Artist Profile: Allyson Rousseau - Montreal
Hi Allyson! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Allyson and I am a Fiber Artist and Designer based out of Montréal, Québec.
What led you to begin working with textiles and fibers? Was that something you were always passionate about?
My first introduction to contemporary weaving was through LA-based artist Mimi Jung. I stumbled upon an artist feature of hers on Booooooom.com and was so amazed by her work that I became determined to learn how to weave. I received my first loom as a gift that Christmas, and began to learn through self teaching and experimentation.
I began seriously working with textiles and fibres during my undergrad while studying Studio Art at the University of Guelph, in Guelph, Ontario. 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 really realizing it.
Some of the first pieces that I wove were actually made for a conceptual Drawing project- which was a pretty big risk haha. Not surprisingly, I struggled to convince my Instructor that a weaving can be considered a drawing, but I think at that point I was starting to become aware that this was something that I wanted to pursue further.
Your designs are stunning, sculptural and unique. Were you always good at weaving or was it a process that took time to find your style?
Thank you very much, that is so appreciated! Learning how to weave was absolutely a process, and I am still learning. I took to the techniques very quickly when I first began to teach myself what was what, but developing my personal tastes and aesthetic has taken its time. My fiber work is certainly influenced by my background in working with other media, but I think that the style of my work overall is most reflective of my personal style in general and my interests that are constantly in motion. It’s never one thing.
Do you have a favorite design or product to work on?
I am really enjoying working on sculptural work and wearable weaves right now.
How do you connect with your customers and community?
I connect with my customers and audience in general primarily online and through Instagram. I really enjoy the ease of communicating via social media or email because I get to meet so many people from all over the world. I rarely get to actually meet my customers in person because of this, but I recently had the pleasure of meeting a customer from the UK who purchased a work of mine online, but who was traveling through Montréal and wanted to come by and pick it up in person. It was such a treat! I hope to connect with more of my customers this way as I exhibit my work locally and travel abroad.
Has social media shaped the way your work is seen and consumed?
Yes 100%. When I began working full-time, one of the first things I focused on developing was my social media presence. I needed to grow my audience to be able to make a living off of my work rather quickly. Doing this has allowed me the time to produce work for both solo and group exhibitions, and to collaborate with other artists and designers where receiving payment is not guaranteed or desired.
There are of course some negative effects of sharing my work the way that I do via social media. Boundaries are often crossed and there is (at times) a lack of respect for my privacy and the ownership of my work, but I do my best to share only finished ideas in order to deter idea thieves and I only share as much of my life as I am comfortable with. It’s impossible to avoid the negative aspects of social media sharing, but not taking these moments to heart helps me stay sane. I try to keep my emotions as separate from the “business” as possible.
What are some brands/designers that you are excited about that we should know of?
I am forever crushing on Clothing Designers Ilana Kohn and Elizabeth Suzann. If I could have my dream wardrobe it would be filled with these two. Everything I wear when I work gets covered in fibre dust or glue though so I can’t reeeeally justify a designer wardrobe haha. One day I’d like to make my own clothes and work on creating a uniform for me to work in every day but one that can also be lived in outside of the studio.
Why do you think it’s important to shop small and support local makers?
When you shop small, you personally touch the life of a real human being. You enable them to pursue their dream and what I believe to be one of the trickiest things you can do in life; be self-sufficient and self-employed. The work of local makers is filled with their spirit, and owning a piece of that means that you are contributing to the local economy and investing in the future of real live people. Shopping small inspires change.
What is your favorite thing about your workspace?
My favourite thing about my workspace right now is my yarn storage, probably. I work out of a small home studio, and my partner recently moved in and is now doing the same which has made storage much more precious haha. If i’m thinking out of the (literal) box though, I would say that I love how I live/work 20 steps away from my favourite park in Montréal. When I take a break from work during the day, I walk to the park and sit in the sun, or my partner and I will play ping pong (the park has concrete ping pong tables). It is the best.
What makes you passionate about the work that you do?
My passion comes out of my desire to challenge the traditions of weaving and to create work from new ideas. But also out of fear of having to work for somebody else or work a job where I can’t be creative. I’ve worked in retail in the past, and the day that I quit I knew that if I ever went back I would lose myself. That fear is really motivating. I wonder if this would sound surprising to the reader? It’s just the way that I am. When I began weaving full-time my “self” finally made sense.
What are some of the setbacks or challenges you faced when starting your business?
When I first started selling my work online, I struggled to reach the audience that I was trying to create for. I opened an Etsy shop and began selling through there, but it was never right for me. I stuck it out until I began to grow my presence on Instagram, and then I switched to a personal website once I realized that I was selling more of my work through my IG followers than I was on Etsy.
Among the biggest challenges that I faced was in ignoring all of the voices around me that told me that I wouldn’t be able to make a living off of my work. It required (and still does) a tremendous amount of self-discipline and motivation on a daily basis.
At The Glossary, we believe in women working together and helping one another. Why do you think it is important for women to support each other?
Women are the source of all human creation! What’s more important than that fact alone? When women support each other they are supporting new life. New life brings change, and change brings growth- in our communities and our world as a whole. Women hold more weight of the world on their shoulders than men and they get half of the credit. It’s important for women to support each other to fill that gap, and more of this will lead to more women being strong enough on their own in life- no matter what goals they have or the support they receive.
What creative women do you find inspiring?
Work-related I would say; Fiber Artists Mimi Jung, Sheila Hicks, and Anni Albers. Their bodies of work, and their design aesthetics are really inspiring to me and my practice. Closest to my heart I would say; my mum, my sister, and my dear friend Gabi. A few Instagram accounts that inspire me on the daily are: @thankyou_ok, @pau_lart, @palomawool and @cecile.gariepy. Less specifically, any women who are following their dreams and living their lives to their fullest potential.
What are you looking forward to in the coming months?
The colder weather, and the changes that come with a new season! I have found it difficult to stay focussed with my work throughout this summer because there are so many distractions. It’s tough to stay motivated when the sun is calling me outdoors. Living in Canada, and in Montréal specifically (where the winters are very cold and very dark), I think I will just have to get used to working less in the summer and more in the winter- which is something that I feel very fortunate to be able to control. Working from home/for myself in general allows me to choose my own schedule and to let it adapt and evolve according to the other areas of my life.
What tools or resources have been most helpful for you?
I don’t really have many go-to resources for my work to be honest. I keep everything as diy as I can because it keeps me honest and it enables me to think up new ways to do something in my own way. For example, I don’t rely on books for technical research or inspiration for weaving- I learn everything through the tips of my fingers and what I can create through any hands-on experimentation.
As far as the business side goes, I have my own methods of managing those things too. The biggest tools that I use for business are my Squarespace website and my Instagram account. I try to keep everything as low maintenance as I can so that my time can be most spent on creating.
How do you manage a work/life balance?
It’s challenging. There is no right way to balance work and life for anyone, and I feel like I often compare my lifestyle to others who are both working a 9-5 job and who are self-employed like me. It has been a process for me to let things happen as they naturally will- to allow myself the downtime when I need it, and to also let myself work longer days when it feels right.
Working from home makes this balance especially tough. There is no separation of space from work and life, but I also feel like it makes sense to have blurred boundaries of work and life being an artist. My work is my life and my life is my work in a lot of ways, and so why shouldn’t they be mixed in together? The real struggle is in telling myself that anything that is happening is “ok”. Self-validation and acceptance are a part of my daily headspace because all of my work is self-driven. If I am not constantly affirming my actions and motivating myself through slower moments of business or inspiration, I would let myself believe that I cannot achieve my full potential or be successful.
Living and working in the same space as my partner Isaac, has created some wonderful opportunities for change in the balance of my life. We are developing certain rituals that help to separate the day and keep our minds clear for work. Every morning we go for a walk in a new direction, which helps to set the tone for the day. Leaving the house every day is important, as well as making sure that we both have alone time apart from each other. We also take our meal breaks together which provides some valuable time for conversation in the middle of an otherwise quiet day.
What are some of your favorite places in Montreal?
The parks! The park that I live next to is Wilfred Laurier Park (for anyone that is familiar to MTL or anyone visiting!) and it happens to be my favourite in the city. For beer- I love Dieu Du Ciel (amazing local brewery), for coffee- I love Noble Café and Café Olimpico, for vintage- I love Local 23, and as for my favourite neighbourhood- I love Little Italy and the Mont-Royal Plateau (which is where I live).
The Jean-Talon market is another favourite. It’s open year-round and has the best local produce, cheese, meat, everything. Visiting this market on a warm summer Saturday would be included in my perfect day.