For the second [studiobscure] appontment I had the opportunity to peek inside the studio of one of the kindest and most talented artist I’ve met since starting Reflectedfaith. I’ve already featured Nicole/Mahlimae and her lovely creatures on this post and today, I am very happy to present you a short interview with her. She told me a bit about her art, her working space, the tools she uses and the several mask she wears. The pictures she sent me are focused on small details, close up pictures of materials and tools; they do not show her studio in his entirety (hey … don’t tell me you really thought you could see the work bench where all the magic happens, a magician never reveals his tricks!!!) but are enough to give us an idea of the space and the atmosphere we could feel if we were allowed to step inside Mahlimae’s enchanted world.
1) Hi Nicole, probably there is no need, my readers know you very well but can you make a brief description of yourself and your art? And what is your current project?
Well probably the best way to describe myself is a woman with lots of masks…I am 37, born and raised in suburban Brisbane, Australia and now living in the wilderness of Southern Tasmania in a home my husband and I built ourselves. For me, the most commonly adorned ‘mask’ is that of Mother, to two little girls who astound me daily with their wondrous insight, energy that seems to know no bounds, their wide eyed curiosity and sweet nature that am so in awe of.
I recently retired my Social Worker mask which I wore for a great number of years in a professional capacity; probably the most difficult years of my life have been the past few as I juggled the psychological demands of working with society’s most vulnerable, maintaining 20 acres of land, motherhood, as well as the creative pull inside my mind which was growing in its insistence daily. It was a bitter sweet moment of achievement earlier this year when I could finally simplify life and wear my Creator mask full time (during school hours that is).
My art is something I fail to describe very well; those who enjoy my work and are kind enough to leave comments about their impression seem far more articulate in this task than I. I see them as figments of my imagination realised in small sculptures I call Echoes; they are familiar yet the unseen…lost souls…reflections of ourselves, our humanity and our connection to our Earth which we have long forgotten.
Presently my work space hosts many pieces in progress for upcoming group shows at BeinArt Gallery here in Australia, as well as Modern Eden Gallery and Stranger Factory Gallery in the United States. I am also working with the beautiful artist Yishu Wang on the illustrations for a children’s book I have written, we hope to be able to release some progress photos before the end of the year.
2) Tell us about your studio: are you a messy artist with a lot of tools laying around in no particular order, or do you prefer having everything clean and organized neatly?
Ahh this is a good question as it really depends on what my schedule is doing at the time. In my own mind I don’t see myself as a ‘messy’ artist, although when I have a whole world of deadlines looming and a number of pieces on the go simultaneously, such as is this case now, my work space tends to defy my self concept and looks quite a disgrace. That being said, I think most of the practical tools and items remain in their place so as to retain their sense of order…the ‘mess’ seems to come from the textiles, furs, feathers, wool and other materials that I need to have at arms reach all the time to play around with.
Now that I have written this I am going to have to get in there and clean things up a bit!
3) These days it’s hard to separate digital and analogue activities. How is the balance between electronic devices and analog working tools in your studio?
That’s very true…although the choice to distance ourselves from a reliance upon electronic devices was made when we first moved to Tasmania and decided to run our home totally on solar power. As such, we need to be really careful about our power consumption, especially in deep winter when the sun is so timid. Whilst I still use a computer and require internet access to manage my work, I choose to keep that all in the house and other than a portable bluetooth speaker for music (which I can’t live without), the rest of the tools in my studio are hand tools/analogue. I think of it as a sacred space, a haven of sorts, so I try to keep the outside world out as much as I can.
4) Name a couple of tools you could not live / work without?
My fingers would have to be my number one set of tools I couldn’t work without. It’s not very refined I know, but I use my fingers for the majority of my sculpting work, its instinctual and more connected, I am happier working this way. For the finer detailing I couldn’t live without my porcupine quill, silicone tools and a few fine brushes.
5) How important is the decoration of your studio, do you hang a lot of inspirational art on your walls?
For me, the layout and items that surround me are really important, more so for the energy they contain rather than for the way they may look. My studio was built on the site we first ‘parked’ our caravan when we moved on to our block of land almost 10 years ago and is made from leftover building materials from our house so it all holds a special place in my heart. I have adorned the walls with lots of inspirational artwork from artists I admire, skulls I have found or have been gifted, crystals, birds nests, driftwood, dried flowers and just about anything that holds a connection for me. It has a feeling of nurturing and peace when I walk in of a morning and that’s just what I need to be creative.
I hope you enjoyed this virtual visit of Nicole’s studio, don’t forget to check her website to know more about her and to share this post on your favorite social channels.
Images © Nicole Watt