Wednesday, July 13, 2011

interview with cathy cullis!

I've long been a follower of artist and team member Cathy Cullis. Cathy is a prolific and established artist who moves (seemingly effortlessly) among a myriad of media, including painting, embroidery, pottery and even poetry, and maintains her own style unique throughout. Her work has a quietness, a playfulness, and yet also a haunting quality. The juxtaposition is profound, and also I find her blog quite addictive. She is also currently Etsy's featured seller. She has much to teach us, and she kindly agreed to an interview just for folk reveries.

Dru: how long have you been a (full-time, or mostly full-time?) artist?

Cathy: I have worked creatively for many years, but 'officially speaking' I became a self-employed art person in 2005. Prior to that I was a full-time mother to two small children and prior to that an editor of a literary magazine, and prior to that a student! Looking back it all merges, because as a young mum I was making things, I had little projects always starting and my creative life revolved around nap times.

Dru: you are so unique in how many media you work in! how do you choose and manage so many talents, and sets of tools and materials? what kinds of synergies does mixing media open up for you artistically?

Cathy: Possibly, there are many contemporary artists who like to try different tactile materials and ways of speaking. I find I need to shift, I like the rhythm of working from one thing to the next. The ideas continue to evolve but you are holding different materials in your hand.... one day a needle and thread, the next a paint brush maybe, but the voice is the same.... or the thumbprint is the same.... And the happy overlaps begin, I might pull something out from a time before and marry ideas or actually merge materials....

As for organising my work, I have really reduced the 'stuff' I have around me in recent times. I have become far interested in clutter than I used to be. So I have a bureau with drawers for materials and when I am not working on a particular media that all gets packed away into a box, put into the garage or elsewhere. I make plans and projects but I don't necessarily stick to them too rigidly.

Dru: in one interview, you mentioned creativity as a way of building up self-worth and finding one's voice. this is part of my journey and i was hoping you could you say more about this process?

Cathy: I know it has been said before by many artists, of all kinds, but creativity is never to be undervalued, especially when moving through difficult periods and changes in life.... I have told before of how I went through an emotionally challenging period, beginning six, seven years ago - and really, quite simply just 'making things' helped me keep my chin above water.

The process of creating, anything from the heart, can be part of a healing..... sharing work is another dimension to that and of course selling gives an exact opportunity to feel some personal success in all of it..... When I was really low and bleak-thinking, I had a few scraps of fabric and I started to make things, and encouraged by a few good friends, I continued to make things....

Of course finding a voice that is authentic - that may be a hit and miss, or twisted journey process.... start by making what you like and then discover what it is you are saying that is your own.... that is how it happened for me.... now I make things that are 'mine' without worrying about influences and strategies, but it has been a journey of finding out how to do just that....

Dru: what does a usual day look like for you? (also, do you have a typical schedule for your studio practice?)

Cathy: I have a busy family life, with school age children, but this is also a great advantage - as the school day gives me a structure to work around. And my working does not stop when the children are home. Infact I sometimes find my best ideas and work coming through when they are right by, and they are my best critics. I plan my week, but only tentatively, because I never know what will really happen in life or creatively.

I like to work early in the mornings and then I find my creative momentum tends to return just as I am cooking our evening meal! I don't like cooking, so the art wins....

Dru: many of our team members are young artists and new etsy-ers. what would your "letters to a young artist" say?

Cathy: Expect to work and work before you feel you are making something authentically your own - but don't see that as a mountain to climb, see it as a really exciting journey. Perhaps from the start of things you have always felt you are making 'your own mark', and that is good. Continue on and don't be surprised by change.

As for practical ways of marketing your work and so on - there are great resources on Etsy etc... of course.

There can be a 'mystique' around making art and making things that are a bit different. Enjoy this. Live an artistic life all the way through, from how you decorate your home to how you talk to others and just go for it - enjoy.

Don't you just love this advice? I for one am going to take this advice to heart! Thanks so much Cathy!

For a wonderful sampling of Cathy's work, check out the zine that she's created of prose-poetry and art. It's called Violet Goodenough... check it out!


Robin Harney said...

Thanks for this post! A lot of what she said really resonates with me, especially about the time it takes before you feel you are making something "of your own". I put art aside for years because I couldn't find my voice, but eventually, I found it. Or it found me.

Congrats Cathy on being a featured seller!

Heather said...

Great interview! I was so happy to see one our of own as the featured etsy seller today as well! Congrats to Cathy, you do amazing work :)