ArtsTalk Blog - Behind the Scenes with Jim & Kirstin

We love this behind the scenes peek at a very unique artistic couple. A potter and photographer share their artistic journey and inspiration with us. This is Behind the Scenes with Jim Craigmyle and Kirstin Bindseil.

Jim grew up in an art family. His mother was a fine artist and his father was an illustrator/commercial artist. Both of his grandmothers were also artists. Jim remembers taking his first picture at the age of 10 and had a dark room in his bedroom by 17. He studied photography at Dawson College and Concordia University and had his first art show in Montreal in the early 80's. Forty years later, he still loves to shoot landscape and conceptual images. He loves to tell a story with his photography. Light plays a central character; the time of day and angle of light are the elements that create his signature pieces. Jim has created images with a variety of cameras including an 11X14 view camera. He switched to digital images effortlessly, playing with raw images to adjust colour, saturation, highlights, shadows, and layering to create a composite image.

Thanks to digital technology, there is always the question of colour or black and white to consider. Jim has to plan the time of day in order to get his desired photograph. In the summer, he sometimes needs to wake up at 4:30am to wait for the sun to rise for the right moment and location. A matter of minutes can be the difference between a great photograph and a missed opportunity. Jim never specialized in any particular type of photography and he loves to shoot anything and everything along with the challenges of making different shots work. The journey is a never ending experience. He is always looking for new ways to learn and explore. It is important to talk about the laws of composition and photography and then know how to break them to make a unique image.

Jim started making clocks with guitar and mandolin images because it brought together two of his passions. The images were so realistic, that his partner Kirstin first thought that Jim had chopped up one of his guitars to put as a backdrop only to realize that it was a photograph! Jim has a lot of guitars, mandolins and ukuleles and so the future could offer more varieties – there are lap style, resonators, and other classic electric guitars from which to choose, now that he has figured out the mechanics of how to make the clocks. It is a really lovely gift for someone who adores guitars. Jim can make clocks with the back drop of any image.

Kirstin is Social Worker by profession. Although artistic interests have always been in her mind, with paint, pencils, ink available and at the ready, she moved to ceramic art when she first met Jim. Kirstin always wanted to make pots but it was Jim's influence that gave her the encouragement to begin the process. One of their early dates was at the Gardiner Ceramics Museum in Toronto where Jim and Kirstin went to take a drop-in clay class. Since there were not enough wheels on that date, Jim sat beside Kirstin and watched her make her first pots. Kirstin started by making tea cups. At that time, she was taking the Advanced Tea Certificate at George Brown College to be able to serve and share the knowledge of tea and wanted to also make wares for this passion. These first cups began many Friday night classes where Kirstin practiced in Toronto making pots in the back of a pottery store after a full week of working at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH).

In 2017, Kirstin left Toronto to marry Jim in Bradford and to live in the country. Kirstin was able to join the Pine Tree Pottery Guild in Aurora and started taking lessons from potter, Debra Gibbs (also a mainstay in our artist community). Debra encouraged Kirstin to understand the basics of clay, forms and find the shapes that she adored. Kirstin was able to buy a previously loved wheel from Debra, and is now able to make pots in a tiny space in her home.

Kirstin started a psychotherapy business in Bradford and considers making pottery as her personal therapy. Her favourite part of the process is when she is "in the mud". One of her beloved writers, Thich Nhat Hanh, is well known for his phrase "no mud, no lotus". Kirstin loves to play with how to urge the clay into a desired shape. It is a different kind of relationship than in the world of Social Work, and still the clay has to be at the right consistency and Kirstin needs to be in the right mind to engage in this dance.

"It is important for all of us to have activities that give us a sense of flow – a type of activity where we can lose ourselves"

This is what pottery does for Kirstin. The only challenge is to find the time when she can lose herself in the activity. At one point, Kirstin was waking up early to work in the studio before the busyness of the day begins. Although many potters focus on the glaze and decoration, Kirstin continues to enjoy playing with the forms and shapes of her work. The pandemic has given her some time to play with larger pieces such as making lamps which has been really fun.

Jim works in a space above the garage, editing photos and preparing for his next location, while Kirstin works beneath just behind the garage, making pottery. Jim is Kirstin's greatest supporter. Whenever Kirstin has finished a piece, Jim will look at it and say, Oh Wow!!, every time. He is so encouraging.

Jim has frequent shows across the region and has been teaching the fundamentals of photography as well as showing artists how to take pictures of their art to capture their true likeness.

View SSAC Member profiles for Jim & Kirstin