Spring Campaign 2022 Featuring: Tamela LaClair
This Spring, we’re raising $65,000 for Washington State artists! Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have raised and distributed over $1.4 million to hundreds of Washington State artists and reached thousands more through programming and resources. Your gift today, in any amount, will help us continue to provide critical support and resources for artists. Help us reach our goal and make your gift before June 30!
As part of our Spring Fundraising Campaign, we are interviewing Washington State artists about the ways they have embraced change during the pandemic and what support from Artist Trust has meant for them. This week, we spoke with Mason County visual artist and 2022 Fellowship Award recipient, Tamela LaClair about her passion for keeping her lineage true through generations and the hardships of the pandemic. Tamela shared, “We face great changes in the way we create, so we indigenize our way of thinking and use materials that are available today to not overharvest all our beauty on our mother earth.”
Read her full interview below!
Tell us a little about your work/artistic practice.
I am dedicated and have a passion for keeping our lineage and the true art form going through generations and generations so it’s not lost in transition while also taking note that our materials and supplies are forever changing with limited wood supplies, especially cedar for carving and weaving. We face great changes in the way we create, so we indigenize our way of thinking and use materials that are available today to not overharvest all our beauty on our mother earth. So, in a way, we can’t always live up to what the colonizers accept as “True Native American Art.”
As an artist, I would like to have people be engaged in the arts, specifically visual or performance art, to have a better understanding and take in knowledge that is not known in the colonizer’s point of view, instead of just assuming what traditional artwork is. I would like for people to step into the native way of life and have a better understanding of our culture as a people in our country today. I love the concept of apparel as it strengthens us together and represents our culture. Apparel is an opportunity to bring our distinctive insights to the forefront, which creates that extra nudge towards opening the table and filling the seats in the protection of Indigenous culture.
What have the last two years been like for you and your artistic practice? How have you and/or your work changed in the pandemic?
The past two years during the pandemic has halted my custom apparel business tremendously. Having no bazaars and sale vendors because they were closed to the public because of COVID-19 has stopped my growth in my business. With the pandemic, businesses were also limited to workers and apparel stock was hard to come by. In fact, hoodies in certain sizes, even the most common sizing, were, and are still, out of stock, which leaves people wanting to buy high quantities of those sizes, making it really hard to find the sizes and colors I need and it’s difficult to have the funds to buy high quantities when they are available. With all this hardship during the past two years of this pandemic, my artistic practice has grown with painting on canvases, using watercolor and painting on traditional drums and paddles. Additionally, getting accepted to work on the Overlook Walk project at Waterfront Seattle with Malynn Foster and Kimberly Deriana has helped me really blossom my artist practice enormously. In this point of my career, I am forever grateful for this amazing opportunity.
What are your hopes for the future of artists in Washington State? What would an ideal world look like for artists?
Hopes are personal. Art is personal. And, hopes and artwork alike are all shared with the world. They give us something to strive toward and help us shape our communities. My hope is for all artists to have everything they need—the skills, knowledge, mindset, community, and leadership—to change the lives of artists everywhere.
All art is different and that is what makes it beautiful. That’s what I love about art and people; we are all different and we will all have different points of view and perspectives on what makes great art. I used to be afraid of showing my artwork to the world in fear that people would be judgmental or comment harshly. But as artists we need to have an open mind and a free creative spirit to open doors for growth. An ideal world for artists would be for idealized art that depicts subjects in their own flawless way so the audience may envision a world where things and people are perfect. The purpose of art is not to criticize subjects that are not “perfect” but to inspire beauty and the imagination of what could be.
What did the support from Artist Trust’s Grants for Artists’ Progress (GAP) mean to you? What did you do with the support?
I am beyond thankful for this opportunity that Artist Trust has bestowed to me. They gave me confidence because they believed in my artistic talent. It’s been an expensive hardship starting an apparel company and it is a great honor to carry on traditional designs while making my family, community, and our ancestors proud. For that I shall be forever grateful to Artist Trust for this act of kindness. Again, thank you to the highest—my heart is full of gratitude.
I used some of the Fellowship funding for lower platens for my heat press: leg/sleeve platen, smaller platen for youth and toddler hoodies, and a circle platen for canvas totes. I also purchased more apparel like hoodies and t-shirts. I just finished five new designs that are getting sent out today that I am super excited about! I bought CorelDraw and am teaching myself to draw on it. It has been a learning curve, but I am definitely learning more tricks! It’s way easier to get my prints sent off to be printed or to send a file to my circuit. I fractured my arm, so that put a halt to my thought process to getting my clothing business online and spending the other half of my funding. But I am planning on purchasing a camera to take better pictures of apparel to put on a website, a laptop with more storage space and better resolution, a regular printer to print out shipping labels, a sublimation printer to print out full color heat transfer designs, a plotter to have a bigger cutting capability compared to the circuit, and, last but not least, a laser engraver to engrave on all types of things so I can have different price ranges when I am selling items (I like to have a broader range of items from $5-$45). I am excited for all these upgrades to my small business. Thank you to the highest Artist Trust!
I also gave back to my community, the Skokomish Tribe. I helped the Skokomish Tschudub Shaker Church with a new design and pressed 50 t-shirts for the church. They were very happy with the t-shirts!
How is Artist Trust’s work important to Washington State artists, especially at this moment in history? Why should people support Artist Trust as donors now?
Artist Trust is important to Washington State artists because it gives them the capability to broaden their horizon, open up their creative spirits, and create wonderful works of art for the world to see and love. It helps to read everyone’s story as each artist’s journey is unique and their own; they will create inspiration for you to donate. I am forever grateful for everyone who has made a donation to Artist Trust for this has helped me in ways beyond what my heart has fathomed. I humbly ask people to please donate to Artist Trust to help artists like me to have our world expressed through artwork. Art is very important; we feel and express our emotions through it. Knowledge can be shown and expressed through art and emotions can be expressed in art. It’s a very powerful and beautiful thing.