017 - Mia Van Veen

017 - Mia Van Veen

She came to the studio looking for a shop that could help produce a portion of the welding and metal fabrication work needed for her upcoming exhibit in Norway. It was deep into 2020 when the pandemic was at a particularly uncertain trajectory.

Listen to this episode to learn how we worked together during the pandemic and discover our similar approaches to design - despite growing up on opposite ends of the world.


Mia Van Veen is a Norwegian artist based in Oslo and Vancouver. She has a (BFA) degree from Emily Carr University (CA) and graduated with a MA from the Iceland Academy of the Arts (IS) in 2017.

Her work has been exhibited at Gerðarsafn Kópavogur museum (IS), ISCA gallery (NO), Sunset Terrace (CA), and Trapp Gallery (CA).

She was recently awarded a grant / residency at the Banff Art Centre, Alberta (CA).


Alex Velasquez:0:01

Welcome to the Apollo road podcast, Mia.

Mia Van Veen:0:05

Thank you very much, Alex.

Alex Velasquez:0:07

So it's just about an eight hour difference between the United States and Oslo right now. So thank you for getting up early in the morning to do the podcast. I'm staying up a little bit late. But we finally got it done.

Mia Van Veen:0:27

Nothing like a 6am. Sunday morning.

Alex Velasquez:0:31

Yeah, I'd say more of a sacrifice on your part.

Mia Van Veen:0:36

I actually have a I have a new puppy that wakes me up at 5am Every morning, so so it's actually not too bad. Getting used to it now.

Alex Velasquez:0:47

little furry alarm clock?

Mia Van Veen:0:49

Absolutely. Yeah. A very, very cute one.

Alex Velasquez:0:53

Yeah. Thank you so much for doing the podcast. We met about a year and a half ago. In Albuquerque, of all places, you were in town. And first off, you're a 3d mixed media artist. Is that how you would categorize your artwork?

Mia Van Veen:1:19

Yeah, I would say I'm a visual artist. I'm focusing on sculpture, metal.

Alex Velasquez:1:25

Yes, a lot of physical form sculpture. So why were you in Albuquerque? And when we met? And how did you? How did you come across our studio?

Mia Van Veen:1:40

Yeah, I did a little bit of research before arriving there. We were there because of a project that my husband is a DP. And he was filming a movie over the winter 2020. And I was looking for a shop to produce some work for an exhibition in Norway. So because of our, our jobs, we sort of tend to move around quite a bit and sort of need to know how to navigate, you know, the shops, wherever, wherever I am. And some friends of mine in Australia, who had been living in in New Mexico for a while they, they knew your dad, and they sort of sent me to, to the shop where I met you and your dad and sort of during this strange time in Albuquerque and in the world in general, but I didn't really think that we will be able to sort of work together and the way that we ended up doing because of COVID and the shutdown. And just like the general paranoia that was going around. But you guys were so welcoming. And we sort of ended up working pretty closely together, you know, masks and no masks. And but yeah,

Alex Velasquez:3:03

yeah, it was, it was such a curveball, because as


It makes a huge difference if there's a you know, we have a my dad's been building furniture for over 30 years, and he's sort of transitioned to general fabrication and design work. In the last 10 years, as art shows, in the United States have just changed. He didn't really want background in art, being able to sort of bounce ideas back and to keep doing the roadwork and the driving to drive out to all the arts festivals. So he transitioned more towards local forth, you know, and sort of create some kind of trust and I fabrication. So you know, we get stuff in the in the door. It's different every day different projects, but you never really felt like we we did arrive at that point both about you and I expect to have somebody from across the world come in and say, Hey, we, I have a project that I need to ship its own to Norway, and, and during that winter was when I think it was like that weird first phase of COVID, where we thought it was a six month thing, an eight month thing. And didn't nobody really wanted to believe that it was going to last two plus years. And so luckily, despite all that, yeah, we we found a work situation that it worked for you worked for us and it was fun to get to meet you and it, it worked out. and you and your dad that you sort of took over eventually I heard I was pretty busy at the time.

Alex Velasquez:5:04

yeah, and it was funny because you you had spotted, I think my, when my dad initially kind of quoted your project, he gave you a tour of the shop and you had noticed I had made a little tiny titanium sculpture. And I was just practicing welding and welding titanium typically is a really involved process for structural stuff, or a lot of mechanical for like automotive. It's very meticulous, and you have to really use the right shielding gas. And I was just doing it for the technique and learning how to work with the metal. Because I, as most people that listen to the podcast know, I designed a titanium spatula in college. And so I've always just liked working with titanium. And it's in Albuquerque, like, it's not really that common. But you had spotted this little titanium sculpture that I had on a shelf somewhere and you're like, oh, that's yeah, I guess I guess it caught your eye. And so that's, I think, how we ended up mostly doing the collaboration work? Yeah,

Mia Van Veen:6:13

I could, I could see that you had skills with that material. And titanium to me was was new at the time, you know, I started doing this technique, I think just before arriving in Albuquerque being interested in sort of using the torch to, to draw directly onto metal. And so seeing, seeing how that looked on the titanium was was really, of interest. And then, you know, we sort of did a lot of experimentation with that. Especially in terms of heat, and, you know, the amps that we needed. And I guess we sort of two years later now arrived at this, you know, finally getting a better idea of what you need to use some. And that, to me is a really interesting process. How to move from burning through the metal to actually being able to create something that that stays on there, makes patterns and shapes. And

Alex Velasquez:7:21

yeah, it was very, like I said, it really kind of took me by surprise, just from the fact that these, you know, artists that are from a different country somehow ended up in your shop, and you're actually finding a lot of common common approaches to working with materials. And at that time, I mean, I, I've bounced around so much. In my very short design career, I started off kind of with industrial design, in my mind, as that's the career path I wanted to do. Engineering wasn't really for me, it was more, I liked more of the art. So I kind of thought industrial design seemed like a good balance. And, you know, to this day, I still I don't think I could really call myself an artist per se. Because mostly what I do is more craft. But it was really, really refreshing to work with you. Because you really brought back that, hey, let's try this and you have patterns and shapes and ideas and you want them basically transcribed and onto metal. And it was just a really fun way to get access to that artistic side, the pure artistic side that I really haven't followed much and and I'm sure for you it was it was like relieved, you're relieved to find a place that you could actually work with people and in Albuquerque of all places, which is just such a different it probably gives you some culture shock, right?


Well, I think what's what's, what was really cool about that experience to was that, you know, it's there is a difference, I think, in metal work from the especially from I work at a farm right outside of Oslo and I produce my sculptures there, together with a technician Robert Taylor, he he and I have been working together for for three or four years now. And he is this amazing metal worker technician. And his style is extremely, you know, sort of, it's almost like he's his finesse is so perfect and he, he does everything so, you know, amazingly beautiful and thoroughly, but then again, there was something in the rawness, especially when I was working, you know, doing the chimneys with your dad, there was this rawness and sort of, it was almost like I was imagining him, you know, working shirtless and just sort of welding shirtless. And there was this like really awesome rawness to it that I think that I appreciated too. You know, whilst I think you are maybe more, more, a little bit more of a finesse guy.

Alex Velasquez:10:27

It's funny, it's, it is why my dad, he moves fast. He definitely just, he makes it work. And he's sort of, he really he'll man-handle things in the shop and just throw them around. And he just he knows exactly what he wants and gets it done. And yeah, yeah, and he likes doing bigger scale. Bigger, like heavier steel, bigger, bigger objects, bigger structures, and I'm definitely more on the I like it to fit either, you know, if I can hold it, or if I can fit it on a small table. That's kind of more of my


Yeah. So there's, there's a really nice balance there, I think in in your shop and also just an incredible shop. You guys have there you know, it's it's pretty unique.

Alex Velasquez:11:15

Yeah, thanks. It's, you know, he built that from the ground up pretty much and it's taken, you know, takes decades. So, how long have you been? Have you always been an artist? Or how, how did you get there?

Mia Van Veen:11:35

Yeah, pretty much from the day I was born.

Alex Velasquez:11:41

And were you born in Oslo?


I was born and Oslo my family is from both the West Fjords and from the south of Norway. But then we also have a background in Holland and the United States. So, so my grandfather moved here from from the states in the 60s when he met my grandmother and he was American. Dutch. Interesting. Yeah. So, you know, my mom has an American passport. And so I have a little bit of a connection to the States through through that side of the family as well.

Alex Velasquez:12:24

It seems like more often than not, it's always people that moved to the United States and ended up settling there. But it's especially in the 60s. That's pretty fascinating.

Mia Van Veen:12:33

Yeah, I think it was probably a very strange experience for him to you know, he, he was this very typical American guy, you know, cowboy hat and big gold watch. And he sort of moved out to this very small island called started right outside of Bergen on the West Fjords. So I think when he when he sort of drove up in his Cadillac on that tiny little island in the 60s, it was, it was probably met with some mixed messages. Yeah, it's

Alex Velasquez:13:08

Gosh, and that's only now I think, because of what Instagram like Norway and Scandinavia in general is so romanticized and sought after as a travel destination. I'm sure back then it was somewhat of a wild, wild west, so to speak.


Yeah. Yeah. You know, it was pretty much farmland all over Norway for the longest time until the 60s, when, when the oil boom started to happen, you know, and things really started to change here. So it's been been a little, quite a journey since then, until now.

Alex Velasquez:13:49

Yeah. But like you said, artists from day one.


I don't know. Are you an artist from the day are born? It's it's a question that's been debated a lot, you know. But I think for me, it started actually on the West Fjords with that house that they lived in, because they had this incredibly large library in the basement. Because my grandmother was was a big reader and she would sort of introduce me to a lot of the old literature from Norway, you know, Hamsun, and an Ibson and all these books that I really got really interested in reading and started writing from out very early, very early on, and the writing sort of developed into more visual images that I started to draw and then and then later on photograph a lot so so my background, just academically started the school of photography here and also where I did a two year program And eventually, you know, I sort of started building structures and filming and photography, photographed them instead of just doing photography. And that sort of led me on to more sculptural forms starting university does just sort of almost just doing that for for the, for the next five years of my academic life. So that that sort of transition from you know, literature and into, into form. Yeah. Have you read on the Norwegian literature?

Alex Velasquez:15:45

I have not

Mia Van Veen:15:47

I'll send you something like,

Alex Velasquez:15:50

send, send it my way I would love to love to read it. I have been to Scandinavia during college for over the summer did a brief trip. And I always knew I would kind of like it, their architecture, the scenery, the landscape, the geography that always appealed to me, yeah,

Mia Van Veen:16:10

I find that your work really connects with with the nature here. And yeah, and the architect texture especially, you know, the the sort of geometrical forms that I see in your work.

Alex Velasquez:16:23

And it's so strange, it's, it's that I don't know where that came from. And it's, so my dad, actually, he went to Italy when he was in high school, I think at right after high school. And that sort of gave him like the modern sense of furniture building. And so it is really strange, where, where you live, your your affinity, and through design preference doesn't always match where you live or your location. And oftentimes, when it doesn't match, that's when you kind of get some success, because you're unique, and you stand out. And now that you've you're traveling the world how does how do you find that your aesthetic changes after traveling or seeing other places?

Mia Van Veen:17:16

I think it has a huge impact on the work. And I mean, we lived in in BC for almost 10 years. And then I did my masters in Reykjavik in Iceland. And I think both both those places, even though you know, it's all in the north, in different locations in the north, it's, it's definitely had a huge impact on on my work. And I think especially maybe material wise, that, you know, the wood that you would encounter in BC was so different from the wood you will encounter in Norway and maybe, maybe not metal why so much because you know, that's, that's more a little bit fluid at this point. But wood wise, definitely some changes. You know, it's funny, in Iceland, there's not a lot of trees, but the Icelandic birch, for example, is just so unique because of the weather. It sort of changes its form becoming these really sort of crooked, strange shapes. And so when you cut it, it just still sort of has this really amazing form in itself. So so so those things and the cedar and BC you know, the smell of the aromatic cedar, was also very new to me. And, and I think all these little elements definitely inspired some of some of my latest work,

Alex Velasquez:18:48

I guess, to be an artist, and I think you captured it by saying that you really started out writing first. And that's interesting, because I think writing is really how you think. And once you get it on paper, it sort of takes on a life of its own and then like you said it transition from the idea to the image and then the image to the photo and the photo eventually you want it to not just capture a photo but create the thing that you're looking at. And then now I can hear the observations of like smell and material and that's like such a physical a physical way to describe things and I think to be a good artists like yourself, combining all of the scent senses and writing, reading, seeing there really is just so much of a combination. Do you find yourself thinking in images more or thinking in ideas more? because I know some people more literature more visceral like photo based, and how they work.


Yeah, I think, you know, materials just have such a sensatory aura to them, you know, and even just arriving at a metal shop, you sort of have this feeling because your sensatory experiences are both something that relates to memory, but it also relates to this place of almost comfort in the end because I think for me, when I started working in the metal shop at at Emily Carr University in Vancouver, which is where I started my, my undergrad. That's where I really, you know, that that first, those first little piles of metal melting that was sort of when I really felt like this was this was something that I wanted to do for a while, you know, and the smell of that melting and the smell of the heat and the feeling of the heat and, and the oxygen and all these elements that that really brought it to to this different this. Yeah, it was a different experience, for sure.

Alex Velasquez:21:37

That's something I noticed too, is the smell. Yeah, I like learning how to weld. I've always been in the shop and the I've always known what welding smells like but once you learn how to weld, and then you will different materials. And there's at different points, it smells different. And then when you're grinding your tungsten, even that has a smell, just from the the grinding wheel or the it's it's like weird how those things mesh in your head, and they just swirl around and it's probably not good for you for your brain. Know that.

Mia Van Veen:22:14

But most metal workers would disagree.

Alex Velasquez:22:18

Well, of course, of course they would. I will I won't decide until later. But yeah, that that's the side of, of creating artwork that once you get once you get through that wall and you kind of experience it from the other side. I think it really just takes on a whole other meaning for you and for your work and eventually how people perceive your work.

Mia Van Veen:22:49

Yeah, would you would you would you say I was discussing this the other day but and I think it's so of course you know, welding is such a big part of of doing metal work but but really it's not. It's kind of like the easiest part of of creating metal work.

Alex Velasquez:23:08

Yeah, I decree lining things up and clamping them and fixturing them is 80% of the work.

Mia Van Veen:23:20

Yeah. Really funny thing because it seems like people are sort of mostly interested in the welding and thinking that metal is or welding is a very sort of complicated part of the process. But but really, it's it's sort of just like fusing few things something together that takes a lot of preparation and measuring and all that. I was never a very good math student. So that's it's a good thing that that sort of keeps my brain going a little bit

Alex Velasquez:23:52

yeah, it's you nailed it earlier when you said finesse and I see a lot of finesse in your work and I'm gonna post your website obviously on in the podcast notes so people can follow but I had pulled up earlier your couple of the gallery showings that you had done. And just when, because I hadn't gone back and watch and looked at the ISCA Gallery. I hadn't looked at that page in a little while. But going back to it and just looking at everything, you know, next to each other on on the website. I do just see a lot of the finesse of they're just like a rhythm to each group of pieces. And as an artist, I think that's hard too hard to do with each you know, each show each body of work, you've done a good job of carrying that through with all of these all of your installations and all of your exhibitions. Is that something you consciously plan for? Or is that it's just the way of the artists,


I think it's I think, actually from from the sort of New Mexico stay and up until today, my, my work has taken a little bit of a different turn. Especially because I've started working more with more precious metals, or, you know, like brass and titanium and copper and, and that has had, it sort of took it in a little bit of a different direction I have, I haven't shown you the the last piece that I sort of almost finished yesterday, but but I was like, really, really surprised myself with that one, because it sort of went to this very different place than than earlier maybe moving a little bit away from the industrial and sort of into this other other plays, so But there has become a finesse to it. Maybe also partly because I have been working a lot with with you. And also with with Robert, you know, Robert Taylor here, and he just has this really, yeah, there, there's a sensitivity there that that I think I'm also adapting because, you know, you always adapt with the people you work with. And for me, the technicians that I work with are extremely important to me, and I really value that relationship. The copper and even, I mean, even aluminum, which is such a all around material can also enter a more precious a state, you know, it's soft, and it has a very silvery tone to it, depending on how much you you work with it. And it was this this time, because we were using an old machine that I've used before, to, you know, rolling pipes, or rolling big rods. What is that machine called an English, it's

Alex Velasquez:27:26

we just call it the 'roller', which I mean, like there's like various rolling machines. I'm sure there's


it's electric, but it feels manual in a way because you really have to just keep keep an eye on it and sort of hold the pipe to or the rod to make it sturdy. And so what happened with this latest sculpture was that because of the material, it went through the roller. And instead of forming a spiral that I was initially thinking that it would do, it's sort of created this very different shape as a base. And if it had been, you know, stainless steel or steel, it would have completely been something else. So, so that to me, I think it's always really, really fun when when the material sort of takes over the process and you sort of go with the flow a little bit. And in this case with we're like, Okay, do we stop and change the material? Or do we stop and sort of try to try to up the size of the of the roller wheels, but instead we started just pushed it through and then in the end, it created this own shape so so that's that's, that's a fun fun thought for me that the material takes over.

Alex Velasquez:29:01

Yeah, it's got a mind of its own. Oh, yes. Yeah. Now here's the question. Did you take a picture of the set of the adjustments on the roller wheels so that if you ever had to make another one you could replicate it?

Mia Van Veen:29:17

I think I remember the size of the of the rubber but yeah, that's that's a good point. Alex.

Alex Velasquez:29:30

We, we have that problem. It seems like every because, you know, my, my dad has so many furniture designs that we don't really it could be years in between making a design and each design has a specific, you know, bend angles and roll and curvature angles. And, you know, that's happened this week where we couldn't, we couldn't remember if we had changed or what this in, we just had to refigure


nature's way of blocking the sort of, what can I say mass production? Part of it? Only unique furniture pieces come out of the shop.

Alex Velasquez:30:18

Yeah, more and more I start to wonder. Yeah, what's you know, in this world in this modern world with so much technology and advanced machinery and tools? Are you supposed to just go to Ikea for your furniture and except that it's gonna be exactly the same each time? And spend more of your energy elsewhere another trade of ways or, like you said, is it? Well, I mean, I'm just wondering, like, what do you think about the perfection of most, most objects these days and how they're made? And then as an artist, you know, what is your role in adding more sponge spontaneous, organic objects into into the world. Because with craft, it's like, it has to be useful. It has to look like furniture is like the ultimate, it has to be useful first, and then it has to look good. But ultimately, like, it has the chair has to be level and it has to wobble that's like primary looks are secondary, but I think in art, it's just it's all about how it looks, right?

Mia Van Veen:31:43

Yeah, and you can maybe talk about, you know, replicas on these models are drawings that that are made to create sculpture, you know, maybe an idea is to just put all those drawing and sort of hide them in a safe somewhere in your mind or something so they can never be found. But that talk about this unique sort of shades or artworks you know, that are out there in the world that so many people try to replica you know, Monet and and people making big careers out of out of making work that has already been made and there's there's a really interesting dialogue about that, but yeah, I think you know, it's an Ikea it's an Ikea piece from from from 50 years ago. Is it is it more more valuable than a modern one that's they're sold for for a lot of money now you know? Personally, I don't go to Ikea. I don't I don't find it very appealing. i It makes me really sad to go there. It's like this be like a mouse inside of a labyrinth.

Alex Velasquez:33:11

See, Americans eat that up. We love Ikea. It's it's the best thing ever.


Like and appreciate the meatballs, but that's about it. Oh,

Alex Velasquez:33:25

yeah. Cinnamon Rolls people. The coffee. The coffee is actually not bad. Not bad. I and I look at it from like the supply chain of like, okay, I don't know where this coffee came from, or how long it had to go from, you know, the supply chains around the world but surely, surely it can't be. But I was surprised.

Mia Van Veen:33:50

So it's better than the Tim Hortons

Alex Velasquez:33:55

you know, I have never been to a Tim Hortons.

Mia Van Veen:33:56

I guess that's a very Canadian thing.

Alex Velasquez:33:58

Not yet. I've come close because we did a road trip and a couple years ago and we were like New York area we were gonna go up but I know there's some litter really?

Mia Van Veen:34:16

It's funny with coffee because like and also I love airplane coffee. You know when I have when I have a coffee at the airport. I know. It's like the lowest of the lowest coffees, but it just tastes so good and and sometimes you know that Tim Hortons coffee or IKEA coffee can also be be amazing. Not to say that that's the same as as an artwork but I think I think you can appreciate things and forms. Even though you it's not necessarily the only thing that I have a problem with, I think and the only thing that for me has always been improved. ortant is the quality of materials. And that that is something that that I really value, you know, when when there is time effort put behind something and when there is when there is a sensitivity to, to the selection of materials that have been used as well. And sort of how they're combined and how they're put together. And if it's just sort of jammed together without any sensitivity, then then that also reflects them on the piece, I think.

Alex Velasquez:35:47

Yeah, it's like, handled with care in a way that hopefully, it will hold together across time, if it was put together with attention, or

Mia Van Veen:36:01

you can look at some of the minimalist work, you know, Carl Andre, and look at, you know, just like a piece of copper on the floor, really. But still, it's it's just handled with with a sensitivity that that's, that's very present. So.

Alex Velasquez:36:20

Yeah, and speaking of high art, and craft and care, we got to talk about Time Wendelboe

Mia Van Veen:36:29

oh, well, that's like a whole other level.

Alex Velasquez:36:33

It's, it's. So it's funny that I knew who Tim wendelboe was. You love going there, you sent me a little gift gift package from their coffee shop. So for people that don't know, who is Tim wendelboe?

Mia Van Veen:36:54

Well, I think you have, you have actually a better overview of that than I do. Surprisingly. I will take this on, it's dangerous, because it's like $5 Coffee, and just black. And they don't use any they refuse to use any kind of like old milk or it's just kind of you can get a little bit of whole milk in there if you want. But that that's about it. And so they're extremely, you know, cautious about what they do. And that is is pretty impressive. What they've done so.

Alex Velasquez:37:35

And you've seen him

Mia Van Veen:37:36

Yeah, in the beginning. He was he was there. In the beginning when they started up. They were there. He was there but I don't think he's he's there anymore now.

Alex Velasquez:37:48

Yeah, so I found out about him because I I got into coffee when I was in college, I just loved the you could you could get scientific about it, you could get a gram scale and weigh on your beans and try and grind as well as he could and weigh the water and take the temperature of the water and try and make a perfect cup of coffee. And it's you know, I went through. I've gone through all the methods of coffee except for siphon I just started on Sunday. But I ended up getting a automatic brewer for the shop. And Tim Wendelboe was one of the designers on it, I

Mia Van Veen:38:31

think I saw that and there's this on the

Alex Velasquez:38:33

box you know, it says yeah, the Wilfa, the Wilfa Brewer. I don't they don't make that model anymore. They have a newer one. But it's, it's very, it's a very attractive design. The coffee is is as good as you can get for an automatic drip Brewer. But it I have to say like it's as a designer seeing that thing there in the studio. It just it just feels like your brain feels good just looking at it even if you're not making coffee with it just looks good. And there's some weird things when you're when you're an artist and you can't really explain why you liked the things you like or why some things you feel an affinity for. If you could talk about because you you're definitely an artists, like you said day one. How how do you keep that affinity going through school? And because I think as an artist going to art school and studying rigorously, which I never did. You know, they they're giving you structure, and I'm curious how that affects your natural affinity to design and


so Emily Carr University It is a highly or used to be a highly conceptual school where there was more focus on sort of learning how to think them, then how to actually make the work. And because it is also a school that combines, you know, design, industrial design, animation, film photography, visual art sculpture, we had the ability to sort of cross paths with all kinds of different different fields, which was really great. And I think also, you know, even though it was a conceptual school, I think there was definitely possibilities to develop your skills within, within the technique, technical field, you know, the metal shop run by Ian Rhodes, an amazing metal metal worker, he, he brought something to that metal shop that made you really want to stay in there and practice but, but that being said, I did come out of that experience. And also with with the masters at the Iceland Academy of the Arts and the masters of courses, is pretty heavily academic. And you do spend a lot of time reading. And so coming out of school, that's when I really sort of started getting into the more more technical aspects of the practice. And maybe also got a little bit of a shock, you know, about that, that part of the practice, but there is a nice balance to those things. And to be able to also spend time doing research behind what you're actually doing, and it bounces back and forth a lot, you know?

Alex Velasquez:42:04

Did they ever... how much of your work was solo versus in groups?

Mia Van Veen:42:09

Um, yeah, how

Alex Velasquez:42:11

does that affect, because you're kind as an artist, you always want your, you always want to lay claim, like, this is my design, this is my idea. And collaboratively, it's, it's a great way to work, but it's, it's hit or miss. Yeah, and

Mia Van Veen:42:24

so, so I think that's, that's where the technician come in, and how you connect with the different technicians, you know, you can be very fortunate and then have this really great connection, like, like, I felt like we've, we've sort of started to develop this really great relationship, where you almost read each other's minds a little bit, and you sort of know, know, the person's taste, and, you know, you have this mutual respect for each other. And I think, you know, for me, there's still a lot of times where I don't understand the limitations of the material, because I have, I come to the table with ideas that might not always be fit, like possible, you know, and as a technician, you you have that knowledge. And you can say, you know, know me this is this is actually not possible. But at the same time, there might be some, some ideas there that that are, you know, also new for you. And so together, we sort of managed to push together ideas and limitations of material to create new ideas.

Alex Velasquez:43:40

Yeah, that's exactly how I felt after the brass because brass you know, I knew about the material I knew some What the How it's typically braised and, and welded in. And you said, Hey, let's try this. And I was like, Yeah, this doesn't seem like it's really working. And then you said no, just turn up, just try it again, but turn up more or heat or something. And then we ended up with this amazing result, and on the opposite side of the workpiece that now I would have never tried it because I would have said Yeah, brass. You don't typically, you never you can't really TIG weld brass. It's it's typically brazed and I just, I would have never ventured into it for the sake of exploring it. But your project showed me Hey, there's these really interesting effects when you apply different you know, unconventional or improper


I know that I've probably you know, given both you and Robert some some a lot of sleepless nights because of because

Alex Velasquez:44:50

well, and it's funny I So, yes, I lose sleep over other people's projects and their work. I never lose sleep over my own cuz I'm like, Yeah, you know, if I mess up my own thing, like, I can always make another one. But when it's somebody else's, that's when like, I do feel the pressure because I just you don't want to mess up somebody else's creation right? You feel like you feel like you're the obstacle not their... not your design or your your ambition, right. It's like I don't want to be the one. I lost a little bit of sleep but it was worth it.

Mia Van Veen:45:33

Yeah. Yeah.

Alex Velasquez:45:37

Plus shipping international shipping that was that was a new experience for me with customs forms. If you've ever filled out a customs form for shipping something to somebody another country, it's you know, that's yeah, you got to make sure you follow everything cross your t's


it's even worth traveling. Worked on luggage with metal that's that's always an interesting process to traveling with a with an Oscar statue or something. It will get in trouble.

Alex Velasquez:46:13

Yeah, yeah, that's because you know, the you never know when your your luggage won't show up same time and it's impressive to that you, you made it, you make it work. Despite all the travel you've done. You make it work, you make deadlines work you have shows you kind of will tailor your process and your designs, given the situation whether it's oh, you know, our trip got delayed, we have to reroute it's and this seems like you've done a really good job of being sort of a you know, a global a global artist and not just accustomed to your studio space. And I think that's a really unique you know, I've never really actually met another artists that works like in the in the way that you do from so many places.

Mia Van Veen:47:08

I think we're lucky you know, to when you start to to create some kind of network of people and and you're always lucky enough to have friends or acquaintances that help you you know, find find the things that might help you produce which was also the case with you guys, you know, without my friends that suggested you guys or would have never found you probably so So yeah,

Alex Velasquez:47:44

that's true. I we were like I don't know how anybody finds us for what you were looking for it was so you know if you typed in steel gate Albuquerque...


it was such a fun experience also walking to your guys' shop because I had to really walk on the highway and trucks stopping and cars stopping all the time. You know, you need a ride. You need a ride, you need a ride. Very much not normal, walking around. But I'm such a big walker. You know, from here and every time we're in LA to it's it's like they're always very shocked. You know? What are you doing out here alone? Why are you walking alone? On the highway?

Alex Velasquez:48:39

Yeah, it's it's different from me. You said your studio is mostly near like farmland and are on a farm and yeah, out there. And so you walk. You walk because it's beautiful outside. And there's things to look at. And you get inspiration and yeah, in certain parts of the state. So you're either driving directly to where you want to go, and you don't, you know, spend any time on the way because it's like that here in Albuquerque to where I drive. I go out to the mountains. I have to get out of the city. Yeah,

Mia Van Veen:49:13

that was one of my my feel like, favorite parts of of staying in New Mexico, you know, being able to do those hikes around. And the beautiful, beautiful nature and Santa Fe Of course, it's so it's such an amazing place. And yeah, I don't I don't know if if this is a correct, you know, observation from my part. But I think also, you know, the politics of that place, is extremely progressive and forward thinking and I really felt like it was it was at a point in time to where you really saw that people were incredibly mindful and respectful of each other.

Alex Velasquez:49:55

Yeah, it is a very it's hard for me to step outside of this landscape and kind of see it from afar, just because I grew up here as much as probably the same as, like, if I were to try to know what it's like to grow up in Scandinavia, it's probably, you know, whatever everybody else thinks about the place but until you're actually there, then you get to really feel like oh, this is it's what I thought and it's more than I thought and yeah, it's travels

Mia Van Veen:50:34

well, you go back and forth to Colorado quite a lot. So so that must must be a nice sort of combination of places for you. Because it's way way more forest. Yeah, and

Alex Velasquez:50:46

it's pretty much there's a lot of similarity but yeah, it's it's closer. The trees are closer to you than then here. Yeah, but I I still want to go back to Oslo. I still want to go back to Bergen. Some of the best seafood I've ever had anywhere as Bergen went to the fish market. We were only there for one like one full day and one night but went to a fish market got fresh. I think we got a little bit of

Mia Van Veen:51:22

fish market there is incredible.

Alex Velasquez:51:25

Fish. And there was just as like I was blown away by just how different it is and how almost felt like a fairy tale.

Mia Van Veen:51:43

Well, there are a lot of fairy tales,

Alex Velasquez:51:45

especially with the I think the best ones do right.


Have you read any of the old fairytale collections from Norway? I'll send you some of that.

Alex Velasquez:52:02

Which Yeah, which


mythological creatures like the Hulder? Have you heard of her? She's a female creature that that walks around in the woods. And she has a tail. And she will she will lure men into the woods and then they never return

Alex Velasquez:52:29

this sounds like it can go one of two ways Yeah, I'll I would love to read read more about this. Magical creature


be some some books. But yeah, there's something creature like about this latest piece that I just finished too, though. So I'm in the fall I have I have a new exhibition that at ISCA Gallery, which is the gallery that I work with here. Run by Laetitia Queyranne. Maybe, maybe we'll call out collaborate on that one, too, Alex, who knows?

Alex Velasquez:53:10

Fall is not too far away? So that's on your horizon? You plan on doing shows and gallery exhibitions for the near future for the next couple of years? Or that's? What's your Do you have a long term plan or just take it year by year.

Mia Van Veen:53:27

That's the plan for now. Yeah, just keep showing galleries, you know, eventually also, when I'm working on some more public pieces, but I really enjoy making work that is for the indoors. And I have, you know, a lot of people are sort of pushing for me to make work that will be more suitable for the outside. But I really enjoy working with with the indoor space, and I think more people should have sculptures inside their homes.

Alex Velasquez:54:02

I agree. Yeah. Like I said, the right now that coffee maker designed by Tim is sculpture. It's actually been long overdue. I think we were going to try to do a podcast while you were in the studio a couple years and almost a year and a half ago. But you know, things changed travel COVID We didn't know and we did it remote this time. But we will have to connect again. Whether it's here or over in your neck of the woods and your side of the pond.

Mia Van Veen:54:39

Absolutely. I hope to be able to come back to to Albuquerque sooner than later.

Alex Velasquez:54:44

Yeah, well, the door's always open.

Mia Van Veen:54:49

Thank you.

Alex Velasquez:54:50

Let's stay in touch. I'd love to ask you more about your life as a modern practicing artist because there's obviously too much Just to go into in one short podcast, but you know, you have such a unique style and way of working in influence from different locations that I think you have a long, interesting career ahead of yourself.

Mia Van Veen:55:16

Oh, that's that's very sweet of you, Alex. Thank you.

Alex Velasquez:55:21

All right, thank you so much Mia. We will, we'll end it here. And, of course, we'll probably do another podcast at some point. But yeah, thank you for thank you for getting up early on. Actually, it is officially Mother's Day in the United States. So Happy Mother's Day.


Oh, great. Oh, thank you very much, and thanks for staying up late to

Alex Velasquez:55:46

Of course, anytime.



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