Category Archives: art show

Interview with Uncommon Goods

As part of the roll out of my glasses, I gave a little interview to Uncommon Goods. They’ve been great to work with, especially for someone who is pretty licensing-shy. I’ve reproduced the interview below where you can read about my uncommon (see what I did there?) path to becoming an artist, as well as some of my favorite spots to drink here in San Francisco.




Alyson Thomas’ Creative Cocktail Illustrations & Other Adventures in Art

JUNE 18, 2015

Alyson Thomas | UncommonGoods

Attorney-turned-illustrator Alyson Thomas has always loved drawing, painting, and making things, but says she “didn’t think anything of it” until she was voted “most creative” in her college dorm. She didn’t exactly leap from law school to illustrating designs like the ones featured on our Cocktail Diagram Glasses, either.

Alyson’s career started in a very different place–the Department of Homeland Security. From doodling on sticky notes in meetings, to turning in her badge and spending a year on a drawing project, Alyson’s love of illustration grew and eventually blossomed into a full-time business. 

She took a break from diagramming delicious things, visiting “nerdy cocktail bars,” and generally being awesome, to answer a few questions about quitting her day job and the creative endeavors that followed.

Bloody Mary Diagram Glasses | UncommonGoods

Back when you were working as an attorney, did you ever find yourself doodling on documents or daydreaming about creating art when you were trying to prepare for a case? If so, what did you doodle and/or dream about?

Ha! Kind of. My attorney job was as an Asylum Officer for the Department of Homeland Security, where I’d interview people seeking political asylum here in the United States. (Yes, I had a badge.)  As you might imagine, it was a pretty intense and emotionally-draining job, so I didn’t have downtime while working. But, during a mandatory 6-week training program on a federal base in Georgia, I did do a fair amount of drawing on Post-Its during our 8-hour/day classes. At that point, I had been already doing the job for months, so drawing helped me stay sane during the often repetitive classes. That training period was also the first time I received feedback on my artwork from strangers, and it was overwhelmingly positive. I remember being pretty surprised at the time; they were just pen doodles on Post-Its!

A lot of my old notes from in-house training also have doodles — a little sad character named Blocky, smoke explosions, jars–on them. I’ve always been the type of person who can pay attention a little better when my hands are busy. Looking back on the doodles I made during that time though, and I’d have to say they were a little dark. Well, at least a weird hybrid of cute and dark.

Alyson's Food Diary

What inspired you to take that leap and “quit your day job” to pursue art full time? How did you initially become interested in illustrating?

In all honesty, leaving my day job had absolutely nothing to do with any sort of dream to be a full-time artist. I was burnt out from the work and needed to quit. I had saved up 6 months of living expenses and my husband was still working, which gave me some runway for what I began calling my “sabbatical.” Honestly, I wasn’t sure what my next path was going to be. I applied for some other legal positions, and did some contract brief-writing here and there.

Before starting with the Asylum Office, I had been unemployed for over a year out of law school, so I knew from that experience that to keep my spirits up, I needed a project to work on to at least give some structure to my days. Drawing was fun, relaxing, and helped pass the time. So when I began my “sabbatical” in 2010, I also started a daily drawing project called “Meat Sections.” Food has always been a source of interest and obsession for me, and a project creating butchery-style diagrams of, well, anything, had enough legs to last me for 365 days. I joined the 365 project group on Flickr, signed up for a blog, started a Twitter account, and began creating and posting artwork every day.

The response was pretty immediate. By mid-February, someone contacted me via Flickr to buy a print, so I activated my Etsy shop in order to accept the order. During SF Beer Week that year, I created a diagram of a great beer from The Bruery I had sampled, and then shared it with them via Twitter. A few hours later, they emailed me with an offer to create artwork for all of their beers! So these early positive responses really fueled my work, and by July, I really felt like this could be a viable business after my first craft show – IndieMart.

Alyson's Studio



You describe yourself as self-taught. Could you elaborate on that a bit? What steps did you take to teach yourself your craft, and how did you develop your skills over time?

As a student, in high school or in college, I never took an art class. I’ve always been a creative person I suppose – drawing, painting, cooking, sewing, making videos – but I really didn’t think anything of it. I kind of thought that’s how everyone was (until I was voted “most creative” in my college dorm). The period of unemployment after law school is when I started watercoloring for the first time, using a book my then-boyfriend/current-husband Steve bought me. (Why he bought it, I have NO idea.) I also checked out a ton of books from the local library to teach myself basic drawing and painting techniques. I started just doing illustrated journals, and was really inspired by Danny Gregory, both his books and his blog. I might have some innate talent, but I really think so much of succeeding in art and in life is just about putting in the time and effort. I had a lot of time on my hands back then and used it to be creative.

And then, with the Meat Sections project in 2010, having a self-imposed schedule of doing a daily drawing really accelerated my skills. It’s easy to see when I go back and look at my work from that year. Since that time, I have taken two adult art classes, both at Root Division here in San Francisco. One on drawing and one on acrylic painting.

Fresh Herbs | Alyson Thomas

What gave you the idea to incorporate classic drink recipes into your designs?

The first cocktail artwork I did was for my second solo art show in 2012, entitled “Beer, Bourbon, and BBQ.” I made 4 cocktail pieces, all featuring bourbon – Mint Julep, Old Fashioned, Manhattan, and Boulevardier. The originals all sold fast and then I knew I was on to something. Most of my artwork is inspired by my desire to research and learn more about food and drink, and then share that information with others. It is really quite helpful to have a visual representation of what goes into various cocktails, and in their (generally) correct proportions. You can understand more about how drinks come together – like how a whiskey sour, a margarita, and a sidecar are all basically constructed the same with slight tweaks.


Speaking of classic drinks, you mentioned on your blog that you patronize nerdy cocktail bars. What makes a cocktail bar nerdy? Is this research for your work, or just for fun? Or both?!

Good question! In my mind, a nerdy cocktail bar has an interesting menu, uses somewhat esoteric ingredients, has impeccable technique, and last but not least, knowledgeable bartenders who are obviously passionate about the cocktail world. I think in the last 3 years or so, cocktail bars have really raised their game when it comes to these criteria, so finding nerdy cocktail bars is easier and easier. If a bartender can not only answer your question about a particular drink ingredient, but also will expound on the history of it, how they like to use it, or maybe give you a sample taste, that’s a nerdy bartender in my book. The ultimate nerdy cocktail book in my opinion is Dave Arnold’s Liquid Intelligence. Definitely advanced, science-based, knowledge, but amazing.

I’ve also had the great fortune to work with several bars, either making custom artwork for them, or illustrating their menus, like Padrecito in SF. [Shown above.] Oh, and my barfly habits are definitely both for fun and research!

What’s your best advice for someone looking to switch career paths to follow their dreams of becoming an artist?

Do your work consistently and regularly, and then put it out there. You aren’t going to know if you can make it until other people can see your work and respond to it.

Don’t Procrastinate – Renegade Craft SF This Weekend

Coming up for air to let all the San Francisco area people know that Renegade Craft Fair‘s holiday show is SUPER early this year. As in THIS weekend. It is usually a great chance for procrastinators to get their last-minute holiday shopping done. But this year, we all have the chance to be a bit more responsible and get our holiday shopping done before Thanksgiving!

There will be over 300 vendors, selling handmade food, art, clothes, and more. Come by and see me. I’m right down the middle aisle, near pals Etta + Billie, Lemon Bird Jams, and Nosh This.


summertime cocktail prints, ready to rock


The weather has taken a turn for the sunny, and dare I say, warm? I was actually able to sit outside at Public House with my father on his short visit to SF yesterday, and *may* have even said it was hot at one point. And the sun went down behind the buildings and it was all over.

But, it is supposed to be quite lovely this weekend, which means it will be a great time to hang outside and stop in Renegade Craft Fair at Fort Mason. There are over 200 vendors, including your’s truly. Drywell Art will be front and center, quite literally. We’ll be set up next to my pal Kai, at Nosh This, who will be slinging Bacon Crack (TM) after a long hiatus.

Jam-maker extraordinaire, Lemon Bird and culinary soap-master Etta+Billie will be sharing a booth nearby, and my pal Sharon Z. will be there too with her eponymous jewelry line. Some other faves are SF tees for kids by my friend, the newly engaged Jamai of Animal Instincts, and the always amazing art of Ryan Berekley. (I just saw a show of his while I was in POrtland … really hoping he’s made some prints of those pieces!)


And Drywell Art will have some new goods on display, including a slew of framed original watercolors and at least two new cocktail diagram prints, the Sidecar and Sazerac.

Stop in, eat some chocolate and say hello.

Sustenance and Carly Rae Jepsen

I’ve kind of been riding high this week, flitting from a group art show – Mixed Meat-ia– opening at Lolinda, curated by the Bold Italic, to a friends and family pre-opening at the much-anticipated Hi Lo BBQ in the Mission (twitter can do amazing things, people). Notably, I’ve NOT been flitting to and from the Hall of Justice, because my number didn’t get called for jury duty this week. And to top it all off, on Friday, I’ll be at the opening reception for the Sustenance group show, at Rare Device.

The Sustenance show is curated by Lauren Venell, who you may know as the master-mind behind Sweet Meats — those amazing plush hams and other assorted meat products. The theme of the show celebrates the history of the space that Rare Device now inhabits on Divisadero. It has been at one time or another, the Bank of Italy, a butcher show, and an orphanage. We were given the guideline to do something that relates to the hisotry of the space or the theme of sustenance in general.

I already knew that the space had been a butcher’s shop, but as soon as I found out that it had an Italian connection, it took me all of 5 seconds to figure out what piece I was going to make.

Yeah, I listened to a lot of silly pop music during the crush of December. I’m not embarassed. And you know you like it too.


Now available as a 8.5 x 11 print!

guanciale sq


RSVP here.


SUSTENANCE150 Years of Feeding the Community at 600 Divisadero

Rare Device presents “Sustenance”, a new group gallery exhibition with a focus on the unique histories of 600 Divisadero and the positive effects the residents of the space have had on the community. Curated by Lauren Venell, the show features local art by Lauren Venell, Heather Hardison, Samantha Barsky, Alyson Thomas, Dan Brazelton, Tina Jett, Ally Ritchie, Andrew Venell, Karen Curtiss and Brian McHugh.

Opening Reception: Friday, February 1 from 6 – 9 PM

About “Sustenance”: 600 Divisadero Street has provided nourishment to everyone around it for over 150 years. Since 1876 this piece of pasture has housed an orphanage, a Bank of Italy, a neighborhood meat market, and now, Rare Device shop and gallery. Each of these institutions has fed the community–sometimes with food, and sometimes with more spiritual sustenance, as a place for neighbors to gather and feel at home. The community also feeds 600 Divis, much like tributaries feed a river. Generations of San Franciscans have flowed through here, sometimes stopping and spending time with the people, goods and spaces that have grown and changed here over time.

In 1876 the Pacific Hebrew Orphan Asylum was built on the site of 600 Divisadero, which fed dozens of children–and, after the 1906 earthquake, more than 50 other members of the local community as well. Even though the kitchen was destroyed, Superintendent Henry Mauser grilled meats over an improvised fire pit for weeks following the disaster.  50 years later 600 Divis continued that tradition by serving local residents with high-quality, low-cost meats at Divisadero Meat Market. Divisadero Meat Market stayed open under just two different owners, finally closing in 2010. Now the storefront is home to Rare Device, a welcoming spot where people can nourish their spirits and homes with meaningful, beautiful objects, or gather for community events like children’s story time.

About Lauren Venell: Lauren Venell is an independent designer and artist from San Francisco, whose products can be found in stores around the world. Her work has been published in titles by Chronicle Books, Klutz/Scholastic, and Quarry Books, and featured in several media outlets including The New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, Everyday with Rachel Ray and on Canal+ Television. Lauren lives and works with her husband and an ornery parrotlet named Elvis.

About Rare Device: Rare Device is a store and gallery that features functional experiments and original ideas in art, design, craft and fabrication. Owner Giselle Gyalzen constantly seeks out objects that are beautiful, evocative, well constructed and thoughtful. We are pleased to bring to our San Francisco store an ever-growing roster of local, national and international artists and designers for a truly “rare” experience.
Rare Device ( is located at 600 Divisadero Street, at the corner of Hayes. Store/gallery hours are Monday through Friday noon to 8pm, Saturday 11am to 7pm and Sunday 11am to 6 pm.

For more information contact: Giselle Gyalzen at or 415-863-3969