Tucked away in the isolated, rocky landscape of Clermont-Ferrand, France, artist Cathy Savels is focused on reaching new people with her work. The former interior designer has a knack for combining texture and color to create delicate, abstract botanical paintings with a 3-D element. The Belgian transplant has exhibited her work all over Europe, successfully selling at Christies in London and recently won the top prize for innovation in painting in France. We chatted with Cathy to find out her inspiration and what projects are keeping her busy.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m a Belgian artist based in France. Originally trained as an interior designer, I have been using my creative skills to produce original art works over the past eight years. My works combine the traditional medium of painting with the use of other materials such as string, paper and cloth to create beautiful textured works which are both striking and accessible for the viewer. The nature of the works invite viewers to touch and become involved on many sensory levels. The tactile and aesthetic qualities of the work have proved to be a great success. I exhibit widely across France as well as fulfilling a number of commissions for private buyers on a regular basis.
Where are you from and where do you currently live?
I currently live in the center of France where all the volcanoes are. This makes for a really interesting landscape. My garden looks right at a volcano with the crater still visible. I think the most awesome thing about living here is the peace and quiet and the nature on the doorstep. Yet at the same time, not having much human contact is also a disadvantage as an artist. That’s why I’ve sold my house and I am about to embark on a move to the south of France.
What is the most awesome thing in or about your neighborhood?
In France there are many ‘brocantes’ which offer a great deal of little finds for the house. But by far the best place to shop for vintage items is an organization with an entire industrial estate of buildings where people can donate items no longer wanted. This can be furniture, computers, clothing or ornaments. All of the money they make goes to the poor in France. I love rummaging through and whenever I take stuff, I always come out with even more!
What is your favorite place you go locally to discover hidden treasures?
I live in a remote area and it takes over an hour to drive anywhere so getting out doesn’t happen very often. When I move, rest assured, you’ll find me in the second-hand shops or antique shops.
What blogs or websites do you visit regularly?
Websites that I visit a lot are Etsy, Craftori and Total Art Soul mainly because I love looking at handmade goods. I’m always inspired by what people upload. I also like to support others who are creative. I think creativity is vital in all walks of life. Currently I have several ongoing projects. I’m painting a very large dyptich of birch trees but I’m also still working on my series so that I can produce prints. My textured works do not translate on paper very well so I thought this would make my art more accessible.
Today, how often do you go to garage sales, flea markets, etc.? What is your modus operandi? Any personal tips you’d like to share?
When I shop for bargains, I never go looking for something specific because usually I’ll be disappointed. I think the key is to just go and look and if there is something you like, buy it. I’ve also made the mistake of going away to think about it, then coming back and find that it’s gone! If you like it, others will too so I think you have to act quickly.
Have you ever taken home an object you found in the street or dumpster? If so, what was it? And where is it now?
Recently, my son had an amazing find for his apartment. He found a leather sofa in the street! In France, in the cities, people leave things they don’t want on the pavement and people can help themselves. If you’re lucky enough, like he was, you can find some great things that are still in good condition.
Are you a hoarder or a minimalist?
I’m not a hoarder by any stretch but I do like to have some nice objects in the home. I think though that just a few well-placed items is best and big can often be beautiful.
What is your most cherished thrifted, secondhand, vintage, upcycled object you possess? What’s the story behind it?
One of my best finds was a fabulous lamp which has a base of three glass balls. It goes in any house and has travelled all over France with me. I found that at the charity organization for just €8 which is around $12. It’s really a bargain because the lamp is big and great quality.
Are you creating or making things? What are you working on these days?
I have several collectors worldwide who commission me and this is what mainly keeps me busy. I feel very fortunate to have such loyal customers who like my work enough to keep coming back. Having someone pay for one of my works and hang it in their home is the ultimate compliment.