Carrie Schmitt is surely one of the most fascinating people you will ever meet. I first caught wind of her in 2018, around the time the beautiful Single Rose Project, where she handed out a rose to a stranger every day for a year, was drawing to a close. The Duvall, Washington-based artist, author, and yoga instructor continues to inspire.
More recently, Schmitt released her new book, The Story of Every Flower (Bhakti Press, 2020) which contains almost 200 pages of artwork, stories, and messages for readers. She had always been a writer, and even studied English as an undergraduate. But what inspired the book was the celebration of a 10-year art journey, and the determination to tell her story no matter the obstacles she faced. One might be surprised to learn that Schmitt has been painting for only a little more than a decade. Diagnosed with a very serious heat allergy in 2009 that rendered her bedridden and in the doldrums, she felt a voice inside her guiding her to paint. She listened and never looked back. A longtime journaler, Schmitt’s book title came from an entry that she wrote after meditating, one she says came easily and effortlessly: My life is a story of every flower: first the seed of every possibility surrounded by darkness. Led by her intuition as she had been when she started painting, the book sort of formed itself in both content and sequence. “It flowed out of me…took on a life of its own,” she says.
For Schmitt, yielding to that feeling inside applies to all aspects of her work, even down to her color palette. It took some time to embrace some colors, especially pink—a hue she had once intentionally avoided. Then she came to become obsessed with it, learning more about its spiritual meaning and connection to her grandmother. “The journey with the creative process has been coming back to myself,” she says, sagely. “[Using pink] was remembering that part of myself that I had been denying.” Since her artistry began, Schmitt has made it her mission to put more color into the world. “I call myself a ‘color activist’” she declares. Her tone is humorous, but she isn’t really kidding: “Color is a really powerful issue for me…our culture tends to not celebrate color. Our homes are very gray and beige and our cars are very dark and dull and safe. [Color is] really powerful and evokes emotion and memory and our senses…the lack of color to me creates a sense of numbness, unawareness—sort of a zombie-like state.”
Months ago in an act of artistic rebellion, Schmitt decided to paint flowers on her car, which she named Poppy. Some people around her noted that she would lose resale value of the vehicle, but she was unconcerned: “We shouldn’t worship money at the expense of our soul or happiness…I think following my spirit is sacred and my car is not,” she says. Seeing flowers on wheels has helped bring joy and excitement to people on the road and break up their monotonous daily grind—one that has only worsened for many people because of the pandemic.
Schmitt doesn’t just paint on canvas or cars either. She also bought an old bus and converted it into a mobile paint studio. Rosie the Art Bus—pink with flowers—is one of the spaces she uses to create. Some paintings take just a few hours, others have taken a couple of years. As with everything else, Schmitt listens to her inner voice to tell her when she is done. “I try to listen and honor the painting. They all come at their own time. I don’t force it. The process I use is very passive and intuitive and for me, foremost, it is a spiritual, sacred process, so it is not led by wanting to sell anything; it’s not led by money,” Schmitt says. She recounts an example of a buyer once interested in purchasing one of her paintings but Schmitt politely declined to sell it, because she knew it wasn’t ready: “I could have sold it, but it would be so dishonoring of that painting. I knew that’s not what that painting wanted to be, so I actually would not be able to sleep at night if I had done it. I have to wait until they tell me they’re done…I feel like it’s not up to me. A lot of times, I think they are waiting for me to learn something or get farther along before I can finish them—I’m not using certain materials yet that I’ll pick up later or color and then, they will be ready to be finished.” Schmitt spends time with her work, often putting it down and picking it back up, letting the work dictate. Surrendering to it.
After almost a year after the whole world changed, Schmitt still takes time to reflect on what she is thankful for, starting off every morning with a gratitude practice. She also spends time thinking very intentionally about what she wishes to see. “The pandemic has really been about reflecting on what world we want to create and imagining a new way…I am trying more forcefully to create a world that’s based on my own imagination, not the imagination of other people.” She looks forward to what is to come in 2021, which includes a release of a children’s book, A Flower in Her Heart, this spring.
Schmitt spent Valentine’s Day this past weekend with the love of her life, Moksha Marquardt. He is also an artist, which Schmitt feels wonderful about: “Being an artist as a profession is kind of a strange way to live…It is helpful to have someone that actually understands what you are going through. We’re really understanding of each other’s passions. We are together a lot because we work at home and we’ve been in quarantine, but we don’t demand each other’s time. We kind of just co-exist next to each other. We don’t require a lot of attention from the other person because we are so into our own art. So we just kind of enjoy each other’s company, but also we understand the passion and also, amount of time it takes. We kind of work all the time on our art, just next to each other. We just are there for each other and we just kind of co-exist and share what we’re going through. It’s really great. I’m really so grateful that he understands me and I understand him.”