Interview: Cassandra Wolfe

Today we’re joined by Cassandra Wolfe. Cassandra is a phenomenal artist jack of all trades. She’s predominantly a fantasy writer who is working on a novel that sounds absolutely fascinating. When she’s not writing, Cassandra enjoys photography, particularly wildlife. She’s incredibly passionate, as  you’ll soon read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

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WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I’m a bit of a jack of all trades really but my main focus at the moment is my writing (funny considering I’m trained as an art teacher). I work mainly in the fields of urban fantasy. I am currently working on the final drafts of what I hope to be my first novel featuring a bunch of werewolves living in modern day Australia along with a few short stories that I’m working on getting published in some online anthologies.

Outside of writing I’m trained in painting but I find that these days most of my work tends to utilize photography as a medium, with wildlife being one of my favourite subjects. I’ve also dabbled in both ceramics and sketching.

What inspires you?

I get most of my inspiration from the natural world and folklore. I grew up in a family that loved nature so I was lucky enough to spend a lot of time in the African wilderness which made me fall in love with the wonder that is wildlife. There’s a certain thrill that comes with getting up close to wild animals and it hasn’t faded now that I’m dealing with kangaroos instead of springbok. I’m rather proud of the fact that I can and have gotten within meters of hartebeest, bat-eared foxes, snakes and lizards. Reptiles are my absolute favourite subjects to shoot simply because they’re so chill that it makes approaching them a piece of cake.

The folklore that inspires me comes through mainly in my writing where it combines with my love of the natural world in the form of critters that are closer to that world than most people are. I tend to include a lot of shape shifter lore in my work and the fae are never far behind! I also enjoy including aspects of my religion into what I write in terms of how I shape the magic and witchcraft that is 99% guaranteed to be a part of my fictional work.

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What got you interested in your field?  Have you always wanted to be an artist?

I was the kid who always wanted to sit down and write stories when asked what I wanted to do; it used to drive my sister up the wall. I actually entered a writing competition when I was pretty young and got to meet a whole bunch of authors at the close of it which helped drive my passion even if my story for it wasn’t what you’d call great. I still own the signed copies of one of Fiona McIntosh’s series and every time I feel disheartened by my writing I find reading that ‘keep writing’ on the front page keeps me going. Reading that little handwritten quote inspired me to be published one day when I was all of ten years old and that dream has yet to die on me.

My passion for Visual Arts came later in life even if, like most kids, I liked to draw when I was young. I actually originally planned on going into the equestrian industry with hopes of training race horses one day and even got a job as a groom at a show yard but unfortunately I had a bit of a tough time of it there. I ended up being rather over worked and on top of a couple of injuries I received I was slowly wearing my body out. I found that at that time the one thing that got me through it all was my art. I was doing some writing at the time but what really distracted me from my sore legs, ankle and back was painting. I bought a couple of canvas boards and some acrylic paint and Bob’s your uncle, I was falling in love with art all over again.

When I finally accepted that working in the equestrian industry wasn’t going to be possible going into art was the obvious choice. And since I had no desire to try and live purely off of my art I felt that being an art teacher was a perfect fit for me.

Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in your work that you’d be willing to reveal?

Not so much in my drawings and photographs per say but I do have a few in my writing. One of the big things is ‘circles’, I love having little tidbits here and there that circle back and link to another part of the story. Half the time they’re completely irrelevant to the plot and very subtle in their implementation but I just love including them. Eyes would another one, I fully believe that eyes are the window to the soul and as such the eyes of my various critters tend to tell a tale in themselves. It’s one of the reasons why all of my shifter characters retain their human eye colour when in animal form.

On a larger scale you can expect to see a bunch of diversity in what I write, half of my characters end up being some version of queer (often less well known sexualities) and I try to limit the amount of cis, straight, white males in my writing since they’re over-represented in fiction.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Don’t be afraid to experiment; try different mediums and genres, play around, try something that might not work for the hell of it. It’s the only way to grow no matter what your field is. And above all, persevere. It doesn’t matter if what you made didn’t come out the way you wanted it to, you still made it and the next time it will be even better. Even your worst mistake is better than not having tried in the first place.

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ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I identify as demisexual and homoromantic.

Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field?  If so, how do you handle it?

Most people haven’t heard of it to be honest, I’ve only heard it mentioned once. That time there was a bit of confusion about it but I didn’t exactly feel comfortable explaining more since I was just a prac student at the time. As a whole the Australian education system is generally anti-LGBTQIA+ with a recent program designed to teach high school students about the various genders and sexualities and why it’s wrong to discriminate being muzzled and defunded by the government over fears that it was sexualizing children. I find that being an art teacher makes it easy enough to get around that prejudice however as half of the artists I teach experienced some form of discrimination.

I haven’t really encountered anything in terms of my writing but if I get published it’ll only be a matter of time considering Wolf Moon and its sequel currently feature at least two lesbians, an ace-aro, and two non-binary folk.

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What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?

That it’s the same as being straight. That’s the big one online at the moment and it drives me demented considering that most of the people spouting it refuse to be swayed from their position by the experiences of actual ace and aro people. It’s especially frustrating because of the impact it has on the ace (and aro) communities as both are made to feel unwelcome in both straight and LGBTQIA+ spaces.

What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?

Ignore the current online discourse; it’s not reflective of real life LGBTQIA+ spaces at all. Most of the people in those spaces have no issues with aces or aros and those who do aren’t worth giving a damn about if you ask me. Whatever your orientation you are valid, it doesn’t matter if things change down the line or if you don’t have the exact word to describe your orientation, you and your experiences remain valid. Just hold your head up high and be proud of who you are.

Finally, where can people find out more about your work?

Those interested in my writing can find it at http://cassandrawolfe.tumblr.com/ I tend to post drabbles, and writing advice there as well as keeping people updated on the progress of my bigger works there. My art can be found at http://thepaintedwolfe.tumblr.com/ with the vast majority of it being wildlife photography.

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Thank you, Cassandra, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.

Interview: Aaron

Today we’re joined by Aaron. Aaron is an incredibly interesting artist who works in ceramics. He runs Aberrant Ceramics and produces work that is inspired by a number of different artistic movements. His unique ceramics bring to mind Dali and it’s really fascinating to look at, as you’ll see. My thanks to him for taking the time to participate in this interview.

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Chamsa

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I use “Aberrant Ceramics” to describe my work.

I work with stoneware clay.  I make hand-built ceramic pottery, sculpture, ornaments, and menorahs.  My style is primitive, grotesque, humorous, literal.  I’ve been working with clay for almost 12 years.  I have very minimal training in hand-building, but I’m mostly self-taught.

What inspires you?

Fossil organisms, especially from the Burgess Shale, Cthulhu Mythos entities, Parallel Botany, insects and arachnids, Star Wars, Dungeons & Dragons, cephalopods, tardigrades, Lewis Carroll, Dada, Outsider Art, Discordianism, Cannabis, eyes, teeth, spikes, tentacles.

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Eye Cup

What got you interested in your field?  Have you always wanted to be an artist?

I took a pottery class in 2004 as a social outlet.  It didn’t turn out to be a social outlet, but I fell in love with the medium.

I had secretly wished I could be an artist for a long time, but I never had a medium as versatile as clay before.

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Eye Pot

Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in your work that you’d be willing to reveal?

My initials and the year.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

I don’t think I’m in a position to advise anyone.  You’re on your own, young, aspiring artists.

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Menorah

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I identify as a heteroromantic asexual.

Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field?  If so, how do you handle it?

I don’t talk about asexuality with many people, so I haven’t directly encountered prejudice or ignorance.  If I did encounter it, I would probably handle it with the magic of avoidance.

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Psychoeris

What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?

I don’t know if it’s the most common, but my favorite misconception is the one in which the other party insists that asexual can only refer to organisms that reproduce by fission or budding.

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Rhino

What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?

Label yourself however you wish.  Or don’t.

Finally, where can people find out more about your work?

Blog:  http://www.aberrantceramics.com
http://aberrantceramics.tumblr.com
http://www.etsy.com/shop/aberrantceramics
http://aberrantceramics.deviantart.com/gallery
http://www.facebook.com/aberrantceramics

I’m on various other social media sites under the name Aberrant Ceramics.

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Tardigrade

Thank you, Aaron, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.

Interview: Noelle

Today we’re joined by Noelle. Noelle is a fantastic visual artist who does ceramics and crochet. She enjoys making art that can also be touched and felt. Her crocheted creatures are absolutely adorable and the colorful material is so incredibly pretty. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

gir embroidered pillow
Gir Embroidered Pillow

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I’m a mostly self-taught artist. I work completely in art that you can touch with your hands, mostly in crochet and ceramics. I like to create things that people can wear, use, or that they can cuddle up with. I have more crochet hooks than make-up pallets. I have a particular fascination with Tunisian crochet and amigurumi, although I also enjoy making hats, scarves, and gloves.

What inspires you?

My biggest inspiration is music. It’s always been a happy place for me, knowing I would have a safe haven at the listening end of an iPod. I’m also inspired by color, nature, and yarn. I’ve always been of the opinion that the world doesn’t have enough color. I also love to see my fandoms come to life, like Pokemon, Firefly, Steven Universe, among others.

Milotic doll
Milotic Doll

What got you interested in your field?  Have you always wanted to be an artist?

I haven’t always considered artistry. In my younger years, being an artist was being able to draw or paint, or play music. I can do neither of those things. It wasn’t until I was older that I realized art could be realized in many forms. As for what got me interested, my mother, a jewelry artist, taught me how to crochet when I was around 9. It started with how to make a simple chain and I taught myself everything else with the help of Youtube and some old crochet pattern books we have in the house. It wasn’t until I was in college that I discovered amigurumi, and began to crochet with a passion. Now, it’s a very comforting and fun artistic outlet.

Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in your work that you’d be willing to reveal?

The Chinese Hanzi for “Serenity” shows up quite a bit in my work. In my pottery, it’s carved into the clay body somewhere. I don’t sew it onto my crochet, but my tools are held in a bag that has the symbol drawn all over the place.

dragon egg dice bags
Dragon Egg Dice Bags

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Make art for you. No one can stop you. Always remember that you have a refreshing new way to portray the world, new stories to tell, and a new song to sing. Always keep making stuff and doing what you love.

Stained glass hummingbirds
Stained Glass Hummingbirds

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I am a gray-romantic asexual.

Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field?  If so, how do you handle it?

I’ve never experienced prejudice/ignorance in my field, thankfully, as it so very rarely comes up. When it does, most people are understanding.

In a personal and/or social setting, however, that’s a complete yes. I have family members that prefer to think I never told them. I have also had friends who told me, to my face, that they could fix that.

What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?

That there is something medically wrong with me. I have been asked several times, by complete strangers, whether I have seen a doctor, because it was “not normal”. I’ve also been told that I just haven’t found the right man, or that my previous sexual experiences just weren’t up to snuff and I would need to be patient.

Moonkin
Moonkin

What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?

You are NOT BROKEN. You are valid. Don’t ever believe anyone that tells you otherwise. Take your time coming to terms with the realization, because it can be a big pill to swallow. And of course, if you ever need to talk, talk to someone you can trust. If you’re still in school, seek out counseling services. They’re free, and the counselors really do care.

Finally, where can people find out more about your work?

I have an Etsy (etsy.com/shop/SerenitySkyCrochet), where I put my crochet works on sale. I also have a DeviantART (elledos.deviantart.com) where you can see most of my works, including my early high-school creations.

Baby umbreon doll
Baby Umbreon Doll

Thank you, Noelle, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.

Interview: Jenna Madsen

Today we’re joined by Jenna Madsen (also known as 565mae10).  Jenna is an amazingly talented visual artist whose images left me awestruck.  There’s a picture of a Great Pyrenees (a dog I have soft spot for)!  Jenna plans to study art in college.  If her work is anything to go by, this artist has a bright future ahead of her.  My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

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WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I do a variety of art but I plan to study illustration or character animation in college. My dream is to be a storyboard artist and get to create something magical for people to enjoy. I draw anime, cartoons, realism, abstract art, and comics! I’ve also recently taken up painting which has been really fun, animation as well. A couple of other odd artistic things I do include playing piano, making origami, and ceramics! I plan to start up a webcomic in the near future, so be sure to be on the look out for that!

What inspires you?

I was greatly inspired as a kid from shows that made me emotional, like Pokemon; I remember vividly when I was around four years old I was watching an episode while doodling and I just thought someone had to animate this, if they could, why can’t I? And well, the rest is history. I’ve also been inspired over the years by creators everywhere from small artists on the internet to studios like Ghibli. Seeing the magic that cartoons can convey to a group of people is what inspires me to continue getting better; I want to make people smile.

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What got you interested in your field?  Have you always wanted to be an artist?

As I mentioned above I got into art from watching cartoons at a very young age. I’ve wanted to be an artist basically ever since I could hold a pencil, and I was very determined to get better. I used to carry around a bag full of crayons and pencils when I was a little kid and draw everything I saw, I actually copied all 151 of the original Pokemon in a notebook. It’s kinda of silly to think about now, but the passion I felt then is the same as I do now.

Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in our work that you’d be willing to reveal?

Not so much a signature but something silly, I have a little fennec-fox like character that I used to draw everywhere when I was younger that I still use sometimes. His name is Zip and he was kind of my signature character for years, maybe I’ll have to bring the little guy back.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

My advice would probably be to practice and never give up no matter how hard it seems. You’ll have those points in your art life where you won’t have any inspiration or you realize that you’re not that good and those moments are when people tend to quit. You have to work through them and realize that with every bad drawing you’re working towards a good one and getting better. I was awful at drawing for so many years but I didn’t let it stop me and now I’m making it into a career. You’ll be okay, don’t let others bring you down and most of all, don’t let yourself bring you down. Just draw because you love it and try to remember why you started in the first place. The artist you’ll be five years from now won’t improve without your effort now and likewise the artist you were five years ago would be stunned at how much you have improved now due to your efforts.

Asexual Me

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I identify as a panromantic asexual. I’m still coming to terms with the panromantic part because I was in denial for a long time and I don’t want to be shunned by my family or people I care about, but it’s just who I am and I need to learn to embrace it.

Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field?  If so, how do you handle it?

Not so much so in my field, but I have definitely encountered ace prejudice. I try to be a voice in the asexual community and help educate through my art on social media, those have received backlash before. Mostly just by people dismissing the idea of asexuality altogether. I handle it by remembering how many people I have helped understand themselves and changed their lives for the better; just realizing that I have affected people that much makes me smile.

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What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?

The most common misconception has to be that we “just haven’t found the right person yet” but that’s not the only one. Here are a couple ones that have been personally said to me:

• You’re broken.
• It’s a hormonal deficiency.
• Asexuality is a mental illness.
• You don’t know until you’ve tried it.
• What are you? A plant?
• Asexuality, isn’t that made up?

What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?

It’ll be alright, I promise. It can be a magical feeling finding a community that relates to you but also an isolating one realizing that among a majority of the population you’re considered the odd one. Just be yourself and it will be okay, the people you love will eventually understand and if you’re open about it you may help a friend discover they are also asexual. It’ll be hard but I promise you can get through it and once you accept yourself… Everything will feel a little bit better than it did before when you were being forced into society’s mold.

Finally, where can people find out more about your work?

Right now my artwork can be found on my tumblr account: 565mae10.tumblr.com

I’m going to try to get a website for a webcomic soon and maybe an online gallery for my artwork but for now you’ll just have to bear with my silly art blog.

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Thank you so much, Jenna, for participating in this interview and this project.  It’s very much appreciated.

Interview: Sally Jenks

Today we’re joined by Sally Jenks.  Sally works with clay and makes functional work and sculpture.  They have their own studio called White Feather Studio and their work is absolutely gorgeous.  The octopus was a particular favorite.  My thanks to them for taking the time to participate in this interview.

Cherry Blossom Mug
Cherry Blossom Mug

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I’m a ceramic artist and I work primarily with stoneware clay.  The majority of my work is functional (cups, mugs, bowls, vases, etc.) but I also produce pieces that are decorative or sculptural, so I kind of have two related but different bodies of work to talk about.

I have a B.A. in studio art and art history, and earned a M.A. in museum studies and a Certificate of Advanced Study in cultural heritage preservation.  I now have a home studio in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and work as a ceramic artist full time.

Heart Mug
Heart Mug

What inspires you?

My most obvious inspiration is nature.  I use a lot of natural textures and organic forms in my sculptural and decorative work.  I’m currently working on a project with the Land Conservancy of West Michigan in which selected local artists are visiting natural sites and creating art in response to the preserves.  (more information here: http://www.naturenearby.org/preserved/)

I have really varied interests that work themselves into my art.  For example, I collect vintage books and I’ve started incorporating vintage images in my work.  I think in general my sources of inspiration tend to be some combination of odd vintage, morbid, and humorous.

Octopus Vase
Octopus Vase

What got you interested in your field?  Have you always wanted to be an artist?

I’ve always been into art and making things.  I did a lot of crafts and art projects with my mom when I was a kid, and I was always encouraged to pursue whatever interested me.  I took a ceramics class at a local community arts center when I was probably 15 (I’m 29 now), and that was kind of it for me.  At some point I realized that I’d always have to work in clay, even if it was just a hobby.  I did have a period of denial where I felt like I had to have a “real” career, but then I couldn’t find a real job so I went back to making art and now that is my real job.

Reaper Mug
Reaper Mug

Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in our work that you’d be willing to reveal?

I think the most notable feature of my work is my use of texture.  With hand built pieces I often use strong natural textures like tree bark or weathered wood.  Then with my wheel thrown functional pieces I include texture in details, for example the handles of my mugs are textured, usually with simple diamond or spiral patterns, or to look like wood or a tree branch.

I also keep my forms simple, and for me that has a few uses.  With my functional work, I want the use to be the focus – to me a functional piece is utilitarian, but it’s also a handmade piece of art, and the art should enhance the experience of using it.  Then my decorative or sculptural work focuses on texture and I don’t like to have a complex form with a strong surface texture.  Ultimately I feel like either the form or the surface should be the dominant feature.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Be willing to experiment.  If you have an idea for a project, then go for it and if it doesn’t work maybe it will inspire something else.  Or maybe it’ll be a mess and you’ll have a funny story.  Either way, be open to experimenting with materials.

I also recommend joining an art group.  It can be intimidating to put yourself out there as an artist, but joining an art club or a community art organization can be really rewarding and provide many opportunities and resources like calls for entries, workshops, and group activities.

Root Sculpture
Root Sculpture

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

Demiromantic asexual.

Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field?  If so, how do you handle it?

I haven’t really come out as asexual, mostly because it hasn’t come up and I haven’t felt ready to initiate that conversation.  Though if it came up organically, or if someone asked, I would be open about it.

Tall Vase with Wood
Tall Vase with Wood

What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?

I haven’t personally encountered anything too offensive; mostly people either aren’t aware of asexuality or have a very generalized idea of it.  The most common misconception I’ve seen is that asexuality is just a point on the spectrum of sexual orientation and every asexual person has the same experience, when it really varies from person to person.

Treasurebox
Treasurebox

What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?

Having moments where you’re insecure or unsure of your orientation does not make it less valid.  I’ve identified as asexual for about 2 years, but before that I spent about 15 years trying to figure out what was wrong with me because I didn’t feel or want the same things as everyone else.  I’m comfortable in my asexuality most of the time, but I was in that “why am I different from everyone, what’s wrong with me” state of mind for so long, that it’s still easy to fall back into.  It’s perfectly valid to question, but try to keep it from turning negative.

Tree Vase
Tree Vase

Finally, where can people find out more about your work?

My work can be found on my art Tumblr (whitefeatherstudio.tumblr.com), my Facebook page (facebook.com/studiowhitefeather), and I have a website with an online store (whitefeatherceramics.com).  I’m also on Instagram (@whitefeatherstudio), but I mostly post work in progress there.

If you want to see me/my work in person, I show at art fairs and other events throughout the year – mostly in the West Michigan area – and my current schedule can be found on my website, Facebook, and Tumblr pages.

Wood Texture Plaque
Wood Texture Plaque

Thank you so much, Sally, for participating in this interview and this project.  It’s very much appreciated.