It’s always interesting when you walk into a situation where you automatically assume you will have nothing in common with the person, and are quickly proven wrong. The last thing I expected was to ever have anything in common with someone majoring in Fibers, seeing as how I basically failed the sewing part of Home Economics in high school. However, my conversation with Amanda McCavour started off with discussing how we have both been to the same Ski/Snowboard resort in Canada (small world, eh?) But that’s beside the point.
After a five-year hiatus following her residency at Harbourfront Centre in Canada, McCavour decided to go back to school, and Tyler School of Art would be her place of choice. So what exactly does a student going for their Fibers MFA do? Well, if you’re like me, you probably thought it was all about sewing – but it’s actually a fairly broad major, including things like weaving and even silk screen printing. McCavour, of Toronto, Canada, is focused more so on embroidery and drawing; and hopes to continue doing both of these things in her future.
CC: Please introduce yourself.
AM: My name is Amanda McCavour. I’m from Toronto, Canada. I’m in the Fibers department and I’m in my first year of my MFA. I make work with a lot of embroidery, but I’m really interested in drawing and the different applications of drawing in artwork.
CC: How has being schooled in the arts helped you?
AM: I think that teachers are really great and one of the best things about being in school, because you can see how they work and how they explain things, and have conversations with them. Seeing the way my teacher’s art practices have evolved has been really educational to me. And getting to know artists that are your teachers as people, that’s been really great. School has been really great for me. Also, having assignments and having those limits can be really great because you have these limits of an assignment, but then you can work within them.
CC: What makes you special?
AM: What I hope would make me special is my experimentation with materials. I think I explored that earlier in my career and kind of concentrated on one particular aspect of work. What’s special about me and what’s special about my studio practice right now is an openness to possibilities embedded in materials and ways of making.
CC: What are your plans for turning yourself into a business?
AM: Making myself into a business is going to be an interesting process. I want to make sell-able pieces that are really exciting to me. I think that I’ll probably work with galleries, which I have done in the past and am still doing now. I hope to establish myself as an artist that shows in commercial and public spaces.
CC: What are your marketing plans?
AM: Websites are very valuable. I look at websites all the time. If I’m going to a lecture, I’ll look at their website. The way I find different artists is by looking online. I have a great website designer right now, and I’d like to further that. [I may add] a blog too to document processes because people like to hear about the way things are made. That would be a good way of exposing that part of my practice too.
CC: What inspires you to create what you create?
AM: A lot of thing around me. In the past, I was thinking about my apartment spaces as a sort of inspiration for work. It’s sort of like, you’re always looking for stuff. On my wall, I have junk I picked up from the side of the road, and I just liked the textures. You can always see that stuff around you and just sort of be looking for these tid bits – like textures or lines and just collecting those things and then I think they get distilled into pieces and work.
CC: What are you most afraid of in regards to your work?
AM: Most of the time I’m afraid of doing a bad job, and I’m afraid of not having control in my work; which is something I’m working on in my studio practice right now. All of my beginning drawings are really controlled and I really like neatness and controlled lines, so I’m afraid of that lack of control; like messiness. I’m trying to embrace that in my practice right now. I’m also afraid of really dark stuff. A lot of my work is really light – but recently, I’ve just been looking at those things that I’m not comfortable with and that I’m afraid of and trying to integrate them into my practice.
CC: Have you ever gotten to a point where you felt like quitting and how did you deal?
AM: At my residency at Harbourfront Centre, each year they have a review, so you have to get critiqued. My review in my second year was really critical and I felt so crappy after getting that feedback. It really felt like I worked hard, but I wasn’t thinking about my work critically enough. I wasn’t stepping back from it, I was just sort of making and not thinking while I was making, but at the time, it was so hard to hear because I thought I was doing a great job. It was a lot of constructive criticism, but it was hard to hear. And I think sometimes those moments when you’re really frustrated and upset – those are good moments to pay attention to. I was really upset about it, but how I got over it was I just kept making stuff, even though I felt like I didn’t want to. And then I think with distance, you realize that those sort of critiques – what comes across as criticism, is [just] an interest in pushing you forward and furthering your scope and approach to work. That felt like the worst thing in the moment, but now I can look back on that and say that that was a turning point for me. A strategy for if you’re feeling really discouraged, is just to keep doing it, and if it has to be that you’re making stupid stuff, just make stupid stuff for a little bit, and you’ll get beyond it.
CC: What are three things that every artist should know?
AM: Spend time in your studio. I think that if you are working and dedicating that time, that that’s when good things happen; and to keep working. Talk to other people. I think that that can happen in so many different and exciting ways, and to be open [and] ask people to come see your work or talk to them about their work, I think that that’s really important and that’s also what residencies in the past have done for me. I guess some people would call that networking, but I would say just communicating with people, talking with people and being open to those conversations. Also, look at a lot of artwork and go see shows.
CC: What are your future plans?
AM: I want to keep making artwork. I would like to graduate from this program and continue my career. I would love to have a dedicated studio space. I’ve worked from home a fair bit, and I like to have my studio outside of my house. I don’t think I’ll stay in the states – or I’m not sure if that will be possible. If I get a teaching position somewhere, that would be kind of cool. I think my main goal with coming here was to focus on my work, and I would like to continue that after school. [I want to] apply to shows, and I have a couple shows lined up for after I’ve graduated so I’ll pursue that. I’m always interested in doing residencies. When you travel, you start to really notice things, and getting out of your everyday comfort zone is something that’s really important to me, so I hope to do some residencies. I’m doing a residency this summer in New Brunswick, Canada, which I’m really looking forward to, and I have a solo exhibition in B.C., in Canada as well. Showing work is really important to me, so I think that would have to be part of my future plans – is to both be making and showing work, to be able to continue that conversation beyond just me and the work is essential to making art work.
CC: Who do you aspire to be like?
AM: As an artist, there are tons of people I really respect. One artist I really love is Do-Ho Suh, who has this ability to work with a variety of different materials and speak about these really big things. He makes these fabric interiors that I’m just in awe of. The head of the craft department at the Harbourfront Centre, Melanie Egan. She will fight for you and fight for what she loves so she’s a person I look up to. Her feist and her conviction is something I really respect and aspire to emulate in my life.
CC: Who would you model your work after?
AM: Do-Ho Suh, who I mentioned before. I would like to think that my work is somewhere in that vein. Louise Bourgeois is a great artist and I’ve been looking at a lot of her drawings and I would like to model myself after some of the way she uses lines in her work. Emma Caunes is also another artist I’ve been looking at and who I really like – lots of geometric shapes and then Isa Genzken. Her work is really great and the way she lets things fall in space and curve in gravity, I’m thinking about that in my next project. Those are the people I’m thinking about right now.
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(Posted by Kate Trowbridge)