In preparation for the upcoming (and brand new!) Artober Art Walk, we chatted with our featured artist, Ketchikan's Margie Kraft. Margie is busy working on new original pieces to debut during the art walk, and we loved the opportunity to learn more about her work and what inspires her colorful painted paper collages. First of all- here's Margie! Everyone say, "Hi, Margie!"
A self taught artist, Margie remembers that she was always doodling throughout her childhood. Growing up with artists in her family and an aunt who owned a screen printing shop, she doesn't remember a time when she wasn't making artwork and pursuing creative paths both personally and professionally. Margie thinks back on her artistic beginnings as an oil painter before turning to quilting to satisfy her creative urges. She gained recognition as an award winning professional longarm quilter. And seriously- aren't her quilts gorgeous?!
Nowadays, Margie has taken a step back from her professional quilting days and has returned to what she describes as her "first love" of painting and collage. When she transitioned out of professional quilting and began experimenting with alcohol inks, Margie enjoyed the instant gratification that came with the medium compared to the painstaking hours spent quilting.
Margie still enjoys quilting and to say that her quilting skills informs her current work would be an understatement. After creating bold color fields with the alcohol inks, she draws on her quilting expertise and carefully cuts the painted papers to collage them into organic, ocean inspired pieces. Similarities can be spotted between her quilted masterpieces and her painted masterpieces. After seeing just a few of her pieces, you notice the details that could only come from an eye of someone trained in precision and who knows their way around a pair of good sharp pair of scissors. Her natural color sense shines in her both her quilting and her collage work.
When she's not making artwork, Margie works for the State of Alaska. She describes her job as very "cerebral" and challenging, with not much room for creative expression. She relishes in her time spent experimenting with her inks- playing with color and exploring new techniques from her studio overlooking the Tongass Narrows. A self-described geek, Margie enjoys science fiction books on tape when she's creating.
When I asked Margie what her studio space was like, she answered first with "The kitchen table." After a pause, she continued, "And the kitchen counter. And the hallway. My bathroom. My front porch..." Often she will let several finished pieces pile up before she mixes up the final resin coating to pour on top. In the time before she mixes a resin batch, pieces find a home wherever there is a surface.
She then describes her recent move to a new home. Thrilled to have a basement space to set up a proper art studio, Margie hauled all her supplies down the stairs. After essentially "setting up shop" in the basement, she found it too depressing to even work there! The dark, view-less space unsurprisingly didn't translate to a creative haven. So back upstairs the supplies came- to her kitchen table with the inspiring view of the ocean that her work so often references. Though the view is usually gray, instead of letting it get her down, Margie uses this as fuel to her colorful fire. Growing up in a place that is overcast more often than not, Margie has always been inspired by color and it remains a central element in her work. Her abstracted images reference the misty rainforest she works in but put a vibrant and fantastical spin on it. A dull rainy window pane becomes a colorful downpour in Margie's world.
Growing up in the oceanside town of Ketchikan has no doubt influenced Margie's work. Some of her favorite subjects are treasures found while beachcombing the Alaskan shores- moon snails, kelp, urchins, and octopus, to name a few. As a kid, Margie wanted to be an oceanographer. As an adult, she's an avid ocean enthusiast. Though her life didn't take her in the direction of becoming a scientist, she hopes that her passion for the ocean shines through in her work and can inspire viewers to have a deeper appreciation for its beauty.
Though her collages are playful and effortless looking, alcohol inks are by no means easy to work with. The highly pigmented inks are just what they sound like- mostly composed of alcohol. It can be downright dangerous to work with alcohol inks if not done properly. The high ethanol content means that Margie has to wear a mask when she's painting. Since her suppliers won't ship to Alaska, she has to stock up when she's traveling south or ask friends to bring back materials when they travel. She is careful to open windows and run fans when creating. Similarly, working with the UV protective resin she coats her pieces with can be hazardous- gloves are a must. Margie describes a time when the resin touched her skin and she broke out into hives for 3 weeks.
Now that she is well versed in the materials, the hazards are less of a threat. However, working on yupo paper presents a whole new set of challenges. Yupo paper is not your average paper. It's a synthetic material that has a similar surface to that of poster paper as opposed to a normal fibrous paper texture. The slick surface is non-porous and doesn't absorb the inks. Extreme care must be taken to insure that the inks don't slide completely off and undo all the work.
Margie hopes that her work attracts people who share similar values to her own- namely an affinity for the sea and an attraction to, or rather, a love, of bold colors.
Margie makes compact pieces on purpose. She aims to appeal to those who seek and appreciate original artwork but may be limited when it comes to space or budget. Her hope is that people can appreciate her eclectic style and that her work can brighten peoples' lives in the same way that creating them brightens her life. Though her work is ready to hang as it is, Margie doesn't put set hangers on the back that predetermine the orientation. She wants people to decide which way they'd like to hang it- unlike most artwork, there is no right or wrong, no up or down. You can hang it whichever way is right for you and your space. Margie's pieces work great as a grouping or great alone. Heck- they are just all around great! The possibilities are endless, or for all you Mean Girls fans...
We are so excited for Margie to showcase her work during the Artober Art Walk and we hope you'll join us as we celebrate her vision and talent! As a reminder, the art walk is coming up on Friday, October 4, from 5-8PM.
We'll see you then!
Until then, artfully yours,
Maria at Scanlon's