Healing Through Art: Christine Hilbert talks gratitude and transforming loss into creativity
We had a chance to ask Christine Hilbert a few questions about her new book, what inspires her, and for some advice on topics like career and motherhood. She also graced Hope with some vibrant samples of her artwork, including a remarkable watercolor portrait of our editor, Angelia White. Check her out!
Hope for Women: Have you always held dreams of becoming an author, in addition to pursuing art and design? Did you ever anticipate you would write and illustrate your own children’s book?
Christine Hilbert: As a child, I dreamed of being an author along with an artist but didn’t initially set out to write a book as an adult. As I was creating my Heirloom Anthology series of watercolors mixed with vintage gems, I thought it would be fun to create a children’s book that incorporated the series, but I didn’t initially have an actual concept for the story. When the idea for Echo of the Star presented itself, I just tried to run with it.
I tried to stay open and inspired and see what ideas came. I feel like so much of creativity is just saying “yes” when an idea hits you and not being afraid to try something new.
HFW: What inspires your focus on vintage gems in your artwork?
Hilbert: I have always been a lover of vintage treasures. I love to go to estate sales and flea markets and find things that have been cast off or lost their original appeal—whether that’s jewelry or vintage books or old photographs. There is something so wonderful and enticing about these bits of the past. Originally, I started creating the series, Heirloom Anthology as a way to bridge my two loves: painting and jewelry. I thought that the combination was interesting and whimsical and also gave me a bit of a challenge to go a bit further than just painting a picture.
HFW: Echo of the Star holds a message of “how to find a way to carry on all special relationships when things change.” Is this message closely linked with the focus you place on vintage gems in your art?
Hilbert: I did want the use of vintage gems to convey that message of carrying on when things change. I felt like it was a great visual way to explain to kids (and adults, too) that we carry a bit of the people we love with us even when they are not actually with us. The love and goodness that we show to someone is a treasure and can extend far past that single relationship. We can pass on their love—just as the Star passes on its sparkle to its friends in Echo of the Star.
HFW: Your story centers on maintaining strength and kindness when things get tough. Do you have any advice or words of wisdom regarding how you have kept a positive attitude and transformed loss into inspiration?
Hilbert: Not everything happens for a reason, but you can find meaning and purpose in everything. I think practicing gratitude is something that has really helped me to maintain a positive attitude in my life. I actively look for things in my day to be grateful for—specific things, even if they are small: that very first cup of coffee, a specific thing that one of my kids said that I found hilarious, the unexpected kindness of someone I meet, the strength I found in my legs on a walk. Finding specific moments to be grateful for helps to strengthen me in those moments of sadness or difficulty.
HFW: As an artist, author and business-owner, what advice can you give other women in similar positions—other creators and entrepreneurs, or other women balancing work and family life?
Hilbert: Don’t be afraid to try something new or to fail at something. It’s easy to put yourself in the box of “that’s not my thing” or “I’m just a ___”. So much of creativity is making mistakes or going out in uncharted territory, which can be both thrilling and terrifying. Ask for help from people you trust. I’ve found that most people are incredibly willing to share their experiences and help out someone who is just learning. Build a community of support around you, whether it’s a spouse or a best friend, or a group of like-minded people in the field you’re interested in. Those are the people who help keep you motivated when you’re having a rough day and who can help lift you up and encourage you to keep going. They are also great at holding you accountable when you’re slacking.
I’m not sure there is much “balance” in the work/mother life, but I try to be present in whichever role I need to be in at the time. If I am with my kids, I try hard to be fully in it with them. If I am working, I try hard to be fully immersed in that. Being purposeful about my time and energy helps me feel like I am giving all I can at that moment.
HFW: As a mother, what advice can you give other mothers when it comes to encouraging and inspiring your children in times of hardship?
Hilbert: I think showing your kids love and support through being present with them is so important. Everyone just wants to feel seen and heard, even kids, so taking the time to just be with and listen to them is an amazing gift. I really try to look for the positive, the beauty, the goodness of any situation, so I’ve always tried to encourage my kids to do the same. Having faith that things will get better and that we are in this together, no matter what, is something that has helped our family get through the really difficult situations in life.
Christine Hilbert is an Iowa-based mixed-media painter and jewelry designer. She combines vintage treasures with her paintings to create unique and beautiful artwork and accessories that echo the past. She designs for her accessory line, Bean & the Sprout, and has just authored and illustrated her first children’s book, Echo of the Star. The illustrations are a part of Hilbert’s ongoing “Heirloom Anthology” series of watercolor paintings combined with vintage gems.