We were lucky to catch up with Debra Disman recently and have shared our conversation below.
Hi Debra, appreciate you sitting with us today to share your wisdom with our readers. So, let’s start with resilience – where do you get your resilience from?
I think resilience is something that you can observe over time, and its level shifts around on a day to day basis, depending on what is going on both internally and externally in the moment. One of the most important factors in my practice is consistent work, showing up at the studio each day, and doing what I can to move things forward. I apply this to my other work too: administrative tasks, online presence, applications, writing, meetings, planning and an array of teaching activities. Especially when something feels daunting, I try to do even the smallest task to move the needle. After a while, this can become a habit, and helps to break down the enormity of all that needs to be done into something more manageable and even fun! Speaking of fun, claiming that which is enjoyable, taking moments to relax and refresh, and even “putting it all down” for a time as my Mother used to say, helps me to clear my mind, gather my thoughts, renew my energy, and come back to work stronger and with greater clarity. All the basics, including exercise, connecting with nature, meditative activities, playful time with loved ones, and especially focusing on the breath, can help offset the overwhelm and eventual burn-out that can happen with constant input, and even inspiration. Sometimes we just have to turn all of that off , focus inward, and return to our most basic selves. Be silly for a second! Paradoxically, that process can allow space not only for new ideas and insights to emerge, but may provide inner direction on the knotty choices and decisions that have to be made in everyone’s life. Make room for joy!
Great, so let’s take a few minutes and cover your story. What should folks know about you and what you do?
Springing initially from the form of the book, specifically the western codex, my work traverses tapestry, installation and sculpture to push the familiar into forms that arrest, baffle and bewilder while simultaneously offering rest, solace and contemplation. I employ the materiality of fiber to engage the senses, and invite altered ways of experiencing the world and how we inhabit it, both soothing and confounding the eye with uneven visual repetition. Through this means of stabilizing and destabilizing, I hope to instigate fundamental questions that encourage an exploration and examination of what we think we know and are.
Devoted to material labor, I love nothing more than to be submerged in material manipulation, which inevitably will yield some kind of distilled meaning. The evocative, visceral and profoundly physical quality of materials drives the action of my work, giving its emotional resonance, vis a vis how they are used. I am compelled to layer, wrap, stitch, knot, tie and glue, as well as paint, draw and write, intuitively layering, complicating and disrupting the surface to add levels of meaning, and ultimately a unity of plane and form.
Often, the meaning becomes clear during or after this process, rather than as a directive before, as if it had been there all along, and simply surfaced during the act of making.
If you had to pick three qualities that are most important to develop, which three would you say matter most?
What is described as generosity is very important. Whether it is as a teaching artist with students and participants, a small business-owner with clients, or an artist with viewers, curators, collectors, or any others in the art “eco-system”, I have found that it is critical to consider others’ needs, what they may be going through, and to support their efforts. This is always a balancing act, and thus the next on the list would reverb back to resilience as discussed earlier, and balance: balance between giving to others and giving to yourself, between giving and taking, between doing /action, and dream space. As mentioned before when discussing resilience, it is critical not to burn out before you have even defined your journey! Break down tasks, even the most abstract or indefinable, into manageable “chunks”, do one thing at a time, take breaks to relax your mind, and engage in non-work activities to nourish yourself both on your own and with others. Finally, continue to learn and grow both individually and in community. I have engaged in numerous learning activities which have been extremely beneficial, often in ways I could not have imagined, including organized certificate programs, joining groups where I met with and learned from and with others, and even online activities. Learning in community can be challenging, but even those challenges can help you to grow, and learn even more.
Is there a particular challenge you are currently facing?
The number one challenge I face at this moment is TIME! How to manage it, what decisions to make about how I spend it and how to claim it for myself as the world gets ever more complex and demanding. There is a saying, “The reward for work is more work”, and I have found this to be true. As I do more, evolve my work, take on more projects, connect with more people, participate in more shows and engage with more opportunities, I have to continue to make more choices about how I spend my time and energy in a shifting landscape.
- Website: https://debradisman.com/
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/artifactorystudio/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/debra.disman
- Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/debradisman/
Photographer: Gene Ogami