a-z collective is a collaborative art group led by two local female artists – Amanda McKinney Sparrow and Zorica Silverthorne. Their latest exhibition, Thyme Travellers, will be on display at HCA until November 17. We spoke to Amanda and Zorica about their artistic processes, creative partnership, and advice for aspiring artists. Don’t miss the collective’s opening reception for Thyme Travellers on Sunday, October 21 at 4pm, following the Zemlinsky Quartet concert!
How did the a-z Collective form? What are your individual artistic backgrounds and how did you meet?
Zorica: The a-z Collective formed naturally as we both realized we wanted to create collaborative works and be part of a close knit artistic group. We decided to use the initials of our first names, which conveniently book end the alphabet and can accommodate additional artists should we chose to invite others to join.My background is in illustration. I took Art Fundamentals then Interpretive Illustration at Sheridan College, with a more specialized interest in Book illustration.
We met through the Women’s Art Association of Hamilton as it was serendipitous that we joined in the same year. We were individually asked to volunteer on projects, which eventually brought us together.
Amanda: I began post secondary school in Early Childhood Education at Niagara College. Followed by Photography at Niagara College. This led to an Art Fundamentals Certificate, Sheridan College. Next, I attended OCAD University, earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts, majoring in drawing and painting, with an unofficial minor in printmaking.
What is your process for creating a project or exhibition together?
Zorica: Our process starts out with an idea, mostly stemming from subjects that influence us in one way or another. We discuss the idea and elaborate on the overall feel of the exhibition and we decide on the total amount of works we’d like to create and the total collaborative works. Then we discuss what we’d like to do individually but usually we don’t see our works until close to the exhibition date. We don’t tend to influence each other in regards to style but when we work on collaborative works we harmonize our efforts.
A great deal of your work focuses on exploring our natural environment. Can you explain how your current exhibit feeds into this, in terms of both thematic material and medium/media?
Zorica: Our current exhibition feeds into the idea of exploring our natural environment by utilizing natural materials we find in nature to create our works. We were really interested in making natural dyes, inks and paint mediums using materials we obtained on our own. Some materials were foraged from our home and backyards by means of waste or plants found on our properties. Egg temperas were created using pureed food waste like beets or strawberries. Watercolours were made using earth pigments that were ground into a fine powder. Fabrics were dyed using herbs and plants. Thematically we drew imagery from nature, the materials that were foraged and subjects that influenced us.
Amanda: The title of our exhibition, Thyme Travellers, aims to link the exploration of the environment and creative process with the idea that making natural media is usually viewed as a historical process.
How would you describe the artistic community in Hamilton and your experiences as visual artists producing work here?
Amanda: It’s growing. I have had many opportunities to exhibit in Hamilton and the surrounding area as a member of the Women’s Art Association of Hamilton (WAAH). Hamilton is in the middle. It’s fun & interesting because there are lots of things to do but it’s not so overwhelming.
Zorica: Growing up in Hamilton, I got involved with the artistic community through the WAAH. Since moving to Hagersville, the WAAH brings me back to the city for exhibitions and events.
What is your advice for young aspiring artists?
Zorica: Don’t compare yourself to others, never stop learning and just keep working on your art.
Amanda: Volunteer, keep learning, stay focused.
Do you have any other projects coming up? Any artistic territory that you are interested in exploring that you haven’t had the chance to experiment with yet?
Zorica: Currently no but we have an idea we’re brainstorming about.
Amanda: Aside from a-z, Zorica and I are both actively involved with the WAAH. 2019 is the 125th Anniversary year, we are planning many events around Hamilton with our committees.