The women I meet and photograph always blow me away. It’s an extraordinary thing to drop into someone’s day-to-day life as an observer. Hearing about other’s personal experiences, struggles, and victories helps you grow and learn. That’s why I’m so exited to share a little about wood artist, Amber Jean with you.
Jaw dropping is the best way I can describe the winding road to Amber’s studio, perfectly perched on the peak of beautiful Montana mountainside. I’ve never seen such a workshop so unimaginably in tune with nature, a perfect representation of the artist herself. There’s even a zip-line off the back deck.
From giant sculptures made from entire trees to carvings that fit in your hand, the interplay between humans and nature is the driving force behind Amber’s work. She put herself through college, finding work in the great outdoors that fueled her passion for earth and art. Amber helped build the Continental Divide Trail, was part of the first all female crew at the Forest Service in Bozeman, fought forest fires in West Yellowstone, and was the first female wilderness ranger based out of the West Yellowstone District.
Spend a moment with Amber and you can feel the confidence she exudes, the kind of tenacity and determination that rubs off on company. I asked her what obstacles she faced as a woman in her field, and if that in turn affected that self-confidence. Her response was so eloquent and insightful, I want to share it with you:
“I have never been hung up on the statistics of how few women have done this or that. Sure there are more successful male artists than female artists and female sculptors are even more rare in the world of visual arts. Men tend to get paid more in the arts than women. I wasn’t raised to believe in equality; rather I was raised in an extremely old-fashioned conservative family where my mother didn’t even believe women should have been given the right to vote. My father and brothers laughed at me when I wanted to learn how to change the oil in my own car and they ignored my requests for tools at Christmas. My mother had hopes that I would be a cheerleader but my parents wouldn’t allow me to play sports since I was a girl. My parents offered to put my brothers through college but did not extend the same offer to their daughter. Driven by a desire to learn, I put myself through school. Fueled by passion to sculpt I talked my way into jobs requiring tools so that I could be paid to learn the skills I desired. In the beginning when I shopped for tools, salesmen assumed I was buying a present for a boyfriend. But I never wasted energy grumbling at, whining about or looking for prejudices. I just got to work, stayed curious, made lots of mistakes, and kept after it.” –Amber Jean
Responding to obstacles as challenges that propel you forward instead of immobilizing you with fear can take you a long way. Be creative and find a way into your dreams. Don’t be afraid to fail. Just take one step at a time. Before you know it, you’ll be able to take a look back and see how far you’ve come.