Bizzie Bee's Artist Interview: Salome Tam

Welcome to Bizzie Bee's Artist Interviews where we get to have a chat with some of the artists who love what Bizzie Bee is all about. Our first interview is with our guest blogger Salome who has been showing us some different ideas that accompany the Bizzie Bee Craft Kits right here on this blog!

Salome on an art residency with fellow Arctic explorers last summer in Spitsbergen, Svalbard. Read more about their project at We Go North.

Tell me a little about yourself. I’m an avid maker and enjoy a multitude of creative pursuits like painting, drawing, sewing, constructng, baking, collecting, lettering... I was born in Canada and grew up in Taiwan, the US and Hong Kong. The beauty of the natural world amazes me and I’m mesmerized by both its chaos and order.

How did you start making art? My earliest memory is from first grade and just having access to art materials to use and create with. I was ecstatic to find crayons and watercolours listed on the school supply list at the beginning of the school year. Just knowing they were mine to use and take care of made me so happy. My parents were also quite good about letting me keep pretty much anything I could get my hands on (also known as garbage to some) to save for later to make stuff with. I was convinced I’d find a way to use up all these precious collected items.

Why do you make art?

I think putting things together in a different way is fascinating—whether it be ideas, materials, or objects. It’s another way of communicating, which I often find more useful and powerful than words.

What is your favourite art form? It would be both printing and ceramics. The process of art making in each involves many steps and responding to changes and the unexpected along the way is an ongoing conversation with your work. It’s a special journey.

What inspires you and how do you keep your creative spark?

Being outdoors, the mountains and water, and definitely travel—seeing new places, meeting new people, encountering different experiences. I find climbing up high helps (atop mountains, buildings, or whatever provides a different vantage point from the everyday) but even just taking the time to re-explore my neighbourhood is good.

Pastel still life.

Was there an artist you admired when you were young that inspired you to be an artist yourself?

Mrs. Armbruster, an elementary school friend's mum. She introduced me to the world of pastels, taught me how to look carefully at things and showed me what darks and lights could do. The pastel piece is an old artwork my parents saved from that time.

What role does the artist have in society?

They encourage people to think, ask questions and see the world in a new way.

What are you working on right now? I’m working on a series of watercolours and textile/fibre pieces inspired by the Arctic landscape I encountered during my art residency last summer. What surprised me most was how varied each landing we made was as we sailed around Svalbard. Seeing, hearing and touching icebergs in person was magical. There is so much character and beauty in a piece of ice and so much the land and environment up there is telling us.

Icebergs in Lilliehöökfjorden

What’s your favourite place to see art?

Out and about on a walk or hike. Art in nature is the best!

What’s the last show that you saw?

Weingart Typography at the Hong Kong Design Institute in Tseung Kwan O. I’m heading to the M+ Sigg Collection—Four Decades of Chinese Contemporary Art next.

What is your favourite museum?

In Hong Kong, it’s the Heritage Museum. Their permanent exhibitions provide a unique view of Hong Kong history through a look into the New Territories, Cantonese Opera and Chinese art. There is always something I want to see in their changing exhibits as well. Past ones I’ve really enjoyed were Best Wishes for the Family: Traditional Woodblock Prints, Picasso, and Pixar: 25 Years of Animation. I’m really looking forward to seeing Claude Monet’s Paintings showing May-July 2016.

What’s your favourite art work?

I really like Ding Jitang’s woodblock prints. My friend who used to live in China knew him from her time up in Xi’an and took me to visit him and see his artwork.

What are you reading right now?

Arctic Dreams, Barry Lopez and The Rosie Project, Graeme Simsion

Do you collect anything?

Many things : ) one being photos of sewer covers which began from an art project I did in university.

naturepile 107 dahlia

Describe a real-life situation that inspired you. Watching monks sweeping in the morning in the wats (temples) during the month I lived in Chiang Mai. I loved the orderliness made from the fallen debris and started my naturepile series because of that.

What jobs have you done other than being an artist? I taught kindergarten and first grade and then art to K-5 artists. I've also worked for a company that makes equipment to test the emission on buses which was rather interesting.

Why art?

It’s around us everywhere and we can all enjoy and create it.

Name something you love, and tell us why. The Dahlia Dell in Golden Gate Park! I’d been to the park a number of times but never noticed the dahlias happily growing in their special place. You can't help but smile walking up to them and encountering such vibrancy and life. Sometimes you just need a friend to point something out to you and share a place and moment with you.

Dahlia Dell, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Make something everyday.

What advice do you have?

Always have something with you that you can draw with and on. A small sketchbook/notebook and pen is great for the everyday. When I travel I like to bring a few more art materials along with me as well. This is what I pack: bottle cap for ink, white pastel mainly for clouds, water soluble graphite stick, half a wooden chopstick (my favourite for ink drawings) water brush, ink, napkin, Moleskine pocket watercolour notebook, Winsor and Newton watercolour palette.

Parents also often ask me how they can support their young artists. At home, create a space for them to keep all their materials in one place—a designated art box. Stock it with a few good quality art materials (paint, markers, colour pencils) because it does make a difference. It doesn’t have to be expensive art materials and many student grade ones work well. Have an assortment of paper, adhesives (glue stick, white glue, double sided tape) and tools (scissors, ruler, paintbrushes) available too. Encourage your artist to save and collect useful materials they can re-use. Teach them how to decide and select as it's a thoughtful and intentional curation of items and not hoarding.

What is your dream project if there were no restrictions on time or money? What would you create?

I'd love to open up a multi-use community art hub with a storefront, small bakery/cafe, studio and workshop space...one large enough to hold printing presses and kilns! It's always more fun with community encouraging and inspiring each other and art would be flowing from this space.

See more of Salome's work at salometam.com.

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Bizzie Bee is a social enterprise initiative and primary funding partner of Lizzie Bee Foundation Ltd, a Hong Kong registered charity. Money raised from the sale of our products goes directly to arts projects for the underprivileged in our community.

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