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Exclusive Interview with Textiles Expert, Alexandria Masse

Updated: Nov 19, 2023

Exclusive Interview with Textiles Expert, Alexandria Masse:
Read it and Weep as She Discusses Family, Self-Discovery and Commitment

Masse, A. & NYU Steinhardt Costume Studies. (n.d.). BODY//MIND | EXHIBITION. Spectacle of Code.

Alexandria Masse has achieved outstanding success and online notoriety for her wearable art. Although many might recognize her crochet work from viral pieces such as her Dragon Hat and Bunny Balaclavas, the artist's distinct style does not stop at textiles. Prior to falling head over heels for fibres and fabrics, Masse explored her own artistic preferences with the help of educational art programs and personal curiosity.

Now a retiree from illustration, Alex focuses on her textiles, a passion she discovered in her early years at NSCAD University. Inspired by East Coast landscapes, Masse’s graduation dress, made from wool yarn on a cotton base, features a jaw-dropping replica of Halifax’s beloved Citadel Hill.

Fashion — Alexandria Masse. (n.d.). Alexandria Masse.

Free from the shackles of academia Alex is able to transcend her own artistic achievements by creating timeless pieces for customers and unique spaces. Masse’s personal favourite includes Abigail the Giant Spider, available for viewing as a permanent installation at John Fluevog Shoes, downtown Toronto, Ontario. Abigail enhances the already vibrant space with her scale and interactive qualities.

Often inspired by natural environments, Alex most of all appreciates interacting with the smaller things in life differently. Additionally, she is fascinated by human-insect relationships. Featured in her Moth Collection as well as Centipede Exhibit, Masse manages to reimagine illicit human perceptions of teeny-tiny bugs. Some of us might cower in fear over the sight of a creepy crawler coming our way but Alex takes these moments to appreciate an insect’s inherent maternal qualities, particularly in spiders. She describes this attraction for me:

“All bugs are mothers, there is an urge built into them to take care of their young by weaving and crafting.”

Alex’s “Bug Period,” will no doubt return again but for now you can check out other buggy art installations on her website here.

Maternal themes continue to be central to the artist's work as well as her history. Crafting plays a sort of generational role as Alexandria Masse first learnt how to knit from her mother and crochet from her grandmother. One of the first things her grandmother packaged away for immigration to Canada was an aged Singer sewing machine, still in perfect condition. After stitching together generations of prom dresses, the ancient relic has been officially passed down to Alex who uses it every so often. Alex is exceedingly grateful to be able to create full-time as creative endeavours were not a viable career path for those preceding her and many more around.

Despite her art taking centre stage at this point in her life and career, she still makes time to create for her own personal enjoyment! She highlights a necessary difference between your art and your job, otherwise,

“It can become one big ugly beast merging together.”

That is exactly what artist residencies have been good for! Artist residencies grant the artists the opportunity to revamp and explore their own capabilities in new and distant places without the stressors of finances or work looming over them. Following her trip to Portugal, Alexandria Masse, along with fellow artists, created a web-like installation now up for viewing and in-person interactions at the March 21st Café in her birth city of Wawiiatanong, also known as Windsor, Ontario.

Masse, A. (n.d.). Instagram.

As much as Masse is eager to take on the art of sculpture in a more traditional sense, she has primarily used crochet to express herself and sculpt for the body rather than the body itself. To quote “I feel a little trapped by it, lots of people who do crochet are stuck in that domestic mindset, I go to Michaels and spend money on yarn that sits on a shelf, just a tool like any other but there’s that extra layer of misogyny.”

Masse goes on to describe how many creatives who work with fibres can find labels a bit constricting and encourages the term ‘textiles artist,’ to avoid “putting yourself in a box.” Furthermore, she encourages other artists to take inspiration offline as much as on. The physical act of drawing, as well as old sketchbooks, are riddled with inspiration for the construction of three-dimensional pieces.

“In person to screen your brain works differently so why not utilize both ways of creating.”

Typically, after Alex finishes a piece she views it in a mirror and takes loads of pictures from all angles using her camera. By turning the piece upside down and spinning it all around she is able to see it differently and determine whether or not the piece is really finished.

“Sometimes I forget I have free will and if you choose to do nothing then you are just as valid as someone who does everything.”

At an early age, Alexandria Masse knew she wanted to attend an art school that would help take her skills to new heights and introduce her to mediums yet undiscovered. However, she states that “before you get to the place where you create what you want to create, you have to create things you don't want to create,” which might sound like a painful truth but any artist knows that learning the basics is simply a part of the journey.

“First, it’s a discipline thing. In order to go to art school I had to get good at figure drawings, so I started doing that and then drawing everything around me.”

Another takeaway from a talk with Alex Masse goes out to all multidisciplinary artists -- record everything!

“Even if it’s messy and gross!”

Love Confessions (Portugal Residency) — Alexandria Masse. (n.d.). Alexandria Masse.

Out of all the questions I asked Alexandria Masse I figured this had been the most important and thus I leave her answer unedited: what is your role as an artist and what do you represent?

"I consider myself to have a different role depending on the space and who is included in that space. Being mixed race also gives me purpose in that sense, important for me to exist in these spaces, before me, people like me have been ignored in these spaces. Usually, I don’t think of my body of work as one thing but I like to think that everything I produce is from me. It’s my blood, my sweat, and pieces of hair that fall into the work and are just so part of me, I like to think of everything as my children."

-- Alexandria Masse

Alexandria Masse has also been an advocate for environmentalist movements speaking openly against fast fashion. Recently she herself has been targeted by massive online retailer, SHEIN, yet again stealing original designs from independent artists.

Headwear — Alexandria Masse. (n.d.). Alexandria Masse.

Below you can find a video from the artist herself describing the incident and showcasing proof of the vile copycat Dragon Hat. SHEIN is not the first or last to commit such heinous crimes against art and its creative sources.

“Why erase something handmade?”

It’s important to note many retailers have picked up on the popularity of handmade items and go out of their way to mimic the handmade ‘look,’ but fail to replicate any of the meaning behind the genuinely unique pieces. But when it comes to preserving the environment, Alex often asks herself:

“Where do I fit into this?”

Since sheep have been bred to the point where they need to be sheared, finding ethical sources of wool has not been the difficult part. With the rising concern about microplastics, Masse is cautious with what she puts out into the world.

"I’ve become so familiar with this material that I have no problem working with it and ordering as much from the factory and I dye it myself its like blank paper. Dying my own yarn also helps me control how many toxins I’m putting into the environment, making sure the colour is fully absorbed by the wool."

-- Masse

Dying her own wool additionally makes every piece more personal. After experimenting with dyes for some time, Masse has discovered the perfect amount of colourant to add so the wool entirely absorbs the dye. However, her caution of toxic byproducts has led to inconsistent colouring across the wool creating completely unique patterns and textures. Eventually, she hopes to take it a step further and one day spin her own yarn.

Visit her website here.

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