Three words come to mind when setting eyes upon Allyson Rousseau‘s fibre art pieces: forgiveness, balance, and freedom. The Montréal-based fibre artist resets the prestigious notion of art, by manipulating her medium to her heart’s content and responding to the daily inspirations from the simplicity of life. Weaving to Rousseau is a lifelong and rewarding process of learning, as seen through the changes and developments of her works over the years. With each piece of work evolving along with its creator, this is why she describes fibre art as “like a liquid” – versatile, adaptive, and very forgiving. Rousseau strives to maintain her integrity as a fibre artist through social media, and we think she has truly succeeded in making her very own mark in the world of art.
i) What does the word ‘art’ mean to you?
Art is whatever any individual deems to be art. The viewer may have a different opinion from the artist, and being an artist myself, I think that art is whatever you think is art. The meaning of a piece of art, whether intended or not by the creator, is ultimately in the eye of the beholder, so it is a difficult thing to define from any perspective.
I make art, and I say that it is art, but to someone else it might not be art at all. In this sense, maybe the actual word “art” means nothing? I think for the artist, art is art because there is an elevated level of intent or consciousness to the piece. It is created to stand apart from the rest, or to demand attention – if it was made for a viewer.
There are artists though, who create work in complete solitude throughout their entire lives, and their work is only recognized as art once their work is “discovered” (perhaps after the artist’s death) and somebody calls it art. So then is the case that “art” is art only when somebody claims it to be such or when the artwork has a viewer to view it.
ii) Why did you choose to work with fibre art in the first place? What do you think are some of the things that this medium can convey that other mediums cannot?
I began seriously working with textiles and fibre during my undergraduate degree while studying Studio Art at the University of Guelph, in Ontario, Canada. My focus was in Drawing and Sculpture in my final year of study, and weaving/ working with fiber started to become a part of my practice without me realizing it.
Working with fibres as a medium allows me to be quite free with my designs. Fibres are organic and fluid in nature – they act almost like a liquid because of the ways that you can manipulate them. Yet, they are solid and can also be quite rigid in form. I find that these qualities are unique to fibre – it is very “forgiving” as a medium.
iii) Your works seem to play around with positive/ negative space, the integration of different pastel tones, and elements of modern design with embroidery. Please tell us more about the concepts, messages, and meanings behind your work.
I get a lot of my inspiration from the design of everyday objects. From street signs to the covers of books, I find pleasure and satisfaction in the simplicity of everyday living. I think with that mindset, the framework from which I conceptualize my work is based on simplicity in form, colour, and idea. I aim to have my works convey an idea or a visual that is straightforward and balanced in design. I tend to stray from adding too much hidden or deeper meaning into my work because the pleasure is in the visual, and the meaning is ultimately in the eye of the beholder.
iv) Was there anything or anyone who had inspired you in embarking on your artistic journey with this particular medium?
Yes! My first introduction to contemporary weaving was through artist Mimi Jung of Los Angeles, California. I came across an online article about her and her work; I was immediately mesmerized by her technique and overall aesthetic. After discovering Jung’s work, I decided to teach myself to weave, and I’ve been weaving ever since.
v) How would you describe the transformations in your artistic direction when compared to when you first started fibre art?
When I first started working with fibre and learning how to weave, I was caught up and preoccupied with learning various techniques and how to properly handle the materials and tools. I learned pretty quickly that all of those things are pretty personalized to the artist though, so I loosened up once I had taught myself the basics. The direction of my work has been refined over the years. Everyday practice and experimentation have been crucial to the development of my work, and it will continue to evolve as I do as a person. My designs have become much cleaner, concise and balanced!
vi) Since social media serves an important role in your process of publicizing your work, please tell us about one of your favorite comments that you have received from your audience. How did this comment affect your subsequent pieces?
I haven’t really kept a favourite in mind, but I did receive a comment recently that really touched me. It was: “You’re one of my favourite fibre artists. Truly, your work is art”.
This comment touched me because it can be really difficult to separate my work from being considered “craft”. There are so many weavers today that are hobbyists and that create work in a different style and for different reasons. I try really hard to protect the integrity of my work so that it is (I am) respected. It can be difficult and pretty exhausting to manage this through social media, so comments that reinforce my intent mean a lot to me! It’s comforting to know that I reached at least one person in the way that I had intended to.
vii) Name one person who you would like to receive advice from and why!
Great question! I would love to get advice from master fibre artist Sheila Hicks. She has had such a vibrant and prolific artistic career that spans over several decades. I would ask her for advice on how to expand my practice, and if she has any tips for acquiring international grants and residencies!
viii) As you are based predominantly in Montréal, what are some of your favorite things about the area, and how do you think your environment influenced your work?
I love the culture here in Montréal. The people have such beautiful and independent spirits, it’s contagious! There are also many artists living and working here, so I feel like the city is constantly breeding new ideas and inspiration. The food and drink is really great, there are more public parks than one could ever need or want, and the living is inexpensive! Although I have only been living here permanently for about the last year and a half, all of these things have influenced my work. I can afford to enjoy life outside of self-employment (which can be tough to do in other cities), enabling me to focus on my work and be a little bit less stressed about how I make a living month-to-month.
ix) Any artists or creative individuals that you would love to have a chance to collaborate with in the future?
There are many people/entities that I would like to work with, but for the sake of giving one example I will say: the printmaking studio Atelier Bingo. Their work is so bold and colourful, so it would be a lot of fun to weave something with their designs…rugs or carpets maybe!
x) Lastly, are there any upcoming projects in the remainder of the year that you would like to share with our readers?
Right now and for the rest of December, I am focused on finishing up commissions and works to sell at holiday shows and markets! I have a lot of smaller works available for purchase on my website! I ship all of the work on my website for free worldwide.
A great thank-you to Allyson Rousseau, and images courtesy to the artist herself.