French-Canadian jeweler Aurelie Guillaume, who refers to herself as Mademoiselle Guillaume, lectured this past Wednesday as a visiting artist, and spoke on her career as an enamelist and illustrator.
Guillaume was born in Montreal, Canada and when she was four years old, her family moved to Martinique, a French-Caribbean island. While on Martinique, sadly, her father passed away. Through this, came the inspiration of her art.
“Although it was a really beautiful time in my life, it was something that was extremely sad. At a very young age I was confronted with joy and sadness in the most extreme ways possible,” Guillaume said. “This is something that really stuck with me throughout my whole life, to kind of face that and understand this about life, so this [brings] me to what my work is about, how in some ways to be able to laugh about even the saddest stories and be able to find what is beautiful in the most awful and ugly things.”
Inspired by the joy and sadness on Martinique, the contrast of the island also fueled Guillaume’s imagination. Guillaume discusses the exploration on the island for a child, as there are huge flowers of bright colors and textures, as well as a sandy beach and salty water. This exposure to contrast inspired the contrast within her pieces.
“I feel like it is too simple to explain what I make,” Guillaume said. “Often the next question that I [get] from people is ‘what kind of stories do you tell?’ and ‘what do your characters mean?’ This is where it becomes more complicated because they come from all sorts of different places [in my imagination].”
As Guillaume’s pieces are very different from the norm, many people who view her exhibitions or who do not understand her art, assume her inspiration comes from elsewhere.
“I make these objects as a tool to express my imagination. Often times people who are unfamiliar with my art say ‘you must take a lot of drugs,’ and that has made me sad, because in some ways I feel that [those assumptions] diminish my imagination and the value of what I make,” Guillaume said. “Also because I wonder what these people have in their minds. I mean, I see the world this way and I’m sad that they cannot have this imagination.”
To extend her lecture, as she felt it was cut short, Guillaume explains to the audience that there is a challenging process behind enameling– things can go wrong, melt or break.
“I love the challenge, but for me it is a way to balance things out,” Guillaume said. “I make really funny things that make me laugh and I even laugh by myself in the studio. It is just a way to balance how difficult and stressful it can be. I have cried many times in front of my kiln when things went wrong, so it’s gotta be fun somewhere.”