Carolyn Muskat, March Artist of the Month

Artist of the Month

Interview with Carolyn as told to Michael Epstein.

Can you give a brief overview of what you do?

I am an artist working primarily in printmaking. My work focuses on how we identify ourselves, usually through a definition of location. The connections I see in this is presented often in images of interwoven branches or root systems. I am also the Master Printer and owner of Muskat Studios, a printmaking studio that specializes in the creation of original lithographs, relief prints and monotypes in collaboration with regional and national artists. The Studio and I act as a kind of ‘foundry’ for artists who want to explore printmaking.

Are there some past projects you would like to mention in more detail?

Over the past two years, I was invited to be the US representative at two different International Arts Festivals, one in Malaysia and one in Indonesia. In Malaysia, there were 70 artists from all over the world, living and working together and creating art in the village of Sasaran. This experience was followed by my first solo exhibition in Hanoi, Vietnam. The festival in Yogyakarta, Indonesia was last October, and included 50 artists from 22 countries, again, making work and building connections and friendships through the arts. In the studio, I recently completed an intensive work session with artist Candy Nartonis, and we will be exhibiting her work in May in the Studio Gallery. I have also completed small editions and projects with local artists Jenny Hughes, Alex Gerasev, and Cynthia Maurice.

Is there anything new you’re working on, or an event that’s coming up?

I completed a large woodcut as part of Lyle Castonguay’s BIG INK project, and am currently carving another layer for a new version of that print. I am also working on several new lithographs based on the experience in Indonesia.In the studio, I am working with several artists on a range of projects: Roberta Delaney (Sherborn, MA) is creating a new artist’s book using litho and letterpress; Lynn Newcomb (Worcester, VT) is working on a series of large black and white lithographs based on the Iliad; Bob Tomolillo (Lynn, MA) is finishing an image related to politics in the Middle East; Mike Wilson (Arlington, MA) is developing a series of small images there
is always something new going on in the studio.

Why do you do what you do? What’s something you get out of it?

As an artist, I am creating a visual language. I am trying to communicate, through images, different ideas and experiences. No matter what I have been doing in my life, images and the creation of images have been paramount. I can’t ‘not’ make art. The struggle to create is a challenge for me emotionally, mentally, intellectually and as frustrating as that might be, the truth is I thrive on that challenge. As a Master Printer, I am privileged to work with so many talented artists. As the technical collaborator, I get to see how different artists think about, create, visualize their work. It is a constant education, and yes, also a challenge to step up
technically to whatever the artist has in mind. I get to be an active participant in the artists’ creative drives. It’s invigorating.

What inspired you to pursue the arts? What got you involved in doing what you do? Is there someone or something that was important in getting you on your way? (A big break you got, or a mentor who helped you, etc.)

My parents were hugely supportive of me studying art a great leap of faith for them considering I do not come from an “arts” background. The flip side of that was also their concern and reminders to figure out a way to make this all work economically. I fell in love with printmaking as a medium in college, and was fortunate to have studied with Jon Beckley, an amazing teacher, artist, and friend. He first opened my eyes to the world of professional print studios, and with his support, I was accepted into the program at Tamarind Institute in  Albuquerque, NM. Tamarind, the only program of its kind in the world, trains people to be Master Printers in lithography. From there, I have been working professionally as an artist and as a Master Printer for almost 30 years.

A profession in the arts can be difficult. Can you talk about some of the challenges?

There are definitely easier ways to make a living! I work as an artist, and in my ‘day job’, I am a professional printmaker who collaborates with artists so I’m pretty much on the challenging side of making a living. When I first started my own studio, I worked a lot of miscellaneous jobs to help cover expenses until the studio became more sustainable. As many small business owners will attest, there is no such thing as a five day work week when you are selfemployed. The hours can be brutal. The ups and downs of a positive cashflow can be exhausting. The ability to get back up after rejection, over and over, till you achieve that moment of success. And then to deal with it all over again. You have to have a huge commitment to what you want,
enthusiasm, the ability to keep thinking of solutions to problems, and to keep a positive attitude.
I can’t imagine I would have stuck with this for so long (over 20 years in business) if I didn’t love
it. I mean truly love it, warts and all.

Any thoughts on the local Somerville, or Boston areacreative scene?

The local scene is pretty diverse! I started my studio in Boston, down on Harrison Ave. before the gentrification hit the area so much, and then relocated here to Somerville in the old Drain Doctor’s building. Over the years, what I’ve seen is a huge increase in arts awareness, whether it’s through open studio weekends, arts markets every weekends, events at the Armory and similar venues, popup shows and events, etc. If you visit any of these, you will see an extraordinary amount and variety of talent. Many of the artists around here are known not just locally, but are having an impact nationally and internationally. It’s impressive! One of the biggest challenges though, is that artists and small arts businesses are often showcased as highlights of the local communities, but there are not many accommodations for truly small businesses (one or two people operations). It can be challenging to work under the same regulations as companies with 8 or more employees and comparatively huge annual budgets.

Where can people find your work online? Work from the Studio can be found online at: www.muskatstudios.com or at www.facebook.com/muskatstudios/