Meet the lovely Laly Mille: a talented mixed media artist, dream seeker and wholehearted inspirer. Laly re-discovered her passion for creating when she became a mum and reached a crossroads in her life. She is living proof that when your listen to your heart and follow your soul’s calling, anything is possible. ~ Rachel
1. How are you doing what you love?
I love knowing that I am exactly where I’m supposed to be, on the path that’s right for me: the path of an artist. Sometimes it gets bumpy or muddy, but mostly it leads me to unexpected, magical places!
I love to make art, to be in the studio and tap into the flow of creativity, and to meet whatever is wanting to come to life through me. I love to feel inspired and excited by new ideas and projects, to play, grow and learn.
I love to share my journey with others, so they in turn can find and trust their creative wings.
And I also love to work from home, to collaborate with my husband as this becomes a real creative business, and to share this sense of possibility with my kids.
2. Tell us about your journey to here…
I’m a self-taught artist, and a bit of a late-blooming one too: I took up painting six years ago. I was 32 and had reached a turning point in my life: I felt lost and disconnected from my truth. I had lost my previous job for a World Heritage organisation in France two years before and was craving more authenticity and creativity. I had then taken the french exams to become a school teacher and started the state’s one-year training but I soon realised the educational system would crush me if I stayed, so I quit after three months.
The following year my daughter was born and I decided to stay at home with her and my 3-year-old son for a few months, to find out what I really wanted to do with my life.
I took a skill assessment and when the lady came back with the results, she looked a bit uneasy. She said: “Are you sure you don’t want to go back to what you used to do? Otherwise, well, according to your test results, you are an artist, but…” At this point all that came out of my mouth was a slightly discouraged little laugh. She asked if I painted. I said no, but that I used to love drawing in high-school. She suggested I give it another try, and that having a creative hobby would help me feel less frustrated. I’ll be forever grateful to that wise young woman!
Art intimidated me though, so I looked into scrapbooking, which was starting to become very popular. After a few hours on Google, serendipity led me to two magical words I had never heard before: mixed media. A minute later I landed on Amazon to find Kelly Rae Robert’s book, Taking Flight. That is the exact moment I found my path. I bought a small canvas, gave it a try, then signed up for a weekly workshop down the street as a commitment to my creativity for two hours each week. I have never looked back… one step after the next it has taken me to where I am today, it has led me home to myself.
Now the next step is to share this gift with others.
3. What is the best part about being a mixed media artist?
I used to feel intimidated and uncomfortable with the idea of ‘art’ and the ‘art world’. But mixed media changed that for me: the playfulness and whimsy, the sense of possibility, of experimentation and exploration, the willingness of other artists to share their discoveries, their techniques, their emotions and stories. And the sense of community that arises from online classes, blogs, books and magazines. The support of like-minded creative friends from all over the world has been a key ingredient in daring to pursue my dream.
4. What’s the most challenging part? What big lessons have you learnt along the way?
The most challenging part has been to acknowledge that this is my life’s purpose, to stay committed to it (especially in the first years) and to give my dream the means to become a reality: this means, in particular, setting some boundaries with my children to preserve the quiet time and space I needed to create. This isn’t easy when you are a mother working from home; it can trigger a lot of guilt. But I’m very mindful not to let it take over, and my husband William is the best supporter in the world.
5. Talk us through a typical day in your life…
Will and I wake up at 6.30am and dedicate an hour to our morning practices before the kids wake up: I usually write in my journal, read and take a walk in the country near our home. I express gratitude and meditate as I walk, I sing… I fill my well with the endless source of inspiration that nature offers me.
Then it’s family time, breakfast and getting the kids ready for the day.
I work in my studio and office making art, writing e-course content, filming and editing videos, replying to messages, and posting updates on social media. I like to post sneaky peeks of what I do in the studio on Instagram, it’s fun and spontaneous!
Will and I also discuss next priorities and keep each other up to date: he takes care of most administrative aspects of the business now, which has involved setting up a small business for my online classes, or finding payment solutions that ensure we comply with the recent EU VAT regulations for digital goods etc. It’s a lot of not-so-creative but truly vital work.
I have also been completely amazed by his new-found talent for filming and editing, as we’ve created a short promo video for my first online class, Layers of Light. Being a team changes everything, and we both get to do what we love and what we’re best at, while spending more time together and giving each other support and accountability.
Will also takes care of the kids when they get home from school so I can keep working until 6pm. Then it’s family time again, and often some more work in the evening whenever there’s a tight deadline, or when the creative muse just calls me again: the studio is right next to our bedroom and sometimes I think I’m going to bed, but I really end up opening the other door and paint in my PJs for a few more hours…
6. Describe your creative space; how does it inspire you?
My studio space is a room at the top of our house with a big skylight facing a tall oak tree. So I am constantly inspired by the light, the birds, the wind and the rustling leaves. I also bring nature into the studio with plants, feathers, pebbles, images of birds and butterflies.
But my most important inspiration booster is… organisation! I tend to be very messy, and I embrace the messiness, but it can quickly become overwhelming and paralysing. So I make sure that there’s a place for everything: I have clear boxes for all my collage papers, sorted out in colors and neutral tones, rolling carts for the supplies I use the most, lots of shelving, including a storage area for finished artwork, a drying area near the radiator so unfinished projects don’t pile up on my worktable, and a kitchen counter under the skylight that’s just for filming and for encaustic work.
I have moved things around quite a few times since we moved in a year ago, but now I really feel at home. It’s easy to put everything back to its place each time I finish a project, and to invite inspiration in for the next one!
7. Where do you find your inspiration and how do you keep track of all your thoughts and ideas?
Inspiration comes to me mostly from nature, memories, stories and above all, from connection to my inner creative source, my “inner light”, that magical spark we all have. That’s why I believe the “inner work” is so important: the closer you get to your true self, the better you know and embrace your “inner artist”, the more you let go and allow things to flow, the easier it becomes to let inspiration in.
My approach to art is not all intuitive, rather it’s a dance between intuition and conscious choices. But what I love is to open up to the unexpected and let myself be surprised. I don’t keep track of all my thoughts and ideas, but I do fill journals with notes and little sketches. I also love using Pinterest! I collect ideas and images by theme, and when I start a new project I create a secret Pinterest board for it. Very soon more images fall into my lap and little by little, my idea becomes more precise.
When I started imagining my first online classes, the flow of ideas was so unstoppable that for two weeks I kept a journal with me at all times, and I have Pinterest boards for at least six more e-courses and retreats…
But inspiration is also like catching butterflies: I catch the ones that let me catch them, or the ones that fascinate me the most, but I let the rest happily flutter around me.
8. How do you take an idea from a concept to a finished product? Tell us a little about your creative process…
It can be very different from one piece to the next. Most of my art is very layered: layers of writing, intuitive painting, collage, drawing, texture, color and lots of white! It demands time and that’s one of the things I like about it: the work morphs and evolves, meaning and stories weave themselves into each piece, whether it’s abstract or figurative. There’s a meditative quality to this process. Some paintings unfold organically and effortlessly in a short amount of time, others take many months. It’s the creative flow and I have learned to respect that.
Then there are bigger projects like creating a solo show, an online class or a live workshop. These involve deadlines, planning and a good dose of (mostly self-imposed) pressure.
But whatever the project, I approach it with as much trust as possible, knowing that ultimately, it’s not about me. I get to enjoy the creative process, but whatever is born from it, is meant to inspire and touch the life of someone else. I always keep that in mind and hold space in my heart, as I create, for whoever awaits on the other side of my work.
9. What’s in your artist’s toolbox?
Natural light, gesso and matte gel medium, alcohol inks and my absolute favorite supply: Stabilo All black pencils. Plus extra copies of my favorite novels and poetry books so I can tear the pages apart and use them in my art.
10. How do you come up with a profitable price structure for your artwork?
Pricing is a tricky topic and it’s really about feeling your way to your ideal price. I have a price per square inch structure which is still evolving.
Recently I did a solo show and the gallery owner suggested I revise the price of my bigger paintings so they stay under 1,000 euros, supposedly to have a better chance at selling them. My largest piece was just above this amount, and it had been scary and exciting to reach this symbolic threshold a few months before. But I did what he asked – and I wasn’t really surprised to end up with very few sales, none of which were of large works: the truth is that I didn’t follow my intuition. It wasn’t in alignment with me so lesson learned, I’m going back to what feels right.
Apart from being a long-cherished dream and a calling, teaching is now also becoming a way to make a living and take the pressure off the art sales, which, in turn, will probably get a lot easier now that I’m shifting my mindset around them!
11. Your e-course, Layers of Light – a mixed media workshop, launched in September. What inspired it, how long did it take to write/design, and why should people take it?
People often say that they are drawn to my art because of the light that emanates from it. This past year there have been an increasing number of creatives asking me to teach them my process, and at the same time I have felt the desire to inspire others to create from that place of light within them. I guess that with what has been going on in the world, and in particular in my own country, we all long for more light.
I was wondering how to teach that, until I realised that this light on the canvas comes from the light we connect to in every aspect of our lives. From paying attention to natural light around us and how it resonates with us, to the way we relate to contrast and shadow. From what ‘lights us up’ to light as a symbol of our unique truth.
Layers of Light is all about letting your unique light shine through your art: finding inspiration around you and in you, connecting to your creative spark and infusing it into meaningful art, in a fun and playful way.
12. What other projects are in the pipeline?
I start teaching a bimonthly workshop here in my little town in September and have a big solo show coming up in November in a gorgeous venue in France (a XIIth century abbey with arched ceilings!), new online classes, and hopefully one in French!
13. What’s your ultimate dream in life?
My dream is well on its way to becoming a reality. It’s really to keep growing as an artist and as a person, to keep believing in possibility, to build a successful, long-term creative business that allows me and my family to enjoy life at its fullest and contribute to make the world a more light-filled place, to inspire others to live their own creative dreams, to cherish every precious moment in life with my husband and our kids for many, many years. To paint, paint, and paint, even when I’m 100!
14. And finally… a quote you live by?
“At the end of the day, your feet should be dirty, your hair should be messy and your eyes sparkling.” ~ Shanty