AUArts Alum 2012, BFA | Drawing
AUArts: Where are you currently living and what do you do?
Natasha Alphonse: I'm currently living in Seattle, and I'm a full-time potter.
AUArts: So you have your own business?
Alphonse: I have my own business and my own studio. I make production pottery as well as teach small classes at my studio.
AUArts: Did you do this straight out of school?
Alphonse: I graduated in 2012, and I got a degree in Drawing. I only took a ceramics class my last semester of my fourth course year. So it was just something I was interested in.
I moved to Seattle right after I graduated, and continued taking small classes around the city, just for fun. It became something I was more and more interested in and just started doing a lot of it. I was working in restaurants, not really sure what I wanted to do in the arts, job wise. I just organically started doing more pottery, and then decided to jump with both feet into making it a business about four years ago.
AUArts: That's awesome. So you originally started off in Drawing? Did you imagine yourself going down a different path at the time?
Alphonse: I wasn't really sure how my degree in Drawing would translate into a certain path. I went to school because I enjoyed drawing and art, and I didn't have a huge plan as to what kind of job that would result in. When I graduated, I was kind of open to anything.
AUArts: When you were growing up, were you always interested in art?
Alphonse: Yeah. I have quite a bit of family around me who are artists, so they always really supported me being artistic and exposed me to a lot of different things. It was all because of them that I was really nurtured in that way.
AUArts: Were there people in your family that were also artists?
Alphonse: I have a number of aunts and uncles who are art teachers, and they're also artists.
AUArts: That's interesting. A lot of alumni that I've interviewed were born to a long line of artists. It’s almost like this genetic ability or nurture vs. nature thing.
Alphonse: Or maybe it's just that they were open to the idea of that being okay, kind of embracing that. If that's what you love to do, you should follow that.
AUArts: Definitely. Do you have advice for someone whose family wasn’t so supportive? What advice would you give them?
Alphonse: I don't know. I feel like that's so different than my own personal experience. But at the end of the day, what I would say is you're the one who's going to be living your life. Taking advice from parents who discourage you from following what you want to do, maybe isn't the best in the long run. Trust yourself a bit more.
AUArts: What was the most important thing you learned at AUArts?
Alphonse: The biggest thing that I really enjoyed was being able to test out a whole range of mediums, and that amount of freedom. You really get to know yourself and learn what you're good at, or what excites you, instead of not really knowing before you go into school what you want to be as an artist. So just having that amount of freedom to explore is, I think was the most amazing thing. And time and being around a community where you're just focused on thinking about art and being in a little bubble. I think that's a really amazing place to be.
It’s just such a different way of being and existing. Everyone's talking about art, you're making art, you're being critical about it, and it just kind of makes your brain think about the world differently.
AUArts: Did you feel the program was open and flexible, in terms of trying different things and seeing what you liked?
Alphonse: That’s kind of the reason why I chose to go into the Drawing department because it was a little bit more open-ended in terms of exploring different mediums. It wasn't just drawing.
I chose that because I was still wanting to explore a bunch of different mediums. It doesn't really confine you to one specifically, whereas maybe the more technical ones like print or something, you have a certain kind of medium that you're bound to almost in some ways.
And the cool thing is, you don't have to know. That’s one thing instructors kept telling me too, before I decided to choose my major. It’s not just a box; you don't have to decide what you want to be in this little box.
AUArts: You mentioned community. Do you still stay in touch with people you went to school with, or teachers? Now that you’ve moved?
Alphonse: I still keep in touch with people. Even just being aware of them through social media, if I'm not talking to them all the time. It’s cool to see where everyone's paths have taken them. I do keep in touch with a few instructors still.
I think that's a really amazing place to be. It’s just such a different way of being and existing. Everyone's talking about art, you're making art, you're being critical about it, and it just kind of makes your brain think about the world differently.
AUArts: I heard that when you go to AUArts, you sometimes get the same instructor multiple times.
Alphonse: I feel like most of the instructors, I had like a really good relationship with and it's almost like in a mentorship. I kind of considered it that way.
AUArts: So you took a bunch of classes in Seattle and moved into ceramics. How did you decide to take that jump and say, I’m going to start my own business?
Alphonse: I was thinking about how I was going to build a life that I wanted, having art be in the centre of it. The craft model was easier for me to wrap my mind around how I was going to make a living. It’s labour intensive, but you reap the rewards from all the hard work you do by selling these objects. That as an idea was really appealing to me.
I also really enjoy the days of working, and what my days would consist of. I could do this forever.
AUArts: I read that you grew up in Saskatchewan.
Alphonse: I grew up pretty far north in a reservation called Black Lake First Nations.
AUArts: And this has influenced a lot of your work?
Alphonse: Everyone, I think, is basically making work because of our own special circumstances of how we see the world and how we were brought up in the world. There’s a lot of nature where I grew up, and we did a lot of things outdoors. That’s also the appeal of working with clay, working with really natural mediums and the idea of working with earth, too.
AUArts: How did you end up moving to Calgary and studying at AUArts?
Alphonse: I have an aunt and uncle who live in Calgary, and they're both art teachers. They were always nurturing my artistic side. They kind of threw the idea out there that if I ever wanted to go to art school, there was this really awesome college and that I maybe should consider it. They kind of planted the seed for coming there and going to that school. And I thought it sounded like a good idea and something that I wanted to do.
AUArts: My last question is, if you're talking to your high school self, what would you tell yourself? What kind of encouragement would you offer?
Alphonse: Maybe just trust yourself a bit more, and follow your intuition.
At that point, you don't really have these ideas formed of your belief systems, or how you're going to exist in the world, but maybe we have to give like our younger self a bit more credit. We know some things, who we might want to be, you know?