Meet the Local Artist: Nancy Roy

Submitted a year ago
Created by
Amy Fortier

Turning memories into totebags

Every week I highlight a local Upper Valley artist or maker. I give them a list of questions and they choose to answer as many of them however they'd like. I hope you enjoy meeting our local artists!  (Would you like to be featured in "Meet the Local Artist"? Email Amy at RVCAmy at gmail dot com)

This week I'd like to introduce you to Nancy Roy - she turns memories into totebags 

Nancy in her happy place "APT C"

Bio and History

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I'm a blissfully retired educator creating TOTES made from meaningful materials and fabric. "Carry your memories with you" is my tag line. 

Before: A beach towel, sweatshirt and flipflops

After (1): A custom totebag made with someone's treasured items.

After (2): The bottom of the bag using the flipflops.

How did you get started with art? Have you had any training?

I was raised by a sign-painter and a consummate homemaker.  Both ran an artists' supply shop until moving to the "country."  My maternal grandmother sewed everything, from hats to wedding dresses, while my maternal grandfather was a master carpenter.  I come by creativity from "need."  The need for clothes, for a livelihood, and yes, for enjoyment.

When did you first define yourself as an artist?

In elementary and high school I won art contests, but it wasn't until making these totes that the word artist was used.

Do you make art for a living? If so, for how long have you been about to do that? What jobs have you had other than being an artist? If you don't make your living doing art, what do you do in "real life"?

Sometimes I wonder if NOT making art for my living is holding me back.  I am wonderfully happy in retirement and feel fulfilled with every stitch and project.  However, I would like to find more people to delight with my creations, and to pay for the "cost" of being out in the digital world... websites, marketing, fairs, displays, etc.

How much time do you spend doing art?

I've heard many retired folks complain about not having enough time for everything!  Now I am one of them.  I was always very disciplined when working (10 years teaching Kindergarten, 4 as a principal, then Project Manager for Apple Computer, and the last 20 years at the Community College in Claremont as a psychology professor) and now the days slip away!!  So, to answer the question...sporadically.  And then, once the muse is aroused and I have a project, it's constant for days.

How do you work? Do you have a routine?

A few years ago, I realized even when I "worked" I never called it that.  I have played school since I was a little girl, so I've never considered what I've done working.  My routine is to run in the morning, come home, journal, breakfast and then upstairs, for my higher perspective. 

And now I PLAY!!  I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE where I create.  In fact, because I have never lived on my own, or had an apartment of my own, I call my studio - APT. C  - A Place TCreate... my higher perspective APT. C with skylights opening to infinite possibilities.


What are your passions outside of art? What's something non-creative that you do to balance and recharge?

I love reading and belong to a few book groups.  I like collaging and making altered books.  I'm a letter writer too, sending out newspaper clippings and articles of interest.  I love using Forever Stamps.  Non-creative?  Running, exercising.


What medium/media do you use? Why do you like it/them?

Fabric.  Thread.  Buttons, oh la, la!!  Love the texture, the colors, the designs.

What medium have you tried that you don't like?

Mmm, not crazy about wood.  It's hard, and noisy using a saw.  Mmm, maybe I should try whittling!

If you had only one kind of art supply to use for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Yikes!!  What a question!!  Guess I would stay with my cloth!  Thinking paper, but for the rest of MY life I couldn't be without my sewing machine and some kind of fabric!!

What do you do with pieces you don't like?

Mmm, actually I should start a graveyard, as I just came across some unfinished projects, and they are simply taking up too much room in APT. C.  The curse of creativity - I can imagine creating something from most anything!!

Creation and Inspiration

Where do you get your ideas? How do you get started on a piece? How do you know when you're done?

Believe it or not, when I am running.  People give me their items and the ideas come... like using flip flops on the bottom of a beach towel tote.  I take their items apart, all the while "feeling" their story, and thinking, pondering...

What/who inspires you?

Being outside.  Looking at magazines.  Reading.  Listening to NPR.  Just this morning, I was listening to On Being with Krista Tippet and heard poet Nikki Giovanni utter some inspiration to me...  "Everything is a lesson. And so you have to find out what’s the lesson, and how do I embrace this lesson, and how do I go forward? And you have to watch out for the bitterness. That’s what you don’t want to be bothered with."

What's the best thing about being an artist? What's the worse?

Best: Playing and creating what's in my head.  And then being surprised by the outcome!  

The worst: pricing.

What makes you unique as an artist?

I have seen quilts and totes, but never custom totes created from the "fabric of someone's life."  

How do you get past a creative block?

Journal, read my Daily Word from Unity, or Daily Guides from Science of Mind.  Walk away.  Sleep on it.  Go running.  

What is your dream project?

So far, all my projects have all been dreams realized.  Once I deliver the final project, the reactions have all confirmed that I am on the right path.  I truly LOVE making these totes.

What are your fears as an artist? 

That I will be distracted from my purpose and overwhelmed by voices chanting "make some money." 

What's the best piece of advice (or a quote) you've been given regarding art and creativity?

I have a PhD in Creativity.  I have written many, many pages about the creative spirit.  No one specific phrase or quote comes to mind.  Much advice and many quotes have crossed my path, just when I needed something to inspire me.  (See my previous comment about listening to On Being this morning.) I guess just keep an open mind and heart.  Be conscious and grateful. Journal and follow Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way, which I have been doing since 1993.  Three pages every day.  Funny though, another requirement is a weekly artist date.  I seem to skip that assignment!

About Art and Artists

What do people not realize about being an artist?

I truly believe we all are artists in one form or another.  Some of us work at honing our skills while others lament that they have none.  As a Kindergarten teacher I never met a child who did not have a creative spirit of some sort.  Of course, perhaps it was my perception that colored the scenery.

What do you think are the qualities that define an artist?

Perseverance.  Discipline to "keep on keeping on."  Faith.  

What do you admire in other artists?

Belief in themselves and their process.

Is there an artist you particularly admire/emulate/enjoy? Why?

Poet David Whyte.  Poet & writer Julia Alvarez.  Poet Naomi Shihab Nye.  Writer and Physician Rachel Naomi Remen.  Writers Anne Lamott and Robert Fulghum. All VERMONT PUBLIC RADIO programming! 

Sharing Your Art

Do you accept commissions? What is the process for working with you to create a custom piece? 

Absolutely! I prefer working directly with a person. I would send them a questionnaire about the items, asking about where the items came from, and to whom they belonged, why a tote, etc... Each questionnaire is tailored to the individual after we've spoken on the phone or exchanged a few emails.  The process might take awhile, as the creative flow comes from and through both of us.  For example, after meeting with one woman, I ended up making baby bibs with her Dad's clothes, for the new babies in the family.  Another woman thought her mother's paint spattered jacket wasn't acceptable, but once it was pulled out of the closet, the jacket became the centerpiece of the tote.

Do you offer classes/workshops? If so, what kind and where?

Not at this time.

Where is your favorite place to take a class/workshop (locally or otherwise)?

Genesis Spiritual Life Center in Westfield, MA is a great place to rejuvenate your spirit.  I’ve attended Altered Books at the Hanover League Headquarters. I get something out of every workshop I’ve ever attended.  I LOVE going to school.

Where can we find you/your work? (Website, Facebook, Galleries, Instagram etc...)


Did you enjoy this interview? You might also like:

Last Week's Interview - Sam Wiebkin, Multi-Media Artist

Next Week's Interview - Annette Picher Houston, Acrylic Painter

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More about the author, Amy Fortier: Her Artist Interview


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