Each Memorial Day, we re-run a FACES of Birmingham from the past year that seemed to resonate well with our readers. This year, we’re thrilled to bring back Elizabeth Hubbard as our FACES of Birmingham feature.
Author: Catherine Romero
A self-taught artist who was born with a 96 percent hearing loss, Elizabeth Hubbard sees the beauty around her and expresses it through art. In her art classes offered at Studio on Linden, she aims to help others find the artist in themselves, too. A wife and mother of two boys, Elizabeth lives life out loud. Welcome, Elizabeth!
Where did you grow up and what brought you to Birmingham?
I grew up in Birmingham. I attended college at Brenau College in Gainesville, GA, because of my hearing issues. It’s an all-girls school with a small student-teacher ratio. I met my husband in Gainesville, and after starting our family, we moved to back to Birmingham in 1996.
How did you get your start as an artist?
I have always loved to create with my hands for as long as I can remember, but how I actually started as a true artist was after my college days at Brenau College. I was a graphic arts major and have always loved to paint. After college, meeting my husband, working at a graphic arts firm in Gainesville and having two young sons, I took a Raku pottery class for fun at the Quinlan Art Center and instantly fell in love with it. When we moved back to Birmingham, I worked at my mom’s shop — The Cook Store of Mountain Brook — where I did children’s cooking classes and birthday parties, but really wanted to do something more with my first love, which is working with clay. I talked to my husband about it, had his full support, and took off in my dad’s truck to Atlanta where I bought my kiln, a thousand pounds of clay, tools and glazes. I started experimenting and creating pieces out of clay. To imagine working with a block of clay to create something beautiful is so rewarding, it’s kind of like life to me. You have total control, but you really do not know how the finished look will turn out. Every piece is truly unique.
How has your hearing loss contributed to your success?
I was born with 96 percent hearing loss in both ears, and I’m able to hear with one hearing aid. Even with years and years of speech therapy growing up, at 52, I’m still learning how to say words the correct way. I learned to read lips at a very young age. My hearing loss is a big part of me; it is who I am, and I do not know any other way. Some may see it as a disadvantage, and I’ll admit it has been tough growing up being hearing impaired, but I use it to motivate myself to push even harder. I try to instill my imperfections in my own artworks because it comes from within me. I take the same approach with the kids that I work with in art classes. I always tell them never to make fun of other people’s artwork because it comes from the heart. I tell them that we all can draw/paint trees, but no two trees are alike. Everyone has their own style. I always stress the importance of helping others when they can’t help themselves. I have had friends and other artists help me along the way by supporting me, and I feel their positive energy, which keeps me motivated. That’s why I’m always in awe of other artists and their styles and love supporting other local artists. Just come look at my house. I have artwork from just about every artist I know and some artists that I have not met. I just try to help other people succeed as others have done for me. One of my favorite quotes that truly inspires me in my work is by Helen Keller: “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.”
You paint, make pottery and jewelry. Do you have a favorite medium?
My favorite medium is Raku pottery. It’s the most spontaneous one of all–and full of surprises–although each medium has prompted me to teach children’s painting classes at Studio on Linden. I love watching the kids create awesome paintings and seeing the excitement on their faces when they complete one. I’m always stressing to the kids to try new things, add more paint to create texture, do not be afraid to mix colors and just go with it. They are fearless. Hopefully, the lessons in art will help them later in life. As adults, we can learn from them; I know I have. As Pablo Picasso said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is staying an artist when you grow up.”
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
I’m always getting advice from everyone, so I really do not have any special advice that stands out, but I do have my own personal words to live by: Kill with kindness. Always, always, laugh at yourself. No one is perfect. Be true to yourself, flaws and all.
What upcoming local event are you most looking forward to?
One of my favorite summertime events that I look forward to is teaching Kids Art Camp at Trinity United Methodist Church. It’s a weeklong camp where the kids get to do everything from clay, paintings, collages and much more. I try to bring the creativity out of every child.
Favorite thing to do on a Saturday night?
I enjoy entertaining and relaxing at the house with friends and a great meal cooked by my husband. We have several friends that we swap cooking adventures with. It’s more like a cook-off with the guys.
What’s your favorite local restaurant?
My favorite lunch spot is Johnny’s, and my favorite dinner spot is 26.
What is your “must have” purchase for winter?
I have never owned a cashmere sweater until recently. It was my “must have, gotta have” splurge. It’s my absolute, all-time favorite sweater!
What books are you currently reading?
The most recent one that I have read was an inspirational book called Fight On, written by M.H. Clark. I do not read a lot except when I’m at the beach. I take my hearing aid out, and I’m in total silence while reading on the beach in my chair completely drawn into the book, like I’m one of the main characters. It’s nice to have total silence, which is a HUGE luxury to me. I know parents of young kids are a wee bit jealous of this.
Do you have any personality quirks or irrational fears?
Elevators, heights and being in the total dark. I will take stairs before I ride the elevator. Thank goodness I do not live in New York City.
Name three things you can’t live without, excluding faith, family and friends.
Art. It’s like air to me. Cokes … I no longer drink coffee (due to drinking way too much of the fine-flavored coffees from The Cook Store!). So I have two Cokes in the morning. And Baby Bites from Pastry Art!
Thanks for sharing, Elizabeth! Find out more about the art classes, birthday parties and art camp she offers at her studio on Linden Avenue by contacting her at [email protected] and checking out her Facebook page.
And thanks to Beth Hontzas for the fabulous photos!