We had the good fortune of connecting with Marty Ornish and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Marty, have you ever found yourself in a spot where you had to decide whether to give up or keep going? How did you make the choice?
I confess that when I receive two or more exhibition rejection letters in a row it slows me up, and helps me pause and think about why I make art. Then I inevitably wake up the next morning with designs and ideas in my head that demand to be made. The making process is what is most important to me, and the satisfaction of making beautiful, or sometimes disturbing things out of what many people throw away gets me recharged. I love helping others see the value in wearing old clothes, buying less, encouraging others to consider living a more sustainable lifestyle – not being seduced by the fashion industry. I have multiple hand problems, and another part of this decision to keep going is determined by the health of my hands. There are times I cannot sew at all, and must wear hand braces. These down times are frustrating and difficult for me, and teach me patience.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
My interest as an artist is to find novel ways to reuse damaged abandoned quilt, linens and even jean jackets to create items of beauty that are functional and tell a new and often an old story. The more hours I sew, the better I get at my craft. I try a new technique, and create a totally new concept each time I make a piece. This keeps me interested in the process – it is always a challenge. Each time I exhibit or teach, more doors open for me. What has helped me become more successful has been my willingness to enter smaller exhibits, and my willingness to travel, at my own expense, to exhibit internationally. One little thing seems to lead to another. My hope is that my story, and the Marty-O brand will inspire others to waste less textiles, to ask “Who made my clothes”, and when purchasing clothing my fans will buy quality not quantity. I hope my upcycled jackets, and clothing will help others look in their closets, and reuse and refashion what they already own.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
From the airport we would immediately head to Torrey Pines Park and take a hike. A second important destination would be a drive to Anza-Borrego and I hope we could spend one night at Anza. We would sit in the garden at the Temple of Realization in Encinitas, then go to the beaches at Leucadia, Del Mar, Sunset Cliffs on different days, taking books to read while we sat at the beach. We would go to Gelato Vera every day for ice cream (Shhh-don’t tell on us). Our first meal would be at Tofu House. I would take her downtown one night, just to walk around for the downtown scene and eat at some Little Italy places. The last day would be a Balboa park excursion, and I would buy her some great food to have on her flight back to DC at Bread & Cie. My husband makes the best espresso in San Diego, and roasts his own beans, so our coffee fix would be at home every day.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
This is a long shout-out list – first shout out goes to my husband Steven Ornish for his tech, photography, and constant support of my late entry as an artist; Both of my son’s have modeled for me, and been a great source of encouragement. Beth Smith and Visions Art Museum (VAM)- volunteering at VAM led to my first wearable art exhibition, and Beth (the former Executive Director) has continued to help me find opportunities to get my art out in the world. Colorado artist Denise Labadie has opened many doors to national and international exhibitions for me, and I am forever grateful. I have had had many peer mentors in the quilting and art world: Kathie Ferraro was my first and best Adult Ed teacher, where I met the talented Jan Hayman. My recent peer mentors are Linda And-out to my lifelong friend Lynne Komai (Watermark Design) who generously designed and published my first art book.
Facebook: Marty-O, and MartyOrnish
1st photo by Sharon Avraham. All others by Steven Ornish