April Valencia
This week we spoke with April Valencia, the talented, soulful Los Angeles-based artist, photographer and cook behind Masa Memory.

Permanent Collection: April, do you have a so-called 'permanent collection' possession—something with emotional value that outweighs any price tag?

April Valencia: A photo of my mom when she was 17 or 18 in a white linen dress. I took it from one of her albums when I was in high school—I’ve always had it with me since… also a clay pitcher I bought from a small vintage shop, when I was home visiting in Arizona (if I'm allowed to choose two things!)

P.C.: Ok, ok, twist our arm! What was it that made you choose this photo? And what's the story behind the little pitcher?

A.V.: Both objects remind me of Arizona, where I was born and raised. Through photography, textile installations, and cooking, I try to recreate my closest memories from that time. The color of the dresses my mom wore, Arizona sunsets, my brothers laughing, all of us together, and the smell of the desert after a good rain. Family is so important to me, my mom is one of the strongest humans I know. She’s endured so much and no matter what, she is always full of so much light and love. The photo of her reminds me to be more tender, show more love to those around me and to myself. The clay pitcher keeps me grounded in a way and connected to the southwest—which is where my mom lives… Both objects, to me, represent similar feelings and memories. 
P.C.: Where do these mementos live in your house?

A.V.: My mom’s photo is on my bedroom shelf, next to my tile collection from the beach on my favorite island in Italy. I see the photo everyday—either in the morning or before I go to sleep. When I was traveling often, the photo was always with me, in my passport holder… Now, the photo sits on a shelf in my bedroom. I live in an old cabin that has has rustic and sweet details—like the built-in white wooden shelves in my bedroom. 

For years, I wasn’t committed to one place or a home for my clay pot, so it lived in boxes, but I thought of the pitcher often while I was traveling. I imagined one day having roots again and contemplated where the clay pitcher might live in my new home. In my mid-twenties I was a prop stylist when I lived in New York. I still love rearranging objects in my house and other peoples homes. I like to move my clay pot around the house—right now the pitcher lives on my mantle. I believe that objects hold powerful energy and have important stories to tell us, that the exchange we share with them is personal. When I buy something new for my home, whether it's a kitchen pan or a clay pitcher, I try to do so with intention, knowing that there will be an energy exchange between me and the object. 

P.C.: What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?

A.V.: Books and also food from friend’s gardens and farms. To me these are some of the most special gifts! The best gift I’ve ever received was not an object, but words of advice from my mom. Her perspective encouraged me to buy a one way ticket to Mexico about 5 years ago. Living there, in the jungle, changed my life forever. The memories from that time are some of my favorites. 

P.C. What’s your trustiest flea market, vintage shop, thrift shop, etc.? 

A.V.: I love thrift store shopping. Arizona has some of the best vintage stores all throughout the state. My friends have an gorgeous shop, Desert Vintage - I forever want all of their beautiful white flowing dresses. There is a thrift store in Croatia I would go to three times a week when I was living there. I still have a few pairs of the Croatian equivalent to vintage Levi’s jeans, as well as floral dresses and beautiful blouses. Many of my favorite pieces are from that shop.

P.C.: What’s your favorite museum or gallery? 

A.V.: I could spend everyday at Boboli Gardens in Florence and at at the Joan Miró Foundation in Barcelona. When I was living in Zurich, I loved going to Kunsthaus on Sundays. My forever favorite museum in New York will always be the Met. 

P.C.: What food/dish would be the equivalent to your ‘permanent collection’ thing? What one dish is in your ‘forever repertoire’? 

A.V.: A dish that feels in line with my permanent collection object would be Albondigas—it is my mom’s favorite soup. She tops it with so much pico de Gallo, fresh cabbage, salsa  and lime, you can’t even see the soup anymore by the time she is done. The way she makes the soup is so delicious! She would cook this for me growing up, sometimes without meat, instead using potatoes and a vegetable stock. I just started making this soup again and it is so special to me - I always add potatoes and substitute meat with mushrooms. Which brings me to the food/dish that is forever on my repertoire: Potatoes, mostly sweet potatoes…but I LOVE every kind of potato! I eat them everyday. 

P.C.: Describe a project you're working on at the moment, or a current obsession. 

A.V.: Right now I’m working on a small collection of garden/ kitchen dresses for Masa Memory, made entirely of scrap/recycled clothing and fabrics. My uniform and everyday comfort has always been a pair of jeans, a simple tank top and boots - perhaps from growing up in the southwest… but, I absolutely love a good dress. One that isn't too fussy … something that feels part of my skin—ideally I can still wear the dress while cooking, with boots, and also ride a horse in it. That kind of dress! Whenever I find a piece of clothing that matches this description, I can’t stop wearing it!  I’m excited to create the same feeling with our Masa Memory dresses. 

I always have a few current obsessions happening at one time. One at the moment is continuing to learn more about soil quality—how important it is to maintain and heal the health of our soil. I’m learning how to participate in the conversation and be more active! Right now, this includes a lot of reading and learning. I want to take it all in—I think about soil all the time… Gardening and starting a farm are up there with my soil obsession.