Apartment & Studio
Art is work. Work is art. A quick glance at Elisabeth Woven paintings makes it clear that this a very long process in the making. Each painting is made with thin strips of acrylic painted on canvas, and then woven on her self-made loom. Every painting takes 30 hours to weave, obviously in several seatings. Her biggest obstacle was to create art that holds her own identity. Creating a style of art that bears only her signature. After months of painting and no yield, she tried a different approach and shred her existing paintings and re-assembled them.
Everything about Elisabeth is humble, and effortless. Her home/studio is shared with her family, husband, Sven ,and their two beautiful children. The entire space has a minimalist feel to it, which is the perfect backdrop to her beautiful works for art.
Where did you get the idea to start Woven Paintings?
It was one of those days in my studio. Everything sucked…LOL…I felt I didn’t know who I was as an artist. I had no style or voice. I was searching. I was upset and frustrated. I knew I was meant to be a painter but I felt I could be better at a thousand other things. I was questioning why I even felt I was meant to be a painter. My time in the studio was spent “destroying” my previous paintings by painting on top of my last one repeatedly. I was working on 9 different paintings at once. One day a fleeting thought passed my mind. I could have ignored it, but I stopped and took the ugliest painting and started cutting it up. I made a little sample and brought it home and looked at it for weeks. It had something that held every part of me and who I was. And it felt right for first time.
Are you an artist full time?
I am a full-time mother who is an artist and makes art. This is my dream and I wouldn’t want it any other way. Because my children are young, most of my time is devoted to them, but my husband and my mother help out a lot. It’s a season and I will be able to dedicate more time to art again eventually.
In your current biography, you mentioned that painting is a dominated by male. Has that changed in the recent years?
Yes and no. Of course the status of women since medieval or renaissance times has changed and so has art. But if you look at the list of highest-earning living artists (specifically painters), women are barely a part of it. Yet, art schools have higher numbers of female students attending. I guess it depends on how you look at it. Things have changed but I still feel we’re playing catch-up.
What is an abstract painter?
It’s an artist painting with shape, line, colour, and emotions at the forefront. She or He is not as concerned with representing something in a realistic sense so much as feeling it. Often it has a distinct sense of spontaneity.
How long does it take you to make a painting?
It’s long and tedious. In short, I start out with painting my canvases. It’s abstract and spontaneous. When ready, I have them cut and pick them up a few days later. Before weaving begins, I carefully secure the strips of painted canvas on special tape and then it’s ready for the ‘loom’ frame. I then weave the entire work and create patterns. Once the weaving is done I finish the sides with tape and sew it all to give it strength. Lastly, I have it framed. There are many little steps I skipped over but that’s pretty much it.
What do your children think of your art work?
My 3 1/2 year old looks at it and says it’s beautiful. He really means it and that is sweet. My 1 1/2 year old points at it and reconfirms that we don’t touch it. He knows not to touch it but he really wants to be part of it. It’s good for them to be around it. They surprisingly have a real respect.
Where did you grow up?
In west Germany, near Hanover, and I spent my summers in France. I also lived in France later on. I am half French and half German. I speak both languages and so does all my family. I visit regularly.
How was it like in Europe?
Europe is different, everything around you is art, everything is history - even the shopping street. You can’t escape who was there before you. It’s difficult not be impressed and marvel at its beauty. I really miss it and all its uniqueness.
Why did you move to Toronto, specifically?
My immediate family moved here and then back to France. In the meantime I met a boy who now is my husband. I came back for him, although it seems he’d rather be in France. Haha! Maybe one day…
What inspires you?
Colour really speaks to me but I’m a synesthete, so I guess that is a given. It has to have character, which is generally not primary colours. Sometimes it’s several colours that I can see get along together in a group. I’m drawn to bright and clashing colours. Of course travelling leaves an imprint like no other. It just marks you in a special way. It’s magical to find yourself surrounded by an unfamiliar history and the thrill of adventure just rises. Here at home it’s simply just going out, exploring neighbourhoods, and what other people are doing.
What other type forms of painting have you done?
The last few years have been quite experimental. Although I generally paint abstract, I tried some drawing-like paintings and also laser cutting painted wood panels. I really enjoyed working with the idea of multiples. I also did versions of all of it mixed together. They are interesting, but I ended up back where I started, abstract painting.
What does a typical day look like?
I stay at home with my boys. We all have breakfast together as a family, then it’s play time and nap time. I work on my art during their nap and hope to get lots done. Then we have lunch when they wake. The afternoon has the same rhythm, except my oldest boy has no second nap, just quiet time. In the summer, we’re all over our neighbourhood, eating ice-cream and exploring Queen St West. In the winter we hibernate and don’t go out as much. We play at home. Once the boys are in bed after dinner I get back at it. My mom regularly comes by in the afternoon to keep the boys occupied so I get to work some more. It’s hard right now with them being so young. But I am moving forward day by day. It might seem slow but when you look back it’s something to be proud off.
How does your artwork reflect your home setting and decor?
My art isn’t as loud and provocative as what is popular at the moment. My home decor isn’t either. It’s grey and white with natural woods for accents.
Are you the only artist/ painter in your family?
Not in particular, there were artists on my fathers side. My husband is a musician, producer and audio engineer. He’s got the impressive resume!
Can you pinpoint when your career took a turning point?
There were a couple in 2014. I wanted to be in a different place as an artist - particularly in regards to my art and my art career. I felt stuck and wanted help. A friend of mine, Will Kucey and owner of LE gallery offered himself up…but I was scared. I knew I had nothing to impress him. I was scared to burn a bridge. Another close friend of mine simply encouraged me to do it anyway because that perfect moment will never come. And I did!
I expected to figure it all out on my own…but reality isn’t like that. I showed him the stuff I did, it wasn’t bad and it wasn’t great. I had a (maternity) year to really work on art while having to care for our newly born second child. I know it sounds like a joke but parents become super humans when given some free time. And I did. I got a studio in my building. I painted, I met with other artists, I went to shows. It was frustrating. The idea came to me in Dec 2014. I had my paintings cut in early 2015. I had a studio visit later that summer with Wil. Although things turned out a bit different and I ended up weaving paintings, I think I still impressed him.
Does your art, provide or have meaning and a story to it?
Trying to find who I was as an artist, my art education, where to fit in in a male dominated art world was overwhelming. I now was painting and weaving - painting being a traditionally male activity and weaving often thought to be a female activity. I brought the two together - made them equal. I see it as representing anything opposing really. It is about changing perspectives and growing through the process. Ultimately, it results in something beautiful and strong.
Could you ever consider doing something less creative?
I think most of us do what we have to do until we are actually able to step out do art full time. I love being a mama, and an artist. Truthfully, it wouldn’t matter what I pursue I can’t help but be creative in it. It’s just me!
Best Advice Received?
Keep going and believe in yourself. You don't have to be the best.
Thank you Elisabeth for sharing your home, and studio. See more of Elisabeth's woven paintings.
Interview & Photography: Rachel Lambo & Juliet Christy