Monday, October 25, 2010

Artist Interview: Rachel Biel

 What is your name: Rachel Biel.  My business name is Rayela Art.  Rayela is my name in Pashto, one of the languages spoken in Afghanistan.  I had a gallery in Chicago with an Afghan partner and liked the way my name sounded in his language. 

Do you have a formal art education or are you a self taught artist:  
I'm self-taught.  There seems to be a genetic pre-disposition on my Dad's side of the family towards hand work.  My grandfather could fix any antique and do wicker work, my uncle is a carpenter specializing in finish work (gorgeous stairways and fireplaces), my Dad carved for about five years and then quit, an aunt and cousin are both talented with pen and ink, and so on.  I took two art classes in college and was totally intimidated, but my muse just wouldn't let me stop. 

What is the style of your pieces: 
I work mostly with fabric.  I love texture and tend to add a lot of folding, beads, ripples, and manipulations.  Ethnic textiles from around the world have had a great influence on me, especially the ones that are rugged and uneven. 

What is the medium in which you work:  
Oops!  Guess I answered that in the previous question.  I also do things with recycled paper.  I like to use found objects whenever possible.  Most of my fabric is taken from used clothing. 

What started you on your path as an artist:  
The need to do something with my hands. 

What is one of the most important things that art has brought to your life:  
When I am in the throes of a piece, it is the closest I get to what the mystics describe as meditation or prayer.  It centers me and I step into a nice space where it is just me and the materials, evolving into something new.   Aside from that, I love work that others do to.  I think it is important to be surrounded by as much handmade and handgrown things as possible.
What is your favorite genre of art besides the one you work in:  
Clay.  I did work with it for three years and still miss it.  But, I love all of it: wood, metal, glass, anything functional.  I don't like abstract art or jazz and I think it must be the same part of the brain.  Functional craft is my boat.  

Do you have art showings, and if so what are they typically like:  
I did a lot of them in the past, but now I focus on selling online through my Etsy shop:  I'm also a henna artist and kind of keep my foot in the door with festivals by doing that.  The city I live in closes off its main street every Saturday night for artists and performances, so I have a booth there, doing henna. 

Do you have a certain set of clothes you make art in:  
Nah.  I'm such a fashion slob.  Jeans, flannel shirts, t-shirts.  Comfort clothing. 

What has been the most frustrating part of being an artist? 
Not making enough money and not having enough time to make more complex work, which is the stuff that I like to do.
What is your favorite sandwich of all time:  
Toasted potato bread with cream cheese and walnuts. 

Has this year brought about any changes in your work, and if so what are they:  
Yes, I started TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List.  That has brought a huge change!  It's incredibly time consuming, but also inspiring.  Unfortunately, it's meant even less time to do my art work, although lately I've started getting the groove back.  Maybe it was just a matter of getting TAFA off the ground. 

Who is your favorite artist alive or dead:  
Oh, probably Hundertwasser.  I love green architecture and his drawings and buildings both move me down to my toes. 

What is the most moving piece of artwork that you have seen in person: 
I think the most transformational was seeing Picasso's museum in Barcelona.  I didn't really like it until I saw it face-to-face, in the context of the whole body of work.  It was pretty mind boggling. 

Do you have any animals, and what do they think of your work:  
I have two dogs and several birds (finches, a cockatiel, and parakeets).  The birds like it when I play music.  The dogs like it when I fix their toys.  They are glad I know how to sew them back up. 

Do you have any upcoming exhibitions you would like to share with us:  
No, not right now.  I have also done commissions in the past, so please feel free to hire me for several months.  (Go to the artist's side to see my work.)

"Sidney's Ties"  Commission for Sidney Levy  (those are his ties)  2009

"Wallpaper purse", folded paper (wallpaper samples), ostrich egg shells, glass beads

"Garden Greens"  Puff balls with yo-yos, beads and sea urchins.

"Prairie point hat"  


  1. What I love most in Rachel is her dedication to her way and the confidence she has in the path she has chosen. Rachel just go on searching and finding and creating. You are great inspiration for me!