Look at that cat. Look at its eyes and its soft round body. The spots, and how it's perched, just watching.
I walked into Courier Coffee in December and saw the walls covered in these cats. Some of their eyes were painted gold; and in every case it was the eyes and posture of the cat that made me want to spend time with them.
Kayla Carlson makes these cats. She is Paper Puffin, and she has her own Puffin cat. (Look at this handsome cat, on Instagram.) And like a lot of the artists I know, she carries an air of humility about her. So it was a great honor when she took the time to answer some of the questions I had for her, so I could share her with you.
A Q&A with Kayla Carlson
Eyes like saucers. I think it's the eyes that first drew me to your work. Can you tell me more about them?
Cats are very so expressive, and I try to capture their hypnotic stare, especially when curious or interested in something. I frequently make the cat's eyes gold. Depending on the medium I use, this creates a reflective surface on top of the pen or ink on paper, and will look different depending on how it catches the light. It's impossible to draw a perfect circle, so I like that challenge too.
I grew up for a time in Japan, so have been influenced by aesthetics from there—like the Daruma dolls and woodblock printing.
Your real-life Puffin. Has this kitty ruined any of your art? And do you even care? Because that cat is the picture of a handsome (endlessly forgivable) cat.
The moment I lay a piece of paper out on the table, he is on it. Over the years, Puffin has knocked over ink, smudged paint and crinkled many papers. For large scale works, I've learned to preemptively put him outside, but when I draw in "his sunlight" on the kitchen table I will section off a space for him to lay and observe.
The life of someone who makes art: how much of this feels like a choice, and how much feels like you have no other choice?
Never stop making, at any pace. I try to keep in mind time always keeps going, and moments come in waves. I've been interested and involved and have drawn cats since grade school, but had never considered those sketches as apart of my art practice. After I graduated art school, there was an inclination to only try making work for "the art world" and gallery shows. A few years ago, I realized it just really made me happy. I started putting prints out and a tote bag, and the positive response has kept me going since.
Then there is the moment you decided that the thing you made was ready to be shared with the world. Did that moment in your life come naturally?
I applied and had a gallery show at Powell's City of Books in 2015—I printed a few tote bags with my "Adventure Cat," which sold out. They inquired about selling them "in-store" so I got started! I'm in love with paper products like stationary, packaging and containers and enjoy doing production work and material sourcing ... The in-person response when people enjoy my work has been my main motivation to put the art "out there."
A woman maker / business owner that you admire (up close or from afar): is there one that comes immediately to mind?
Kinoko Evans is a Portland-based artist who I admire for her beautiful work and contributions to a better world. She illustrates comics and characters into magical worlds and stories, but also has a sharp focus on education and social issues. She is an instructor and regularly contributes to local publications and causes. Personally, she is just a bad-ass lady, full of humor and conviction. We both joined a studio space called Magnetic North Studios here in Portland (which was started by BT Livermore and is currently run by Walker Cahill and Reid Psaltis).
Mel Townsend is a local business woman and owner of Mel's Frame Shop. I was the first employee of Mel's Frame Shop, located in downtown Portland. Mel took a worthwhile risk opening her own shop after Blick Arts bought out local Art Media, where she was in charge of the framing department. She ran her full-service shop and gallery single-highhandedly for two years, and is now coming up on five. Her commitment to providing professional framing, and incredible work ethic has been an asset to so many. Mel is also an artist, and focuses her front gallery space on supporting and exhibiting work of other local artists.