by Debbie Cheung
Diane Espiritu is Satellite Gallery’s resident artist at Inside and Out, an interactive drawing event on June 9th as part of this year’s Vancouver Draw Down. We visited her newly renovated studio in Chinatown and got a behind the scenes look at her work.
Your studio is filled with all kinds of interesting tools. Can you tell us a little bit about your practice?
Materials and tools tend to accumulate in my studio as opportunities to create work in new media arise and with my interest in learning new techniques. The breadth of my work encompasses functional and architectural ceramic design as well as soft product design, which include backpacks and medical assistive devices for people living with disabilities. The common thread in each project is my approach to solving problems.
From looking at the technical drawings and sketches on your wall, it seems that drawing plays an important role in your work. When and where do you utilize drawing in your creative process?
My goal is to draw everyday. I constantly find myself creating drawings in my mind throughout the creative process. It is, however, the ideas I record on paper that have any significance in communicating my intentions to the viewer or potential client. In the conception phase, sketches are quick, expressive and gestural. At this stage, the idea is simply to capture an idea or a profile. Accuracy and refinement develop further in the creative process where the details of technical drawing are revealed. The drawings reflect the evolution of a concept or form over time, and it’s interesting to see that documentation.
Most people shy away from drawing thinking that they lack the appropriate skill. Do you have some tips on making the process more fun and less intimidating?
A dear friend of mine once said that learning to draw was challenging until she understood that in drawing class you are essentially learning to see. It made me smile. It was a lovely way to describe the way I feel about drawing. I delight in observation and I often deconstruct what I see into profiles, proportions, shapes, and negative spaces. Drawing is foremost about how you see, followed by how you choose to interpret what you see on your choice of medium.
Speaking of having fun, you have designed a 12-foot-high drawing tunnel and an unconventional mosaic workshop for Satellite Gallery during Vancouver Draw Down on June 9. Can you give us the inside scoop on what people will encounter at this event?
I am honoured to be a part of Satellite Gallery’s public events during Vancouver Draw Down in such a creative capacity! Imagine yourself in a 40-foot long paper tunnel where every surface is a shared canvas, and your drawing tools appear to float in mid air. As you begin to draw, you feel an opposing force that influences your fluid line! Your drawing is now being produced in part by the movements of another artist at work, creating an opposing force in another part of the tunnel. The question is how will you and other artists respond to the drawings that are being generated?
The ceramic mosaic workshop is intended for members of the public who want to engage in a fun, creative activity in response to the current exhibit at Satellite Gallery, Elegant Disorder: Perspectives on Porcelain. We provide a selection of ceramic fragments donated by local artists working in ceramics, as well as templates and objects to apply the fragments to create your own mosaic tiles and useful objects that you can take home.
As a supporter of community engagement in the arts, you have donated a gift certificate for a workshop for two at your studio. This door prize will be raffled off at Vancouver Draw Down. Tell us what the lucky winners will get to do at your studio?
Absolutely! The workshop is a hands-on experience of the processes I employ in my studio to produce work as a ceramic designer. The recipients have an opportunity to learn how to make a drop mould, experiment with a variety of coloured slips and techniques in surface decoration and slip casting porcelain to make functional vessels. The response from past workshop participants has been overwhelmingly positive. Not only will they take away their one-of-a-kind masterpieces, but they will also take with them the story and knowledge behind that piece, how it was made and all the processes involved in making it possible.