All Creativelike: An Interview with Musician Allysen Callery


A beautiful interview.

Originally posted on All Creativelike:

Kiel3 Allysen Callery is an earth angel. Her lyrics, melodies, and haunting voice are truly unique and special. What’s more, Allysen is a kind and thoughtful human. Man, some folks have all the luck!  Read on to find out more about Allysen’s songwriting process, creative influences, and what it was like playing at the esteemed South-by-Southwest music festival this year.

How do you define creativity?
I don’t. I think that’s anti-creativity.

Where does your songwriting inspiration come from?
I get inspired every time I learn a new chord, or open tuning. I’m still learning, even after 15+ years of playing guitar. The melody comes, and the words follow. But sometimes it’s the other way around.

Can you remember the first time you had an experience with music?
I was a toddler in Taiwan. My parents were there because of the Vietnam war. My father was a medic. Music was a part…

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MV Winter

Winters on Martha’s Vineyard are the complete opposite of summers. There’s a lot of indoor time, not a lot of people, and virtually nothing happening. It’s a good time to study your surroundings. So that’s what I did.

I was constantly reminded of where I was, just in case I forgot.

There were hooked rug maps:


needlepoint maps:


and wooden clock maps reminding me of the summertime cocktail hour:


There were other things to look at too.

intricate and kitschy shell art in a plastic frame in one of the bathrooms:


a pineapple bedpost in one of the bedrooms:


a wicker table and glass lamp in another one of the bedrooms:


a paper lantern in a hallway:


a watercolor of boats in Menemsha Harbor:


a child’s vintage wicker rocking chair and a very old pillow with an applique lighthouse:


an early winter view from the living room window:


Time did not go by quickly. It felt stalled and mistaken. But it wasn’t all bad.

Things got brighter when it snowed.


A friend recently complimented me on my design and decorating style. She asked me how I choose things for my house that make it feel like a home but not “over decorated” like this:

or cluttered like this:

I said I think what makes a home feel like a home is what you don’t put in it as much as what you do put in it. It’s that simple.

If you put cool things in it – you have a cool home.

And if you put cool things in cool places, then they’re twice as cool:

If you put ugly things in it (or vinyl side it) – you have an ugly home. (you should close your eyes for this)

If you put thoughtful things in it – you have a thoughtful home:

And so on:

I have a house.

I have a house. An old house.

I’ve spent several years fixing up my house. Inside and out.

The renovations began by removing the vinyl siding that covered its very old wood frame. I could almost hear the house sigh, as the yucky yellow vinyl was removed. (fyi- not only is vinyl siding ugly and unhealthy for you and your house, but the life cycle of vinyl siding is toxic to the environment on every level and completely unnecessary for a low maintenance home). For more insight into the overall badness of vinyl siding click here:

First, I put a new energy efficient heating system in and I re-sided the house with red cedar shingles and wooden window trim. I replaced most of the old windows (with wooden windows of course!) and added insulation. I had the chimney rebuilt (to look old) I threw in another door (to the backyard) and two new windows (south facing).

The interior was much more complicated and took days, weeks, months of design work, research and decision making. My motivation was a desire to have a home that was, warm, efficient, beautiful and comfortable.

I started with the downstairs, transforming the former kitchen into the living room and a small non-functioning (but south facing) dungeon of a room into the kitchen. What transpired over the next year looked something (or a lot) like this:

I get tired just thinking about it.






Luckily, when I finished it looked really good, was very comfortable, efficient, fun, cozy and I like it. A lot.

extra credit:

Thinking about my dad, reminded me of his mother, Lillian, (known as Grammie to her grandchildren and her husband Grampa) who worked in a shoelace factory. I wonder if her access to textiles (in a sense) inspired my dad to go into the textile world? Probably not, but you never know.

In any case, it got me thinking about shoelaces and inspiration and I wondered if shoelaces could possibly be a source of inspiration? Apparently the answer is yes if you talk to Terry Moore, director of the Radius Foundation and author of this 5 minute TED talk. Shoelaces also inspired a guy named Ian to write about shoelace tying techniques, and inspired a song by The Submarines. They haven’t directly inspired me, but they did get me to think about inspiration in general. So in some twisted shoelacy kind of way, that would also be a yes for me.

Although I have been known to do this to other people:

looking at images of shoelaces made me realize that I don’t even want to think about shoelaces except when I’m tying them.

this one is particularly disturbing:

(they’re sneakers made from pita bread)


Without going into too much back story, I want to give credit where credit is due. There’s a lot to go around but I’ll keep it brief and kind of simple.

My experience with retail developed during a past relationship with an architect/urban planner/developer who created a shopping destination area in an urban village on the west coast. After studying and working with famed urban planner, and author of The Pattern Language, Christopher Alexander, he (my past relationship friend) and a partner designed and developed a street that consisted of a collection of unique stores, businesses and restaurants, surrounded by housing and artists lofts. There was a synergy that created a unique energy making the area self-sustaining, approachable and very desirable. This relationship taught me a lot about not only what a successful and creative business needed, but also where a successful and creative business should be located.

I was also a working artist (painter) and teacher (art) and mother (divorced) of a teenage son, however my earliest design experience started as the daughter of a chemist who worked for a textile firm in New York City. Our dad would bring home sheets and towels that looked a lot like this:

(often designed by NY designers such as Vera and Gloria Vanderbilt) and new (at the time) things such as fiberglass chairs and other items made from experimental textiles.

These were some of the most memorable moments of my childhood – as it relates to my relationship with my dad anyway.


So when I moved to Providence, RI to open a store, I really had my dad in mind (my dad was born, raised and educated in Providence) but I also had in mind the idea of working with local talent to create and market unique and locally made products. And that’s exactly what happened.

With the wealth of talented artists coming out of the RISD textile department, I was flooded with inspired artists and inspired by the creative talent at my doorstep.

I worked with artists such as Elyse Allen, Richard Killeany, Emily Mills Reed, Phillip May, who ran the looms at RISD for years, and many others. The most productive and longest collaboration was with Cynthia Treen – an extraordinary and brilliant talent – former RISD student and Martha Stewart expat – Cynthia allowed me to realize the possibilities of creative enterprise with the use of a sewing machine (with a skilled seamstress at the helm) Don’t get me wrong, Cynthia is not JUST a highly skilled seamstress but also an amazing creative. Check out her website at Threadfollower.

Many, many thanks to everybody mentioned here and not mentioned here. You know who you are.