As I celebrated my birthday this month, I decided to do a special edition (with a little twist!) and give each person I interviewed an opportunity to ask me one question. And here's what happened...
Growing up, what artistic inspirations helped you realize what industry you wanted to work in when you got older? – David Cowe, Perth based fashion photographer.
Everything happened quite naturally. When I was a kid, I was constantly drawing or crafting, that’s why I went to art school. Also, I was involved in all sorts of activities from dancing and singing to acting in theater, but when choosing the industry I wanted to work in, I decided to stick with design because it was in demand at the time, and I knew exactly what I could do with it. My biggest artistic inspiration was “Beauty and the Beast” on VHS, which I probably watched over a hundred times. I loved many things about it (absolutely amazing music by Alan Menken, beautiful animation, haunting atmosphere), but the thing that really clicked with me was Belle’s ability to see true beauty in this world, the essence of things. She wasn’t afraid to go on an adventure and take risks due to her nonconformist ideals.
Is there a certain idea that spans across your breadth of work? And if so, how has this idea developed? – Haley Stark, New York based art director & graphic designer.
I think the main idea that spans across my body of work is the universality of design. Design is not about the tools you use, it’s not about the style or elements you pick, and it’s definitely not about the field you work in – it’s about the way you think and how you transform the world around you. Design principles are universal, and if you understand it, you can speak this language anywhere you want. It doesn’t matter if I’m working on graphic design, jewelry, fashion styling or if I’m making a salad – I’m using the same approach. Even when I’m writing features or exhibition reviews, I’m still working with text from a designer’s standpoint. To me, design has a lot more philosophy to it. Working with a form and its content, composition, color and their ability to affect people’s emotions is truly amazing. Each element has a certain message and impact, and you have a right to choose how to connect with your audience. Being able to speak this common language with the entire world is very freeing, but it surely comes with a certain responsibility for what you do.
What is the greatest fear you’ve had to overcome in regards to your work? Do you ever still experience this fear? – Erin Hanson, Queensland based poet.
This fear stems from the thing I’m certainly not afraid to do, which is trying new things, so the greatest fear I had to overcome is probably the fear of not being able to pick just one direction and put all my eggs in one basket, so to speak. There’s always this pressure of guilt that I’m sharing my time and effort between different things, rather than focusing on just one area and giving it my all. I just try to follow my heart on that, whether it’s fashion styling, illustration, jewelry design, writing or interviewing, but I’m sure finding my main focus is just a matter of time.
If you had to be an animal, which one would it be and why? – Jean Jullien, London based graphic designer.
I would want to be a cat – not because they’re cute (although they totally are), but because I do associate myself with this animal. Independence means a lot to me. Cats love independence, yet enjoy social connections; they have a deep connection with self and great energy. Besides, according to Chinese astrology and its 12-year-cycle, I was born in the Year of the Tiger (Eye Of The Tiger should start playing right at this very moment!). Tigers are adventurous, confident, expansive and independent, which describes me really well. Typically, they are best suited to become actors, writers, musicians and artists, so I’m exactly where I need to be.
What are you striving for? When you look back on your career in the future, what do you want your crowning achievement to be? – Steve Demyan, Brooklyn based abstract expressionist.
Honestly, I doubt this crowning achievement exists. Nothing is ever good enough for me as I’m too critical of myself. When I get too comfortable and there’s no struggle, I feel like I’m dying, in a way. I have no idea what I’m gonna do in the future, but I hope to be able to build a successful career in the creative field that will not interfere with my family because in the end, I want my family to be my greatest achievement.
What fashion era inspires you the most? – Aziza Azim, New York based buyer & editor.
Aesthetically, I really like the 40s, especially Christian Dior's New Look and Katharine Hepburn's style. It's very feminine, yet there's a touch of minimalist approach, which I appreciate as I tend to lean towards clean shapes and designs. I also like the 70s – Jane Birkin, Joni Mitchell, Francoise Hardy.
If I asked you to advise me a movie to watch, what movie would it be? – Alina Zamanova, London based fashion illustrator & textile designer.
For such a movie addict as I am, it’s hard to pick just one, so I’ll suggest a few. Based on your work and overall aesthetic, I would probably recommend Dancer in the Dark (2000), Girl Interrupted (1999), The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), Pollock (2000), Time (2006), and Yohji Yamamoto: This Is My Dream (2001). I think you would also enjoy reading History of Beauty/On Beauty (2004) and On Ugliness (2007) by Umberto Eco.
People say inspiration comes from within. If you ever run out of inspiration, how would you deal with it? – Chris Kanisorn, Bangkok based fashion stylist.
I absolutely agree that true inspiration comes from within and filling your inner world with emotions, experiences and knowledge is extremely important. So, in this sense at least, I hope I will never run out of inspiration. But the truth is, I try not to rely that much on either inspiration or motivation. Today, everybody wants to get inspired and motivated (books, talks, videos, master classes – you name it). Metaphorically speaking, while inspiration is obviously a popular girl in high school (on Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest and other visual social media), she, in fact, has an ugly sister no one ever mentions or talks about. And that ugly sister, my friend, is discipline. Of course, she’s not that popular, she’s not easy to get along with, she’s quite boring, but I’m telling you – she’s a keeper. If I only relied on inspiration, I wouldn’t complete a single project. I’m not saying inspiration is not important, but it’s just something that can get you from point A to point B a little faster, while your discipline is what keeps you going no matter what. The good news is that self-discipline, like a muscle, can be developed.
What do you hope to accomplish in the next 30 years? – Kim McCarty, LA based watercolor artist.
Normally, I stick with a one-year plan and a five-year plan. I never thought about my plans or ambitions on such a large scale, but I really hope I will continue to be healthy and active enough to make my dreams a reality (being healthy is always my number one priority). Also, I would want to build a life where my family and career are reasonably balanced. I’m not into vocalizing my goals until they are complete, but I will try to do my best to live this life to the fullest.
If you could interview anyone, who would it be and why? – Ashlyn Perkins, Winston-Salem based child photographer.
Well, if I could pick anyone, I would like to interview God to get some first-hand information as there are many things that require explanation. Everybody else is pretty attainable compared to him (or her, who knows?) – that would be a hit!
What is the most inspiring moment you’ve ever witnessed, personally or professionally? – Sara Blake, New York based illustrator.
On a personal level, the most inspiring moment I’ve witnessed so far was meeting the love of my life and getting married. The relationship I have with my husband fills me with endless inspiration (and laughter!), but the most inspiring moments lie ahead, I’m sure of it. There are so many places I’ve always wanted to visit, but never had a chance, so going there for the first time will definitely rock my world. Professionally, I find people very inspiring – that’s the main reason I started this series of interviews. There’s nothing more interesting than people’s stories and the way they see things. Recently, I was deeply moved by Frédéric Tcheng’s documentary “Dior and I”, which showed that fashion can be emotional. I wasn’t expecting it – usually fashion documentaries are cut from the same cloth, but this one is different. Raf Simons’ humanness is very appealing; he’s a true artist. Things like these always bring tears to my eyes.
What’s the biggest risk you've taken in life and what were you risking? Was it worth it? – Ryan Mikail, New York based portrait/editorial photographer.
Fitting my life into one suitcase and coming to the US was a game changer. But back then, I didn’t look at it that way. Now that I’m older, I understand that the stakes are high and that being away from family and friends is heartbreaking, but that’s the price I'm paying for my aspirations. Personal growth is very important to me, so I'd rather be the worst among the bests than vice versa. The competition is fierce. Starting from scratch and working your way up makes you grow up faster, so I don’t regret anything. Recently, I read a book by Jean-Claude Ellena, the house perfumer of Hermès. Here's what he's writing about his endeavor to learn Italian: "Learning a language, or any other thing, means opening yourself to the world once more; it is also a return to humility." Every new step is risky, so this quote applies to risk taking as well, in a way. Opening yourself to the world, isn't that amazing? I think it's always worth it. Otherwise, what's left? In the end, you will blame yourself that you didn't take that chance. My life experience is my greatest tool. Everything that’s happened to me, everything I’ve been through, has made me the person I am today. There’s an old saying: “No man is your enemy, no man is your friend, every man is your teacher”, so I’m thankful for all the amazing people I’ve met and everything they’ve taught me.