When In Florence

Contemporary Florence: An Interview with Mya Royal

By Sara Amrhein

The weeks are flying by! I can hardly believe it! Friday again! I have a very interesting interview for you this week from Mya Royal. I hope you enjoy getting to know a little bit about her and her work.  You can find more of Mya’s work on her web site. She has also just opened a new Atelier here in the center of Florence, where she makes both alterations and new creations! 

Tell us a little bit about yourself. “I was born in Boston, and my parents moved our family to a small town south of the city when I was a child. I grew up there, in an idyllic setting, and went back to Boston for college. I had the opportunity to spend extended periods in Italy, Israel, and Mexico during those years. After graduating, I moved around a bit, living in some of the most exciting cities in the USA as a freelancer. It was worthwhile. I have friends and family around the world, and enjoy keeping in touch with them. I have been really fortunate to have lived, worked, and studied in different countries. Now I live in Florence, and operate an atelier here. I am an artist and designer. I started fashion work at a very early age, and made almost all my own clothing as a teen. Also, art work has always been very important to me. I have done a lot of work in printmaking, for example. I’d like to combine print with fashion someday. There are many things I would like to do.”

Why did you choose Florence or did Florence choose you? “Florence and I chose each other. Back in 2003, when I first I set foot in Italy, I was overwhelmed with a positive feeling, like being embraced by mother. I visited Milan, Florence, Naples, and the Aeolian Islands, where I have family. I discovered that I was an Italian citizen by birthright. In 2007, I began to document this so that I could have dual citizenship and live in Italy. My application sat untouched in the vital records office in the Italian islands for four years. In 2011, I was offered the opportunity to attend a master’s program in fashion design here in Florence fully paid. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse. The school also had campuses in Milan and Rome, but I took the original suggestion to come to Florence, because I am an artist. After I made my decision to study in Florence, I discovered that my own mother had studied art in Florence! When the vital records office in the islands got wind of my plans to relocate for school, they processed my paperwork immediately and I was granted dual citizenship! In one crazy day trip in my father’s Buick from Montreal to Manhattan, we made it to the Consulate General’s office just in time to get my passport before the office closed, and I would have to leave the country.”

What is your favorite thing/place/sight in the city or all of the above? “I particularly like the Piazza Santa Trinita. It is the first thing that comes to mind. I have really liked the feel of that piazza since I’ve been here, even when it was under construction. I love to go to Isabelle for coffee or lunch too.”

Was there a defining moment when you knew that you wanted to be an artist? If so when and what was it? “No. It’s not a choice. I can tell you that there have been many moments in my life when I did not want to be an artist – to be anything but an artist. But, I didn’t get a choice in the matter. It’s just what I am. I do remember when I first began to realize it: I was about twenty-two (in very sunny room in Boston, reclining under a fishtail palm tree).”

What or who is your greatest inspiration and why? “I’m uninspired (laughing). Just kidding… The love in my life: others inspire me, nature, the possibility of a better world…”

What is the best thing about being an artist? What is the most difficult part? “You get to make art. You have to sell it.”

What message do you hope to convey with your art/creative process? “Love and peace, of course.”

What is art/design to you? How would you define art? “To me, art is something to be observed; the products of design are to be used. They are very different, and require different skills. However, there is some overlap in the creative process. For example, I draw preliminary sketches to create clothing and also to create paintings. But, the drawings are very different. They require different techniques to create. Not only that. The products are very different. The paintings are meant to last a long time, and only to be looked-at, while the clothing is meant to be used for a much shorter period time and then replaced. Generally, I think of designed objects as things that are meant to be handled with some purpose in mind. Art one does not touch much, if at all, and serves its purpose in being. That’s a wonderful concept to me – a made object that serves its purpose just by existing. It has already done its job the moment it reaches completion. Many designed objects are shown, like art, however they are also used. Anything can be called art. But in the end, it’s all a matter of semantics.”

Do you listen to music when you work? If so who or what? “Sometimes. I try to choose carefully because music has an effect on my work. I used to listen to a lot of the late Ravi Shankar’s music. I like western classical music too, and many more popular genres. But, I prefer to work in silence.”

If you could go back in time 10 years knowing everything that you know now what would you change and why? Or what would you tell yourself? “I would tell myself to believe in myself.”

How have your two cultures affected your work? “It’s really hard to say. The cultures are so intertwined… I have more than two cultures. I assume that question refers to Italian and American cultures: Italian culture has helped me to enrich the quality of my work, while American culture has inspired me with the ambition to create it in the first place.”

Who is your favorite artist/designer/writer/performer? “Me!”

What is your favorite movie? “Love and Other Disasters.”

What is your favorite book? “Moby Dick. But, the reason is not the advanced writing, the fact that I’m from New England, nor the wonderful first line ‘Call me Ishmael.’ (Who could beat that? Not me.) It’s because when my high school class read this together, I answered a question about it so well, from the back of the class, that the teacher (an Italian-American) made a big emotional fuss and moved me up to the front and center desk, displacing one of the head cheerleaders. It was absolutely awesome.”

Describe yourself in five words. “I am not an idiot.”

When you’re not being creative what do you do? “I’m always being creative! …Well, I can be found walking my dogs around Florence, eating, sleeping, poking around facebook; I like to practice insight meditation and yoga, go to the gym, travel, go to the movies, listen to music, nice stuff like that.”

If you could go anywhere in the world where would it be? “I can go anywhere in the world that I would want to go.”

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