Alison Mosshart Gives a Glimpse Into Her Creative Process and the Evolution of Chop Shop

Alison Mosshart has been setting our stereos aflame for years with her unique brand of lo-fi, insouciant rock n roll. In recent years she’s also begun sharing her artwork and selling small pieces via Instagram under Chop Shop. We caught up with her to learn more about Chop Shop and her creative process. 

You started showing your work in 2014 at galleries but with Chop Shop, you’ve moved from doing this big gallery show to something that feels like a much more fun and kind of democratic way to sell art. What was the inspiration behind that? Can you tell me a little bit about the concept?

It’s funny, I don’t know. I keep trying to figure it out myself too. When I was a teenager I always did fanzines and things like that and I loved having pen pals and receiving mail. I love mail so much. Sending cool pieces of art back and forth let me develop such good friendships. That’s how me and Jamie started our band, through writing and sending each other packages of cool art and drawings and photos and things like that. So it’s just something that’s quite ingrained in me, that I always did as a kid and a teenager and a young adult and Chop Shop happened because one year some friends of mine, some girlfriends here in Nashville were doing a Christmas popup thing and it was like a ceramicist and a rug person and a vintage jewelry thing. They asked me: “Do you wanna do it? Do you wanna sell art?” And I thought, “oh, it’d 

How did that evolve to where it is today?

As I was doing it, I realized it would be sort of fucked up to just do it in Nashville at a stall and that’s not really fair. So I immediately just thought, “screw it,” I’ll offer it to everybody all over the world and see what happens. A year before that, I had been

doodling on some playing cards and I loved them so much that I ended up making them for all my friends for Christmas. So I started there again. I just started making them cause I loved making them and I made a bunch of those and I made a bunch of little small paintings and it was wild. That first year was wild. I mean everything, it was just gone. Everything was just gone. And suddenly I’m having these conversations with all these people that signed up to receive a catalog and stuff and it was just super hectic and crazy and I loved it. 

You seem to be a very prolific person. What’s your creative process like? Are you very focused or do you work more consistently?

It depends what I’m creating. It really depends. But with Chop Shop, I kind of dedicate a couple weeks of my life to making the work and that’s all I do the whole time. I think this time I painted 149 playing cards and everyone’s like, “oh, they’re just little things” but each one of those things takes a long time, takes as much as me doing a big canvas or something. 

Do you always have a dedicated space? Do you prefer to work in a studio or does it vary?

I have a spot in my house that acts as my studio in all senses. It’s my desk. It’s where I play music. It’s where I make art. It’s everything. The whole floor is covered in paint. It’s just my spot. I really like working in Nashville because I have more space. It’s nice. But I’ll do it anywhere. I love tours where I bring paints. I’ve painted entire shows 

backstage. I had an art show coming up, so I’m like, “okay, I also have a tour, so I’ll just bring everything with me and just paint after soundcheck every day. Then by the end of the tour I have an art show.”

That’s amazing. I mean that takes a lot of discipline. I remember reading a quote about people who are successful in art and it says that they carved time out of comfort. How much do you agree with a statement like that?

I don’t. This is comfort to me. I just love doing it. I mean it’s truly what I prefer to do. I don’t know what else I would be doing. It’s either write a song today or I’m gonna paint a painting today or something like that. I think about real fine artists that have big studios and they go to work at a certain time and it’s just this incredible amount of pressure. I don’t feel that kind of pressure. I really, really enjoy doing it. So I’m not at that kind of level where someone has punch me in the face if I don’t turn in a painting by a certain time [laughs] no people breathing down my neck with their entire finances, resting upon my shoulders. This is just not happening. So it’s a little different.

When you’re traveling, do you change your medium?

Yeah. I use anything that dries really fast that I can put back in my suitcase basically. Yeah, you cannot have a bunch of drying oil paintings all over the bus. That would just be totally antisocial!

When you talk about your inspiration and what you like to paint, you often mention faces as a favorite subject, does that still ring true?

I do paint a lot of faces. I love painting people the most. I’m really shit at still life or things like that. Or even just realistic. Again, that’s something that takes time. I can do it but I’m so bored by it. Maybe as I get older I’ll chill out a little bit and start painting by taking my time a little bit more, I don’t know. Right now, it’s really like slash and burn kind of surreal abstract kind of faces. And I feel like they all have a lot of feeling. They all look like they’re in some sort of a mood. I like it when I’m painting those cards because I’ll paint a few here and there and I’m carrying around with me and I can really tell what days were like or where I was or what was playing on Netflix in the background, what documentary I was watching, what book I [was] obsessed with. It all goes in there. It’s like all whatever’s coming into my brain is coming back out into whatever I’m painting. 

You use a lot of text in your artwork. Where do you get the ideas for them and is that similar to the process you use in writing lyrics?

Sometimes I hear things. Sometimes it’s lines from books. Sometimes it’s half a line from a film and half a line from something else. I will look around my space, which is really truly covered with a thousand things sticking on every wall and it’s just kind of my surroundings. It could be the song that’s on the radio or record I’m playing. Yeah, you’re just kind of open to taking in stuff when you’re doing that. It’s just all that information at once just spilling back out again. So I can remember when I look at it, I can remember, “oh that’s from that Dennis Hopper book” or when I was looking at this or that or watching a documentary on figure-eight racing something. It’ll all kind of come in. 

Which artists do you personally admire?

One artist that I feel a real connection to—because of our shared love of cars and rock n roll music and the combination of those things—is Richard Prince. I love every single thing Richard Prince does. And so if there was somebody alive right now doing work that I think is completely incredible? Him. But it’s my taste. That’s my total taste. I wish my house was full of his work.