Tell us a little about yourself and what you do.
I am a fairly eclectic person. I am an artist, educator, and student. One of the constants in my life is a desire to learn. I have degrees that range from Fine Arts, Education, English, and Landscape Design, to Interdisciplinary Research and Artistic Creation. There has been very little time in my adult life where I have not engaged in workshops, courses, degrees or higher education. I find it stimulates me, pushes me, and expands the possibilities of what I can accomplish.
Who (or what) inspires you to do what you love in your own creative business?
An interesting question that I am not sure I can answer. I think I have been encouraged by the reception of my work in various contexts, but ultimately it is my own inner drive which compels me.
Where do you get your inspiration from when you design?
For a majority of work, my inspiration is nature and the outdoors. I can’t envision not creating, and in my head I am constantly planning the next project. Travel has also been a large part of the inspiration for my work: for example, I just returned from a week long watercolour course in Bergerac, France. Painting the ruins, ancient stone buildings, and beautiful France countryside was incredible, and I have many ideas for future work because of it.
What are the five words that people who know you would use to describe you?
Patient, funny, free-spirited, straight talking, sensitive
Tell us about your very first job and what path have you taken since then?
My first job was in professional theatre, being a production assistant for a well known children’s theatre company, which allowed me to try my hand at many things. I have worked as a stage manager, set and costume designer, scenic artist and director across Canada, and have done some graphic design, as well as doing some faux finish painting for interior design. My theatrical skills helped me transfer into a career as an educator; my artistic skills have spanned from painting (primarily watercolour) and silk painting, to my current focus on glass and tile arts: stained glass, mosaic, pique assiette, and fused glass.
Describe your day in your studio/ working space?
My studio is in a small basement in our house, created for me by my husband, who is a talented woodworker. We share the space, which is not ideal, as sawdust and glass are not a great combination, but you work with what you have, right? If I have a project on the go, it means that there are pieces of it in various stages all through the studio. Part of what I enjoy is the variety of creating, thus rather than working through in strict sequence I have many stages unfolding all at once: for example, if it is a stained glass piece I might cut some glass, try the layout of a part, have a section foiled or even fused. I do find that once engaged in a piece I follow Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s theory of flow: time dissolves and I am fully immersed in what I am doing, and suddenly it is the end of the day.
As an artist what is your biggest frustration?
As with most artists, I never seem to transfer the images in my head in the way I envision them, to the actual piece I am working on. That’s is the artist’s dilemma, challenge, and constant quest: seeking perfection and never quite attaining it, and so trying again on the next piece, and the next.
Tell us about how you prioritise your studio work.
It depends on what I am focussed on at the time, what is interesting me, and what the context of the work is. I went through a period first where I was making solely large domestic stained glass pieces (ie doors, trellis inserts, gazebo transoms, tables). But my art is not just craft, and often it has a historic, political or environmental context. For example, a chance encounter at the Washington Holocaust Memorial Museum with a small handmade floral brooch began a journey of investigation and creation, where I tried to re-imagine the story of a little boy’s present to his mother in a concentration camp; I created several pieces in glass, and eventually actually met the survivor, a wonderful man who leads the speaker’s bureau for Holocaust Studies at a New York college, with whom I have now an amazing relationship. In another tangent, I have created work for the doctoral degree I am now pursuing, which explores the portrayal of adoption, and all its attenuent secrets and complexities. Currently as well, I am working on my fused glass, an area that I am least familiar with, but which I hope to combine with other glass work to create new forms.
Tell us about how do you connect with other artists, and your customers (i.e. how do you network)?
Contacts come through known and unknown channels. Word of mouth, family and friends of course; conferences, work encounters, travel. It really doesn’t rely on one pathway.
What advice can you offer other creative people who are just starting out and following their passions?
I’m not sure I am qualified to give advice, but perhaps encouragement to just try, even if you only take on a little bit at a time.
What dreams do you still want to achieve or fulfil in your life?
How long do you have?! I have so many: to achieve my Doctorate, to publish as a creative writer, to continue to have the ability to create…This year, in travelling around the world with my husband, I fulfilled many dreams: a safari in Africa, hiking in Alaska, feeding kangaroos in Australia, seeing the ruins of archeological treasures such as ancient Epheseus, and many, many other adventures. I would love to have the ability to continue travel seriously, not as a ‘tourist,’ but as a participant who engages with the peoples and culture of the places I visit.
What is your proudest moment so far?
If you are asking about my proudest moment as an artist it would have to be meeting and exchanging art with the Holocaust survivor I spoke of, which is now in his own collection, and having my work as part of an exhibition in New York dealing with the experience of being a prisoner in Bergen Belsen, and in ongoing speakers’ series on the Holocaust.
Who do you most want to meet and why?
Tough question: I assume we’re not talking a historical figure, (which would be easier)? And certainly let’s not equate fame or notoriety with worthiness; I have no time for celebrity for its own sake. There are many poets, authors, artists, activists and thinkers I am in awe of, and would be lucky to have conversation with any one of them. Perhaps Malala Yousafzai for her courage, and Jon Stewart for his incredible political savvy if I have to pick names.
What is the most important lesson in life that you have learned?
Being a cancer survivor, I now try to not get caught up in petty anxieties, and tend to live for the now rather than a future that may never materialize. I also remind myself that life is good and to be thankful, and kind, because that is the legacy I wish to leave.
What book are you reading right now, and do you have a book you would like to recommend?
I like contemporary fiction, and I usually have many books on the go at once; I read according to my mood, and I read voraciously. Right now I am reading Gone Girl, by American author Gillian Flynn, a kind of psycholoigical thriller with great twists; Caught, by Canadian Lisa Moore, a character study of a botched smuggling adventure in Columbia and Canada’s east coast (as a stalwart patriotic Canadian I read and support as much CanLit as I can); and The Luminaries, by Eleanor Catton because, of course, I was just in Oceania! I recommend looking at the long lists of major book prizes: the Giller, Canadian Governor-General’s, the Pulitzer, etc., rather than best seller lists, to find your next book. The quality is higher, and you will find an interesting mix that takes you beyond your usual choices.
Where do we find you and your products? (list stores & links, websites )
The brand name is Beagles of Ballantrae (where I live and the fuzzy animals I love), and I have currently only this email address for inquiries, but a website in the offing. Most work has been sold by word of mouth and through exhibition.