Successful Wom*n: Photographer and Artist, Rachel King

Rachel King is an artist based in Baltimore, MD. While being co-founder of Mother Muse Co, she also works as a photographer, is owner and designer of jewelry and wall hanging business, EaarthBones, and teaching artist in Baltimore City. Her work aims to create a connecting bridge for people to understand how we are all connected in this world. The magic of every day life is something we take for granted but holds the greatest power. 

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Tell us about your early life. Where did you grow up? Were you always interested in art and creating?

I was born and raised in Baltimore, MD, one house in the city. I was exposed to different cultures and ethnic groups early on but was raised in private schools and nurturing environments. I always liked watching people and absorbing conversations and interactions. I would get lost in stores so often because I would just be watching other people. I was always curious and definitely more quiet than I am today, which allowed me to cultivate my perceptive  nature and empathy which is important for any artist.

Attending private schools taught me a lot about discipline, grit, and work ethic, skills which I still hold sacred today. The one thing I was lacking was creative inspiration and freedom to explore my artistic interests. I started expressing myself through music which was my first creative passion. I would write songs and perform at talent shows and coffee houses. To this day, music and writing is one of the most cathartic things for me. In high school, I was in concert choir, traveling and competing, so I always knew I wanted to do something creative.

I was exposed to visual arts first in 8th grade when a parent said, “Rachel has a good eye!” The next time I picked up a camera was during photography club in high school which inspired me to choose photography and art as my path in college. This was probably the best thing I could have done because it opened up so much potential I didn’t know I had and allowed me to put my empathetic inquisitive nature to good use. I also minored in social justice so the idea of helping others through my art became something I am passionate about today.

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Can you tell us about your work as an artist and how you became involved in it?

My personality type is one that really enjoys doing a bunch of things. Art and creating give me a really special vehicle to explore my interests and create a bridge of understanding between different fields. So basically that’s a really long way to say I like doing a lot of things. I am a trained photographer, a self-taught jewelry and wall decor maker, co-founder of Mother Muse Co, and a teaching artist. Each element of my work fulfills a different part of me and maybe one day I’ll narrow it down to one or two things, but probably not.

Being a photographer feeds my inquisitiveness in the world around me. It allows me to not only understand how people interact, but show how I view the world. I believe everyone has a story and is unique. I photograph people and how they interact with their environment. I am drawn to photographing people I know, mainly friends and family, because it allows me a larger window to view into their magical everyday moments, but I also enjoy photographing people I’ve never met and being allowed to step into their lives for a moment.

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EaarthBones, my jewelry and wall hanging business, is my meditation. Being a kinetic learner and introverted extrovert who really enjoys alone time, I found creating physical things with my hands allowed me to focus on one piece so much so that it becomes a ritualistic meditation. It allows me to learn about the earth, the importance of color, and the connection we all have with our ancestors. This is my continuation of generations and generations of basket makers and loom weavers which makes me feel connected to being human.

Working as a teaching artist is important to me, especially in underserved communities. I was really lucky in my life because I was given everything I needed and while no one’s lives are perfect, I was at least given the tools and freedom to learn about myself and others and how to process and deal with my emotions. That is not the case for a lot of children I work with. I see a lot of students going through hardships they shouldn’t as kids and as human beings, without anyone teaching them how to process these events. Teaching students not only art skills, but mindfulness skills will always be a part of my practice because without internal stability, life is a lot more difficult to navigate.

Finally, my passion project with Kirra Kimbrell, Mother Muse Co. A running theme with all of my work is connection. How can we connect to ourselves, each other, the world? After college, Kirra and I felt like we lost that feeling of connection to people. We started Mother Muse in hopes to make wom*n feel connected and empowered and to help each other reach our fullest potential.

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How do you define success in your own life?

Success in my life means a few things. There is the obvious monetary success, which for me, means I can eat and live off of my businesses. There is a success that can only come from being passionate about your work and seeing an outcome that you’re happy with. There is relationship success, which might mean you can balance work and life or that your relationships are in a good place. Finally, there is spiritual success, which every other success relies on. If you are not spiritually successful, which means being right with yourself mentally and accepting everything about yourself, you will not find contentment.

What is the most difficult thing about being a photographer and artist?

The most difficult thing about being an artist when I was younger was validating myself as an artist. I always had to defend being an artist as a career and not just a hobby. Because I didn’t always get support from others, especially people who didn’t understand what I was doing, I had to learn how to self-validate, and pick who I surrounded myself with carefully. This is still an issue to this day. I think surrounding yourself with supportive people who can talk about what you’re doing and give feedback is the most difficult and one of the most important things to do.  

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What is the best thing?

The best thing about being an artist and business owner is the feeling of accomplishment when something is successful. Whether it’s making money or getting into a show or someone felt inspired by your work or you got a really nice shot on a roll of film, each moment is a little celebration. While that can also be daunting and terrifying also knowing everything that goes wrong is also on me, the feeling that my work is something bigger than myself is really amazing.

What advice would you give to another woman who was seeking a life she deemed as successful?

Really figure out what you want to do and your essence and then constantly check back with yourself to make sure you are still on that track. Life’s pretty crazy because where you are meant to be isn’t always where you end up, but if you give 100% to the 10% that you can control in your life, you will see a successful life.

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Has being a woman affected your success? If so, in what way and how have you dealt with this?

Being a woman has been interesting because specifically for me, it has made me enjoy surprising people. As an artist and as a woman, I have been aware of what I am always told I can’t do, but I have been blessed to live in a country where I can stand up to that and say no I can do this and go ahead and do it. Being a woman has also taught me to embrace the amazing qualities that make me a woman. I’m honestly so lucky to be a woman because society has taught us that it’s more acceptable to talk about feelings. It has become a really cool platform to talk about mindfulness and self-discovery. I’ve felt discriminated against as a woman but I’ve also felt privileged as a woman and I think it’s important for women to be aware of both sides.

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What is the most important lesson you have learned thus far?

My motto is everything happens for a reason. It still keeps me accountable but also makes me expect changes in my path. If you look at just a door closing instead of another opening, you’ll have a pretty pessimistic way of looking at life. If you look at life as things will happen that are greater than your expectations, you’ll have a more realistic point of view.

Another lesson is to show empathy, not only to others, but to yourself. It can get really easy to bury yourself under all of your flaws but knowing that you are a work in progress and that you are giving it your all is the real success story.

Meditate every day. Whether that’s a quiet walk, or silently making something, or just sitting in silence for 5 minutes, do something that grounds you every day. I know I feel really out of sorts when I just go go go, but every time I come back to myself and just sit in silence, I find my clarity and when you find clarity, everything else seems to fall into place.

Check out Rachel’s photography at rachelvking.com and follow her at @rachelvkingphotography.

Follow her jewelry and walk hanging creations at http://www.etsy.com/shop/eaarthbones and @eaarthbones.

All images © Kirra Kimbrell, 2018

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