Allyson Rocks

allyson-rocksWould you give us a bit of background about yourself? Briefly tell us who you are.

I was born in Las Cruces, New Mexico. I lived there for the majority of my life up until I went to Japan for grad school.

Would you share with me what were some of your early experiences with reading, writing and art?

I used to love the drawings in an old fairy tale book. I looked them over almost everyday and made up my own stories until I learned how to read.

When did you decide to be an artist, and how did you know?

I am not sure how I decided but I think I have always known that I wanted to do something related to art.

What was your family unit? Did you have brothers or sisters? Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Las Cruces with three older brothers and one older sister.

What were the dreams of the future you had when growing up? Have you made any decisions in life based on those dreams?

When I was in middle school I was really set on the idea of becoming a zoologist that owned her own bakery/ gallery. In addition I wanted to be a bassoon teacher. I figured that when I wasn’t hanging out with tigers I could host events or bassoon recitals and cater them myself. I didn’t make any major life decisions on this but throughout middle school and high school I did do a lot of baking.

What kinds of stories were you told growing up?

My father told me a story when I was little that if I ever fell asleep in a car that monsters would come and they would make me laugh so hard that my eyes would fall out. Then they would store my eyes on their shelves so that when they lost their eyesight they could just exchange them. I don’t know why my father told me this story or what the purpose of it was, and in fact he doesn’t remember even telling it. However I think it is the reason why I have always had trouble falling asleep in a vehicle.

Were there teachers or teachings that influenced you? How so?

My art history professor, Elizabeth Zarur, influenced me a lot. If it wasn’t for her crazy story about how she ended up in the U.S. as a Fullbright scholar without knowing a word of English I don’t think I would have made the effort to get my master’s degree in Japan. Not only that but all her classes inspired me to travel and see all the things I was learning about first hand.

What are the things in your life that make you the happiest right now?

Traveling. I am constantly thinking about where to go next and what to do if I ever make it there. I also enjoy cooking and have been trying a lot of new recipes recently. Sometimes they come out amazing, sometimes they are so-so, and sometimes they are just horrible.

Do you have any daily rituals?

I don’t know if I can consider this a ritual but when I wake up I first drink a lot of water and then proceed to make breakfast. I enjoyed this time a lot especially while I was in Japan because I used that time to catch up on the news or read emails. When I was in high school and undergrad I slept until the last possible moment, skipped breakfast, and rushed off to wherever I needed to be. However now I find myself waking up two hours ahead so that I have a sufficient amount of time to relax before I have to leave.

Do you remember your dreams? Are there any specific ones that you recall giving you insight into you’re life that you’d be willing to share?

I noticed that I have a lot of dreams with snakes. Usually the snake is slithering across my floor and I am never harmed but only once did the snake bite me in my dream. I don’t know what it means but I do feel a good amount of fear.

What are three pivotal moments in your life? How did they come to be?

I don’t think I could list three. The first would have to be when I went to New York for summer school to study animation. I felt completely out of place but at the end I felt more confident in myself. This experience taught me I could accomplish anything and it prompted me to study abroad, take on numerous endeavors, and eventually apply for grad school in Japan, which is probably my second pivotal moment. I am not really sure where that is going to take me but I had so many wonderful experiences in Japan. I was able to participate in a variety of events and also able to meet so many people from all over the world that I am truly thankful for every moment of it.

Do you have mentors or other working artists who influence you today?

I could list so many and go on forever but I think for the sake of this interview I will mention my friend Jaakko Saari who is a Finish photographer in Japan. He is just fearless and encourages everyone he meets to pursue what they love. He enjoys teaching anyone who will listen and is kind and compassionate.

What do you think is the most important contemporary issue?

I don’t feel like this is the most important issue but what is really important to me at the moment are the positive and negative effects of tourism to artist communities around the world. Generally tourism encourages the preservation of traditional handicrafts but at the same time if you travel to areas such as Laos for example traditional methods of producing handicrafts are losing to mass produced items from other countries because it is simply faster and cheaper to create. Since I love traveling so much I think about this issue a lot. I may only be in a given place for a short amount of time but I am a part of a larger thing that has powerful effects on a society both good and bad so I try to stay aware that when I am abroad.

How did you come to have the creative pursuits and lifestyle you have?

I am not sure exactly how. It has taken many many forms from playing the bassoon, baking, animation, and studying art history.

What advice would you give those who would like to take a similar path?

Just keep at it. Sometimes I have found myself in positions where I was doing something completely opposite of what I wanted to pursue. But in the end I also realized that those experiences had something to offer to my ultimate goal. So I would tell someone that even though it feels like you are going nowhere you are indeed going somewhere. It just may be hard to see how you are getting there. So patience is really what is most important.

Were there any gatekeepers in the professional world for you, people who either let you in or barred the way as you were coming through?

I don’t know if any person has barred my way or let me through but I do know that my experiences have opened up a big world full of possibilities.

Who are your favorite contemporary artists/musicians/writers?

I am a big fan of Murakami Haruki and Leslie Marmon Silko.

What kind of control do you think you exert over your own destiny?

I think I have about fifty-fifty control. I have ended up in many situations out of my control but eventually I know I can take that control back at least in the way I feel or the actions I take thereafter.

What are you own criteria for success?

Satisfaction. As long as I am satisfied with what I am doing or what I have made I think I will be happy.

Has money or critical success influenced your creative decision-making?

Not really but I admit that I have put my ambitions aside for a bit in order to make a living and earn money. However as I mentioned above each experience, even boring part time jobs, has offered me something either through the people I met or the things I accomplished. I feel that I can take all of that and apply it to whatever goal I take on in the future.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

I think I would tell myself to be more honest with my friends, family, and most importantly myself. I was always very shy so I think I held back on being completely honest about how I felt because of that on several occasions.

Do you feel it is important to have more than one pursuit in life? Or is it important to have a singular pursuit?

Yes. I think life presents us with many endeavors to undertake and we can learn a lot about ourselves from each one.

What do you want to be known for?

I think my pleasant attitude.

When you look forward in your life what do you hope to find there?

I hope to find myself in a position where I not only get to earn a living working with art or around art but also inspiring others to pursue their dreams.

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