We started the Becoming interview series after reading Michelle Obama’s book Becoming in our book club a few years ago. We wanted to hear from women in different walks of life and how they were approaching creativity, mothering, career goals, and more. It’s been amazing to conduct these interviews and get a “behind the scenes” look at so many inspirational women!
This week’s interviewee is the amazing and talented folk art illustrator, Marie-Clare Treseder Gorham, whose work I came across a few weeks ago and I’m absolutely enchanted by. Her exquisite illustrations are intricate, dreamy, and inspiring. It was such a privilege to interview her and we’re thrilled for you to get to know her more!
Meet Marie-Clare Treseder Gorham
A folk artist by trade, I try to make everything I touch. I’m inspired by the ethos of the Arts and Crafts movement, and have a penchant for medieval iconography. Ever weaving these illustrative ideas into my practice, I paint textile patterns, make murals, and recently picked up carpentry — everything that can, should be made by hand.
I live in a little village, Carmel-by-the-Sea, where our homes have names, not numbers. The commute from our cottage to my studio is a matter of blocks downtown.
My small children are often underfoot, while my own grandmother (a lifelong working artist) serves as a motivating example. I employ traditional hand-painting techniques — bauernmalerei, and rosemaling — built on a central belief: old is beautiful.
What do you consider yourself? Example: Artist, designer, illustrator, maker, business person, educator, etc.?
Where did you grow up? Were there aspects of your childhood that have influenced what you do now?
Built by my uncle, we were raised in a home surrounded by music predominately from 19th century Italy: Puccini, Rossini, Bellini on repeat, and rarely in key! (My mother was a voice teacher.) Home was in a quaint Cali valley town, called Davis.
Independent skills and artistry were admired by my mother, but veins of basic practicality wove underneath. Although on that note, I was raised without doctors or medicine of any kind — which was quirky, to say the least. Perhaps it instilled in me a peculiar pain tolerance? It certainly became customary, as a child, to be seen as curious.
What did you dream of becoming when you were younger?
Is there a person who has been influential in your chosen career path?
What sparked your interest in art?
You’ve been doing an artist-in-residence at Hofsas House. It’s such a cohesive project from the beds to the murals. Can you tell us more about how it came to be and how it’s going? It’s so beautiful!
You use a lot of medieval references in your work. Why is that?
What inspired you to become an artist?
What is one piece of work that you are especially proud of and why?
Where do you find inspiration for new creations?
How has social media influenced your work?
For any public-facing artwork, I sign without my last name(s) and with no instagram handle. I appreciate how useful social media can be as a tool for artists, and have an instagram myself, but prefer the discovery stage to be a bit mysterious–it creates more of a bond between parties–which I hope shows in the commissions I (gratefully) get from it.
What artists and creatives do you look up to, both historical and present?
What books, movies, shows, or music are making you excited these days?
For my birthday, my dude found a rare edition of “Women Artists of the Arts and Crafts Movement” and it is my favorite thing. I’ll not deny it, I also just fell hard for abook on Wedgewood Jasper Ware, but I truly prefer project-based prompts to anything fiction.
That ends with movies, visual storytelling for me, the worse the better! I will watch Underworld endlessly for slo-mo’s of Bosworth’s platform boots. I find films of that ilk charming, although A24 has been releasing so many beautiful, thoughtful films of late I may have to admit defeat.
Tunes-wise, I’ve been listening to a lot of Allie Crow Buckley‘s nocturnal epic “Moonlit and Devious,” with a healthy helping of Buffy Sainte-Marie, and her haunting mouth harp. I’d be remiss to not mention how Henry Purcell’s The Fairy Queen or Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, (a real riot!) inspire. My preschool drop off mix, heretofore only known to my husband, sounds a little like Lord of the Rings, (and a lot like Alice in Chains.)
What is a piece of advice that you have carried with you and who is it from? Do you have a personal motto?
What I lack in motto, I make up for in crests! Although “cui bono” is something I’ve been known to mutter, and Occam’s razor is emblazoned in my mind.
How do your surroundings influence your work?
Increasingly working with wood is a natural side-effect of our evergreen surroundings. Carmel-by the-Sea’s primeval forest is as much a character in our local landscape as any person could be.
What is a typical day like for you?
Early risings! Our babes keep me busy with basics, (diapers are still a thing in my life). I get to the studio a few days a week, unless I’m knee-deep in a commission. I sketch through their naps, and I paint into the night, after we’ve put them to bed. Every available moment is a moment used!
What advice would you give to someone who wants to self-teach a new hobby or skill?
Do you have a secret talent? What is one skill that you are working on?
Nobody likes to talk about it, but can you share any advice regarding financing your business?
Is there anything more you would like to “become?”
What is your long-term goal? or What do you hope to accomplish within the next 10 years?
Follow along with Marie-Clare on her instagram, @marie_clare, to see more of her beautiful work.
If you’re interested in seeing more of our Becoming interviews, check them out here! If you loved Marie-Clare’s work, you’ll probably love these artists, too: Hallie Bateman, Arounna Khounnoraj, Louise Pretzel, Rachel Kiser Smith, and Lynne Millar.