Words and photos by Olivia Bauso
Allie Duffney is one of many modern yogis who has found an outlet for life’s craziness through her home practice. Bhakti yoga, known as the “yoga of devotion” or “love for love’s sake,” has proven to be a lifesaver for countless other practitioners-- even at its most basic level. As Nora Isaacs puts it, “In its purest form, bhakti yoga burns like a devotional fire in the heart.”
In addition to finding peace in her yoga practice, Allie has found an outlet in making art. The Bhakti Collective is the result of Allie’s therapeutic art-making, and is inspired by the philosophy of bhakti yoga. She says, “The principle behind bhakti yoga is kind of similar to the way I think about my art; I do it to share it with people, without any sort of expectation for anything in return. It’s more about the joy of creating it.”
Though Allie is not a full-time artist, she has always been a maker for personal satisfaction. She explains, “I never thought art was something I would need so much, or gain so much personal value from.” After studying art while abroad in Paris during college, Allie felt a change in her creative life and perspective. She says, “That was the point that I realized it was something I could really use as a tool for therapy, and as an outlet to express myself through. Art makes me feel good, it makes me feel safe, and it’s a really powerful while working a full time job; it helps me keep my sanity!”
The Bhakti Collective sells a variety of display and functional pieces made with concrete, textiles, wire and more. Allie began weaving and textile design as an extension of knitting with interest in creating something “weird and different” with what she had. She explains, “I took a lot of my old clothes that I saw as symbolic of my past, shredded them up to make yarn, and began making some interesting weavings.” She adds, “The best part, for me, was seeing them repurposed in that way.”
Allie’s concrete work developed similarly. She began experimenting in classes with traditional pottery and clay, but didn’t have access to a wheel as often as she wanted to create. So, she turned to pouring concrete in molds. Allie says, “I wanted something similar to pottery and knew I could accomplish the same look in a new way. It started as a band-aid and turned into something I love!”
Allie is a native Rochestarian, and attended Wells College in Aurora, NY. Following graduation, she worked in the Admissions office at Wells College for two years before moving to Pennsylvania to work at Wilkes University. It was during her time there that she was able to further develop her making and yoga skills and learn from other area artists. After building some courage with thanks to a few yogi/artist friends, Allie felt empowered to show her work in public for the first time at festivals and other local craft shows.
“My work was a little out of the box in comparison to what others were selling,” Allie admits. She continues, “It was interesting to get the feedback, but also solidified for me that not everyone has to get it.” Showing and talking about her personal pieces was incredibly vulnerable for Allie, but she took the experience as a lesson moving forward: “I could have either changed my course of making so that it was more on trend with what people would buy, or I could come home and figure out what I really like to do and show it again. I decided I would just follow the latter, because I didn’t want to alter anything; I wanted each piece to be something I would like.”
Allie just recently moved back to Rochester and now works full-time at the University of Rochester. She’s excited to continue making connections with other artists and art-lovers while she searches for her niche audience. She says, “I’m just trying to find my fit here in Rochester. There are some people that my art resonates with, and others that just don’t feel the same connection-- and that’s ok!”
Allie hopes to continue experimenting with materials and expanding her reach through The Bhakti Collective, and one day dreams of opening her own collaborative art space.
Check out Allie's handmade pieces at our March Brainery Bazaar. Tthe first 25 attendees will receive a free Rochester Brainery tote bag, too!