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12 Questions: MOTHER + ARTIST: Maria Amalia Wood

Updated: Sep 14, 2019

1. Can you tell me a bit about yourself? What stage in your career were you when you had children?

I was born and raised in Honduras. At 17 I moved to the United States to pursue my dream of going to College. After graduating from Judson University with a Bachelors in General Art and minor in Visual Communication (Graphic Design), I worked in product development and had the opportunity to travel to Latin America and collaborate with amazing and talented makers. I met many textile producers working with weaving, embroidery, dyeing and printing and fell in love with textile processes. I went back to school and got an MFA in Design Studies with a focus on Fiber Arts. Natalia, my 6 year old, was born when I worked in product development full-time at Serrv, a fair trade craft non-profit organization. Ethan, my 3 year old, was born when I was a full-time graduate student at UW-Madison. Since graduating a year ago with my Masters, I am finally a full-time mom and a full-time artist.

2. What first inspired you to begin working with your chosen medium? Papermaking is a transformative process with endless possibilities and with a lot of room for experimentation. As a designer and a perfectionist, I am used to working within boundaries, being in control, and always having a pre-conceived idea or direction of the end product. As an artist and papermaker I am now being stretched to go beyond those limitations, to fail, to push myself in directions that feel uncomfortable and out of control, and to make marks that are not carefully thought out, but rather unselfconscious and uninhibited. When I work with pulp, I am able to let go and to play. 3.Where is your studio space located and how do you make work balancing motherhood and art making.  Could you share an image?  My studio is in my basement.  I take my 3 year old to daycare twice a week and treat those two days like work days. My inspiration comes from personal lived experiences, so in that regard, I am in a constant state of creative research, but my making only happens once or twice a week. 

4.What are some of your rituals in the studio to get the momentum going?

1- Clean my work area

2- Play my papermaking playlist (lo-fi beats)

3- Put my apron on and rubber boots

5. How do you overcome ‘failure’?

I don't, I now embrace it and work with it. Failure has become a very important and necessary part of my process.

6. What is the most inspiring place you have been to?

My home in Honduras.

7. Do you have any other interests or hobbies?

I looooove to dance salsa, merengue, cumbia, bachata and once in a while regeton. I am also a nature lover and introvert so my safe place is often a remote path in a forest where I can walk for many hours and be alone. 

8. Do you collect anything?

Not really...although I do like to photograph found textures in the environments I travel through.

9. What are 1-3 books that have influenced your life?

Bible. Art + Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland. Education for Socially Engaged Art by Pablo Helguera.

10. What are the biggest challenges you have faced as an artist/woman/mother? Have you experienced unfairness because of being a mother? Has your needs as a mother held you back from pursuing career goals?

Challenges: Finding time to be present with my work and with myself when every minute seems to be invested in raising my two little humans. Fighting thoughts of guilt for being selfish and putting my needs first at times. Overcoming cultural expectations about what I should be doing, how I should be doing it and when I should be doing it, whether as a mother, artist or woman. My career goals have been re-defined and re-adjusted so I no longer feel motherhood is "in the way" of achieving my dreams. Being a mother is a gift at this time of my life and it feeds my work in very rich ways. 

11. Who/What are influences for your work?

Processes of growth and decay, change and transformation, passage of time, objects that carry history, lived experiences, stories and conversations, home, immigration, loss, textures, color field paintings and other works by abstract expressionists. 

12. What are you working on right now? Could you share an image?

I am collaborating with another artist, J. Leigh Garcia on a piece called Resiliencia (Resilience). We are inviting members of our communities to use the amate papermaking technique, used in Mexico, to pound fiber and transform it into paper. As we pound the fiber, we are asking participants to embed written prejudices against immigrants and pound them with the fiber. We are creating a 30ft wall of pounded prejudices and will eventually project images of what makes migration beautiful onto the handmade paper wall. 

See more of the MOTHER + ARTIST exhibition and Mindy Sue Wittock's work on Artsy


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