Every season we'll be featuring a new woman identified artist that we will collaborate with to create gorgeous collectible postcards that come packed in every order of sustainably, ethically sourced Tease Tea.
We're thrilled to be kicking off this initiative with Mallory Tolcher from Toronto.
Mallory Tolcher is an Ontario-based artist specializing in sculpture, installation, and community art. Her work explores how sport and athletics address public space, diversity, perseverance, collaboration, and interdisciplinary learning. In her most recent series, she hand-crafted and installed basketball nets made from a variety of materials on local rims and documented their use over time. As an arts educator, Tolcher uses her love of movement to engage students who are at-risk. Her focus is to empower youth to build strong relationships with their communities, both locally and nationwide, and develop a lifelong passion for the arts. In her free time, Tolcher facilitates community-designed and produced artworks, having led the creation of Canada's largest sports-court mural, located in Palmerston, Ontario.
When did you know that art was going to be a permanent part of your life and work?
My mom was really great at providing me (and my siblings) with many opportunities to be creative growing up. I loved art in high school and took every arts course that my school offered. Once I decided to go to university and study art and art history, my relationship with art itself became a little rocky. I was making work that wasn’t really resonating with anyone, and Instagram wasn’t a thing at the time, so I felt that I was alone in my journey of making sport art. No one in my program cared about basketball, or tried to help me understand that what I was doing at the time was community art (I guess it wasn’t very big yet). I felt like art school just wasn’t where I was supposed to be. I took more schooling to become a teacher but I always felt like there was a void - something missing. Once I started to create work again for myself, find my creative tribe, and dive deeper in some larger themes in basketball such as race, gender, and sexuality, I knew I wanted to dedicate the energy and time into making art my priority.
A lot of your work focuses on women in sports or mixing traditionally feminine aesthetic (like lace) with sporting images (like basketball nets). What draws you to that unique approach?
As an artist and an athlete, I feel that the idea of being soft or vulnerable in sport is missing. When I first started to explore athletics in my work, I would play around with the hard, bold, graphic stuff we see out there today. Sports are marketed to us as aggressive, fast, and sexy, and I wanted to make that kind of work. It wasn’t until I started to put my own voice in my work as a female athlete that things started to change and make more sense. For example, with my basketball nets made out of traditionally feminine and domestic materials, I was drawn to the way that different materials moved, and started to investigate what it would be like if the force of a basketball could animate and bring these sculptures to life. What was even more beautiful to me, was how the nets also hung in silence - ready to be played on, provoking the next person with a ball. The more I put the two worlds of art and sport together, especially while using the feminine materials that I was, the more pushback and criticism I got from individuals - and that is when I knew that this work is needed. There is a need to have more moments in sport that are soft, that are quiet, that are female!
Who are the women that inspire you?
I really look to female athletes who are not only skilled at what they do, but making a difference in the world of sport and beyond. Megan Rapinoe and Serena Williams are two women that have really fought for issues that are larger than sports, and I admire that fire and fight for change. Serena showing up to the US Open in a tutu… Megan giving goosebump-raising speeches... “We have to be better.” I want that kind of energy as an artist. Although I create things that are beautiful and feminine, there is more that is being investigated. In the art world, Esmaa Mohamoud is a Toronto-based sculpture artist who challenges race and gender within sport. Her Raptors gowns called “One of the Boys” are just so on point!
What keeps your creativity fresh and flowing?
I have always felt the need to work with other people - especially people who are not necessarily in the art world. I am not an artist who is able to lock themselves away and work solo for months at a time and feel refreshed. I need others! I truly believe that collaboration creates community, and working with other people is what makes me want to be better and keep preserving. Plus, I get ideas that I never would have thought of myself! I will constantly be brainstorming big, sometimes impossible, things or ways I can work with individuals, spaces, and organizations. Getting feedback from other people is what helps bring everything to life! The response over the years from others (artists and non-creatives) is what keeps me doing what I’m doing. Taking all of that information and then problem solving is one of the most exciting parts about being an artist.
How do you unwind after a day of work?
To be honest, it’s usually by watching sports. There is always a game on in our house - and during the beginning months of Covid where no sports were taking place, we were watching reruns of old games and championships. The other way I unwind is going for a run. There is nothing better for my mind and body!
Find more of Mallory's work at @methenorth