Toni Mosley is an artist, specialising in printmaking, originally from Colorado/Wyoming in the United States and now living in Auckland. She received a Masters Fine Arts degree in printmaking from The State University of New York in Buffalo. Currently she lives in Auckland where she teaches art classes ages 5 to adults and creates work in her studio, Blue Bathtub Press.
Toni is a printmaking artist and so tends to stick close to the paper genre (prints and books). Her work is about people and really about out our social, physical, or psychological baggage we carry with us. So what’s her baggage?
“Well, if you saw my collection of suitcases you would wonder how much ‘baggage’ I must have!” says Toni. “The truth is that baggage is a really heavy symbol, usually representing the negative stuff we can’t seem to shake. But to me baggage is just as much, good as bad.
I talk about my baggage being about the physical, emotional and psychological stuff we carry with us. It sounds really dark until you remember the light side, for example, a scar from falling out of tree and the ice cream that helped clear up your tears, or the good emotions of joy and laughter – happy memories that we can also carry with us. I am trying to remind people that baggage is good and not just negative, but poor ‘baggage’ gets a bad rap.”
At her current and previous shows, Toni asked her audience to share their own baggage with her, and responded to their ideas through her prints. “This current body of work for ‘Unpacked’ is based on the information my last audience gifted me by telling me what their baggage was and in this show I am unpacking their baggage.”
Conversation between you and your audience? How did that start? “This started out of my idea to have a competition to win some artwork. When you entered the competition you could also include a note about your baggage. I loved about how this was a great way to converse with those who have attended the show by creating my interpretation of their baggage.
This all really started because my mom and aunt have always been big on contests and entered everything (they have had many unexpected adventures, and doing things they normally would not do, all for a chance to win). I thought it was a great way to get my audience to engage with the concept,” says Toni. “And besides who doesn’t like to win something?”
And Toni’s feels this conversation may continue. I ask her if she’ll ever move past this idea. “Maybe,” she says, “but for now this new conversation between my audience and myself has been a great way for the work to evolve and for me to evolve as an artist. So those who attend the show can voluntarily be a part of the next body of work and go in the draw to win a print.
Toni’s process is mostly silkscreen with some hand painting. “I am a traditionally trained printmaker but when necessary I will use other techniques to help push the print image in a different direction.”
Like most creatives, Toni finds it hard to settle on her own favourite piece. “I’m not sure I can [pick one], as I find I love seeing a finished edition stacked up but I also love the ones that lead me to the next step. They are some of the ones that never get seen as the steps in between bodies of work. In my teaching I always talk about how important play or even those failed – or accidental – images help you grow technically. Those ‘accidents’ can be the best things for you. So I say challenge and experiment as is it only a piece of paper.”
But Toni hasn’t always been a printmaker. “As an artist I have always wanted to create and thought I would end up a painter. Instead I found photography via a job at a photographic lab- back in the days of film! My bosses at the time gave me an education via experience besides the processing/ packaging they gave me projects of things to photograph and making note of exposures. What an incredible way to learn all the technical side of photography including the darkroom, this was a gift I have never forgotten. At art school I took printmaking and this lead to me to exploring historical photographic processes. The biggest lesson I learned what I really love is process. Printmaking allows me to relish in the process and also lets me use photography and drawing as part of my work.
I think the biggest thing is I am constantly giving it more and more time. I am an art tutor and I love what I do but found the more work I am able to make allows me to be a better teacher. So I am constantly trying to find the right balance.
When I ask her about her workspace, Toni says, “I wish I could say it’s tidy but it’s really very lived in. I do clean up after a project just to get things back in there place then the controlled chaos starts all over again!”
So what project are you looking forward to creating controlled chaos with next? “Well I must say all of them! I tend to have a few things on at once as it helps to keep momentum when one project finishes I am already working towards the next.”
And as an artist exploring this idea, and opening up a conversation, what are you tips for handling one’s ‘baggage’? “Well I am the ever-eternal optimist so I will often say ‘Embrace It’. The things that happen to us, things we choose or happenstance are a part of our ‘story’ so own in. And the saying is true for me, “There’s always a silver lining to every cloud”.”
Finally, do you have any upcoming events? “Always is my best answer! As I said before I often have something else in the works before one ends so to keep up to date with my exhibitions/ workshops/ etc… I encourage folks to like my Facebook page as I usually post my upcoming events. The most current things I have coming up are a few group shows coming up.”