Skip to main content

Six of the Best, Part 3


Part 3 of an interview series in which I invite artists to respond to six questions about art, process, and creativity. Today's artist is Mia Leijonstedt, a Finnish artist who lives in England. 


"How Stories are Born" artist's book


Philip Hartigan: What medium/media do you chiefly use, and why?

Mia Leijonstedt: I have a broad general training in visual arts, but my main discipline for the past 15 years has been contemporary bookbinding and sculptural book art. I'm easily bored with any one art technique, and books have proven to be a canvas that can accommodate an endless amount of creative experiments and numerous different materials, thus keeping me hooked. But beyond its any given outer form, my art is about conveying tales through the use of materials, the tactile details being the language in which a story is told.

PH: What piece are you currently working on?

ML: In the past year I have been transitioning from book art towards making jewellery, and at the moment I'm working on a series of lariats that to me are much like "artist's books". I see the meandering combination of stones and knotwork as a tale without words, and I'm telling a story through the use of materials in a very similar way that I've always done in my book works. My current tales just happen in the shape of wearable art instead.

Example of stones and knotwork


PH: What creative surprises are happening in the current work?

MLIn general I'm surprised these days at how enjoyable it can be just to follow the materials, listen to the direction where they want to lead me and see what comes up. It's always been an important way of working for me, but now that I'm not locked in by certain technical considerations of a book structure, I can truly revel in the pure joy of combining different tactile materials and let them lead me to the final piece. Elements just seem to fall in their right places without forcing and there's less and less of "creative agony" in my studio these days. I seem to have found the kind of a flow and ease in the making that I used to long for in my early years as an artist.

PH: What other artistic medium (or non-artistic activity) feeds your creative process?

MLI love to go beach combing, just wishing I lived closer to the sea. When I do manage to go, I lose the track of time collecting peculiarly shaped stones, driftwood, shells. Later, I examine the tones, shapes and textures in them, and much of it translates into my work eventually, one way or another. I'm endlessly fascinated by the natural world, its phenomena and discoveries. Rugged shores, desert, storms, wilderness - the presence of nature charges me up. I also love to discover artists whose work instantly grabs me as having a certain combination of emotional depth and professional skill in which they express the inner workings of their creative mind. I'm always intrigued by what makes individual artists put the time and effort into whatever they create.

Lariat style necklace (work in progress)


PH: What's the first ever piece of art you remember making?

MLAs I sat at my grandmother's kitchen table for the first four years of my life, drawing for hours every day from pretty much the moment I was able to sit by myself, I have no recollection of the "first" piece. Some of those drawings survive, like a line drawing of an elephant that I drew at the age of 3 after getting to meet one up close. That drawing is still infinitely better than what I'd be able to draw now. But even if I was drawing a lot as a child, it was specifically the making and crafting of things that was closest to my heart - using sticks and stones and strings to craft all sorts of arty objects. I guess pretty much what I'm still doing!

PH: Finally, and you can answer this in any way that's meaningful to you: why are you an artist?


MLIf I was a leopard, being an artist would be my spots. Developing my creative projects is almost like an additional sense through which I experience the world, and working in the timeless space of my art studio is the way I meditate. But it's also special if what I create also resonates with someone else outside my studio. If my work inspires another on their own life path, that's a fulfilling reason for me to be an artist.

If you liked this interview, and you'd like to keep up to date with the series, why not Subscribe, or sign-up via Google Connect, using one of the options over on the right? Thanks, and keep creating.

Comments

  1. Lovely to hear from a book artist! She's producing some beautiful projects - and I'm going to go and look at more of her work now, Philip. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

How to etch a linoleum block

Linoleum as a material for printmaking has been used for nearly a hundred years now. Normally, you cut an image out using special gouges similar to woodcut tools, cutting away the lino around the image you want to print. This is called relief printmaking, because if you look at the block from the side, the material that remains stands up in relief from the backing material. You then roll ink with a brayer over the surface of the block, place paper over it, and either print by hand or run it through a press. You can do complex things this way (for example, reduction linocuts), but the beauty of the process is that it is quick, simple, and direct.


A few years ago, I saw some prints that were classified as coming from etched linoleum blocks, and I loved the textures I saw in them. In the last few months, I've been trying to use this technique in my own studio, learning about it as one does these days from websites and YouTube videos. I've also had email exchanges with several pr…

Brancusi in Plastic

Artist Mary Ellen Croteau is showing these columns made from recycled plastic cartons and lids in the window of the Columbia College bookstore on Michigan Avenue. They are a playful homage to Brancusi's "Endless Columns", with a serious environmental message for our times:

Mary Ellen also runs a wonderful experimental art gallery in a window space in west Chicago, called Art on Armitage. I will be exhibiting a mixed media piece there during August 2012.

A List of Every Drink in Hemingway's "The Sun Also Rises"

I first read Ernest Hemingway's 1926 novel "The Sun Also Rises" when I was a teenager, and immediately fell in love with it. For the last couple of years, I have had the incredible privilege of teaching a class based around Hemingway in Paris -- while living and teaching in Paris itself, close to the Boulevard du Montparnasse, where most of the action of the novel's first half takes place.

Of the many things that one notices about the book, the colossal amount of drinking is something that stands out. These people didn't just drink like fish: they drank like whales, as if the ocean they swam in was alcohol and they had set themselves the task of drinking the seas of the world dry of it. During my read-through of the book before class started last year, I tried to underline every mention of drink in the book. And now, purely in the interests of science, I am listing the entire menu of booze mentioned directly by name. Some preliminary observations:
Most of this is…