Tuesday, April 15, 2008

EarthDay series - Minouette

Ele of Minouette is a printmaker from Toronto. She has been printmaking since she was a child. She learned about lino, silk screen printing and etching at the Art Gallery of Ontario and has taken a variety of art classes over the years. Most recently, she studied hand paper-making and Japanese-style wood block printing. The interesting thing about this shop is that it is really run by her cat Minouette who very kindly allows Ele to live and work in her home.

What makes your shop, art or craft eco-conscious and how do you incorporate this awareness into your shop and studio?

I try to be aware of the impact of my actions and the energy I use in everything I do. I'm a scientist working on ways to find alternative energies for my "day job" so this comes naturally. A simple way to avoid waste is to re-use and re-purpose (which is even more energy efficient than recycling). I re-purpose clothing and old vintage fabric and buttons in the animals and pillows in my shop. What can look tacky to the modern eye in large doses can be a lot of fun in an accent and older patterns can be inspiring and evocative. My sewing machine is an antique! I also use ephemera in collage art work; papers which would otherwise be waste. I re-use and re-purpose packaging material.

Sometimes I re-purpose linoleum. Usually a linoleum block print is made out of a product made for artists- but there is nothing stopping us from using old floor tiles.

Also, as a printmaker, I'm aware of the damaging effects of chemicals, often used by printmakers, on both the environment and the human nervous system of artists involved. I specifically avoid anything with VOCs (volatile organic chemicals) and strictly use water-based inks. I read all labels. This is really important for artists to recognize; don't put your health at risk to create art!

Do you use organic supplies/materials?

A lot of the paper I use is handmade and strictly plant material. Sometimes, I make the paper myself. Handmade papers employ fewer chemicals. I use them because they are beautiful, they don't deform asymmetrically (as machine-made papers do) and they have ideal texture for printmaking. It's a great bonus that they typically have lower environmental impact and are acid-free.

How do you save on energy consumption in your workspace or conducting business?
Everything in my shop is handmade so the power involved is made by me (i.e. all carving, inking, burnishing, hand-sewing). The only non-human energy used is for light and the not-flashy-antique sewing machine. I don't own a car; when I get supplies or mail products I do so on foot, on my bike or on public transit.

Do you practice a traditional craft on the verge of extinction? Please explain where this craft comes from and how old it is with a little background description.

I haven't got anything currently in the shop which contains handmade paper, but I think it is pertinent so I'll mention it.
I sometimes make paper by hand with plants (leaves, grasses, flowers, stems, anything with fibres). This craft is as ancient as they get. It is thousands of years old. Few people go out, gather plant material, boil it with say ash or lye, rinse, then use a frame and deckle to more-or-less sieve out the fibres on to a couch. There the paper has excess water sponged away. It is then pressed and dried. The products using strictly plant material are quite unusual. They may not be the best for writing or painting, but have an ephemeral beauty of there own. It's kind of magical to take plants and water and make paper. In this too it is important to pay attention and harvest plant material in such a way that the plant itself survives.

Thank-you very much Ele. Your prints are delightful and I thought it really appropriate for Earth Day that you have so many animals, including the elephant and tiger which are protected and the Dodo bird which is now extinct. It is a reminder to us that that earth is fragile and needs our care. Best of luck to you with your shop.

This feature has been prepared for you by Morgen of Inkyspider Designs and Kootsac re-usable food bags.


tanisalexis said...

HOORAY for Minouette/Ele!!! :)
I am a big fan of Minouette's since we met a few yrs back on
we talked art and physics together and I was instantly a fan.
Thank you Morgen for your great series highlighting some very special Canadian ecofriendly sellers. :) XOXO!

Laura Bucci said...

Good point about using old floor tiles. It's an example of a way of thinking about materials and tools that I think many of us -- artist types -- are learning to do.

Ele said...

Thanks Morgen for writing this fun piece! Minouette (the cat) will be very pleased. :)

I meant to say the "modern eye" not "idea"- Freudian typo. ;)

Thanks Tanis and Laura for your kind words.

Morgen said...

You're welcome Ele. It was a pleasure looking through your shop and learning about your art experience, especially with respect to printing. As an artist too, printing is my first love.
PS. I fixed your Freudian slip for you.

Rhonda said...

lovely article, and great work ele!

paper making is a fabulous craft! i am planning to do more of that in the future too. i want to start making new paper with all my paper scraps! it's a great way to use them if only i could find the time to do it :D