Interview with Alyson Davies

Alyson Davies grew up rurally in the vast Canadian Prairies but has since relocated to Edmonton, Alberta. Her intermedia practice includes but is not limited to painting, printmaking, and performance. She's is interested in illustrating connectivity with nature. She’s a founder of the artist collective Tennis Club.

AA: So, I hear you're an artist. How did you discover that you were a creative? 

AD: As the child who was voted to have drawn the worst tree of the whole class I may have been persuaded to quit art before starting, but I grew up with a slew of great female mentors being part of Girl Guides of Canada. It was in Guides that I quickly finished all the arts badges before any others. As a child I would regularly direct my cousins in stage (basement) performances of books. This led to a heavy interest in theatre as a teen. My dad is a great craftsman, a talented carpenter, and draftsman. I think it's in many ways through his influence as a maker of things that pushed my interests.
AA: What role does nature and spirituality play in your work? 

AD: In many ways making art is my way of wrestling spirituality into something concrete. I was raised in a rural Christian church, found Paganism and Wicca in my teens and while in school I was consumed with interest in Eastern spiritual practices. Art gives me a chance to allow me to align with paths of thought. In ways, I feel that making art is a spiritual act.

AA: You work in all different kinds of media: painting, sculpture, installation, and performance to name a few. How do you balance all of the media in your practice and do you have a favorite? 

AD: I like to play. I like to get messy and push the boundaries of whatever I am working in. I will get very consumed by one process then once I’ve gotten what I need to out of it I will move on. Often I come back to painting as a pallet cleanser.

AA: How would you describe your process? 

AD: Fun! Messy! Haphazard! Haha, it's a turbulent ride, I never really know what the outcome will be, but I trust the process. 

AA: You're a member and founder of the artist collective Tennis Club. What is it like to make work in a collective and how does it differ from making your personal work? 

AD: This is something I often consider and a common subject amongst the collective members. Working within the collective means we can make more grandiose works due to having more resources, more hands on deck, more time, etc., but it also come with a good amount of compromise as working collaboratively we’re considering each other. In my personal practice, the work doesn’t need to be considered and judged before it's produced. I feel freedom making my work, while at the mercy of my own ambitions and abilities. 

AA: What are you working on right now?

AD: I am just starting a printmaking project where I will be making Cyanotypes that speak to poetry about people’s relationship to working with the land in Alberta. I am really in the beginning phases currently traveling around the province taking photos and ordering materials. I will be creating this work at the communal printshop in Edmonton, SNAP, where the work will be shown in 2019. I have received some funding for this project for which I am grateful. In April 2018 I will be heading south to Colorado to spend some devoted time working in ceramics. 

AA: Who or what do you listen to when creating work? 

AD: I am such a podcast junky, tuning in and out helps me focus immensely. Recently I have been listening from anything from business building to thru-hiking, to history. So here goes a list of podcasts that I’m currently subscribed to:

99% Invisible (Basically the podcast Cannon now)
The Jealous Curator: Art For Your Ear (Great interviews with practicing artists)
On the Ledge (A must listen for anyone who loves their houseplants)
Mighty Blue on the Appalachian Trail (Thru-hiking binge listening)
Adventure Sports Podcast (More thru-hiking!)
She Explores (Interviews with gutsy ladies who do amazing adventurous things)
San Francisco Symphony Podcasts (Classic music!)
This American Life (I'm sure you know)
Tapestry from CBC Radio (Spiritual chatter from the Canadian Broadcasting Company!)
The Secret Life of Canada (Wanna know why to boycott Banff National Park?)
Radiolab (All the stories)
Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations (Interviews with spiritual leaders!)
Mischief Managed Podcast (Harry Potter Fandom by CANADIANS ;) )
Interviews from Yale Radio/ Artists, Curators... (Great interviews with artists, yum)
Dr. Great Art! Fun Art History Artecdotes (great short tidbits that sum up art history movements)
The Allusionist (Word history, heck yes)
The History Chicks (Ladies who tell the stories of historical figures. More plz!)

Well, that was embarrassing.

AA: What are you reading or watching and does it inspire you creatively? 

AD: I am a huge history buff, so the two shows that I’m watching are Call the Midwife and When Calls the Heart (this isn’t really quality TV, but if you’re interested in romantic retellings of Western Canadian history it is kinda historically accurate.) I recently finished Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It on Netflix I really identified with the character, Nola and was moved by many of the stylistic choices.  As for books, I’m reading a historical fiction called The Fifth Avenue Artist’s Society by Joy Callaway. Letters to a Young Artist by Julia Cameron, The Lost Art of Reading Nature’s Signs by Tristan Gooley and Leonardo Da Vinci by Walter Isaacson. Much of this media speaks to other parts of my interests outside of art, however, the more I think of it, those interests move into my work eventually. The National Film Board of Canada (NFB) is an amazing resource for watchable material. I’m particularly taken by the animated shorts the post; I think that they have a great significance unto my work.

AA: What are you doing when you're not making artwork? 

AD: I suppose something that we often don’t discuss is the amount of work required outside of making art required by artists to pursue an art career. I spend a lot of time writing applications, applying to granting bodies, looking for opportunities, emailing, keeping an online presence, up keeping my online shop, editing images, documenting art. It is all part of the job.

But when I am not doing artist job work I’m outside hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, canoeing; taking in the glories of nature. (I am currently planning to hike for about a month this summer, AHHHH?!) 

For money to support my art habit, I work in a living history museum, so I’m often dressed in costume telling the histories of fur traders or early 1900’s society ladies. It is very bizarre and very fun. 

AA: Which artists inspire you?  

AD: Muralist and Edmonton local Jill Stanton, @jil_pickle. Damn, I appreciate Francis Cannon, @frances_cannon. These days I find most of my art inspiration on Instagram. 

AA: Do you have any advice for a fellow artist who may be reading this? 

AD: Just keep swimming. Rejections suck. It sucks being poor. But its good to be an artist. Be proud of yourself and your choices. 

AA: I like to think of artists making artwork the same way as chefs cooking in the kitchen. At first, it may seem intimidating, but once you gain a little confidence, the possibilities of creating tasty meals are endless. With that being said, every famous chef has a catchphrase. What’s your catchphrase in the studio?

AD: This reminds me of something that my foundations prof told in art school. She told a story of a teacher who had two classes to teach for a semester. One class, she instructed to make the most perfect vessel possible. The other class she instructed to make 100 vessels. Which class do you think made better work? 

So my catchphrase... It’s better to make 100 vases than 1?

Make lots of art?

Make now think later?


Connect with Alyson Davies through her Instagram @allbahbah and view her website and artist collective website