Pam Lobb's Sunlit
Toronto, Canada: where
19 mins: read time
We don’t get many great days in May, but on the day that we chose to interview Pam Lobb at her Graven Feather studio, a good May day became better. Pam had agreed to be a part of our scheduled Together “pop-up” show and Alexis and I were visiting her home studio to catch up with her. Pam’s west end home was a quiet, art-filled place, with conversation pieces in every corner. I say it was quiet because the king of the castle, her son Jasper was asleep upstairs. We went to the backyard and sat at a charming table that was a few feet ahead of the Graven Feather studio space. After a great chat about being a new mother, her community dreams and some musical exploration, this interview was captured:
What did it mean for you to be able to set up your studio?
Round one or round two?
Let’s say both.
So round one was a collective. There were three of us and we got a space on Queen street. That was big step at the time. I had just won the Toronto Best Work on Paper at the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition. I had a few exciting firsts happen. I got accepted to do a residency in Vermont and then got this studio. I was really coming into my own and taking my career more seriously.
So that was round one.
Round two was taking what I had started on Queen Street and at that point five years from the beginning it had gone from the three of us to only me. Jess had left after a year and a half to go back to school full-time. Erin moved on to do other things as well. I had the studio by myself and then got pregnant. So, it was, how do I take all of the things I love about having this space and this other baby that I had made. What are the important parts. It had always been a project that was evolving so how could I do that with a baby. I was excited to take the studio part and move that into the backyard of the house we had moved into that year. I brought all of my print making equipment back here. I have been doing that for the past year and a half.
I went back to the space on Queen Street for a few more exhibitions and now I am going to be collaborating with other galleries. So the gallery part I will be doing with other spaces which works well with mom life. I don’t have to be committed to one location with a lease. It keeps everything flexible. Round two is all about flexibility. If I want to think about it that way; round one was all about the space.
If someone were to ask you what your craft is, what would you say?
I started in sculpture and moved into printmaking. I worked as an assistant to a print maker for four years. That was really a formative time for me as an artist. It is so technique based. Which is something I really liked about sculpture and something I really like about print making. There are so many opportunities along the way to change the project and for it to evolve as certain material effect it. I think the way I work is like working with lots of pieces of things. Those both allow for lots of staging in the process. I am jealous though when I see someone sit down start to finish and make something. We had an artist-in-residence at our old place who would sit down and could paint something in four hours. It’s like wow! That is so the opposite of how I work. It is really neat to see how other people approach.
What influences that craft. You just spoke about momentary changes and influences and decisions, are they natural influences or situational.
Processes. For my work I am using a lot of found textiles and Japanese paper. Both of those have the properties of being natural materials. Sometimes you think something is going to dry one way. Just because of the fibres in either the paper or the fabric it might dry another way. Then I’ll think oh! Okay! I was going to do this but now I’ll work with what is going on this way.
It must be so random when you cannot
predict an outcome.
You can form a pretty good idea but, every once in a while I’ll be surprised.
When you are working and something doesn’t
come out, what purposes have you found
for those misprints?
Things can get cannibalized and used in other projects. It will be like this part failed but I can cut it off and use it over here and use it in another piece. It’s fun. I have boxes of successful parts. *laughs* for actual prints on paper they become almost tests or sketches for other ones. Reference points I guess.
What have you been able to learn or how have you been influenced by
the people you have had in your studio.
One is watching how other people work. A specific example is an artist who came with a calendar and it was all, ‘I need this many days for this drying time’ and ‘I want to do this step on this day’. That was something that I try to not formally incorporate into what I do but just to take how they work a timeline - on a big visual and cross things off and work along. It’s something that I didn’t do before. I guess watching peoples’ process… if they are big on using online resources or sketching just from their head.
What about energy in the space?
Both a volunteer Augustine from Hong Kong and Hannah from Australia helped us a lot. How they interacted in the art community. They were both like, “I like what happens here, I want to take part, what can I do?” That is so the opposite of my personality and I was like wow I really admire these people who can just walk in. Of course I totally want you to help, tell me about yourself. They were both really cool. Everyone who worked in our space was awesome. We had high school co-op students that I still work with. One is coming tomorrow to do some printing and now she is third year in OCADU. We have had Bri who was a volunteer, she ended up in a formal internship with us through Ryerson. Then she started in a more formal role at the studio taking on exhibitions and workshops and stuff.
I guess also, even though it was my project it was really exciting to have people propose something to me and then just let it go and let people do things. Graven Feather at the end in the old space - now it will change again - it was its own organism whether I was there or not. There were so many people contributing. So, in a way, seeing how a business or a project can be super organic; how everybody contributed and added to the ongoing experience.
How does someone get to work at Graven Feather?
It was easier on Queen because it was really just that people would pop in and chat, or through group exhibitions. Augustine googled us and sent a cold-call email, that he was coming to the city and wanted to come one day a week while he was here. He wanted to see what we were doing and how our print studio works.
Did you vet him or did you just say oh yeah okay?
Yeah okay, the worst thing that could happen is you are like this isn’t working. We had someone through a program called ‘times change’ which is a second career training program. Usually I would always say yes. I think because there is no one who didn’t work out.
So that’s how it worked on Queen street, how does it work here?
This one is still kind of getting its feet because it’s through my house now.
How would you like it to function?
So, residencies and workshops. One of the artists proposed a certain project. He wanted to do two dry point etchings over ‘x’ amount of weekends. He had a studio key and would just be in and out. That is sort of the ideal situation, to be the same as I was sharing the space on Queen. Instead of having lots of people through it will be more specific and project based, versus drop in style.
So there are no hours of operation?
Everything right now is more about when can you come? When do you work?
Are there any type of artists who are restricted from working in the studio?
There are artists who wouldn’t be conducive to the space for their own stuff. Its set up is so intimate and there is so much printing equipment. It really is ideal for people who are doing print making projects. I have had one photographer Julie Pasila who was working on lumen prints which are sun exposure prints. But things like oil painting of any size, would make you feel cramped and weird. Going from the space on Queen where we had every discipline, I think this will be more print based because of how the space is set up.
It’s a lovely space. Without the attached gallery how do you look forward with plans to exhibit the work of the Graven Feather community that you have built?
The first show is going to be with Proof Gallery in the Distillery District in November. We are still working out the details of that. Whether it will be work that’s affiliated with Graven Feather or just curated by me. Another project that is tentative is with a gallery who I won’t name but they represent artists. We are talking about working with an artist every other month. We would document it, create a video of them printing and then do a little release. Then they would be selling Graven Feather collaborative prints at their gallery. That’s an exciting one, I feel like it’s a really good pairing of how to use the space to connect with the artistic community. That is the tricky thing now. Keeping connected without being fully open to the public. I need to maintain those contact points.
Is it important to you to be communal?
That was one of my favourite parts of the other space so I still want to keep a little of the community building component. It can’t be the same as it was but that’s good because I want more down time with baby. Although Jasper is pretty good about going out to things. But I definitely want to slow down on the bigger projects.
What does the idea of live alone together mean to you? What comes to mind.
In the context of our conversation it made me think of living alone being my family Fraser and Jasper. Then Living together being in this shared space with other people who come to my studio.
Interview by Conway Stone
Photography by Alexis Venerus
See more of Pam's work at www.pamlobb.ca
Follow Graven Feather at @gravenfeather