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Archive mensuelle de octobre 2008

Johanne Weilbrenner an Artist of All Trades

There are so many artists I want to write about but the natural place to start is Johanne Weilbrenner. After all, she is the instigator of my blog site and if it weren’t for her, I would not be writing this or any other blog. Johanne is a major force of creative energy to be reckoned with. She is an illustrator, a ceramist, a jewelry designer, a web master, and a printmaker.

Coeur de boeuf, monotype, 13×10 cm, 2008

After earning a B.A. in Graphic Design at Concordia University in 1985, Johanne began her career as an editorial illustrator. Eventually, she became disillusioned with the high pressure, dog eat dog milieu of illustration and gravitated toward ceramics.

When Jean-Claude Lebeau, her high school sweetheart, a ceramist, rented a studio, Johanne, put her illustration skills to work, by decorating his ceramic pieces. They exhibited in 1001 Pots in Val David, as they do annually, and their ceramics sold like hot cakes. The couple founded Poterie Weilbrenner et Lebeau, a thriving ceramics business. Jean-Claude throws the pieces on the potter’s wheel and Johanne decorates them, with distinctive motifs such as apples, chickadees, cherries, and olives. They make a wide array of porcelain items, sure to embellish your dinner table or kitchen. I always delight in eating my cereal in one of their pirate’s bowls.


Their studio is located in the basement of their home, practically located in the shadow of Montreal’s Olympic tower. Whenever I visit the Weilbrenner Lebeau household I am impressed by the buzz of creative energy. Jean Claude, covered in white dust, a natural byproduct of ceramic studios, may be filling or emptying one of the kilns, or doing inventory, while Hugo, the assistant potter, finishes pieces on the wheel, and Johanne’s sister, Sylvie, packs pieces for a rush order. Ça roule! I never get to see Johanne at work in the studio because whenever I visit she’s busy with me, involved in one creative project or another.

This year I made several visits to her home so that we could work on the website she designed for me. We worked for hours at a time in the mezzanine, where I got to witness the development of my site, step by step. Johanne is proud to explain that when she creates a website she does not impose her own esthetic. Her goal is to make the site reflect the look and feel of the client’s work. She was a joy to work with and I treasure the experience of being part of the creative process that led to my finished website.


Joanne also designs and makes jewelry. She discovered this passion when she was looking for an activity to share with her daughter, Léa, who was making jewelry at the time. With four days left of summer vacation, Johanne, together with her daughter and ninety-year-old grandmother, sat by a lake in the Laurentians and made necklaces. Today Johanne creates silver pieces and also works with resin, natural stones, porcelain beads, hand-shaped felt, and other materials. She sees jewelry as little sculptures and it thrills her to see people wearing her pieces. This year for my birthday she offered me a lovely pair of silver earrings, and a gift certificate to come to her house to create my own piece of silver jewelry. I am not a metal person, meaning I do not have an affinity for working with metal, but the idea of going to the Weilbrenner Lebeau home for yet another creative project appealed to me. Johanne had me using a torch and soldering my silver fish pendant. I can’t say that I mastered the art of making silver jewelry (I still have to finish my piece) but let me tell you I know how to use a torch!

Folle de Dieu, monotype, 13×10 cm, 2008

Johanne is also a printmaker. She has studied lithography with Carlos Calado, at Graff, and Donna Miro, at the Saidye Bronfman School of Fine Arts. In 2003, she joined Atelier Circulaire, where I have had the pleasure of teaching her collagraphy, intaglio woodcut printing, and monotype printing. Johanne’s background in illustration, and undoubtedly the influence of all her creative interests, shines on the printed page.

An Ordinary Day, monotype, 13×10 cm, 2008

These days she is making monotypes. This medium suits her perfectly and she enjoys the freedom of creating spontaneous, painterly images. Her approach is instinctive and intrinsically connected to her emotional states. Johanne believes that images have the power to heal, whether we are making them or looking at them. Creating prints helps her work through personal issues and helps release “internal pollution.” “Perhaps that’s why I make volcanoes,” she says, chuckling.

Toxic Volcano, monotype, 25×15 cm, 2008

When I asked Johanne to explain the fact that she juggles so many creative endeavors, she says that this is her way of striving for balance. Each activity fulfills a different need. For example, pottery is a source of income, whereas printmaking nourishes her emotionally.

Johanne is a mother of two: Léa, a budding soprano, who sang her heart out at my birthday this year, and Tom, eleven years old, who plays with my son, Pablo, whenever our families get together.

A few weeks ago Johanne invited us for supper. I looked forward to a visit where I wouldn’t have to work and dispense any creative energy. No such luck! As we gathered around the kitchen table, beers in hand, Johanne cheerfully announced, “Tonight each of us is going to make their own pizza!” We got to work and deigned exquisite, one of a kind pizzas, some of which (not mine!) towered as high as the leaning tower of Pisa! The evening was complete with music, with Johanne playing her repertoire of waltzes, blues and gospel on the piano. I hadn’t sung “Kumbaya” since day camp! When it was time for us to leave, Johanne said, “The evening passed too quickly, next time let’s just sit together and do nothing!” But that is not a possibility in this realm of reality because this woman is simply an artist of all trades, and is happiest when she creates.

Talleen Hacikyan

Artwork by Johanne Weilbrenner, ceramics by Jean-Claude Lebeau and Johanne Weilbrenner

Johanne Weilbrenner’s jewelry show: November 28, 29, 30, 2008. To receive an invitation contact: jweilbrenner@videotron.ca

My Passion for Printmaking

On October 14 I gave my lecture, « A Passion for Printmaking, » at the McCord Museum in Montreal. The event, organized by the Women’s Art Society of Montreal, drew a good crowd. It was truly a pleasure for me to give this lecture to such an attentive and genuinely interested group, in such a wonderful setting.


When I give workshops in schools I am used to setting up in all sorts of spaces, ranging from state of the art studios equipped with six sinks, to classrooms that look like they belong in a war zone. I’ve been in situations where I’ve had to run around last minute looking for extra desks and chairs, and then search for able bodies to move them, at which point a crew of grade six boys would shove all the pieces of furniture into my classroom as if they were bumper cars. So when the two technical assistants at McCord help me set up for my lecture, with unprecedented professionalism, it felt like total luxury. I asked for an easel and an easel appeared. I needed a table and before I knew it the technician was laying out a Royal blue cloth over a table. Did I want more water? No thanks, but could I have some light on my lectern? Up went the obliging man on the stool, directing a spotlight onto my notes. From then on it was easy riding.


I got the crowd warmed up by demonstrating how to print a linocut by hand, using a spoon to transfer the ink from the plate onto the paper. This trick got me a round of applause, as it usually does in elementary schools. High school kids are beyond clapping! My lecture focused on the influence of Atelier Circulaire on my development as an artist. I read part of my blog, “Atelier Circulaire Then and Now,” which elicited a steady stream of chuckles. My slide show took the audience on a trip through twenty-three years of my work as a printmaker. Each image took me back to exactly what was happening in my life at the time I created it.

The experience of showing my work and explaining its progression had a strange effect on me. Today at the studio I worked in ultra slow motion. I was printing proofs at a sedated turtle’s pace, a very distracted, sedated turtle’s pace. In between pulling prints I called students to confirm that our class is starting on Saturday; I made several cups of tea hoping they would jolt me from my stupor; I begged Wing for Chinese herbs to stimulate the brain; I Googled “Artist’s statement” in an attempt to demystify this tool of the trade; I congratulated Jean Pierre on the birth of his granddaughter; I ate some of Manuel’s chocolate macaroons; I told Isabelle that I saw her print in at Millie’s Diner in Stanstead and then we spent a good half hour talking about the owner, Bashar Chbib, a filmmaker, artist, entrepreneur, bursting with energy, who seems to own half of this border town in the Eastern Townships… No wonder I didn’t find the right colors for my prints today!


Seeing my work blown up on the screen yesterday, condensed into a one hour lecture, made me realize how fast time has evaporated since I first stepped foot in Atelier Circulaire in 1985. It almost felt as if I was seeing someone else’s work flashing in front of my eyes. But those horses, tree women, and floating houses are mine. They are like bookmarks in the story of my life as an artist. Today I slowed down, as if by doing so I could sedate time.

While I was mixing colors, Stella came to me from the other end of the etching studio, after speaking with another artist, and said, “It’s true, we are blessed to be here.” She pointed to her smock and said, “We are lucky to be here, like this. Every time I come here I say thank you and every time I leave I say, thank you, thank you, because we never know when it can end.” When she said this it struck a chord, she gave voice to feelings that were stirring in me since my lecture. Yes, Stella, I feel blessed too. Although twenty-three years have gone by, I still come to the studio to make art, and I too, say thank you.

Talleen Hacikyan

Talleen Lectures at the McCord Museum


On Tuesday October 14, 2008 at 1:30 I will give my lecture, “A Passion for Printmaking,” at the McCord Museum.

This illustrated lecture, organized by the Women’s Art Society of Montreal, is open to the public.

Browsing through twenty-five years worth of slides, I had the pleasant task of choosing images that represent major currents in my work. Each print took me back in time, triggering associated memories. When I saw my series of horse collagraphs, I remembered riding in a colorful bus, bursting with passengers and tropical Colombian music, with my portfolio of prints tucked in the storage compartment. The driver skillfully maneuvered us over narrow winding roads, down the Cordillera Occidental in Colombia’s Valle region, through breathtaking views of lush valleys and coffee plantations. I was on my way to the Rayo Museum, in Roldanillo, for a solo exhibit of my work.

Preparing this lecture has been like writing a story. I look forward to telling my story on Tuesday at the McCord Museum. After fulfilling your civic duty by casting your vote, come and bathe in some art talk, discover, “A Passion for Printmaking.”

“A Passion for Printmaking.”
Lecture by Talleen Hacikyan

Musée McCord
690 Sherbrooke Street West
Théatre J. Armand Bombardier
1:30 p.m.

Tickets: $8.00

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