Behind the Process / The Handmade Pop-Up

Behind the Process—The Handmade Popup (Written by Rhonda.H.Y.Mason)
Behind the Process—The Handmade Popup (Written by Rhonda.H.Y.Mason)
Behind the Process—The Handmade Popup (Written by Rhonda.H.Y.Mason)
Behind the Process—The Handmade Popup (Written by Rhonda.H.Y.Mason)

From 1–30 November, I am joining over 70 other artists and artisans taking part in the Handmade Pop-Up (HMPU)—a bi-annual virtual pop-up event created to disrupt consumerism by promoting mindfulness and intentionality in the way we create and consume goods. I’m indebted to the wonderful Inge Flint for telling me about this great platform, and I’m so thankful to Sam and Grace for accepting my application. Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to do an interview for HMPU, so I thought I’d share some of my answers here on the blog.

What sort of work will you be offering at W.19?

For HMPU W.19, I am releasing my first open-edition series, titled To Love. This series is based on my reinterpretation of the Chinese character 爱, which means 'love' or 'to love', and it is in honour of our first son, Cameron, who died in utero at 41 weeks. For the series, I have been mixing my own gouache paint using natural earth pigments that are non-toxic, archival, and lightfast, and I have chosen to work with 100% recycled cotton rag paper for its raw texture. Each edition in the series will be hand painted and signed.

What’s unique about your process?

I believe my gouache paintings are unique because they explore basic human emotion and instinct through the intersection of Chinese calligraphy and abstract, minimalist art. Or put simply: I reinterpret Chinese characters into contemporary one-line drawings and build my art upon that. I like the fact that some viewers perceive the actual Chinese character in my paintings, while others perceive abstract lines and shapes.

In terms of my process, possibly the most unique aspect is that I am creating, by hand, the same painting over and over again. This is an uncommon practice in western art, but I find the repetition both soothing and grounding, allowing me to block out the world and all its noise and distractions. I guess you could say that the process is meditative for me. It also harks back to the traditional practice of Chinese calligraphy, where you spend years writing the same character over and over again until you attain ‘perfection’—or enlightenment. Even though, from afar, each of my paintings looks the same as the others in the series, I like the fact that each one is indisputably unique when you examine them up close.

What calls you to create? What do you hope your work contributes to the world, or at least, the viewer’s world?

As a writer, my hope is that my words bring joy and comfort to others—especially those who've lost children. My book, Life Without Cameron, is a memoir of love and loss, and I know that it has brought comfort and hope to many families who have lost babies. Currently, I am working on a series called An Imaginary Dialogue with My Son. In it, I imagine a fantasy world: a make-believe space where Cameron and I meet and converse like long-lost friends. It is a concoction of fiction and reflection, and it is new territory for me. It brings me deep joy to write this new series, and I hope it does the same for others.

As a photographer, my desire is for the viewer to perceive the beauty of God’s creation in those quiet little moments that make up our everyday life.

As a painter, I want people to pause, to look twice, and to think more deeply on the things that truly matter in life.


You can read the other posts in this series here.