I wait for the Zoom to boot up, excited to chat with Georgia de Buriatte, the graduate artist with a passion for butterflies, moths and print-making. A few minutes on video call is a poor comparison to the workshop she was planning to run at the Southern Nature Art Exhibition, but the demands of the times make this is the safest option. After a moment my screen becomes a window into Georgia’s office, she is surrounded by plants, candles, the framed moth and the very convincing model of a dove that cover the desk. These surroundings clearly please her, the smile on her face is wide and jovial. I soon learn that this is a new office, Georgia made what she now describes as a ‘questionable’ decision to move house during a pandemic, but the home studio she has gained means she doesn’t regret the decision. After a moment figuring out microphones, we begin.
Hello Georgia! Who are you and where do you sit in the art world? Why do I find myself interviewing you today?
I’m Georgia de Buriatte, a fine artist who specialises in book-binding and print-making. Originally I was going to lead a workshop at the Southern Nature Art Exhibition but unfortunately due to the current situation I was unable to do that so I was offered the interview with you.
Q. I’m glad I’ve got you, start at the beginning: where did your love of art begin?
I’ve always been quite an arty person, even when I was very little, which was a bit odd because nobody in my direct family was a standard kind of artist. But it was always something which interested me. And when I was in sixth form I took both Art and Psychology, which created a big dilemma because I really enjoyed psychology as well; but I ended up doing a degree in Fine Art, which I linked to Psychology and Ethnography. This is very different to the work I do now, but that is the way that I originally started making work, especially it was how I started working in the way that I do, looking at especially non-traditional artwork.
Q. That Fine Art Degree was at the University of Winchester, I believe, how would you say that influenced your style?
There’s a bit of a tangent to this! I originally started off painting and drawing, because at a lot of schools, especially the school I went to, focussed on painting and drawing as the only art method. And this carried on to the first year of my degree, that’s what I focussed on. But it wasn’t really for me, I became disengaged and wasn’t really enjoying it that much. But I then began to go to exhibitions and experience art from other people, which influenced me because it showed me what art was, going beyond the painting and drawing side of things. The way I look at art is very academic, there’s a lot of theory and context behind what I do, regardless of whether that’s the artists’ books that I make or the more nature-based stuff that I make now. There’s a lot of context and research behind that, my practise is very much rooted in that research stage, before I move on to the creative side of things, and university was a big influence on that in terms of leading me through the research methods of art.
Q. You talk about nature-based work, and we see a lot of that on your website. What is it about nature that you love to capture and love to create with?
Well you can see behind me all the plants and moths and beetles I’ve got going on! It’s something that I’ve always been very influenced by. I was a very nature-y child, I was always outside playing in the woods and rivers, which has had a big impact on how I experience the world. I really enjoy that natural side of things, it’s just a visual that I really like. I’m that kind of person that if I hear a bird I know what kind of bird it is, and I can name plants and that was always taught to me by other family members. I’d go and stay with my grandmother and we’d go on walks where she’d tell me what kinds of flowers there were and butterflies were, which is why I ended up making the Lepidoptera butterfly pieces I make now. I think that’s had a real influence on what I like to surround myself with and therefore that’s leeched into my work because it’s the kind of visual that I like. And now that I’ve got less time to make the meaty, conceptual, interview-based work I’ve gone down the route towards things that I like to look at which is nice for decorating my house as well!
Q. You mentioned earlier that you would have had a teaching workshop at the exhibition had it gone on, has teaching always been a passion alongside creating?
Again, ever since I was little I’ve gravitated towards education. As I mentioned I’m quite a naturally academic person, I like the meat behind something as well as the end result. This meant that when I came to university I started doing a lot of internships and community work, which makes up a good deal of what I do now as well. I work for a lot of universities, as well as myself, and a couple of different companies, generally working with a lot of people who would find art harder to access otherwise, inviting them into an art setting. This can be in the form of art therapy, or experiencing something they wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise; I like giving people that opportunity, it’s relaxing for them as well. The non-traditional methods I use are interesting for other people as well. A lot of my work is in lino-carving, there’s something about it, it’s much more tactile, there’s a little more to it than painting and drawing. You’ll occasionally get people who really gravitate towards it; it’s really enjoyable watching people come into a classroom, having never heard of that technique before, and then they’ll come back next week having bought ten lino-tools! It’s really nice to have that connection with someone and share something that, through the internet or ‘standard’ art they’d have never heard of. It’s a nice connection to have.
Q. Are there similarities between the teaching and creating processes? Do they work well together?
That’s an interesting one! When I teach I’ll generally develop the lesson plans and make examples of everything I’m doing, and do that process a few times as well because I work with ages two and up, so you could be a tiny child or somebody in a retirement home. You get such different responses and need such different methods for every age group. A lot of what I teach is really directly connected to my art practise, so it’s nice to see an extension of that. It’s really interesting to see what people make, that’s one of my favourite parts about it; taking a method I use all the time and passing it on to someone else and having them do something so wildly different from anything I’d ever imagine. That really links creating and teaching in a nice way in terms of that inspiration and imagination of being in a creative industry and being a creative artist, with teaching I have that inspiration from other people to take back to my practise. Basically it’s stealing other people’s ideas, but not directly! But it’s nice to see what other people do with the tools that you’ve given them and then seeing what you can make reflecting on that.
Q. Would you say you start projects and then they evolve and turn into something else further along the line based on what you see and learn from other people?
I work in quite a counter-intuitive way, I tend to back-engineer stuff. I did this a lot when I was doing my meaty, conceptual work at university, which was based on interviewing and letterpress and I still do it now with the butterfly and lepidoptera and insect work I do. But I’ll tend to have a really solid visual of what I want to do, I have a very strong pictorial way of thinking, and I tend to have a really strong image of what I want, and then back-engineer that. So I think; ‘Right I want to do this so I need to do this and this’ and put different bits together and experiment with different bits. So I tend to have that final piece in my head and that changes very rarely, but I do like to back that up with the research, especially with the insect pieces that I’m doing at the moment. I will often find inspiration from a particular insect, which could be a framed one, could be a vintage, could be gifted to me. Then I’ll do research into the insect and what kind of life it has and the Latin theory behind the etymology, which tends to influence how I work with that kind of imagery.
Q. For the sake of being topical we have to mention we’re in lockdown at the moment, what’s changed? Perhaps there have even been new opportunities?
I had a bit of weird experience with lockdown. I’ve had my business for two years in September, going completely freelance and I’d gotten to the point where I was working six day weeks with so much to do that t was completely crazy. And then all of a sudden it just went, out of nowhere! It’s very similar for everyone, but unfortunately, because I do work for universities I couldn’t get any of the grant for freelancers, so it was a really scary time for my financial stability and mental health and ability to produce things as an artist. But then I moved, and set up my home studio which really re-invigorated everything; I had so much space, I could do so much stuff! I have a studio in Portsmouth which I couldn’t get to as it’s in a theatre but having the re-invigoration and the home studio really sparked new life into what I was doing. I’m actually working on a piece at the moment for a group called ‘Portsmouth Create’, and it’s to do with COVID-19 and the experience of artists from that, working with artists in the local area to develop artworks. There’s twenty different artists and we’re all developing a piece of work that is based on hope. Everything was very dark and confusing and nobody really knew what was going on but we’re moving on from that now and we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. So I’ve recently gotten a micro-commission from them to make that kind of work, which is my focus at the moment. It’s very exciting. I’m also working with the John Hansard gallery in Southampton creating teaching material for them, and with the University. It’s nice to have that sudden influx of stuff again.
Q. You’re right it’s good its lifting. I imagine lockdown has been an opportunity for a lot of people to start thinking seriously about art as a hobby or possibly even beyond that. What advice would you have for somebody in that position, where do they go from here?
The main thing about being a creative person is to dive headfirst into it and take as many opportunities as you can. I don’t like when people offer opportunities but say “Oh just do it for free for the exposure” but there are so many very exciting opportunities. Sometimes people will go “That’s not for me” or “I’m not good enough to do that”. But why not? Just put in an application and we’ll see what happens at the end of the day. I think that’s the most important thing, putting yourself out there and not worrying about something being ‘good enough’, everyone gets that, everyone in the creative industry is worried about something being ‘good enough’. It’s nice to have that freedom of saying “Oh I’ll just put this in, I’ll just apply for this”. People get rejected all the time, you could be the most amazing artist ever and get rejection, but just pushing through that is the most important thing when moving from the hobby to the career; you need to believe that what you do is good, because most of the time it is very good, and you just need people to see that as well.
Thank you so much for speaking to me Georgia, and while we can’t see you at the Exhibition itself, we’ll be able to see your work online on the new website, and obviously on social media too. Thank you so much, we’ll hopefully see you next year!
Georgia’s artwork, workshops and more can be found on her website: https://www.deburiart.co.uk/ and also on Facebook and Instagram.