Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Dangerous Mezzo ... Nova Scotia, Canada

Artist: Nina Scott-Stoddart
Business: The Dangerous Mezzo
Web sites:,,,
Location: Nova Scotia, Canada

What do you create?
Original multi-media collages and acrylic paintings. I also make costume jewellery for myself (and sell a few pieces via Etsy, under the name Operatic).

Where and when do you do your creative work?
Usually in the evening, in my office/studio upstairs in my big old house in the historic town of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. Sometimes I take some of my stuff down into the nice, warm Red Room downstairs (where the t.v. is) and I'll collage while hanging out with my guy. In good weather (or on vacation) I'll take my clobber outside and paint en plein air.

Do you have another "day job"?
I left my last regular "day job" (library technician) about 15 years ago to pursue my principal art, which is classical singing. (I'm a mezzo soprano, hence my user name!) I am now a professional singer, opera producer and opera director and am pretty busy with it. But my husband David and I moved to Nova Scotia five years ago, which has given me more time to do visual art, which was my first love.

Where and what did you study?
I did a two year college diploma course in library techniques, then went to York University in Toronto for Music and Visual Arts. I have a BFA as a result of that excursion into higher education.

Where do you find inspiration?
I love old black and white glamour photography, as exemplified by photos of opera diva Maria Callas. I also have always loved typography, so I enjoy starting a collage with pages from old books or music manuscripts. For my paintings, I'm inspired by the landscape of Nova Scotia – rocks, sea, trees and old houses.

What motivates you?
Selling my work has been fantastically motivating, for which I thank Etsy. Beyond that, I have two modes of operation, artistically. 1. I plan something carefully, with sketches and studies, and execute it (this generally works for paintings). 2. I start to fling things together and something interesting (or disastrous) emerges (this generally works for collages).

When did you start doing this?
I started collaging about a year ago. I picked up painting again (after a long absence) about five years ago.

Do you remember getting into art as a kid?
Oh yeah. My mother self-published her own text books all through my childhood, so we had, literally, reams of paper lying around. My father's father was a professional artist (an engraver and painter), and my mother's father, my mother's uncle, my mum and dad all painted, to one extent or another. I was surrounded by original art, and it was natural that I start creating my own.

When and why did you decide to start your own business?
I've always been the entrepreneurial type (I've started a few opera companies in my time) so setting up as a freelance artist seemed to make sense. I had been selling some of my work in Nova Scotia, but the principal demand here seemed to be for pretty sea pictures and I was sick to death of doing those. I investigated Etsy because I bought a painting by Heather Murray on Etsy, and it seemed like a perfect venue for me.

How did you choose the name for your business?
Dangerous Mezzo Productions is the name of my opera production company, chosen because of my voice type (I'm a mezzo soprano). My artist website is, but when I signed up on Etsy it was as a buyer (to buy art, natch!). I didn't even think about opening a shop there, at that point, so I just used dangerousmezzo as my user name. About two weeks later, I thought, what the heck, and signed up as a seller. I'm really, really glad that my Etsy shop name is dangerousmezzo – it sums me up much better than lunenburgartist, which is a little too dull.

What do you love most about creating your work?
Getting really messy and sticky! I also love the sense of exploration I have while collaging – there are almost infinite ways the darned things can turn out, and I like trying to feel my way towards when I should stop or when I should keep going. I often get it wrong, but it's a lot of fun!

What's the most fascinating place you've been?
Southwold, on the Suffolk coast of England – I could spend weeks there. It's just a little seaside town, but so relaxing and attractive.

A book you love:
This is really hard, because I'm just about addicted to reading. Okay: Jane Austen (especially Persuasion and Pride and Prejudice); E.F. Benson's Mapp and Lucia books; mysteries and thrillers by Minette Walters; fantasy by Terry Pratchett.

What is the most interesting thing about you?
I'm not terribly interesting, I don't think. I'm either very funny in person or a complete wallflower.

What achievement are you most proud of?
Starting and running the Halifax Summer Opera Workshop.

What advice would you give women starting their own business?
Just do it. Yeah, do all the planning and so forth, but don't let your fears (or the opinions of other people) stop you from trying something. We all need the courage to just jump in with both feet and risk failing at something. Failing isn't a big deal – but letting fear hold you back from even trying, that's very sad.

What's the biggest challenge you face in your work?
Keeping myself organized enough so that I spend time on all the things I want to do.

What do you love to do in your free time?
I love to sail: my husband and I have a very old, beat up 30-foot classic full keel Alberg sailboat (I demur at calling it a "yacht") which we sail all around the South Shore of Nova Scotia, generally with a drink in one hand... I also ride and teach riding to a few young friends of mine (I fell off my horse a year or so ago, and broke my upper arm, which has set me back a bit). I knit like a mad thing (but no socks, damnit!) and I can't stop reading.

What are you working on right now?
Bigger collaged works – 8 x 10 inches and up. I'm also planning my fourth annual Opera Workshop in Halifax and I'm preparing to sing Carmen in June, which is a huge deal.

What do you hope to achieve next?
I want to get started in encaustic – that's a technique that's fascinated me for some time. One of my favourite Canadian artists, Heather Murray, does some amazing work in encaustic and I really want to explore it. (It's the ancient technique of painting with hot coloured wax – mmm... hot wax...)


  1. Thank you so much, pepperinapress, for running this blog and for featuring me and my work. I appreciate it more than I can say!

  2. YAY!!!!!! I Love DangerousMezzo, great feature!!

  3. great interview, Helen. I'm a fan of DangerousMezzo!