Thursday, 17 December 2009

Gallery Artwork from Issue 5 (2009)

I was so overwhelmed by the amazing art submitted earlier this year for the Gallery in Issue 5.
I want to re-post the work here to share the work further than the pages of the zine could reach.
I love each and every one of these artists. Thank you for being a part of COTL5 :)

Ali Aschman (Brooklyn, NY)

Amber Seegmiller (Whittier, CA. USA).

Kate Pugsley (Chicago, USA)

Brandi Milne (USA)

Colette Rosa (London, UK)

Ellara Woodlock (Melbourne, Australia)

Elise Towle Snow (Salem, Massachusetts, USA)

Emily Cunningham (Chicago, USA)

Freya Harrison (London, UK)

Memo (Leeds, UK)

Jen Oaks (Berkeley, CA. USA)

Julianna Swaney (Portland OR. USA)

Katie Hanratty (Wirral, UK)

Kristyna Baczynski (Leeds, UK)

Laura Berger (Chicago, USA)

Lisa Linnéa (Sweden)

Liza Corbett (New York City)

Lucy Player (Essex, UK)

Maria Gil Ulldemolins (aka Nosideup) (Oxford UK)

Megan Whitmarsh (Los Angeles, USA)

Meryl Donoghue (London, UK)

Miso (Melbourne. Australia)

Miss Led (UK)

Nancy Mungcal (Los Angeles, USA)

Nikki Stavin (Chicago, IL, USA)

Nina Nijsten (Hasselt, Belgium)

Sarah Lippett (UK)

Suzanne Coady (Santa Fe, NM, USA)

Ulla Saar (Tallinn, Estonia)

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Erika Lopez Interview

Erika Lopez

Location: San Francisco, CA
How would you describe your art? My art? Like a little kid left in a cave with her school pack.
Currently working on: A book and a movie. I think this is the last you'll hear of me right here. I’m out of my league.
Day job (if applicable): None. Yet...
3 Likes: Music, James--my best friend, and my cat
3 Dislikes: Liars, scared people, anything too institutionalised
Daily Inspirations: To change the world and show another way to be a superfreak without burning out. Not sure I’m succeeding today, though.
People & artists you admire: James--my best friend, thich naht hanh, Kurt Vonnegut
Favourite album(s) to listen to when working: Changes on depending on my work. Metallica used to be fun before the "scared people; anything too institutionalized" dislike kicked in.

Interview date: June 2009

Hi Erika, how are you? What are you up to at the moment?
I’m having a rough day. A bolt of inspiration made my previous book idea irrelevant. And now I have to scrap previous idea and start anew.
I’m exhausted.
But I get weary because I’m so idealistic and feel like I’m born into a cheap world so often.

How did you get started with art, and how long have you been creating art, embracing your creativity, and working towards developing your current style and output?
I was born observing. It’s often hell. I understand what crappy entertainment is for now: to forget how crappy life can be. To feel is often exhausting.
I’m not in a good mood.
It’s been a rough seven years. I think I broke a mirror somewhere.
But I get hits of bliss which make it all worthwhile...

I have heard you say that when you were young, cartooning got yr mum’s attention. What were those early cartoons like and about, and what led you to continue creating and developing them?
They were funny because humour would get her attention. And I still "lap dance for mommy" today.
My humour is what gets attention. I have to slog through the despair to get to the funny.

Were your artistic endeavours encouraged from an early age, perhaps giving you a sense of perspective over your productivity and its worth?
Yeah, when people laughed, that was a high.
That was its worth and still is for me.

Your illustrative work merges many different styles: porn, cartoon art, clip art, with traditional American narratives (road tales, love and hurt, etc)
You have also worked in many mediums: literature, illustration, film, comics, spoken word.
In looking at all of this and thinking of influences, is there any one particular artist or style you admire?

No. So many. I love people who do too many different things. Steve Allen. Shel Silverstein. etc.

Where do you create? Do you have the space to create all the kind of art you want to?
Oh no, I live in about 400 sq feet with James, my best friend, James. I call him 'thames.' have no idea how that came to be.

You went to art school – what did you learn from this experience that you still incorporate into your work, or that still influences you today?
I learned to finally finish things. And now I like epic projects. I learned tenacity. And I learned to love other artists. Visual artists don't much get writers. But visual artists feel like home wherever I am.

What role does artistry and creativity hold in your current everyday, day-to-day life?
Unfortunately a major all-the-time role. I kill any deal that is otherwise. I pay dearly for this privilege.

I am very interested in how and where women gain access to their own confidence, and self-belief -- especially in terms of how they are able to produce and create with a sense of assurance, belief and certainty.
What is your personal relationship with confidence?
It lurches up and down. In the end I see how I feel inside. Most people try to diminish us just to control us so they get what they want. It’s just "wild kingdom" out there. It’s just natural.

How has your approach to carrying out your creativity changed since moving between illustrated books to reading your work, and illustrating it through live performances?
My creativity hasn't changed. Just my audacity and standing up to my beliefs with my own face. That’s hard not to hide behind art or words. To own it. To stomp.

In most of your books, the layout of and the actual hand written text functions as a form of illustration. Would you say that this is the same with the use of your voice in performance – that your voice is the illustration?
Oooh. Nice. Like that!

When working on spoken word/written projects, do you miss cartooning?
No. Cartooning is very private. I don't need to publish. When I perform, I feed off many people.

You are employing a DIY style of self-publishing and spoken word now (no longer tied to publishers or others’ schedules or expectations of promotion)
Are you enjoying having full creative control over your production?

Yes. Too much. That’s the problem.

There seems to be a reoccurring theme in your art – that of reworking Latina stereotypes to give them female agency, self-possession, and sexuality on their own terms. As such, interrogating and revising Latina stereotypes and Latin cultural icons.
Alongside reclaiming Latina stereotypes, there appears to be further examples of reclaiming female visual images in general in your work.
By depicting sexualised, rad, strong women there’s a divergence from fixed social norms on femininity – especially from within the comix field where traditionally “female comics” and comics aimed at girls and women were filled with heteronormativity and fixed traditional roles of quaint uber-femininity for the characters.

Has it been a conscious aim for you to queer femininity norms & female (self)-representation, and disrupt gender and gendered norms within your work by depicting other truths and ‘our’ norms?
Absolutely! Couldn’t have said it better myself.
I think our life depends on diverging from social norms.
Suicides speak to that. Cut up faces and arms and white knuckling it into our upper ages.
It’s tragic.

I once read you say:

“I do want to hear about people – especially younger ones – reading my stuff and feeling like they can be more of who they are […] It’s not sexy to be your dorky self and there’s nothing out there that encourages you to […] to be oneself is to sign up to a lifetime of embarrassment, dorkiness, many come-to-jesus talks about fitting in “or else”, and many family fights.”

To what degree therefore do you wish for your work to be seen as acceptance of others’ unique lives, and a way for alienated people to find a form of self-assurance via your depictions of non-mainstream or “non-traditional/unacceptable” lives? Setting yourself up as a dork/outsider for others to believe in and aspire to?
Is it important to you that your work have a constructive, positive, inspiring role for women readers?

I don't want anyone to emulate me, as much as see the paste up lines of doing it your way because everyone works and copies each other to make it all look so easy. To make it up as you go along is hard. There’s no map.
I want to show what THAT looks like so others feel more confident. Whatever they're doing. It doesn't matter. All that matters is individuality, integrity, honour. Then we won't be unhappy and be vampires to others' souls. And we recognize when others do that with us.

Your most recent project is the Welfare Queen. What is this all about?
Could you explain to me where the ideas for this come from, how you are presenting this project, and why you personally wanted to document welfare queens in your work at this time?
Well, I did the welfare queen as a show a few years ago when I was on welfare after having a flourishing book career. I was so full of despair, I finally laughed. And it became a cartoon. Then a dare to do a show. Then I toured it.

Helen Musselwhite Interview

Helen Musselwhite

Location: Southern edge of Manchester, UK
How would you describe your art? Paper Sculpture that’s colourful, bold and whimsical
Currently working on: orders for independent shops, commissions through my website and 2 exhibitions
3 Likes: small birds, reading blogs, the smell of roses
3 Dislikes:
inconsideration, Turkish delight, plastic carrier bags
Daily Inspirations: The flora and fauna I see when dog walking
People & artists you admire: Picasso, Emile Zola, Alexander Mcqueen, Madonna
Favourite album(s) to listen to when working: I go through phases. Lately I’ve been listening to White Chalk by PJ Harvey, Fleet Foxes, and I like to have a blast of Witchita Linesman by Glen Campbell to send a tingle down my spine. I also listen to Radio 4 a lot

Interview date: March 2009.

Hi Helen, how are you? What are you up to at the moment?
Just getting used to working in my new glasses! It’s the first time I’ve had to have them and it feels quite odd!

First things first I guess I’d like to ask about the sorts of stuff you like; what images keep you company in your studio / place(s) of work, for inspiration?
I’ve got lots of reference books and back issues of interior/style magazines.
On the wall next to my desk is a collection of cards, postcards (some bought by me some given to me), magazine cuttings, bits of work that didn’t quite turn out as I wanted that might work on another piece, images printed from the internet a picture of a flamingo by my godson which I particularly like. It’s an ever-expanding collection.

What is your artistic history? How did you get started, and how long have you been creating art, embracing your creativity, and working towards developing your current style and output?
I did an art foundation course followed by an OND and Hnd in graphic design and then worked in a design studio for a few years.
I also used to make and decorate small pieces of furniture from MDF which I sold to independent shops.
I then spend a few years working for a jeweller making rudimentary sliver and gold jewellery and as an art technician in a school.
Then in 2006 after relocating to Manchester paper really began to work for me.

Where did your skills and interest in paper engineering come from?
Whilst making jewellery, I used to make paper models of some of the pieces I wanted to make and I was also in charge of the widow displays at the jewellers which I made from paper too.
I quickly realised that paper was a fantastic medium and a lot cheaper than gold and silver!
I made a couple of box frames and assembled an all white woodland scene with a stag, a doe and an owl and a group of butterflies around a flower took them to local shop and the rest is history!

Were your artistic endeavours encouraged from an early age, perhaps giving you a sense of perspective over your productivity and its worth?
Yes, more than anything I used to love getting a new pad of paper and a pack of 30 felt tip pens (which I had to arrange in colour order starting with black which was my favourite and finishing with yellow) My mum was always making things when I was young from a bookcase to clothes to furniture for my Sindy house and I think her creativity and originality inspired me from a very early age. Ours was a “making” house.

What role does artistry and creativity hold in your current everyday, day-to-day life?
It is the majority of my waking hours!

The majority of your art takes nature as its main subject, whether this be flowers, hedgerows, woodland, birds, plants, rabbits, etc.
There’s something very ‘British’ about your work, in this sense; documenting everyday native scenery.
Do you think your current environment, as well as the environment in which you grew up influenced this subject matter?

Yes very much.
I grew up in the countryside; my dad was a farm worker so it always surrounded me.
I did go through a teenage rebellion phase when I hated it for a few years but after art college in the city I gravitated back.
Now we live with 1 foot in suburbia and 1 in the countryside which seems to work very well, although I do have a yearning for a cottage on the edge of a village which is where I began!

You have stated that your work is influenced by Folk art and Mid-century design. Where did your interest in such art forms come from, and what in particular moves you about them?
What correlations do you personally see between your own work and these design and art forms?

My interest started at art college learning about art and design history.
Once I discovered The Bauhaus and the movements that came afterwards it all clicked.
I like the simplicity of mid century design and the ornate/decorative nature of folk art and the connections which exist between them. I have a love for both and like them to exist together
In my work albeit subtly.
I admire the beauty of simple, intelligent design but I can’t resist colour and pattern. I try to reflect this in my work but I have a leaning towards decoration so simplicity often loses!

How important do you think it is to include and represent traditional art forms like Folk Art in contemporary art work?
Its really important because folk art is a form of social history and it’s universal in the stories and tales of life it portrays. Every country has them, and they need to be kept alive.
They are often intricately linked with the countryside and the seasons and use simple materials.

I am very interested in how and where women gain access to their own confidence, and self-belief -- especially in terms of how they are able to produce and create with a sense of assurance, belief and certainty.
What is your personal relationship with confidence?

It came to me in my early thirties I think, when I had been working for myself for a few years, doing something I loved and believed I was relatively good at and its grown over the years.
I also have to say that the encouragement and belief that my partner Andrew has had in me
Has definitely helped to boost my confidence.

How would you describe your artistic techniques and materials; what processes does your work go through to reach a ‘finished product‘?
And how long would it take to complete a typical scene?

It’s hard to say how long a typical piece takes as there are always distractions and I quite often go back and add things.
I start with a little sketch and quite often enlarge that.

With the time it takes to create each individual, one off piece, what strategies and techniques have you learned or adopted in order to keep motivated, maintain concentration, enthusiasm and momentum, and be self-disciplined? As I for one know that keeping perky and focussed on long projects can be tough!
I write lists all the time and when it all gets a bit too much I take my dog for a walk to clear my head and think about what I have to do, the most important thing I discovered not to do is panic!

What are your interests in fairytale mythologies, and why did you decide to weave these ideas into your artistic work?
I like fairy tales and folktales because they are fanciful, slightly dangerous, from a more simple age and have a morality and message which is universal and relevant today.
I like the idea of escaping into a world like that, not forever, just at certain times.

How important is the role of ‘story telling’ in your artwork, especially due to this element of fiction, fairytale and folk tales?
I make up little stories when making some pieces and I’d like the viewer to do the same.

How prolific an artist are you?
Do you find creating work to order, or to meet specific deadlines creatively useful, or restricting?
I seem to be very prolific at the moment, I have lots of ideas that I draw quickly and sometimes use straight away or store for the future.
I do like deadlines as they make me work more efficiently and effectively.
It can be frustrating though when I have a new idea and have other work to finish before I can start on the new idea. I have lots of ideas that often take months to manifest into work I’m happy with and had envisaged when I first had the idea.

What are your thoughts on the nature and exclusivity/inclusiveness of ‘art’ -- Do you believe everyone can be creative in their own life?
Art and creativity has many levels and is a very personal thing.
Every one has some it just manifests its self in different ways, whether it be professional or a hobby.

You are a member of the Manchester Craft Mafia. How and why did you become involved with this?
I became involved primarily to meet other like mined people in the area and to meet periodically, it’s a loose collective of people but we’re there for moral support, professional help and a social time too!

A lot of your work is sold in local, independent galleries and stores.
Do you feel that such independently owned stores, spaces & settings are more suited/more fitting for your artwork?

Yes definitely. My work is the antithesis of mass production but at the same time quite commercial and I find that independent shops and small galleries and their customers understand this and actively seek out original work.
Local is important too but I do sell all over the world which is important in raising my profile.

Do you enjoy exhibiting in group shows?
What have your experiences of exhibiting nationally and internationally been like in general?
I have exhibited in lots of small group shows and I like the diversity that comes with a group.
I have always had good experiences with the shows I’ve done.
The galleries and their customers have been very positive, especially in America!

What is your favourite part of artistic creativity? Why do you keep on going and doing what you do?
I just like to make/create. I like the whole process really, I get immersed into it and get annoyed when life gets in the way!
I had a hiatus a few years ago when I got a proper job for a few years and I really think it helped me to focus on my work now and realise how important it is to keep making and evolving my work.

Heidi Burton Interview

Heidi Burton

Location: Cambridge, UK
How would you describe your art? Illustrative in a light-hearted and quirky way, sometimes escapes to the sombre side..
Currently working on: A magazine cover, website banners, an ongoing personal project of overheard conversations, various collaborative illustration projects, and my entries for the International Moleskine journal exchange.
3 Likes: Thunderstorms, tea-drinking, shipping forecasts on the radio.
3 Dislikes: Insomnia, pigeons, things that reduce in size while increasing in price.
Daily Inspirations: Observations, everything I see and hear plays some part.
People & artists you admire: Tove Jansson, Haruki Murakami, Sylvia Plath, David Attenborough.
Favourite album(s) to listen to when working: Yann Tiersen ‘Goodbye Lenin’, The Coral ‘The Invisible Invasion’, Kimmo Pohjonen ‘Kielo’, The Zutons ‘Who Killed The Zutons’.

Interview date: March 2009.

Hi Heidi, What are you up to at the moment?
Hello! At the moment I’m procrastinating, drinking tea, looking forward to a psychedelic barn dance at the weekend, and brainstorming ideas for a project.

First things first I guess I’d like to ask about the sorts of stuff you like; what images keep you company in your studio / place(s) of work?
I have a wall of over 20 illustrations depicting many different things sent to me by various fantastic artists, along with a notice-board covered in postcards (for virtual escapism), and a mini washing line with all kinds of ideas on paper pegged to it.

Where do you work from?
I work from home, currently a cosy, creative corner of a room, with a desk, laptop, drawers of art materials, and the all-important tea-making facilities.

What is your artistic history? How did you get started, and how long have you been creating art, embracing your creativity, and working towards developing your current style and output?
Studying and practicing art never really seemed like a decision to make, it was my natural direction at any opportunity (school, college, university) so there was no real ‘start’ as such. How and what I draw/paint reflects my personality, although over the years my styles have become more defined due to getting to know myself better, and with advancements in technology I can work digitally now. It’s a bit tricky because I have two main working styles and they are polar opposites, cartoons with sweet/funny characters contrast hugely with my illustrating poetry by writers such as Sylvia Plath that tend to involve sombre paint styles. I guess there are many facets to the mind; mine seem to involve both the child-like and depressive hemispheres! When people ask me to create something for them, the first thing I ask is ‘which style are we going for here?’

Were your artistic endeavours encouraged from an early age, perhaps giving you a sense of perspective over your productivity and its worth?
My mother always said my work was great, no matter how bad it was, and my father was a bit more constructively critical – this provided a good balance of both encouragement, and a need to push myself further. My father used to draw blank comic strips for me and photocopy them, so as a child I spent a lot of time drawing, constructing narratives, and creating characters. My mother used to get me involved in all kinds of craft activities from making dolls house bits-and-pieces from clay, to sewing, and making candles. It led me to believe that creativity is an important part of everyday life, something I still believe!

Did having creative parents influence you and your pursuit of art?
My own creativity and pursuit of art is derived from both nature and nurture, I’m sure. My mother has always enjoyed crafts, dressmaking and designing, and my father is good at drawing, painting, and cartography. My parent’s home is host to (what I would describe as) a mini-library containing many arty books so as a teenager I enjoyed poring over the books about the golden age of Finnish art and the Pre-Raphaelites. Although my parents encouraged me to work hard on academic subjects at school, they saw art as an equal subject rather than an inferior one. Birthdays and Christmas always brought me new art materials (along with new socks of course). So I’d say yes, they did greatly influence my pursuit of art!

I have read you claim that you are mostly inspired by the simple things in life. How much of a role does the everyday play in your art, and does your art play in your everyday?
I’m quite analytical and observant; definitely one for details, so walking five minutes to the shop will more often than not give me some material to work with. Inspiration is everywhere, if I’m waiting at the bus stop with the same boring view, there is always something new to see if I look closely enough. These are the often over-looked details that I like to use in my work. I’m working on an ongoing project about overheard conversations, it’s amazing what people say in the girls toilets of pubs, shopping centres, changing rooms, etc. ‘Morris dancing and bestiality!’ being one of my favourite eavesdropped toilet snippets. Even when I’m not working on a project, my pocket journal is in my handbag, and if I forget to take it – I’m cursing the sketch I could have drawn, or the amazing overheard conversation I missed noting down. My camera comes everywhere too.

How crucial to your art is journaling; allowing yourself an on-tap way to capture your observations (observations that I read play a big part in your initial ideas)?
I use journals for different reasons. Some are for catching observations (see above), and some are like a sketchbook for doodles and ideas. I have one for writing interesting words, quotes, and poetic snippets, another especially for overheard conversations. Sometimes I just write about what I can see and hear. The crucial part is looking back at the journals and picking out the interesting bits. Sometimes a sentence written five months ago will spark a visual image that needs to be explored. There are things written that were insignificant at the time that are pure gold when looking back!

You hold a diploma in fine art & an illustration degree. Does your art education play a key role in the artworks that you create today?
How crucial do you think arts education is to creativity, and yours in particular?

Education has definitely shaped the work I create today, partly due to how it has shaped me as an individual, and also by forcing me to focus on researching and producing defined projects. The great thing about these courses was being around creative people all the time, and also learning new skills such as printmaking, book-binding, web design and animation, methods of illustration I may not have encountered otherwise. We had great writing workshops, life-drawing sessions, and art theory also. I believe that although an arts education was right for me, there should be less focus on gaining a degree, and more focus on the experience itself.

Some of the greatest works that you produce, in my opinion, are the altered Moleskine notebooks that you create. (I am also aware that you are part of Moleskine exchange projects alongside other artists, and that one of your personal journals was exhibited at Moleskine's very own exhibitions in London and Tokyo.)
What does creating such pieces afford your work that is not satisfied by working on and with ‘traditional’ art mediums such as canvas?

Journals, particularly Moleskine journals/notebooks, are like little canvases to me. I think the brown card covers are a platform for alteration, as with manilla envelopes. Unlike the traditional canvas, journals are portable, and functional, they are sometimes private too, like a diary. They make nice little gifts because most people could do with a handy notebook, and they can be customised for the recipient for a personal touch. Altered journals are also an affordable way of owning original artwork. What I love about altering the journals is to cut a hole in the cover and adding a surprise element inside, not something attainable with a canvas!

You have also created many greetings cards of your illustrations. In these smaller pieces of your work being affordable and designed to be shared, sent, and given to others, do you think such art works and products act, by their very nature, as an avenue for more people, worldwide, to own or find out about your art?
What other roles does the creation of greetings cards hold for you that inspires you to make and sell them?

I started making prints of my work and realised their limitation is due to the nature of them being purely for display purposes. I was illustrating many events and celebrations throughout the year just as a means of personal expression, and people would ask me if these images were available in greeting card form. I decided to comply with these suggestions and create artwork for sharing, and I’m a huge fan of mail art, so it made good sense. Postcards are seen by people all the way from post-box to letterbox, quite a journey! I do believe that using different formats for illustration promotes work to a wider audience, because some people are specifically searching for a greeting card, and stumble upon an entire gallery of work.

One of the things that I love about both your Moleskine pieces, and your cards, is your use of simple pen ink to create such beautifully crafted illustrations.
What are your favourite materials and tools to work with?

I used to find pen and ink work to be daunting, a level of confidence is needed for bold, inerasable lines. I now realise it’s ok to make mistakes, because nobody else needs to see them! Also my line drawings, once scanned, can be edited digitally. Other than pens, I love to paint with acrylics, inks, watercolour, and to draw with pencils, as well as anything else that can make a mark. Digital illustration using Photoshop is high on my list of tools at the moment, and the scanner has its place.

Having been the recipient of some of your work, I know first hand that you go to great lengths creating special packaging for customers; they’re practically artworks in themselves!
Is it important to you to ‘spoil’ your customers? Or is more that you can never cease being creative – even when it comes to envelopes?!!

When selling work through an online (handmade) marketplace I think it’s important, but mostly just nice, to send something personal to the recipient. I wish for people to smile upon receiving their order, it is a good first impression, but mostly I just love drawing on everything. A customer once said that although their order was a gift for someone else, it was like receiving a present of their own - that made me happy. Having worked for the postal service in the past, I know it brightened my day to see the odd illustrated envelope travelling through the system. Everyone’s a winner!

Would you say that you were part of any art communities, in Cambridge, or elsewhere?
If so, what does being part of such a community provide you with, and are there any individuals in your community who inspire or encourage you, or whose work you are particularly fond of?
I took part in an exhibition here in Cambridge last year that brought together local artists, and would love to do that again. My university was a college purely for art students, so there was a great community of artists on a variety of creative courses. This was fantastic for bouncing ideas back and forth, and also for crossing over into different mediums. I was inspired by the work of my peers, especially in how differently they each responded to the same set brief. Some would take the safe option while others really pushed the boundaries, it was great to learn from a variety of individuals, and be a part of the group.

I read you state, “Imperfect drawing has so much more character and energy than that of accurate perspectives and flawless shading. You can try TOO hard. Draw now, think later!”
Is ‘perfection’ and ‘elitism’ in art something that concerns you and your practice?

For a long time I believed that the best artists produced photo-realistic work, because it requires a lot of skill and talent to capture a subject realistically. Although I still admire photo-realism (a style I personally find very difficult and laborious), I realised that quick and subconscious artwork has a perfection of its own because it captures something raw about the subject, I don’t see this kind of work as inferior at all. Elitism isn’t something that concerns me, each to their own taste!

I am very interested in how and where women gain access to their own confidence, and self-belief -- especially in terms of how they are able to produce and create with a sense of assurance, belief and certainty.
What is your personal relationship with confidence?

During my degree I was lacking in confidence due to the high standard of work being produced by my peers, and the expectations of my own work. Lack of self-belief would show in my concepts, my images, and the way I discussed my work. Now there is a lot pressure, there is nobody to disappoint but myself, and over time this freedom has helped build my confidence. When it comes to the ‘carrot or the stick’ as methods of achieving success, I’m definitely one for the carrot approach!

I read you say that, “With all the serious issues plaguing our planet, I believe it is important to be as silly as possible when 'appropriate' - to remain light-hearted and positive”
Would you say that this a mantra that guides your artistry?!

I wouldn’t say it’s a mantra exactly, my child-like spirit needs to be expressed somehow, and it wasn’t long ago that it was silenced (by myself) through fear of being frowned upon by ‘serious’ folk. When people started to embrace it I figured it’s ok to let a little of the eccentric out into the world, and I’m certainly not the only one. Take Willy Wonka for example “A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men”. He knew what he was talking about.

What is your favourite part of artistic creativity? Why do you keep on going and doing what you do?
When something is in-built, it’s part of everything you do, that’s why I keep doing what I do. My favourite part of artistic creativity is in the ‘doing’. Also after labouring over a piece of work, to see the finished piece is a satisfying conclusion.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Morwenna Catt interview

Morwenna Catt

Location: Bradford, West Yorkshire
How would you describe your art? Authentic
Currently working on: stitched canvas work for exhibition, a commission project for a library
Day job: Part time lecturer in college
3 Likes: endless cups of tea, my cat, seeing a surprise badger in the countryside
3 Dislikes: getting up on dark, early mornings / cracked earth / art openings
Daily Inspirations: friends, optimistic people, sunshine, radio, blogs, films, books, conversations overheard, lots of things
People & artists you admire: Friends, people who do incredibly brave things for just causes, artists like Annette Messager, Louise Bourgeois, Christian Boltanski, Francesca Woodman, the Chapmans, Will Self, Powell & Pressburger, Peter Greenaway, Derek Jarman, too many to list.
Favourite album(s) to listen to when working: I listen to Radio 4 mostly when I’m working because you can zone in and out at will. If I do listen to an album it’s something like Superwolf – Bonnie Prince Billy, Grinderman, anything involving Jack White or at the other extreme my Disco fever compilation or a bit of Abba.

Interview date: March 2009

Hi Morwenna, What are you up to at the moment?
Hi, I have 3 shows in the next few months so I’m working towards those. I’m painting and working on some 2D stitched canvasses which are an extension of my recent 3D textile sculptures and drawings. I’m fitting that in around a commissioned work for a library, community projects and my teaching.

First things first I guess I’d like to ask about the sorts of stuff you like; what images keep you company in your studio / place(s) of work?
We’ve just moved into our third studio in four months, this one’s at the top of an old theatre. At the moment the wall over my desk is bare because we’ve got a load of plastering and painting to do. I find it difficult to work without my usual mess of images and objects cluttering up the space in front of me. My last studio was a disparate collection of old photos, bits of embroidery and text, artist postcards (I can remember some; Albert Oehlen/ Caroline Broadhead/ zhao bandi along with a postcard of a squirrel and a pine marten) and objects I’ve found or been sent, catalogues, invites, tins and boxes of ‘useful’ things, bunches of hair, old spoons, bits of leather strapping, festering coffee cups….. I tend to end up working in a midden when left to my own devices. I like to be surrounded with fabrics and textures so at the last place I ended up with gold, embroidered sari drapes and masses of big black fur balls hanging on chains that were reclaimed from some shop window display.

What is your artistic history? How did you get started, and how long have you been creating art, embracing your creativity, and working towards developing your current style and output?
I’ve drawn as long as I can remember, If I ran out of paper I’d pull the fly leaves out of books or pull a bit of wallpaper back. I didn’t go to Art College till I was 26. Before that I lived in a squat that stayed open for several years, then went off to live in a van at the time of all the free festivals, I made money ‘pavement’ drawing huge copies of Caravaggio paintings and Pre- Raphaelite women on carpet underlay and working on them in the South coast seaside resorts like Brighton and Eastbourne, sometimes I got a jobs from that, designing CD covers or painting a mural. I ended up living in a field in Sussex for about 3 years and finally got a job in a theatre in Kent, helping backstage with scenery and props and putting up exhibitions in their gallery. It was putting up other peoples work that made me realise I should really stop drifting around aimlessly, so I got my portfolio together and did a degree in Art and Design. Since then my works evolved pretty organically, I began as an illustrative painter and realised pretty quickly that I needed to expand into other media and experiment to be happy with what I’m doing.

Were your artistic endeavours encouraged from an early age, perhaps giving you a sense of perspective over your productivity and its worth?
Yes and No! Most of my childhood was spent reading and drawing and I was encouraged to carry on doing that but as a recreational thing rather than a serious career option. I didn’t take art as an option at school even at O’ level because ‘why would you do art when you can do chemistry or languages?’ This opinion was reinforced by the school and my art grades which were never that great, if I’d been more manipulative I should have thought more carefully and failed chemistry. My Grandfather was an artist, he was a fantastic draftsman but his family couldn’t afford to send him to college so he worked for most of his life painting lorries with logos and images in the days before transfers. My Grandparents house was full of his paintings, objects he’d constructed and folios of drawings. He died when I was 10 but I’m certain he would have encouraged me more seriously. I do think about him sometimes when I’m working and wish he’d had the opportunities I’ve had.

What role does artistry and creativity hold in your current everyday, day-to-day life?
I work a lot of hours most days. The days I don’t work long hours, I sleep a lot and kick myself for not being productive. At the moment I have a lot of community projects on and a public commission to finish. If I’m honest I sometimes resent the amount of time I spend on those paid creative jobs rather than on my own practice, my studio work has evolved into something which I’m personally happy with that isn’t necessarily commercial or going to sit happily on someone’s wall so I’ve compromised in other areas to make a living and keep the authenticity of my own work. I have a kind of balance now and I’m lucky that all my work requires creative thought, quite often I will get something surprising from working in the community which does inform my practice.

I am very interested in how and where women gain access to their own confidence, and self-belief -- especially in terms of how they are able to produce and create with a sense of assurance, belief and certainty.
What is your personal relationship with confidence?

For a long time I had no confidence at all, I was painfully shy as a child and the worst kind of sullen teenager, probably because I felt I was always compromising to try and fit in with what I was expected to be and never coming up to scratch. I had to break away from everything I knew and to an extent reinvent myself to gain any confidence as an adult. Art’s been a vehicle for that, I feel more confident now, I don’t care so much what other people think and if I make compromises then its to benefit me and not others. If I like what I’m doing then I’m happy to show it. I still don’t like talking about my own work in public and I don’t like openings, but I’ve done it enough to know that it doesn’t kill me and teaching and working on so many community projects also helps with that public stuff.

How would you describe your artistic techniques and materials; what processes does your work go through to reach a ‘finished product‘?
I start off by collecting together bits and pieces I might use, I print images/ text onto fabric, gather together visual material from notebooks/scrapbooks, if it’s a painting I’ll probably have reference images / photos. I do working drawings on scraps of paper or the backs of envelopes because I like to keep those separate from my sketchbooks. I tend to work in a kind of patchwork, I have an image in my head but no set route to arrive at it so a lot of stuff gets discarded along the way.

Is ‘perfection’ and ‘elitism’ in art something that concerns you?
I ask this, as whilst you work professionally, there is an element of the ‘skewed’ within your work (especially some of your textiles work) due to its rough authenticity and hand made nature. Indeed, you have claimed yourself that, ‘modern life requires that everything is clean and shiny and safe, kitemarked and numbered, my work is the antithesis of this – it’s slightly grubby, pitiful in its handmade grotesqueness, the threads hang loose and needles project dangerously from stitched mouths’
Or, for you does this aesthetic have less to do with perfection and elitism, and more to do with evoking audience interaction, involvement, and connection?
It’s a combination of things. I try to stay true to the original idea or intent behind the work. I find perfection in art clinical. I engage much more with work which shows the artists hand, I look for those details and work which is ‘clean and shiny’ leaves me slightly cold. On the other hand I love design and can be spellbound by a beautifully designed, over-priced chair. The media are constantly bombarding us with paranoid nonsense about grime, bacteria, having the right type of this and that, getting old, spending too much, spending too little, drinking, eating, smoking etc etc. Kids have always had toys and loved them till they’re falling to pieces and I do think that people who engage with my work will do so because it looks like its had a life, that it is slightly battered by experience.

What are your interests in fairy tale mythologies, and why did you decide to weave these ideas into your artistic work?
I started to use Fairy Tales in my work during the MA at Leeds. I’d started to use childhood imagery and was making my first Xrays. It seemed like another trigger that I could use to draw people into a narrative. Start with something recognisable and subvert the meaning. I’ve gone back to these tales recently to give my own take on the Red Riding Hood story. In my story Red Riding Hood is taking a basket of Librium, Cinzano and face cream to Grandma and the Wolf is a butcher with hidden depths.

You work in many different mediums, both in 2D and 3D, from textiles, painting, drawing, light boxes and installation.
How do you balance your artistic interpretations - which ideas form in your head as textiles ones, and which ideas come out in paint? Is that even a conscious or binary process for you?
One thing tends to flow from another and it’s not conscious. I usually have an immediate idea for a textile piece or a painting and it’s almost a process of working back from that visual to connect it. Sometimes I will think ‘I haven’t painted for ages’ and will just feel I need to do that but then it isn’t as successful to me as when I just work spontaneously on what comes to mind. Because I tend to work in series there’s a long period where I can be just sewing or just drawing and then I have to go to something else because practically my necks aching or my fingers are sore.

Many of your stitched pieces combine textiles and text within the pieces. I’m thinking specifically of sinister pieces such as ‘love light as a feather’ the x-rayed ‘secrets’ series, and the series of ‘phrenology heads’.
With reference to such pieces, how powerful do you find words and text within visual art can be?

Text has become very important in my work. Text is as subjective as image, with multiple meanings and responses possible. It’s a powerful medium that I don’t feel altogether confident using, I find myself self editing with text far more than with my images and I cut out more and more words throughout the process until I’m left with a bare skeleton framework which leaves the viewer to fill in the blanks and create their own narratives. I cut and paste together the overheard and the found with my own scribblings, often I’ll ask people for words or to write me a sentence about a particular thing. As I add text to an object the process becomes less about the words and more about how it fits into the pattern of the object, becoming part of the scarification of the piece. Aesthetically, I love the scrawl of text across a 3D surface and the way it adds visual layers and meaning to the image, handwriting is a very personal form of drawing and I like to play with text by embroidering it or typing it on an old ribbon type-writer.

How prolific an artist are you?
Do you find creating work to order, or to meet specific deadlines creatively useful, or restricting?

I love deadlines because I’m never as productive if I don’t have one. If I’m knackered and tempted to sleep a nice deadline can keep me working through the night. I go through phases of producing ridiculous amounts followed by a drought. I don’t usually feel ‘blocked’ and usually have no problem coming up with things I want to do but I do get tired out and just need time away from it.

You have claimed that your work tries to strip back to the bare bones of experience to uncover underlying truth using personal narratives; using the familiar and nostalgic as triggers.
What is your understanding(s) of the word ‘truth’ as employed in your work?
Mmm – yes, that sounds very overblown when it’s thrown back at you! Here I was particularly referring to the X-ray pieces, these were each created around a personal narrative that I tried to broaden out and create a wider resonance using trigger words alongside recognisable artefacts from childhood. A word I often use, possibly overuse, in terms of my work is authenticity and I think it’s that ‘truth’ that I want to convey. I would like people to relate on an emotional level with the objects that I make, for them to remember something from their past or think about something that’s happening to them right now. For that to work I have to put the emotion into the work to start with and it’s not always easy to expose your own fears or vulnerabilities.

What are your thoughts on the nature and exclusivity/inclusiveness of ‘art’ -- Do you believe everyone can be creative in their own life?
I sometimes feel excluded from ‘art’ or possibly the ‘language’ of art and I’m an artist. I do think everyone can be creative and there are some great projects around to convince people that art can be a useful tool for empowering people or just improving the environment. I don’t think art’s a religion that should be rammed down peoples throats with long preachy sermons and I don’t think Galleries are hallowed temples. I think more of an effort needs to be made to engage with people who are interested but put off by the stereotypical view of galleries and artists.

In response to your answer above; what is your motivation for teaching and workshop-ing art, and for creating art in the community?
What is your specific involvement, and what groups do you most regularly work with?I would never have imagined myself working as a public or community artist in my 20’s. The thought of standing up and talking to all those groups of people would have sent me off to a field to hide. Now I enjoy helping people to produce something they’re proud of, people are full of ideas, there’s a lot of interesting discussion, it widens your view of the world and you get to meet some great people. On a financial level it allows me to keep a studio, pay the bills and carry on with my own practice. I work with lots of different groups, this year I’ve worked with, a women’s project, a primary school, a youth inclusion project and a Hindu Elders group as well as Health workers. I teach mostly teenagers, some with behavioural or learning difficulties.

Do you enjoy exhibiting in group shows?
Yes, It’s interesting to see the curators vision come together and its good to see the dynamics in the gallery. when different artists works play off each other

What have your experiences of exhibiting nationally and internationally been like in general?
I’ve been involved in some really varied projects, some really fun artist run events in Slovenia and London, where artists from all over Europe got together and gave art away to bemused local people - through to ‘Pricked’ at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York. There’s a vast difference between throwing some prints and textile bits into an IKEA bag and jumping onto a plane and the reverence and white glove treatment your work gets in a big museum. It’s all good.

What is your favourite part of artistic creativity? Why do you keep on going and doing what you do?
I can work into the early hours of the morning on something and not realise the times passed its so spontaneous and easy or I can spend all night fighting with an object that refuses to do as it’s told and want to cut it into small pieces and burn it. Really each thing is different. I like seeing the work finished – I like the moment when you can photograph it, see it through a lens and separate yourself from it. I hate openings and dread them. I keep going because I enjoy the thought processes involved, I enjoy working with the materials and making my little Frankenstein monsters, I feel connected to the work and although it sounds corny they are part of me and seeing them all grown up and sitting in a gallery does give me a sense of having done something worthwhile. Every now and then someone emails or leaves a comment that they were touched by or related to something and that’s really the best you can hope for.

Abigail Brown interview

Abigail Brown

Location: London, UK
How would you describe your art? Soft, comforting, happy, naïve, playful
Currently working on: Hmmm…gosh, what am I not working on?! A window display, exhibitions for the year, ideas for a music video…on and on…
Day job: Very lucky to be scraping a living from my art, both the textile work and illustration
3 Likes: cakes, smiles, bed
3 Dislikes: negativity, grey skies, currently that there’s no hot water in my flat
People & artists you admire: Anyone pushing themselves to live their dreams, people with big imaginations, people brave enough to do with their lives what they want, but not at the cost of others.
Favourite album(s) to listen to when working: I have a selection of compilations made for me by friends and these are my favourites!

Interview date: February 2009.

First things first I guess I’d like to ask about the sorts of stuff you like; what images keep you company in your studio / place(s) of work, for inspiration?
Children’s books are for me the biggest source of inspiration. I collect them from all over the world and have bookcases overflowing with them. I love Japanese design and animation. I like vintage packaging and textiles…I keep little snippets of all sorts around me.

What is your artistic history? How did you first become interested, and get started with creating art, embracing your creativity, and working towards developing your current style and output?
I’ve done it since I could do anything. My baby book states ‘sticking and snipping’ as my first favourite activity!
I studied at Art College, took a degree in Surface Decoration and Printed textiles, and only then when I’d finished did I free myself to create what I wanted to. I didn’t find the right place for myself during my degree and didn’t really get onto a track with my work. The drawing style is the same and the things that inspire me and attract me but I feel like I’ve established things for myself in the years afterwards. I’m working in ways I didn’t allow myself to at university…I wish I hadn’t put so much pressure on myself at the time and just enjoyed it, but, I’m enjoying it now!

Where did your skills in textiles come from?
I ask this, as I know that you have studied art and textiles at University, yet you primarily learned your craft through absorbing the seamstress techniques around you as a child, techniques that you cobbled together without specific training.
I guess my question is; to what degree do you think formal training has impacted upon your artistic practice, and to what degree have you taught yourself your main skills, techniques, and abilities in a way that education never could have?

What I studied has had no impact on the art I create in honesty, the illustration side of things and the design work has been informed by my degree and in that case I feel my degree was necessary, but the craft work wasn’t a part of it.
My housemate at uni studied Decorative Artefacts and I was always so envious of what she was working on, I almost changed to her course but felt really I had those skills and didn’t need to study that degree, sticking with what I was already studying would be a better path for me at the time. It lead me to graphic design for fashion and interiors, to greetings card illustration and then onto illustrating children’s books and I do think my degree helped me get to where I am with that stuff.
But it was my own pursuits after uni that lead me to where I am with the textile art, and the skills I use for this work weren’t studied, these are the natural skills I just picked up over the years with my Grandmother. I was always sewing little clothes for dolls, or making cushions for my friend to use when I put her on the back of my bike, or making little fabric collages as birthday cards. Really it’s just the effects of 22 years of working with those materials…and I like it like that, it’s free and unrestrained, there’s no right or wrong way, just how I feel, and you can’t study that sort of thing. What I could have done with is the teaching of how to work in the field, how to operate as an artist, this is something I’ve had to learn myself, often by messing up!

Were your artistic and creative endeavours encouraged and appreciated from an early age, perhaps giving you a sense of perspective over your productivity and its worth?
Difficult one, my Father is a scientist and was worried that making a living from art wasn’t going to be easy and encouraged me not to restrict myself just to art. I had the belief in myself because of my teachers, because of my parents, despite that, and from friends. So it helped knowing people thought I had talent and yes, then, perhaps that’s why I pushed myself to do something with it. Perhaps if I hadn’t been so encouraged then I wouldn’t have…I don’t know!

What role does artistry and creativity hold in your current everyday, day-to-day life?
The hugest! From the films I watch to the exhibitions I might go to, roaming the city looking at things, conversations with friends, or just that if I am sitting still for 5 minutes I’m itchy to be making something somehow. That’s a problem actually; I’m a bit of a workaholic.

I am very interested in how and where women gain access to their own confidence, and self-belief -- especially in terms of how they are able to produce and create with a sense of assurance, belief and certainty.
What is your personal relationship with confidence in and of your work?

There’s a fine line for me between self belief and self doubt. Whilst I can sail for ages in a positive belief in my abilities as an artist, it can take very little to floor me and cause me to question what the hell I am doing.
But I must have had some level of confidence to push my work in the beginning, to approach galleries with it, to happily put it in the view of others…and with all honesty I can’t quite say where that came from. I’ve had issues with wanting to prove my worth, to feel praise, and so maybe the little bit of faith I had in myself coupled with my want to be appreciated for what I could create and they motivated me to do it all. Maybe.

How would you describe your artistic techniques and materials; what processes does your work go through to reach a ‘finished product‘?
And how long would it take to complete a typical creature?

A piece of work usually begins life as some scribble on a piece of paper somewhere and this will evolve, usually, into something different as I start to make it in fabric. My method is layering I guess, I just build things up until I feel it’s how I want it, working in different textures, fabrics, colours…sewing into it and making marks. And then at some point I just feel that’s enough.
It depends, sometimes I can make what I have drawn easily, the shape I start sewing replicates it well, and in those cases it might take me a few hours. But other times when what I have in mind is a bit more complex, and I don’t have the technical knowledge to make it, it will be a trial and error process of hours, days…sometimes these guys don’t even get finished. If I’ve got too disheartened with my inability to make what my mind sees then I’ll just give up, and that little being will just be forgotten about, gosh… I’m quite sad thinking about it like that…perhaps there are some forgotten creatures I need to give some love to!

You seem to have many projects on the go at any one point, with many strings to your bow; from creating hand made little ‘tweeter’ birds in matchboxes, making all manner of fabric soft-sculpture creatures, illustration work, digital and collage design work, partaking in craft fairs, making the most beautifully intricate realistic bird sculptures – often specifically commissioned, creating one-off 3D canvas pieces featuring stuffed creatures, and beyond!
Is it important to you to have many strings to your bow? – Whether this may be in order to diversify for financial reasons, or to maintain your personal interest levels in your work, or to fulfil your personal creative urges and passions, or indeed in order to give as many things a go as you are able and talented to!

Yeah, this is an issue! I think for many of the reasons you list I have this wide array of areas I am working in, and it’s always been like that. At uni I couldn’t pick an area and ended up with a very disappointing show at the end because nothing had got anywhere.
I would like to consider limiting my range, and focussing myself and my work…I think that would be a challenge for me and I think some really wonderful things could come out of that.
The biggest issue is financial and for that reason it is currently essential for me to work in many areas in order to earn enough money.

There is a real sense of an atmosphere of calm created by your work – whether this be through colour, texture, pattern, medium, or characters presented.
This atmosphere could almost be described as a visual language evoking beauty, childhood, fables, and reassurance, without ever being childish.
To what degree does this ring true to your own thoughts on how you create and how you perceive your work?
Do you enjoy having a craft that enables you to have an escape from reality and adulthood, and connection to childhood once in a while?!

Yes I love that about it, I love the feeling of being a person whose job is to make small fabric birds, to create little beings and give them names. It does feel very much like I’m just acting out my childhood still. I feel at my happiest in this world, it is safe and reassuring and it’s innocent and positive. I’ve suffered with lots of periods of emotional upset and doing all of this somehow is a therapy, it focuses me on the happy things this world can offer. Yes it’s very important to my emotional well-being that I escape, as often as possible!!

How important is storytelling to your art?
It hasn’t played a huge part in things so far but I would like it to at some point.

I once read you say of your focus on animals within your work that,
‘Animals give comfort. The comfort I find in nesting away in piles of fabric and tangles of thread.’
If art and creating provides you your comfort, and if that which you depict is also that which gives comfort, how do you manage and navigate artistic or creative burnout, stress, or frustration – when the very thing that is your comfort becomes uncomfortable? Where else do you go for comfort?

Hmmm…yes, difficult. Sometimes you just have to know when to quit and give yourself some space. That’s not always easy when there are deadlines and financial shackles but it’s essential to step out and let go of things, return a bit later. I like to head outside, see some nature, be with friends, eat cake! It’s impossible to avoid these things sometimes so I just have to learn to treat myself kindly and know when I need a break.

I love all the different ways in which your pieces create interest. Why do you like creating with different fabrics and textures, integrating found and unique pieces, and combining materials and mediums?
That’s a process I do without much regard so it’s a deep rooted reason I think. The origins of it all, back to my Grandmother, the raggy bag!...this was just full of, and indeed made itself from, scraps of whatever there was at hand. So without realising it that’s possibly at the core of it all. But I’ve always been drawn to artists whose work has layers to it, where there’s texture and mark making and where signs of hand processes are visible. I just like that.

The majority of the art I have seen from you has been three-dimensional. What does working in this way offer you as an artist that making and creating in 2D would not satisfy?
The 3D work is like creating life, these little beings evolve into something real that I can hold and that feels really special.

You specialise in hand crafting unique, one off pieces (or very limited edition runs).
With the time it takes to create each individual, one off piece, what strategies and techniques have you learned or adopted in order to keep motivated, maintain concentration, enthusiasm and momentum, and be self-disciplined? As I for one know that keeping focussed on long projects can be tough!

Essentially I have to really love what I am making, and how I am making it. Mostly sewing is for me very relaxing…but under time constraints it’s less so. To keep me working and stop me from wandering off finding anything else to do I watch films! or I sing to music or I plan little breaks and make myself work till that time when I can do that fun thing. But yes, I do really struggle with concentration!

How prolific an artist are you?
Do you find creating work to order, or to meet specific deadlines creatively useful, or restricting?

A mix. I think working to deadlines makes me work faster but I do feel it can restrict my creative juices and make the work more formulaic. I need to find a way of working around that issue so I don’t feel it can be so negative.

What are your thoughts on the nature and exclusivity/inclusiveness of ‘art’ -- Do you believe everyone can be creative in their own life?
I ask this, partly, as many people may be crafters and makers already, yet not necessarily view this creativity as their art.
I like to view art as an expression of the self, and that if the person is true to themself then the thing created is their art and no one has any right to say otherwise. Whether their ‘art’ will appeal to others or be held with any regard is another matter entirely!

Kind of linked to the above question, I read that in the past year you contributed to a collaborative crafting book by submitting step-by-step advice on card making, with ‘how to’ instruction.
Is it important to you to be able to pass on technique, skill, and knowledge, with the purpose of furthering or advancing others confidence in and knowledge/practice of crafting?

If I can have positive effects on others with what I am doing then that just makes it all the more wonderful. Creating breeds so much positivity, and that is very important to me.

A lot of your work is sold in local, independent galleries and stores.
Do you feel that such independently owned stores, spaces & settings are more suited/more fitting for your artwork (and how you can display/promote/market yourself and your creatures)?

I think it does sit best in that sort of environment. Those small places have such character and it’s those environments I like to shop in. I want to feel warmth and to know I am welcomed and that what I am looking at is crafted with love and care, and that’s what you get in the independent outlets. That sort of place represents me and my creative ethics too.

Do you enjoy exhibiting your work?
What have your experiences of exhibiting nationally and internationally been like in general?

I’m quite shy when it comes to being with my work, and so I’m reluctant to ever be on display with it. But on the whole the experience is always positive, except for a couple of ignoramuses I’ve had the displeasure of enduring. People’s faces light up, they smile, they want to touch the work and that’s lovely to see, really, it makes it feel wonderful to be doing it all.
When the work is sent off to galleries it’s varied in response. Sometimes lots will sell, other times barely anything. So if you haven’t been to the show then you can’t ever know if it was the display or that it didn’t work with the other artists work. I’m not very good at chasing galleries for feedback, in case it’s too disheartening!
But I will say positive on the whole, it’s always lead on to something else, eventually.

What is your favourite part of artistic creativity? Why do you keep on going and doing what you do?
I couldn’t not do! Ha, I really don’t know what I would do if I didn’t!
I love the feeling I get whilst I am making, but obviously the end result, when it’s one to be proud of makes you strive for more.

the interviews: issue 5

By Karoline Rerrie

Introduction to issue 5

Introduction to Colouring Outside The Lines issue Five.

Colouring Outside The Lines started life in 2004. The zine interviews female artists and includes reproductions of their art, giving the artists the power and voice over their own creativity. When I started writing Colouring Outside The Lines there wasn't much media writing about, or crediting the women creating the sort of art that meant something to me. I kept reading about artists part of an ‘art world’ that worships at the feet of certain, celebrated (mostly dead) artists that don’t necessarily hold any relevance to me as a mid- to late- 20 year old living in 2004-present, with a history in feminism, punk rock, diy, self-publishing, and queercore. I wanted to (re)address this absence in representation, so decided to make a zine to try and counter what people could get their hands on. I wanted to know about and hear from female artists that I loved and that said something to me, but whom I couldn’t find much information on, or wasn’t aware of that much documentation of their individual voices.

The zine came from my will to celebrate women, document their lived-histories as artists, and crucially inspire and encourage others’ interest &/or others’ creativities that I believe we all have but are either bashed out of us by a society that would rather criticise than encourage, or our lack of self-confidence, or the belief that art is only for ‘certain’ people. I wanted to make a zine to show women that we can ALL be artistic and creative within our everyday lives - a collection of interviews to inspire and encourage and let women know that their contributions are important, worthwhile, and wholly valid.

The zine was constructed from the position of 'amateur', from the position of 'uninitiated'. I didn't study art, don't speak 'art-speak', and certainly don't know as much as maybe I should – but that's kind of the point… I am a firm believer in smashing the amateur/expert dichotomy that keeps so many women at a distance from their potential, from expressing their creativity, or from viewing and learning about others'.

I have been fortunate, as a result of the small success of the zine, to work collaboratively on further art projects; co-curating a small art exhibition and auction benefit for The Truth Isn’t Sexy anti-sex trafficking organisation (2007); curating the Female Comics Zine exhibition at the Women’s Library, London (2009); writing for the American women’s arts publication, Art XX; and excitingly this issue is launching at the first ever Colouring Outside The Lines exhibition – an opportunity to raise awareness of and showcase some amazing home grown female talent. I almost can’t believe it!
All of this has led me to work with, and to promote and share the work of so many amazing female artists. Varied, individual artists working in many different mediums, creating all different kinds of ‘art’, on their own terms. I have had the pleasure, whilst working on these projects, to be introduced to the work of amazing artists, to meet amazing women, and to be fed contacts for further connections with yet more amazing creative women. It’s reaffirmed my belief of the ever-present, amazingly diverse and exciting web of female creativity out there, for the touching!
But, trust me. Believe me. If I can do this, so can you. I am nothing special. My part is tiny. There’s always room for more of us to stand up and be vocal, be creative, to organise, to make and produce and express.

I recently read writer Daphne Gottleib speak of the collaborative writing projects she leads, saying that:

‘I guess what I want and need to believe is that a rising tide does move all boats – that we can do things as a community that we can’t do alone, that we can offer each other opportunities that we wouldn’t find in isolation. I’m delighted to be able to showcase other writers.’

When I read this my heart swelled, as I’d love to think of this zine in a similar sort of way. I am *delighted* to showcase the artists in this zine – whether it be the interviewees, or the gallery artists. I think there’s something really special in bringing the work of so many women together in one place – creating an artistic community that has a wealth of skills, knowledge, talent, contacts and communication to offer and share with each person involved in, or reading the zine - with potential ripple effects beyond the zines’ pages. Furthermore, I love the thought that the rising tide of these women’s creativities being collected together in the form of a zine has the ability to move the boats beyond established artistic ones; i.e. that of each and every one of our everydays. Through the idea of a web of female creativities being exposed and opened up comes the idea of there being more to take personal inspiration from. Inspiration that may not have been actualised in isolation from such a powerful collection of creative female talents.

I read a blog post by Pip of ‘Meet Me At Mike’s about singer, Leslie Feist. Reflecting on an interview Pip had read with Feist, she blogged of her understanding of Feist’s creative song-writing processes, ‘sharing her ideas was the most important part of her creativity’. ‘Her creative life revolved around gathering up like minded people, and creating something great.’ ‘She’s all about evolving things together and bouncing off a constant stream of exciting, ever-changing collaborative options.’ Considering this perspective of collaboration Pip continued:

‘As far as I can see, we all have plenty untapped goodness to offer, and we need to be on the lookout for others and share the ride with them because of [the potential for] ingenious ideas and fabulous friendships and untapped opportunities and amazing realisations! To sum it up, when you share your life and ideas, good things happen!’

By collaborating, sharing the creative process, you get to see all the unexpected, unplanned, fantastic, fun, satisfying, and exciting things that can occur through shared inspiration and ideas; i.e. you get to see all the great stuff others have to share. And that’s why I make this zine – showcasing others as a form of collaboration, cuz jeez do these women have a lot to share. I hope you enjoy the ride with them!

Melanie Maddison
Leeds, UK
June 2009