Tiffany Eng 

TIFFANY ENG, BFA, 2012, DRAWING
ALUMNI DISCOVERY INITIATIVE INTERVIEW BY JULYA HAJNOCZKY

From top left to bottom right: After Treatment (1)
Before Treatment (1)
After Treatment (2)
Before Treatment (2)

Before Treatment (3)
After Treatment (3)

JULYA HAJNOCZKY: When did you graduate from ACAD?

TIFFANY ENG: I graduated in 2012 – I started earlier, but I took a couple of years off in the middle.

HAJNOCZKY: What was your major?

ENG: I was a Drawing major. I went in initially because I thought I was going to do Design and Illustration, but I ended up staying with the Fine Arts path.

HAJNOCZKY: So you graduated with a BFA?

ENG: Yes.

HAJNOCZKY: What is your current employment?

ENG: I’m a conservator specializing in book and library material. Book conservation is a specialized field that cares for and treats book and archive material to ensure its longevity. It encompasses things like ensuring the proper environment and storage for the material, as well as interventive treatment to repair broken or damaged items.

Right now I work at the Palace of Westminster, in the House of Lords, London. I’ve been here for about a year now since finishing my Masters of Conservation in Books and Library Materials. There are a couple of different conservation and collection care departments here including Works of Art, and Interiors and Furnishings. I work for the Parliamentary Archives Collection Care department. It’s a small team of 5 of us that care and manage the physical aspects of the parliamentary records held in the Victoria Tower.

HAJNOCZKY: A lot of graduates use their ACAD degree as a sort of creative stepping-stone. How did what you studied at ACAD help direct your course, how did what you learned at ACAD help direct your career?

ENG: One thing would be hand skills and working with your hands. In Drawing and Painting, there were a lot of practical skills that I enjoyed doing, so that’s translated into my career as a conservator. I work with my hands for at least a part of most days, repairing books, doing practical conservation treatments. The other thing is at ACAD, I was interested in preciousness of art, looking at the different ways that people dealt with their work. Some people in art school are quite delicate with their work, they hang it up really nicely and keep it in folders to make sure it doesn’t get damaged or smudged. I was interested in having my work sort of degrade naturally, to show signs of use and wear, and to let go of that preciousness. So the studies that I did at school informed what I went into later, because through research around preciousness and caring for artwork, I learned about conservation and it got me kind of interested in taking things that were less available to the public due to age or condition and trying to make them more accessible to people – both as a physical object, as well as the textual content.

HAJNOCZKY: What insights did your time at ACAD give you when looking at things? Why does what you learned at ACAD matter?

ENG: I think it was learning to be constructively critical about the world around you – to have elements of critical thinking embedded into your daily life. That was probably the most valuable thing for me that came out of ACAD. Regardless of whether or not you learn to draw, or if you become an artist or not, that everyday practicing of looking at something and dissecting, “what’s good about this, what’s bad about this, how can it be different, what does this mean” was valuable to me.

HAJNOCZKY: What would you like to be recognized for?

ENG: I think at one point I wanted to be the greatest artist of the 21st century. I don’t know what I want to be recognized for now, maybe for being a nice person – I wouldn’t mind that! And I suppose I’d still like to be recognized in my current field, eventually.

HAJNOCZKY: Thinking about when you finished at ACAD, after graduation, what obstacles did you encounter? How did you overcome them?

ENG: I think that when I went into art school I had this idea of wanting to get better at drawing and wanting to be able to design, but at the same time, I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do as a career. By the time I came out of a fine art degree, I realized that being a studio artist felt like something I wasn’t interested in. So when I left ACAD, I found it quite difficult to keep up studio work – making art in a vacuum is really difficult unless you’re motivated, or keep up with the community or a have strong group of artists around you. After leaving school, I think a lot of people struggle with the idea of giving up on dreams or something. I think the biggest thing was motivation. What I did was go into something else that had elements of practical hand skills because I knew I liked that kind of work and that I could do it for a long time – I didn’t ever get bored with using my hands. So I became a pastry chef for a couple of years, and from there I decided that I wanted to go back to school and pursue conservation.

HAJNOCZKY: Do you feel like it would be useful – for instance when you say you get out and find yourself in a kind of vacuum, do you think that’s the kind of thing ACAD might be able to try to fill afterwards in some kind of capacity even though you have graduated?

ENG: In my experience, I think the vacuum was a bit self-inflicted and having the space of a couple years away has changed my perspective. I can’t speak for everyone, but maybe they could arrange alumni shows, or invite people to more events, though I know ACAD does that already and the problem is that it can be hard to get people involved. I’m not really sure, but… everyone loves shows, right? Maybe if they had an alumni show they’d all come back for that. Plus food.

HAJNOCZKY: Can you talk a bit about what your time at ACAD was like? How you found the experience?

ENG: I started when I was just coming out of high school, so I don’t know if I had the same College experience as the ones who had a couple of years off. I loved being in the studio, I loved having that intense studio contact and being able to really take the time to make art and to really try and find a style. That’s a difficult thing to replicate outside of school. Looking back, that part was a really great experience. But it was also quite a difficult time, trying to decide what to do with my life and doing a bit of growing up. I suppose it’s like anything in life – the process was a really helpful experience, but if I did it again, I would be able to gain more academic and constructive career building aspects from my time there.

HAJNOCZKY: What do you feel is the role of ACAD and ACAD’s alumni in shaping cultural and economic prosperity?

ENG: Gosh that’s a hard one isn’t it? It’s hard to measure the direct impact of inputs into the cultural and heritage sector, but I think having Art Colleges and cultural conduits such as ACAD or the Calgary arts community provides a space for people to gather and to explore ideas and to make new communities.

HAJNOCZKY: Where does art fit into your future?

ENG: I suppose in the future I hope to continue to engage with the arts, as a conservator and as a maker.

HAJNOCZKY: Do you get the opportunity to see a lot of things in London?

ENG: Yeah, London is pretty great for things to do and see. The downside is that every day in London is as busy as Calgary on Boxing Day times two. There are so many amazing free galleries here, I try take advantage of it and go a couple of times a month if I can.