Name: Carole Epp
Current Location: Saskatoon Saskatchewan
Education: BFA University of Regina MAVA Australian National University
Preferred Art Medium(s): Ceramic, watercolor, found object.
Children (ages and genders): Elliott (boy) 8 years old, Jasper (boy) 4 years old
Website address(es): caroleepp.com, musingaboutmud.blogspot.com
What is your background (where are you from, education, important details, where are you know, etc.)?
I’m from Saskatchewan and while I moved a way for a few years, the prairies drew me back in and that’s where we’ve been settled since 2005 working and raising our kids. I studied Ceramics at the University of Regina under Jack Sures, Ruth Chambers and Rory MacDonald before going to Australia to study with Janet Deboos and Greg Daly at the Australian National University.
Hmmm….prepared? No. In fact I feel daily that I’m ill prepared for the challenges of it all. It’s a daily re-evaluation of priorities and needs. There is no rule book for being an artist and less so for being a parent. There are lots of opinions by strangers of how to be better at both jobs, but it’s all based on your own personality and how you work things out and which opportunities you can manage to pull onto your plate.
I wish that universities and colleges would give a more realistic picture of the struggles of being successful as an artist but they don’t. They focus on teaching technique and art theory, critical analysis and research methodologies. None of those pay the bills in a non academic setting. Its rare to find training on the professional practice side of art. But realistically our paths towards success and our ideas of success are all different so it’s very hard to teach.
There are many women that I’ve found inspiring. Many father/artists as well. Some are inspiring because of their ability to seemingly “do it all”. Others have inspired me through their sacrifices and the compromises that they made for their families. Even those that gave up making for seasons of their lives while family took on a top priority teach us that the passion and drive to make art doesn’t die over time. Sometimes the best art is made once a life has been well lived. Older generations of artists bring so much perspective, knowledge and experience to their work. There is also much respect for those in the trenches, hauling their kids around the world to attend gallery shows, working in the wee hours when the kids are in bed. We all have tales of babes sleeping in our arms while we work or projects being demolished by grabby hands. What I find the most inspiring is the artists that don’t try to separate their art and their personal lives. The ones that find true value in speaking of the human condition in all it’s glory and smelly messes. To name a few names though I would suggest folks looking into the amazing careers of Cathy Terepocki (who taught me what endless energy and commitment looks like), Amalie Atkins and Monique Blom (who are both incredible forces to be reckoned with and are making some sincere and beautiful work demonstrating the times in which we live.)
Can you talk about how you balance your role of artist and the role of mother? Did you take time off after the birth of your children? How did that work? What about childcare? How did you navigate making artwork?
First of all I don’t believe that I manage them all that well. I feel pulled in numerous directions all the time. I’m not an organized person and I wish I could change that. My way of getting things done is to put out the fire that is burning the brightest. Focus on the closest deadline and just keep working. Looking back I wish I would have allowed myself time off after my kids were born. The idea of pausing and taking a break from the studio made me fear that I might never find the means to return. With my first son I had a body of work almost completed when he was born. I had grant funding and a major deadline so was back in the studio within a week. My second son was more demanding. He had GERD and couldn’t sleep or be put down for the first year. I know I made some work during that time, but I’d be hard pressed to remember much of it. There are pieces that I made during that time that I seriously regret putting out in the world. It’s embarrassing but hindsight is 20/20.
In the last eight years since my first was born I haven’t had any childcare. The cost of it was prohibitive. We used to have grandparents close by to help out but they have since moved away. My husband has always been very supportive and I know that I couldn’t have done any of this without his help. So I learned to make work during nap times and late at night. I would be planning projects in my head while simultaneously sitting on the floor playing with Lego. Social media became a lifeline for me to stay visible and engaged with my community.
What is Make and Do? How did it start? how has gone thus far since the February 1, 2015 website launch? Where do you hope to see this project go in the future? What should we be on the look out for in regards to Make and Do?
Make and Do was an initiative that I founded with Mariko Paterson in late 2015 as a means to work collectively with a group of artists to further our career goals as well as build an online resource of Canadian Ceramics. We are working with a great crew of artists from across Canada. This first year has been an adventure of figuring out how to work together, coalescing a common goal and focus for the group, getting the word out there, and slowing building the website resource. It’s all volunteer based so the growth has been slow but steady. We are currently evaluating our first year and making plans for changes for the upcoming year. Our ideas of what this website can and should be are grandiose and hopefully the larger community we hope to serve will be patient with us as we get through our growing pains. Look out for more amazing guest artists in the new year as well as a more throughout database of artists. Our blog will be a main focus with the goal of exposing our audiences to the limitless talents in our country.
There is your blog, Musings about Mud, the above mentioned project, Make and Do, and your studio practice both sculptural and functional. Are you working on all simultaneously? Do you maintain a schedule regimen? How do you balance your artistic efforts? How do these different endeavors inform and influence one another?
Think about when you pack to move to a new place and you start out all organized. You know that last box you pack – the one that contains miscellaneous objects that just get shoved in a random box before you run out the door? Well that describes my life and practice. There are all these important bits, things I can’t live without but they are all jumbled together. My sculptural work informs my functional work. My kids inspire my content for both. Musing keeps me tied to the community I love and need to support my work. Everything is done simultaneously. Five minutes of writing here then running to unpack a kiln before school, then throwing pots while talking to fellow artists on speakerphone about organizing upcoming events. Please don’t for a second assume that I’m complaining. Absolutely not. I love the chaos of my work and life. I thrive on the uncertainty of what each day will bring. I love the challenges, the new adventures and the people that fill my days.
Narrative has always been a part of my figurative work. Compelled to speak to the human condition, current events and struggles of our time brings me back to the series of sculptures time and time again. My functional work only began to incorporate narrative after my children were born. It came almost as a shock to me that my functional work would shift focus so dramatically.
All of my work is made because I want to be in conversation with others. The object created serves as a catalyst for discussion, bringing together people who wouldn’t otherwise be in conversation. I want to explore the human condition through both the positive and the negative that it encompasses. I always approach the work with an idea in mind but the imagery and form always dictate their own additions to the narratives I build. I try to be open minded and not force the work; the ideas, too much. I don’t want the work to seem contrived. I want it to express emotion as well as idea.
What’s going on in your studio right now? Where should we be on the look out for your work in the future?
Right now I’m in production mode leading up to a holiday sale with Flock and Gather. I’m also super excited about presenting at the Florida Heat Surface Workshop taking place next February at the Morean Arts Center. There are always little bits of pots in the works and sculptural pieces in various stages of production and most things are easy to see on my instagram feed or on Make and Do.
Are there any projects, hobbies, or activities (ex. Running, knitting, tea connoisseur, arts organizations, volunteering, etc.) outside of your artistic practice that you feel passionately about? What are they? Do you find them feeding your practice? If so how?
Ha ~ I wish!
Oh this changes based on the day or my mood. Usually you can hear anything from the Felice Brothers to Shovels and Rope, Tom Waits to 90’s punk and grunge, or top volume Rage Against the Machine, Bad Religion, Fugazi or NOFX when the kids are at school (and sometimes when they’re not!)