Artist Profile: Carly Waito

Meeting the city's artists, one at a time


An artist profile of Carly Waito

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Describe your process of creating a piece? What materials do you work with?

The first few crystal paintings I did were based on reference photos I sourced online. Now that I have a DSLR and a good macro lens, I take my own photos of specimens I collect myself. I use these images as reference for the paintings which are done with water-mixable oil paints on masonite. The water-mixable oils are great for me since I work from home.

Can you talk a little about the upcoming holiday show ‘Little Crowns’ at Narwhal Art Projects? What are your inspirations for the pieces in the show?

It is a group exhibition focusing on the magical aspects of this season and idea of applying mystical qualities to earthly objects. I’m so excited to be included with artists I love, like Naomi Yasui and Selena Wong.

I’m fascinated with the natural world – especially the little parts we feel compelled to pick up and keep. I’ve always been a collector, and I’m really interested in exploring this common impulse to possess pieces of nature which we find beautiful or curious. These paintings are an extension of this impulse. I’m interested in how we assign complex layers of value to these objects based different factors, like rarity, historical context, scientific significance, subjective notions of beauty, and, for some people, even metaphysical or healing properties.

When are you most productive?

I am not an early riser. My routine lately is to start around noon and work until my eyes get tired. If I can stay focused, I like to put in a solid 10 hours. I have a hard time painting in the evenings after work (at my part-time gallery job), because my eyes are too strained after a day on the computer. I guess with detailed work like this, it’s all about the eyes. And, I’m definitely most productive when I have a deadline to motivate me.

What’s your current obsession?

Other than mineral specimens… well, I always have a bunch of things exciting me at any given point, which tend to distract me from whatever responsibility I should be focusing on. Right now I’m knitting like crazy, and I’m especially excited about traditional Norwegian mittens. Since we moved into this apartment a year ago, which has a great backyard, I’ve been getting pretty serious about gardening – but that obsession is pretty much on hold until I turn the dining room into a seedling grow-op in the late winter. I’m also getting into taking pictures, some of which get posted on my blog. Basically my blog is a way to focus and express all these interests.

Looking at your blog regularly, I see you are fond of vintage illustrations from old text books. Is this something you collect? or do you use it for inspiration in your own work?

Mostly I collect images in digital form (i.e. saving images from ebay listings). I don’t often actually buy them, although I would if I could afford to. I have been buying some vintage science books lately – they are often inexpensive compared to the antique prints I peruse on ebay. I’m hoping to find some more at my favorite charity shop in Thunder Bay when I visit my family for Christmas. I’m bringing an extra suitcase in anticipation! On my last visit I picked up a great book about crystals with fantastic off-coloured old photos, and a book from the series The Ocean World of Jacques Cousteau which has the most charming illustrations. These images aren’t used directly in my work, but they do feed my creative impulses somewhat.

What are some of your favourite spots in the city?

I love being at home, curled up with my knitting and a glass of red wine in the winter or working out in the garden in the summer. I also love to walk around my neighbourhood, (near High Park) with my camera, or biking up to the Junction on the weekend for breakfast at Espresso Mi Vida. Food is the main thing that occasionally draws me out into the world. Now that it’s getting cold, all I can think about is dumpling soon tofu from Buk Chang Dong Soon Tofu in Korea Town – my ultimate comfort food.

What are some projects you are currently working on?

For the last five years since finishing design school my main focus has been the ceramic design studio (coe&waito) I shared with Alissa Coe. We let go of our studio and the production part of our company recently, which has freed up some time and creative energy for other stuff. This is the first time I’ve really focused on painting and I am so excited to see how it will develop.

I’ll be doing more of these mineral paintings. I’ve also been doing a lot of reading and visual research, thinking about the possibility of a larger body of work which incorporates the mineral paintings but maybe stretches into other media/ideas.

Any last words?

Thanks and happy holidays!

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