Art vs. Bills: A Conversation with Robert and Amanda Redd

Our next stop after visiting with HandLettering Co. in San Diego was in Los Angeles, where we met Robert and Amanda Redd.  Gracie and Amanda connected last year over a print Amanda bought from Gracie, but we had not met them in person until the four of us were seated around a giant pizza at Pizza ‘N Such in Claremont, California.

Robert and Amanda are remarkable people.  Their strong friendship and love for each other and their deep faith in God were quickly obvious as we began our conversation, and we quickly realized that one conversation with them would not be enough.  It is always enjoyable to make new friends, but even more so when you realize that you are both deeply interested in a lot of the same things. We talked about so much that it won’t all fit into one blog post. We’ll start, for now, with one of the big topics:

One of the main things we talked about was the tension that often exists between creativity and the practical demands of life.  We all have to eat and have a place to live, and meeting those needs often demands sacrificing things we care about doing.

We already knew that Amanda was a talented artist because of her Etsy shop, Madeline Drive, where she creates intricate woodcut ornaments, custom invitations, and special artistic details for weddings. [Unfortunately, Amanda has unexpectedly had to put her Etsy shop on hold for awhile. Challenges abound when running your own business, but Amanda is faithful and patient, trusting that He makes all things work together for good. We’ll keep you updated when she’s back up for business!] We did not know as much about her skills and interest in math and architecture that feed into it.  

By day, she works as a small architectural firm designing public schools. “It sounds super creative, I know,” she explains, “but it is mostly technical: building codes, concrete mix designs, detailing and elevating bathrooms. These are all important things, but it has been very hard to tame my creative heart into submission for forty hours every week.” Amanda told us because of her day job, she has to fit designing for Madeline Drive into her evenings and weekends.

Robert, too, has an alter ego. He is a network engineer during the day—but after that he is a writer and a poet.  My degree is in English Literature…” he told us, “[but] In order to secure a more sound future for my family, one in which I could provide a ring for the girl of my dreams and aid for my parents down the road, if need be, I self-studied for the technical role, certified, and interviewed.”

“Getting married cost money and kids cost money and home for these kids cost money, especially in California.” Amanda says,“Legacy in family is something that has always been super important to Robert and I, essential in fact. And someone always has to pay the bill. I am humble often to tears by the Christ-like sacrifice Robert has made in his creative pursuits to be able to establish a sound financial foundation for our marriage and future family.  God’s provision must be in response Robert’s faithful sacrifice. I know money is not our security, and I pray and hope with all of my heart that Robert, too, will have the opportunity to creatively shine like I always imagined he would.”

Their support for each other in every way—especially in each others’ creativity—was obvious and inspiring from the beginning. Robert couldn’t say enough about Amanda’s design work, and Amanda’s admiration and pride were clear on her face while she listened to Robert recite one of his poems for us.  It was great to see how, even though they have different talents and different jobs, the creative work of each was of great importance to both. They both desire to create, and to support the others’ creativity while still working for stability in financial matters for their future family.

This conflict between the creative and the practical raises a lot of questions, not the least of which is why art matters at all when there are basic needs that must be met.  “Often times I feel that my creative gifts are kind of superfluous in a world that is lacking these very practical things like food, shelter, medical care and physical protection.” Amanda explained,  “While I am not especially equipped to provide these things, I am comforted by the fact that, while I haven’t yet discovered how God plans to use my gifts to His glory, I can still know that He is too is a creative, the Creator, and created so many beautiful things: ‘the heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the work of his hands’ (Psalm 19:1) and because of that I can know that He values creativity and making and that He made all the parts of the body of Christ, and thus can use all parts of the body to His glory.”

Somehow,” Robert adds, “poetry, even if it’s making my quiet prayers rhyme before a tough meeting, engages that part of me which desires God, loves to think about him, and gets creative about interpreting where me and Amanda are and what we should be doing to follow God.  All this helps to sustain me between mountaintop moments I don’t often see.  The lesson learned is that I can’t live for the summit experiences: I have to live for God, whatever the thrill, because I’m called to be obedient, but you can bet that I’ll be eyes wide open for opportunities to be Christian in the day-to-day workplace.”

Maybe you’re like us (and Amanda and Robert) and are looking for ways to make your day job more related to what you love to do—whether it’s creative or not. Whether or not you feel “called” to a different job or role and whether you’re planning on launching a new career tomorrow or mulling things over for a “someday” change, we can all learn from Amanda and Robert’s story. None of us can neglect the responsibilities and jobs that we have, but we cannot neglect creativity or beauty, either. 

Art helps us to interface with ideas that we can’t always make sense of with logic.” Says Robert, “I think that individuals have beautiful life stories that can’t just be reported.  They need to be felt with senses we don’t entirely understand but we can’t entirely deny.”  Those things need to be expressed and we need to be reminded of the beauty of God and His creation—especially because we forget them so easily in humdrum of our daily work.

 God gave you the talents you have, whether they are artistic or not. You may not be using them in your day job, but don’t let that discourage you. For one thing, who knows what God is doing through you in your workplace?  For another, He gave those talents to you so they could be used. Use the gifts you have, delight in the things He has created you to delight in, practice and develop the skills He has given you, even if you can only do it in stolen evening and weekend moments as Robert and Amanda do.

Stay tuned for another post more specifically about the inspiration behind the creative works of both Amanda and Robert!