Saturday, December 05, 2020

Somerville Sculptor Danielle Krcmar: She wants to put a poem/ in your home!


Interview with Doug Holder

I am a poet, so my home is littered with polished poems, drafts with coffee stains, framed pieces that I am really proud of, etc... So that's why I caught up with sculptor Danielle Krcmar--whose latest idea is to put a poem in your home.

I noticed that you use a lot of found objects in your work. Some of it comes from Carson Beach in Southie. With all the beaches we have around us--why Carson?

I do work with a lot of found objects in my work. Where I get my found objects depends on my location, I used to find old china and shoe leather fragments in bottle dumps near old house sites when I lived in Pennsylvania, near the southern tier of New York. When I lived in Western Massachusetts I would look around house foundations near the Quabbin. Because I was still making sculptures with found china when I moved to Fort Point, someone told me about Carson Beach- where there was plenty of china bits and beach glass due to a long history of dumping. I collected china and other items from the beach for years but never collected the beach glass because I didn't have a sculptural use for it at the time. When I decided to make the Fragment House piece using Beach glass. I knew where I could get it and I liked that the beach glass would have been collected from the shore, not too far from where the piece was initially sited - in Dartmouth, MA. When I was collecting beach glass for the Fragment House Project, I would always try to go to Southie at low tide, and the larger challenge was getting the plastic bags full of glass back to the car. One morning, I was able to pick up 30 pounds of glass with the help of my son, and two family friends. There are very few areas where you can get that much glass that easily and quickly. A lot of art has been made with pieces sourced from that beach- it would be interesting to curate a show of that work and talk to the artists.

You worked with the poet Mary Pinard on a Fragment House Project. You used word and images from her poems and incorporated into the house. Can you talk about this? Do homes with a history have a certain energy--a certain poetry about them?

Mary Pinard and I had talked about collaborating. When I was asked to create a site-specific piece for the DNRT ( Dartmouth Natural Resources Trust) it provided the perfect opportunity for us to work together. I loved Mary's Poem Song Net For An Estuary , and how she researches and responds to particular landscapes and their history. We walked the overall DNRT trails together to figure out a site that we were both interested in and eventually chose Bluebird Field. In the piece, Mary's full poem is etched into the window, which is the only solid surface in the house, and then select words from the poem are additionally etched into larger pieces of beach glass as a way of emphasizing those selected words. I am a little romantic about old houses, some of that may be a reaction to growing up in the suburbs in a more modern houses and having had childhood fantasies of discovering amazing heirlooms in the attic of an old Victorian house. I do think a newer house could contain poetry, but I do think older houses have a sense of poetry to them both for the age of the house itself and the accumulated life lived within its walls, but also the history of the materials- such as something like heart pine, that was 100 years old when it was milled for flooring over a hundred years ago. In the irregularly placed studs and the thicker milled lumber the sense of something being built by hand is more visible, that evidence of the work by hand is beautiful and yes - has poetry for me. I saved lumber from our interior walls when we renovated our 115 year old house, I've used some of it in another artist friend's piece and am figuring out how it might play into new work.

Tell us what your new idea is about-- linking Somerville Poets' poems with your art?

For this new idea, I am interested in working in Somerville neighborhoods as a way to provide another layer of communication while we are under lockdown, I've began thinking about this idea when lockdown first started - being masked in public, many of us didn't quite know how to interact with one another, we were avoiding each other in public because we didn't want to get close. Masks interfered with reading facial cues and made speech harder to understand, so even casual interactions between neighbors felt awkward. I found myself needing daily walks in my neighborhood - getting outside was such a relief. It was also beautiful to see people were doing community art projects like posting rainbows in their windows, or chalk drawings on their sidewalks to offer a little bit of beauty and surprise. I did a few of the sidewalk drawings with my son and it was cathartic to make something beautiful, though often very ephemeral! I was interested in doing something. I began to think about the possibility of working with a poet and attaching it to a large fence in Lincoln park, I worried it might get damaged and I was busy enough with work that it was hard to take on another project, but the idea stayed with me. And so we go into winter-- we will be indoors more and will see each other in person even less. Having someone tell you a story via a poem seems like a lovely way to make connections, both when I ask people to host poems at their houses- which I am still nervous about- and as I ask poets to work with me. Initially I imagined the poet would create a biographical poem in response to the person/ household hosting the poem, I liked the storytelling possibilities there, but I am a little concerned about managing a collaboration between 3 parties to everyone's satisfaction.

How has the Pandemic affected your work?

Covid really threw me off and completely overwhelmed me. There was so much uncertainty and fear, and unlike many people who reported having so much time on their hands, I had more work and less time and space to do it in. I had artwork to pack and ship for our gallery, kiln firings to run for our co- curricular ceramics program, and repairs to schedule prior to upcoming budget cuts. All had to be done without the in- person help of my student workers, due to social distancing measures on campus. My teaching work became much harder and more complicated when we went on line. Teaching painting from my home mini office and sculpture and from my kitchen table to students in multiple time zones with varying degrees of internet connectivity-- was overwhelming and exhausting. Making sidewalk chalk drawings with my son was one way to be creative but it didn't seem exactly connected to my work; though we will see if it plants the seed for something in the future, as often happens. My critique group shifted to Zoom meetings and it has been the highlight of my week. Each of us works on artwork during the zoom, some of us draw portraits from the zoom and some work on ongoing studio projects. We discuss our work, our lives, teaching pedagogy, and the work of other artists as it pertains to each of those three things. It has been an amazing space to share ideas, get in process feedback on work in a way that we were not able to do pre pandemic because we did not meet as frequently. We have also been able to bring back in a critique group member who had moved across the country. It has been profound to have this group of women artists discuss work and share successes and challenges.

In June, my full-time job at Babson College was terminated due to pandemic budget cuts at my institution, which was a real shock. I still could have the opportunity to teach as an adjunct in Spring 2021, but in the moment, I had to move out of my campus studio that I had for 16 years. Most of my colleagues wrote emails to the college administration protesting the decision, which provided me some comfort, but in the end, those efforts did not reverse the decision. In October, I decided not to teach there this coming Spring, so I removed the contents of my office and my personal teaching materials this week. I wanted to do it when the students were no longer on campus. I'm a bit of a packrat/ magpie/ and since I taught, ran workshops, curated the gallery, and managed the permanent art collection I had a lot of stuff related to all those roles. It has been a long week of getting everything out and bringing it to my home and studio.

The upside of this is that I am now pursuing more public art projects and commission work. This week I moved into a shared studio space at Vernon Street. I love Somerville Open Studios and have many friends at Vernon Street, and it is beyond exciting to be back in a studio building surrounded by other artists. Every time I unlock the door to the new studio I feel a surge of happiness, it's pretty great.

Are there poems about Sculpture that inspire you?

I love the sculptor Joseph Cornell and made many assemblages as and love Dime Store Alchemy by Charles Simic. The poem Where Chance Meets Necessity speaks to the serendipitous beauty offered by found objects. The first two lines say it perfectly:

Somewhere in the city of New York there are four or five
still-unknown objects that belong together. Once together
they'll make a work of art.

...................................................four or five
still unknown objects that belong together.

the perfect economy of those words

Some of my older work with the figure was inspired by Whitman's poems. I love the visceral physicality in his poetry, as experienced here:

I mind how we lay in June, such a transparent
summer morning,
You settled your head athwart my hips, and gently
turned over upon me,

And parted the shirt from my bosom-bone, and
plunged your tongue to my bare-stripped heart,
And reached till you felt my beard, and reached
till you held my feet.

Why should people look at your work?

I'm interested in the potential for transformation in everyday objects and materials, my hope is that those transformations offer the viewer an opportunity for surprise and discovery through extended or repeated viewing of the work viewings of the work. My work is best experienced in person, so you can discover surface details or see how all the pieces come together to make the whole.

Wednesday, December 02, 2020

An Appetite for the Epic: An Interview with Actor Rosie Jones, Narrator of The Little Queen Audiobook

An Appetite for the Epic: An Interview with Actor Rosie Jones, Narrator of The Little Queen audiobook

Interview with Meia Geddes

Off the Shelf correspondent Meia Geddes, a former Somerville resident, is the author of The Little Queen, a whimsical and wise epic that received a starred Kirkus review and was included on their “Best Indie Books” list. Actor Rosie Jones recently narrated The Little Queen to create a beautiful audiobook, good company for these pandemic times. Below is an interview with narrator Rosie Jones on the craft of audio and acting.

Rosie Jones is a British actor and director who trained at Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. She has appeared in television shows like Downton Abbey, Bodyguard and Call the Midwife. She was commissioned by The Royal Shakespeare Company to create six original mini plays. Her short film The Christmas Bull which was internationally successful on the film festival circuit can be watched now on Amazon Prime.

How did you get into narrating audiobooks? Could you share a bit about your acting background and how this aligns with audiobook narration?

As an actor, my work has tended towards classical theatre and period drama –– shows like Downton Abbey, The Collection and Call the Midwife. Doing these wonderful large-scale shows alongside Shakespearian theatre, gives you an appetite for the epic, and recording an audiobook feels like it matches that size of expression; when you record, you take on these huge narratives and get to tell the whole story.

I’ve always loved audiobooks; as a kid I used to listen to stories on tape before bed. Two of my favorites were James and the Giant Peach read by Jeremy Irons, and the BBC’s The Selfish Giant. My Gran also used to borrow talking books from the library, so audio was always very present growing up. It felt right to combine my skills as an actor and my love of literature and start narrating books.

For those who aren’t familiar with the process of making an audiobook, could you give a brief overview of the process from audition to post-production proofing?

When you are asked to audition for an audiobook, it will usually involve recording a short 1-2 page extract from the book. This could be on your phone or in a home studio. Once you’ve got the job, there is a lot of preparation to do –– I read the whole book and mark up my script. Then it’s time to record. This might involve going into a studio where an engineer will record as you narrate, or recording yourself at home, where you have to do both at the same time. Once the book is recorded, it needs to be proofed. Someone will listen to the audio and make sure that there aren’t any mistakes. Sometimes pick-ups or re-takes are required. Then it’s time to edit it, remove distracting mouth clicks or extraneous sound, reducing the background noise (if there is any) and finally master the book, balancing out the volume levels and making the finished product.

How do you choose what audiobooks to audition for?

On ACX the narrator can search for auditions according to set filters –– voice type, accent, re-numeration. That reduces the number of books, and leaves only those that match the actor’s requirements and suitability. Then, you read the blurb and send auditions for books you are interested in. The Little Queen is actually the first book I auditioned for and have recorded using the ACX platform.

What drew you to audition for The Little Queen?

I love fairytales –– the combination of morality, fantasy, darkness and humor ­­–– so the blurb for this book interested me, along with its rhythm and language. Also, it was a short record at just 2 hours, so a good first trial!

How do you mark up a book for narrating?

I choose a different cooler for each character and highlight their dialogue accordingly. This makes it easier for me to jump into different voices when they come up. I also make notes on intention, and have my own dictionary of squiggles that mean various things like “stress that word” or “whisper here.”

How else do you prepare for the act of narrating an audiobook? Do you have any regular practices when it comes to caring for your vocal chords? Breathing exercises? 

I try to avoid dairy if I know I am going to record as that can clog up the chords! Before a long session, I will do some typical acting warm ups –– sirening, scrunching my face that sort of thing. One of the advantages of being behind the mic though is that you don’t have to project the way you do with theatre.

While narrating, do you stand and/or sit? Are other people present? Do you record by chapter?

I always sit when I narrate because usually the recording sessions are long –– up to three hours at a time. I do make sure I sit with good, straight posture so as not to squash my diaphragm and to make sure that the voice remains energized. When recording in a studio, there will be an engineer opposite you on the other side of the glass. Sometimes publishers or authors like to pop in and listen.

You have so many wonderful and different ways of creating subtle changes in your voice for each character in The Little Queen. Apart from my input, how did you determine what voices to give each character?

Well in The Little Queen, every character has a very clear role or job, so many of the voices just popped straight into my head from their descriptions. It was fun to decide whether to play into stereotypes, or play against. With the sleep soother for example, it was very clear that she needed to make the listener want to fall asleep when you hear her speak, so it seemed only right to give her a yawning quality –– we all know how catching a yawn is!

Of the character voices, do you have a favorite one?

I love the book sniffer. I love her as a character and her voice. It’s fun for me to play deeper and slower vocally, as I tend to do a lot of young, high pitched voices.

Do you have any advice for those interested in narrating audiobooks and acting?

Do it! With technology advancing so quickly and software becoming more user-friendly, it’s much easier now for anyone to have a go. But get practicing – narrating books requires huge stamina and an ability to sight-read to a high level.