Erin Callahan St. John
I am a full time professional artist who works in clay. In the 15 years since I was introduced to clay, I have apprenticed, graduated and received funding to create one of a kind pieces and developed production lines. I studied with Isabella St John, potter of 45 years and my aunt, at Blue Moon Pottery before attending the Textiles Studies program at The College of the North Atlantic. Then at The Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University I majored in Ceramics with a minor in Art History. Grants offer an opportunity to focus solely on my career as an artist. My job as a production potter develops my technical skill which supports my artistic practice. I am an active member in the art and craft community and make work based on wildlife and folklore in Newfoundland.
This past year I have been working in porcelain decorated with typeset to make every day functional pots hosting Newfoundland sayings. Stemming from a residency on Fogo Island (2014) with Tilting Recreation and Cultural Society where I was surrounded by heavy Irish accents and history. After reading Tilting by Robert Mellin, I was in awe of the drive to preserve and restore Tilting. Tracing roots back 400 years to the first Irish to arrive in Newfoundland, this struck a chord. The language caught my attention and I started transferring the words I heard onto clay, setting language in stone.
1. When did you first realize you wanted to become an artist?
I knew I wanted to be an artist when i was four. Started drawing when I was three.
2. What mediums do you work in and why?
I Work in clay, textiles and I draw. Drawing was my first instinct.Years later I started making work in clay. I made a sculpture for a boyfriend in highschool. Clay was just as natural for me as drawing and I started working for my aunt in her clay studio, Blue Moon Pottery. I started as a production potter using plaster molds and talking to visitors in the store and explaining the process and techniques involved in clay.
3. How do you get ideas for your artwork?
Observation. Travel. Newfoundland has so much raw beauty to express. Looking out of my studio in Quidi Vidi I can draw from the historical surroundings and wildlife.
4. What other artists influence your artwork?
My Mom, she used to draw and paint, until she had children. When I was growing up my dad was a textiles artist, a weaver and his sister Isabella St. John a ceramic artist who has been my mentor, partner and studio mate. Outside the family, Gerald Squires influenced my work greatly. Teaching me how to draw and paint, and appreciate the history and natural beauty of Newfoundland.
5. What are the “big” themes in your artwork?
Newfoundland folklore, language and the fishing communities where I’ve been fortunate enough to have a studio. The Battery; Blue Moon Pottery, Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University Pier 1 campus, and currently Quidi Vidi Village Plantation. The human body also inspires my work.
6. What is the greatest challenge you face as an artist working in Newfoundland & Labrador?
Fortunately, growing up in an art oriented family I had access to a studio, and family that understood and supported the risks involved in becoming as artist. The number one challenge I have is paying off my student loan.
7. What is the best thing about working as an artist in this province?
Everyone seems to be involved in the arts in one way or another and having the support of the local public makes this a career worth pursuing.
8. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Student loan paid off, with my own studio and house outside the city with annual round the world trips for residencies in Japan, China, India and South America.
9. If you werenʼt an artist, what would you be doing?
Fundraising or administration.
10. If you could have one wish granted, what would it be?
That everyone had the opportunity to make art.
April Fowlow is an interdisciplinary artist from Guelph Ontario. In 2017 she received a BFA in Visual Arts at Grenfell Campus Memorial University. She also studied abroad for two semesters, in Harlow, England and Hobart, Tasmania. She has exhibited her work in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, including juried exhibitions at the Tina Dolter Gallery and the Grenfell Campus Art Gallery. As well, she has shown her work in England and Australia. The focus of Fowlow’s art practice is her passion for coral, which she regards as the most beautiful life form on earth. In her work, she attempts to visually preserve coral through her sculpture, performances, installation and photography.
1. So April, I know you’re interested in curatorial studies, tell us a little about your work in curation, what you’ve been learning? How you’ve been learning about it?
I have been working at the Grenfell Art Gallery for one and a half years, and have learned an enormous amount about curating. A lot of that was by installing and uninstalling shows, helping with the mailing list, helping plan activities for the community such as school groups, and many other tasks. I learn as I go, as every exhibition is different to install. Everyone finds their own way of working, also when working with a great team like the one at the Grenfell Art Gallery you are able to learn a lot from each other.
2. Tell us about your own art practice, have you found doing curatorial work has effected it?
My own work is based around preserving beauty, especially coral as I find it the most beautiful life form on earth. Therefore I create my art keeping aesthetics as one of my main focuses. Working in the gallery I am aware that how you present your work impacts how it will be viewed. So I always try to keep in mind the material I use to install my work, what environment I will install in, and the proper lighting so my piece is represented well.
3. Since you’re close to graduation, can you tell us about the work you have planed for your graduating exhibition?
I am about to graduate, I will be apart of the fourth year graduating exhibition Sightlines. I am putting in a video of my performance called No Where To Go, which is a piece I did outside this winter down at the Corner Brook harbour. I stand in a coral sculpture which I made wearing a dress to match the coral. I wait in the freezing temperature and snow for 25 minutes, as I cannot physically handle it any longer. I am trying to be empathetic for coral and their fight to survive within their environment.
Another piece I am putting in along side this one is called Seascape. I have taken three large pieces of sheet metal and shaped and cut holes to represent branching coral up close. Then I banged circular dents into the remaining branches to create a texture. I will layer these three pieces and hang them one in front of each other and light to create shadows.
4. Do you plan to continue on with curation after you graduate? In what capacity?
Once I graduate I hope to keep working at a gallery and having exhibitions during this next year before I apply for a masters. I am interested learning more about curatorial work so I will keep this as one of my main focuses as I move forward.
5. What advice would you give to students who are just starting off?
Since I have been at Grenfell I have learned so much. One important thing I wish I knew a little earlier on in my degree is that documentation of your work is one of the most important things you should be doing as an artist. If you want to apply for anything such as residencies, your masters, or exhibitions you need good documentation of your work. In the last year I have made this my main priority. Another is to gain as many experiences you can while you are in school such as travelling to see other places for inspiration and see art outside your community. There are many opportunities to be found out in the world and amazing things to see.