Thursday, September 1, 2016

the uncensored Valley Artisans Market interview with Debra Ann Salat

by DebraAnn Salat

I did an interview of DebraAnn Salat, but my questions, and some of the answers were rewritten by someone else (without conferring with me). This is the unadulterated version, which I think better reflects "a co-operative gallery interview" from member to member than the dry version that was published.

(A special thank you to DebraAnn Salat for the experience of interviewing her and her beautiful work)

L: I noticed when looking around the gallery, you have a theme going with hands. What do hands represent to you? 

DebraAnn: Hands represent life to me. They are pretty much at the center of every interaction, every connection. We use them to comfort, nurture, nourish, create, in love, even in anger. I like to use them in my art because they are simple but all life comes from them.

L: To me, when I look at your pieces, there is a message of healing and hope. That is the predominant message I receive. Then there are a lot of heart symbols: little sewn hearts with embroidery on them, and even framed work with hearts. Is there a message in this for us? Do you want a more compassionate world where people put healing one another, loving one another, and being thoughtful of one another ahead of other concerns? 

DebraAnn: I learned how to embroider during a very traumatic time period of my childhood. I have always used the needle arts as a soothing presence, as a meditation to bring peace and tranquility to my life. I like to translate that peace into my work so I am glad that you see them that way. Like most artists I use my art to express my emotions, be they peaceful or chaotic. I almost always end up in peace if I let myself go there. I would love a more compassionate world and think it would be if more people picked up an embroidery needle or a paintbrush.

L: Why did you choose embroidery as your medium? Like: why not painting, or drawing or another art form to express yourself? What is it about embroidery that holds a sway for you? 

DebraAnn: I have been embroidering since I was a 6 year old. Being an artist came much later in life. I can do more with an embroidery needle than I ever could with a paint brush, it's something I've been in love with since childhood. My embroidery is very organic, it starts out with a simple design that I hand draw but all the details come from a needle. It is why if you pick up two of my heart ornaments they may have the same subject but they are never identical. I also look at it as a meditation, a soothing of my soul.

L: How does embroidery make you the person that you are? How does embroidery and the imagery inform, or transform, your life? 

DebraAnn: Well it keeps me peaceful and even keeled. If I am embroidering all is right with the world. When I'm not embroidering I am an anxious kind of person and quite talkative, when I am embroidering I am at peace, quiet, contemplative. It transforms my life as it helps me to banish my demons. I process my feelings and create peace within myself. As I mentioned earlier I have always been embroidering something but it has taken on more importance since I have begun to self express this way. Since it has become an art rather than a craft.

L: Which brings me to my next question: how do you want your images to effect others? When they put up a framed piece on their wall, what kind of feeling would you like to transfer to them when they look at your work? 

Debra Ann: I would like them to feel peace and see the chaos of every moment. We live in a tangled twisty time period filled with emotions of all sorts, I'd like them to see the twisty turns of chaos come together to find peace. The hearts mean a lot to me because I tend to do them when I need them. If I need a little joy i embroider a little joy. If I need peace i embroider a little peace. They relate to people that way too. I had a piece accepted into a group show and while I was standing there a woman came up to me and said she loved my work which she had seen at VAM and had given one of my joy hearts to her sister who was quite ill so she could bring a little joy into her life. It was a huge light bulb moment that what I was hoping to accomplish I accomplished. It's one of the nicest compliments art related I have ever received.

L: I have been with you in this co-operative gallery for 5 years. To me, you represent the perfect example of a co-operative artist who is out for the group. You always have something sweet to say when a member is sick and needs a work replacement. You always inquire how people are feeling, and there is a general sense of warmness and concern for others in your personal make-up. Part of being in a co-operative is "talking other members' work up" with customers which you do with ease. I assume that these qualities come naturally to you, that you didn't have to "work at it" when you joined. I'd love to hear why you joined, and how you feel about the co-operative gallery experience as opposed to common galleries where you put your work on consignment? 

Debra Ann: I have a very good friend who is an artist here at VAM. I had a not so wonderful experience in another coop and she convinced me to jury and 5 years later I'm still here. I feel so honored to be part of Valley Artisan Market. The camaraderie and pure talent of everyone here has meant so much to me especially in the years following my divorce. It was quite painful and my fellow coop members were just so wonderful during that time. I feel blessed.

L: I notice that in the other part of your working life, you enjoy working with people, in a team. Who is the real Debra-Ann Salat? The hermit artist or the outgoing team player? Obviously you are both, but who predominates in your mind, do you think? 

Debra Ann: The real DebraAnn Salat is a contradiction. I'm a waitress in my other job which requires me to be outgoing, smiling and kind all the time. I'm a relatively happy person most of the time but I am also an empath which means I pick up other people's energy. I try to keep myself outgoing and smiling to counter others negative feelings. My art allows me to be a hermit and process my feelings and just be. I tried to just be an artist and found the isolation and lack of human interaction wasn't a very good thing for me so I'd have to say I'd like a healthy balance of both. Without my art I probably couldn't be a very good waitress and without human interaction I'd probably not be as good an artist.

L: Where would you like to see yourself in 2020 in terms of your work? What kinds of themes and concerns would you like express? Do you see yourself still making hearts and hands? 

Debra Ann: I'm hoping to still be able to make beautiful hands along with other things and still be making my hearts. Everybody needs a little heart to hang on their doorknob to remind them of what they love.

L: Are there any other things you would like to say about your work? 

Debra Ann: I am so thankful to my grandmother who taught me to embroider as a child. I make custom pieces and do bereavement work where I will finish an unfinished piece of hand embroidery or teach someone how to finish it themselves. I can be reached at VAM, or by telephone or email.

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