KAIR Artist Interviews 2018 – Laura Castillo and Jonathan Turner-Bishop
Laura Castillo & Jonathan Turner-Bishop
Righty, let's kick off the interviews with artist / musician Laura from Mexico and craftsperson / artist Jonathan from the UK.
Thank you very much for your time!
The following interview was recorded and transcribed as faithfully as possible and with minimal editing so as to preserve the fragile emotional states of all the Artists. Spoken English rather than written English is the aim..
Why did you apply for the Kamiyama Artist in Residence program?
Laura: We wanted to come to Japan, but like, for me, I had wanted to come to Japan since I was very small but I didn't want to come as a tourist! I'd seen some other residencies in other countries and I thought that would be the best thing to do in Japan. And then I found the Kamiyama residency and it wasn't like the other residencies where you come for two weeks and do a project on your own. We liked the way you are kind of immersed in the community and we thought it was much nicer. It exceeded our expectations!
Jonathan: Yeah I think that was the important aspect: sort of being imbedded in the community instead of being stuffed in the studio and left to your own devices. Also, the length of the residency gives you time to get immersed and sort of feel grounded in the place. If you come for a few weeks you get a sense of a place but you don't really sort of feel part of it. That was one of the big motivating factors for us.
How do you feel in Kamiyama?
L: Really nice now! We don't want to leave!
J: It's strange isn't it? On the one hand, you want to get back to your real life as it were. You know, sort of, get back to the dogs and you've got your music to get back to. But there's another part of it because you are in this lovely little bubble.
L: Yes, but also the amount of time for the residency is enough for you to get into a routine. Like everyday life routine which makes it seem like this is your home! You know which shop to go to get your favourite snacks or something like that. It's those little details that make it seem like that! At the beginning it was a bit of a shock. I've always been a city person.. But the other day, at the sayonara party, we were saying 'Oh my God, it's 11pm!' It's so late!' because we usually go to bed at 9!!!
J: But also because you make these connections with people. Like, going to the Family Mart and the guy is already reaching for your cigarettes. He knows which ones we smoke! You get to know them, and they get to know you and like I said before, it all adds to this little bubble of happiness.
L: You wake up, go to the studio before breakfast, then come back and have breakfast! We were on a farmer's schedule!
Describe your work in one word.
J: I always think of it (Laura's work) as being Ahorita (a Spanish word used in Mexico to mean it'll be done when it's done)!!
L: Well, my process is like that but maybe.. Kaleidoscopic.
J: That's a actually a pretty good word for you.
What is the most frightening experience you have ever had?
J: Most frightening? Erm.. The third time I went (flying) solo and going into a spin. I knew technically how to get out of it but just two seconds of What do I do!!!' That momentary panic where you are completely out of control and you think I'm going to perish any second now!
L: I think for me.. When we were in Italy and we lost my mum. She doesn't speak English, she doesn't speak Italian! And we were like, Oh shit! What are we gonna do now?! I think that was the most frightening because we were thinking of the worst case scenario.
What is your favourite Japanese food?
J: Where do we start?! It's like a list!
L: I don't know..!
J: I'd say it was ramen for you.
L: Ramen and the okonomiyaki. Yes, they're the best.
J: I like katsudon, and the rice, the rice stuff. Even if we don't know what we're eating it still tastes good!
How did you realise you wanted to be an artist?
L: I was always interested in photography and later on cinematography because I wanted to study film, but then I realised how bureaucratic the film making process is. It takes such a long time to get even a short film started.. But then I saw the guys from the art department making the props and they were having so much fun doing all these crazy things with plaster and clay. I started doing that a bit and that's when I was like This is my thing. After I started studying visual arts, I had this American teacher in Prague. He gave us an assignment to go around Prague with a recorder and record something interesting and then make a composition with that using super simple free software. Since then I was really hooked on making music.
Do you have a particular technique/style?
L: No, not really.
J: Laura is very instinctive. She'll look at something and see an instant vision of clarity but there can be a lot of messing about beforehand in terms of trying to organise it. But then she'll see something and then it's like she'll hold onto it. Whereas my process is very different because watchmaking and clockmaking you are kind of working towards a predetermined design, whereas for her..
L: But I think there are some elements that we have in common, like the element of time and subtle movements, we want some kind of dynamic. I have a topic that repeats itself, but everything is very malleable, the materials are very malleable but the subject that inspires me has always been the same.
J: Maybe that's it. You have this kind of theme or thought that is like a constant touch stone that you keep going back to no matter what material you are working with, whether it is music or latex or shoji screens. Whatever it is, it kind of pulls you back to that one thing, so once she's got that thing in her mind it becomes very easy for Laura, whereas for me it's a very different kind of process because coming from craft as opposed to art.. as a professional craftsperson I'm working towards a very rigid end result and it's either right or it's completely wrong. There's no in-between.
L: There aren't any happy accidents!
J: Yeah it either works perfectly or it's trash. Whereas Laura has a greater sense of creativity. Our creativity is in the making or the thinking through the making process as opposed to the end result, which either works or it doesn't.
What is the most difficult thing about making art?
L: I've always wanted to do bigger works like Karin (Van Molen) does but I'm horrible at planning things. I think that's the most difficult part for me. If I want to do something more complicated it's very difficult to organise myself do it! But I've always wanted to do large-scale things so it's always frustrating that I can't pull myself together to do something like that. (For the large scale Yorii theatre exhibition) I was just giving orders to Jonathan! For Karin, there were many people, delegating tasks and things. So that's the hardest thing for me.
If you were the size of an ant for one month, what would you do?
L: Hmm, I don't know. I guess I would just be an ant and have my nice little life next to a dumpster preferably in Japan and then I can eat some ramen here and there.
J: Besides stay away from people. I don't know, that's a good question. I honestly don't know. Honestly don't know. I'm completely blank. It's one of those.. psych 101! Lack of imagination!
What is the worst thing you’ve ever made?
L: I think for me it was a sculpture. I was trying new things! Pieces of glass and ceramics welded together with copper and the thing they use for windows.. lead! And it was horrible! And I didn't know where to throw it away! I wanted to hide it! I had to go to the teacher and say I made that thing and now I want to get rid of it. Where do I get rid of it?! It was bad, very embarrassing!
J: The most embarrassing thing I ever made was.. as part of watch making school you make a part which is then sent to Switzerland. You spend months making the same part over and over again and I'd gotten very good at it, but then in the actual exam you have half a day to make it. In my mind because I'd been doing so well in the practice that I thought it'd be fine. But, I had this nagging feeling that maybe that maybe the exam piece wasn't;t as good as I thought it was. And then when the part came back (from Switzerland) and I looked at it and I was just so.. I mean it passed, but it was just so awful and depressing because I did so much better at the earlier stuff and as soon as I got it back I threw it away because I couldn't bare looking at it, I was so embarrassed. It was just the worst feeling where you think I'm competent at this and then all of a sudden the reality.. !
What do you think about this ham?
L: Oh it looks nice!
J: I wouldn't touch it with a barge pole!
L: I'd eat it! I'd stuff my face with that!
What do you dislike about your work?
L: I think the thing I dislike the most is installing it. I'm so jealous of painters. They can just put a nail (in the wall) and that's it and they can go drinking! If you are installing (your work) for a week it's kind of nice when you are getting towards the end but when you're first planning it, like we were with the latex and everything, we were like Is it going to work? How are we going to attach it? The logistics are always.. When you're finished it's super nice but when you're doing it you are like Why do I do this to myself??!
What is the worst piece of advice you have ever been given?
J: Probably my mother: Don't date an artist!!
L: Is that the worst or the best piece of advice??
J: That's still up for debate..! I think the worst piece of advice in terms of life has been to do something safe. I mean, I was a law school dropout so you know.. it was like, go to law school because that's a good career, you'll earn money and all the rest of it, but after two years I realised it wasn't for me. Ever since then I've shied away from that safe, easy option. Becoming a watch maker at the age of 31 was a big decision but at the same time it was something that I just knew instinctively that when I went to sit down on the bench it was like, I'm home! This is what I want. But it took quite a bit of soul-searching and realising I wasn't going to make as much money. The death of my brother put everything into sharp focus. So the worst piece of advice was definitely to do something safe, pay the mortgage, buy a car, but as you get older you realise that all that stuff is just crap. If you're not happy, it doesn't matter how much money you've got, or what your lifestyle is, if you're not happy it's pointless. We're on the Earth for such a short period of time, so you know, do something exciting. Even if that means dating an artist..!
What is the best smell?
J: Coffee in the morning. Or freshly made bread. Both of which I like to do.
L: Freshly baked bread is really good.
J: When I make that first thing of coffee in the morning, it just.. infuses everything. It just wakes me up, just the smell of it. But it depends on the situation. For instance, if I'm walking in the woods, that fresh smell of dew in the morning, you can't replace that but in my normal life it's that fresh coffee smell.
L: I think bread and wood. No not burning wood, the one that is dangerous if you breath the dust..? Cedar? Yeah cedar, it's dangerous but I like how it smells. I was in the studio with the sander and I was like It smells so good!
Who inspires you?
J: You get inspired musically, artistically..
L: A long list of people!
J: I tend to live in the past a little bit in terms of who inspires me. In watercolours, it's Wesson, or in watch making it's people who were making chronometers in the 1850's who were anonymous. Or some of the famous ones, just look at Breguet or Tompion where you look at it and go My God they were just so far ahead of their time it's just unbelievable, and what they were working with in terms of handtools.. They did so much with so little. I've always appreciated craftspeople who are so dedicated to what they do that it is their life. Where their life is and where their craft is, it's so intertwined that you can't separate them.
If you lived in Kamiyama forever what would you do?
L: We were thinking about that! Maybe we can open a taco restaurant. Like what they do here, you know, maybe open for lunch or for dinner or something.
J: Kamiyama is in the point of transition and it can go one or two ways: it can either never reach it's potential and stay lovely and beautiful and stay true to itself or it could, you know, reach it's potential and then become distorted and change fundamentally. I look at the mountains and wonder why isn't there any bicycle tracks or hiking trails or cabins in the woods? There's so much potential here in terms of recreational stuff because you're so close to Tokushima. There's so much untapped potential here and I don't understand why the locals don't use their own land. I mean if you owned a plot of land in the US or even in the UK up on the mountain in untouched forest, you'd be sticking a cabin up there you know. Going up there on the weekends, taking the kids on hikes, camps. I definitely see the potential for hiking because the ridge lines, they go on for miles.
What is your weakness?
J: We're probably better at talking about each other's weaknesses!
L: You start!
J: I already alluded to it saying Ahorita, your propensity to delay the tough decisions until you have to. I mean, Laura wrote her MA thesis in 3 days, on two bottles of wine. Whereas me, the better part of 10, 12 months preparation then 12 weeks of just sweating, hating the whole process and just going through terror.
L: Your weakness is that you are too hard on yourself sometimes. He doesn't do things, watercolours for example, because you want to feel prepared but you never feel prepared enough! You're too hard on yourself and it drives me crazy! Dammit just do it! You have like 20 different watercolour sets and 20 different notebooks.. just.. PAINT! Just do it! But you're like No I'm not ready. I need another book on the technique.
J: That's one of the things about Laura that I admire is the willingness just to try anything.. and succeed! Maybe it's a British thing.. never set yourself up for failure. It's like in business you know, you've got one chance to do it, and if you screw it up you'll never ever get another bank loan. But moving to America it's totally different. You're not a success unless you've failed 6 or 7 times! There is that legacy that holds me back. But when I was younger I didn't have that; it's weird. I was gliding at 14, parachuting at 15 and flying at 16. It's been downhill ever since! I think I peaked too early!!
L: I think for me, I can be too naive with many things. With life, money I can be very naive but then reality comes crashing down.
J: That's why she calls me the party pooper because I'm the reality check!
By the way, can you do something with this hula hoop please?
Great stuff! Thank you again for granting me this interview! Hopefully see you in KY again 🙂
Other Artist Interviews
Strijdom van der Merwe
Itoi-san - Kanuma soil. Likes salmon sashimi, dislikes entrails of sea cucumber. Ru-san - Lancashire hotpot. Creative type. Likes being outdoors. Dislikes status. Together we are ITOI ARTS a project in divergent creativity in the mountains of Shikoku, Japan. 四国の山奥、多様な創作、アートとは。 //イベント時のみオープン// \\ふだんはただの家//Articles by itoi+ru-san
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