Q&A: Alice Alva

Mt Victoria’s Alice Alva is an advocate for the arts in New Zealand.

She’s a visual artist, an art educator, and the co-chair of the Wellington Art Teachers Association. A finalist in the 27th Annual Wallace Art Prize and the Parkin Drawing Prize 2018, Alice’s work crosses drawing and illustration, embroidery and textiles, painting and graphic design.

She tells us about her love of op-shop crafts, some memorable gifts, and what sends her into a state of panic.

What’s a skill or talent you have that people wouldn’t guess?
Spatial awareness. I have a good sense of volume and I have an uncanny way of guesstimating exactly how much space there is in the back of my Toyota Corolla hatchback when it comes to schlepping home the furniture we find at Second Treasures – the dump shop.

What book is beside your bed?
I am currently reading Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance, an insight into the plight of poor white Americans in the Appalachian region of the US.  

What’s the best local purchase you’ve made this year?
I am a big op-shop fan and being an artist, I always make a beeline to the craft section. I recently dropped a VERY LARGE sum (read: half a thousand dollars) on some pre cut vintage rug wool at my favourite Hospice Shop in Miramar. I am a member of the Wellington Embroider’s Guild, and one thing I have learned about craft people is that we all go a little mad when presented with an opportunity to stock up on our favourite supplies. I remember seeing a sign outside the Sewing Depot in Petone that sums this up perfectly which said “My biggest fear when I die, is my partner will sell my craft supplies for what I told them they cost”.

What are the best and worst gifts you’ve ever received?
The best gift I ever received was a 60gb iPod that played music and videos! It was in 2005 and the mere thought of having access to music and movies on a device that could fit in your pocket was truly revolutionary.

The worst gift I have ever received was a toilet brush, basically what happened was, at Christmas, a couple of years ago my brother who lives in Australia, bought a bunch of stuff from “a big brand store” that were sent direct to my house. However, at the time, this company would send their parcels from different dispatch centers across the county. I came home to a package with a dented toilet brush – I thought it was a bad prank and made a big fuss out of it. Little did I know, that there was a stuff-up with the delivery and the good package with the chocolate and Egyptian cotton towels was waiting to be collected from the depot…

What’s your bad habit?
Craft Beer.

If you could change one thing about Wellington, what would that be? Earthquakes! I grew up in the Waikato and never experienced an earthquake until I moved to Wellington in 2014. When I meet people for the first time in a professional setting, I usually explain to them my (somewhat) irrational fear of earthquakes and for them to be prepared for a state of panic if one occurs. That being said, I felt an earthquake when I was in the Yuasa region of Japan earlier this year and I was surprisingly calm – so maybe I am learning how to cope?

Read more Q&As here.


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