Amy Godard is a native whose family has called Ashland home for multiple generations. Amy and her life partner, Eric Navickas, are the co-owners of MAda Shell Art Gallery, on the plaza in downtown Ashland. I recently had the opportunity to show with her at our annual Holiday Market in the Briscoe ArtWing. We starting talking about our shared hometown and decided it would be fun to have a chat about her Art, her gallery, and what sparked her interest in making art into a career.
How long have you been creating your art form?
Amy… I have been involved in the arts since I was a child. My focus was painting and drawing in college but I also studied Spanish and Folklore. I have been screen printing for six years and making dolls the same amount of time. A few years back I got interested in puppetry and have been involved in various puppet productions.
What would you say is your main inspiration when you make your craft?
Amy… Well, the dolls come from an installation I did in Eugene, Oregon about six years ago. I was inspired by the work of Maurice Sendak and Edward Gorey who made children’s stories that seemed to be more for adults. I filled an exposition space with little furry dolls which for me reflected how children’s toys, like stuffed animals, are simply reproductions of things that in real life would be quite frightening–like bears or tigers, for example. My question was, why as humans do we do this? I used to be afraid of monsters when I was a child but as an adult I was able to see them as an abstract concept handed down to us by society. After I sold all my original dolls I decided to keep making them. I sew little hearts onto them and use scrap fabric to make them.
Where did you learn your craft?
Amy… I studied at Southern Oregon University, the University of Oregon, and the Universidad de Guanajuato, but I have also learned various arts and crafts at the Craft Center in Eugene. As well, I do a lot of experimenting in my studio, I don’t feel limited to one medium and I often like to work between them.
How long have you lived in the Ashland area?
Amy… Ashland is one of those places that is easy to come back to. I moved back about three years ago after living in Mexico. I also grew up here, and have five generations of my family that go back to the gold rush era. My Great-Great Grandfather was a lawyer and city councilor.
What do you most enjoy or appreciate about selling at the Lithia Artisans Market?
Amy… I love how the Lithia Artisans Market connects so many great people. It feels like a family of sorts.
Tell us something about you that has nothing to do with your art form?
Amy… That is hard to do because I feel like it is all connected. Art is the golden thread that stitches it all together.
What is your favorite time of the year and why?
Amy… I love the late summer early fall. It is the time when you really feel the bounty of the earth.
Who or what do you consider influential in making you the artist/crafter you are today?
Amy… My mom of course. She would let me make giant messes and help me clean them up. I would also say Kiki Smith and other contemporary artists who push the norm and experiment with different mediums.
What do you like to do when you are not creating or selling your art?
Amy… I am also a teacher of the arts and a community art advocate. I also like to go picking at thrift stores and yard sales.
Why did you choose to become an artisan?
Amy… I think it chose me really. I am one of those people who is continually making. It is kind of a nervous habit really. I decided recently to get back into a daily drawing routine because I need the balance of making and looking.
Are you a full time artisan, or do you have a separate career?
Amy… Like I said I teach art at the Rogue Gallery, and I also run the MAda Shell Gallery where we hold art events and puppet shows. I also work as a nanny to some great kids who are also crafty, so we have lots of fun together.
Where do you like to shop?
Amy… At the Goodwill or at craft markets. Buying new stuff seems so wasteful.
Briefly critique modern consumer society, and what is wrong or right with that model?
Amy… I think that a society that is consumer based will never be truly happy. It is important to spend within your means and buy stuff that has meaning. I can’t think about it too much though, otherwise apathy sets in. The world is too beautiful for that. When I lived in Mexico I lived with folks who had none of the newest gadgetry and we actually spent time together. I would often see three generations of family living and playing together. On the other hand as an American, I like the work of Andy Warhol. He used the lexicon of a consumer society and threw it right back in their faces. I like art that can do that.
You are the owner of MAda Shell Gallery. When did you open?
Amy… We are about to have our 2nd anniversary in January.
When is the gallery open, and how does an art patron find out more about the gallery?
Amy… We are open for events only so you can look for information at my blog madashellgallery.wordpress.com/ or follow us on Facebook at MAda Shell Gallery.
I know you are an art teacher with a background in Spanish. Tell us how those two skills mix to make you who you are?
Amy… I often use call and response, and sing songs in Spanish in my art classes. I use art and puppetry to express Spanish vocabulary. I am currently working on curriculum to form a children’s Spanish class that I will start in the summer.
Your gallery is somewhat of a mystery. It is like finding the wand shop in the Harry Potter series — somewhere on Diagon Alley. Where exactly is the MAda Shell Gallery located, and has that space been a challenge? How did you come up with the name of the gallery, and what is the mission of your gallery?
Amy… My gallery is located on the Plaza above American Trails and Hana Sushi. The space is perfect for what we want to do, which is hold a place for art, events, poetry, music, anti-art, outsider art, puppet shows and craft fairs. The name is inspired by the Dada Art movement. We changed it MAda because we thought it should encompass the feminine as well as the masculine. Ma- mother, Da- father and Shell – a safe place or enclosure where a pearl is manifested from impurity.
For more information about the Lithia Artisans Market, go to www.lithiaartisansmarket.com.