Madeleine Lepage: seamstress, member of women’s group and daughter’s circle, expert at baking chiffon cakes, Itcush teacher, retired high school teacher, Sacred Web singer, humanitarian, and for the purpose of this interview, Marie-Claire’s mom.
On fera l’entrevue en anglais.
Hmmm, oké. I’m ready.
I’m starting with what might be the toughest question. Do you consider yourself to be someone creative?
Okay, moving on. (They laugh) When did you start seeing yourself as creative?
Probably as a little girl. I wasn’t consciously searching to be creative, I just was. I remember wanting to surround myself with beauty. My aunt Lorette, this amazing seamstress, would stress the importance of ‘la beauté.’ She designed and made her own clothing. So I started doing the same. I used scraps of fabric and made clothes for my dolls, then for myself. When my mom saw how good I was, she asked me to make clothes for my sisters. We lived on a farm so being resourceful was key, I guess.
Is there room for ugly creativity?
Oh gosh, I hope not.
What do you picture when I say ugly?
Box stores. They’re only about efficiency and profit. It’s a conscious decision for the wealthy to amass more for themselves. Whoever came up with that concept was thinking ‘me me me.’ Creativity went out the window. Greediness is not creative. I could go on a tangent about the few billionaires who own most of the world’s resources. Thinking of that makes me so angry. I want to smuck them in the face.
Is ‘smucking’ nicer than ‘smacking?’
Oh you know what I mean. I’m also thinking of architecture. Those houses that all look the same. They certainly don’t inspire a sense of ‘beauty’ and creative living and community.
What is creativity for you?
The universe is creation and so, creativity. We’re a part of it. Humans are in constant motion and constantly evolving so if we can stay aware of how we’re interconnected with everything and everyone, creativity will remain available.
Sometimes I’ll lie on the floor and start rolling around and I’ll let my body lead me into other kinds of movements. This shakes me up and lets my creativity flow. I don’t mean that we all need to drop to the ground and roll. Freeing the body can happen in various ways. Like going for walks. Using the walk as a conscious form of meditation. A balanced body brings forth creativity.
You’re sounding so all-knowing right now. Do you ever feel blocked?
Of course I do. I think it happens to all of us when we get caught up in repetitive activities that we don’t like. Often, we’re not even aware of it. And we don’t have many places to go where we can take a step back from our routines and consider whether or not we’re blocked or stuck or unhappy. So many of us keep pushing through and don’t or can’t allow ourselves the time and tranquillity for consideration. We have to slow down to listen to our souls. Like you Marie-Claire, I worry about you living in Toronto. It’s such a big city; full of noise and constant movement. Where do you go to slow down?
I try to leave the city. Go back home to Saskatchewan.
Which you should do soon.
But truly, I’m a bit concerned about the lack of quiet places in the world. Where will we go to have quiet? There are retreat centres but being able to go is a privilege few of us have. Creativity requires silence. So does the soul to let the mind and heart connect.
Maman, you should do a TED Talks.
I’ll send you a link.
Oh yes please do. Josh [my nephew] came by yesterday to talk me through how to open links. Oh darn, I forgot to ask him how to subscribe to your videos.
That’s the one, YouTube.
Don’t worry, I’ll just keep sending you the links. So when you were taking care of three little girls [Anika, Émilie, me] did you have time to think about your ‘soul’?
(Laughs) Well, no. I vaguely knew that it was important to take breaks. A family friend, Raphaël, introduced me to the idea of silent retreats. I brought your two sisters with me to a couple. Not completely silent ones of course but ones where I could gather with like-minded people. Those early retreats introduced me to the notion of taking a step back; taking a ‘break’ to listen to my soul.
Did I ever go?
No. And I don’t remember why not. I probably couldn’t handle three children and my soul. (Laughs)
A few years ago when I was working three ‘joe jobs’ I called you completely defeated. Do you remember the advice you gave me?
“This isn’t negative. Use these different experiences as yes yes yes!”
And did it make you feel better?
Not really. At the time I felt bombarded by the “create your own happiness/life” slogans and I didn’t feel like I was creating anything.
I don’t believe in that; create your own happiness, your own life. It makes it sound like you can “do life” on your own. We need support. We need a community. And let’s face it; life sucks a lot of the time. We can’t do it all alone. I’d still give you the same advice. Not being an artist full-time doesn’t mean you’re not an artist. It means you’re living different life experiences. And we’re in Canada. If you’re in a war torn country, you won’t do your art for a long time. Gratitude is so important. You’re in Canada and you can be an artist for most of the day. You don’t have to worry about growing your own food and washing your clothes in the river. Our universe is not organized. The creative process is chaotic. Maybe these ‘joe jobs’ as you say brought a nice chaos to your life.
Yeah. I never thought of it that way. It’s so important to have a larger worldview.
Are you surprised that I became an artist?
Well, I didn’t believe you when you were about eight or nine and asking to take acting, dancing and singing lessons. We were raising three girls and we didn’t have the time or money when you asked. You really weren’t asking us for permission to be an artist though, you were telling us. (Laughs) Your body probably knew before your mind.
Where do you see She Said Films in ten years?
As being a force in Canada.
Are you waiting for more?
Well I think that’s already a big statement. And I believe it. Rebecca and you are building something so beautiful and you’ve been careful with each other’s lives and continue to be. It’s so important. I have a feeling that She Said Films will become your core work. It’s going to take over your life! (Laughs) You will work within that frame and you will both be many different forms of artists through She Said Films. And I think that’s very good.
And if I can be ‘la maman’ for a second, I think you have to be careful of exhaustion and to make sure you have time to live. And I really want you to be able to afford a nice apartment.
Art can equal money. Yes.
Well yes. If this is your life’s work, it must.
By the way, I love your company’s name; She Said Films. You’ve taken a political stance just by naming yourselves. That takes courage. And bringing new stories and perspectives to films, TV and theatre is necessary. I mean my gosh, can we let go of the perfect male hero?! I find it so boring and not to mention how destructive that stereotype is to men and women.
In the trailer for your web series Running With Violet there’s a scene where a woman is getting ready for work and the man stays lying in bed. I just love that. It’s those little things that will shift people’s consciousness. I mean fucking James Bond would never stay in bed while a woman gets ready to go to work. I’m tired of James Bond.
I still like James Bond movies. But if I were to deconstruct them from a feminist perspective, it would be depressing. Okay, lastly, any secrets you want to share?
None off hand. Not that I don’t want to share with you. I can’t even think of one… no. And besides, I think it’s essential for every human being to have privacy. Keeping something just for you, that’s sacred. Oh wow, I’ve never said that out loud. Well maybe that was my secret.
(At my high school, we had to pick a quote to accompany our graduating picture. I picked “Everything happens for a reason.” To which my mom responded, “Sure, everything happens for a reason. And then sometimes, life just stinks.”)