Talk:Craft with Mara Magyarosi of Arosi Lee
The Arosi Lee shop is a vivid yet hazy dream world composed of photographic transfer art pieces, but—here’s the interesting part—not the kind of photography that most people think of first. The art of Arosi Lee is all about alternative process and experimentation. She specializes in transferring her photos onto nontraditional surfaces, such as wood, tile, glass, fresco, or probably anything she can get her hands on. I’m an admirer of Mara’s out-of-the-box creativity and finally reached out to ask the stuff I’ve been dying to know about her art!
When did you begin playing with photo transfer and what attracted you to this art form?
I’ve been a photographer for what feels like my whole life, however photo transfer crashed into my life during my junior year of college in 2009. We had a class called Fine Art Photography Forms, and it was a class completely about how to take photography and make it more than just a set of prints out of a printer. We focused on quite a few different types of medium, including Inkaid on paper, aluminum printing, cyanotype, ect - but the medium that really caught my eye was transferring photography onto fresco. I did a small series of those for the class, got an A, and was forever stuck. After that, I did a few sets of images with fresco, but my eyes opened even more when I signed up for the next class of Photography and the Object. This class was actually cotaught with a teacher from photography and a teacher from metals/crafts - so it was really a wild, different perspective of what photography could be. I spent most of this class using different types of alcohol transfers and etching photographs into metal. I think more than anything that I’ve done, those two classes jump started this whole process.
What attracted me? Surprise, completely. Photography is filled with people who tell you that you must have a fantastic camera, not a fantastic eye. I really enjoyed the idea of photography being used with a medium that was purposely not perfect.
How do you achieve the unique look of your photography?
First, I start off by shooting in film on toy camera. I know that a lot of people think that Instagram and programs with filters can achieve a similar look (and believe me, I use them constantly!), however for my own personal work, I love authentic film. Toy camera is what gives it the dreamy look - the lens is made of plastic and is prone to light leaks and imperfections. It’s hard to show how my work is before it’s finished, because a transfer is a pretty fast process - once you have the transfer medium on the surface that you’re transferring to, it’s just a matter of letting it sit for a few minutes to complete the move.
How much time on average does it take to complete one piece?
If we are counting the time that it takes to take the images, it can take weeks or months to really complete a series. That said, the transfer process itself is pretty fast once the images are complete and ready to move - a transfer takes a few minutes to move over, but can take hours or even days to dry depending on the medium. My new work that uses gold leaf adds an additional step onto the process that can take even more time!
The bright side is that because it is photography and the process involves inkjet printing, I can make multiple transfers at the same time. Mind you, every single one is different and one of a kind because different things will lift when I lift the backing off of the transfer, but it does speed up the process a bit!
Your process involves a lot of factors that you don’t have full control over. More or less, how much of the final product comes out according to plan and how much of it was a surprise?
The beautiful thing about my process is that my plan changes constantly. When I’m taking the images, I just let my mind wander and my feet take me wherever they deem important. Once the film is back, I can really start to form what I want my end product to look like. Transfers, although very individual, have a pretty predictable way of moving ink over (for example, paper transfers all tend to show brush strokes, wood transfers will show the wood grain, fresco transfers will have little bubbles, ect), so once I know what medium I’m moving to, I have a pretty good idea of what it will look like. I have definitely been surprised though!
What does your workspace look like?
My space is filled with the things that I love the most. It’s one little room in my place that is completely piled with supplies, old cameras, and work that inspires me. I try to surround my desk with things that will keep me moving.
You really love experimenting with new ways to play with photography. Are you interested in expanding your shop to include something new in the future?
I’m really interested in a new type of light based medium called Inkodye. It seems to work similar to cyanotyping, but makes printing on fabric much easier. I haven’t gotten too much of an opportunity to play with it, but I think that once I do, it’ll definitely be the next move.
Also, I’m working MUCH more in gold leaf. I love using it - it really does take my photography another step forward from where it was before.
As a creative person, did you face any challenges with the business aspects of running an Etsy store?
ADVERTISING. Advertising is the hardest thing for me, because although I know that if people see my work in real life, they love it, it’s much harder to convey online. Having a background as a photography major has greatly benefited me in being able to shoot product photography, but even if I have the best photography in the world, if no one sees it, it’s rough!
I’m learning all the time. I think that’s what makes this my life’s passion - I can make my own work on my own terms, and have direct contact with my customers.
What has it been like to be a part of the Fish Indie network?
It’s fantastic! I’ve gotten much more exposure since I have been a part of Fish Indie than I ever had before - including interviews with IAMTHELAB and being included in the Winter 2014 version of the Lab Journal. I just found Fish Indie on a whim and was like, “Why not?” It’s been the most beneficial advertising that I’ve used so far and connected me with the people who are actually interested in my work.