#ArtTransforms March 2, 2021

PH:AIZ: In Conversation with Alex Arce

By Jess De Vitt

Alex Arce is an entrepreneurial artist, specializing in handmade screen printed designs. See more of their work on Instagram @artbyflying, or on Etsy here.

Recently Alex spoke with Jess, SKETCH’s Visual Arts Associate, for a conversation about what inspires and informs their arts practice. Continue reading to learn more about Alex’s work, from screen printing to ceramics.

PH:AIZ is a series of SKETCH artist interviews. Artists from different disciplines are sharing their experiences in the SKETCH art studios, ranging from the Movement studio, Culinary Arts Kitchen, Project Studio Screen Printing and Music Studio. The interviews, led by Associate Artists Ty Sloane and Jess De Vitt, hope to explore the different relationship artists have to the space and community at 180 Shaw Street.

These interviews exist in text as well as in a downloadable Zine that can be printed from home or viewed digitally!



Jess: Can you tell us about how you came to SKETCH, what your first couple times were like or how you came initially?

Alex: Well, a friend of mine recommended me. I wanted to learn screen printing. I don’t know, like I felt like inside of me, the inner me was telling me learn how to do screen printing. And I wanted to do that. So I was trying to find out places where I could learn. And a friend of mine told me all about SKETCH and showed me all the programs, the different arts they have there, and I was like “wow I mean, is this for real? It’s amazing.”

So then I came and yeah, I remember more or less I was very shy. And then somebody, I don’t remember who exactly, gave me a tour. They showed me the place and explained it to me, and everything was so nice. Everything was really welcoming and very heartwarming and really nice. So I remember being very shy because I didn’t know what to expect. It was something very new to me, but it turned out pretty good, actually.

Even Rosa, who was the one who taught me screen printing, we’re still friends. And sometimes she helps me with some little commissions and stuff like that. And it’s pretty cool.

Jess: I know you already mentioned this a little bit, but can you explain more about your art practice and what kind of tools you like to use for that art practice?

Alex: Oh, yes. So for screen printing they have a table- like a kind of octopus. And that’s pretty cool because it feels like you’re doing real stuff, it’s more industrial or whatever is the word for that. And I like it a lot. It inspired me to create the frames for the screen printing. I bought the wood, cut it and then I made the frames and I was thinking “OK, I want to do this stuff for me.”


Alex screen printing an original design at SKETCH

And then also in the ceramics area, it was amazing. When you put, for example, the glaze and then you use the kiln for that and then when it comes out it looks like magic because the colours change and it’s like a chemical reaction. And it’s pretty, pretty cool.

Jess: I love that. I know I always wanted to experiment with ceramics too. It looks so cool, and screen printing. Who are some of your artistic inspirations or muses?

Alex: Well, that question is a little bit hard. I think one of my biggest inspirations definitely is my dad, because he was an artist too. I mean, the only thing is that I never learned that much from him. Like, none of us, like my siblings or me, were really like “oh, we want to do arts.” We were like, in some way, taking this path of studying the traditional things.
I feel very happy with SKETCH, because in some way I am developing this and I feel still inspired by him because he was doing this. He was just enjoying what he was doing and making other people happy.

No justice, no peace. Original design by Alex

And also actually when I go to SKETCH, I also feel pretty inspired by everyone that is there. I like the vibe. It’s easy sometimes to feel down or I don’t know, in my case at least, when I do something and maybe I feel like “oh, it’s not so good.” But actually when I go there and I see all these people being very supportive, but also seeing them persevering with their art, that’s pretty cool and inspiring. Hey, I mean, I just gotta keep trying. Why not? I mean, they are doing it. Why not me too?

Jess: Yeah, for sure! What sort of arts have you made at SKETCH, and now more broadly?

Alex: Screen printing, definitely. Actually through SKETCH I got inspired to build a little workshop here in my place. It’s pretty limited, but I do shirts and simple printing. I actually, one month ago, got some commissioned work through my friend. I was printing here in my place, and it was the very first time that I did so many in a row.

No brain, no pain. Original design by Alex

And I took it seriously. Like I woke up and at 8am I was starting to print, and I was like very nervous. But at the same time I was like “Wow, Alex don’t get too excited.” But in the sense of it being scary, but like “OK, just keep doing it”. The pace was working so nice and I made like 50 in a row. I just surprised myself, thinking “wow I usually do one shirt and now I’m making much more.” So yeah, definitely screen printing.

The ceramics is much more limited to do it by myself because of the kiln that I got to use. But it’s something that I really like. And even here in my house, I have many of my pieces here. I’m looking forward to this again at SKETCH, I think I even left a piece there.

Ceramics piece by Alex

Jess: I know, I can’t wait. Has your work been featured in any way?

Alex: Yes, actually, one of my pieces of ceramics was featured in a kind of market or exhibition at SKETCH. And with screen printing, I have my own Instagram page so in that sense I have been featured there with all my different products. I have to work a little bit more on it, but there is some material there.

Jess: That’s awesome. Can we talk more broadly about what studio you love to work in, but you don’t normally occupy?

Alex: Oh, that’s a good question. I think it would be the music studio. I was there a few times, not always. And also because I like the other arts too, but sometimes I feel a bit more shy. For example, once I was in a vocal class at SKETCH. And it felt really good because in some way you got to break that shyness by singing in front of other people. And I guess singing feels so much more personal, you know, like it’s my voice and it’s not like just playing some instruments. You are the instrument. So when I did it, I was very shy. But actually, after doing it, it felt so good. It felt very, very freeing, like liberating the world. It made me feel so good. But then again, I did feel a little bit shy but I like it.

And then there was music when we were jamming, which was really nice also because it feels very equal. So there was not that “oh this person is much better than me”, the people don’t give that vibe and that’s great. But yeah, I I think I should have taken more advantage of those. I will soon, I hope.

Jess: I know, for sure. What do you want people to notice in your artwork when they’re witnessing what you do or when they’re processing the work that you’re making?

Alex: Well, that’s a very interesting question. Like in my screen printing most of the designs that I have done link to something in a subtle way. I don’t know how to explain it, it’s sometimes complex, but I try to give a message. But also at the same time, it’s in a subtle way, kind of clever. For example, one of the designs was like this little squirrel that is hitting a nut with a skateboard. And also “it’s driving me nuts.” Right, because it’s more than that. And then it’s skateboarding and it’s like you can see the reaction. So it’s linked. But not in the conventional way, right? I mean, they have two different meanings for these, but I try to connect them.

Drivin’ me nuts, original design by Alex

I still like to support movements, like, for example Black Lives Matter or I’m against ICE. So, for example, one of my signs was like FCK ICE but using font from the ice boxes out of groceries stores.

So it is not always a very deep message, but in some way kind of playful. And so I like when people notice that, like- “oh, that’s clever, I understand now how these messages are in some way linked.” I like that a lot. And when people notice this, it is great.

Jess: I love that about your work. Like a double meaning or different meanings.

Alex: Yes, and kind of linking them.

Jess: This question kind of plays on that. When you’re an ancestor, so when you’re older or when you have younger artists looking at your work, what are some of the things you want your descendants to know? And the artists who are coming after you, to know about your work?

Alex: With my work, okay. Actually what I’m trying to think right now with that question, is what I will tell myself. You know, like right now, let’s say if I am older what I will tell to me in this moment. I will say to be true to yourself, I think mostly. I mean I always liked the arts and stuff but in some way, maybe I was not aware of this, I was following this other traditional path of studying different things that I did not necessarily identify with.

And it’s not like I entirely regret that, but in some way I think if I would have been a little bit more true to myself, then I would have really pushed a bit more. And sometimes, I do my art and even I put it on my Instagram and I feel like “oh, this is not good, I should erase it” and stuff like that. But actually, it is good that you keep all these. Even even if it’s at least for yourself, you can see your evolution in some way. Even with the imperfections of it, it helps you to grow. And I think that’s important because, I don’t know, when you become a little bit in denial of that, you limit yourself in some way.

I will tell myself “Hey man, keep on that, keep doing it. Oh you think it’s ugly? OK, don’t worry. You’re done with that project, now for the next one. Look forward.” You know, something like that I think.

Jess: Where do you want your art to exist after your time on Earth? So in the future, where do you want to see your art existing?

Alex: Hmm, where people can appreciate it. For the screen printing that I’ve been doing, I would like people wearing it, but not not only that. I want people to have the freedom to choose how to do that. For example, first I was doing the shirts and definitely if you go to my Instagram, you can see that it’s just shirts. But actually I have a friend who gave me some classes on stitching, online. So I’ve been doing some stitching, and I wanted to show you.

Stitched badged, handmade by Alex

It’s not only for shirts. I also want to make badges, so you can choose where to do it. I mean, I’m sure many people do that already, but I would like my art to survive in that way. For example, with my friend who is giving me these classes I did this screen printing, but then also I did the stitches in this green and lilac.

Original t-shirt, stitching and screen printing by Alex

I haven’t finished it yet, but you can see more or less how it’ll look. So I want to do a little bit more mixed media. In my pieces, I think there is a little touch of punk in some way, like do it yourself. I guess I’m just trying to create, and I think the best way to make it lasting is for people to feel inspired by it. I would like my art to bring some memory.

Like, for example, I made some ceramic pieces for my mom when she came, and she still has it there and says that every time she sees it in her living room it reminds me of her and she thinks they are beautiful. And so this is bringing joy, you know, so it feels really good. It’s not just a piece that is stuck somewhere. But to do that in a broad way, it’s definitely harder because it has to be a meaningful relationship. But, hey, sometimes you can create these meaningful connections pretty quick too sometimes. Like I mean, one day I went to SKETCH and I didn’t know anyone. And then, hey, look we are talking right now and having this conversation and that’s awesome.

Ceramics piece by Alex

Jess: It’s really amazing to see all the things you created and are creating. So I thank you for sharing that process, and for spending some time speaking about this. And I’m also excited too, for when we get to go back.

Alex: Oh my god, please yes.

Jess: Gracias, Alex.