Spotlight on Textile Artist Alicia Scardetta

I am so incredibly excited to introduce you lovely readers to the thoughtful words of artist Alicia Scardetta! Per usual while scrolling through the Instagram discover page, my eyes caught something very colorful that was worth clicking on. I could not believe my eyes when I noticed the detail on this tapestry. The first thing I thought was, “whoever made this is incredibly patient”. After looking through the rest of Scardetta’s work, her patience and talent were confirmed. There are a plethora of amazing tapestries out there but something about Scardetta’s stands out from the rest; the colors, the technique, the texture…all of it!

I felt truly inspired after reading her honest words about the difficulty of having a proper art/work/life balance. At times, it’s tough for us to admit these truths and I appreciate anyone who’s able to speak freely about it.

Keep scrolling to learn more about this amazing woman.

What sparked your interest in weaving?

While attending Pratt Institute in Brooklyn for my BFA, I began to develop an interest in tactile, three dimensional work. At the time I was creating a lot of drawings on paper and I felt like I wanted to take the line off the paper and into a physical form. Fiber and thread felt like the most intuitive way to interpret a line. At the time, Pratt didn’t offer fiber or textile classes to fine art majors, so I sought out opportunities outside of my coursework. I held a studio internship at Dieu Donne Paper in Manhattan, where I learned how to process flax fiber and cotton pulp into finished sheets of handmade paper. Then, I interned at the Textile Arts Center, where I learned how to operate a treadle loom and weave tapestry. I later went on to take workshops at both Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Maine and Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina, where I further honed my technical skills in fiber.

Are you a full-time artist? If so, how did you make the decision?

While my art practice is extremely important to me and an essential part of my life, it is not my full-time job or how I make a living. Currently, I work four days a week for a small home decor company managing wholesale accounts and creating marketing strategies. I am in total awe of people who quit their jobs and do their artwork full-time, but I don’t think this path is the only indicator of success and fulfillment with one’s creative practice.

Who or what inspires you?

Travel is always an inspiration, I find that it’s important for me to try new things and see new places in order to remove myself from my own creative comfort zone. I live in Brooklyn and sometimes finding a new place is as easy as visiting a neighborhood I’ve never been to or getting out of the city for a day and visiting neighboring towns. So much of my work is driven by color and recent trips to Morocco and Mexico have really fueled my recent color palettes.

What is your artistic process?

I usually start each piece with an overall structure and color palette in mind. From there I may make sketches of what I want the finished piece to look like or create some color studies. Most of my work is created on a frame loom. To begin each piece I warp the frame and start weaving. I make a lot of color decisions while I’m actually weaving the piece, seeing how one color interacts with another and making changes as I go.

I primarily use two techniques: wrapping and tapestry weaving. Tapestry is defined by weaving short lengths of weft, rather than using continuous weft to weave as you would to create woven yardage. A good portion of the weaving I do is with short lengths and at times only between two or three warp threads.

Is there a theme to your work?

My woven work started as a way to explore themes associated with girlhood. The oversaturated colors and wrapping techniques are reminiscent of friendship bracelets and pop culture imagery of the 1990’s. More recently, I’ve expanded these same techniques to associate with places and memories. My most recent works have been created as physical color studies from recent travels through the colonial highlands of Mexico.

Has your style evolved over time?

I’ve been weaving for about eight years now and I am always learning new things about my processes and techniques. My work is more refined than when I first started because I’ve spent so many hours weaving and practicing. I’ve always scaled up my work over the years which has been really exciting!

What is the average amount of time it takes to finish one of your works?(I had to ask haha)

The techniques I use are time consuming, I weave and wrap all of my pieces by hand. I don’t usually keep track of time when I am creating a piece but if I had to give an estimate, a 18” x 24” piece can take up to 30 hours to complete. People are often shocked by how long the work takes, but as a society we often spend the same amount of time, if not more, on our computers, tablets and smartphones over the same timespan. Time is what you make of it.

What is the most challenging part of being an artist?

It’s challenging balancing all the different things that I do. I work, I teach, I also love to travel and generally have fun. So carving out the time I need for my art practice with all these other factors in mind is a continual challenge. I’d say it's the most challenging in the summer when I’d rather spend days at the beach than in the studio!

How do you stay motivated when you experience a creative rut?

A few years ago I watched a documentary on Netflix about the photographer Francesca Woodman. Both of her parents were artists too and they were interviewed at length in the documentary. There’s a part where her father, George Woodman talked about the importance of being in the studio everyday. He said that even if you were in a creative rut and weren’t sure where to go next with your work you still needed to put the time in at the studio, even if that meant all you did that day was sit there sharpening pencils. These words have always stuck with me. Being physically near your work and engaging in the routine of going into the studio regularly is so important and really half the battle. So if I am feeling uninspired I still make it a point to spend time in my studio, and visiting local museums and galleries helps too.

What has been your favorite project or creation so far?

I love making commissioned pieces for people. A commission becomes a collaboration and it’s so much fun to listen to what someone’s vision is for the work and then working with them to achieve it. This process usually pushes me to use new colors I don’t usually weave with or create entirely new compositions. I always learn something new in the process of creating a commission and I love working with other people!

What is your ultimate goal with your artwork?

I hope my work makes people happy. We’re in trying times and it feels like the world is on fire, but I hope that if someone sees my work it will bring them some joy and maybe (even if just for a moment!) it can relieve some of the heaviness of it all for them.

Any last words? (words of wisdom, fun/interesting news)

If you’re just out of art school or starting a new art practice my best advice is to just keep doing what you do! Keep making things and follow your inspirations to see where they take you.