In seeking new ventures artist becomes miniaturist

Artistic expressions in South Dundas series.

The Leader’s Wendy Gibb has undertaken a series of articles focusing on the visual artists who live and create here in our own community, discussing with them how their work and experiences may have been “influenced” by the “new reality” of a COVID world. Many of the artists also discuss how they perceive the future of the arts post pandemic. Previously featured were artists Jan Mills, Elsie Gallinger, Gene Ward, Karen Fisher, Anne Barkley, Dorothy Adlington and MiSun Kim-Hunter. Those articles can now be found online at morrisburgleader.ca. This week Gibb spoke with Margi Laurin.

MORRISBURG – COVID-19 closed down almost all conventional venues for artists.

At the same time, ironically, this pandemic has also motivated many artists to venture into new creative territories. Noted Morrisburg artist, Margi Laurin, discovered ways to use the COVID months to start activities which, she says, have “utterly captivated me.”

“I needed a project this winter, and I simply decided to start renovating (daughter) Liz’s 35 year old doll house,” Laurin explained. “I had actually made this house out of a kit all those years ago. It was very Victorian. I decided to “modernize” it. As I worked, I began to realize just how much fun it was to make miniature furniture, to create miniature accessories, and to create miniature original paintings: everything had to be done from scratch. Soon I was putting another kit together, miniaturizing it as well. I love to change, to evolve. No artist ever wants to do the same thing all the time.”

Laurin has taught workshops on line and in person for many years, including the popular CalligraKids. She also held adult workshops.

When COVID struck, her in-person workshops ended. She continued the on-line Zoom workshops for kids, including a link up last summer with Palo Alto, but eventually even this artistic work was affected by COVID. “When schools shut down and kids had to turn to virtual learning, forcing them to be on line for hours every day, well, I think it all became just too much, taking yet another activity on-line. So my CalligraKids is on hold for now. The same was true for adult Zoom classes. I felt that people had had enough, that they were getting tired of living their lives on line.”

With galleries, shows and tours closed down, Margi has worked, on those occasions when she could safely enter other homes, at graphic designs, such as distinctive signs, unique garage door, and creative murals on buildings. She has painted off and on, but “it comes and goes.” She has also done some watermelon and pumpkin carving as art works, “but there have been few weddings and other celebrations, so this activity has been limited as well.”

She continues to do digital art work on line, linking up with groups all over the world. She recently placed in the top 100 out of 900 entries in the Mobile Digital Arts Community juried event. (Five years earlier she won the top three places anonymously, but then the rules changed “probably because of that,” she laughed.)

Consequently, her exploration of miniature work has become a constantly changing and exciting artistic venue for her.

She had always enjoyed designing and constructing furniture, “and now I can do this without a workshop! I can show paintings, furniture, whatever I like.” Miniatures allow her to seek out versatile and creative materials. On line is, of course, one source, “but I find much of what I want for my work right around the house. I have made plants from masking tape and wire. I stripped old office furniture and couches for material. In one miniature room, the floor is made of coffee stirrers. You have to be very creative about source materials.”

Laurin has staged her miniatures online at margilaurin.com.

To do this “I had to create a special display building, a kind of backdrop where I am able to shift around the set, to introduce interchangeable walls, all so that I can show off the different paintings and furniture I have created. I feel that I am just getting well started on line.” (She has sold some of her original miniature paintings.) She is passionate about her new work and the creative opportunities it presents.

Still, “I do worry some about the future of arts shows. Will people flock back to them or be gun shy,” Laurin asked. “I really think people have missed those live experiences. But the reality remains that visual art is essentially a solitary activity and takes place in a solitary environment. I definitely miss seeing people, but to some extent my world did not completely change in these COVID months. However,” she added with a smile, “I fully plan to keep painting and creating until I can’t do so anymore.”

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