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September 19, 2011

Legato :: Alisa Burke

 Legato :: In a manner that is smooth and connected

by Jenny Doh
Just a few years ago, Alisa Burke walked away from a job at a college campus where she had worked as a design and marketing professional. It's a move she had been preparing for by saving and planning, saving and planning ... as she dreamed of working for herself full-time an artist. Since this move, Alisa has been relentless ... a force really ... as she creates with focus, determination, and (almost) without rest.

Alisa Burke
JD :: You recently had a funny update on FB describing how the glamorous life of an artist isn't so glamorous, as you go about your day in a messy sort of way. Tell me about that. From morning to night, is it touch and go to get all you need do completed?
AB :: It is SO not glamourous at all! I am an early riser and typically pop out of bed and get to work right away. While I do get dressed, my attire is just a day version of my pjs, something comfortable and typically covered in paint, no makeup or washing my hair (sometime for days) unless I have somewhere to go. Working for yourself you set the rules, the schedule, the pace and for me it is a fast pace all day long and into the night, typically a 14 hour day, my appearance is the first thing to go! As messy as I am in my art, my schedule is actually pretty organized and I think this comes from having worked in more structured job for so long. I depend on lists, calendars and a daily agenda for myself, otherwise I would be wandering around without much organization or using my time wisely. All day long I bounce from project to project in 2-3 hour blocks, often transitioning from a painting session to packing and shipping orders to editing video and then back to painting ... this is how the days typically goes depending on the projects and commitments I have going on at the time. My work day does not end at 5pm anymore like it once did at my university office job in fact I do a lot of my productive sketching, editing and blogging late into the night and because I am restless and not so great of a sleeper I will get up in the night work a little more. The hours are long and it is a lot of work but I am living my dream and will always figure out a way to structure time and make sacrifices to keep my business going- I would give up glamour any day for this life.

Alisa Burke
JD :: I love your posts where you take elements from the beach and sea and incorporate them into your work. How does the ocean inspire you? 
AB :: I have always lived near the ocean and in a beach town and come from a surfing family so the ocean and the lifestyle that goes along with it has always been a part of my daily routine. The beach is one of my favorite places to be and I was the one in our family that spent hours and hours beach combing for treasures. When everyone else was ready go I was way down the beach crawling around looking for rocks buying just a little more time to search. I've carried this routine with me well into being adult (only now I typically go alone because nobody has the patience for the time I spend beach combing!) When I am looking for a quick and easy way to find some inspiration I head to the beach. I am not sure what exactly inspires me but the magnitude of the ocean, the colors, the textures, the treasures are all things that excited and get my creative juices flowing.

JD :: I suspect nature in general inspires you, as I observe all of your nature journal work. Aside from drawing and coloring flowers and trees, are you also in real life a greenthumb? Do you keep a garden?
AB ::
Yes, nature is a really big part of my inspiration. Growing up in Oregon in small coastal town really gave me an appreciate for the outdoors and nature. Unfortunately I don't keep much of garden because we don't have a yard at this stage in our lives. But my mom is an avid gardener and has always shared this passion with the rest of the family. There were always bouquets of flowers in the house, vegetable, herb gardens and flower gardens in our yard growing up and the awareness and preparation for the seasons. Someday soon the plan is to have a different lifestyle where we will have a yard with my our own garden.

Nature- leaves
JD :: You have a new book coming out titled Sew Wild. The title and the cover look so exciting. Tell me a bit about the book ... what it teaches and how the concept for it came to be.
AB :: Sew Wild is all about setting yourself free with both surface design and sewing projects. The first part of the book is all about creating your own fabric with really simple and easy techniques and I demonstrate how to use stitching to add another element and layer to surface design projects with wild stitching and last I share a handful of really easy sewing projects that make use of handmade unique fabric.
Sew Wild is really about sharing my own personal surface design and sewing process. I have been making my own fabric for years and then using my sewing machine as a mark making tool and I really thought that sharing this process with others would provide inspiration and permission to have some wild fun with sewing.

Alisa Burke Sew WildJD :: Finish this sentence: "People might be surprised to learn that with paper, you can ...
AB ::
stitch just like fabric.

JD :: Finish this sentence: "People might be surprised to learn that with fabric, you can ...
AB ::
break rules!

JD :: You and your husband are expecting your first child. Tell us about the nursery. Have you had time to decorate it? What does it look like?
AB :: Our baby girl is due in October and we are really excited! The nursery seems to have been the last thing on the list for us because of our busy schedules but we have slowly been picking away at decorating. Because we are very limited with room we are trying to keep things simple to begin with. And it might surprise people but while I am messy in my art, I like our living space to be more clean and simple with the things we decorate with. I don't personally like pink and we are pretty non traditional so we selected blues and greens for her room and some ocean inspired art for the walls. I still have a few more things to complete and hang but the room is almost ready for her arrival!

Baby room progress2
JD :: OK. You have a deadline to complete an art quilt. In the middle of sewing, your machine quits. No time to get it repaired. What do you do?
AB :: Oh goodness, first I would freak out and then I would pull out my old $50 Singer Sewing machine and make it work!

Me and mom2
JD :: You have recently opened www.shopalisaburke.com. A collaborative endeavor with your mom. The products look so exciting. Tell us a bit about this labor of love.
AB :: My mom (who is a ceramic artist) and I had been playing around with the idea for years to collaborate and launch an online shop that would showcase both of our work. Recently the timing was right for both of us and we came together to design and create all kinds of handmade goods that will grown and change with the seasons. We are thrilled that is has been a hit and we are excited to see how what we come up with. But the best part is getting to work on a project with my mom. We currently live apart and this has been a fun way to connect with each other. 
JD :: Think fast and let me know what you think when I say:
  • watercolor journal 
  • fish   and chips 
  • cones ice cream 
  • dots puff paint
  • floor painted
  • pillow  obsession
  • stencil diy
  • Andrew  true love
  • stripes half of my closet
  • journal sketching
  • Sew Wild breaking rules
  • kiln my parents studio
  • mom best friend
  • whale  save them
  • Gogol Bordello loud rockin' gypsy punk
  • handbags unique
  • canvas versatile
  • deadlines need them to survive
  • art quilt  expressive
Stitched letters
JD :: You just won a round trip ticket for 2 to anywhere on earth. Who do you take? Where do you go?
AB :: I would take my husband and we would go to Indonesia to surf and lay around on the beach.

JD :: You just won a dinner for 4 to any restaurant. Who do you invite? Where do you dine?
AB :: I would take my husband and two of our foodie friends, keep it simple and go to our favorite sushi restaurant in San Diego- Sushi Ota.

  Free motion
JD :: You teach both at art retreats and online. Describe the similarities and differences of both types of teaching and the lessons you have learned from the students in either format. 
AB :: Both formats I am able to inspire and challenge people to create in different ways but the two are very different. Teaching in person gives the opportunity to connect in person and really be able to have 1x1 time and get to know people in a different way- I always walk away from teaching at a retreat feeling like I just made lots of new friends. To see people's faces when they are trying out the techniques I teach, to answer questions and walk through creative problem solving is really a neat experience. Teaching online I miss that personal connection but it is really amazing to be able to reach people around the country and the world who may never be able to afford to attend an art retreat- this really cool. While I can't recreate that "in person connection" and an online class is never going to feel the same as a retreat I work really hard to put together online classes that are really visual, inspiring and packed full of inspiration at a really affordable price.
Alisa Burke
JD :: What's the key to productivity?
AB :: For me it is all about staying focussed on the tasks at hand. These days with facebook, twitter, the internet, etc it is really tempting to spend a lot of time on the computer and while I depend on the computer to running my business I try and stay away from it as much as possible so I can stay focussed on creativity.

JD :: Finish this sentence: "Few people may realize that I actually ...
AB :: love cooking almost as much as I love painting!

All images are courtesy of Alisa Burke. Many thanks to Jaime Guthals of Interweave Press for coordinating Legato to be included in Alisa Burke's blog tour to promote Sew Wild. The full schedule is as follows:

Sept. 14           Sew, Mama, Sew http://sewmamasew.com/
Sept. 15           Balzer Designs http://www.balzerdesigns.typepad.com
Sept. 16           CraftTestDummies.com and The Creative Goddess  http://www.vickiodell.com
Sept. 17           FaveCrafts  http://www.favecrafts.com/
Sept. 19           Crescendoh - Jenny's Blog  http://blog.crescendoh.com/crescendo/legato
Sept. 21           Scarlet Lime  http://www.christytomlinson.typepad.com/the_scarlet_lime/
Sept. 22           A Stitch in Dye  http://stitchindye.blogspot.com
Sept. 23           Living Art at the Speed of Life http://pamcarriker.com


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What a fantastic interview, I loved the questions you asked, and of course the answers. Very insightful. :)

I love visiting the different sites and learning a little more about you and about your work. I love leaves and had to laugh when I saw the leaf you painted on what looked like a page in a book. I use books as sketchbooks/workbooks a lot. I love it!

Fabulous interview! Alisa is a huge inspiration to me in many ways - I've been following her blog for over a year now and have many times gone back through her archives to hear more of how she built up to where she is now. I am constantly rooting for her and can't wait to see what she does next!

Love your interview... I love Alisa's sketchbooks and online courses... and I loved a little peep into her world - thank you so much!!!

Thanks for this interview. It's like listening to a friend. You BOTH ROCK

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