Finding inspiration: where to start?

A great thing about being in art school is that you’re exposed to so many great artists of the past and present.

From all sides and in all mediums, I’ve been thrown the names of artists by my teachers for future reference or to become potential inspiration for my work. And as a student, I want to learn more about them and their work, but it can be a daunting task to explore all of these artists and feel overwhelming.

I’m in the second year of my BFA and I’m majoring in Sculpture and Installation. I have no idea what kind of media I want my work to be represented. Is it metal or is it plaster? Is it bronze or is it textiles? Do I want objects to speak for my ideas or do I venture into performance art?

In a way, it’s OK that I don’t k now. I’ve just started my major and I’m still figuring stuff out. And I’m certainly not alone in this journey. However, I don’t find a lot of comfort in that.

Right now, I’m taking various classes that are required by my program along with electives in subjects that interest me. I’m taking a course where we look at the study of semiotics, and the study of the body and of the physical space that surrounds us. Another class focuses on 3D technology can help build our sculpture by using technology and non-traditional materials. Another class focuses on theory and practices in contemporary art. My fourth class is probably the most fun in which I’m learning about textiles and its various practices like weaving and basketry.

And I’m really enjoying all of my classes. I like how I’m learning different practices from different artists across the large spectrum of sculpture art. Sculpture isn’t one medium but it’s a whole bunch of mediums. But I have no clue about which artist can inspire me. Up until now, my inspirations have been mainly photographers because I have identified myself as a photographer for many years. Now, I’m an “artist” or “multidisciplinary artist” which sounds vague and can mean many things. Which artist or artists will provide me with some sort of inspiration in my art practice? Where to start?

My solution to this dilemma is explore all of the names of artists my teachers have mentioned, and the ones I have found on my personal explorations. I want to write a post about them and their work, or perhaps one of their works, as a “get to know the artist”. It’s the only way that I can learn my practice, and the only way that my practice can evolve is to study other artists. Instead of getting overwhelmed, I’m going to focus on one artist per week and go from there.

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I’ve already created a list of the artists that come to mind. Fifteen is a good number to start with. Already there’s other names that are coming to mind. I will see what happens after this project hopefully, all good stuff!

Reading Week and Waterfalls

Reading Week has begun and I’m so happy for the break. I need a break. However, I have plenty of homework to get through, including a presentation for a group critique scheduled next Monday. I have no idea what I will be doing for that project but I’m not stressed about it. It’s a weird feeling but one that I’m familiar with. I’ve been thinking about the theme for the project so I’m hoping that as I get closer to the date some concrete ideas will materialize. In the mean time, I am forging through with my other assignments and I feel like I’m organizing my time well, or better than when I started in September.


This past weekend was our Thanksgiving holiday, which meant a long weekend for most. I still had to work (no 9-to-5 hours for me) but I had a holiday dinner with my parents on Sunday, which was small and nice. On Saturday, my friends and I headed to the Waterfall Capital of the World: Hamilton.

What I already didn’t know about Hamilton is that it’s the home of 120 waterfalls, and most of them are found on the Escarpment. When you think “waterfall”, you naturally think of Niagara Falls. Sadly, none of them are that big in Hamilton. The largest waterfall is Albion, which is quite pretty. And also quite popular.

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It was the perfect autumn day: warm, cool, blue sky with very little clouds. The leaves had already turned, and to see the reds, oranges and yellows in the trees is so beautiful to see. It was great to be outside of the city, too. The Albion Falls are located in the middle of the Bruce Trail, which is a gorgeous space that stretches from Niagara Falls to Tobermory.

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I haven’t touched any of my embroidery stuff in weeks. I miss it. However, right now, I’m trying to knit a toque in time for winter. We eat our turkeys early in the season only because the winter settles in quickly.

The Post KMAF Experience


I’m over a week late but I had to tell you all about my experience at KMAF!

Overall, it was a good day and a good experience. It was my first ever attempt to do a solo outdoor art show and I couldn’t have asked for better weather. It was a gorgeous day! My set up was very simple and modest (see above). I only had a few pieces to show which occupied one wall. The rest of my 10″ x 10″ space was filled with a table and chair. But that’s OK. I was happy to have received attention for my artwork more than the lack of artwork. And attention I did get!

While I would have liked to have had more art pieces to fill up another wall, I was happy with what I had. This show taught me that the kind of work that I do takes a lot of time. When I signed up to do the show, I had assumed it would take time but I didn’t realize how much time. I also learned to always have a Plan B–my installation idea didn’t work but thank goodness for fishing wire to do the trick!

I was also grateful for friends who popped by to visit and give me words of support. That meant a lot.

The experience was a good one that it gives me encouragement that the next one, which is happening on Sunday, October 26, will be good, too. I think I want to try to do these shows more often so I have to figure out a way to coordinate school work and personal projects. I can tell you that when school started, I was stressing about this show. However, I think a lot of stress came from not knowing what the experience was going to be like. Now that I have some idea, I think I can manage both. In preparation for the next show, I’ve ordered new business cards and I’m busy working on getting my new website launched. Mid-terms are coming up but honestly, I think I can manage!

The calm before the…

… Storm? Fun?

Who knows. But tomorrow is KMAF day!

Yep, tomorrow is the day that I will display my embroidered pieces and I’m excited and nervous.

My bags and supplies are packed. I have a list and I’ve crossed off most things.

I’m worried that I don’t have enough pieces to sell and that might look bad. I’m worried that I will appear to unprofessional because my website isn’t updated with my latest work. I’m worried that people will question the pricing of my pieces.

There’s a few things I would do if I had the time to do them. But given that this is my first solo art fair, it’s OK if I’ve missed a few things. As long as I don’t forget the art pieces, money and my business cards, I should be fine.

All I need a good night’s sleep but I’m too nervous for that.

Here we go!

Countdown to KMAF

Summer, why do you leave us so soon?

I look forward to these things in the summer: warm weather, beach trips, road trips, outdoor fairs and concerts. I was only able to do one road trip, but I was able to spend lots of time on my bike, going to the beach, and I checked out a few outdoor concerts. My summer wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) and riding the Polar Express–the only ride I can go on without getting sick. However, I am proud that I was able to go on another ride called ‘Crazy Mouse’ and enjoy it.

This past weekend, I attended Riot Fest in Downsview Park. My friend had passes for the two-day event and I was able to check out the Sunday performances, which were all great. Performances we saw included The New Pornographers, Stars, Metric, The National, and Die Antwoord. I danced and danced… It was so good!

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Checking out the air show at Hanlan’s Point.

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My classes are in full swing and I have assignments due in the next few days. What’s also coming on the horizon is the Kensington Market Art Fair (KMAF). I’m excited and concerned about it. I’ve never done a solo show before, especially at an art fair. I have a basic idea as to how I want my booth to be set up but honestly, I haven’t delved deeper into it. I’m more worried about getting enough pieces done for the fair and getting all of the small details accomplished.

I feel that I should panic to get everyone everything done, but I’m not in a panicky state of mind. I don’t have the 20 pieces I had originally planned for; I have only half. But it’s what I have. I wish I could stitch faster but unfortunately I can’t. I try to stitch in between my assignments or at work when it’s quiet. I’ve accepted the fact that there isn’t much I can do now except present what I have.

I also realized that I had signed up for way too much. Originally my plan was to do KMAF in September and October, and then a solo show at Superjet International in the fall but I had to back out of the latter. The curator, who is also my friend, was thankfully understanding, which is a great relief. She understood that I have way too much on my plate, even though I had the best of intentions to get everything done on time. While I had a few months to stitch when I agreed to do these shows, I worked every day on my ideas and a lot of the time was spent trying to figure out what to do. I sourced ideas, sketched, and tried techniques that eventually didn’t work, which lead to ones that did. It wasn’t until later in the summer that I had the opportunity to actually stitch. It made me realize that I can’t book two or three shows at the same time. One at a time is plenty.

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Like my makeshift drying rack? My willow branches now have a use instead of just being decorative!

There’s tons more to do for the show but I don’t want to panic because there’s no need for it. If I only have nine pieces to show and sell, then that’s what I have. I will continue to stitch up until the show date. In the meantime, I have to re-learn how to balance work, school and personal stuff again. With a year under my belt, I know what I need to do and not waste time doing it.

Vacation time

Summer is for music festivals.

What’s a better time than to head into nature with friends and see great bands. That was my weekend.

My friends C & J and I went to the Greenbelt Harvest Picnic, an event that combines farmers market, local artisans and music, and it’s held at the Christie Lake Conservation Area, an hour away from Toronto. We’ve been going since the festival’s inception back in 2010 and it’s such a lovely event. It’s small enough to not be overwhelming or be overcrowded but big enough to attract a range of performers like Emmylou Harris and Ray Lamontagne.

All summer I have been yearning to get out of the city and get into nature. This was going to be my ticket to do that. Despite the overcast and cooler-than-normal weather, it was a great day to enjoy the festival. I loved breathing the fresh air and to feel the grass between my toes. I’ve said this before but I need to spend more time outside. More than usual!

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Christie Lake Conservation Area

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Of course, I was able to find some time to stitch.

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Serge and Jane, unclose. 6″, embroidery on cotton

Since we were an hour outside of Toronto, we decided to spend the night in Hamilton which is near the conservation area and we spent the next day exploring the city. I’ve visited Hamilton a lot over the years and I’m constantly surprised at how lovely this city is becoming.

For the last couple of years, the perception of Hamilton has changed from strictly blue-collar, boring, rundown city to a bourgeoning arts and culture hub. Buying a home in Toronto is becoming more and more expensive, and even renting a space for a shop is hard. More and more people are looking westward to Hamilton, which is an hour away from Toronto.

Similar to Toronto, Hamilton has retained a lot of its older buildings and Victorian town homes, which is a great mix of architecture styles. One corner you feel like you’re in the UK; at another corner, you think you’re in Montreal. When you add artists and young families, you see a lot of potential of how great this city is. 

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Old signs

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This looks like Downtown Montreal but we’re still in Hamilton

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Enjoying our coffees at Cannon Coffee Co.

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East Hamilton signage

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It’s all in the details

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In love with our surroundings at the Mulberry Street Coffee House on James St North

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Beautiful ceiling lamp silkscreened with images of Hamilton architecture

After hanging out in Hamilton, we drove around the back roads near Guelph. Again, I keep saying this but it’s true: I have to schedule more time in nature and outside of the city. I need it. It doesn’t help that I don’t have a license yet, but it shouldn’t stop me either.

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Farmland near Guelph

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To live here would be heaven

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More farms!

On September 12-14, Hamilton is hosting a big art and music called Supercrawl. I’ve heard great things about it where the event shuts down a few main streets for art installations and music stages. I want to check it out as it sounds like so much fun.

In the meantime, I’m busy stitching for the Kensington Market Art Fair, which is a fast approaching. As well as school. Yikes, it’s September already!


Eight-bit love

© Stephanie Cloutier

Last weekend, I attended the most beautiful ceremony for two great people I know in my life, Carmen and Nick. Their wedding was held at the Royal Conservatory of Music, which is a beautiful space near the University of Toronto district. The wedding was intimate and it brought together family and friends, as well as people I adore and rarely spend time with.

For their wedding present, I was inspired by a picture they posted on Facebook a few years and decided to recreate it in embroidery. It’s a thoughtful gift and was a project that I enjoyed doing. Also, the bride and groom really like it.