Part of living in a rural area is how your environment can influence everything you do. It can be as simple as the leaves or grass or more visually arresting — wild birds or butterflies.
Alison Tauber takes the long view of her Catskills environment; she uses it for inspiration but her respect for it shows in everything she does, using recycled and up-cycled materials and water-based inks. Trained as a textile designer and printmaker, she has expanded to using embroidery and applique. Recently, she began designing and selling her own fabrics, available for pre-order on Etsy.
How did you end up living in the Hudson Valley/Catskills? How long have you been up here?
I’ve been living in the Hudson Valley for two years. My husband and I had been living in Brooklyn but had often visited the Catskills for hiking and camping. We had always talked of making the move upstate but it seemed like such a big change! And then in the summer of 2008 we took a two week holiday to the Lakes District in the north of England. We spent every day hiking the hills and I thought I could really live like this! So when we got home we packed up our things and moved up to the mountains.
I notice that you use environmentally-friendly materials; can you tell me about this decision?
Well, it didn’t seem like much of a decision to me. It’s more an extension of how I live my life. I try to live a low-impact lifestyle, we keep chickens, have a huge garden that gives us most of our food for the warmer months and plenty of canned goods for the winter. I try not to shop at large chain stores for anything, hardly ever buy new clothing, I’ll always re-use what I have before I replace it with something new. So when it came to my own products, I just simply went with what I would want as a consumer.
Can you describe your work and your process?
I like to think of my work as a modern take on old world craftsmanship. I use techniques that have been around for ages – printmaking, applique, embroidery – but try to give them a modern aesthetic. Inspiration is everywhere and generally when I get an idea or an avenue I want to explore I will experiment and play and fiddle and once I feel I’ve satisfied my curiosities (at least temporarily) I move on to the next thing.
What is the most rewarding aspect to your work?
Having customers tell me that my work is something they intend to keep and treasure and pass down, nothing could be a bigger compliment.
Does where you live affect the way that you work, in the form of inspiration, process or in any other way?
My work has always been driven by nature, but certainly living in the mountains I have that much more inspiration right at my finger tips! And as for process, living here has allowed me to have an actual studio. A place where I can spread out and experiment and make messes. When we were living in Brooklyn I did all of my printing in my dining room! It was a disaster!
When you’re not working, how do you spend your time?
I go hiking pretty much every day, rain or shine. Now before I come off sounding incredibly virtuous I should explain that I have a very active and energetic dog. If not for him I would not hike nearly as much! I also spend a good deal of time in the garden and looking after the chickens. I love to cook, I’m always reading at least one book and every once in a while nothing hits the spot like a day spent scouring thrift stores.
Have you found any other creative businesses in your area?
I have! I met Cris of Into The Whirled (http://intothewhirled.com/blog/) fairly soon after moving here. We’ve become fast friends and I feel lucky to have met her, she’s an incredibly talented artist and a wonderful friend. And then through Cris I met Cal Patch (http://hodgepodgefarm.net/) and Jill Draper (http://jilldraperblogs.blogspot.com/), both very talented ladies!