DONNA VALE – The Sugar Cube Interview…
First things first, how did you get started as an artist?
I’ve lived in Somerset for forty-two years and have worked in a variety of jobs including as a glass engraver and a sign writer. I’ve always been creative and have spent a lot of time at local evening classes doing ceramics and jewellery making.
I was knocked off my bicycle on the way home from work one day and that changed my life. As I lay in the road I thought what have I done with my life? It was after that time that I decided to return to education and in 2005 did an Access Course at Yeovil College.
I secured a place studying Radiography at Exeter University but because of recurring injuries from the accident couldn’t continue. That summer I enrolled on a two year Art Diploma and following that completed a combined degree in art and textiles. In 2012 I graduated with a First Class Honors.
Any advice you could pass on to aspiring arts of any age?
My main piece of advice is to just go for it. So many opportunities have come my way because I have just asked. The answer will either be a yes or a no. Being creative provides me with so much joy, whether I am making or teaching others. Be yourself and create for yourself. Don’t be too critical. Allow your work to give you a sense of wellbeing.
How would you sum up your style of work in 120 characters?
I am a mixed media artist and tend not to focus on one particular method of working. I get lost in chance happenings, items that are misplaced, things that I find.
I like intrigue and wonder and the identity of relationships and objects. I store and categorise these items for future use, using film and sound to record my daily finds. I research and catalogue and daydream the hours away, bringing the past to life through stitch and print.
I work professionally as an installation artist, working in a conceptual way. The lost village of Tyneham in Dorset was my first location and I am currently artist in residence for the National Trust at Brean Down on the North Somerset coast between Burnham-on-Sea and Weston-super-Mare. I made site-specific work for last years Somerset Art Weeks and will be again this year for their Open Studio event, which will cover recollection and memory.
The Sugar Cube Gallery is pretty small but is it the smallest gallery you’ve ever exhibited your work in?
Yes, it’s the smallest. The site at Brean Down is just over 1km long!
As an artist is there a time of year you like best?
I love autumn – the changing of the seasons, the smell of fallen leaves, the early frosts. Perfect for spending time in the bird hide.
When it comes to printmaking do you have a favourite technique?
I love woodblock printing. There is something about the carving that immediately makes me relax and unwind. The sound of the blade through wood is just magical.
Which artist alive or dead would you most like to meet and why?
It has to be Sophie Calle. Her book Exquisite Pain really touched me while I was studying at university. It tells of an emotional breakup she had and the stories of ninety-nine people who describe to her their worst pain. As you turn the pages of the book her pain begins to fade as she learns about the suffering of others.
Do you always have a sketchbook with you when you’re on the move?
No, I’m terrible for not having a sketchbook. I have so many ideas in my head that what I make is my sketchbook.
How do you unwind after a long day in the studio?
I like to walk by the sea, geocache, listen to music & watch films. I haven’t watched TV for almost three years though and do not miss that at all.
Where do you like working best – in a studio or out and about?
Definitely out and about. This September for Somerset Art Weeks my studio space for two weeks will be right on the edge of the Brean Down promontory. I am looking forward to that very much.
And finally, if you were allowed to keep (but not sell!) one work of art from any gallery or collection worldwide, which would it be?
One of Andy Warhol’s Time Capsules.
Keen to find out more..? Take a look at Donna’s artist profile page here on the Sugar Cube website.
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