Happy April everyone! Here’s our first artist up in our new series. Happy viewing!
Tell me what you do, who you are, and the area you are located:
My name is Ele Willoughby. I am a Renaissance woman, I hope. That’s
the goal. By day, I work as a scientist, a marine geophysicist; I build things to image what is below the seafloor, go to sea, gather data and come home to analyze it. By night, I’m an artist – particularly a printmaker. Primarily, I make lino block relief prints on paper and on textiles.
I live in Toronto, Ontario. Though this is the biggest city in Canada,
I live in High Park, so I have the pleasure of getting up in the
morning and seeing a forest – part of a huge park which includes some
old growth trees and is home to a lot of wildlife. We have hawks,
falcons, raccoons, squirrels, possums, foxes, the odd coyote, finches,
woodpeckers, jays, frogs, turtles, ducks, herons, geese, swans, snakes
and more, all of which I’ve seen a short walk from my home.
The neighbourhood is very vibrant. It has traditionally been Polish,
but more recently there has been a lot of immigration from Somalia
just to the North (new Canadians who appreciated living in the dry
neighbourhood of Chelsea), Korea and all over the world. Recently, as
well as all the Polish bakeries, a lot of small businesses have opened
on Roncevalles, selling delightful things like indie fashion, used
books and clothes, beads, and organic food.
What lights your creative fire?
I’m a very visual person. I love a wide variety of visual arts and am inspired by the work of many different people. I love colour. I think
a major theme, lurking behind a lot of things I create is the old
fashioned cross between aesthetics and natural history: the
Wunderkammer, or cabinet of curiosity. Something that appeals to me is
that the amateur gentleman or lady collector was laying some
groundwork for a lot of descriptive science, and yet this was a world
still open for myth and magic. Taxonomy of lifeforms and natural
objects (birds, reptiles, shells, eggs, rocks and minerals, what have
you) co-existed with legendary creatures like mermaids and unicorns. I
find fairytales, folklore and legend, from a variety of cultures, a
source of inspiration. I think I throw all these things together, with
a hint of history of science and a hint of whimsy.
Do you collect/hoard anything?
Is that a trick question!?
I am a total pack-rat. Like many artists and craftspeople, I have a
stash; the trick is to hide the copious amounts of paper and fabric.
That is was the trunk collection is for!
Also, I have a book problem. I fear I will end up like most university
libraries – one day, my home with begin to sink under the weight.
I also collect masks, from around the world. This makes my loved-ones
happy, since they know what souvenir to buy me when they travel. I
collect turtle items. I have an inordinate number of small sculptures
of birds… but it’s not my fault – they were all gifts.
And prints! Printmakers are big on print exchanges, which are a
excellent way to get a lot of art.
List some of the things that make you happy:
objects? paper (particularly handmade or hand decorated paper), my thumb
pianos, the quilts made for me by my female ancestors, the Canadian
Shield, the oceans, perfect snowflakes
sounds? I like a wide array of music, of many genres. My cat purring. The ice
cream truck theme song. Birdsong. Frogs singing, so long as I was
smells? chocolate chip cookies baking, my Italian uncle’s cooking, saltwater,
rain, evergreen trees
words? I like it when someone comes up with an unexpected yet apt work like
What is one of your pet peeves?
things which really make me mad: ignorance, bullying, intolerance,
things I could do with out: celery string between my teeth, traffic,
smog, being treated like guilty-until-proven-innocent at the airport,
Describe your (almost) perfect day?
Sunshine, fresh air, brunch with friends, doing something inspiring
like checking all my favorite shops and a gallery show, feeding the
paper and fabric stash, finding random arts of street art, maybe a
nifty find at a thrift or antique shop, dinner at one of the fabulous
restaurants around town (maybe sushi, or Thai), cozying up on the
couch with a good movie.
Do you have a current project that is exciting you? Would you like to share a little bit of it?
Um… I am a bit cagey about sharing work-in-progress, but I’ll give
you a hint. I’ve been thinking about combining the legendary creatures
with the science. So the next series is about d(a)emons of science.
So intriguing!! Thank you Ele!
See much more of Ele’s work here at minouette.etsy.com