Artist Interview: APRIL CAMLIN

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APRIL CAMLIN

Intro & Interview by Shanon Weltman

We bring you another amazing artist associated with the Baltimore art/comedy group Wham City, April Camlin. She’s somewhere between a fashion or textile designer and fine artist, and onced played Lex Murphy in a small stage production of “Jurassic Park”. Her current black and white textile series is so eye-catching we needed to ask her all about it.

 

SW: How long does it take you to come up with the designs and then create a piece?

AC: Well, I think that’d be the planning. I like to start out with an idea, at times it’s like an arsenal of techniques that are influencing the composition and I like to kind of intuitively work, so I think that the execution takes a really long time. Because I have that space, I can kind of change things as they go along. If I don’t like the way that something is working, I can undo it and then start over again. I definitely think that I spend a lot more time in the execution. I did an installation in August and I spent about 200 hours stitching. The design of it, maybe, I spent like a couple days just laying it out. I’ve been doing more with digital fabric printing. That definitely involves a bit more planning ahead and doing more design work on the computer. It’s been like a new thing for me, but I’ve been really excited about it. That stuff is a little bit more time consuming I suppose.

SW: You use like Illustrator, or something?

AC: I use Photoshop. I’m so technologically illiterate, but I’m probably using it in an incredibly inefficient way. [Laughs] So it probably makes it take longer. Every time I’m making work, I’m kind of like ‘I know there must be a better way to do this,’ but I’m very connected to the labor.

SW: So you’ve got needlepoint, weaving and digital printing? Is there anything else in the series?

AC: No, not at the moment. I’m drawn to working on anything that involves a grid. Mostly those three right now.

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SW: I see actually one piece that’s an infinity sweater, it says machine knit.

AC: Yeah, I kind of started out with this series of ideas that I’m working on now, with the idea of super exaggerated or forced perspective, sort of tricking the eye. Then it moved into something a little bit different. I was doing some stuff on the knitting machines, but not quite so much anymore.

SW: Where do you get your fabric printed?

AC: I’m very fortunate, I have it printed at school. We have a really nice fiber reactive printer, which means that it’s printing the ink. The dye, it’s penetrating the fabric instead of sort of just sitting on top and not being extremely durable. It’s a really high quality image that’s getting printed. It’s a great resource.

SW: Wow yeah, so the nylon is like this sheer black color? Is that what it is? Then it’s printing the white?

AC: Oh no, the opposite, it’s white then I’m printing the black.

SW: Wait, whaaaat?

AC: [Laughs]

SW: How? What??

AC: Crepe Georgette is the material and it’s backed, it has a paper backing when it’s going though the printer. When you remove the fabric adhered to the paper backing before you steam it.

SW: That’s amazing.

AC: Yeah, digital printing on fabric is so cool. I feel like because I’ve been very connected to these very labor intensive processes, like the needle point and the weaving, it’s kind of forced my scale to be a certain size. Digital printing really allows me to think about things on a larger scale than I have before.

SW: With all of these designs, are you thinking more like a designer or thinking more like a fine artist that’s putting practical use to these? I can’t tell, some of the closeups are so nice on their own, but obviously they make great patterns to use. What was the original intention?

AC: That’s a good question. [Laughs] I feel like I’m informed and interested, both in the fine arts and also in more of an industrial fabrication. I think ideally, when I see myself in the future, I think about working in some kind of industry where I’m working with fabrication and having that be something that informs my fine art. I think that for me, the two are inextricably linked.

SW: Why black and white?

AC: I think that black and white kind of triggers this vibration almost, with my eyes and my mind, that’s very appealing to me. For me, they are the two colors that have the highest contrast. I was at Haystack this summer in Maine, it’s like a residential Art School. You do, like, two week sessions. I was looking at the ecosystem that was around me and the relationship of all these natural elements to each other. Somehow, one thing led to another, I started doing research on all of the plants in the area. It seems kind of weird, but it kind of led me towards this binary relationship between the eyes and the mind that exists in Op Art, and how that’s its own little ecosystem. So I started doing more research into Op Art. There’s always been something about black and white to me that I’ve really responded to it. I feel like I kind of understood why as I was doing more research over the summer.

SW: Are there any other artistic or cultural inspirations? You said binary and I can see that perfectly, but are there any other cultures that are involved or influencing this?

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AC: Totally, I’m looking a lot at Kuba Cloth, which is this embroidered pile which is made of Raffia which comes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Sub-Saharan Africa. I’ve just been really inspired by the way that the people, the women who are embroidering these designs, they’re kind of working with this really complex structure, but there’s also this kind of play on the structure. It’s really appealing to me, really interesting to me.

SW: Yeah, it’s really cool.

AC: [Laughs] Yeah, it’s kind of mind-blowing/boggling.

SW: What’s your process like? I can’t tell if this is something where you have to be really focused or can kind of have Netflix on and zone out? It seems like you do once wrong stitch and you’ve made a new pattern.

AC: Well, that’s kind of something that I’m interested in exploring too. The way that a pattern can be manipulated and be caused to interrupt itself. Those moments where it collides with itself, that’s kind of something that’s really interesting to me. I think it’s for different things. I listen to a lot of audio books, it is kind of this weird involuntary focus. It feels very natural to me to be working this way. It is highly focused work, but I don’t feel like I have to devote every iota of my mental processing to execute the design. Know what I mean?

SW: Mmhmm.

AC: I do enjoy some Netflix from time to time as I’m embroidering. I’ll admit it. [Laughs]

SW: Did you design this jumpsuit or did someone else design the jumpsuit?

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AC: That’s a pre-made pattern I got from a website that sells patterns. I didn’t design the pattern just the print on the fabric that goes with it.

SW: Also, where the seams would meet, you picked all that and everything too.

AC: Yeah, it’s known as engineered print so you’re kind of working with a pattern shape and designing the fabric to fit specifically into that shape and then you can do things like orchestrate where the pattern matches up on the seams and things like that.

SW: Oh wait, did this design come first or second? How did that overlap? Did you pick the jumpsuit first and then you were like, ‘I need to make a pattern for this jumpsuit’?

AC: Yes

SW: Ah okay, very cool.

AC: I kind of had an idea of what I wanted to do, I knew that it had to be a jumpsuit and so I kind of just looked for jumpsuit patterns.

SW: This back little piece, the dart or whatever that is, the fold, that came out excellent.

AC: Thank you! [Laughs] That fabric was… not fun to work with.

SW: It doesn’t look fun to work with, but it’s fun to look at.

AC: The funny thing about it, I kind of, like, smudged. You can see there’s some weird warping happening with the design, and that was something that I did intentionally, but as it was coming out of the fabric printer, the printer tech was like ‘Oh no! There’s a problem with the printer!’ I was like, ‘Haha! No I fooled you!’ That’s just my print! [Laughs] When things like that happen it’s really exciting to me. You’re tricking your mind. I’m really interested in the way that feels.

SW: Do you have any more big plans for this series or are you just kind of letting it go? Not go, but stop…

AC: I feel like I’m going to keep working in this series until it doesn’t feel right anymore. I don’t think too far ahead, I like to just focus on what’s happening and kind of let the work go where it wants to go. I try not to place too many restrictions on the direction. Sometimes these happy accidents happen and sometimes they can be just as inspiring as months of dedicated research, so I try not to impose too many time restrictions on it. It feels like a progression to me. I’m going to keep working within these parameters for awhile.

SW: I hope you do! It’s so fun to look at. Something about the way you worded something right now reminds me of this quote I wrote down the other day from ‘The Simpsons’.

AC: [Laughs]

SW: Officer Wiggum said, ‘Don’t censor me, it’s what stifles creativity.’ Something like that.

AC: Officer Wiggum said that? [Laughs]

SW: Yeah, he drew his gun and said something really bizarre. The other officer was like ‘…Chief?’ And then he said that. I thought it was kind of profound. [Laughs]

AC: [Laughs]

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SW: One last question, just random. What kind of vending machine do you think needs to be invented?

AC: This is something that already exists, but I don’t think there are enough coffee vending machines in this country. [Laughs] Probably not a cool enough answer.

SW: No! Bring them back! They had those in the 70s and 80s, they were kind of dying in the 90s. We need those back. [Laughs] That’s a great answer.

AC: It’d be pretty cool if there was a vending machine that just sold thread. That’s the thing that I’m always running out of and I’m always running out of it late at night. There’s nowhere to get it, when I’m working at night I’m like ‘what do I need to unravel to get these colors…’ [Laughs]

SW: Oh man, I would love that.

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Artist Interview: DINA KELBERMAN

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DINA KELBERMAN

Intro & Interview by Shanon Weltman

She’s not sure what genre of artist to currently consider herself, but regardless, anything Dina Kelberman artistically creates is worthy of your time. She seems to always be involved in collaborative projects, including being a part of the art/comedy group Wham City, as well as her own independent creative pursuits. You can see her comics in Baltimore’s weekly City Paper, or online. Her astute observations make her a master at wit, and harvesting organized collections of internet images. Even the New Museum agrees. Dina took some time to talk to me about her recent projects, take some time to read about them.

 

SW: So first, what kind of artist do you consider yourself these days?

DK: I don’t know, I don’t really think about it. I’m definitely veering pretty heavily into a pure digital realm. I was focusing on comics for awhile and have kind of gotten less interested in that and just don’t do that as much anymore. I mean… I still have a weekly comic. But I don’t really draw outside of that. I’m addicted to the computer, so I’m pretty digital these days.

SW: The weekly comic, do you post it online or do you do it for yourself?

DK: It’s for the City Paper.

SW: Oh cool! I did see you posted some of those.

 

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DK: I’ve been doing it for awhile. I won the comic contest, like, years ago and they kept me around. It’s actually been like 5 years or something, which is crazy. I don’t long how much longer that’s going to last because every week I’m like ‘Fuck, I gotta do another comic!’ [Laughs]

SW: [Laughs] Cool!

DK: [Laughs]

SW: What were you saying about Adult Swim [earlier]?

DK: We did a thing with them about a year ago. Basically it’s my boyfriend, Alan Resnick, and our friend Ben O’Brien that are kind of the dudes heading up the stuff. They were doing comedy and going on tours and they started talking to a producer over at Adult Swim. We made a pitch for a show, we also pitched kind of a show version of an act Alan had been doing on tour and they picked that up. So, last year we made this one-off fake infomercial that aired at like 4 in the morning for a week. That was cool. Then we pitched another sort of 4am prank thing and we’ve somehow spent another entire year. It takes us 1 year to make a 10 minute thing, that’s our current schedule. We’re about to start to shoot our next 10 minute thing. On Sunday we start the actual shooting process finally, for a week, and it’s going to be crazy. [Laughs]

 

 

SW: Why does it take a year? That’s…

DK: …Because we don’t know what we’re doing. [Laughs] There’s so much back and forth with the network and so many people involved, that it’s like we’re still learning how to push things through and get everything organized. Moving with such a vast web of people that need to talk to each other and get back to each other. Hopefully that will speed up a lot [Laughs].

SW: Is it more like the ‘Red Tape’ kind of stuff versus the actual creative process?

DK: Yeah, the creative stuff, we’re pretty good at banging out. It’s just the administrative getting everything together, getting the network to okay things and then getting back and finding actors, it’s really crazy. I think when we have a bit more experience we’ll be able to make it happen a million times faster.

SW: Yeah, probably. Are you still involved with Wham City? Is there anything cool happening with them or any of the creatives you’re around now you’d like to share?

DK: Yeah, I mean, we don’t really do stuff as a group. This Adult Swim thing is pretty Wham City oriented, but it’s so far such a small thing that not as many people get to be as involved as we like. Hopefully that will expand and we get to include more people. Everyone is really doing their own thing a lot these days. Everyone was like ‘Oh fuck, I’m 30. I gotta have a life!’, it’s a lot less group stuff but we’re all hanging out.

SW: Alan is an artist also?

DK: Yeah, he does a lot of digital stuff. He’s really into 3D special effects, both the real and the behind the scenes aspect of it. The first thing we did for Adult Swim was this thing starring him, where a fake version of him created a digital avatar, a 3D model of his own head that he talks to and is trying to sell to people. But it doesn’t work.

SW: [Laughs]

DK: But he’s also actually building a 3D model of his head, so it’s this weird sort of blurred line with that. Then he does comedy with Ben, there’s a lot of comedy stuff coming up lately that people have been doing.

SW: That’s awesome. I don’t have cable, how can I watch this infomercial?

DK: You can see it online, if you go to AdultSwim.com. The easiest way to find it is probably the Adult Swim YouTube page. The other thing, the new thing we’re doing will be there eventually, too. It’s going to air in December, it should also be online. The 15th is our air date allegedly.

SW: Isn’t that pretty close to your birthday?

DK: Pretty close. You knew my birthday?

SW: I do. [Laughs]

DK: Wow

SW: It looks like, from looking at your website with Alan, you’re working on a bunch of projects? Which is really exciting. I’m just wondering, what inspired the ‘I’m Google’ and the ‘Our Findings’ database series? [Laughs] They’re really weird and I love them.

 

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DK: Oh cool! Well ‘Our Findings’ is like how Alan and I kind of became really good friends and then fell in love over the internet. One of our commonalities was that we were both obsessively watching ‘The Simpsons’ at all times. We started emailing with another friend of ours, Jordan Card, I don’t know if you knew her. She’s in Baltimore too. She was constantly watching ‘The Simpsons’, we were just all emailing each other funny screencaps. Alan and I both got really obsessed with the very abstract ones. We started focusing on that really heavily until we just decided to start collecting them all on this Tumblr. Which we’re still sort of doing, but now we’ve completely lost track of what we’ve already put up there. So, now every time we watch ‘The Simpsons’ we’re like, ‘Do we have that one? I don’t know. Did I get it?’ It’s become a really weird way to watch TV.

SW: [Laughs]

DK: [Laughs] But it’s very fun. ‘I’m Google’ is just the habit of wanting to collect stuff. Like, I have all of these folders of pictures I would find on the internet. I started making these silly Facebook albums of just batches of things and had sort of heard of Tumblr but didn’t know how it worked. I was like, ‘This seems like a good repository for throwing this stuff somewhere. I can transition them into this next thing’. That became the focus and I became obsessed with trying to do that as well as I could. I’ve just been doing that forever now. I still have like a million folders collected of all different stuff. I want to somehow get to these fifty pictures of pieces of squash but I can’t figure out how to get there. So. [Laughs]

 

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SW: Mmhm [Laughs] Have you worked on any part of that series and then discovered, like, the one perfect photo that you forgot about or found later?

DK: Oh God, that’s like my worst nightmare. [Laughs] It hasn’t happened too bad yet actually, surprisingly. I can’t remember. I remember one time I somehow ended up looking up a similar thing or I somehow was like ‘There’s the perfect squiggle of wires and I can’t go back and put it in.’ Sad, [Laughs] but that’s okay, I can move on.

SW: It sounds like you’re working on a lot. What is the most exciting thing happening in your life right now?

 

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DK: I don’t know? I’ve been doing this thing where I bought this Ice Cream truck kind of thing, a step-van like a UPS truck, and I have been converting it into a tiny house to live in/ art thing, which is super-fun. I had this dude that my friend recommended come down from Minneapolis. He cut the roof off and built a pointed roof, so it looks kind of like a Monopoly piece. It’s red. It has windows, I have a lofted bed in there, I’ve got wood floors and I’ve been slowly working on that. I’m basically, actually going to start living in it.

SW: That’s fucking cool!

DK: [Laughs] Yeah, it’s really fun! I’m so addicted to the computer I’ve been like ‘I like to build shit out of wood’, even though I’m not necessarily great at it. But it’s really fun! I’m building all these shelves and figuring out how to cram all my stuff into this little space. What I need and what I don’t need. That’s been the most exciting thing, it’s kind of life encompassing.

SW: Where is it sitting right now?

DK: Alan and Ben and I were all living at the Copycat, slowly building this. It was in the Copycat parking lot until basically yesterday. My friend bought a house a few blocks away from there and I’m going to start living in her backyard. Alan’s living in the house. I have a house I can go take a shit in if I really need to or like take a shower. [Laughs] If it’s getting too crazy in the van. But I’ll basically be out back. [Laughs]

SW: Cool!

DK: Yeah, we’ll see how it goes. It’s like we’re on the block right above North Ave, so I keep being like, ‘Is this insane?’ But it’s a pretty chill block, so I’m not sure how totally crazy this plan is going to end up being.

SW: Yeah… I don’t know, good luck.

DK: [Laughs] North Ave has chilled out a lot. At least over here.

SW: Two more questions. You’re kind of all over the place in a really good way. You said you’re not really sure what kind of artist you are. Who are your artistic influences? Throughout your lifetime, who has really inspired you.

 

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DK: Jessica Stockholder is my favorite artist of all time, for sure. Just because I love her use of color and space, formal stuff. I heard her talk a few times, she’s just very matter of fact. She’s just like ‘I love how these blue plastic buckets look and that’s it, that’s why I’m using them.’ I really get frustrated when people have these highfalutin answer reasons for things, I’m just like ‘C’mon you’re doing it because you like it.’ I don’t know much about Contemporary Art these days because I’m, like, in this weird bubble. [Also] James Turrell, Sol LeWitt, and Ed Ruscha.

SW: The last question. I might know the answer to this. If you could only wear one color for the rest of your life, what would it be?

DK: Wait, do you know that I only wear two colors right now? [Laughs]

SW: [Laughs] Yes, but I don’t think all the readers do.

DK: You’re making me pick between red and blue.

SW: Yes. You have to choose, which one? [Laughs]

DK: I guess I’d have to go with red. Blue is what I consider my favorite color, but I appear to like wearing red more for some reason. I’ll go with red. Let me know when I have to start doing it. [Laughs]

SW: No one is going to force you, but if you want to go ahead and do that, [Laughs] it’d be awesome.

DK: Yeah, once two becomes too much to handle. [Laughs]

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