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Alison studio portrait

Alison Mitchell (b. 1980) is a multi-disciplinary Canadian visual artist. Her paintings, fiber art, and collages depict simplified, stylized subjects in vibrant but limited colour palettes. Her work is highly personal and tends towards affectionate portraits of the people, places, and household items that brighten her days.

 

Many of Alison’s most recent pieces are “yarn paintings” that she creates using a simple wooden rug hooking tool called a punch needle. Each one represents a unique blend of a traditional Atlantic Canadian craft with Alison's modern aesthetic. She sources nearly all of her yarn from Canada’s oldest woolen mill, Briggs and Little in New Brunswick, and dyes it in pots in her kitchen.

 

​Originally from Ottawa, Alison now lives with her young family in the colourful seaside town of Lunenburg in Nova Scotia. Prior to getting serious about making art around 2021, she spent 17 years as a diplomat, legal advisor, and adjunct law professor. Specialized in international law, she served at Canada's diplomatic missions to NATO in Brussels and the UN in New York, in Kandahar, Afghanistan, at Canada's embassy in Washington, D.C, and in the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. She continues to teach international law at Queen’s University. 

Alison's art studio is on Pelham St. in Old Town Lunenburg, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Built around 1760, it may be Lunenburg's oldest house. Visits are by appointment.

 

Original artwork by Alison is available at the Teichert Gallery in Halifax, and at the Smith and Smith Gallery in Lunenburg. Prints are available through Caribou Loft Art Prints.

ABOUT ALISON

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I was digging through an old bin the other day and I found a delicate cross-stitched sampler of a hatching chick that I spent weeks making in the summer after kindergarten. It was a good reminder that my impulse to create art began at a very young age. This drive runs deep though my lineage and I’m lucky that my late mom, who was herself was a prolific crafter and rug hooker, nurtured my creativity. (The tradition continues! My first grader already spends hours a days making quirky fabric creatures with her sewing machine in the basement. It 100% sounds like child labour laws are being violated down there.) My maker spirit warmed the bench though for almost two decades as I focused on my legal and diplomatic career. Then, four years ago, I was fortunate enough to have an old-school nervous breakdown. I reassessed everything, left my job, moved 1500km east with my young family to a little house with a big garden, and eventually surrendered to persistent whispers to make a lot of art. I think less about crimes against humanity now. (Only a bit less though, tbh.) 

 

The process of making fun art has helped lighten my worldview. Nowadays when I see something that lifts my spirits, I have an excuse to spend more time with it as I try to make something that shows people what it felt like to me. Ephemerality is no match for my punch needle! My art practice is also very much centered around my desire to celebrate life in Nova Scotia. I’m especially interested in Atlantic Canada’s rich rug hooking tradition and exploring how I can honour it in my own way. Getting the colour palettes of my pieces just right is also a central part of my work, so I spend a lot of time mixing paint and dyeing yarn in my little kitchen. (“Mommy is cooking green noodles!”) 

I hope that the people, plants and places that have increased my dopamine levels give you a little hit as well.

 

My next solo exhibition is coming to the Teichert Gallery in Halifax in July. It will feature big, colourful hooked pieces of locally-grown flowers in groovy vases. Hope you can make it. 

- Alison Mitchell, April 2024

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