Textile Art and the Beauty of Flow, with Victoria Villasana
The yarn on Victoria Villasana’s bold textile art isn’t the only thing flowing on this episode of The Cultured Podcast. From her creative process to her thoughts on success, Victoria allows “flow” to guide her path as an artist. And now she has flowed to the top of the art scene with her multidimensional work that is both uniquely playful and purposeful in its intention. Listen to this episode of The Cultured Podcast to learn how the story of one bad day turned into artwork that now hangs in galleries, in the homes of celebrities, and on the walls of city streets.
Michelle Khouri 0:00
What does it look like when you actually trust your curiosity so much that you allow it to lead you on a winding and wild journey that leads you straight to where you’re supposed to be? Today on The Cultured Podcast, we talk to Victoria Villasana all the way from Guadalajara, Mexico to find out how a life of creative exploration and curious freedom led her to being a thriving textile artist.
Welcome to The Cultured Podcast. I’m your host, Michelle Khouri. And together we’ll journey into the unknown reaches of the art world.
Hello, my babies! Oh my goodness. I love this interview with Victoria and I cannot wait for you to meet her and to hear her amazing perspective. She is just one of the warmest spirits I’ve had the pleasure of talking to on Cultured. But before we get there, you know what we need to do. We need to talk about what’s inspiring me this week and it’s pretty apropos. This week, I am inspired by Mexico City. I just recently went to Mexico City right before recording this episode, actually. I went for a quick long weekend. It was about four days with my best friend Masha, who you guys heard from in a previous episode when we went to Colombia, to Bogota. Mexico City was absolutely breathtaking. There are colors everywhere. There are smiles everywhere. There is music and food and it is an absolute multi-sensory explosion. I loved it so much. You know, I honestly wasn’t expecting to love Mexico City as much as I did. I will say I felt so in my Latinahood there. I felt, like, connected to my ancestors almost. It was a really amazing experience. And while a lot of people were sort of warning us and telling us like, “You have to be really safe there, it can get really dangerous,” I actually felt very safe the entire time. So I really felt welcomed. The people were amazing. The food was amazing. The culture, the history. I mean, the history is fascinating. I could do an entire episode like I did on Iceland, episode one. It’s fascinating, man. So yeah, it got me buzzing. It was a really nice much needed creative refresh, and I really appreciated that my best friend, that Masha forced me to go on this trip. She didn’t force me but she definitely encouraged me to make the space for it. And I’m so glad I did. Viva Mexico! be well may hiko nice yes put the ALA mode mosquito mucho my mama mama. Now we get to spend some time with a wonderful Mexicana. Let’s do it.
Hi Victoria. Welcome.
Victoria Villasana 3:24
Hi, how are you? Thank you for having me.
Michelle Khouri 3:27
Thank you so much for being with us today. I have been following your work for a while and it brings me so much joy and it also brings me that, like, kick-ass womanly feeling. Like, I feel very empowered by your work. So I’m really excited to share that inspiration, that empowerment that joy, with the Cultured Crew today. So let me start with something really simple, which is, you know, who are you and please describe your artwork.
Victoria Villasana 3:59
Well, my name is Victoria Villasana and I’m originally from Mexico. I’m a textile artist, slash, street artist as well.
Michelle Khouri 4:10
So what exactly do you mean by textile artists, though? Because it is not what anybody’s gonna conjure in their heads.
Victoria Villasana 4:17
Yeah, I know. I mean, because I didn’t study art. I mean, I studied design actually. So for me is I just came up with this name to describe a little bit what I do because every time that people ask me, “So what, what do you do?” Well, I use yarn and photography and I don’t know so it’s a term that made it shorter for me, you know, to explain to people.
Michelle Khouri 4:39
Victoria Villasana 4:39
But yeah, basically what I do is I work with textiles and I work with yarn, mainly, and photography. So I combine both elements.
Michelle Khouri 4:49
And you stitch these beautiful, intricate, and very colorful patterns onto these photos.
Victoria Villasana 4:58
Michelle Khouri 4:58
So, I mean, there’s just like so much there because it’s not just, like, pretty yarn on a photo. It’s seeped in rich histories of culture and tradition and pattern that are also you know, pattern can so often be reflective of culture and heritage and tradition. Let’s start with your culture, your heritage and your traditions. You are from Guadalajara and that’s actually where you’re calling in from, right?
Victoria Villasana 5:27
Michelle Khouri 5:29
So how does that inform how you see your own artwork? Like how do you feel like your heritage as a Mexican artist informs your actual artwork?
Victoria Villasana 5:39
I think in Mexico, everywhere you go, there is a lot of color. I don’t know. People like to use a lot of color like you are bombarded by color everywhere. And obviously, you know, the indigenous cultures in Mexico as well. So I think I was very influenced by everything around Mexico is doing, you know?
Michelle Khouri 6:00
Yes! I was astounded. I mean, I went to Mexico City recently and, I mean, it felt like coming home to ancestors in a way. Like, I felt so a part of my Latinahood when I was in Mexico. And I mean I do obviously in Colombia which is where my actual family is from, but seeing the color everywhere and like you said on altars, in sacred spaces, these bright pinks, bright yellows, bright blues and greens. They make you feel like you’ve come alive just by seeing these beautiful colors. It’s astounding.
Victoria Villasana 6:34
I think one of the things I always, whenever I was abroad, and I will miss about Mexico, it will be like the life on the streets. For me, I miss that. You know I love whenever I go somewhere and to be able to see that sort of chaos and people selling stuff, and I dont know, stuff like that I like that, you know? It makes me feel comfortable.
Michelle Khouri 6:57
So you like color. You like a dash of chaos.
Victoria Villasana 7:00
Michelle Khouri 7:03
And you like textiles. So it all started with you studying clothing design? Is that the kind of design you studied?
Victoria Villasana 7:11
No, it was a it was a combination of industrial and graphic design.
Michelle Khouri 7:17
Oh, wow. Okay.
Victoria Villasana 7:18
Yeah, it was a mixture.
Michelle Khouri 7:20
And what drew you to those disciplines?
Victoria Villasana 7:24
I used to say I wanted to be a painter or fashion designer. But both careers, like in Mexico are like, no way you’re going to study that, right? Like, because, you know, people always you know, it’s like the common thing to say like a you’re not gonna make any money out of art or you’re going to struggle a lot. And so you tend to go, “Okay, I will do design because design is kind of like…”
Michelle Khouri 7:48
It’s the commercial version of art.
Victoria Villasana 7:50
Yeah, exactly. Exactly. But when I was there, to be honest, I didn’t feel it. I was like, I was a frustrated artist. You know, because, I don’t know, I didn’t feel that the design as much. I like to break rules.
Michelle Khouri 8:08
Victoria Villasana 8:08
I don’t like to follow rules. You know, like, in design you need to follow certain rules. And I never liked that.
Michelle Khouri 8:16
Design is like you can break the rules within the rules, right?
Victoria Villasana 8:20
Michelle Khouri 8:20
There’s like the rule set and then it’s like, oh, break the rules, as long as you follow the rules. Is that led you to London?
Victoria Villasana 8:27
Yeah, I was supposed to go on a study for six months only in London. But then when I arrived there, I felt like oh my god, this is a place I’ve been looking for all my life or something like that. You know?
Michelle Khouri 8:39
I love London. Yeah, I love it.
Victoria Villasana 8:41
Everywhere on the street, like the multiculturalism, the, I don’t know. Like, the museums, everything. Like I was like, I need to stay here.
Michelle Khouri 8:51
And you stayed for 12 years?
Victoria Villasana 8:53
Yeah, I think even a bit more.
Michelle Khouri 8:57
Wow. That is a solid residency.
Victoria Villasana 9:01
Michelle Khouri 9:02
No, but I love that because also, like, that rejuvenated your mindset. I mean, I think a city like that can really inject you full of self-discovery and creative self-discovery, which is exactly what happened to you, I suppose, isn’t it? I mean, that’s sort of what led you to this, not sort of, that is what led you to the place where you are now and the discovery of your current art form. Right? So tell us a little bit about that catalyst moment.
Victoria Villasana 9:29
I think there was 100 catalysts moments, like when I was there. I think to start it was just that to get out of your bubble, you know? From Mexico. I went there when I was like 21 or something, you know, so super young. And yeah, and at the beginning it wasn’t easy you know, like, because you’re so used to and there is this element of getting used to feeling really lonely as well and vulnerable.
Michelle Khouri 9:58
Victoria Villasana 10:00
But also I felt really free, you know? Because I was doing stuff that I wouldn’t do in in Mexico. Like I would walk for hours and watch people and sit in cafes on my own. And so it was like an exploration of myself. So that way there was a lot of catalyst I think from the beginning was element of creativity always in the center of what I was doing.
Michelle Khouri 10:22
That’s very clear. I think even just looking at your work now and the very many levels and layers to it. It’s very clear that the mind behind it processes a multitude of messages and symbols and philosophies at once. And you mash those all together into your final product, you know? And that’s a pretty spectacular thing to bear witness to.
Victoria Villasana 10:47
I didn’t plan it but what I’m doing now it feels so right, you know? I feel like this is what I came here to do kind of feeling, you know?
Michelle Khouri 10:59
Ooh, Victoria! That’s so beautiful!
Victoria Villasana 11:03
I mean, obviously, it was easy, you know? I did a lot of things before that I was like, straight away everything. So that’s why I always say to people, you know, you don’t need to know exactly what you want to do right now. You just need to have maybe one or two things clear that you won’t compromise. For me was like, I don’t want to work in an in an office, obviously. And, you know, I want to be my own boss. And then I think life itself sort of brings you a possibility.
Michelle Khouri 11:36
Totally. I want to say it was Elizabeth Gilbert, who was talking about passion versus curiosity. And she gave a talk and she was basically like, it’s not about passion, because not everyone exists from a place of pure, unflinching knowing of what they want to do and pure passion for it. But she’s like, but the key to finding passion is curiosity and following all of the forks in the road no matter how random they may appear, with that sheer sense of openness and curiosity, because eventually it will actually lead to passion. And it sounds like that’s what happened with you.
Victoria Villasana 12:19
Yeah, I’ve been reading a lot of books about flowing actually. A lot of people they go to really high levels in like CEOs and stuff like that, you know, just by flowing. It’s going with the flow which sounds ridiculous for most mentality, that society teaches us. People are starting to open up and actually you know, flowing is better.
Michelle Khouri 12:43
Flowing is better. I mean, speaking of chaos, all of our entire universe is chaos. It’s just like somewhat elegant chaos. And if we try to pretend we have control over everything and we can predict the outcomes of every step of our lives, we’re fooling ourselves. And I feel like that’s really what perpetuates anxiety. So let’s talk about your surrender. I do know that there was a moment that pushed you to a certain creative breaking point where you were like, “you know what? F it. I’m just going to like try this out,” and that’s actually what led to where you are now as an artist. Tell us about that moment. I’m thinking specifically when you left your house on a really bad day. (laughter)
Victoria Villasana 13:27
I love that story to be honest. Yeah, because for me honestly that day changed my life I think. If I wouldn’t have gone out for for milk that day… I think sometimes the signs are in any moment. People are looking for big signs or whatever. And they just arrive, you know? If we pay attention to them. So that day, I was having a bay day and I was frustrated because I didn’t know what to do. I was in fashion and I wasn’t very happy. You know, I wasn’t enjoying as much as I did in the beginning, so I wanted to change a little bit. And I went out and I saw this guy on my road, putting this little paste up with paint. And that’s a type of art that is used in street art. And then when he left I saw that he did like a little miniature of a scene or something like that. And I really liked it, so I google him and he happened to be Mexican as well, that guy.
Michelle Khouri 14:28
Oh my god!
Victoria Villasana 14:28
In London! And at the time, I was doing what I do right now as a hobby. So I had millions of images from magazines with yarn on them.
Michelle Khouri 14:41
Wow, so you were already doing that.
Victoria Villasana 14:43
Yeah, I was doing it just because I was doing fashion styling. For fashion styling you do this creative brief or some color theme or stuff like that to do the styling. And I had all this magazines, so what I was doing was stitching on them, you know, like a hobby.
Michelle Khouri 15:05
So it all came together at that moment and you started stitching with colorful patterns and that was just to pass the time but then you saw this guy wheatpasting on your street who happened to be Mexican–there are no coincidences–and that that sparked something in you.
Victoria Villasana 15:28
Exactly. So I remember coming back home and seeing all my desk full of these images with yarn on them and thinking, you know, I’m just gonna put them out there like this guy, you know? It was a point for me to have them in the corner, you know, under something so someone can’t see them or something. It was not at all like, “Oh I’m just going do it. And I’m gonna become an artist. And I’m going to make money out of this.” You know? Never. Never. It was just pure like a child, really.
Michelle Khouri 16:03
Victoria Villasana 16:03
So that next weekend I just went out (laughter) and pasted my little you know, my collection on the streets of London.
Michelle Khouri 16:04
So let’s focus on your career now because the big spoiler alert to the Cultured Crew if they haven’t followed you before, because they will now, is that fast forward–how many years ago was that?
Victoria Villasana 16:26
Michelle Khouri 16:27
Oh my god. Okay, fast forward three years, which is not a very long time. And you’ve exploded in the art world. I mean, you’re known for this. And it is your art is truly spectacular. And now you’re playing with scale. And so tell us about what are you doing now with your art that you could have never imagined even trying before?
Victoria Villasana 16:53
I mean, well, to start, like traveling around the world making exhibition, some installations or editorial as well. I don’t know it’s just a lot of things that I would have never expected.
Michelle Khouri 17:09
So let’s talk about your process because that’s really what you feel so passionately about that’s what you treasure. Where do you begin? How is a piece, or even the concept of a piece, born in your mind?
Victoria Villasana 17:24
I think a lot of my pieces are inspired by people. I feel really inspired by people who follow their own path. And it sounds like a cliche but I love people that they try to challenge what is already said. Because for me, they’re the visionaries the people that they really change things. But right now I’m kind of moving more into anything that is happening in my life right now, emotionally, my processes starts from that–from the emotion of the curiosity of something because then I start to research on the internet. And that, like opens other things and maybe start to read about something I wasn’t looking at at the beginning. But then I found that really interesting and I ended up making the piece about that.
Michelle Khouri 18:13
Is there something you felt that way about recently?
Victoria Villasana 18:17
Yeah, I mean, a lot of the stuff I’m doing recently, I think it’s inspired because at the beginning I was doing, as well I remember, some of the street art pieces it was related with. Sometimes just pop art but also social causes. Because for me, that element is very important in creativity, I think. Because before, I think, when I was doing fashion or floristry, that was good in terms of creativity. I always wanted to say a question or talk about the other things that I see around me, you know, that I’m not completely happy, or injustice or inequality or stuff like that. So I always like art that is not only pretty but also says something about ourselves or our conditions. So I always wanted to do this mixture of both things. So what I do right now, I think that’s why I was telling you that I feel like you really resonate hundred percent with me, because I get to do something creative, which I love, but with also a message that is very connected with my heart.
Michelle Khouri 19:25
Yeah, exactly. So the other question I have for you about your process has to do with the paper. Was there a journey of finding the right paper? Because you’re punching holes? You’re embroidering it. I imagine that there must have been some trial and error where the paper would have ripped a lot?
Victoria Villasana 19:45
Not as much as people think, you know? You have to remember I started doing this stitching in magazine paper, which is super thin.
Michelle Khouri 19:53
I know that’s what I was thinking that must have ripped a lot.
Victoria Villasana 19:56
No because if you start to work with materials you start to understand and you start to learn how to make them work for your advantage.
Michelle Khouri 20:06
Victoria Villasana 20:10
So yeah, and also, for example, the street art pieces is just paper, like ball paper.
Michelle Khouri 20:16
It’s just, like, copy paper?
Victoria Villasana 20:19
Yes, but I have I have my tricks. I have my tricks to make it…I just put tape behind.
Michelle Khouri 20:27
Victoria Villasana 20:30
I gave my little sneaky secret.
Michelle Khouri 20:33
No, but I love your wheatpasting. I mean, you’re doing such a diverse set of kinds of work. So you’re doing, you know, you’re sticking with your one art form but you’re doing it. You’re hanging in galleries. You’re doing commission. You know, sticking with the street art. And there’s something really beautiful about that diversity because it’s taking art and putting it everywhere. And it’s defying. There is a sense of defiance in my mind. You’re doing your gallery shows and you have some celebrity commissions and commissions of all kinds, but you’re still finding time and ways to put this out in the street for free. They’re fun. They move with the wind because the threads you have the yarn hanging down far beyond the image and so you play with that and so the wind I just saw on your stories today the wind is blowing through the yarn as like people are playing behind it. It’s super cool.
Victoria Villasana 21:31
I enjoy so much going, you know, doing street art. If I have the time and I’m traveling somewhere for work, you know to do a project, in my sneaky hours I have free I always put something out there, you know? Because I enjoy it. Even if I know there may be one hour it’s not going be there, or it’s not gonna last as much, I still enjoy the feeling, you know?
Michelle Khouri 21:54
Victoria Villasana 21:55
Most artists, they generally just want to share with people what they do.
Michelle Khouri 22:00
It’s like, I know a lot of artists are doing this, but I think that you do it with such a pure intention. You know, I talked to a lot of artists all the time and a lot of people do street art for recognition, right? There is a sense of, is it really art if nobody sees it, and nobody knows that it’s me. And I think for you, it’s more the release of it, and seeing how it impacts people and causes ripples. And I, I can tell in the way that you describe things, and talk about flow and separation, that you do see us all as sort of these interconnected energy points, right, rather than these, like separate human beings.
Victoria Villasana 22:38
Michelle Khouri 22:38
That’s very unique in the art world. And I love that about you.
Victoria Villasana 22:43
I love the fact that the strings, it’s a metaphor of that belief, as well. Because, you know, I see that interconnectedness. And I try to do it that in my images as well, so I just let it flow. I just don’t care. You know, a little bit like I’m kind of, very comfortable with it. I don’t try to control at all. Every time that I feel like something is not working, I just leave it for a second, go for a walk, come back, and then I continue and it’s fine. Or if I did a mistake, I don’t care. You know, it’s like a child, they just literally grabs crayons and starts doing a lot of like, whatever stuff, that’s the way I feel. Obviously, if I control whatever with a purpose, but it’s a little bit late. And you know, I feel like a child with crayons, basically.
Michelle Khouri 23:41
That’s that beautiful balance between control and chaos. You know, that you exercise every time you make a piece. So we’re just gonna beautifully bring that concept full circle. No big deal. Mic drop. I think my final question for you is: where do you think your creativity is going to lead you next? Or where is it already leading you next with your work?
Victoria Villasana 24:08
I think I really want to start to combine writing. Exactly what I do in my instagram. Sometimes, most of the time, whenever I’m sharing something, there is a little explanation of why or what I connected to that subject or what I wanted to say a little bit. So I would like to do that, like with a book, for example.
Michelle Khouri 24:33
Oh, I love that. Okay, so where can we find your work and visit you online?
Victoria Villasana 24:43
My main focus is Instagram. There is where I really update constantly what I’m working on what I’m doing. But yeah, my website is Victoriavillasana.com and my Instagram is villanaart.
Michelle Khouri 24:58
And we’ll have all those links in the show notes, which will also include a full transcript of this conversation, so that everybody can find you and see your gorgeous work. Thank you so much Victoria for being here with us today. I enjoyed this so much.
Victoria Villasana 25:16
Thank you. Me too. Thank you, Michelle. Thank you for the invitation and I hope people enjoyed.
Michelle Khouri 25:27
Oh my goodness. What a spectacular human being she is. I’m so grateful that we got to spend some time getting to know Victoria today. And as always, until our next journey into the unknown: keep it classy, keep it curious, keep it Cultured.