Art Maker: Alice Thomas, poet, painter and publisher

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  • Alice Thomas of Greenfield is a poet and painter and the publisher of Footstep Press. She’s seen here in Forbes Library in Northampton with a few of her accordion books of poetry. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Alice Thomas made this photogram for the opening page of one of the accordion books of poetry she illustrated and published. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • An accordion book of poetry illustrated and published by Alice Thomas of Greenfield.  STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Artwork that poet, painter and publisher Alice Thomas created for “Passerine,” one of her accordion books of poetry. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Detail of an accordion book of poetry illustrated and published by Alice Thomas of Greenfield.  STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Artwork that poet, painter and publisher Alice Thomas created for her accordion book of poetry “Passerine.” STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Published: 1/31/2020 9:07:21 AM

Alice Thomas had a previous career as a speech pathologist, but she’s also long had an interest in the arts — one she’s cultivated in the last 15 years of so through additional studies at Greenfield Community College, Massachusetts College of Art and numerous workshops. Today the Greenfield resident is active as a poet, a painter and the publisher and designer of small artisanal books, called Footstep Press.

For the latter work, she says she draws on her experience as a speech pathologist. “I read/listen to others’ work: their vocabulary, timing, structure, conceptual targets, and so on to gain a sense of their true intent. This directs me to a basis of color, line, strike, size, and form to replicate what is meant to be communicated within the body of work.”

Hampshire Life: Talk about the work you’re currently doing. What does it involve, and what are you trying to achieve?

Alice Thomas: Right now, my focus is on completing a new body of work for my business. I’m making a small series of 6-10 artisanal books that demonstrate the range of my work. Being both an artist and writer/poet, as well as a movement instructor, offers me some advantages to create new and interesting ways to demonstrate others’ targets, styles, and intents.

HL: What do you draw inspiration from? Do you ever have any “Eureka!” moments?

AT: Inspiration seems to “fall on me once I get out of the way.” I tend to think both literally and conceptually. You might include sideways, yet with an artistic bent; equally based with the intent of the author/poet/musician. That is, I want to offer a ‘visual’ of someone else’s work.

HL: How do you know when your work is finished?

AT: Whether writing, performing, or making art, I know when my work is completed after I have clarified the intent of the writer/poet/performer to be sure we are sending the same message using the components such as stroke, line, color, content, direction, size and the interplay of the whole of the work on the page/cover. I want to ‘erase’ possible mixed messages between and among both the format of work and the format of art. Tricky!

HL: What’s the most recent exhibition/concert/book reading/other event by another artist or group that you’ve attended and enjoyed?

AT: I greatly admire contemporary poet Faith Kindness, who recently published her first book, “The Art of Waiting.” I was immediately captured by the tempo of her revelations across time and experience living as a young bride in Okinawa during the 1960s.

I was also blown away by Cin Kunz, a Northampton artist, and her recent exhibition in Hosmer Gallery at Forbes Library. Not having kept up with her work over the last year, I found her lines, use of color, and spaces offering me places where I could wander and imagine where I could possibly be or wish to be.

HL: If you weren’t an artist, what do you think you’d be?

AT: Because I love the world of design, I think I might have become an interior designer. Color, size, shape, location, ease of use and function and the combinations of period, fabric, compositions, and corners etc. are exciting to me!

HL: Dream dinner party — who would you invite?

AT: YoYo Ma would be my go-to guest. For other guests, I’d be most interested in people who thoroughly enjoy what they do and have the capacity to maintain a varied discussion on alternate topics with others.

HL:What do you do when you’re stuck?

AT: I walk away from what I’ve made. I analyze and alter my thinking, then clarify the goal/vocabulary/concept/point that seethes underneath. I’ll even say “What do you want/need?” to the work itself. It’s usually the case of my placing something on the page that doesn’t belong there. It always tells me, if I listen and wait.

— Steve Pfarrer


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