Sarah Moffat is convinced the gene for fearlessness has come down directly from her grandfather through her father to her. Her grandfather flew planes from Newfoundland across the Atlantic without radar (in leather flying gear because it was freezing cold); her father sailed from Lake Ontario to the Bahamas with his wife and three young children; and Moffat’s vision was to gut the old Lanark Mental Health building in Carleton Place to build a studio for her large, one-of-a-kind pieces of art.
“I don’t feel fear. There’s no fear involved,” she says, grinning, gesturing at the 3,400 sq. ft completed space.
It’s a difficult job being a full-time artist in Canada today. It doesn’t come with a lot of perks, no huge CEO salary, not a great deal of recognition. But Moffat knew from the time she held her first paintbrush at the age of three that this was going to be the life for her. In her studio today there are no paintbrushes, she laughs, but there’s lots of space for her large, dramatic pieces.
She works with plastics and holographic metallic foil, a unique medium, one she’s perfected over the years. “I’ve put in my 10,000 hours,” and today she’s exactly where she wants to be. The recognition is coming; she’s been part of The Ottawa Children’s Treatment Centre auction for seven years and had fun in 2017 with her large Canadian flag. The huge flag, in reds and foil, with Moffat’s traditional tree work in the background, was auctioned by Lawrence Greenspon in the For the Kids charitable auction and brought in $8,000 for the Centre. The flag was bought by the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group and hangs at Lansdowne Park.
What she’d rather do, though, which is totally impractical, is give art away rather than sell it. “That would be the best thing.” Or, “sell 80 percent and donate 20 percent, or vice versa.” Twenty percent is plenty to live on and the 80 percent “gets you out there and people see your work.
“Making art is not all about me. I love engaging with people and seeing them connected to me [through my art]. I like getting people excited about art in their lives.”
Often she tongue-in-cheek asks for (and has never been denied) “visiting rights” when her art goes to other countries. At the moment, she has paintings around the world, in Kuala Lumpur, Jamaica, Dubai, Costa Rica and here, in Ottawa.
Part of what Moffat likes about working with plastics is the reaction when mixed. It’s in limbo until that time; add colour like dark blue, light blue, creamy blues and whites for skies, put them together and they blend into a beautiful, fuzzy, natural edge that looks like cloud or water or earth.
Once it’s on, Moffat waits. “After I pour the colours out, I stand there and watch it change.” In a couple of hours “when it’s bubbly and gurgly,” she begins to get a picture of what this particular piece will be – water, or an ocean spray, the feathery edge of a flower, or even a jellyfish.
It’s only been recently that artists have taken an interest in the capabilities of plastics. “It has a million different applications.” Moffat pours it together, stirs until it’s well mixed, pours (again…) onto a surface (it’s self-levelling) and then sands it (with big tools like a belt sander or a wheel-disc sander) or adds moulds to it that she’s made in her woodworking room with power saws or skill saws. She wears a mask, particularly when sanding, and gloves to protect her hands. Epoxy is used for bar tops, table tops, boats, canoes, and her art pieces can get very heavy. The largest, so far is 5 x 10 feet.
This large, bright studio is where she is today, but it wasn’t always like that. Early on she put in hard physical work, owned a small company called Faux Unlimited and had seven employees. Reflecting back, she says “the whole time I was collecting knowledge for something bigger,” that being her studio in Carleton Place. She brought up three kids with her partner but today is in her own space, on her own, in an environment that works for her. “I want to enjoy what I’m doing. I don’t like stress. I want to wake up every day excited about my work.” If she had her ‘druthers’, though, she’d probably be a hermit, but she knows the importance of staying connected. She does this partly through Open Houses at the gallery once a month; the next one is slated for Saturday, April 21 from 10 to 5, “with all new flowers [art pieces],” she adds, and, of course, she is calling it Flower Power.
Her gallery is a living space where people can come and see art in progress, how it’s made, how it’s progressing. There are life drawing classes every Wednesday, other artists give workshops there, and she opens the space for parties, fundraisers, even weddings.
Moffat is addicted to art; she admits it. It colours her world, makes every breath exciting. She’s fulfilling her vision of big art, she’s built, uses and runs a gallery, she works every day at a chosen and loved profession, and, if she wants, she can just sit quietly back and take a deep breath.
Find Sarah Moffat on facebook (Sarah Moffat Art), on instagram (sarahmoffatart) or twitter (@sarahmoffatart). For more information, visit her website at www.sarahmoffat.com, or email her at email@example.com
This article was first published in the April 2018 issue of Hometown News. For more articles from our April 2018 issue, pick up a print copy at a local retailer (find a list of locations here) or read our digital version.