culture

Artist Profile: Samantha Csapilla, Canna-Chemist And Canna-Artist

Erin Doble
Erin Doble 21 Jan 2020

A woman comprised of equal parts scientist and artist, Samantha Csapilla recently had an exhibit with the Iskra Print Collective, just around the corner from HVT-HQ. We fell hard for her work, and had to learn more about how she got involved in the art world.

HVT: What is your personal background?

SC: I am a Connecticut native who moved to Burlington in 2008 to attend the University of Vermont where I studied chemistry, math, and art and completed my degree in environmental science with a concentration in ecological design. 

At UVM I learned how to use plants, natural systems and living technologies as inspiration for the design of buildings, landscapes and communities that co-benefit people and the environment. Post-college, I worked in the biofuels industry researching how to convert organic waste streams into biogas renewable energy. 

Ultimately, my fascination with plants and their potential solutions to health and environmental problems led me to the cannabis industry. Beginning as one of the first cannabis analysts in Vermont, providing lab testing for several medical cannabis dispensaries and emerging CBD markets, I then transitioned into botanical hemp extractions.   

All different skills can be applied in screenprinting from drawing, painting, graphic design, or any desired blend of techniques, giving it a broad appeal with endless creative potential.  

HVT: What made you decide to take a screenprinting class?

SC: I have been an art lover my whole life, making things at any opportunity I can. Most of my artworks were created in classes or as homemade gifts for people – with a range of all types of media. 

Gifts and classes push me to create more, so after attending two of the Iskra Print Collective screenprint class art shows, I became super intrigued about how screenprinting works and decided I needed to take the class and learn a new technique. 

The inspiration for my art stems from my love of science, nature and photography.

The class is offered twice a year, acceptance is by lottery, and once you take the class you can become a member of the studio. It’s a tough class to get into, but I cannot speak more highly of the instructors, the studio, the process and my fellow classmates.  This class was amazing and I highly recommend it to anyone out there excited to learn a really cool, manual, technical printing process and new craft.

All different skills can be applied in screenprinting from drawing, painting, graphic design, or any desired blend of techniques, giving it a broad appeal with endless creative potential.  

HVT: What’s the source of your artistic inspiration?

I decided to take on a challenging, technical screenprinting method where I transformed photos I have taken into photorealistic screenprint images. 

SC: The inspiration for my art stems from my love of science, nature and photography.  For the particular pieces I created for the show, I chose to do two cannabis-science themed prints, one pretty flower print, and then one Hungarian art-themed print (my family is from Hungary and is the origin of my last name, which by the way is pronounced “Cha-peel-ah”). 

I decided to take on a challenging, technical screenprinting method where I transformed photos I have taken into photorealistic screenprint images.

The process separates an image into four different color layers: cyan, yellow, magenta and black (CYMK) – the most common method for achieving color in printing (like a computer printer does). 

Each of these color layers is then transformed into “halftone” which converts the varying tones of color into varying sizes of dots or other shapes.

These layers are turned into films for preparing the silkscreen, where the halftone portion allows for increased detail in the image to be printed and the color separation enables one to get as close to the starting image’s color scheme using only four color inks. 

I created two craft niches in the recent years: one being a custom pet art gift idea and the other being cannabis-themed, decorative glassware.

From afar the screenprints look like printed photographs but up close you can really see the intricate detail, patterns and color created using just shapes and a few inks – you just may have to see for yourself!

HVT: What’s your personal and artistic relationship to Vermont?

SC: I have been coming up to Vermont on ski trips every year since I was a baby, decided to go to college here, absolutely loved it and never left – having lived here now for 11 ½ years!  Vermont is a lovely place and living here has made me realize my preference for beautiful, mountainous environments.

I collage pet’s heads onto their owner’s bodies.

I took many art classes at UVM and kept learning new techniques during my time here.  I created two craft niches in the recent years: one being a custom pet art gift idea and the other being cannabis-themed, decorative glassware.

Under the brand name “Pet Your Bod,” I collage pet’s heads onto their owner’s bodies using customer’s own photos in very unique, hysterical, mixed media compositions on canvas (by hand, without Photoshop) that never cease to surprise and make pet lovers laugh. 

Under the brand “The Vermont Cannabis Chemist” I make hand-painted glass jars decorated with the chemical structures of the major therapeutic compounds found in cannabis and hemp. More ideas to come – whenever I find the time!

HVT: What’s your relationship with cannabis? What made you want to be a part of the industry?

SC: I am grateful to claim a super fun, interesting, science career as a cannabis and hemp chemist. Cannabis chemistry allows me to work with amazing plants and compounds and produce quality products that contribute to the greater well being of so many individuals. 

I stumbled into the industry by being referred to one of the first medical cannabis companies in Vermont during their search for a lab technician without even knowing it was a cannabis lab. The exciting surprise turned into four years of being the sole chemist servicing several vertically integrated dispensaries, CBD stores and hemp/CBD product producers where I was fortunate to learn all aspects of the cannabis industry from seed to sale. 

I am a strong proponent of (and hopeful for) national, regulated cannabis markets – if not federally legal, then legal and available within every state – with an emphasis on safety and education.

I then transitioned into the hemp processing space, where I helped set up and run an extraction lab then recently joined the team of another Vermont based hemp processor as their Director of Extraction. Through learning and establishing testing and extraction labs, my knowledge, experience, and love for the cannabis plant has evolved alongside the industry and I am excited to continue to grow along with it.

HVT: What’s your vision for cannabis nationwide and for Vermont?

SC: I am a strong proponent of (and hopeful for) national, regulated cannabis markets – if not federally legal, then legal and available within every state – with an emphasis on safety and education. Rigorous regulations, laboratory testing, and licensing of facilities will ensure product, producer and consumer safety with standards requiring best manufacturing practices, accurate labeling of ingredients and dosages, and transparent, available lab results for consumers.

Legal markets open up significant job opportunities and craft niches — something I hope to see everywhere, especially in Vermont, in the near future.  

Education increases awareness and the tools needed for consumers to understand and make adequate decisions relating to cannabis. Recreational use should be regulated like alcohol and restricted to adults and access should be available for those seeking cannabis as plant-based therapeutics or medicines.

Enabling and expanding research will advance our understanding of and the potential applications of the vast array of compounds present within the plant, most of which are not intoxicating.

Legal markets open up significant job opportunities and craft niches — something I hope to see everywhere, especially in Vermont, in the near future.  

HVT: Where are you based, how can people see your work, and what’s the best way for folks to contact you?

SC: I am based in Burlington, Vermont.  The screenprints are exhibited and prints are for sale at the Karma Bird House gallery space at Kestrel Coffee Roasters on Maple Street in Burlington until the end of January 2020. 

The other works are created on a made-to-order basis at this time, with a minimal, still-in-development presence on Instagram.

People can contact me at scsapilla@gmail.com, petyourbod@gmail.com or thevtcannabischemist@gmail.com.

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