TRI-STATE LIVING: Losing herself in art

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 7, 2024

 Charleston artist details her neverending creative process

For Amanda Jane Miller, some of the greatest benefits she gets from art are not in the final piece, but instead in the act of creating it. 

“I would say that the process is the most rewarding part,” she said. “I don’t know how long it’s going to take and I cant control it. It is a means for me to escape and lose myself.” 

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Miller, of South Charleston, West Virginia, works in a variety of mediums and disciplines, ranging from painting to drawing to weaving to dance. 

Her watercolor paintings have appeared in both group and solo shows, from Apartment Earth Gallery in Charleston, to, most recently, a piece in the invitational “How Close is that to Richmond?” exhibit at Marshall University in summer 2023. 

She describes her paintings as surrealist and talks about the source of her images. 

“It’s what’s in my brain,” she said, noting she is a fan of automatic drawing, in which the artist randomly draws across the paper or canvas, drawing from the subconscious. “Things to calm myself and sooth my nervous system. I like to go into the work, whatever it may be — dancing, spinning wool or drawing — being focused on that is the most direct way to be kind of be ecstatically obliterated by the work.” 

Miller studied art at West Virginia University in Morgantown, where she was enrolled in the school’s electronic media program and after that, worked for a decade in promotions for television at WCHS in Charleston, where she has been engaged in the city’s art scene, which she describes as “vibrant.” 

She says her immersion in art goes back as far as when she was attending preschool. 

She recalls the reaction from the staff when they saw her drawing one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. 

“The caretakers saw it and I was praised for it,” she said. “I thought, ‘This is an thing that I am good at.’ and I was encouraged throughout school.” 

(Submitted photo)

For influences, Miller is just as likely to cite local artists she has known personally and worked with, as well as national and international artists. 

She speaks of the impact children’s authors Robert Lawson, Barbara Cooney and Virginia Burton, as well as Danish illustrator Kay Nielsen have had on her. 

But she is just as quick to cite local artists, such as Laura Alvis and Jamie Miller, of Charleston, or Leah Gore, of Milton, along with her former professor Naijun Zhang, at WVU, under whom she developed her watercolor technique. 

Miller spoke of the recent show at Marshall as an inspiration, pointing out that many of its participants comprised a reunion of those who had exhibited at Apartment Earth and said that the reception created a place for exchange of creative ideas. 

“And it’s always great to get to talk with someone personally,” she said of the event. 

In addition to visual arts, Miller has been involved in creative pursuits across the board.

She played the violin as a child, and she now plays “old time fiddle” with groups, and also is proficient on the saxophone, banjo and accordion.

She says they play all types of music, from folk to mountain music to Viking ballads.

Having described herself as being “obsessed” with Middle Eastern Dance, Miller operated a dance studio in Charleston, where she taught belly dancing and folk dance and performed at city events and businesses.

(Submitted photo)

Her incorporation of her multiple talents could be seen in a video she made with Nik Botkin, for Charleston’s FestivALL several years ago, in which she dripped paint onto a canvas as part of a dance performance.

“We laid a canvas on the floor during open studio,” she said. “We had two performance times during the thing. It was just for fun and the idea of fingerpainting being something everyone does and can relate to it.”

She spoke of how it showed the enjoyment of the process.

“Art doesn’t have to be this thing on the wall in a museum and removed from us,” she said. “You can literally just play in paint. I took it seriously and I was dancing, doing my thing, but it was just play.”

For the last few years, Miller has worked at Kin Ship Goods, a Charleston screenprinting company, where she does printing and runs a commercial embroidery machine.

Miller maintains an account, Hot Stove Fiber, in which she shows her work in another field.

She has been weaving for just over a decade, having inherited a loom from her grandmother.

She said she initially was making and selling yarn, but found that too time consuming.

“And it’s way too ancient to be marketable,” she said.

 These days, she described Hot Stove Fiber as a “user name” to be separate from her paintings.

“It’s something I do to escape trying to make images,” she said.

In addition to banners, wall hangings and abstract and experimental work she does with her weaving, she talks about one piece, a practical application she is currently doing with artist Chase Marcum.

“It’s a speaker cabinet,” she said. “I’m weaving speaker covers and having to research the type of wool used for that.”

Other plans she has in the works include a two-person collaborative project with Botkin, who creates welded animal sculptures.

“They’re inorganic representations of an organic thing, she said of his work, adding that her contribution from weaving would add to that theme, as it comes from “ protein-based fiber from animals.”

Miller says she has one other project she hopes to work on. 

“I’m super interested in producing illustrations for a children’s book,” she said, citing British illustrator Quentin Blake, known for his work illustrating books by Roald Dahl, as an influence.

“It a lifelong ambition,” she said of the project. “And my hopes and dreams.”

Miller says she is constantly creating, often multiple pieces at a time, some of which will linger and be returned to after others are finished.

“That’s why I have so many unfinished things and struggle with deadlines,” she said. “I crave the process and don’t want it to end. The best pieces I have – they’re paintings set off by themselves, gathering dust for years. They’ll be my side piece and I warm up on something else. I was worried about the end result and I trusted the process. And it takes a lot of trust in yourself to know when to stop.”

For more of Miller’s work, visit HotStoveFiber on Instagram.