Introducing ScrantonMade Artist Alicia Grega of SubVerse Aphrodesia

Sunday, September 23, 2012
We are thrilled to introduce ScrantonMade artist Alicia Grega of SubVerse Aphrodesia.

Hey Alicia!  

Tell us a little about yourself, your background & occupation....

I’m a theatre geek at heart because while I love the escape of a good story and its ability to help us transform, there is no greater rush than having all of your senses engaged in a live, community forum.
Everything else I’ve gotten into over the years – arts journalism, jewelry making, teaching, photography – has been about diversifying my skills to ultimately become more marketable, but within a framework of personal values that’s more about growing a nurturing quality of life than it is about making money in order to consume according to someone else’s values.
My ancestors are Eastern European immigrants who moved to NEPA for the coal industry but I grew up all over the country. I settled in Scranton in 1999 and it’s meant a lot for me to give my children (Miranda Anais, 16 and Frances Maia, 14) roots and a place that they’ll be able to call home no matter where life takes them.

It seems you have your hands in a little bit of everything- from theatrical production, to acting, to writing, to photography, to fine art prints, tile making and jewelry- what will you be featuring on ScrantonMade?

I’m planning to feature a few of my Scranton specific items that have been well-received with a new idea or two, keeping the focus on simple, affordable pieces ScrantonMade shoppers can give as gifts or keep for themselves. I’ll continue to maintain my full inventory of more complex and one-of-a-kind pieces elsewhere.

Specifically, I’m working on building my inventory of historic Scranton map/postcard pendants and tie tacks, abstract Scranton architecture tiles, lotus root jewelry, bowtie necklaces, and/or a new polymer clay series of jewelry (probably mushrooms).

When did you start making jewelry and how has the work evolved over the years?

I’ve always been interested in design and fashion and started exploring photography shortly after joining the staff of Electric City in 2001. I had never thought of myself as the craft sort however, and it wasn’t until the fall of 2009 that I began making jewelry.
I had received a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts to do a series of presentations on the NeoVaudeville movement and resurgence in Burlesque/Cabaret-style aesthetics. I was looking for some kind of merchandise I might offer beyond the rock ‘n’ roll show standards and started making pieces that reflected the retro-Victorian and DIY aesthetics my research talked about. People liked it and I discovered I liked it.

Making things with my hands continues to prove a refreshing diversion after staring at a computer screen eight or more hours a day.

What is your favorite piece (or line) and what inspired its creation?

The latest thing I’ve done is almost always my favorite. I’m a sucker for gemstones and artisan glass in general and love beading patterns with different textures and sizes of stones in complementary colors. This summer I worked with recycled glass and African trade beads. Most recently, I created a series of vintage-inspired cocktail hat/fascinators in conjunction with a jazz age speakeasy benefit party we held for the theater.

Do you offer custom work and what types?

Yes. I love a good challenge. Tell me what you have in mind and if it’s in my skill set, I’ll get right to work on it. I’ve taken orders for wedding jewelry and party accessories and created custom-blended color clay or resin flower pieces, as well as personalized gifts. My abstract architecture tiles developed out of a commission last winter.

What are some great things about being an artist in Scranton?

I love lack of distraction in Scranton. There is plenty to do if you go out and look for it, but you’re not constantly being bombarded with the random stimulus of a larger city. It’s easy to live simply and stay productive here. And I love the natural beauty of this region and the rhythm of the four seasons. Also, because we’re not overwhelmed with choices here, you can really feel the impact of the work you do here whether it be a theatrical production, arts & crafts show, or volunteering for First Friday Scranton.

What have been some of the struggles?

Like everyone else probably, my main struggles have been financial. I’ve been fortunate in that the last couple of years I’ve been able to make enough of a profit to justify the expenses of teaching myself how to do what I’m doing. But I feel there’s so much still beyond my reach. I really want to be working more with metal but the equipment and supplies are a serious investment. Likewise, I could happily dive deeper into millinery – I’ve been a big fan of hats since childhood, but I’m not quite sure Scranton can support a specialty hat boutique right now.

I rely on my day job to support my children and that consumes a lot of the time I might have used to take my other initiatives to the next level.

You are involved in so many projects!  How do you fit it all in?  

I work before work and I work after work and usually work through my lunch break. But when you love what you’re doing, it doesn’t feel so much like work, it feels like you’re making something beautiful or a program with the potential to entertain or inspire. I listen to a lot of audio books and podcasts while I work, which helps ease the tediousness of tasks like beading or toning photos.

Still, I don’t feel that I’m doing it all very gracefully. When I’m working on a show, weeks will go by when I don’t work in the studio. I see my friends at the theater and other cultural events, but I don’t “go out” much anymore. And I do have weekends when I just collapse on the couch, let my eyes glace over and succumb to whatever awful teen television my kids are watching.

Necessity is a big factor. If you want to make a living as an artist, diversification is essential. The market and trends change quickly and the more you know how to do the better able you’re going to be able to survive.

How has the art community in Scranton evolved since you have been a part of it?

The art community was really riding a positive wave from the turn of this century that seemed to peak around 2004 and then dip slightly before washing up in a heap of challenges brought on by recession. And it’s not just Scranton – artists have been struggling nationwide to get people to give up big box discount consumption and support their local efforts of a more meaningful and higher quality, if more expensive.

What do you love most about selling your handmade wares?

I love the challenge of breathing real tangible success into an abstract concept or vision. I love looking at something, saying, “I have no idea how to do that,” and then learning how to do it and making it happen. I love making something available to people that they didn’t know existed or didn’t know they wanted or didn’t know they could afford.

Upcoming Events:
First Friday Exhibit at GreenBeing, downtown Scranton
Opening Reception October 5th; running through October

Dionysia '12: Apocalypse (2nd annual Jason Miller Playwrights' project invitational)
Sept 20-30th
The Olde Brick Theatre, Scranton
Click here for tickets

Connect with Alicia
Twitter: @svaphro
Instagram: aligrega

Alicia's favorite blogs/ publications

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