Norbert Mantik and Rebekah McGurran of the Hive Printing. (photo from Rebekah McGurran)
The Eastside Culture Crawl is an annual tradition. This year marks the 21st time that artists and craftspeople on Vancouver’s Eastside have opened up their studios to the public in the fall. The Crawl runs Nov. 16-19, and includes more than 500 artists in 80 locations. Among the artists featured are Jewish community members Ideet Sharon-Martin and Rebekah McGurran.
Sharon-Martin hails from Israel. She studied computer animation and, since graduating from the Vancouver Film School in 1998, she has been working as an animator full-time. But, she has always loved art and, in the last couple of years, has resumed painting, as well. Visitors to her studio (204-1000 Parker St.) will be delighted by her mixed media representations of origami birds soaring through various images.
“I find the Eastside Culture Crawl beautiful,” she said in an interview with the Jewish Independent. “The artists are so welcoming and open. Actually, the Eastside Culture Crawl is what brought me back to painting. I started attending it in the last five years, and what began as ‘feel good’ inspiration became this strong need to create with the more traditional mediums than the computer, which is my day job. After three years of attending, I started stalking the art supply shops. At that time, I had a lot of self-judgment; I didn’t think I really had anything to offer to the art industry besides animation. When I finally finished procrastinating and started painting, I was amazed at how exciting and fun it was. I had a feeling that I arrived ‘home.’”
She paints on weeknights and weekends. “Animation and painting are each their own entity,” she said. “During my animation job, I explore and implement acting, physics and body language into the characters I am animating, but I work exclusively on my PC. When I am at my art studio, my inner child comes out and gets messy with the paints and papers and glue. I lose myself in the process and, as a result, find myself.”
The origami birds appeared in her paintings a few months after she picked up the brush again. “The birds symbolize freedom,” she explained. “I woke up one day around that time and realized that I had the freedom to make the choices concerning my life. It was empowering. I began questioning whether I was living the life I wanted or if I was doing what everyone else wanted me to do. The birds have accompanied me on that journey, or personal growth. They ascend, and I imagine myself with them.”
Sharon-Martin’s children inspire her birds, as well as her dreams, but there is also another inspiration, one that seldom appears in artist statements: quantum physics. “I am a quantum physics nerd,” she said. “I read a lot about it. It fascinates me that, at the quantum level, everything is connected. Us, the trees, the animals, the chair I am sitting on – they are all parts of a unified field. I think a lot about the connection between energy and physical form, how each seems to affect the other. It definitely affects my art: energetic and geometric layers and patterns explored on canvas.”
In addition to selling original paintings, Sharon-Martin also sells prints of her paintings. “I’m not the only one,” she said. “Artists do it to bridge the gap between art and people. Many people don’t feel that original art is accessible to them. Perhaps it isn’t affordable. In some cases, the art world is so foreign to them that they are unsure how to approach it. I am so happy that I offered prints last year. I noticed that many people felt more comfortable to flip through the prints rather than look at the originals. My prints led to connections and to many great conversations, which may not have happened otherwise. Last year, a woman who bought a print contacted me a few months later to purchase the original.”
Affordable artwork takes many forms, not just prints to hang on a wall. McGurran and her partner Norbert Mantik sell custom-made T-shirts, towels, bags and other merchandise, all printed with their original designs. Their small artisan studio at 1895 Powell St. is called the Hive Printing.
“This is our third year doing the Crawl,” said McGurran, who was born in Vancouver, but lived in Toronto for a time before returning to live here. “I think it’s an amazing event for both the public and the artists. It gives the public access to spaces and studios they may not otherwise see and a chance to meet artists on their own ground instead of in a craft show setting…. For artists, it is a lower-barrier way to introduce their art to the public than some of the more expensive juried craft fairs.”
McGurran has a degree in urban planning and environmental studies from Toronto’s York University.
“My partner and I moved to Vancouver from Toronto five years ago and decided we wanted to try something different,” she explained. “We looked into a few businesses and loved the idea of going creative. We bought an existing screen printing shop with the idea to do our own line of design. Before we took over, the shop just did custom printing.”
The Hive does both custom printing and original designs. “My partner actually executes the designs, with feedback from me,” said McGurran. “He has a background in industrial and graphic design, as well as a little bit of experience with screen printing, but, for the most part, we both sort of learned screen printing on the fly. It was a lot of research, trial and error, as well as assistance from some local experts in the field. Running a small business is challenging, but I come to work every day with my partner and my dog and I’m never bored.”
According to McGurran, one of the nicest aspects of being a craftsperson is participating in artisan events such as the Crawl.
“I love the Crawl,” she said, “because it means that people come to us and see the process, as well as our space. The studio is in an old bank building, complete with a vault we use as a darkroom. I think people have a much better appreciation for the work we do if they see us in action.”
To learn more, visit culturecrawl.ca.
Olga Livshin is a Vancouver freelance writer. She can be reached at [email protected].