Interview

Interview with Fu Wenjun by CreativPaper

Human Nature for Food No.2, Digital Pictorial Photography, 60x60cm

Human Nature for Food No.2, Digital Pictorial Photography, 60x60cm

Chinese contemporary artist Fu Wenjun is no stranger to CreativPaper. Graduated from Sichuan Fine Arts Institute, he creates through the medium of conceptual photography, installation, sculpture and oil painting. He has also put forward the concept of "Digital Pictorial Photography."

In our conversation with him, he talks about his participation in the upcoming edition of The Photography Show and what we can expect from him at the event.

Could you tell us a bit about your upcoming exhibition at the 39th edition of The Photography Show?

At the 39th edition of The Photography Show 2019 presented by AIPAD (International Association of Photography Art Dealers), BOCCARA ART, an International art dealer with a global network of galleries and exhibition spaces, presents a solo booth project showcasing my Digital Pictorial Photography works. Most of the pieces are the last two years’ creation that continue my rethink on contemporary photography art. It is the time when photography should change itself by getting away from conventions and ideas conceived commonly, and embracing new possibilities on photographic approaches, process or practice. I think I have found a way of working with the medium to express the philosophical reflection on the issues concerned clearly.

What can we expect to see from you at the show?

AIPAD as the longest-running and foremost exhibition dedicated to the photographic medium, thought-provoking ideas, new trends and unique processes involved in the medium of photography are welcome. I appreciate having the chance to communicate with my photographic style and works. This time I bring pieces from four series: “Misplacement”, “Ask Tea”, “F1”, “Human Nature for Food”.

“Misplacement” I bring the aesthetic nature of ink art into photography, presenting abstract images with philosophical thinking towards our changing world in this critical moment.

“Ask Tea”, inspired by the colours and geometric composition used by Impressionists and Abstract Art; I tell the viewers an old-style teahouse still existing in my hometown. Drinking tea, talking about the world is always a way of life in the corner of the ever-changing city. The world is changing so fast, but maybe not for everything, for everyone, for everywhere.

“F1”, another exciting and fun piece of music written by reality and illusion, success and disappointment, expectation and surprise, which people will never get tired of.

“Human Nature for Food”, under the familiar surface, it is full of often overlooked details, intriguing and shocking, so is the food, people as well.

Could you tell us a bit more about what Digital Pictorial Photography means to you as an artist?

Every artist is searching for his/her way of artistic expression, even for a lifetime. Digital Pictorial Photography is the one I found until now. I take pictures with my camera; at the same time my eyes are also "shooting". From time to time on quiet nights, the shot scenes emerge in the mind. Different times, different places and different people are intermingled with each other. This disorder makes me feel harmonious and peaceful, which seems to be an essential and deep “beauty”. From my own and others, I have seen too many complexities and contradictions in human nature. There is no straight road in our world. People always come and go with hope and bend around. The so-called correctness is only a relative statement at a certain time and in a certain situation. "Misplacement" is a normal state. The reaction made is only the human brain’s momentary decision. "Wrong" could be "right", “right” could also be "wrong". In front of conflicts and crises, pessimists are desperate, and optimists have hope. There isn’t a right or wrong way to do photography; tradition is defined and could be redefined in the new age.

How do you find a balance between aesthetics and narrative in your work?

The "beauty" is an artwork’s indispensable part; it is the key to unlock the message delivered by the artist.

Do you think it is hard to stay motivated as an artist? How do you tackle this common obstacle?

It’s not easy to be an artist. To create a work of art from zero, the artist must be innately courageous and persistent. No matter how old am I, I insist on excavating the beauty of life, connecting with people by art, touching the mind. Having an obstacle is common. When I cannot work as good as I expect myself, no matter how hard I try, I know I have to leave, walking for a while, talking with others or even having a journey to see a strange place.

Could you tell us about your upcoming projects?

In the first three months of 2019, The University of Hong Kong and Chongqing Art Museum presented two solo shows of my works. After getting back from New York in April, I need time to think and create, perhaps on the relation between nature, human and society. I believe nature can speak, just not in the language designed by humans. I like to listen to the sounds of nature, as the ancient Chinese literati who explored the meaning of life among the vast landscapes. Water is invisible, but it can be transformed into many forms; the water is weak, but its accumulation could be powerful; the water reflects reality and illusion too.

What elements of exhibiting your work excite you the most?

I like to listen to different opinions on my exhibited works, especially negative ones. They push me to reflect on the choices I have made while creating and on what to do next times.


FuWenjun.com


Mr Wenjun’s work has also been studied in depth by Professor Mao Qiuyue of Tongi University in Shanghai who offers a unique insight on his work and creative process.

“In recent years, Chinese artist Fu Wenjun is getting more attention. Through a large number of works of art, such as After Fresh Rain in the Mountain, East Wind Blew Again Last Night, Ask Tea, F1, April, Red Cherry, etc., Fu Wenjun gradually made the concept “digital pictorial painting” into a precise form of artistic expression. Digital pictorial photography is a combination of painting elements through digital post-adjustment and multiple-exposure photographic images to reveal unique visual effects. It emphasises the rediscovering and reuse of image resources. Fu’s works not only appears in critical international exhibitions but is appreciated by many contemporary art historians.

Fu Wenjun himself once said: “I incorporate a lot of experience of traditional Chinese art in my work. Many people say that my work is ‘not like photography’, but ‘unlike photography’ is a new way of presentation. We can change anything.” Fu Wenjun uses photography to express his artistic ideas and integrates the essence of modern and contemporary art such as Dadaism, Abstract Expressionism, conceptual art and pop art. While getting rid of the shackles of documentary photography, Fu’s digital pictorial photography captures painting elements, embodying a touch of freehand brushwork in traditional Chinese art. They offer people with unexpected innovations and new visual experience. Rosalind Krauss, a contemporary American female critic, once pointed out that artworks after the modernist paintings have greatly broadened the connotation of “medium”. A medium can be something solid, or it can be a behaviour itself. In other words, artists’ medium is no longer tied to specific things; it exists in the field of communication with the audience. With the purpose of challenging people’s inherent ideas about artistic medium, Fu Wenjun invites his audience to think about the boundaries of art.

Photography has always been regarded as a documentary, while digital pictorial photography blurs the line between reality and illusion. The viewer is invited to enter different scenes created by the artist. Fu Wenjun’s works should be treated as a sequence because they provide a complete context for the audience. As contemporary American scholar Claude Cernuschi has pointed out when analysing Abstract Expressionist painter Franz Kline: “An individual canvas will be read in in terms of the canvases that surround it as well as against the frame of reference, or interpretive background, the spectator has gradually internalised. Consequently, a painting such as Probst I cannot have a single, fixed meaning or emotive resonance existing ‘on’ the canvas...That meaning or resonance, rather, is ‘in’ the spectator’s mind.” Similarly, the meaning of Fu’s digital pictorial photography is also contingent on context and the beholder’s participation.

Fu Wenjun once summed up his creative means as such: “My concept will be expressed using collage, juxtaposition, etc.” Collage and juxtaposition are essential methods in western modern and contemporary art. They were initiated by the masters of early 20th century modern art such as Pablo Picasso and Gorge Braque, culminating in the hands of postmodern artists such as Robert Rauschenberg and Andy Warhol. But the difference is that the post-modern juxtaposition of Western art largely cancels oppositions, while Fu Wenjun sharpens the debate between different items, thus creating a tension on the two-dimensional surface.

Fu Wenjun has shaped his digital pictorial photography with various decompositions and reconstructions. Contemporary critic Katharine W. Kuh believes that the core of modern art is “break-up”. She proposes that in our time, the characteristics of art are manifested in the following aspects: broken appearances, messy colours, scattered composition, disintegrated shape and broken images. Since the birth of modern art, every part of art has been broken down, including colours, light, paint, shapes, lines, spaces, painting surfaces and layouts. Modern art has always emphasised “break-up”, but it does not mean a lack of rules. It attempts to establish a new rule. In other words, a break-up is another form of reconstruction. By doing so, artists analyse, enlarge, and separate some aspects that people have easily overlooked in the past, and provide them with rich and complex experience.

F1 No.12, Digital Pictorial Photography, 40x40cm, 2018.

F1 No.12, Digital Pictorial Photography, 40x40cm, 2018.

Just as contemporary art historian Yve-Alain Bois has pointed out, most abstract artists are never tired of stressing the richness of their abstract/conceptual subject-matter. As an artist living in the southwestern province of China, Fu Wenjun has been trying to show the collision between traditional national culture and contemporary culture, which is an essential theme in his works. In AskTea series, Fu chooses to locate everyday daily objects of Chinese teahouse in the centre, but the whole image display fragmentations and divisions. This is a way of bringing history back to the present on the one hand, and emphasising the impact of modern lifestyle on tradition on the other side. In his East Wind Blew Again Last Night, Come and Go, and After Fresh Rain in the Mountain, Fu Wenjun also contemplates on the binary opposition such as the past and the present. The process of creation is time-consuming. For example, to create the Twelve Zodiac series, Fu Wenjun took several days taking documentary photos in Yuanmingyuan. After returning to Chongqing, he spent another five months to complete the work. A detailed observation of the world and a large amount of tedious post-processing are both essential in Fu Wenjun’s creation.

The exploration of abstraction is a significant feature of digital pictorial photography. Although we often find it challenging to describe abstraction, the experience of it plays an important part in our visual activities. It seems sure enough that Fu Wenjun is a typical abstract artist. But I think this conclusion is incomplete. In a famous conversation with Christian Zervos in 1935, Pablo Picasso expressed such ideas: “There is no abstract art. You must always start with something. Afterwards, you can remove all appearance of reality; there is no longer any danger because the idea of the object left an indelible mark.” Nowadays more and more people have realised that the interpretation of the dichotomy between “abstract” and “figurative” is only a historical phenomenon instead of an objective truth.

From a close perspective, we tend to interpret Fu Wenjun’s works as diversified combinations of forms, but from a certain distance, we may prefer to explain them as a unified whole. This is, of course, a generalisation, but in many ways, people do encounter difficulties in distinguishing diversity and unity. This difficulty shows that the meaning of abstract artworks exists in the ongoing reconstruction and immediate experience of the viewer. Through digital pictorial photography, Fu Wenjun attempts to evoke people’s keen perception. In these works, both abstraction and representation are not final purposes but means. What lies behind the active surface is always the artist’s reflection on the status quo of people, history and culture. As such, his artworks show a dialectical unity of multiple and one: even if the forms and techniques of Fu’s digital pictorial photography are different, they all present an image of the artist as a thinker.

Thus we may safely conclude that whether abstraction is abstract is not a formal question, but a cognitive issue. People’s disagreements over abstraction are not so much due to the ambiguity of the artistic forms as to people’s different “interpretation community”, a term borrowed from Stanley Fish. To recognise the viewer’s subjectivity in the construction of meaning is not only a prerequisite for the rational interpretation of abstract artworks but also a requirement for initiating all interpretations. People’s understanding and appreciation of abstract elements in artworks are deeply rooted in their basic cognitive abilities, and abstraction is not too high to be popular.

Of course, our appreciation of digital pictorial photography is not like reading. Our cognition changes as the pages of the book are flipped through, while when we look at Fu Wenjun’s works, we experience a “comprehensive loss of visual recognition”. In other words, our eyes are not at rest, but in the process of continually changing focus. Thus, various contradictory forces occur, including tensions between the centre and the edge, gravity versus upward force, and so on. The artist tests our ability to capture information through different contrasts. His digital pictorial photography challenges people’s colour perception and shape perception with multiple colours and lines.

Many of Fu Wenjun’s digital pictorial photography use a soft colour transition at the boundary of objects and the contour line of the characters so that people feel the challenge to distinguish between the figure and the ground. By contrast, in works such as Red Cherry, Ask Tea and April, the artist applies a cubist approach to divide the surface of the photograph into separate small units, using bright colours and sharp contrast, so the images in the centre become more prominent.

What can we learn from such arrangements? Contemporary neuroscientists have discovered that colour perception is an important ability that promotes shape perception because colours cannot exist without shape. By distinguishing colours, one recognises an object or apart from its surroundings. If someone loses this ability, a visual perception disorder will happen. It can be seen that colour perception and shape perception are mixed with each other. The neuroscientists’ research provides an academic reference for us to understand Fu Wenjun’s photography. For example, when we look at Red Cherry, we can recognise the colour of the cherry, but the artist has deliberately added some rectangular squares to destroy the original shape of the fruit. Moreover, by casually rendering red, the cherry has become a highly blurred symbol that guides people to indulge in the world of imagination. This combination of precision and ambiguity makes his work particularly eye-catching.

It is true that the artistic value of digital pictorial photography still needs further research and discussion. In the context of cultural pluralism and photopopularisation, photography has already developed beyond the process of light exposure of photosensitive media, and photography with new languages is in urgent need. Contemporary art critics such as John Berger and Susan Sontag believe that photography is not only an aesthetic form but also a social field with democratic spirits. Artists’ constant exploration of photography urges people to abandon the old theoretical paradigm and respond to its challenges with fresh and diverse perspectives. Fu Wenjun’s digital pictorial photography not only displays the artist’s talents and professional qualities but also represents his sense of cultural and historical responsibility. With various visual possibilities, the viewer and the artist are in a dynamic and benign interaction, enriching each other’s understanding of photography and the world.”

About the author: Mao Qiuyue,post-doctoral researcher of Zhejiang University; assistant professor of Tongji University

F1 No.9, Digital Pictorial Photography, 40x40cm, 2018

F1 No.9, Digital Pictorial Photography, 40x40cm, 2018

You Will Have Bread, Digital Pictorial Photography, 60x60cm, 2017-2018

You Will Have Bread, Digital Pictorial Photography, 60x60cm, 2017-2018

April, Digital Pictorial Photography, 100x100cm, 2017-2018

April, Digital Pictorial Photography, 100x100cm, 2017-2018

Sami Armstrong by CreativPaper

 When people think of art, the mind flashes with images of sculpture, painting and expanses of canvas. Yet one forgets that every object we interact with on a daily basis is a result of the influence of art. The garments that we wear to protect ourselves from the elements and express our individual identity started off as someone else's creative vision. London-based fashion designer Sami Armstrong, known for her passion for print, illustration and colour approaches the garments she creates with the same ethos as an artist taking to a blank canvas. Her experiences, travels and emotions conjugating into wearable pieces of art. We sat down with Sami to talk about her time in Cornwall, where she grew up, travel and her hands-on approach to dyeing the fabrics she uses. 
 
Have you always wanted to be a fashion designer?

 I always wanted to be a designer but not necessarily a fashion designer. I have tried not to pigeonhole myself too much as I believe being diverse is essential to creativity. Growing up, I was always very artistic growing up, and I used to paint a lot as a child. The dream used to was to be to become an artist living by the sea, but over time I figured that dream could wait for now as the current ones are incredibly exciting. At school and at college, my interest in Textiles and Graphic Design seemed to naturally evolve towards Fashion. I never felt like I have to make a conscious decision toward being a fashion designer. I was a very organic progression.
 
Could you tell us about your time growing up in Cornwall and how that shaped you as an artist?
 I had an incredibly lucky upbringing in Cornwall. My creativity was always very much encouraged positively through both my family and my schooling. 
A very close family friend and artist took me under his wing and supported my love of painting very early on. He lived next door to my Grandma and used to teach me watercolour painting every Saturday morning from a young age to my mid teens. I was also lucky enough to go to a school that supported my creative interests too.
This combination of early support from family, friends and education helped to build a creative confidence and gave me a really early focus towards my work. My very first form of income was made selling my watercolour seascapes locally in Cornwall over the summer holidays. I would photograph and paint my very favourite beaches and also did ink illustrations of local buildings with a watercolour wash too. The visitors loved them, and the process built some amazing local contacts that I am still in touch with. My fortunate upbringing was the building block of a much bigger journey, and the level of support from the collaborative creativity in Cornwall has played such a key part in my evolution as a designer.

How important is travel and culture as a source of inspiration for you?
Travel and my interest in culture have always been a big source of inspiration to me. I consider it very important, not just because of the knowledge and new concepts it provides but because it educates us and allows us to view things with a new perspective which can be really interesting. I find this perspective during travel a real inspirational fuel for new ideas. It provides that diversity I try to maintain and generates new challenges that can positively disrupt too much routine within our lives. Travel and culture feed us with energy to try new things and push ourselves that little bit further. When I travel, I try to record as much as I can through notes and drawing without disrupting the experience too. I also try not to plan too much ahead as that sense of freedom alongside apprehension and fear of the unknown has often resulted in some incredible memories and experiences. 
 

Have you always hand-dyed your fabrics? Could you talk us through the process?
 I try to be as interactive as possible with the materials I use, whether that is through considered sourcing or my own manipulation. I feel continual progression is really important as I want my work to be more than just product but an artistic representation of my approach as a designer too. 
Since colour is so important to me, dying my own fabrics initially came from the challenge of trying to source specific colours. Dying Fabrics myself proved a far easier way of achieving exactly what I wanted. I can be quite a perfectionist, which is a good yet frustrating trait to have from personal experience. To be honest, the process involves a lot of trial and error. There is always an element of risk, variation and handmade quality, which I really like. It means that each fabric and therefore each product will forever be slightly unique from another. I have tried the process of natural dyeing too. This doesn’t always quite achieve the level of colour I aim for but to I hope to develop ways of incorporating this into my work somehow. I am always on the lookout for new ways of working within my practice.
 
Could you tell us a bit more about the term ‘Seawolf’ and its relevance to your work?
 Seawolf is a concept that I hope will make a true impact one day. I am a real believer in life-balance and how our work should never cause any elimination of other interests in life as it is inevitable that they will compliment each other somehow. Ironically, even as a lover of fashion, I also have a real resistance and distaste for aspects of our materialistic culture. I think we often forget that true happiness does not come from the quantity of stuff we possess but people and our surroundings. We forget the value of those who support and inspire us, the positive euphoria gain from contributing towards another’s happiness and the satisfaction of materialistic simplicity. Seawolf is the Idea that materialistic success can be capped and beyond that, we should apply our energy towards shaping and evolving greater things. The success of a product is not just about the sale and satisfaction to the wearer but the positive, extended product effect. Seawolf is dynamic, diverse collaborative and ever-changing. It is what makes us think less about immediate production and more about the people, process, longevity and impact amongst a much bigger picture.
 
Do you think the fashion industry needs to do more with regards to the biological impact it has on our planet?
 
Absolutely. I don’t want to be too negative as there are always ways we can do better, but the fashion industry has the power, as a major contributor, to positively address this. I do think that a majority of brands have the ability to consider and respond to these issues without creating a negative impact on their business. Our culture is so open to these changes, and I hope for it to be part of the natural evolution within Fashion now. Where speeding up this evolution is the added bonus and products what were perhaps once desired are replaced by less biologically impactful ideas. To work for a brand that takes these issues seriously and reduces their impact where possible does give me a feeling of pride. I do feel that this should be at the forefront of the fashion industry and I do consciously try to make an effort to engage in these issues myself. In my opinion, it’s all about being involved, taking responsibility and educating each other about these issues positively. We are controllers of our own future, and together we can make a difference. 
 

Is there a personal goal you would like to achieve apart from your art?
 I like to think of myself as a bit of an adventurer. I always wanted to be an explorer, and I would be lying if I said that dream didn’t still exist in a slightly less obvious form. I love to challenge myself beyond just my creative interests. I am a very active person and really took advantage of living by the sea growing up. One day I will live on the sea and explore the world with a new perspective. I would like to travel without a plan for period of time one day, using my creative focus to become involved and contribute along the way. My character is generally quite driven and disciplined, but I do have a very strong element of free spirit that enjoys disrupting too much routine. I think it is this element that drives my need for diversity within my work and obsession to travel and experience new things. The unknown is a powerful and exciting prospect.
 
You recently did some work with the Coppafeel charity, could you tell us a bit about how that came about?

 One of my hobbies is running, and I signed up for the 2017 Bath half as a personal challenge through the Coppafeel charity. I became properly aware of Coppafeel back in 2015 when I ran my first Half Marathon, also in Bath. Running for a charity is important to me. This time I wanted to think a little outside of the box for new fundraising ideas. I have been inspired by the charity and what they do so simply began illustrating in response to that. A local Printing company called 3rd Rail clothing had a new service called Print Social, and with their help, my illustrations soon evolved into the perfect fundraising t-shirt campaign. This was a great way for me to be creative and effectively fundraise while spreading the word through new, exciting product! Print Social helped me to launch a limited edition campaign and sell efficiently for a limited time. The team at Print social, Coppafeel and myself supported each other through the promotion of these sales, and every single penny of profit went directly to Coppafeel. It was a fantastic collaboration, and I thoroughly enjoyed working with these teams and creating a unique limited addition product, inspired by those who truly make a difference.
 
 
What is your driving force as a designer that separates you from your contemporaries?

 I believe in the process but also in something further than just the creation and sale of a product. I was to impact others beyond the ordinary. I don’t work within fashion to add to our culture's reliance on materialism, I do it to create beautiful, considered product that goes further than the product itself. To generate a product that is entangled, whereby its function is one thing, but then its design evolution and positive effect through production and sale is another.
I source with consideration, collaborate where possible and build positive relationships which continue to help, support and generate a new ethos within the industry. I want to confront the industries greed, selfishness and abuse toward skills and talent and generate creative support and new energy, extending into other industries and charity based projects too.
 
 
Would you ever consider moving back to Cornwall?
 One day I would yes. Cornwall is incredibly special to me, and I do often miss the lifestyle. However, I do love living here in London as the energy, diverse opportunities and fast city pace really suit me right now. I am aware that this may not suit me forever, so my aim is to learn as much from the industry as possible to build a network that enables me to be flexible about where I choose to live. To one day gather enough skills and support within the industry to sustain myself, as a designer in Cornwall would be incredible but whatever happens, I will always have close connections to home. I have always felt very lucky to be able to enjoy city life but also escape South to the countryside when I need it. 
 

What was the best advice you were given?
 ‘If you make a mistake, use it!’ My first Art tutor and close family friend gave me this advice. It has since helped me to build a positive, creative approach to my work and to try not to get too anxious about creative decision-making. I believe that things in life often happen for a reason, but we are also controllers of our own happiness. My advice from Alan compliments this belief and helps me to make the most of the things within both my creative practice and life’s opportunities too.
 
 

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Ella Jazz by CreativPaper

When Ella Jazz is not soaking up the sun around the world with her partner in crime photographer Viktor Vauthier this gorgeous lady is working hard in the studio or in front of the lens. We caught up with this Madrid-born beauty to talk about her art, constant travel and her creative vision.

 

For those of us who are not familiar with your work, tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?

My name's Ella Jazz. I'm an artist and an actress.

 

What is the inspiration behind your work?

I like to try to get inspiration from everything really, even difficult moments. I take it as a challenge. Since I'm a little girl, I've always allowed my imagination to ride free (never stop being curious) which I keep on doing nowadays. I can spend hours imagining things... So I guess this helps me a lot to feel inspired even if I don’t feel that way all the time.

 

You seem to do a lot of travelling with your partner Viktor Vauthier, another great creative. How does this affect your art?

Travelling is one of my favourite things, and Viktor loves it too. I believe that travelling is kind of like a school of life. You learn and experiment incredible feelings probably different to those you would have when you are inside of your comfort zone. And this has a big impact on your evolution as an artist (and as a person)

 

Are there any artists, past or present that you look up to artistically?

Of course, I admire a lot of artists but there are so many I can't name them all. But I can tell you Boris Vian is probably my number one :)

 

A pair of lips seem to be a focal point for your work which we adore, Tell us a bit about that?

I see abstract faces everyday everywhere. The reason behind is to let people play with their imagination when they see my collages.

 

Are there any exciting projects that you are working on at the moment?

Yes. There are things I am working on, and I'm very excited about it. A cool collaboration coming soon, I've just finished shooting for a feature film (I believe going to be very "moving") that will come out next year and continue working on my art, I have so many ideas, and very sexy things are coming...

 

Your Instagram feed looks like one incredible holiday. If you had to settle down which city would you pick?

Los Angeles

 

What does a typical day for Ella look like?

Ha, ha! It really depends on the day. Because of my work my days are different in general. But a good day would be to wake up to a very sunny day, eat well, meet with people who inspire me, work in my studio, dance, get close to the ocean and get high by the beach ;)

 

We would like to thank the lovely Ella Jazz for taking the time out to talk to us. You can follow her work via the links below. 

 

 

WEBSITE INSTAGRAM

Images of Ella in the studio taken by Viktor Vauthier

Lisa Krulasik by CreativPaper

Lisa Krulasik, is a talented jewellery designer based in New York City, she has been honing her craft at Pratt Institute for the past several years. Lisa was awarded the 2015 Saul Bell Design Award and received first place in the emerging  jewellery artist category. 

Her BFA Jewellery Thesis Collection embodies her passion for Jewellery and reptiles. We took time out to speak with Lisa about her collection and the creative processes involved. 

In what ways has your background influenced where you are now?

I am a first generation American from Polish parents. Growing up in a Polish household plays a minor roll in my work. My BFA Collection is titled Istota, which in Polish means “being, essence, creature, entity, substance, and soul.”  

My education has definitely had a major impact on my work. I have always been very interested in architecture, math, and science so much so I originally was going to study Chemical Engineering. Once I found my love for creating, I trusted my gut and pursued art to see where it took me in life.

Please describe your design aesthetic in three words?

Crisp, dynamic, and sculptural.

Who would you most like to see wearing your jewellery?

It brings me great joy having anybody interested in my work and I honestly would love to have anyone wear my pieces.

Please describe the creative processes from start to finish of a new jewellery collection?

Typically, what sparks my urge to make something new is when I’m inspired by materials and forms. I then start sketching ideas while referencing the inspiration. For example, if a piece of wood sparks my creativity I will hold and rotate the piece in my hand so that I can discover and draw out new forms. After sketching, I either make prototypes out of base metal and paper, then move on to making the piece in the selected materials, or I just jump right into making the final pieces. Also, there are times that I don’t sketch at all and just start to make intuitively. All of this depends on what my instincts are telling me to do in the moment.

What’s your jewellery philosophy? How do you like to wear your favourite pieces?

While I design and create, I make sure to stay in tune with my intuition and allow for change as I progress. I find that this lets my work radiate the passion that I have for each individual piece. The process for my thesis collection, Istota, involved designing and rendering thirty brooches with watercolour and gouache. This was to gain a better understanding of how the materials worked with each other and with the concept. To further progress, I had a few outside artists critique the designs, and then I selected the ten strongest designs that complemented my personal artistic instincts.

I enjoy wearing pieces to complement an outfit, show off my personality, and boost my confidence. I also enjoy when people ask me questions about the piece I am wearing.

What type of woman did you have in mind when designing your collections?

Instinctively I design work that is gender neutral, I believe everyone has the capability to wear whatever they please. However, when I am commissioned to make a piece for someone specifically, it may be more associated with a gender if this is what they would prefer.

Where did you find inspiration for the materials you use?

I have always been interested in work that included non-traditional materials. During my third year of college, I took a class titled beyond metals, where I was educated on how to work with many new materials like wood, plastic, paper, etc. Since then, I have been inspired to stay on the look out to find unique and beautiful materials that allow me to create freely.

What is the future for your jewellery brand?

I am working on many new and exciting projects, which I cannot wait to share! A few have been shared on my website but I am also working on various commissions and creating a new selection of jewellery.

The next few months have a lot in store. Stay updated by following my social media accounts and checking my website.

Alex Asfour by CreativPaper

Alex Asfour is a Miami based designer and illustrator with a passionate for all things art, design and travel. CreativPaper caught up with Alex to discuss his typical working day, family and travel. 

What is the first thing you do before starting your working day? 

Well, the first thing i do as soon as I wake up is to check my email to make sure there are no urgent messages or job inquiries that require immediate responses. Then, after consuming a couple shots of espresso, i will either resume with emails or if i have time, go for a quick run. I actually do most of my design work at night and my day is spent with administrative tasks.

How many hours per week do you currently commit to your craft? And how do you find a balance between your administration tasks and design work? 

It's hard to determine my hours as they vary so much. Freelancing is very much a feast and famine field. Sometimes I’ll be swamped and work around 70 hours and some weeks I’m completely free of client jobs and can work on personal things. In terms of balancing design and administration, I’ve come up with a system where i spend my days with email, shipping, and other administrative work and I’ll design at only night. This allows me to concentrate more and not be distracted by incoming calls or messages. I feel most creative at night so for me it works well.

Is it true your mother inspired you to work in the creative industry?

Yes, my mother, while not a professional artist, has made art her entire life. Whether it be sketching, watercolours or needlepoint she showed me that anyone can be an artist and not be afraid to experiment and try new things.

Your love of travel is evident in your illustrations, what have been your favourite countries you visited to date and why?

Yes, travel is a passion of mine and it informs my work greatly. I was lucky enough to travel quite a bit with my parents when i was growing up. They took us all around Europe, North America, and the Middle East and it’s been really fun returning to places i visited as a child and to get a new perspective on the city. I know this sounds cliche, but, i finally got a chance to visit Paris last summer and it was very inspiring for me. From the architecture of the city to all the amazing works of art there, it really super charged my creative battery. I’ve also recently visited Stockholm and Prague and they were also incredible cities.

Stockholm is definitely on my list of cities i would personally like to visit, can you share any unique finds you may have come across whilst in the city or quirky eateries you would like to share?

Stockholm should definitely be on everyones list of cities to visit, its one of my favourite cities ever. Besides the fact that everyone there speaks perfect english and the people are incredibly nice, the city itself is a work of art. The balance between old and new architecture is incredible and the public spaces are very well designed. Not to mention the great museums, shops, and parks. The most interesting thing I discovered in Stockholm was their Metro Stations, which should be considered museums. Each station in the main area has its own unique design, colour, and subject matter. They are really amazing and I found myself riding the metro up and down just to see each one. The food there is also nice but it is a little pricey to eat and drink in Stockholm so I found myself often grabbing quick smaller meals such as kebabs, french hot dogs, and of course the meatballs. 

Alex, can you describe the creative process from an idea into the final result?

Well, after an idea pops into my head i immediately start sketching really rough, crude sketches. They are simply to figure out composition and to make sure when i jump on the computer and start building the design, it will work. Then, I rough out all the shapes and build the elements of the design slowly adding more and more details as i go along. I finish by tweaking colours and adding some additional textures and I’m done.

The colours in your illustrations are dreamy.. Is choosing the right colour palette important to the overall artistic vision of that piece?

Thank you. Yes, colour is very important to me. Sometimes the design itself will look great but the colours won’t be working. At this point i will tweak and play around them until I’m happy. Sometimes i’ll grab colours from photographs or use websites that offer colour schemes to help me find the right tone.

As a professional illustrator and designer how do you utilise social media to your advantage?

For me as a freelancer with no agent to help me get work, social media is extremely important. It doesn’t matter how good your work is, if people aren’t seeing it than it’s not helping you. Instagram has been a great way to share my work and to get new jobs. I do my best to stay on top of it and share as often as i can.

As a self-employed freelancer how do you stay motivated and organised? Do you ever suffer from doubts particular during quite periods of the year? 

As a freelancer, I never seem to need motivation as I have a burning desire to constantly design and create things. While sometimes I feel like i need Inspiration, motivation never seems to be an issue for me. Absolutely, working alone as a freelancer can be incredibly tough, especially in quiet, slow times. Luckily for me, I have my personal project, The World Travel Poster Collection, that keeps me busy. I just finished my 80th city and I’m hoping to reach 100. This, along with my online store keeps me pretty busy.

Your client list is very impressive, you have worked with The Washington Post, TimeOut NY and Disney to name just a few how did these opportunities come to fruition for you?

Most if not all of my jobs have come to me because of my World Travel Poster Series. This has been a three year (and counting) passion project for me where I’ve been making travel posters for many cities around the world. It gotten quite popular now so it’s been great in helping companies find me and giving me opportunities to work with cool clients.