The Queue: Ava Roth

The Queue: Ava Roth

Get to know the people featured in the pages of our magazine as they share what's inspiring them right now.

Published on Monday, May 3, 2021.
Blog post cover graphic for The Queue featuring Ava Roth

Introducing the Nourish series of The Queue

A biweekly roundup for and by the craft community, The Queue introduces you to the artists, curators, organizers, and more featured in the current issue of American Craft. We invite these inspiring individuals to share personally about their lives and work as well as what's inspiring them right now.

Woman in gray sweather leaning on table in studio

Portrait courtesy of Ava Roth.

The Beauty of Craft Is in the Process Itself

Ava Roth is a Toronto-based encaustic painter, embroiderer, and mixed-media artist who works in tandem with honeybees to create art objects embedded in honeycomb. Read more about Roth's process in her maker profile in the Spring 2021 issue of American Craft. @avarothart

How do you describe your work or practice?
At this point in my life I think of my work as a practice. More than anything, it is a practice of plugging into a life-long pursuit of interpreting my experience of the world through making. In this sense, the specifics of what I am making are not the most critical aspect. Which is not to say that what I make is random—in fact, all of my work is related both to the relationship of humans to the natural world and to feminism—but the making itself is the foundation of my practice. At the moment, I am engaged in an inter-species collaboration with local honeybees. This involves creating delicate encaustic collages in my studio that are then placed inside bee hives, where thousands of bees embed the work in comb. The project, which is entirely made by females (the majority of bees in hives are sisters) explores the boundaries of where humans collide with the natural environment, and suggests a more beautiful outcome of this encounter.

Embroidery hoop embedded in frame filled with honeycomb and covered with honeybees

Read more about Roth's collaboration with honeybees in the Spring 2021 issue of American Craft. Photo by Mylee Nordin.

Mixed-media collage in an embroidery hoop embedded in honeycomb panel

Gold and Cream With Encaustic, 2019, encaustic, Japanese tissue, birch bark, seed beads, gold leaf, cotton thread, and embroidery hoop embedded in honeycomb, 19 x 9.5 in. Photo by Ava Roth.

During this time of COVID-19 isolation and social unrest/calls for change, how are you finding beauty and staying grounded?
As someone who gets tremendous inspiration and energy from interactions with people, places, and experiences, it’s been hard to be shut in for such a long period of time. Early on in the pandemic, I decided to visualize my daily studio practice as a soothing balm for my nervous system, which, particularly in the early days of Covid, was very agitated. Over time, this approach has worked magic. It’s now gotten to the point that I just walk into my studio and feel some measure of peace. I’m also lucky enough to live with my hilarious kids and thoughtful husband and giant dog, and they have definitely helped me see beauty from day to day. Finally, I’m a devoted sourdough bread maker, and it’s difficult to not feel some sort of ancient enchantment charming me when I pull a fresh loaf of sourdough out of the oven.

Woman next to a window holding up a piece of honeycomb

Portrait courtesy of Ava Roth.

Can you reflect on the current issue of American Craft's theme of "nourish" as it relates to your work and practice?
Before 2020, I think I would have answered this question by saying that my work nourishes me, and that I hope it nourishes the people I share it with—but that does not accurately reflect my experience right now. Over this past year it is not just Covid that has made an indelible mark on our collective psyche, but a political reckoning with violent systemic racism, catastrophic social inequalities, environmental catastrophes, and frightening political extremism. In this context, “nourish” does not make me think of my own work, but of global events, and of the people who have given me hope during this time. I am thinking of the first-responders and care givers who have made personal sacrifices to nourish strangers, the parents, teachers and friends who have stepped up to nourish those close to them, and the huge swell of activists who have come together to nourish all of us as they work to make a better world.

Person wearing beekeeping face net standing in front of hives with bees in frame

Photo by Mylee Nordin.

What's your favorite social media post you've seen recently?
I recently saw a video about the Dutch artist Theo Jansen’s incredible sand monsters that really moved me. Jansen’s beautiful and gigantic creatures, which are powered entirely by the wind, are designed to walk/sweep across the Dutch beaches, kicking up sand and thereby helping preserve the nearby dunes from the rising sea. Jansen's work is deeply connected to his surroundings, to his relationship with the environment, and to the pursuit of beauty.

What’s an exhibition or art project you think the world should know about?
The most mind-blowing art project on my mind right now is the work of Anicka Yi (@anickayi_studio). Yi is a conceptual artist specializing in smells and working largely with bacteria as her primary medium. She is a scent artist, using bacteria to produce specific provocative scents, and often translating this into a living visual art. Yi harvests specific bacteria in order to explore relationships of power and culture and perception, and illuminates these connections by exposing our olifactory and visual senses to traces of the organic material. Yi’s work exposes our cultural discomforts, anxieties, and intolerances, and the result is profound. It is a revelation, with much to say about how we can harness the natural environment, and use it to teach us, through our senses, about ourselves, the world we inhabit, and the places we collide. Read more on Art in America.

In [today's] context, “nourish” does not make me think of my own work, but of global events, and of the people who have given me hope during this time.

If you could purchase any artist's work for your home or studio, whose would it be and why?
There is a huge range of inspiring makers who I admire, ranging from virtually unknown ceramic and embroidery artists to well-known installation artists working on a large scale. Some favorites at the moment include the incredible collage artist El Anatsui (@elanatsuiart), gem artist Kathleen Ryan (@katieryankatieryan), embroiderer Diana Yevtukh (@diana_yevtukh), paper-cut artist Annie Vought (@annievought), textile installation artist Edith Meusnier, fiber artist Harriet Goodall (@harrietgoodallartist), the painter and ceramicist Stephen Andrews (@stephenandrewsartist), and of course, the incomparable quilter Bisa Butler (@bisabutler). I’d be honored to have a piece from any of these artists in my home. Of course, I also wouldn’t say no to a Gerhardt Richter painting, or an Andy Goldsworthy installation in my back yard!

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