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How Melbourne Printmaker and Poet Jocelin Kan Meredith weaves story into art

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Jocelin Kan Meredith is a Melbourne printmaker and poet who uses nature and objects to symbolise human experiences such as tensions, vulnerabilities and seeking.

Today on the blog, we are thrilled to share an interview with Jocelin Kan Meredith which was recorded during Melbourne’s 5th lockdown. 

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Can you tell us about what you create?

I started off actually creating just ink drawings, which are at in.cube8r. I then ventured into lino-printing.

I graduated with a printmaking major in uni, but I drifted away from that as I didn’t have the equipment and fancy gear to do it at home. In my late 20s I connected back into doing art again and that’s when I started doing my ink drawings and a bit of water coloring as well.

Through all that, I realized I really did miss lino printing! I love the carving and the process, the thinking of negative and positive spaces and the mirroring (even though it’s annoying because it looks great and then you print it and you realize, ah, it’s back to front!). I realized my brain really was thirsty for that process again. And so I worked out ways to do it at home!

And can you tell us a bit about your poetry?

Yeah! The poetry I think came through with my art. When I published my ink drawings, a lot of people felt like it was so symbolic and connected with it, but they really wanted to hear my story through it.

My works are inspired by personal stories for me so like having a person passed away from suicide and another was a disconnect in relationship with a person but wanting to heal that relationship.

So, the poetry just helped me pour my heart out, emotionally, and realize, I really like actually writing poems! They add depth to just a “pretty” picture, and hope they resonate for others as well. So all my prints come with a little poem on the back, to help tell a story!

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Why is it important for you to weave stories into art?

I think the motivation, or the intention behind it stems from a personal experience for me. In high school I wasn’t very outspoken or, you know, talkative kind of person, and I really struggled in English.

I mean, English is my first language, but I just really struggled writing, especially when it came to debates and stuff that needs an opinion,”don’t have an opinion just agree with everything”… but I really found my voice through art, and my confidence in art and it was through art classes and during our essays actually that I felt more confident in sharing my opinion, and then that’s how my writing actually improved in high school.So poetry is a way to tell stories that go with the art. It made me realise not to be afraid, there isn’t a right or wrong, it’s just another
perspective.

I’m also a youth worker so working with young people and then seeing how  guarded they are with what they say. But realizing that when you give them in an instrument so whether it’s music, cooking, or a pencil to draw… you get so much more out fo their story without actually saying it in verbal words. For me, you know it’s a form of going “I hear you even though  you’re not saying anything”, because it’s through picture, through symbols. And I validate your voice, I validate your story, because it’s worth being heard or seen.

And there is healing in that, you know, and I think every person deserves that you know? You may disagree, struggle to understand, but you can’t dishonor or disrespect that person’s story and the journey that they’ve been through. We started a conversation where a conversation couldn’t be started before which is so cool.

So when you’re not print making and writing poetry, you’re a youth worker?

Yes thats how I spend my days outside of lockdown. Last year I finished my teaching degree though, so I am in a little bit of a space of going youth worker / teacher. The only thing I’ve I struggle with the teaching aspect is being restricted by curriculum.

I really love the wellbeing side of things, of youth work, but I also know that if you have a teacher who’s got a good wellbeing, slant it will really help and empower our young people so yeah I don’t know where life is gonna take me but it carries that through a little bit of both, maybe, who says we can only have one thing that we do right?

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So you’re a practicing artist selling your art, a youthworker, a mum, until recently a student… is there a little tip that you could give to someone that is trying to do all the things and just starting out in wanting to sell their art?

I have two! They are both things I would say to my younger self

The first one would be, Honoring the seasons that you experience in life. Seasons change and so then the demand on yourself might change and so sometimes you might need to be kinder to yourself, sometimes you need to kick yourself in the butt to keep going. But to really respect the rhythm and listen to the rhythm that that your body and your spirits actually setting for you rather than you trying to enforce a rhythm for you if that makes sense.

And the other one would be. I remember early on I would be scrolling on Instagram and I’ll be looking at other artists. And I would compare myself to them going “Oh, I wonder what they’re posting” and thinking that their profiles looked really nice and everything, and their artwork was better than mine. And I would then put that as an expectation for myself.

But then I realisd that I wasn’t actually staying true to me, and I was getting caught up assuming what people were expecting of me, and keeping busy by trying to meet those expectations… even though no one actually said them to me. I wish that I had just set aside time to really go “okay what are my non negotiables; who am I, What do I actually want to share about me, and actually stay true to that”. Let that be my compass and help navigate through this whole social media marketing Instagramming kind of thing.

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Can you tell us a little bit about your Japanese Teapot Series?

The teapot series is a set of five, and it based on old antique Japanese teapots. I think it was probably mid last year that I finished printing them.

The whole thing is about how when you brew tea you know you’re hibernating,
you’re resting, you’re waiting. And on the T2 boxes or whatever tea box you’ve
got, they say you know how long you’re supposed to brew it for. So you extract
the most flavors, it’s the same thing. The idea is for you to actually rest, be
patient and listen to
yourself. So that you can get the most out of life, so to speak. Maybe you need to hibernate longer – rest and heal like the fox or the
busy sparrow; maybe you’re needing to hope and trust like the koi; or maybe
you’re ready to spread your wings and bounce like the deer or the crane. Either
way when you’re ready to pour that cup of tea, you can enjoy everything, your
taste buds are more alert, you’re refreshed and restored.

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What are you working on at the moment? What’s next for you?

I just went away to New South Wales with my husband and son, and dog. And while we were away I started sketching some like childhood sweets! They kind of connect with another series I did which is watercolors of Asian rice bowls. I’m thinking when I have time I will start that series…. but at the moment I have got a very energetic 11 month old!

But besides that, I am going to be exhibiting in the next Almost Solo show at in.cube8r to exhibit a series I created last year which consists of thread textile works of shoes. The series was to do with the response of the Coronavirus and racism towards Asian Australians. So that was pretty impactful for me and you know people that I knew.

And finally, where can people find you!

So I sell obviously at in.cube8r and I also have an Etsy page, and Instagram and Facebook.

So I guess, support me through purchases but also support me through following me! The interaction with those who like my art online really helps me in my creative process. Sometimes ask questions because you guys have stories, and you help me explore different perspectives. We have multi faceted experiences and mine is just one sided. So getting a breadth of experiences and viewpoints actually enriches my art, and hopefully then also validates people’s voices, as I create.

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