Digital Chatter Episode #013: Corrina Sephora
Eric: Hello and welcome everyone to today’s Digital Chatter. We are live and I am Eric Sharpe, your host. My guest today is Corrina Sephora. She is an artist entrepreneur, which is fairly rare nowadays I would say. And uh, she’s a sculptor and Corrina tell us a little bit more about who you are and what you do.
Corrina: Alright. Well first of all, thank you for being here. And thank you for checking us out. And a little about myself. I guess from a really early age I knew I wanted to be an artist and I have been in a myriad of different facilities and I specialize in metal work, sculpture, architectural metal work and pieces of fine art and some functional work
Eric: Great. Great. So, you can see some of the, some of the mental work is in the background here. We’ve been putting it together. Uh, some of it was already hung on the wall of course. Um, so tell me, I mean, how, when did you first know that you were an artist and you have this, these skills and abilities?
Corrina: Um, well, I mean, Gosh, I think as soon as I could crawl around, I was already drawing, you know. Um, when I was about five, my dad had a workshop where he did some metal work. We had a farm, so he was always building something. He had a theater background and so I was around metal work and welding when I was at age five and um, I called welding electric lightning and I went on. In high school I started doing jewelry and metal smithing like that. And, but leading up to that I did drawing, painting, weaving, printmaking, you name it. And I just always had this vision that I was gonna spend the rest of my life being an artist.
Eric: Okay. Well what, so why was it electric lightning to you? What, what kind of sparked all of it? I mean, obviously you were around it at a young age, but you know, you just mentioned electric lightening. Why, why was it like that to you?
Corrina: Um, maybe we’ll get a chance to show you a little bit of electric lightning, after. But welding is an electrical process and it sheds this big, bright blue light. Much like if you’re in an evening rainstorm and you see like a flash of lightning. Lightning actually looks, I mean, welding actually looks, electric welding actually looks very similar to that.
Eric: Sure, sure. Okay.
Corrina: So when I was five, you know, that was kinda what I made up.
Eric: That’s a perfect explanation. That makes sense. I’m, I’m sure a lot of people have seen welding, you know, they say, you know, don’t look, don’t look at it directly because you can burn your eyes. Burn the retinas or whatever. So, you know, I’ve always, I’ve always seen artists throughout the years, you know, discover themselves and have their influences. So tell me, what are some of your influences?
Corrina: Well, um, let’s see. My, I had a grandfather that was a sea captain and much of my work is nautical inspired. So I had this grandfather that was a sea captain. I had uncles that would like in the yard of our house when I lived in Maine. They built this huge ship. Actually, it’s still in a Harvard in Boston, um, and so, and we took voyages, you know, I call it voyage, but we went on this long, you know, weeks we were out at sea when I was really young. There’s something about that feeling of the water, you know, and that nothingness and everythingness. So that’s one. And then this is kind of a cool thing. I’m sort of mystical, but when my mom was pregnant with me, she was jumping off of a rock into a pond and she said she heard this voice and the voice said, my name is Corrina, you have to name me Corrina.
Corrina: Right. And so she’s like, she falls into the water and she’s looking around and she realizes like, that was just whatever for me. And so I say that’s where my soul met my body and later in life we found out two years later we found out that my mom was adopted and we found out that that was actually her name.
Eric: So that, that, that’s sending shivers down my spine. Very interesting. So you have a very mystical past, it’s all kind of like developed into where you are right now. How did you first find out that you could make money from art? Because there’s many artists that don’t make money from their art.
Corrina: I think I was in high school and I try to think of the progression, but I learned how to do a variety of different things. Um, one year I learned about, you know, doing a little bit of making bead work and jewelry. I also learned about like boutiquing and dying t-shirts and so when I was about 15, I had a, a stores that I would make, you know, t-shirts and you know, that we had beautiful pieces printed on them and, and jewelry and..
Eric: What were these stores like?
Corrina: There was this one, I’m trying to remember the name of it. It was kind of new age, like they sold crystals and you know what I mean, that kind of cool stuff.
Eric: So you went into a store and said, hey, will you sell my stuff?
Corrina: I think I was just wearing something one time and they complimented it and they said, could you bring a few? And they sold quickly. And I remember it was like, well, let me get enough money that I could buy brand new t shirts instead of like, you know, finding the t-shirts I had around. And uh, and then I bought new dyes and I remember the like, like the manufacturing kind of started getting bigger in the front lawn. So that was something.
Corrina: And then I remember I also Babysat a lot and so those were some of the things that I did when I was really young and I would set goals like there was this kind of art camp for adults and after I’d taken my first jewelry class, I had these friends that were older and they’re like, we’re going to go to this place and it’s like a long weekend and take a class and you have these studios there. And so I remember like making the money to do that. It was pretty expensive too. I don’t know if it’s a thousand dollars, but it was like, you know.
Eric: Sure. Art, art is, is not always cheap. I mean supplies alone. Nontheless the education get there. I mean, I have an artistic background and went to SCAD. So did, did you go to..?
Corrina: Yeah, I went to Massachusetts. So in high school I, we had a really advanced art program, did printmaking, painting all this. And I had one art teacher and he would always like have me submit work for these awards, the scholastic Boston, Boston Globes scholastic art awards. And I’d win awards. I was like, well I guess I’m making cool work. And I knew I wanted to go to art school. I knew I wanted to build sculpture, like when- from the time that I made these little jewelry pieces, I was like bending that metal and soldering it.
Corrina: So anyhow, so I went to Massachusetts College of Art in Boston. I chose that school because, I really liked the people. I went to like a portfolio review, like a college fair and then actually visited the campus. And I just really liked the people and I saw that the workshops that they had available, everything from small metal smithing to foundry, welding and it was in about 1991. We went to haystack in Maine for like a long weekend, the school did.
Eric: Is that a place or was it a.. What is it?
Corrina: Haystack is again, kind of like one of those art camp for adult sort of places and some people would call it like a craft school. It’s a place where you can kind of get out of your regular, like an artist residency or retreat with art studios. Okay. So everything’s kind of simplified and maybe if we go out to the shop, I’ll show you the first piece of steel I foraged which was in 91. And so the process of blacksmithing where you heat up the metal and then form it while it’s hot, you know, that was kind of a new experience and I was like, okay, I can see doing this for a long time.
Eric: This is something that you didn’t experience in the past. This was like a brand new experience that kind of ignited you.
Corrina: Yeah. Yeah. Like I had done sawdoring, I had done welding, I had done bronze and aluminum casting, I had done metal smithing, which is more work, more working with copper or jewelry techniques like that.
Eric: Okay. Describe to me an experience or a time in which you sold something for more money than you thought, or you know, something was just went way beyond your wildest dreams.
Corrina: Well, there’s a couple of those experiences I can recall. Um, let’s see. Well, most recently, last spring I was in an exhibition in Ocala. You say that Ocala.
Eric: Ocala, Florida. Florida, right? I’m sure they say it differently down there.
Corrina: Yeah, Florida. Yeah. And I had a sculpture that was, that had built, that was from some recycled metal. It was a part of the wave series it was called crest of the wave. And so this was the first juried into an outdoor exhibition that would be up for a year. And then it won this award, it won the People’s choice award. Oh, well. So they have first aboard, second, second place, things like that. It didn’t win those, but it won people’s choice.
Corrina: I thought, wow, the community really loves this piece and it’s in this park. It’s set right by a lake. And um, some people who live in the town right in the, in the, um, they, they decided to, uh, create a, um, like they created a foundation. That’s right. They created a foundation, purchased the piece and gave it to the city. So that was kind of like, you know, it went from, this could be a temporary exhibition to wow. Like, there it is, you know.
Eric: You left this kind of massive impression on the towns people and everything. Just everyone had a chance to see it and they were obviously impressed by it. That’s an incredible experience.
Corrina: It was pretty cool. And I think I. and then, um, yeah, right after that I went to Spain and did a, uh, took a trip that I always wanted to see Anthony Gaudi. And as a hobby I do watercolor painting, like painting or watercolor painting. So I went with a group of people and went and did that, right after that. I remember it was pretty fun.
Eric: So tell me, tell me what you do nowadays. You know. As you’re later on in your career, you know, you’re obviously accomplished and you have your own shop. Tell everyone, by the way, where we are.
Corrina: Ah right. We’re here in my studio and my studio is located in the west side of Atlanta and it’s at an artist’s studio complex called The Goat Farm Arts Center. And I guess I was one of the first 100 people to move here after the new ownership took place. Now there’s like over 400 and some odd people.
Eric: Oh wow. Yeah, we are. We’re currently in the epicenter of the artistic world in Atlanta, on the west side. It was a lot of fun driving here even and just driving and seeing some of the other cool stuff around here. Definitely up and coming area. The west side, Atlanta, becoming more and more expensive as well.
Eric: So tell me, what do you do now to kind of keep your, your, your artists edge if you will, in order, you know, because as an artist sometimes you become known for style, but at a certain point I know that artists like to still find different methods to reform themselves and find new techniques or whatever, just to be on the cutting edge. Do you do any of that?
Corrina: Yeah. In fact, we got a big piece in the studio that’s, I would say a first for this particular type of sculpture. Um, I mentioned that last piece that I sold a year ago and this piece ironically has also, um, that we’re working on in the studio is a piece that I was referred to. Anyway it’s going to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and it’s like I made a small model and then we blew up all the parts about seven times. And so it’s about six, seven foot tall sculpture and it’s kind of an abstracted wave. I also designed it during the time of an eclipse, so I wanted it to feel a little bit like a moon shape, but it’s also a wave. And then it’s also kind of like underwater creatures, you know, all kind of combined into one piece. And I’m trying to think of the beginning of your question. You were asking about other ways of refining your techniques..
Eric: Just like yeah, your techniques or even inspiration. Like how do you continuously find an endless source of this?
Corrina: Yeah, that’s a great question. Yeah. Because I knew I kind of went off on a tangent. So, um, you know, sometimes it’s through the commissions that I get, like this in particular is a commission. And then sometimes I wanna, I want to dive in more personal and so some of my work is very reflective of what I’m thinking about or what I’m feeling or experiences, life experiences. Sometimes, um, for lack of a better word, like experiences of things that are happening in the news. So I mentioned that I’ve worked many times with nautical themes and that actually came from a challenge for one of my professors when I was studying for my master’s degree at Georgia State University. And my professor George Beasley, he said to me one day, he says, “Corrina, why don’t you stick with the boat form?”, I had just built this walking boat sculpture, um, and it was, it received awards and eventually it was purchased and all this kind of thing.
Corrina: And he says, why don’t you stick with this boat form? So I was like, kinda like my eyes are wandering around the studio, I see all these different pieces that relate to that. So I have this theme of boats and water, you know, or I can say nautical themes and I use that as a point of departure and then the work springs forth from that. Now if I look over, that was about a decade ago. So when I look and I see all the different types of work and I look beyond you, I see some pieces that.. So for about a year I worked with this theme: we’re all in the same boat. I heard someone say it and the next day I heard someone else say it and I thought, wow, I want to make some work related to that. And that was very much about this universal journey like as human beings that we’re on this journey in life.
Corrina: And then one day I opened up a picture, I think it was like on Facebook and I saw this boat that was overfilled with people and it was sort of like, I would say at one of the peaks we’ve had of the refugee crisis. And ironically, it was actually around this time I was also on that trip in Spain. And there was all of that that was a port that many people came to and were welcomed. And so I started thinking about how I had a couple of figures in a boat, but then I started looking at these images of like lots and lots of people in a boat and, anyhow, so that’s. So that’s an example of some work that was inspired by something that was happening out there in the world, but not my own personal experience.
Eric: Sure. Sure. Not necessarily something that directly happened to you, but I mean that’s what happens in life. And all these things are happening around us, whether they personally effect us or not, but we still find ways to make them about us because we are a part of something big.
Corrina: Yeah. Yeah.
Eric: I definitely sense that from you, you, you take things in and internalize them and then use it as a part of your passion. So that’s wonderful.
Corrina: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Thank you. And like full cycle around that. I just, last week, last weekend was invited. Um, I’ve been looking for some ways to physically work with refugees. And so I was asked by a gallery owner who’s been doing some art projects with refugees and that’s the area that I feel I can make a difference with people, is through the interaction of art and creating and teaching and facilitating. And so I’m, I’m pretty excited because that’s going to be coming up this year. And it was something I kept working with different organizations and trying to find a match and it was like not happening.
Corrina: So it just sort of came to me. Um, another thing I was thinking about with that work, we have these portholes right behind us and about.. 2005 I completed my master’s degree and my thesis was called “Exodus, populous”, the mass movement of ordinary people. And that was very much not about refugees, but a different mass movement of ordinary people in terms of immigration. And so that project started out very personal about my own family, right? And trying to find out the past of, under, under knowing, understanding and knowing the past, understand who I was, but then it expanded to like a huge community project. But I worked with 18 different artists. Um, and created collaboratively and I’ve done collaborative projects throughout the years as well, so.
Eric: That’s phenomenal. I think that’s something artists are great at doing is collaborating on projects and it doesn’t necessarily, you know, your passion is very obvious and it’s not just your, your art, but it’s things lik, you know, refugees, you know, things that come from your past, from your family and the whole nautical theme, you know. Nautical is almost like the, like you said before, just the starting point, but it’s maybe it’s your, you know, your medium is metal, but nautical is like, you know, just the path that you choose to take the stems from there and going after and using refugees is, immigration like this melting pot, melting. You know, it was a big deal of course with metal. It all ties together and I think it’s interesting not that everyone out there really figures these things out and, you know, you were fortunate enough to do that and you’ve already kind of told us, you know, what you stand for in life. But I mean, feel free to, to, to enunciate it and tell us, you know, why, why do you do all of this? Why do you wake up every day and work on all this stuff?
Corrina: Yeah, thank you. Well, you know, who, who I am for the world is creativity and empowerment and that’s something that I’ve come to over the years and that shows up in different ways. You know, sometimes that shows up in waking up and choosing to continue being an artist and make that new work and take the risks. Um, sometimes that shows was up in, you know, teaching classes, right. Um, I have a series of classes that I teach out of my own studio on a little kind of more technical, you know, how to do blacksmithing or how to do welding. Um, I also do a series of classes. I’m pretty excited about these women’s welding workshops, not just for the alliteration, but sure, because, you know, it’s sort of a minority, you know, of women that work in metal. And, you know, when I first began my, I opened my studio, there was some figure that we came across as perhaps like 50 women in America that had professional blacksmithing, sculpture studios.
Corrina: So I like to, you know, create opportunities for people to have those experiences, you know, and I feel that the workshops, they also bring together that vision of empowerment and creativity, you know, um, it never ceases to amaze me that there’s an endless stream of people that want to learn how to weld. You know, like I ask people, you know, we, we have, um, a couple of classes that are available on our websites and we have some other organizations we’ve worked with like, um, Scoutmob also. And there’s another one out there that I can’t think of the name of right now.
Corrina: But they, um, they spread the word about our classes. And I asked people when they come, you know, we sort of do introductions and I ask people, what is it that had you do this? And nine out of 10 say, you know, I’ve just always wanted to learn, learn how to work with metal. Always wanted to learn how to weld so you know, I go back to those experiences of age five, you know, getting to be with that electric lightning and it was so scary for me as a five year old. But then I became comfortable with that environment and with those noises and whatnot.
Eric: Sure. You learned to harness it.
Corrina: Yeah. Yeah. There’s something else that comes to mind too with that question. Um, I have this one sculpture that I designed and built a number of years ago and it came from almost questioning myself, like who am I in the world? What is it that I’ve actually accomplished? What will I leave behind that people remember me by?
Eric: The legacy.
Corrina: What’s the legacy? So I created this nine foot canoe with this fisherman’s net coming out of it, if you want, we can see it outside. And um, and there’s actually a light silhouette of my body inside of it. So it, it’s occurred personal and the title is where I have come from and what will I leave behind. And this sculpture was on display as a part of a sculpture exhibition in Chattanooga, Tennessee along the Tennessee river. And it was a year long exhibition and I received a letter from a perfect stranger and it said that letter she thanked me for creating this piece of work and said that she would walk and visit it every day and that she’d had this loss, series of losses in her life.
Corrina: She lost her son of 18 years, her husband of 27 years and she would walk in this park and would create a, make a hermitage to visit my piece and discover something new for herself. And the irony of that, it’s like one of the only pieces I’ve created that ends, the title ends with a question mark of my own personal contemplation. And so inside of that discovery of my own, there was like an epiphany for somebody else and this healing process, you know. And so in a sense, I got this answer to my question like, okay, well, you know, take, keep taking the risks and keep being an artist and keep producing was what I got to. Because not only am I dealing with what I’m dealing with internally or you know, in the brain, but like who I get to be as an artist is also a contribution to other people.
Eric: That’s phenomenal. Thank you for sharing that. Yeah. So if you could give yourself advice 10 years ago, 20 years ago, what would you tell yourself when you were starting out?
Corrina: You know, it’s interesting as I get older. I’ve always had this vision of creating this space that was like an artist residency, you know, this beautiful environment where there’s sculpture gardens and vegetable gardens and flower gardens and studios and I love to visit these places that are residencies. And so I think the advice that I would give myself was to have maybe invested in real estate, you know, earlier, and begun to create that dream early on in life. So that I was building upon that. Now as I get older, I think like, well, when am I going to start that? You know, when am I going to put the right people together to know what investors would I need to be able to make that? What, you know, coastline, I always envisioned it on some coastline, right? What, why am I in this landlocked city? You know, so I think the advice is that perhaps that would have taken that dream to heart more seriously and created that earlier in life.
Eric: Okay, perfect. Perfect. So thank you. First of all, thank you so much for being on with us and really do appreciate you sharing all these wonderful stories. I think is important for, for anyone to hear and to take these things in. And not to mention budding artists, whether they’re in high school, Middle School, college or, or out or you know, there’s plenty of people out there that have these artistic abilities. Sometimes they are afraid to explore them, where they just don’t know the opportunities where they exist in their, in their local communities. So, you know, would you mind kind of leaning something for us at the end of this? How can people get ahold of you and what should they take from all this?
Corrina: Yeah. So I guess yes, I’d love to. And the number one thing I would say for other people that I would like to leave you with is first and foremost inspiration. Uh, I guess the second I would say perseverance, there’ve been many times that thought like, I just can’t do this anymore, right? It’s not working out. And um, I don’t want to get another no today, you know, like that I don’t want to, I don’t want to propose something and have, you know, like, no, you’re not in our curatorial vision. So perseverance and inspiration and whether it’s around being an artist or whether it’s around whatever it is that you’re passionate about, that you let that inspiration live. Right and nurture it. As far as staying in touch. My website is corrinasephora.com that’s c-o-r-r-i-n-a, s-e-p-h-o-r-a dot com and you can stay in touch with us through our newsletter and I believe you can sign up for that on our website as well.
Corrina: And um, a couple things that are coming up in the near future. Um we have some classes, we have some classes, those are listed on the website. Actually this coming Wednesday, we have one class. We have a couple of classes in December, uh, that are ornament making classes that are a lot of fun.
Corrina: We have a couple of open studios. One November 17th and one December, eighth and ninth. It’s the Friday and Saturday. So either seventh and eighth or eighth and ninth, but that Friday and Saturday in December.
Eric: And you’re doing these regularly, I mean this is not a..
Corrina: Yeah, ongoingly. Yeah, a couple times a year we do open studios and then we have classes. They’re usually a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday and occasionally on a weekend.
Eric: Perfect. Corrina, thank you so much.
Corrina: Yeah, thanks for coming to visit.
Eric: Talk to you later.
Corrina: All right.
Eric: Bye bye