21 Dec Marika Yeo
Bright colors and an artistic eye, we spoke with artist, Marika Yeo, on her design process and inspiration. Yeo is a visual artist who primarily works in ceramics. Her sculptural and functional pieces draw from patterns and forms related to her cultural background.
Behind The Artist: Marika Yeo
Name/Type of Property: Marika Yeo
Location: Saskatchewan, Canada
Have you always been an artist? What is your background?
Yes, I have always been an artist. When I was quite young I started out taking classes in painting and jewelry making. I then moved on to ceramics and ended up doing my BFA in Visual Arts with a major in Ceramics. I’ve always loved painting, ceramics and occasionally making jewelry.
What is your creative process for your work?
I usually think about the surface design first. I like to get a sense of what patterns I’m using and which historical movements they will reference. My work has evolved to having quite a bit of research at its foundation so I often dive into that aspect first before creating the actual piece.
Do you always use watercolor? Or what other materials do you use?
I usually use watercolor and gouache. I’d love to get more into using inks as well. As for ceramics, I enjoy using porcelain and mason stains the most. Gold leaf and gold luster are also fun accents to add to bring a bit of luxury in.
What inspires you?
Bright colors and bold prints are usually what gets my imagination flowing. For awhile I was pulling a lot of inspiration from West African mud cloth and the floral patterns from the British Arts and Crafts Movement. Since then I have been a bit more loose with my designs and just enjoy carving patterns into the clay using black under glaze as the base. I have always loved the colourfield movement, particularly Helen Frankenthaler, so I also tend to throw in splashes of colour whenever I can.
How do you chose colors for your projects?
I usually prefer warmer color palettes. I’m drawn to the earth tones especially because those pigments are a bit more common in certain types of West African art. But I have been branching out into other palettes more recently. The color palette I go with usually depends on what feeling I’m trying to evoke or what message I want to get across. For awhile I stayed in hues of royal blue, white and gold tones as I was talking a lot about colonialism and the objects deemed as “prestigious”. Traditionally these colors already hold so much meaning in an art historical sense so it helps to be able to draw on the meaning that has already been associated with certain colors throughout the ages.
What is the typical time frame for each of your pieces?
It really depends on the piece. Probably the longest project I ever undertook was about 7 months. I built three vases that were around 5’3” and made and used about 1000 pounds of clay in the process. I’m not sure if I will ever do that again! Now a days I like to stick to smaller pieces that can last anywhere from a day to a few weeks. It is much easier on my nerves!
What project are you most proud of?
The project I just mentioned is one that I would say sticks out the most to me throughout my art practice. Not because of the scale but because it pushed me to grow as an artist in a way I had never grown before. It pushed me conceptually, technically and emotionally. I learned a lot about the process of working large scale and also about the importance of trusting myself and my intuition when it comes to making decisions for my work.
What is your favorite type of art to create?
I love a so many different things! It depends on my mood. Some days I just want to sink my hands into some clay and other days I like to work on adding layers to a painting. For me I think there will always be something a bit special about working with clay. Bringing something from your imagination into a three-dimensional object is a bit magical.
Who is your favorite artist?
I have so many. Yinka Shonibare and Helen Frankenthaler are two that come to mind off the bat. I’ve also always loved the work of Alwyn O’Brien…there are really just too many artists I love and admire that I can’t name them all!
Give us a few adjectives to associate with your design aesthetic.
bold, fragile, precarious and organic.
If you weren’t an artist what would you be?
I’ve always been interested in research related to race and culture. I might work in that field or a field related to Social Justice. I draw a lot of my concepts from this area so I feel like they are closely connected for me. I particularly draw from Third Space Theory as it relates to the African Diaspora and European Lineage. Although I love these areas of research, I can’t really imagine not practicing art on a regular basis. It is something that keeps me centered and grounded in a way nothing else can.
Where do you do your work?
I do my work in my home studio. I sometimes also have artist dates with other friends who are painters and ceramicists. That is great for inspiration and also to expose myself to healthy critiques of the work I’m producing.
What is your most memorable career moment thus far?
Again I would probably go back to my largest scale project of the three vases that were 5’3”. It was the most challenging project I’ve undertaken from start to end. Getting those set up in the gallery was maybe just as stressful and challenging as creating the actual piece. I think that is definitely the moment that sticks out for me the most over the last several years.
What’s the first thing you do when you wake up?
I try to pray and meditate every morning. I don’t always succeed at this but for me, taking care of my spiritual side is a priority and something that I feel has allowed me to accomplish what I have so far done in my art practice and life.
What is your favorite color this season?
Great question. Well I’m always drawn to deep and warm shades around this time of year. Particularly shades of burgundy, crimson and plum. I feel like they are the perfect colors to have around you during cold weather.
Do you have any hidden talents?
I’m not sure if these are talents but I have always loved to dance, make jewelry, bake and do yoga. I also love listening to music and dabbling in new instruments.
If you could spend 3 months anywhere, where would it be?
Probably either the Caribbean or a country in West Africa. My background is linked to those places so I would love to explore them more and learn as much as I can about the culture and art that stems from those areas.
What is your favorite music to listen to when working?
Anything that helps me relax and get into the right head space for making art. Lately I’ve been listening to the new Mumford and Sons album, Hozier, Bon Iver, Chance the Rapper and A Seat at The Table. I’ve also been loving Lianne LaHavas these days too!
What can’t you live without?
I don’t think I could live without a feeling of community. I think that feeling comes in so many different forms — our family, our art community, our friends. I think it is so easy to get caught up in the individualistic society that is very prominent in our world today. But for me, whenever I lose sight of the feeling of community it is almost paralyzing. I recognize the value of community in my life and I know I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t had the opportunity to walk this path with others. I think the moment I start to think things like, “I can do this on my own and I don’t need anyone else” that is when things really just stop moving forward. But whenever I am in the mindframe of community, and recognizing the interconnectedness that exists between me and everyone else in my life, I then see things move. With my art practice, I know I didn’t get to where I am now on my own. It is through my connection with others and the support of a community that I have come to the place that I am.
What habit do you want to break in 2017?
I want to break the habit of procrastinating with ideas. In my life and in my art. I have a few ideas within my art practice I want to try and even though I’m excited to do them I sometimes find myself procrastinating or not fully carrying them through. I love when I can just jump right in without hesitation. I hope I can do more of this in 2017!
About Marika Yeo:
Marika Yeo is a visual artist who primarily works in ceramics. Her sculptural and functional pieces draw from patterns and forms related to her cultural background. Marika stepped into the world of visual arts at a young age and has gone on to complete her BFA with a major in ceramics. Her conceptual work often has its roots in ideas related to the theory of the Third Space, which rests on the notion that there is validity in thinking about the complexity that occurs beyond dichotomies — in the space where cultures meet.