I was so glad to be able to interview Allyson Mellberg recently. Allyson is a member of our Folk Reveries team, and an incredibly talented artist in many media. I've been an admirer of her work for ages now, and soon I'll have my very own dottie!
How did you come to be an artist? My Mom and Dad are both artists (mom was a sculptor/painter and dad is an industrial designer) so I was raised in an environment with working artists around. My brother also made art. It seemed very natural to be creative and make things.
Your dottie softies are much-loved! One wonders if they just popped off your canvas into 3D... What and who are these creatures? Thank you! My husband and I had been making large scale soft sculptures together & I had always been interested in miniatures... so I pulled the dotties from my drawings as the first experiment with that. The dotties are a kind of amalgamation of rodents, (hamsters/ground hogs) and cats... They are passive, curious, and friendly. In my drawings they serve as mediators between humans and the mysterious natural world. Humans can often be seen trying to communicate with them (successfully and unsuccessfully) and occasionally feeding them the wrong food... like rocks. They like to eat plants & popcorn. They are named 'dotties" for their spots (not all of them are spotted though) and in memory of my husband Jeremy's grandma Dorothy (Dot) who I loved dearly.
You work in so many different media, including the beautiful new papercuts in your Etsy shop, and yet your work is very cohesive. Like your dotties, do other characters travel with you from one media to another? What is your approach to choosing a particular media for a new project or series? Thank you! That is a huge compliment. I definitely don't see my ideas as exclusive to one media and I find it really exciting to experiment and learn how to do new things. Usually a new series begins in the sketchbook as small drawings and then travels to larger works on paper... from there I start experimenting and occasionally, like this summer when I got the itch to start wood carving for my show at Cinders, I will just try something totally new. Sometimes it works out... other times it doesn't! The new papercuts come from a while back when I was doing more collograph printing and used a ton of cut paper/mylar stencils. I found that way of making images really fascinating... I am such a line oriented drawer/printmaker... that moving over to just using shapes, and no lines, is really fun and a good challenge.
Would you describe your studio practice? I am a teacher, so I am in the art studio all of the time. At home, I work in my sketchbook first, then move to the studio, or the kitchen table... I like to listen to music & movies. Often Jeremy and I work together, which is really nice.
Are you still teaching? What is your feeling on the relationship between being an artist in academia and pursuing one's own art? Yup. I am actually on the tenure track (3 years in) so I am a full time professor. It is a strange relationship and while I love teaching and working with young artists I would be lying if I said that I wouldn't quit teaching in a heartbeat if I could sustain myself & have health insurance on my artwork alone. Teaching itself is awesome, its the academic politics and administrative work that is not so great. I always say that I have two full time jobs, being an artist and being a teacher. Being an artist is the most important one. It is a dream to be able to retire early and just make art, but teaching is a really great job, having the summer off and flexible hours (and the fact that exhibitions count as career development) is really great for an artist.
What do you like about being on Etsy, and what are its challenges? Do you find that it is compatible with a fine arts practice? Etsy is great because its very easy to use, and the community of people is really friendly and vast. I have met some amazing artists, some of whom have become my friends. As far as challenges, I think the only thing is its easy to get lost in how many people/how much stuff is posted on Etsy everyday. I see it as adjunct to my fine art practice. I sell smaller goods in my shop that I could afford to buy myself. Things like my larger sculptures, prints, and original works are handled by my gallery, so Etsy is a way for me to connect with people on a smaller basis. This may sound kind of goofy, but I also just see Etsy as being really friendly and sweet. I like the whole "convo" thing and how willing people are to just send you a message to tell you that they are stoked on what you are making. I know I have written people before just to say, "hey, I really love what you are doing" even if I couldn't afford to buy something at that moment.
I noticed that you and your partner, Jeremy, now have a new handmade and vintage shop! What are other future plans do you have for your work in general? Oh yes! And we need to get going on that! I have a whole bunch of stuff to post. (presently lighting fire under fanny...) Future plans include the wonderful, bug-free (almost) fall/winter garden that we have just planted... Fall is so great for gardening here in Virginia because it stays warm enough for along time to grow all kinds of greens and cabbages. We have several group shows coming up, one in Cincinnati, Japan, New Orleans, and then work going out to pop-up shops in Milwaukee, Richmond and here in Charlottesville. I am also working on my solo show in Paris at Galerie LJ which I will go over for in April. And I am speaking at Pictoplasma in Berlin in April too!
Why were you drawn to the Folk Reveries team? Well, I think the profile description on Etsy says it all, Sharing a group with other artists who are inspired by the natural world and the magic that belongs to it! Very nice.
*Thank you so much, Allyson! Readers, do pop over to Allyson's shop and blog. She is very friendly so don't hesitate to send her a convo. And be sure to comment here and let us know what you think of the interview!
** All images copyright and courtesy of Allyson Mellberg.