The leafy green hue of a few household plants seems out of place alongside a multi-coloured, paint-mottled apron and gas mask inside Emma Barr’s bright new artist space.
Half-finished canvases, completed commissions and 3D sculptures are throughout the room, as well as an ultrasound image on her refrigerator of her newest creation – Barr is six months pregnant.
There’s also an inspection notice from the City of Whitehorse advising of construction still to be completed in her newly-minted Treetop Studio.
Tonight, Unleash Your Creative Forces, a five-class series, is letting students’ ideas percolate in a safe setting. The half dozen or so students have their heads down in earnest as they create steampunk dolls from clay, buttons, wire, napkins and fabric.
Steampunk is a genre within the science fiction realm that features old-fashioned machinery melded with modern aesthetic.
Barr holds a piece of fabric decorated with paint daubs in one hand and a sewing needle and thread in the other. She pushes neon pink thread through near the edges, and looks up occasionally to help students with questions about how to assemble their dolls.
Creating is Barr’s business. She’s made a living as an artist since 2005 and her upcoming card-making workshop with the City of Whitehorse, Cards With Imagination, is a natural leap.
“It was Christmas and I thought I would offer a class to show how to create cards,” she states simply.
Paper cards might be going out of style and Barr admits she’s often the recipient of ever-present internet greetings that most seem to favour.
“My mom, she sends me an e-card every holiday,” Barr says. Still, she’s not one to slag internet greetings.
“As long as people are communicating messages with love and care, that’s OK. But my preference is definitely to make a homemade card.”
Barr speaks with a passion that hints at her drive to share techniques of card-making. Her own standbys include collage, paint and pastels, and 3D pop-up cards. She rarely settles on just one medium to make her proclamations.
“I’ve just been making my own cards for a really long time – since I was a little girl,” Barr says. “And, every time I make a card I want to make it a little different than I did the time before.”
She hopes to pass along her experience to those looking for something a little different to attach to their gifts this year.
“It’s just so much more personal to make a handmade card. And it’s not that hard. You don’t have to be an amazing illustrator or graphic artist or anything like that,” she says, noting that effort is really the only thing necessary in card creation.
“I prefer to make it so the card is part of the gift,” she adds.
Barr graduated from the Kootenay School of the Arts in 2003 and has been somewhat single-minded in her pursuit of the arts, setting five- and ten-year goals for herself.
“Every goal I’ve set so far, I’ve made,” Barr says of her five-year plan, a feat she wasn’t expecting to pull off.
“Our instructors told us that we needed to know the odds,” Barr says of the sobering advice she received. “Three per cent [of students] will be doing this in two years, and in five years one per cent of us will be making a living with art.”
But Barr didn’t let those odds stop her. She received an Advanced Artist Award in 2010, acted as an art and set designer for Yukonic and Into the Woods, and she teaches both private and public art classes while managing gallery showings and private commissions of her work.
“I refuse to be a starving artist and I refuse to believe that I couldn’t do what I loved in my everyday work,” she says her determined manner.
For $89, you can join her to cultivate your own handmade creations in two classes on November 17 and 24.