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Alice Wiese | An Interview

Alice Wiese is an artist living and working in San Francisco. Each piece beautifully planned and executed, Wiese's textile pieces meld preconceived compositions with the spontaneity of abstract, geometric forms. We've been getting lost in these intricate pieces. Read our interview with Alice below: 

Tell us about this body of work launching on Tappan?
This body of work is really special because it was all made while I was living and traveling in Australia. The series I made in 2015 was about the death of a loved one and the loss of relationships with people and trying to rebuild myself. This current body of work is about the journey I took to rebuild myself. This series was made while working in houses and multiple studios and has traveled down the east coast of Australia and then sent to America.

Describe your work in three words:
Minimal, meticulous, orderly.

What is your creation process like, how are you conceptualizing and thinking about each of these pieces?
Lately, I have been starting off each piece with a collected pattern or image that I have photographed. I draw it out on my canvas and then begin embroidering. I often change the pattern to make the piece unpredictable. The concepts are constantly circulating in my head. I assign a concept to one piece then deconstruct that thought while working on the piece. I believe that my work is a direct representation of how I feel and each piece is a visual therapy session of my internal monologues.


Would you say you have a studio philosophy?
My work table has to be tidy and I need to be alone and not distracted.


Regarding your method of making, is it a case of the material or method dictating the idea of the other way around?

I would say maybe the method of how I use the material.

What’s the first thing you do when you begin formulating an idea for a piece?Stretch a canvas and just start. I don’t do any preliminary sketches or plan anything out, I work directly on the canvas. I just go for it. Most of the time the way I thought the piece would evolve is not how it ends up. Most of my pieces are based on repeating patterns I see. As soon as the pattern starts to look too formulaic, I change it up to keep the viewer on their toes.


What was the last gallery show you went to?
I would say that my last favorite gallery show I went to was a quilt show at the National Gallery Of Victoria, in Melbourne. The quilts were packed with detail and I could really appreciate the hard work and hours that were put into them.


What is the arts community like in your city? Do you spend your time around other creatives?
All of my favorite people who I spend time with are all creative in some way or another. Some of them are artists, makers, designers, or problem solvers.


If you could travel anywhere to create for a while, where would you go?
At the moment, i’m dreaming of somewhere where it’s cold and rainy outside so I don’t mind being warm and productive inside.


What are your other hobbies?
I really love exploring. I learned how to surf about a year ago and I am pretty hooked on that too.


If you could have a drink with one artist, who would it be?
Grayson Perry and Alan Measles.


What influences you?
Architecture, patterns, shapes, texture.


What motivates you?
I want to be a master at my craft.


How many hours do you try and work in the studio per week?
Anywhere from 24- 32 hours. I like getting into the studio in the morning and having really long days in it but it varies on my mood and the piece I am working on.


Silence or sound while creating? If sound, what?
I always have some sort of movie or show playing in the background, and it has to be something I have already seen about 100 times. Big, Big fan of The Office, up until Michael Scott leaves.


Tools or mediums you’re dying to experiment with?


What work took you the longest to complete?
Never. Forever. I started this piece when I first moved to Australia and I was living in someone’s shed in a very small town, called Kangaroo Valley. I had none of my normal tools, quilting ruler, quilting pen, fabric, that I normally use while making my pieces so everything took a little longer. I also spent a good 3 hours trying to unpick something that took me about 6 hours to embroider.


Best gift you’ve ever received? 
Surfboard/Sewing machine.


Do you have a favorite quote, or a phrase you think about often? 

“Be curious, not judgemental.” -walt whitman.


Have the cities you’ve lived in influenced your practice? If so, tell us a bit about that, and what elements in particular steered you in certain directions.
Definitely. Especially for this series. I recently quit my job, moved out of my apt, and left the country for 16 months. Spent a few months in Europe, moved to Australia, and then went to Indonesia. I was really excited about seeing the communist era buildings in Berlin, took lots of pictures of patterns on fences, wrought iron gates, and tiles.


What's one thing you still have from your childhood?
Lots! Because I hold on to everything! But definitely my stuffed animal tiger named “Yo”


What country do you wish to visit?
Well, I don’t know about Country in particular but I would love to check out South America.


What makes you nervous?
Not being able to live as free as I want to live.


What makes you laugh no matter what?
My Dad. And fart jokes.


What's the bravest thing you've ever done?
Visiting the family of a lost loved one after they lost their son/brother. Also, I swam with sharks!


What is one artist living or dead you feel a great connection to? Someone whose work has inspired your own practice and what you’re creating these days?
One of my best friends, Hannah Beasley. I met her when we did exchange in college in Kyoto, Japan. She is a fantastic and skilled painter, incredible musician, and overall just a great human. I shared a studio with her for part of my time in Australia and since our work has a lot of parallels, it was fun bouncing ideas back and forth off of each other and setting goals for ourselves to help each other stay on track.  Since we normally do not live in the same country, we generally meet up about once a year, travel, and eat a lot.


What’s one habit you wish you could break?
Not believing in myself.


Who was your favorite teacher in school?
Sydney Cohen. She is the reason I tried embroidery. She had the ability to stretch my brain and make me think about art in a completely different, more fun way. I also really admire her work.


Tell us about your hometown. Did you grow up with creative people in your life?
I grew up in Mill Valley, Ca, a cute, small town about 15 miles north of San Francisco. My dad is a contractor and was remodeling our house for what seems like forever, so I was always allowed, or not allowed, to use his tools to make mini projects. My parents were always supportive of my passion to make things. I went to a boarding school (Oxbow) in Napa, Ca, for a semester in high school and that’s where I learned that there were others like me who liked to make art. After that I knew I needed to continue making art.


What’s next?
I want to make a few wearable embroidery pieces as well as incorporate some machine embroidery into my hand embroidered pieces.

Explore Alice's collection.