We had the good fortune of connecting with Reylia Slaby and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Reylia, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
In everything I do, having that balance is a super necessary component. There are several things debilitating to your work and your art, and one of them is restricting yourself to enjoying things in daily life, solely because they aren’t your main “work” or your “art”. This year especially has lead me to see how much pressure I put on myself in the past. I would consistently give myself a hard time for putting time and energy into a new craft or skill, just because it wasn’t photography. Subconsciously, I may have also been scared to discover something that I may like more than photography. But that isn’t a healthy relationship with your craft. What I didn’t realize, is that everything a person does bleeds into the other, and we shouldn’t feel nervous with finding love in other things. This year I was hospitalized. It took hearing that I could have died to finally put things into perspective. And now, this year, I’ve dedicated myself to the things I love that aren’t photography. I am an obsessive plant mother now, I love cooking, and making crafts and making mini projects. The other day I was watching Black Mirror while knitting for several hours, and I didn’t criticize myself for it. And when you can allow yourself to enjoy things just for the sake of it, things show themselves to be beautiful again.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
It never is easy, but not because of the art. When you begin to have art or photography as a career, there are certain expectations that are made of you, and you can give into those expectations and follow the path that is set up prior, or you look deep inwards and decide on a life of honesty and dedication to yourself. I’d like to think that eventually the latter happens to everyone. We have no choice in the end but to choose ourselves, or we go crazy and become shadows of who we thought we were. We start to not recognize ourselves, and it’s agonizing to witness the atrophy of your own spirit. For me, art began at a very young age, and I’ve always been on a search for just trying to be as honest with it as possible. To tell my story honestly, and purely, without trying to puff it up, and use my experiences to possibly help other overcome their own traumas in their lives. And of course, to help myself as well. I was a person who happened to be born and raised in a country that has never seen me as from here. While I absolutely love my home, it seems magical until you get to the parts that aren’t up on stage, but are shuffled behind the curtain. But it is as beautiful as much as it hurts, because it’s a wonderful thing to be able to overcome your own difficulties and going over what people expect of you, and even what you expect of yourself. I began with graphite pencil art, and somehow found myself with Fine Art photography. The same day I found out that I could create artwork with photography was the day I began my career in it. I knew this was what I would be doing for a long time. I took all my my past experiences, especially the difficult parts of my life that I still didn’t fully understand, and turn it around and make it into something beautiful. I gave traumatic experiences a new life, and removed all the hurt from it by trying to understand it. Sometimes it would almost feel like a baptism. Definitely the part that is the most fun, is finding answers to things I never asked the question to. Questions like, “How much glitter covers a whole fish?” or “What does it feel like to break a violin?”, or “How many paper cranes do I need to fill a room?” . Coming across these weird and playful tidbits have been some great little joys in the process as well, and shows that once you start making art, you learn more than what you think you will. And from this year, I’ve been trying to solely dedicate myself to the purity of my work. Nothing else matters, just as long as its honest, thats all I need.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I’d begin with taking them to the folklore museum in the area. It’s a place I found recently, and completely by accident. But the place is filled to the brim with the strangest artifacts from hundreds of countries, and because it’s not set up like a normal museum, you can essentially just reach out and touch everything. They have things ranging from unusual Indonesian instruments to old Chinese hidden erotic statues. I’d then take them to visit the old potter who lives in a house on the mountain. She is a real life hippie, without the hipster part, and she has no idea that she accidentally became one. Just imagine an old Japanese lady with dreadlocks and baggy Thai pants. She really has no idea how she looks though. Her studio is called Oni Koubo, which translates to The Demons Workshop. But demons or “oni” aren’t always as scary or as evil as it sounds in English. She made the whole house and studio, she built the road with her bare hands, and she filled her whole home with beautiful pottery pieces. It’s an amazing place, and you can’t help but feel that you’re in a Ghibli movie when you’re there. After that we might go to the Sri Lankan restaurant right next to the potter. It’s a lot different that what it once was, but they have amazing food and they have goats and sheep roaming around, so that’s quite fun to see. And finally I’d end my taking them to the top of the mountain, where you can see the whole view of the city. You hike up past a path that is known for fireflies, and then finally you are greeted by the most amazing view of Osaka.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
This is a tricky one, because I can’t even begin to count all the incredible people who have been there by my side since I began working with photos. Of course though, an easy one is my wonderful twin sister Johnna. She was always there for me when I needed her, and always had faith and believed in me, even when I couldn’t be that for myself. Love you to the moon and back, you incredible spirit.