Harkening from Montreal, Quebec, Catherine De Abreu brings grace and elegance to the Canadian ceramics scene. Join us for a behind the scenes peek at what inspires her work.
Where is your studio located? How long have you been there? What's one of the perks of being a maker in that community?
My studio is located in Montreal, specifically in a borough called Rosemont. I've been in this area since 2012, the year I obtained my ceramics degree. What I love most about where I'm situated is the community of creators that are scattered throughout several neighbouring buildings. These buildings house creators of all kinds and it's nice to be surrounded by people who hold similar interests. My studio space is shared with 6 other ceramists. It's a little cramped for the moment... but we are managing! I love the view from the window. From time to time, I take a glimpse at Mont-Royal in the horizon. I'm immediately centered and taken in by the beauty of this city. This pause gives me just the focus I need to move forward.
Can you tell us a bit about one of your mentors, someone without who you likely wouldn't be a ceramic artist?
While I don't consider myself to have a specific mentor, I am thankful to have encountered certain people along the way. My very first pottery class was taken with Marko Savard in the studio space of a beautiful ceramic boutique called Gaïa in Montreal. I instantly fell in love with the medium of clay and will be forever grateful to him for sharing his passion for this mind-blowing material. I then followed a three year program under the tutelage of three ceramists who all managed to leave an impression. They are Monique Giard, Laurent Craste and Claude Prairie. I'm indebted to them for everything that they taught me. Since graduating, I look to my peers for inspiration and guidance when needed. I try to stay connected to what's going on in the ceramics community by reading (Ceramics monthly, CFile, ...), listening (Tales of a Red Clay Rambler, The Potters Cast, NCECA 360,...) and observing what's unfolding in contemporary ceramics (web, galleries, museums,...).
Looking around your local or provincial community can you name 3 other clay artists that should be on our radar?
Would you describe your work as having any inherent "Canadian Aesthetic"? If so can you describe how you might perceive stylistic trends in contemporary Canadian Ceramics.
I find this question very difficult to answer. If I'm being completely honest, my answer would be no. If I'm being as objective as possible, I would answer ''who am I to say'' or ''I don't know''. If I take in to account the events that I participate in and take a quick overview of other clay creators' work, I suppose I can see certain trends emerge. My work might fall into some of those trends, for instance the use of decals. However, decals aren't inherently ''Canadian'' in and of themselves and their use is abundant in the field right now. A ''Canadian aesthetic'' is certainly not something that I consider or consciously explore when in the process of creating new work. My hope is to create works that have their own voice, to propose something new.
What are your favourite forms to work with? Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Most of my production work is wheel thrown or slab built, which can get repetitive. Though there is something to be said about the satisfaction and joy that can come from honing one's skills and perfecting the craft, I truly love embarking on the journey that is sculptural work and am happiest when in the process of making/creating new work. I absolutely love sculpture making. My approach to creating is quite different when tackling this type of project. In order to keep things fresh in the studio, I try to alternate between production and sculptural work. My favourite shapes or forms are the ones I haven't created yet.
The Evolution of Fatso
Can you retell one of your favourite stories about being an artist?
I'm not much of a storyteller, but being an artist, for me, is about being open, being present and trusting the journey.
Were there any hard challenges you had to overcome in your career? What did you learn from mistakes or challenges? Could you offer some advice for others who are trying to have similar success as makers?
In some ways, I feel as though my career has just begun. I'm starting my fifth year as a full time potter and I feel as though I have much to learn. One of my biggest challenges as a ceramic artist is to value my work and to overcome any fear associated with putting my creations out there. I've worked hard on this by aquiring skills which have helped me with many aspects affiliated to selling work. For instance, I took some business courses to become more comfortable and to gain confidence when communicating with clients. Though I still have tremendous room to grow, I'm happy with the progress I've made thus far. My advice would be to arm yourself with knowledge and to gain the skills you might be lacking in order to find solutions to the challenges you face.
Favourite artist, ceramic or otherwise.
Just one, one favourite artist? This is way too difficult! On this day, in this very moment, my answer is Richard Notkin, but ask me again tomorrow and it might change!
What's on your playlist in the studio? Silence, music, podcasts?
Because I have a shared studio space, I often wear earbuds to listen to music or podcasts. This connection to sound helps me stay focused. I'm fairly certain that silence would occupy a greater part of the space if I were alone in my studio. I'm currently listening to AltJ, The Barr Brothers, Half Moon Run, Hawksley Workman, The Jezabels, Lou Doillon, Patrick Watson, PJ Harvey, Radiohead, Regina Spektor, Sylvan Esso, Timber Timbre and The XX, to name a few! I'm a big fan of podcasts as well. Here are a some of my favourites: Tales of a Red Clay Rambler, More Perfect, Reply All, Hidden Brain, On Being, Invisibilia, Radiolab, Meet the Composer, The Moth, Mark Maron, Death Sex and Money, and TED radio hour, again to name a few!