Downcity Artisan: Interview with Daria Tessler of Animal Sleep Stories

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The unusual and enchanting prints from Animal Sleep Stories, a collection of art from Daria Tessler, often catch our eye when we browse through Craftland. By combining mythology, modern science, and surrealism, her work allows us to approach the unusual with a sense of familiarity and whimsy. In this interview, Tessler tells us about her work and inspirations.


What is your background, and how did you start making books and prints?

I made a punk zine in high school with my best friend, it was super fun and probably extremely embarrassing. Then as sort of an offshoot of that idea I started making self published mini-comics when I was about 19, they were sort of whimsical story fluffs. It took me a while to break through the sweet, nostalgic, comforting content I was into at that point and explore things which were more jagged, unwieldy and expressed a more personal, idiosyncratic set of ideas. I’m still trying to push myself to work with content that’s a bit uncomfortable or alien to myself. 

I learned to silkscreen from a wonderful teacher named Juan at the Mission Cultural Center in San Francisco in the late 90s. He was an incredibly inspiring and gracious teacher.

Where is your studio? What is it like? How is it run?

My studio is a bedroom in a house in Portland, OR. My screen-printing set up is pretty make-shift and small but it works for me!

Are you inspired by any specific themes? How is this found in your work?

In my story writing I am inspired by history, antiquities, mythology, folklore and “magical” rituals as described in historical documents and texts. I am drawn to surreal and magical concepts, transformations, and unexpected juxtapositions. I also love early cinema and I think some dance related imagery from that era shaped my Cult of the Ibis comic. I am also pretty enchanted with the vast array of grotesque possibilities looming as technology marches forward. I try to keep a diverse flow of information mixing into my brain so I can keep things fresh and mix and match unrelated topics and ideas. 

Can you tell me a little about what it’s like to work with small retail stores like Craftland? 

About 10 small shops and galleries around the country and in Europe carry a selection of my screenprints. Working with small stores is an important part of my livelihood, these stores allow people who live far away from Portland to find and buy my art. In that way I get to share my work with thousands of people who would not otherwise know about me. I love shops and galleries like Craftland because they are lovely, creative people to work with, and they bring affordable arts into their communities.

Daria is also selling these wonderful prints to benefit the ACLU! If you would like to participate, go here.

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