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  • Musings, Juli Bolaños-Durman. Photo Shannon Tofts

Our Common Humanity

by Sara Khan

In anticipation of Real to Reel we spoke with Juli Bolaños-Durman whose film Our Common Humanity will premiere at the film festival.

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Tell us a bit about the film and why you created it?

As a maker and a creative, I feel that I am a visual storyteller. I wanted to make a film that invites the viewer to be immersed into this imaginary world of my work where everything is possible. But most importantly, I wanted to emphasise that we are on an ever changing journey that’s powered by trials and errors, vulnerability, and imperfection. The film is an exploration about the beginning, the end, and everything in between this non-linear exploration.

I believe that the concept of ‘perfection’ cannot coexist when we are talking about creativity. It’s too much of a daunting concept that ends up hindering the potential and authenticity of the work. I love this brilliant quote from Edmund de Waal’s book The Hare with Amber Eyes. ‘Be careful, he would say, of the unwarranted gesture: less is more…’ For me this quote not only applies to when developing my work, but also when tackling any aspect of life.

The objects I make are not just ‘pretty’ things that are aesthetically pleasing. They are the visual culminations of a creative process and they all tell a story with a bit more flavour- like we say back home in Costa Rica. I personally like to pay attention to colour combinations and ensuring that the proportions are balanced. When these are in check, my gut reaction tells me its ready and then I take a step back to fully appreciate the end results.

Tales of A Universal Goddess, Juli Bolaños-Durman. Photo Diego Almazan MED

Who or what got you into making?

I can distinctly remember having a really hard time going from pre-school to first grade at school. The focus drastically shifted from playing and drawing all day to learning how to read and write. From that moment on I realised that I have an affinity for expressing myself visually and instantly, and art classes became my favourite subject growing up.

As a child, I would spend many hours playing in the garden with all of my cousins in Costa Rica. I felt the need to understand my surroundings by interacting with the materials around me. This is where we came up with new interpretations and games that were directed by pure curiosity. I feel that these skills have helped me in my practice today.

What is your favourite part of the making process?

I love letting go and the discomfort that comes with not knowing the outcome of the making process or even life. Sometimes you got to trust that things will work out the best way possible, and this can surprise you in the most wonderful ways that may not have been possible if you had approached it logically or with a rigid methodology.

Musings, Juli Bolaños-Durman. Photo Shannon Tofts

Where do you look for inspiration to create new work?

When it comes to my artistic practice, my gut instinct, visual archives, travels, interesting conversations, people, and books all inspire me.

I let myself interact with the materials I have in front of me even if it’s for 5 minutes. I like to call these ‘quick projects’ and they are characterized by letting creativity flow without any restrictions. I find that by allowing my mind to access the creative process judgment-free, the pressure is off and this is when play provokes the creation of new ideas as a starting point for my work. This could be sketching with pen and paper or playing around with acrylic paint to create texture. Lately I’ve been drawn to creating patterns using line repetition with a particular pen which slides when it touches the paper and it gives me a satisfying feeling.

I believe that as we grow older, sometimes the disconnection to your playful childlike side gets a bit lost and it’s important to me to allow myself to take timeout to play and connect to that joyful instinct and exercise that creative muscle.

How does your background in graphics influence your work in glass today?

My background has played a massive role on how I observe the world and how I communicate my perspective. I always knew that I was an artist, graphic design was one of the main stops before fully embracing the road I am on now. For me, being an artist was more about pursuing my instinctual drive to express and create with my hands. At the time, I knew this was part of my identity and I now know it’s the only way I understand the world around me.

As a Graphic Designer, sketchbooks are a big part of the idea formation stage of work and they facilitate the evolution of ideas. They include experimental thoughts, the quick projects and documentation of the technical notes. These come together and make it possible to better understand the thought and creative processes. By providing a space for dialogue and development of the ideas, the sketchbook facilitates the evolution of future projects.

In the end, the sketchbook becomes the principal storyteller of the project and the portrayal of the creative journey. I still use these sketchbooks and techniques within my glasswork today and it’s a vital part of my process.   

Made-Up Musuem of Artefacts, Juli Bolaños-Durman. Photo Shannon Tofts

You're originally from Costa Rica and now live in UK. How do you think the cultures of these two countries influences your creative practice?

Costa Rica is known of its beautiful nature and wildlife. I was lucky to have grown up in such lush surroundings and that has imprinted on me and my aesthetic as a designer.

Costa Ricans are known for being very laid back and to go with the flow. We are very cheeky and like to push boundaries often bending the rules to understand limits. I feel this allows us to be inquisitive by nature and good problem solvers that think of the box.

Being so laidback isn’t always the best approach to life but for me this is how I produce my best work. I let myself flow in the process, disregarding if it’s a ‘good’ idea or not. Sometimes it just needs to be that way and it doesn’t matter what the outcome is. I see design as a process and not just the outcome.

I have lived in the UK for seven years and live in Edinburgh, Scotland. I often like to observe local cultures and love the fact that craft and tradition are highly valued within the UK. I have been encouraged to continue my creative journey with the ongoing support of this wonderful community. 

What type of projects or programmes have you taken part in that have helped you develop your practice?

I’ve taken part in Hothouse and A Future Made. These opportunities have given me specialised knowledge on how to build a creative business and to move away from the idea of a ‘starving artist’. But most importantly, I got feedback on my business model and practically understood how I as a maker in the UK fit in the wider international craft sector. Through both opportunities I was able to have conversations with a wide range of industry leaders and develop a professional network to help support and motivate me.

See Our Common Humanity at Real to Reel: The Craft Film Festival at Picturehouse Central during London Craft Week at 6.30 - 8pm on 8, 9 and 10 May 2018. Tickets £13.50 (concessions available)

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