Lisa McGrath | Episode 334
Lisa McGrath’s sculptures are the expression of the animals with whom she shares her backyard. McGrath plucks those beings and transports them into her whimsical, wonder-filled narratives….. so to with her functional work. It is just as full of wonder and evokes a story… this mug reminds you perhaps, of the night circus – or something…. Lisa McGrath completed her BFA in Ceramics from Alberta College of Art and Design in 1997. She lives and maintains her studio on the cusp of Kananaskis country with her partner and child and four furry family members.
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Does your family support your career as an artist?
Definitely. Absolutely, definitely. My husband is very, very supportive and he’s proud which brings a bit of a tear to my eye. I appreciate him very much because I do know some people who are not as supported. And I can’t imagine not being supported, as artists it is not what we want to do but what we need to do. You have and idea and it needs to come out and certainly my family understands that and they appreciate it. At one time I did work in the ceramic studio at Wildflower Art Center and I remember dropping my daughter off at school one day and she asked me, Mum, are you coming home tonight? And my heart just dropped and I thought, What am I going to do? So I had a long conversation with my husband and he agreed to move his woodshop out of our basement and into the very cold garage and he gave me the basement. Now I have the absolutely wonderful, luxurious studio where I can still spend time with my family.
How do you balance your life?
That is a big question. I think it depends on the time of year you ask. This time of year it is more balanced than during sales season. During sales season I can get quite stressed out and my family can feel that. At the end of the day, just as long as I feel happy and my family is happy I guess that’s what the balance is. But I am not going to pretend that I’ve figured it out. It can get pretty stressful sometimes.
What is the most difficult part of finding balance as an artist, a mum, a wife, an administrator? What is the hardest part?
The hardest part, I think, is knowing when you have to drop something and pick something else up. Knowing how to play triage, if you will. I think that is the hardest part, knowing where your efforts are most needed at the time.
Do you see yourself as an artist or a craftsperson?
I see myself as an artist. I am a ceramicist for sure. I don’t work in any other mediums but I think because of this strange, creative split-personality that I have, I can only call myself an artist and not a craftsperson.
Do you see yourself as ever branching out to other mediums?
No. Right now I don’t. I am attracted to wood products, but as it stands right now I feel that clay continues to offer and to open so many more doors. There is so much more experimentation to do.
How do you edit your work?
In what terms?
To make it come out the way you want it to , as you are making your work, knowing when to stop and when to add?
You know, this is a big conversation I have with a lot of the students at the art center, is knowing when it’s OK to let it go, to let that piece go. One of the very common phrases that I use around the art center is that nothing is precious. Sometimes I can work on a piece for hours and hours and realize that it’s just not going in the right direction and I’ve taken steps that I cannot backtrack on. It’s OK to throw it in the garbage. It really is OK. I have gained a lot of knowledge in the process.
My last question is, do you believe in artist’s block?
Oh for sure. Yes. I feel like I have experienced it.
How do you get past it?
You surround yourself with creative people. You look at images on the internet. You listen to The Potters Cast. You seek inspiration wherever you can find it.