Graven Feather, Workshop
Graven Feather is an art hub next to Toronto’s Trinity Bellwoods Park on Queen Street West. Owners Pam Lobb and Erin Candela (left to right) run letterpress workshops, host art lectures, offer residencies and sell handmade items. The space is half gallery, half studio so visitors can check out curated exhibitions while watching Pam and Erin’s studio practice in progress. If you want to see a 360 of Graven Feather click here!
ERIN: There’s a very vibrant social energy in this neighbourhood. People know that if they peek into doorways, they might see art studios. Before Graven Feather, I used to work in a coffee shop. I like that interaction, stimulation. I really enjoy the social aspect of being here. Sometimes people come in and they want me to explain what I’m doing and it’s helpful.
PAM: I’ve been working here at 11 p.m. and people knock on the door saying, ‘It looks like there’s art going on. I have a friend visiting from Beijing–can we come in?’ It’s a fun little experience of walking down the Queen West strip.
ERIN: It’s exciting when that happens. I love that people can see through the window at night. There’s the romantic ego concept that I’m the artist, in the basement, working away–but it makes me realize that I’m doing this exciting thing. Here I am, and the city’s going on. I can place myself in the context that I want to be in, and it makes me feel good. It makes me happy to be part of this neighbourhood and doing something that I really love and that other people are interested in.
PAM: This is an Artscape building, so there was an application process when this space became available. It has a preference for public involvement because this is the only studio in the building with public access. That really influenced how we formed Graven Feather. We run workshops, host art history lectures and rent the space to other artists.
ERIN: Every month, we do letterpress and lino block carving workshops because that’s what we do ourselves, anyway.
PAM: We have all the equipment. The lino-scribe machine is used the most. My brother-in-law made the giant etching press. He looked it up on the internet, put it into 3D programming and had lasers make it. Lasers! They’re amazing! There’s also a little baby press. It’s fun because it’s so small that you can take it with you.
ERIN: Other artists do workshops too, depending on who’s around and who’s doing our artist residency program.
PAM: That’s a new program. Artists write a letter of intent and for four weeks, they have access to the studio and work on projects while they’re here with the option of a resident show. That keeps the studio dynamic changing all the time. Plus, the gallery half changes which really influences the feel of the space. It’s really all-encompassing.
ERIN: There’s been a couple of shows where you get influenced by what’s up–and it can be tricky to work when the lighting is particularly dark, for example.
PAM: We had a video installation that was really beautiful, but we didn’t consider how dark she was going to need it. It’s a learning curve as we book things. It’s like, ‘Wait a minute–if it’s dark in here, how am I going to work this month?’
ERIN: We’re not always open to the public, officially. We have three gallery days: Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 12 to 7 p.m. On other days, we work in here and do whatever we want–but we often keep the doors open to the public anyway.
PAM: It’s nice because on day when we’re closed, I can spread out and work on big pieces. When I first started working here, I made really large framed pieces. I took advantage of the space. This year, I’m scaling back and making smaller work. That’s been a big shift.
ERIN: This space works for me because I have so much available at my fingertips. I’m doing more printmaking and drawing on prints. I’m broadening my ideas and using more text in my work. I think being in Graven Feather has changed my direction, in terms of wanting to communicate ideas that illicit a response with people. Before, my work was more individually-oriented but I think my interest in text has been about communicating a narrative in a way that’s accessible.
–Erin Candela & Pam Lobb, as told to Studio Beat
Photos & video by Lauren Barless
Video soundtrack by Andrew Shenkman
Visit Graven Feather’s website here.