MiAL Insight Interview: Sarah Fortais

Today we’re in conversation with the unstoppable Sarah Fortais, as she gives us a little Insight into her life and experiences as a MiAL Artist….

Sarah Fortais, 1, 2, 3, (Unfinished)

Sarah, you’ve been with MiAL since the very beginning (which we feel makes you a bit of an authority on all things Made in Arts!) but for those who may not have been introduced to you yet, could you tell us a little about yourself, your background and what you’re up to now?

I am Canadian and originally planned to become a plastic surgeon when I studied at Western University in London, Ontario, Canada. I changed my mind though, which is what brought me to study Fine Art in 2011 at Central Saint Martins. I am currently completing a PhD at the Slade with a thesis titled “Defining Cool and Accessing Creativity Through Studio Practice”.

I love to take things apart and this is primarily what motivates me to do what I do. Second to this, I love to create and get people involved with the work I make. Presenting strange scenarios using displaced but familiar materials and working objects into a personal kind of resolution allows me to physically think through how I make things and produce a physical record of this activity. I am interested in taking apart my own practice and creating a map of creativity.


What drew you to join MiAL?

MiAL approached me after seeing my work in Xhibit 2012 and I decided to join because I found MiAL to be a friendly and reliable way to gain exposure for my work.

Our relationship has enabled me to learn more about PR in general, which has helped me to perform better in interviews and gain confidence in networking. In recent years, I can trace many of my awards, paid performances (such as performing at the Tate Modern for a private event in 2013), and sales back to my representation and promotion through MiAL.

Sarah Fortais, Taxidermy Christmas Chick

Sarah Fortais, Taxidermy Christmas Chick

I have sold work by taking part in the Christmas pop-up shops, and garnered positive press and yet more exhibition opportunities by first exhibiting my work in MiAL organized exhibitions such as MiAL @ Lethaby Gallery; Bigger, Brighter Bolder (Showroom); and Capsule (Embassy Tea Gallery).

I have also exhibited experimental work like the Superdove Project in 272 High Holborn with MiAL’s help, and was then able to turn it into a commercial print edition. I can then use the sales of these works to fund more projects.

Exhibiting with MiAL is also helping me to fulfil my course requirement of continuing to show work outside of the Slade. Without MiAL taking care of much of the groundwork of curating, securing space, and keeping the work safe, I would not be able to be as ambitious with the work itself. Additionally, having these aspects of the exhibition outside of my control creates a continuously evolving discourse around my work that keeps me and any potential buyers interested!

In between these opportunities to sell and exhibit work, I have also been given helpful feedback with my applications, presentation of work (especially framing), and pricing.  Through MiAL’s support, I have become far more equipped to maintain a professional, commercial presence for my work while completing a full-time degree.


Has being a MiAL Artist affected your working process or approach? If so how?

Sarah Fortais, Non-Linear Narrative Sequence

Sarah Fortais, Non-Linear Narrative Sequence

It sets mini deadlines throughout the year, which helps to keep me on track with my more long-term, self-directed research degree, and gives me something to look forward to during school breaks.

Now, when I think about documenting installations I also consider the size and framing of the completed photo, in case I want to sell the photo in future. Additionally, this has made it a lot easier for me to assemble an Appendix for my PhD Upgrade Report. I now have the idea of creating an artist book in the next few years, which I wouldn’t have considered otherwise.

MiAL has encouraged me to consider the resolution of my work, which in turn opens it up to more opportunities.


What has been your best experience as a MiAL Artist?

Selling a photo of my brother waiting for the bus to a genuine (and fascinating) fan of my work was a very, very good day!


And be honest with us- has there been a worst?!

Way back when MiAL was having growing pains there was some organizational issues…


Finally, what are you currently working on and where do you see yourself and your practice going next?

I plan on completing my PhD in Fine Art at the Slade. My research for this involves primarily building spacesuits for several species of animals, including mouse, stag, mink, pig, and giraffe. I have also produced a sound work titled, 1 2 3 (Unfinished) where I created a score out of a rocket launch to be performed by 5 drummers. I am also continuing work on a 1:12 scale model of the bedroom from the final scene in Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. All these works will form part of my final exhibition, I also plan to publish my research.

On the side of this, I continue to produce taxidermy and hope to work more with musicians.

Sarah Fortais, Anglomophone detail

Sarah Fortais, Anglomophone detail


Sarah has been the recipient of: Signature Art Prize 2015 (longlisted), Catlin Prize 2014 (shortlisted), Catlin Guide 2014, Nova Award, Lowe & Partners 2014 (shortlisted), UAL White Square Award 2013, People’s Choice Award, Rotaryfest 2011, Annual Juried Exhibition 2010