To be honest, there are not a lot of things that sound stuffier than painted, embroidered handkerchiefs. But Seattle artist Allison Manch is turning that idea on its head – her work is humorous and touching, balancing between delicate and in-your-face. This is not your mother’s fiber art.
How would you describe your work?
My work is very much about memory, process, and color.
How would you describe yourself?
I’m generally pretty quiet, but I like to spend a lot of time observing things so it works out pretty well.
What inspires you?
Lots of things inspire me, perhaps too many! Lately, I’m really interested in contemporary dance and also innovation in arts. My artwork feels anachronistic in some ways so I am always looking for new ways to make it fresh.
Most of my pre-college life was spent focused on getting involved in science and and trying to find a path to being a biologist. Once I went off to University and started taking classes it quickly became clear that my life would take a different turn. I got two degrees in photography and interned at a few different museums, and I really loved the culture and experience of being in the arts. My artworks switched from photography to textiles once I finished school and I realized my ideas translated better in fabric. My mom taught me how to embroider my blue jeans back in junior high and it’s something I have continued working on and off with ever since.
What is the process to make each piece and how long does it take?
My work usually starts as a sketch. Once I decide on a composition I then start to map out the piece on fabric. If a design is more complex I use a material similar to carbon paper to trace my design onto the fabric. Some of my newer work also involves layers of watercolor or dye and that is usually started before I transfer the drawing onto the paper. Once I start embroidering the piece it can take anywhere from five hours to five months to finish depending on the size and detail of the work.
It’s pretty hard to single out one project but I’ve always been very happy working in collaboration with other artists or writers. One recent favorite was a book collaboration that I completed with Ian Young. We had a really fun public reading of the book and the techniques I used to make the pages in the book greatly influenced the style of my recent work, specifically the use of natural dyes and ink washes.
What has been the highlight of your career as an artist?
My last show in Seattle with Sharon Butler at SEASON was definitely a really rewarding experience in many ways.
What has been the most difficult part of your career?
Realistically, it can be very challenging to find the time to work on all the aspects of being an artist and also dealing with some of the rejection that is a part of any creative field.
What are your plans for the future?
Most immediately I am working on some new pieces for a group fibers exhibit for the Bellevue Arts Museum, some music-themed work for the Doe Bay Festival in the San Juan Islands, and a few other upcoming projects in Seattle. Long-term I would love to collaborate with a dancer on some costume or set ideas.