Artist Interview - Colleen Attara
Your cards have a very unique perspective that stands out. How would you describe what you do?
I see myself as a storyteller and I tell my stories through torn photographs, paint, thread and words. I love to give people the words to describe what they are feeling so they can reach out to the people they care about. I consider myself a treasure hunter and I am always on the lookout for old letters and bits of ephemera to add into a card design.
Where do you find your inspiration?
Everywhere and anywhere! I take almost every photo you see in the line (sometimes I will use someone else’s photos of children or babies, as my children are 21 and 24). As my family would tell you, I can spot a perfect photo from far away and will go to great lengths to get it. All the photos in the cards are from my life; roads I travel, footprints left by my husband and me on the beach, or the first daffodil that appears outside my studio in spring. I write every card. Some are sentiments texted to a dear friend, something written to my son or daughter in an altered book journal or a thought I had while driving. Every single card/print has a story in both the pictures and the words.
I am a wife, mother, sister, friend and an artist and my cards reflect all of these roles.
Tell us about your creative process when you design the cards.
Sometimes the words come to me and at other times the pictures come first. When I have both, I start to play with the design. I tear pictures in half, change the composition, and stitch them back together. I often use a sky from one place sewn together with a photo from somewhere else. I sew in my words and all the little bits and pieces that fall to the side of my studio desk or below it. Then I add paint and some vintage finds and let the colorful threads fall where they may. I adore thread.
I love the serendipity of how each card comes together. Each one begins as an original piece of art.
What is your studio like?
I create in two places. I have a studio office in my home that has technology where I can scan and size files and such. Then I have a studio in a stone cottage in Bucks County, Pennsylvania built in the late 1600’s, where I create, teach and get my ideas out. That space is where so much of the magic happens. I have been there for almost nine years and everything in it inspires me so much. It is hard not to get ideas when I am in there. There is no technology, other than a microwave, coffee maker (essential), sewing machine and a drill press. The oven is disconnected and is storage. I have a tiny retro refrigerator behind a curtain in a closet.
It is on a historical farm in the middle of 237 acres beside a Community Art Center (in the farmhouse) and with farmers working the fields behind my cottage. The lilacs and peonies on the farm are so old and plush. It is truly an amazing space to call my studio.
Do you write your cards with specific people in mind?
Certain cards are inspired by people I love and others by experiences I have had. The baby card, Tiny Teacher, says “I know. It looks like a tiny baby. But that little person is the greatest teacher you will ever have”. I am pretty sure these are some of the truest lines I have ever written and being a mom has shown me that over and over again.
As a parent, I have watched my children soar high and crash hard. As a family, we have dealt with anxiety, depression, an eating disorder and addiction. I truly know it is “the tangles that keep us close” and we are very close. I wrote I Believe, Red Curtain, Gray and Son Birthday for my son. GPS, Strong Enough, Force of Nature and Daughter Birthday were written for my daughter. Miss You was written for both of them as I do write them a million letters a day in my head as I talk out loud to myself. Sometimes I will be walking and my lips are moving in deep conversation… at least that is what my family tells me.
Love Affair (those are our footprints), Favorite Things and Vow are all about my husband and soul mate of 30 years. The words are thoughts I had and wrote down as I was walking on beaches beside him. I have known him since I was 12 and loved him since I was 16.
I am lucky to have a large and amazing circle of friends around the world. I also have a sister who is a best friend. You can see all these relationships in People Collection, Treasured Friend, Creative Friend, Sister Birthday, Beach Soul Birthday, Paths, Light, Marbles and Beach House.
Of all the cards we publish by you, do you have a favorite?
I am especially proud of the sympathy cards in my line. I love Garden Sympathy. I feel blessed to be able to give others words to soothe those they love and care about in tender and trying times of loss and sadness.
Click here to see Colleen Attara's entire collection!