Excerpts from An interview by Forest Stearns, art director at Planet Labs
FS: First tell me what to call you, do you go by your name or an artistic pseudonym?
CO: Carmen Olson, though I go by Mèimei in my role as art director at Camp Grounded. It's a nickname I got during my residency with the Dream Parade in Taiwan.
FS: What field of work are you in?
CO: Sign language interpreting, art direction, and graphic design/illustration.
FS: What first got you into art?
CO: I can't remember ever getting into art because I've been doing it as long as I can remember.
FS: What is your earliest “artistic” memory?
CO: Asking my Dad to draw a horse so I could compare it to my horse. I remember he did the tail in a different way that I liked and tried to emulate.
FS: What inspired you to dive into your creative practice?
CO: I am and have always felt very curious; keen to pursue my interests (which are multitudinous and wide-ranging). I am motivated to be able to create what I can see in my mind's eye. If I need to learn something new to try and make that happen? Yes!
FS: What have you been listening to while you’ve been working on your art recently?
CO: Catching up on podcasts, studying French and Cinematic Orchestra.
FS: What are three words that best describe your artwork?
CO: Narrative, illustrative, interactive.
FS: What is your favorite application and medium for your work and what presentation best suits your style?
CO: My favorite for now is linocut, applied to rice paper with hand-torn edges and given away in an intimate setting. Then I'll do my puppet show that fits in a suitcase. But audience, please voice for the puppets.
FS: What was your favorite toy as a kid? Now?
CO: Then: Plastic Breyer horses. Now: Bow and arrows.
FS: What is your “dream” creative project?
CO: To co-own and inhabit land with friends (a place people come together for art, music, performance, camps/retreats) which we could deck out to our hearts' content. I would love to invest my time building things that are site-specific, made to last, and made beautifully.
FS: What do you do in your daily/weekly routine to get your creative juices flowing?
CO: I walk - fast and far. I always return with energy, perspective, and new ideas.
FS: What is the best bit of advice you’ve ever been given?
CO: Use your time wisely.
FS: With all of the great experiences that you have gathered, if you could go back in time and talk to the 8-year-old you, what would you tell her?
CO: Keep practicing. Make something every day. I know you'll feel torn between art and science but you don't have to pick just one thing. Go ahead and do all the things you love if you want to.
FS: What are your thoughts on collaboration? Do you find it inspiring or non-effective?
CO: I love collaborating with other artists and non-artists as well. I find it inspiring. I love the challenge and the process, learning to communicate my ideas more effectively (especially talking about art with non-artists) and thinking about things in new ways. Something happens that wouldn't have happened if we were on our own. I love being exposed to new ideas and environments, and ways to engage with the world. It shakes up my own world, gets me thinking, and comes out in what I create.
FS: Would you say that Practice has been a unifying aspect throughout your artistic career?
CO: I know that I notice a difference between practicing and not practicing. Not only in the quality of my work, but in my own confidence and satisfaction, and overall sense of "feeling myself" or not.
FS: What advice do you have for the audience out there that wants to understand more about art but may not have a creative background?
CO: Be curious. Whether you see art you like or don't like or don't understand - ask questions about it (directly to the artist if possible). Maybe you'll find you start to think about things differently. Or maybe you'll feel inspired to start an art practice yourself? Try lots of things until you find out what you like to do. Don't let a fear of making things you think are "no good" stop you.
FS: Is there anything else that I missed that you would like to mention about you and your work?
CO: I like to make little intricate things. And big wild things. I like to curate large-scale visual experiences. I like to create interactive art and performance. I also particularly like to facilitate community art projects - to watch the way art can be a vibrant language of expression, presenting visions of what we hope and dream for in our communities and our world.