MAGALI THIBAULT GOBEIL – Winner of the François-Houdé prize

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The new winner of the François-Houdé Prize is very busy. One could even say that only a hyperactive can combine an artistic, professional, and personal life as flourishing and dazzling as hers. At just 32 years old, Magali has graduated from the École de joaillerie de Montréal where she is a teacher’s assistant and teaches workshops, she also teaches at the Westmount Visual Arts Center, is a small business owner, and participates in all sorts of competitions and exhibitions on contemporary jewellery.

We sent her a few questions to understand how she manages everything while keeping a positive and communicative energy.

What is it like receiving this award as a young craftswoman?

First of all, it’s more than an honor to receive this award. It is the paroxysm of happiness to receive this award at the Guild’s gallery and to be recognized by the City of Montreal, the Conseil des métiers d’arts du Quebec, by an exceptional jury, and by my peers in not only jewellery but also by those in all the arts and crafts disciplines combined. It caps off an exceptional year for me in which I had the chance to present my work in several major international exhibitions.

This award also gives credit to my work, which is part of a non-traditional current in arts and crafts and, in a way, justifies all the efforts I have made to date. Winning a prize like this gives meaning to what I do. This marks an important step in my career as an artist and highlights my contribution the discipline. I must say that I find it very motivating that the jury made this bold choice. While many of the pieces in this competition are made of metal and are of a more “traditional”, my approach to jewellery is rather unusual in terms of volume, shape and eclectic materials. It is, among other things, this “expressive force and the amalgamation of materials” that swayed the hearts of the jury towards my exhilarating imagination!

Explosion de bonheur, bracalet
Rocking the explosion!, ring

What challenges are you facing as an emerging artist?

I think the biggest challenge is hanging in there.

In contemporary jewellery, as in any other artistic field, it is very difficult to live exclusively from one’s art. Young and established creators must make difficult choices because there are only 24 hours in a day and we all need to eat and sleep. All have a “secret” to make ends meet; they work elsewhere, teach, have scholarships, do production for themselves or another designer, work in a bar, work several different jobs, or have a spouse who supports the family financially. It becomes very difficult to juggle a job that pays the bills, artistic passion, career, family life, love life and social life. In addition, there are many other talented artists emerging in the community every day.

Candy girly doll, necklace

Also, if only it was just the “creating” part! Today, an artist must also be an expert in his field, have a good vision of art in general, be a little bit graphic designer, photographer, entrepreneur, marketing expert, do press relations, post on Instagram, do research and development… Juggling all this sometimes becomes very complicated, boring and tiring.

You were well surrounded this year with three other finalists in jewellery. Do you think something is happening right now in this field?

Not to be chauvinistic but for jewellery in Quebec, we ROCK! I was indeed lucky to be a finalist among other very talented jewellers.

It seems that in recent years there has been a new wave of talent in art jewellery coming from Quebec. We have artists like Catherine Sheedy, Gabrielle Desmarais, Marie-Eve Castonguay, Aurelie Guillaume, Anne-Sophie Vallee, to name a few, which have garnered international success. I also believe that there is a kind of inter-stimulating phenomenon between us. It must be said that there have been many efforts made by several players within the field; there was the forty-year retrospective exhibition of the École de joaillerie de montréal which travelled around Quebec for two year; the school and it’s director Stéphane Blackburn have spearheaded several projects aimed at promoting jewellery; gallerist Noel Guyomarc’h’s creative workshops and the exhibitions that follow; as well as Metalaid, a forum for the promotion and discussion of contemporary jewellery in Canada.

Group 2, brooches

On the international scene we also see an effervescence in art jewellery. The number of platforms, exhibitions, competitions, conferences, blogs, and magazines are increasing year by year. There is really a desire among people in the art jewellery community to make it more accessible and democratic; to have a better dissemination and understanding of this art form. On the other hand we cannot hide the fact that contemporary jewellery in Quebec is not very well known. It seems that when we talk about jewellery people only know Caroline Néron, Birks or Pandora. Even within the jewellery industry, art and contemporary jewellery is a very little known subdivision.

You have garnered quite a bit international exposure over the last few years. Has this changed how you work?

Yes and no. It hasn’t changed the way I create or my approach, but it has definitely affected the way I view art and the art world.

By traveling and seeing what is happening abroad I get an overview of all the different trends and possibilities. Obviously with technology we can see everything via our computer but it is not the same as the interacting with all the other players in the industry; the jewellers, the gallerists, the customers, etc. The musings and discussions generated contribute to our identity as an artist. As my mother would say, it’s the school of life!

All these exhibitions have turned my vision of art and contemporary jewellery upside down. In Quebec we sometimes feel lonely and misunderstood as jewellers. Although I have several colleagues who use this medium, the Canadian market is very limited and conservative when it comes to jewellery. Also, we tend to think the grass is greener on the other side. Well, I realized that, this was also true for contemporary jewellery. No matter where we are in the world, we are going through the same issues and asking ourselves the same questions. I thought that the contemporary jewellery market was in Europe, the Europeans think it is in the United States, and the Americans think it is in Asia.

Melting happiness, necklace

Spending weeks in artist incubators that gather different people from the field has been one of the most enriching experiences of my life. These exhibitions have expanded my vision and knowledge of jewellery and art. Being in contact with all these artists from around the world, sharing our experiences and visions, it opened up new horizons and confirmed to me that this is what I wanted to do.

How would you describe your creative process?

It’s hard for me to talk about my creative process because I have to put in words things that I’m not always sure I understand myself. A creative process is built during a lifetime. It evolves, transforms, develops, and refines itself over time.

That being said, my creations are propelled by research and experimentation. I’m driven by a desire to not only contribute to the field of art jewellery, but also to shake things up a bit. My creative approach revolves around a search for fluidity and emotions in form and color. Each collection is accompanied by a more specific and personal approach.

The pieces from the Funky Wave and Coral collections (made of sterling silver and plexiglass) convey my obsession with these undulating forms, vegetal or microbial, which seem to wriggle and give an impression of movement. Although inorganic they are filled with life and agitation. They titillate us and arouse our senses. They animate our bodies and send us an emotion. These forms haunt me, they are almost part of me, like a kind of extension of my body.

The “Somebody Got Crazy with the Cady Machine” collection (made of polyurethane and vinyl) conveys my fascination with the innocence of childhood and the madness of my imaginary world. Without being fully aware of it, the design and creation of these pieces turned out to be an outlet for all the seriousness in my life. Although physically and visually imposing, they bring a lightness and joie de vivre. They inhabit and animate the body, are lively and make you smile, recalling the exuberance of tropical flowers painted by the Douanier Rousseau or the surrealism of Dali. These pieces are excessive and extreme all the while conveying my imaginary madness.

There you have it! My creative process is perhaps simply about transmitting my imaginary madness and lightening things up in life a little.

Group 1, brooches

What are your short term projects?

In 2018 I have two solo shows. My very first ones. The first one is in April at Circle Craft in British-Colombia. The other is in November at the Canadian Guild of Crafts gallery in Montreal. I will be focusing on those as well as a new body of work. I have ideas bubbling inside my head since last April and have not yet found the time to sit down and start experimenting!

I juggle several jobs and projects at the same time and it’s becoming more and more difficult to make choices. I also feel the intense need to continue my artistic research. I would have liked to attend NSCAD but that is not possible at the moment. Instead I’m looking into art programs in Quebec, workshops and residencies abroad (such as those with Ruudt Peters, Peter Bauhuis, and other residencies in Finland), or an exchange and dialogue between artists.

Candycloud #2, necklace

Photo credits: Anthony McLean


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