our collective and singular well-being. We depend on essential workers to keep us safe and provided for, on scientists to keep us well, on teachers to keep us learning and growing. But the artists? They’ve kept us sane. They’ve kept our spirits in the sun. The musicians, painters, writers, poets, film and television makers, all of these have fed our weary souls with beauty, laughter, and light.
At LadyFaire, we love artists. So each month, we’ll be featuring one artist, sometime it will be someone whose primary life is to make art in a Ren Fest setting, other times it will be the great works that inspire them. This month, writer and publisher Michelle Williams, whom we met in the course of interviews for our series “Diversity in the Realm,” shared her thoughts on making art and supporting artists by getting their work seen.
Michelle Lawrence, a performer at the Florida Renaissance Festival, is completely beautiful, and also mightily intelligent and creative. She’s an artist whose medium is the written word and digital media as well as a leader who dreams of, and implements, big, inclusive creative projects.
“My parent company is Visual Adjectives. We believe that ‘writing and art enhances Visual Adjectives to the concepts in our minds’. Our mission is to empower creatives to create their best work. With an avant-garde approach that forges new paths that are accessible to everyone, Visual Adjectives is a Production and Publishing company. We have fantastic illustrations drawn by artists worldwide, including my son and his dad. VA is the publisher of Carpe Nocturne Magazine, which features aspects of the contemporary creative cultures and alternative subculture offering all things Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Steampunk, and Goth. We cover Art, Entertainment, Fashion, Film & Literature, Interviews, Life & Style, Music, Reviews, and Technology found worldwide.I love to say that our motto is, OTHER THAN THE NORM!
Our non-profit, Visual Adjectives SEEDS is an educational publishing journey, that provides an opportunity to educate students and teaches them about career opportunities and choices often overlooked in the publishing industry.
My hobby and how I have fun, is gaming and the Renaissance Festival. My son, Tre and I stared the Ottoman Encampment after we were street characters at the Festival. We knew we had something that we could use to not only educate, but enjoy ourselves doing what we love to do.”
What is your driving purpose, your vision, so to speak?
I enjoy educating people and seeing the look on… No, I seriously enjoy dressing up and looking awesome. I want to dress like I do at the festival every single day. I made a cloak to wear with my everyday clothes. Now, if only Florida will have a real winter.
Oh, I hear you on the “real winter” thing. I live in south Texas. Last year I never even got to put my heavy quilt on my bed nor put on the pretty yellow beanie and matching gloves I bought myself as a treat. When you’re not at FLARF or immersed in Visual Adjectives or SEEDS, what do you do, just for the love and joy of it?
Playing PC games, D&D, Dragonlance, ESO, Ghost Recons, WoW, Skyrim, Sims, Role-Playing games, Warhammer, Fantasy, Art, digital coloring, miniature painting, reading, astrophysics, collecting comics, graphic novels, anime, archery, shooting, writing, Renaissance Faires, Martial Arts movies, Tortoises and Turtles, World Building, Star Trek, Conan, Bedknobs & Broomsticks, Mangoes, Twizzlers, Raisinets, Hi-Chew, Calypso Crunch Cookies, and the color red.
I love all things fantasy and sci-fi, as well as many other forms of literature. In my free time, I love to read comic books, write, and play PC games. I am a published author, currently in the process of editing my fantasy novel and working on my comic book. As a Jamaican-born American, I find great pleasure in using my diverse culture and incorporating my Island twang in my work.
I visited all the websites for all the projects you are leading, the images at Visual Adjectives (above, by Edward Stinson, Jr.) are a wonderful departure from the pretty princess aesthetic. As an educator, I am awed and also really inspired, particularly by the mission statement at SEEDS:
“Seeds of Creativity is a publishing journey for school-aged children. It produces an anthology book created by students. It educates children and teaches them about career opportunities and choices often overlooked.
It helps to strengthen Our children, Our community, Our legacy.
Publishing allows students to expand their creative and educational horizons. Our program Seeds of Creativity is a great way to encourage students to become engaged with their future.”
Living life with that sort of vision has to have opened the door to some wonderful experiences and people. What memorable responses have there been to your work?
In publishing, a print of my comic character was purchased by a young black girl that hugged me for creating someone that looked like her. There was also a time that someone read my story and picked up on the Jamaican words and meanings.
I fell in love with the Renaissance Festivals and when the opportunity came to participate, I took it. I have always loved history… the art, the culture, the architecture, the clothing, the rich world knowledge. It always seemed so untouchable to someone like me. But when YOU have confidence and know your sh… I mean stuff, you can do and be ANYTHING!
As a black woman portraying Turkish royalty, I was terrified every minute of being called out. Even though I knew the history of the character I was walking around as. But the day I ran into a Turkish family, and they loved us. They were so proud to see their culture represented. So proud to see, me, wearing the correct clothing. She cried hugging us and taking pictures. I knew then. The next year, the Ottoman Empire Encampment was made.
Actors and writers do a lot of preparation and research. I imagine with the ambitious goal of creating the Ottoman Encampment, which I assume is the only one of its kind at any RenFest in the country, there was a lot of research to be done. A lot of learning.
My son, his girlfriend, and I have learned some Turkish. We visit the local center to get to know the culture and community. I look up the history of the Ottomans every chance I get. I read and listen to all the Great Courses and there are a bunch of cultural books available. I cook the food, listen to the music, drink the coffees and teas, and random people will just send me Ottoman and Mediterranean looking things. They will take pictures and I go pick them up. Then they become a part of the Encampment. I love to display everything donated to us. It’s beautiful and the joy when they see what they donated on display is truly inspiring.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
I don’t know who said this, but I live by it:
To the world, you may be one person. But to one person, you are the world.
Professionally, what’s your goal? Your dream project?
My goal is to be a well-known author, living off the revenue of my creative works. But not too well known, so that when I say the wrong thing, it makes the front page. My dream project? Writing a book on Theoretical Astrophysics with Neil deGrasse Tyson.