A conversation about staying engaged with your materials, putting yourself out there, and believing in the work that you do
The rewards of following your own path to a meaningful creative life are so rich but often seem small and far between. We each need encouragement, support, and a sense of community – of being a valued part of something, in order to move forward. This is part of a series of conversations with makers who I feel are living with courage, from the heart. They are intended to give you a positive window into the struggles, determination, and vision that goes into forging a wholehearted life. I hope you will find comfort and strength through the sharing of these stories.
How long have you been a maker and how did you get started?
While I have taken interest in material construction and assemblage since childhood, it wasn’t until University that I pursued working with textiles. Initially, I went to OCAD University to study Advertising. I quickly realized that I saw no personal future there so I tried out Jewelry. I felt disconnected from the materials and processes I learned working with metal so I naturally drifted toward the textile studio where I felt immediately at home and inspired.
While studying textiles at OCADU, I maintained interest in other media and fulfilled several credits in other departments, particularly Integrated Media. I continue to integrate multiple mediums into my work including sound and motors.
I have been playing music since I was a child, it has been a constant part of my life and practice. I began integrating music and textiles in my last year of University in 2016. I create work that is a self-referential, reflective device. In my work, I express elements of my own humanity translated into the cloth and sound.
I will enter some days with very clear intentions and on others I will be more experimental. Often these experiments develop into larger works.
What materials do you work with? What called you to them?
I often work with conventional weaving materials including cotton, linen, and blends. Typically, I weave a piece of cloth on a floor loom in a fairly traditional manner. What I find most exciting is what happens after it is woven. I am interested in methods of altering, distressing, and animating cloth. I have explored this through use of motors, wax application, and experimental assemblage.
Where do you do most of your making? What’s the space and atmosphere like?
I am lucky to do the majority of my work at Harbourfront Centre’s textile studio where I am surrounded by other dedicated artists/makers working in Textiles, Glass, Ceramics, Design, and Metal. The textile studio is an inspired space with high ceilings and beautiful natural light. Artists in the textile studio work with a variety of processes including weaving, dyeing, screen printing, sewing, laser cutting, and more.
In terms of music, I have a small home studio which I share with my partner who is also a musician. We work collectively on an ambient, atmospheric project under the name Blutonic Choir and both have other musical projects on the go as well.
I am interested in how music and textiles intersect and inform one another.
You work in both sound and textiles. Do you consider them to be separate or are they elements of a larger holistic creative practice?
Switching between mediums helps me to stay connected with my practice. I am interested in how music and textiles intersect and inform one another. I often find myself looking at weaving from a musical perspective, and consider the sequencing, repetition, and variation to be a curious through-line between media. I am currently investigating the possibilities of translating musical notation into woven cloth.
What is it like when you’re in the creative flow of a project? What helps you get into this headspace?
Personally, my creative energy comes in fits and starts. While I work to shape my life to optimize my creative output, I find my creative flow can be quite erratic and don’t really understand what triggers it. I dedicate three full days/week to being in my studio which helps to balance my routine. I will enter some days with very clear intentions and on others I will be more experimental. Often these experiments develop into larger works.
In February 2018 I completed an inspiring Artist Residency in Reykjavik, Iceland at Listastofan. Travelling internationally helped me to reconnect with myself and forge relationships with other artists. While in Iceland, I spent a lot of time walking outside and doing daily yoga. Fresh air and physical activity help my mental clarity and self-awareness, which I find very important to my creativity and general wellbeing.
The best thing I can do for myself if I’m feeling dull is go to a concert or a gallery or a friend’s studio. I feel most inspired when I see live music and art.
Stay engaged with your work, don’t let the process make you passive.
Is putting yourself and your work out there difficult or tiring for you? How do you manage this and continue to share?
This is a definite challenge for me. You have to believe in yourself when you are making the work, when you speak about the work, when you apply for the grant, the show, the residency and most importantly, you have to believe in yourself when you receive inevitable rejection.
It is helpful to talk about your work with others, in person. I try to engage in dialogue about my work while I am in the process making it. This kind of sharing helps me gain understanding of my conceptual intentions and also address technical challenges. Studio visits, informal critiques, or round table discussions are a great way to integrate this into your practice.
The fear of rejection is something you will overcome quickly if you put yourself out there. Something will come back to you, but you have to take the first step.
Have you had times when you’ve felt daunted or nearly given up? What has kept you going?
I have certainly questioned how I am going to forge a career as an artist, but I haven’t seriously considered giving up. When I get caught up questioning “how”, I lose sight of my intentions. I worked briefly as a Junior Product Designer for a large design company because I thought it had “career potential”. Looking back on that time, I see it was a dead end for me, creatively. Don’t squash your dreams by driving them into a “career path” that looks good on paper. Do what you need to do to pay the bills and pour yourself into your real work.
I want to mention that I have been very fortunate in receiving opportunities that have made my path as an emerging artist comfortable. I am seriously grateful to AKIN Collective and OCADU for providing me with a studio space straight out of University through their “Career Launchers” program. Their support made it possible for me to continue experimenting and making work in a suitable space. The residency that I am currently completing at Harbourfront Centre has been formative in shaping my art practice. I am also grateful to the Ontario Arts Council for granting me a Project Grant in February 2018 that has enabled me to focus on a specific project.
It is important to apply for residencies, awards, grants etc. The fear of rejection is something you will overcome quickly if you put yourself out there. Something will come back to you, but you have to take the first step.
Do you have a strong community for support? Who is in it and how did it come to be?
Yes. I am incredibly grateful for my studio mates at Harbourfront Centre who give daily support, criticism and inspiration. I encourage you to investigate the work of denirée isabel, Elycia SFA, Sam Pedicelli, Helen Liene Driefelds, and Avis Ho. Each individual has a distinct and vibrant practice.
I also receive tremendous support from Harbourfront Centre’s dedicated Craft and Design Director; Melanie Egan, Co-ordinator; Robyn Wilcox and Advisors; Yasmine Louis, and Meghan Price. The primary objective of Harbourfront Centre’s Artist-in-Residence program is to assist emerging designers and makers to establish professional careers.
Any parting words of encouragement or support for other makers?
Stay engaged with your work, don’t let the process make you passive.
Listen to your intuition, accept when something isn’t working.
Be patient with your work and be patient with yourself.
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If you know someone who might be a good fit for a Maker Interview, please get in touch.
To find strength and encouragement in the stories of others, and seek inspiration from their creative practice, you can read more Maker Interviews on the blog.
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