Rowan Willigan is a visual artist, muralist ,dancer, choreographer and photographer. She’s also the artistic director of a dance company, The D’amby Project, where she teaches dance, choreography, and performs. As a visual artist, she’s also heavily inspired by movement, shapes, visual contrasts, and line – details in her abstract work that come from her identity as a dancer.
What led you to the work you are doing? How do the dots connect to now?
Taking risks and working tirelessly has led me to where I am now. I’ve been experimenting with the arts since I was very young, and have always been excited and open to trying new methods and materials. I started dancing when I was five years old, and found that I LOVED it. I trained for 13 years before heading to college to study studio art. I now co-direct a dance company and school that I started with a friend 7 years ago. Movement has always informed my visual art, and I’m so grateful that I’ve devoted so much time to understanding my body and how to use it in endless ways to create work.
Describe your creative process for us. What steps do you go through when you’re working through a project?
My creative process consists of elongated bursts of energy followed by periods of reflection. I like to dedicate several hours to a creative session to work on one stage of a project. I then like to hang the piece up on a wall and take a break from it for a week or two. I like to live with it in my space, and stare at it for a while. The longer I stare at it, the more I realize what the piece needs. Cue another 6 hour work session for the next stage. I work like that, on and off, til I feel like something is finished.
Coming from the creative world, is there a certain piece of art that speaks most to you?
Over the years, so much art has spoken to me and kept me going. My tastes have changed over time. Currently, I’m working as an art conservation technician part-time, and we’ve been working on several massive metal abstract sculptures. Currently, these pieces are speaking to me and making me feel so alive. I think it’s because I’m so involved with them at this point that they feel like a part of me. I have helped sand them, take them apart, put them back together. I feel like I’m now a part of the lives of these sculptures, and therefore feel very protective and passionate about them.
What is the relationship you have with your clothes?
My clothes serve as a deep source of expression and confidence for me and always have. As an artist, I take my clothing very seriously, especially when I’m meeting clients for the first time. My clothes aim to project an image of creativity, individuality, and confidence. I try to take advantage of that opportunity to curate my closet by using clothes to represent my point of view as an artist and a human being existing in this world.
What is something you created that you’re most proud of, and why?
Last year, I was working on a project in the Freehand New York hotel in New York City. Over the course of the year, I travelled back and forth from home to the city and completed upwards of 60 murals each in different guest rooms within the hotel. I’m so proud of the work I did for that project, and all that I discovered and the fears I conquered along the way. That project gave me a lot of confidence and showed me all the exciting work that comes out of me when I’m asked to create such a huge volume of new imagery.
Share a story that inspires you.
Another part-job I have is working in a library. I started working in this particular library when I was 13. My mom is the children’s librarian and director, so I work alongside her. I hear and witness such wonderful stories and snippets of people’s lives on a daily basis. It’s hard to isolate just one story. But I love being so close to a community that comes in daily to learn, read, and share their lives with me and the other staff. Collectively, the wealth of human connection I experience working this job is incredibly uplifting and makes me feel more human.
Reconnecting with the idea that fashion should be a slow process in order for it to be done well and sustainably. Our world and our notions of fashion aren’t bent toward the handmade and one of a kind anymore, and I personally have made the promise to myself to only buy items of clothing made by small sustainable companies or artisans who make everything with their two hands. I purposely save my money to make these purchases and therefore am accuring much less clothing, which I’m wholeheartedly embracing as a great thing. We don’t need excess. We just need enough, and that in and of itself is an expressive fashion statement that I can stand behind.
We are inspired by Rowan’s creative expression in dance and studio art and how the two connect with one another, and are proud to have her as Fieldtesters, a group of inspiring individuals that test MATTER products in their everyday journeys of passion, to help us improve durability and design. Rowan is wearing the Classic Jumpsuit + Avani in Size 2.