Love and Money Artist Profiles: Meags Fitzgerald and Leah Buckareff

Tender Tender - Meags Fitzgerald

Meags Fitzgerald has been active in the visual and performing arts scenes in Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto and soon in Halifax. In 2009 she received a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in Drawing from the Alberta College of Art + Design. In her art practice Meags addresses personal and Canadian history, nostalgia, maternal relationships and domesticity. She also works under the name Two Hands Two Crowns, where she makes craft items which are available on Etsy and collaborates with artists and writers to produce graphic novels. Meags is also very involved with improv theatre, she spent 2009 & 2010 teaching and performing internationally. She is very fond of comics and of cats, but surprisingly not of Garfield.

Can you talk a bit about the piece you will be showing in Love and Money—the concept, your choice of media, etc?
I’ll be showing five cross-stitches that are “replicas” of the former Canadian dollar bills. In part, Tender Tender is about how the material of an object can change our intuitive reaction and approach to it. I also like the idea of recreating something as mass produced as paper bills in a very labour intensive fashion, particularly the idea of literally putting time into making money. It makes a statement when a piece can capture the time that was invested in it and people easily become captivated by it. With Tender Tender, my hope is that the viewer will be aware of the differences between their response to seeing dollar bills and seeing cross-stitched bills. That difference speaks to the power that craft has.

I’m really interested in making work about the idea of home, in all senses of the word. In the last year I did a lot of international travel and Canada felt more like home than ever before, I want to investigate this feeling more. I’m particularly intrigued by events like The Centennial & 67 Expo, the Montreal Olympics and Trudeaumania; the 60s were all about trying to figure out what it meant to be Canadian. I love the design and aesthetic of those events and think the nostalgia that my generation feels for that time they never knew is interesting. When our former bills were introduced in the late 70s, it was cutting edge design and now because they are gone they are subject to that nostalgic longing too. I think something like currency can be very meaningful because it unifies the country and the old bills reflect something from our collective past.

In your artist’s statement, you address the difficult task of pricing one’s own artwork, and note that (amusingly!) each piece in Tender Tender seems to assign it’s own value. How do you deal with the task of pricing artwork?
Pricing your own work is awkward. There are so many factors: material costs, how much time was invested and most challenging, what’s the value of your idea? It’s a fine line between overcharging and being fair to yourself. It’s also easy to be over analytical and worry about what the price you’ve assigned to your work reflects about how you perceive yourself. I usually price low, with the logic that it’s better for it to sell for a so-so amount than not to sell at all. This is a bad habit that a lot of artists fall into.

If you make labour intensive work, never figure out how much you are paying yourself per hour or you will have the urge to quit and become a bus driver.

Do you have any funny or embarrassing stories tied to this process?
I do some graphic design work and I am conscious that I charge fairly low, but that is because most of my clients are also in the arts and it’s a way of helping out the community. Just the other day a friend asked me if I would do a t-shirt design for a theatre festival, I told my friend that I was really busy right now so in order for me to do the design ASAP I would have to charge him $100, he said I drove a hard bargain and asked if I would be willing to do it for $200?

Do you have a favourite Canadian dollar bill of all-time?
You bet, without a doubt my favourite is the old $2 bill. I think it has the nicest colour scheme and it features a younger Queen Elizabeth II on it. I’m crazy for the Queen, I like thinking of her as the mother figure of the nation and would like to make some artwork based on that idea. The two dollar bill is also the only one that has been discontinued, so I think it pulls on the nostalgic heartstrings a little more.

lithuanian litu close

Leah Buckareff is a Bookbinder and Musician from Toronto, Canada. As a Bookbinder, she has developed her career through her work with the Canadian Bookbinders & Book Artists Guild and independently through commissions – both public and private – and the production of original journals and albums sold privately and at curated shows. Through curated group exhibitions she has experimented with forms and textiles furthering her skills beyond traditional techniques. As a musician, Leah has moved from studio artist to performer over the last five years and has played extensively throughout North America and Europe with her band Nadja and partner Aidan Baker.

Can you talk a bit about the piece you will be showing in Love and Money—the concept, your choice of media, etc?
I guess the concept for this piece came as much from my craft life as it did from the life I lead in order to subsidize my craft life - music, and in particular, touring. When I see a city on tour it's usually for not much more than a day, but I interact with a lot people in that short amount of time and aside from talking about the music, we often talk about our own cultural identities and how they compare. What I take away with me is their money and a sort of mixed impression of everyone I met. I tried to juxtapose this brief impression on the cultural mythology being pushed on the respective currencies I picked up along the way by altering the images with some embroidery - it wasn't until I started experimenting with it that I realised how 'stitched' looking the original printing was on most currency.

You’re not the only artist in Love and Money working with the iconography that appears on dollar bills. You recently moved to Berlin from Toronto-- how would you compare the imagery on Canadian bills to the imagery on European bills?
With the Euro swallowing up more and more currencies, there's a real homogenization of bills over here - Euro bills are pretty boring. Nationalism is tricky territory over here, but each country does get a chance to express a tiny cultural symbol on the coins (Ireland's euro coins have, of course, a harp on them). I never really considered the vague, stereotyped imagery on our currency until I started collecting and using other currencies (other than the euro). When I try and think of Canadian bills, the one that always comes to mind is the old $50 with the Mounties in formation. Mounties are unique to Canada, but do we all really identify with a national law enforcement agency?

Embroidery isn’t the only craft medium you work in…not by a long shot! What else do you do? Do these various media ever converge in your work?
I've been embroidering more lately and although it's always figured into my bookbinding, it's recently become a larger part of it. It makes the process of getting to the finished book a lot longer, but I think I really like the slow progression of it all. About a year ago I tried out needle felting - again, a slow process - but, there was a purpose to all that stabbing and it was, of course, book related. As for crocheting, it remains a means of procrastination for me...

Love and Money opens at the Ontario Crafts Council this Thursday night from 6-9 pm, and runs from December 16-31, 2010.

Images: Meags Fitzgerald, Tender Tender (50) and Leah Buckareff, Currency of Myth (Lithuanian Litu)

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