It always surprises me how similar yet different people are. We all have at least a dozen things we can find in common with someone we just meet, and look forward to the knowledge treasure hunt that still remains to unfold. Speaking with Aly Winningham for the first time truly brought this into focus for me.
The cheerful color palette and great handmade birds and other tesserae in Aly’s work was what first captured my attention. The more I viewed Aly’s mosaics, however, it was the messages being conveyed that held my interest. Very serious, very personal and very global issues were being spoken about, and so my treasure hunt began…
I ask many artists I have interview for Luna Mosaic Arts the same questions. Not because I am lazy, not because I can’t think of anything else, but because I feel it important to see how different individual answers to the same questions can be. There is a certain comfort in reading expected answers, or views that are similar to the ones we hold ourselves, but the thrill of the hunt comes in hearing the unexpected, the vastly different ideas and beliefs that another individual may have formed during their life’s journey.
As I have mentioned in a previous article, it is important to me to remain teachable; the perpetual student. I am a big believer in that we learn something from every person we come in contact with. It is not always something we learn about them or a topic they may be very experienced with that is the lesson, but something they unknowingly teach us about ourselves. Sometimes it is an awakening of past thoughts and feelings, points of view or thought processes, which we have had in the past, that are expounded upon.
The saying “speak softly and carry a big stick” comes to mind when viewing Aly Winningham’s work. In speaking with Aly, I mentioned that I found her to be a bit of a storyteller, similar to Flair Robinson, in her messages and subject matter. Similar? Yes, yet different. Aly’s work, to me is bright, cheerful, happy, and uplifting, baiting you in to spending more time savoring that feeling and opening the mind of the viewer long enough to let the more serious subject matter slip in.
Read Aly’s responses and get to know both her and possibly yourself a little bit better… happy hunting!
Life on the Farm by Aly Winningham
LMA: How and when did you get started in mosaics?
Aly: 1994, I was apprenticing with a blacksmith in his shop, which he shared with his wife. She was also an artist, a glass artist who made giant stained-glass windows. One day we were all there and she was about to throw away several pounds a scrap glass. I knew absolutely nothing about glass and yet I couldn’t let her throw it way, it was just too beautiful. I took it home with me and found myself arranging it around other projects. I stumbled into mosaics and learned what it was called after the fact.
Alone in the Woods by Aly Winningham
LMA: It looks like nothing is off limits in your mosaics…what is your favorite material to use?
Aly: I don’t have a favorite. But I do adore the hand poured art glass. Not so much the machine made stuff, like Spectrum. Although it has it place in my work too. The hand poured glass such as, Oceana or Youghiogheny as examples.
LMA: When is your favorite time to create?
Aly: I get started as early as possible M-F this is my full time job. I work in a large space 100 paces behind my house on 5 acres. It is very quiet and private back here, the way I like it! People at shows always say things like “This looks like so much work” and “Wow, you must have so much patience” . I find these comments odd because nothing about creating feels like work. (Selling it of course does!) And honestly, art is the only thing I seem to have patience for at all! LOL! It’s everything else that is stressful. Reality is demanding and often tough or disappointing. Making art in a quiet space is like meditating or escaping into your self and feels therapeutic and essential to my survival.
Abstract in Blues by Aly Winningham
Human Nature by Aly Winningham
LMA: Do you work mainly in direct or indirect method? (Please tell why and what you like about it.)
Aly: I am always working directly, even on an installation. There is too great of a variance in the thickness of my materials and my placements are very persnickety.
LMA: I noticed that you mainly do public and private installations. What drew you in that direction?
Aly: I had an opportunity back in 2005 to create a very large installation in the Flagship Wholefoods here in Austin, TX. How I got this gig is a great story about perseverance and determination but it must be told in its fullness and its too long to do it here. But I did it and it brought a great deal of interest from other designers and builders. Basically, it just started this ball rolling and I didn’t have to do much but be willing. Now I lean away from installations, especially private ones. They are not nearly as profitable for me as wall art and there is more work involved with many contingency factors that are often hard to control. So, I am very selective.
Zen Out by Aly Winningham
LMA: Who and what inspire you to not only create, but to keep creating mosaics?
Aly: Originally, I just know from a very young age I would be an artist. It’s quite simply the only avenue I ever saw for myself. It just took me a while to find mosaics. Very few, if any, accredited school even recognizes mosaics as a legitimate art form, which I think is really a shame.
My work often has a narrative to it, sometimes it’s just a celebration of nature but it also takes a more serious turn into man’s role in the destruction of Mother Earth. Some people see this right away and some miss it completely. For me it is a form of self-expression, which is passive and non-confrontational. Two things I’m not good at practicing in the “real world”.
For a long time I was a metal smith and sculptor. But this became very hard on my hands and body. And there was a lot of competition and it was hard to stick out. Obviously I am passionate about my work, but honestly I am also driven by the almighty dollar! I am able to run a successful business working the festival network. I go to Austin, San Antonio, Dallas, Houston etc…I never need to leave Texas, the economy is strong here and I sell well. I am almost 50 and I have a 7yr old. I am trying to raise her and save money too.
Harmony by Aly Winningham
Urban Nature by Aly Winningham
LMA: What are some of your goals/dreams for your future in mosaics?
Aly: I’ve noticed something about life. If you are able minded and able bodied, the only thing that stops you from reaching your goals is not having any or not having a clear vision of exactly what it is you want. I have met all my goals eventually (the art related ones I mean!) right now I am in a position where I am trying to decide if I am staying in Texas or not. This is an all-consuming proposal and has been holding me back from other decisions. One thing I want is a clay kiln. I have a glass one and love it. But adding my own clay tiles is my next short-term goal.
Sky and Sea Tree by Aly Winningham
Red Heart All is One by Aly Winningham
LMA: Do you support any charitable causes? Which ones and why? (Please include a link)
Aly: Yes I support with financial donations ever since the election…
(donations made in the name of Mike Pence)
I am very politically aware and concerned about the state of our country. Specifically, Mother Earth and all her inhabitants who fight for equality including women and all other minority groups.
LMA: Please share one of your favorite quotes with us:
Aly: It will all be ok in the end, if its not ok, its not the end.
Red Heart All is One by Aly Winningham Shooting Bloom by Aly Winningham
Candy Island by Aly Winningham