From 2016 to 2019, TICE collaborated with Generator, Youth Focus and Foundation Futures to deliver Ladders – a programme which allowed those between 18-24 years old to explore the creative sectors. We are delighted that we still get updates from our past beneficiaries. More recently, we heard from Alia Aluma. After hearing just how much Ladders has supported and guided her path in the creative industries, it only felt right to interview Alia to find out more…
When did your interest in the creative industries flourish? Did it start at school, was it just a hobby or maybe both?
I think I was engaged with the creative industry before I was even aware of what that truly meant. The first time I created something for an art competition, I was so young, probably seven years old, that I didn’t even realize I had won a prize until my mother explained it to me. After that, I spent all my free time drawing, learning to play different instruments, and writing. However, I grew up in great financial disadvantage, so most creative pursuits were limited to what was most cost-effective. This resulted in a lot of writing and drawing.
My grandmother noticed my love for drawing and writing at a young age. As a result, her guest bedroom became one of my favourite creative spaces. She had hundreds of crayons, coloured pencils and seemingly unlimited stacks of colourful paper. She also had a stack of old colouring books that, I assume, had been used up by her other grandkids. Instead of asking for new books, I taught myself to draw the characters from the pages and made my own colouring books. This is what sparked my admiration for animation. I loved to watch animated films and characters as a way to learn how to draw.
In middle school, I channelled self-taught art skills and began painting murals. I learned how to use different Adobe software in high school as well when I became the yearbook editor. This happened after I was asked to design the yearbook cover, which was a free-hand piece created one day during a lunch break. At the time, however, I honestly didn’t believe that I could make a creative career, so I focused on learning to use InDesign and Photoshop in ways that supported my writing skills with the yearbook. This resulted in a collection of publications and writing awards while in high school.
So, I guess to sum everything up, it would be easiest to say that I have always been interested in art as though it were second nature. I don’t even think about creating as something separate anymore, it really is a part of how I think and view the world.
How did you find out about Ladders? Did it come at an appropriate time in your career?
Finding Ladders was quite serendipitous. I was on exchange at Newcastle University, my home university is the University of Calgary in Canada. As anyone new to the area, I was diligently googling things to do in the city. I had just attended a really interesting talk about the relationship between fine art and astrophysics hosted by a collection of artists and other NASA employees. I was inspired by the people passing through the city and while surfing the internet to find another event, I came across Ladders on event bright. A couple of emails later I was invited to the program and in full swing.
The timing was impeccable. I was struggling to figure out what I could create as a fine art student at Newcastle in their open studio format. Rather than having classes, we just create and build our skills as inspiration arises. I found this type of learning very challenging. As I was learning skills in Ladders, I was practising them in my schoolwork. Which led to my first art collection ever. A photo series that underwent postproduction in photoshop and after effects – the adobe suite members that we learnt how to use with Ladders.
What was the Ladders experience like for you overall?
The experience was really wonderful. In my degree, I have experienced very little technical skill. Everything has been heavily research-based without a creative outlet to express my creativity. I have always been frustrated with the lack of opportunity to learn the skill I gained with ladders and have since used everything that was taught in almost every creative project I have done since. I spend hours every week learning more about the power of the adobe programs and Ladders gave me the foundation to be able to do that.
What was it like working with Chloe Rodham (Animation mentor) alongside other special guests who you met along the way?
Chloe is incredibly well versed in what she does. Her expertise left me in awe all the time. It takes a generous amount of time to teach and build the plans that she did, so I will always be grateful for her dedication to Ladders. She was able to help at almost all hours while also working on her own creative pursuits – it was lovely to be taught by such an accomplished woman. She was also really helpful in giving me information about the city itself – which was very impactful for a foreigner.
Everyone that I met along the way taught me something crucial or inspired me to create and I loved that. I was even able to use the scholarship I won with Ladders to help fund my first exhibit, which has been very successful!
Now tell us about your current work and achievements since completing the programme. How has the Ladders experience influenced your career path?
I have even been commissioned since then by some bigger brands and fashion outlets to create work for them as a creative director and photographer. I coached photography skills in Newcastle for the Newcastle Fashion Society. After that, I spent some time in London with other creatives and sharing skills. Upon returning to Canada, I began running shoots with professional and aspiring models. My work in the British fashion world made this transition possible. I even had people reaching out to ask if they could job shadow some of my shoots. I began inviting mentees to shadow my jobs, teaching them how to use the skills I learned in ladders to enhance their own photos at the same time.
While still living in Newcastle, I had sent my art collection, titled sKin to an arts festival in Canada. Expecting to be outdone by the many talented artists, I was shocked to receive a reply accepting my collection. I had shown sKin in Newcastle for a little while, but it felt really special to be able to make strides in Canada as well. My first collection received a paid spot in the festival, generating a lot of interest. After the festival, a few different published approached me about using the images for their cover art. I even had musicians interested in collaborating on the cover art.
I was also approached by offers to purchase prints of sKin and began to sell the displayed collection. As of late, my art sales have been most prevalent in supporting my expenses. Which, I guess, means that I have become a professional artist? Which is something that may have never happened if I had not been a part of Ladders.
I was also able to use my experiences in England, and with ladders, to work myself into a position as the editor and chief of a media hub currently known as 10 at 10 Calgary. Right now, we are in the process of rebuilding the company website and its journalism internship. I feel very grateful to have been given a lot of freedom to design the internship program and curate the editorials of the website. I can’t wait to start really showing the skill set that I have gained when the website is up and running again.
What are your current hopes and aspirations moving forward?
Moving forward, I would like to grow secure enough in my art to devote my life to creating. At the same time, I feel incredibly grateful to be able to create things that people enjoy or want in their homes. That feels so wonderful. It’s validating and encouraging. Moving forward, I would like to work in a position as a creative director, combining my eye for art and design with my passion for writing to create entire projects that inspire other creatives just as I have been inspired by the creatives in my path.
As corny as it may sound, my career dream board includes collaborations with brands like Calvin Klein, Rollingstone, Essence Magazine, and Vogue. However, right now my strides are to be inspiring, positive, and creative in all pursuits of my life.
Check out Alia here…