Today is McKenzie Elizabeth Ditter Day on the Hello Wonderful blog! Yayyy! McKenzie has disco balls in her kitchen and I think that already qualifies her as a wonderful person; perfect for this interview series. Of course McKenzie is so much more than just a disco ball owner and even though we haven't met in real life she's a bit of a hero to me.
Before you get to know McKenzie below I'd like to share about Gallery 788 Presents: SILENT AUCTION TO BENEFIT BALTIMORE'S YOUTH a community event she is helping to organize in the city she lives in.
In light of the protests around the city this April, Baltimore artists are donating 100% of the proceeds from the sales of their work to support Youth Empowered Society (YES), a drop-in center for homeless youth in Baltimore that experienced a fire on Monday night. The director, Lara Law, was quoted in the Baltimore Sun saying:
“I don’t condone the violence and the destruction, the tearing down of what we need in our community, but the young people out on the streets are some of the same young people we’re serving – filled with trauma and violence and a lack of opportunity their whole lives,” Law said. “It’s understandable. We have to fix our way of doing things so they feel included and that there are opportunities for them.”
Please visit the Facebook event page for all the details on the event, including how to contribute.
Who are you, what do you do and where in the world are you?
Hello! I'm McKenzie Elizabeth Ditter and I'm an illustrator and lifestyle photographer living in Baltimore City. Instead of attending college, I spent the first half of my twenties as a homesteader and raised sheep and other creatures in the countryside. It was there I developed my style preferences and learned a whole lot about living frugally. I'm 26 now and live on the top floor of a really old row house in the city. It's really different from farm life but I have time and energy to dedicate towards art. I'm currently working on merging my illustration business (primarily drawing storybook portraits for families and new babies) and my photography business (documenting families in their element, relaxed weddings, and unposed newborn-hood).
What do you believe in?
Gosh, this is a broad question! I guess I believe in the corny stuff- being true to yourself, being kind, working really hard but also enjoying small things, staying curious... If I were trying to convince someone why my life was wonderful I'd probably tell them it's because I try not to take things too seriously. I try to stay positive because it's stupid to worry too much and hard on your heart to be anxious. It's hard at times because money (or inconsistency thereof) is scary for obvious reasons. But anytime I've EVER taken a leap and just trusted that it would have to work out I've gotten a commission or well paying photo session right away. My hippie-dippy side says the universe is speaking to me or something. My logical side tells me that people who might have boring jobs or less artistic confidence see someone living the dream and make a decision to be a part of that in whatever way they can. My interactions with clients almost always turn into friendships and for that I'm ridiculously thankful.
When do you feel your most wonderful?
There are all sorts of definitions of wonderful- when the sun comes in the kitchen at a certain hour and the disco balls glimmer all over the walls and the houseplants are almost singing... or when I've just finished a really joyful family portrait illustration... or when I'm falling in love in Lightroom with a sincerely happy family that I photographed. These things all bring me a different type of joy. Three years ago I would have told you it was sitting in the field with lambs. Life is fluid and feelings evolve.
What is something wonderful that has happened that would have never have happened if you hadn't made a mistake or a wrong turn somewhere?
This is very personal and I still don't enjoy sharing but it's important for some women to hear- I was married and I really shouldn't have been. He was alcoholic and abusive and when I wasn't trying to help him "get better" or walking on eggshells, I was busy ignoring an ugly reality behind the lens of a camera in the garden. I don't consider this experience a mistake, it's just a hard thing that happened. Life was so beautiful in some ways and terrifying in others. When I decided to leave, I mourned the loss of my "identity" and was scared of the other side. I never lost my identity though, I found it after a long time of trying to get to its core. I moved to Baltimore which is a really great city, increased the amount of art I made, met my amazing partner Matt, learned from him how to screenprint and play the kalimba, started working on my first picture book... the list is endless!
What is the earliest time in your life that you can remember experiencing wonder?
When I was maybe four or five my grandma and I were driving and came upon a field of poppies. I remember walking through it with her under the warm summer sunlight, bees buzzing and flowers swaying so tall! I still think about that all the time and should probably ask her if it actually happened. It's such a perfect memory that I almost wonder if it's a dream.
Who are three wonderful people you think we need to know about. Why are they wonderful?
I'll give you recommendations for three other female artists on instagram who have fewer than 1,000 followers-
@onelaneroad is Becky Dawson who does really great diy screenprinting similar to the way Matt taught me. Most colleges teach that you need fancy equipment to screenprint but it's just not true. Becky is doing an amazing job teaching kids to have the skill set to do it on their own while also making adorable illustrations of pickle jars and chickens!
@miya_tsunenaga lives in Japan and shares the most precious, brightly colored illustrations that never fail to inspire me. She has a great eye for color and pattern and I'm excited to watch her story unfold.
@namooquilts is Insung Kim who makes beautiful weavings and quilts. Her photos are really soothing and while I can't seem to involve sophisticated neutral color palettes in my life, she certainly does. I love her choice in fabrics.
I appreciate every one of Mckenzie's answers to this interview and that she shone a light onto a difficult situation in her life too. I asked McKenzie if she had found anything especially helpful and she said that House of Ruth based in her area was a shining beacon of light for her. For those in need of help in the Vancouver area WAVAW, BWSS and Ending Violence BC might be able to help you.
Have a wonderful day!