At the Canadian Guild of Craft in Montreal.
Q So who is Andrea Graham?
I am a full time artist as well as a wife and mother to three boys. I have a home studio which allows me to be available and keep everything running smoothly. I am active in my arts community locally, provincially and nationally, connecting with other artists and promoting fine craft.
Q Where in the world are you?
I am in village in Ontario, Canada with Toronto and Montreal 2.5 hours away in opposite directions.
Currently Touring Europe with International Felt Exhibit - "The Climate is Changing"
Q When did you decide to become a maker?
I decided to become a full-time maker 10 years ago. I found the craft of feltmaking shortly before and joining an artists in business group was the catalyst in making it my official “job”.
Q What made you choose the materials that you work with?
I spend my early art years feeling like I was not good enough. There was not a medium that I felt I could truly express myself creatively, one that I could immerse myself in with every sense. The materials restricted me. When I found feltmaking, I was able to experience the material with every sense. The fibres are tactile, malleable, colourful (or not) and smell close to the land. It was completely intoxicating and had me addicted. The versatility of the medium was like an open door to my creative soul.
Liberatio Captivus: Wet Felted Finnwool on Wood.
Currently touring with FiberArt International (USA)
Q What other materials would you like to work in?
There are many breeds of wool to explore, and infinite combinations, all with a story to tell. My friend, mentor and author, Christine White, speaks of “Fibre Dynamics”. Through her I have learned that each wool has it’s own language and, with every experience, I gain a deeper understanding of the medium. I feel little need, at this point, to seek other materials.
Q Where do you get your inspiration from?
The materials are an inspiration to me, architecture, photography, forms in nature, destruction and decay. I try to live each day with my eyes open and inspiration is something I am never short of.
Big Pods: Installation for Andrea’s Solo Exhibition "Adaptations" (8ft tall)
Q What motivates you?
Deadlines! I have commitments to galleries and clients that I must meet to maintain my image as a professional business person. My other work often is set aside until it cannot be contained any longer. I often wonder if this tension and anticipation is part of my necessary process.
Q Do you create your work in a studio base or a home base?
Both. My studio is in my home. I have a large space in the basement with all my materials, sinks, a window and large high tables. It is my sacred space. The children know there is no fighting, no sneaking up on me and no nerf guns allowed. They respect this… most of the time.
Andrea with Big Pods – Adaptations Solo Show
Q Crafts in the 21st Century – what does this mean to you?
Being a mere 10 years in the world of craft, I am just a babe. I am not sure if I can answer this with any educated or historic perspective. This being said, as an Ontario Craft Council board member and active crafts person, I can say I am frequently awed and moved by the work I see in craft right now. There is both technical and design excellence and, on the other side a strong movement in conceptual art expression in craft medium (with less focus on the execution/craft excellence) and the DIY movement. I proudly consider myself a craftsperson and strive to achieve technical excellence, good design as well as concept. I think “craft” is at an interesting time as I our ideas of “function” evolves. By this I mean our changing perception of what we “need”.
Q How do you sell and promote your work?
I sell my functional craft in a couple of galleries and sculptural work at others and I accept commissions. I promote my work through exhibitions, my website (www.andrea-graham.com), and in magazines and books.
Adaptations 3: Collection of Wet Felted Sculptures
Q What is your typical working day look like?
“work” as an artist includes computer work, correspondence, applications, photographing work, reviewing contracts, packing to teach, developing workshops, etc. What “work” I do is determined by my schedule which is often set a year in advance.
Q What is your working style?
When in the studio, I get distracted easily and often take breaks or switch gears. I used to think this was a lack of focus, but now know these are necessary breaks in my creative process. I just know it will take me lots of time to get something done.
Specimens: Wool and Silk on Clay
Q 3 words of advice for an aspiring Craft artist/maker...
- First and foremost: Commit. Commit to your craft. When people ask, “What do you do?” Tell them without reservation. If you don’t believe it, how will you convince others?
- Back it up by becoming the best you can become in your area. Make a “bucket list” of who you would like to learn from and make it happen.
- Treat your craft/art as a business. You are a small business owner. Get a tax number and march into the local business development office and ask what support/education they offer for small business owners. Connect with your arts community. Enter shows. Get involved, but not so involved that you have no time to create.
Unearthed: Wet Felted Finnwool
Image by Tracy Olan. On exhibit at the Canadian Guild of Craft in Montreal
Q Who is/are your favourite artist(s)/maker(s)?
There are so many around the world in so many different fields. I love political work and work that possesses terrible beauty such as in the photography of Lana Slezic. I also love land art which is practically synonymous with Andy Goldsworthy. I also love the architecture of Frank Gehry and Michael Graves. The technical excellence of Jorie Johnson is what I strive for in felt.
Q What music do you listen to?
I listen to very little music. I am a public talk radio junkie.
Exposed: Superfine Merino Wool and Karakul Wool Locks
Q 3 likes and dislikes?
Likes: good food, red wine, time with my family.
Dislikes: clutter, telemarketing calls, excessive noise.
Q What do you do to relax?
As with most people, I have to think about what “relax” means to me. With 3 boys and a busy life what do I do to relax? I think being in the studio and giving myself permission to create something that is not to sell, not to show, but just to play. That is relaxing.
Harvest: Andrea’s Installation Piece
Performed on the International Day of Felt (FeltUnited 2009.)
Image by Tracy Olan