A few months ago I did an artist interview for someone (Judith Mueller) that is graduating from UBC-Okanagan. It was a pretty heartfelt interview. I didn't really think that I wanted to put it out somewhere on the internets... but here it is...
Caitlain Frrench is a graduate of UBCO. The Fourth Year Show, in which she participated was entitled 23/7 and her piece was entitled Memento Mori. She is currently living in Vancouver BC. She is also a fibre artist who dyes her own wool with natural dyes, exploring new possibilites. I asked her about her show, what it meant, for her, to be called a fibre artist and her relationship to the ideas of fine art vs. craft.
On Memento Mori: Could you explain to me what that means
To me, using this statement is from the translation 'remember that you are mortal'. In January 2004 I lost both my father and step-father (cruel joke from the universe), and since then mortality has played a huge part in the theme of all of my work. And life too I suppose.
Could you relate it to your installation with the waxed roses.
Relating 'Memento Mori' to the wax rose piece is pretty simple (if that is the right word). Both wax and jars are ways of preserving things. There were 12 jars with 12 roses... because I received a dozen roses from my husband as a gift. I wanted to preserve them.
I used the same style of jars to put them in as I used in a work that I did for my advanced sculpture class the week after my dad died. I took that work down the day that my step-father had died. Now these little red shelves have a place in my heart.
Tell me about yourself and what you are about and what you have done since art school
Oh dear! Thats a big question....
I am a... Fiber artist, sculptor, painter, weaver, dyer, bike rider, bike builder, cat lover, forest adventurer, child hanger outer (many of my loved people make other people), wife, activist, budding tattooist (my husband Arlin has been tattooing for the last 3 or 4 years...)
2007- Hung out in Vancouver the whole summer.... then did the most epic van adventure across the country in the fall/winter (poor life choice)
2008- (January lost a child- 2.5 months pregnant)... was numb for many months. Picked myself up (With Arlin's amazing help) and started making things again... mostly painting at that time. Joined the Anti-Poverty Committee in Vancouver... started doing a LOT of political organizing.
2009- Much more political organizing (leading up to the Olympics... ) Did HUGE paintings with the Arlo. Much gold leafing. Helped my bestie open her yarn store (Baaad Anna's... where I still work) Learned much more about fiber than I ever thought I could.
2010- The Olympics happened, much political organizing against them. Started into taxidermy. Started into blood paintings. (Using my blood) Much more building things out of felt. (LOVE felting!) Started tattooing. (So hard!!) Got prospected into a freak bicycle club (Dead Baby Bikes... google 'Dead Baby Downhill')... We build freak bikes. Arlin was already in the club.
2011- learning MUCH more about natural pigments (I learned about them when I went to the Kootenay School of the Arts in 2004-2005, but I was learning to find my own dye plants out in the woods here)... Still painting, but building more installations... Jars are being used throughout all of these years... Much more sewing... Started knitting for ABC/DISNEY's Once Upon a Time.
2012- Planning a LARGE installation with wax and my loom (45" LeClerc Floor loom!!) Things are coming.
*** Please note that there were at least 2-6 gallery shows dispersed throughout each of these ***
Tell me what art means to you in your life
Art is all of the things in my life. Make ALL the things!!
I am nothing if I am not making things.
Do you consider knitting art?
Absolutely Knitting CAN be art. BUT.... Not all the time. There is a knitted object that is 'craft' with the 'bad' meaning of that word... you know? A hat... but then there is something BUILT out of yarn (or whatever fiber... ) Something made with the intention of being Art. Not necessarily something beautiful...
Could you then describe to me how doing a Fine Arts Degree at UBCO changed your life or what it meant to you.
You also had a relatively unique experience in school as you did it with your partner...how does that change things, or add to it.
We only did our last 2 years together.... but i'm pretty sure that it just made my life ... harder? I always had someone riding me to be better... (This may be a good thing though...) Arlin is the best, hardest, thing that has ever happened to me.
I googled you and found you on ravelry and then on your blogspot. Tell me about your dyeing and how you think that relates to art.
NATURAL PIGMENTS!! Just so wonderful. I love natural things... everything back to ther earth... (Wikipedia- Wolves in the throne room)
Things of the earth make me happier thank everything else. My work has been moving more and more towards... a good example... Andy Goldsworthy/Louise Bourgoise
Do you think that working in fibre makes you a “serious” artist? Do you think fibre belongs in the art world?
I think that jerks don't think that 'Fiber' art is 'serious' art (ha! That was a funny jab at those guys!!) But yes. Fiber arts are one of the oldest forms of 'making' things. Without fiber we are lost.
Do you think women and fibre are taken seriously or not? Add anything you want,,,,what does your art mean to you....if you have an artist statement or theme please provide it if you want
I think that more often than not we (female identifying people) are not taken as seriously as our male-identifying counterparts. But I think that it has a lot to do with us (ladies) being the 'vessels', we are supposed to make other people.
Artist Statement for Caitlin ffrench
-secretions of certain insects and plants
-the fine, soft, curly hair that forms the fleece of sheep and certain other animals, characterized by minute, overlapping surface scales that give it its felting property.
-one of the structures composing the skeleton of a vertebrate.
-the fluid that circulates in the principal vascular system of human beings and other vertebrates, in humans consisting of plasma in which the red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets are suspended.
Last thing... In my 'real' life... the art part my last name is the one gifted to me from Arlin (ffrench), in the grown up parts of my life... the passport, drivers license ... it is my father's last name (Wright)
I don't know why. But this is how I live.