In October 2014, Design Week Portland invited Namita Gupta Wiggers, a curator and writer, to host 5 conversations in the geodesic domes we installed as our headquarters at Pioneer Courthouse Square. In the middle of downtown, surrounded by the energy of the city, Namita spoke with 5 different design minds who were involved with events during the festival. These were meant to be the kinds of conversations that don’t happen on a main stage, but rather in an intimate setting where tangents and meanderings are encouraged.
NAMITA: So Lisa, I wanted to just jump right in and start by talking about the shift you made in your career that moved you from one type work to Rare Device. Something that we were wanting to get into from there was about the internet, and the way the internet plays into that transition, and then things that have happened with your career since then. So, what were you doing before Rare Device, and how did Rare Device happen?
LISA: So, just so people know, Rare Device is a store that I co-owned in San Francisco. It still exists; it started in New York City by a woman named Reina Tom; and in 2007, I was in the beginnings of my art and illustration career. Sidenote: I didn’t start drawing or painting until I was 31, which was fifteen years ago. And so by 2007, I was sort of starting to show and sell my work, and not in as big or expanded ways as I do now, but I was starting out. And I had a show at this very small store and gallery in New York. I went there for the opening and I met Reina in person, though we had been talking on the internet for nine months. And she said, during that week, that she was moving back to San Francisco and started talking about how she—I didn’t know her when she lived in San Francisco, but she had lived there before—and that she was thinking of opening a store there. And I was simultaneously trying to figure out ways to leave my former job. I worked in an education nonprofit for years and years; that’s my former career. And so, I said, hmm… And she said, well, we had known each other a week in person. And she was like—
NAMITA: So nine months on the internet and a week in person?
LISA: Yeah, and so she was like “Do you wanna open a Rare Device storefront in San Francisco with me?” And I was like, “Sure.” So I quickly figured out a way to go part-time at work, so that I could slowly transition to having that be my thing, and it was sort of this great way for me to become this full-time self-employed person without relying 100% on my art income, which now supports me fully, but in the beginning of my career, it didn’t. And yet, I didn’t want to be working in an office anymore. So it was kind of serendipitous that it happened. And so that was in April of 2007 and by October of 2007, we opened our doors. Part of my job in owning this business with her was—I had no retail experience whatsoever, she taught me everything I know. She still teaches classes on opening storefronts. Anyway, I didn’t know anything. But one thing I did know a little bit, even more than she did, were a lot of other artists, and I was really interested in curating for the space. So, we had a designated gallery space inside of the store, and started having monthly shows, and that was also a great way for me expand my skill set and it was an opportunity for me get to know other artists, and I don’t know. It was fun.
NAMITA: Cool, cool. So, in those conversations with other artists, I’m guessing they were not local, all of them?
NAMITA: So how did you get in touch with them? I guess where I’m going is something you and I have talked at another time about, about how important the internet became around 2006/7/8 and opened up a whole different way for a different generation of people to connect and create community and start working together. So, how did you find these artists?
LISA: Well, around 2005, maybe the end of 2004, I started to actively use the internet. This is before I even considered myself a professional artist, I was just, like, this lady who made things and put pictures of them on the internet. I had no intention of becoming a full-time artist at the time, or any dream that I could be doing the kinds of things that I would be doing today, but one of the things I did is I joined Flickr. That’s actually one of the ways I met Kate and some other people who are very influential in my life today. And, I started a blog. But mostly, on Flickr, which I think is the original social media for visual people. If you were on Flickr on that time, it was really small and it was a lot of photographers, and artists and makers. Also, this was before all the big mommy blogs and design blogs. A lot of artists and makers were already using blogs and other blog-like formats to share their work, and so I just met so many people at that time because in a way, the internet world wasn’t as saturated, like there weren’t as many people. So when you did meet the people that you met, you got to know them. So, around 2005 I was meeting a lot of people. So by the time 2007 came around and Reina and I opened this storefront and a gallery, I had made connections with a lot of people all over the world, all over the country—other artists. Actually, Kate, I think you were our second show. Kate had her Obsessive Consumption show there in 2007.
KATE [from audience]: One year of drawings!
LISA: Yeah, one year of drawings at that point. She had just sort of started that whole project, which now you’ve wrapped up, right? So Kate was one of the people, and there were others who I met, and I wanted to show a diversity of work and so, you know, a lot of that came from these people I had met on this internet-land. And again, this was before it was huge.
NAMITA: So pre-Facebook?
LISA: Pre-Facebook, pre-Twitter, pre-Instagram, pre-all-of-it, yeah.
NAMITA: Snapchat, you name it… So, thinking about that, one of the things that really struck me, and I’ve had conversations with a number of people about this, is the way that there is this particular group of women who became connected through the internet at that particular moment and it became this opportunity to work outside traditional systems, but it also became this way of creating this separate group of people who have all gone on and have developed careers of their own, but the way that they’ve used the internet, and the way that they continue to use the internet is really different from other people. Kate Bingaman-Burt being one; thinking about your work; thinking about Jen Beckman… You do work with Jen also, right? 20x200? Some of the other people like that—what was it? Was it just smaller then? I just find it fascinating when I look at the group of you who started to get notice and attention around that time for your work, that there was this other way of using it and it really became a mobilizing opportunity.
LISA: Yeah, I think so, I mean… I think there are some of us who saw very early on, before the internet exploded into what it has become today, that there was this opportunity we might not have had otherwise. I can only speak for myself, but unlike Kate, for example, I didn’t go to art school, I don’t have my BFA or my MFA. I mean, I took classes but I was basically making things up as I went along. And I saw this opportunity in the internet that intrigued me and that I wanted to take advantage of, because I’ve come to know now that even people who have gone through traditional channels to become artists or makers still need to use the internet in strategic ways. It’s not like you go to art school or design school and then all of a sudden, you know, you know how to make a living as an artist or a maker or you know how to promote your work. In fact, we all sort of need to use it in the same way. I was completely intimidated by the world of art and design. And so I was like, well I don’t necessarily know how to navigate those worlds or what they mean, but there’s this way that I see I can share what I’m doing, where other people might pay attention to what I’m doing. Because it used to be in the old days, you needed someone to speak on your behalf. If you were a maker, you needed a curator, you needed an art dealer, you needed an illustration agent. Before the internet, you needed somebody with some prestige or cachet to talk about your work for you or to sell your work for you. Or to help you sell your work. There’s this way that the internet leveled the playing field because even for people like me, who had no connections, no representation, you know… I was like, oh, I want to be an artist so I can make my own website and believe me, my first websites were terrible. My work back then was terrible. But it didn’t matter because I took ownership and was like, I’m gonna do this. It doesn’t matter that I don’t necessarily fit in or that I feel like an imposter half the time; I’m just gonna make it up for myself. And little did I know that’s what everybody else was doing also. Of course you think you’re the only one. And then there were other women doing the same thing. Like, Faythe Levine was another example. And so, because we were all using the internet in similar ways through our blogs and posting things and connecting with each other. Through the internet, we would always meet in person and have real projects together, but it became this place for connection and not just for self-promotion or not just for sharing your work, but also with building a community of other people who were trying to be independent or be entrepreneurs to carve their own path somehow.
NAMITA: So when did you start to realize that, putting images on Flickr and building your own first website, when did it start to shift to the kind of numbers and followers that you have now? Do you remember being aware of it?
LISA: Yeah, well it’s not like there was one moment, but whenever I do public talks—not whenever, but a lot of the time—I’ll talk about that moment at which I realized that people were paying attention. And you know, in the beginning, a lot of the sharing that I did was really innocent. I wasn’t necessarily sharing because I thought anyone was paying attention or because I thought that it would lead to a career as a full time artist. It was more like, “I’m making stuff and here it is, and what are you making? And other people were posting pictures of things they were making or shows they were having or whatever. But then, you start to realize… I had two blogs before the one I have now and I shut them both down because I looked at my stats and I realized that people were reading it and I got totally freaked out. Because I was like, oh my god, you think that you’re having this private conversation with just a few people and then you realize… And then from 2005 to 2006 to 2007 to 2008, that just continued to grow. So I also realized eventually that in order to continue making a full-time living as an artist, I had to have a blog format. That’s just a format that works well for me. So now I’ve shut that one down, but that’s how I sort of realized that that was thing that was gonna help me make a living and help support me. I felt like a pimp half the time. Twitter started and I’d be like, "Look what I made today.” You know? And it felt really awful and gross, but you get used to it after a while. [laughs] And you realize that’s what everybody does; that’s part of the game you have to play. And it’s easier when somebody else says, “Look what Lisa made today,” instead of having to say it yourself. Yeah, so, I’ve gotten used to it and the internet is my worst enemy on the one hand because so many people are watching not just me, but people pay attention, and there is the potential for your work to be seen by so many people. And it’s very intimidating and very overwhelming, but at the same time I couldn’t do what I do without it. It’s what feeds me, literally, and so I have to continue to… I just wrote a book, part of which is about using the internet to promote your work as an artist. You would not believe how many people for whom that feels so gross and horrible, that they have to promote their own work, and they don’t like it that they have to do that. But unfortunately, that’s the way the world works.
NAMITA: Well it’s not that different than if you promoting your work to a gallerist or to a publisher or someone else.
LISA: Right, it’s the same thing. I just think it feels a little bit more vulnerable to people because the internet is this place where it’s uncharted territory and anybody… You think that you post something on Twitter and you think that all 10,000 of your followers are actually reading it, but probably ten people see it. The illusion is that everybody’s watching you, but that’s not really the case. But that’s why it’s so scary, because it feels like when you put something out on the internet, so many people are looking at it, or conversely, you’re worried nobody’s looking at it. Both are scary and terrible and both are part of being on the internet. Is everybody watching or is no one watching? Both sound terrible to me.
NAMITA: So now you use lots of different platforms now?
NAMITA: So, how do you use them differently from each other? So like, Instagram versus Twitter versus Facebook, etc.
LISA: The only major platform that I don’t use is Pinterest. I’m a member, but I just haven’t gotten into it. So my main platform is my blog actually; that’s the home base for all of my content. And then, I use Twitter and my Facebook fan page to share what I write about on my blog. And on my blog I write about what I do. Some of the posts are about illustration projects or art projects that I’ve done. Sometimes I write about other artists; I interview other people. So there’s a wide range of topics. And then I use my fanpage and Twitter too, as a sort of vehicle for sharing that information. Instagram’s a little different because it’s a sort of platform in and of itself because you can’t link to things on Instagram which I actually think is good, but it’s a place for people to follow you. I think… Austin Kleon talks a lot about showing your work and showing your process as a way of building a following for your work. You can’t just show people the perfect thing that you made in the end. You actually have to talk about the way you think about your work and the struggles that you have or your actual artistic process, and I agree with that. I think that’s part of what I try to do at least on Instagram, is share things as they’re in progress or share different aspects of my life so that people can get to know me as a little bit more than this person who makes these pictures or designs these patterns or whatever.
NAMITA: Well that’s something that has really struck me particularly about your Instagram feed is how you do open up your personal life.
LISA: A little bit. People think they know everything about me, but they don’t. They think that everything you show them is everything about you, but that’s actually also not true. So I do share. Like, people know that I’m married to my wife Clay, and that we live in Oakland and that we have a dog named Wilfredo and two cats named Margaret and Barry, you know? And people know what the inside of studio looks like and the kind of things that I make, and they might occasionally get to see what I eat for lunch or dinner. [laughing]
NAMITA: Or the fabric you brought back from Finland.
LISA: Or the fabric I brought back from Finland. Definitely my travels because traveling is a big part of my life, the thing that really influences my work. And I think it’s important for people to see that artists—I mean if you’re not comfortable with this as an artist, that’s fair, but I think it’s helpful and important for people to see that you aren’t just this thing that you make. Or that this thing that you make doesn’t just turn out looking the way that it does overnight, right? That you don’t just sit down and make these things; that there’s a whole process involved and sometimes it’s really ugly and imperfect.
NAMITA: It shifts and changes and morphs.
LISA: That’s right, that’s right. You know, and there’s this whole about the internet too that people often just show the pretty, perfect parts of their lives and so what other people see about your life is curated, right? And some of the most popular Instagram feeds are the ones that are really highly curated, even by artists. So, today I posted a picture of my wife and I on the Portland airport carpet… Right, everybody does that?
NAMITA: Yes, everybody does that. [laughing]
LISA: And I was like, I’ve been to Portland a million times and I’ve never done this and I’m totally doing this after I get off the plane. So we get off, and I take the picture, and I’m about to post it and there’s this picture where her feet are here and my feet are here and I posted it, and then I was like, “Oh I forgot to crop out her hand.” And there’s like some random edge of my bag sticking in that perfect square and like, I almost got a little anxiety attack and then I realized, like I have to remind myself every day just because 26,000 people might see this picture, that doesn’t mean that every part of it has to be perfect. I think there’s a tendency to want things to look a certain way, whatever your idea of perfect is, because that’s totally different for everybody. I don’t mean perfect in the Martha Stewart way, I just mean your idea of perfect. And I think we have to fight against that in this world of social media, to just let things be, you know, what they are, and not have everything have to be so incredibly filtered and have a certain look.
NAMITA: Which ties into this question of vulnerability a bit, right?
NAMITA: You know, I’m thinking about some of other people who are using their blog or writing as a way of connecting. Specifically Rebecca Solnit, in the Bay Area, has written a lot about some of the pretty negative things that have been happening to women who post a lot. So, how do you strike that line… I mean you just had a great description about the kind of angst that happens when you put those photos out, but in terms of other kinds of content, can you share a little bit about where you draw that line so that you are as vulnerable as you’re comfortable being, rather than putting too much out there?
LISA: There’s a line in my book that I just wrote. The book that I just wrote is called Art Inc: The Essential Guide to Building Your Career as an Artist. One of the lines in there, I’m talking about using social media, and I say if after you’ve posted something, you feel as if you’ve said too much, you probably have. Like, you have to trust your gut about what is right for you and how much is too much. And your followers will tell you. If you’re posting too much and too much personal stuff, that makes other people uncomfortable too. There’s a fine line that you have to stay inside of I think. And it’s different for everybody, and you have to learn what that is for you by experimenting with feeling like you may have said too much or posted too much. I’m very careful. My famous line is, “You’ll never see a picture of my feet in the bathtub.” Like, I don’t think people need to see that. And that’s a common Instagram photo, isn’t it? You know, people in the bubble bath and you can see their feet. Like, I don’t need people to imagine me in the bathtub. [audience laughter] And that’s a thing, that I’m like, I will never go that far or further than that, whatever that thing is for me. I’ve been doing this for long enough that I have a very solid idea of what feels okay to me and what doesn’t. But I think when you’re first starting out, you have to figure out what that is for you. And sometimes it’s gonna be by either making a mistake or… not just by posting pictures but also what you write about on your blog, or what you say on Twitter, or what you even post on your personal Facebook page that you may even later regret. Sometimes you make mistakes or you have bad feelings afterwards and you have to reconcile that in some way. Either learn from it or take it down.
NAMITA: So let’s go back to the relationship between the internet and your work. And, I know that getting your work out there gave you great exposure; it also connected you in a different sort of way than if you’d had to go the traditional route of the representation and so forth. So, can you talk a little bit about—
LISA: I, by the way, have representation now.
NAMITA: Now, but when did that happen?
LISA: Illustration representation happened in 2008, so a couple of years after I started. I’ve had various gallery representation on and off. I don’t currently have exclusive representation. But anyways, it did happen.
NAMITA: Yeah, so did that come from your posting that way or did it come from people seeing your shows, or how did that come about? I’m interested in the way that it happens both in person and the way that the internet played a role in that for you.
LISA: The illustration representation happened because I thought that I needed an agent. So I contacted this woman who now represents me. But that was before I even had an internet presence like I do now. That I think happened more as a personal thing. I knew somebody else who was represented by her. She recommended me. All the other stuff, most of the gallery stuff has happened because people have seen my work at shows or seen my work on the internet. So it’s a little bit of both. So oftentimes, like building your—for lack of a better word—brand, or your portfolio, or your client list, or your list of gallery shows or whatever, no matter how you do it, how you make connections with people, everything builds on everything else. I think it’s always best that you’re trying to make both personal connections with people in person and network actually by showing up physically in your community. And making connections on the internet is also really important. People always ask me, “How do I break into the art world?” And I’m like, “Show up.” You can’t sit back and wait for people to come to you, you have to participate in things like this. You have to go to art openings; you have to volunteer at your local arts organization; you have to donate work to fundraisers; you have to go to lectures and introduce yourself to people afterwards. Lots of artists, myself included, are introverts. That’s not necessarily our favorite thing to do. You sort of have to force yourself to do it, ‘cause it’s really, really important.
NAMITA: So, does the internet then, and all these different channels, do they help as an introvert? Or does it make you feel more vulnerable? Or is it something in between?
LISA: I think it probably depends on you, and your personality.
NAMITA: What about for you?
LISA: For me, I have made so many important relationships on the internet, most of which have turned into personal relationships, because really there’s only an extent to which you can have a relationship with somebody on the internet, for real. To me. So, I mean my goal is always to know people as people and person even if I only talk to them on Skype, but my internet presence and the relationships I have built on the internet have only enhanced all the other stuff that I do. And of course we’re people who live in communities. I can’t wake up tomorrow and be in New York to network with people there, and simultaneously be here in Portland, and simultaneously be in Los Angeles. So the internet allows us to network with all these people in other places even if we just live in one place. You can’t just show up everywhere, except you can on the internet a little bit and that’s great. But also being part of your regular community… In fact, a lot of the relationships I have—I live in Oakland, but in San Francisco where I lived for many years, and where I have my greatest community of fellow artists and mentors and curators and people that I’ve gotten to know, a lot of those relationships happened because of the internet. Like, I met people first through the internet and they were like, “Oh, I’m also from San Francisco, why don’t you come to this thing?” Or whatever.
NAMITA: I think that’s how I found, how I connected with you through the internet.
LISA: Yes, yes. And then we met in person.
NAMITA: And then you connected me with Reina through the internet, and so it becomes this great way of building relationships.
LISA: And, well the world is so much smaller now because of it. So many people who are part of my community, either in a connected way or in a disconnected way, I met through other people and now we’re working on projects. So it’s inevitable that I’ll get an email that says, “Oh, I would love for you to participate in this project,” or, “I’m curating this show and I want you to collaborate with these people,” and inevitable I’ll know a handful of people even if I don’t know them in person. It’s a very small world in some ways.
NAMITA: It’s like a neighborhood.
NAMITA: So, let’s go back to your work and the different kinds of work that you do. I know you just got a new contract for a book that you’re gonna be writing.
LISA: Two more. Two new books.
NAMITA: Two new books! So maybe talk a little bit about those, but then also, your work is… You work in a number of different ways, and I think for some of the artists who I know are in the crowd today who are students, they are trying to balance out how you can work in a gallery setting, as well as illustration, as well as products, and so forth. Can you talk a little bit about those different things?
LISA: Well, it used to be, in the old way of doing things, you had to choose to be a commercial artist or a designer or a fine artist. There was no… Very—Artists, even back in the '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s who crossed that line and did both, and there were a number of them, were often criticized for doing both. It was this thing that you had to put up with a lot of criticism from both sides. Your art was not pure as a fine artist if you were ever, you know, interested in making money from it in a commercial sense or putting it on a product or whatever. And those lines are blurring. Shepard Fairey is a good example of someone who started out as a graffiti artist, and then was selling his work commercially, and now he shows his work in galleries, and there’s lots of examples of that. There’s some big names of people who’ve sort of, like, made it okay for the rest of us. Because I didn’t come from the formal school training, I just like didn’t know about any of the rules, so I broke all of them immediately when I started working. I started off, I realize now, as more of a fine artist. I had started to have shows; I was making collages and paintings and drawings and then I got contacted in about 2007 by both Chronicle Books and Poketo, which is a Los Angeles based company that makes products. They were very small at the time; they’re pretty big now. And, um, Pottery Barn Teen. All wanting to mass produce some of the stuff I was posting on Flickr, which is by the way how Pottery Barn Teen and Poketo found me. Chronicle, one of their staff people came to an art show I had in 2006 or '07 in San Francisco and went back to their editor and was like, “You should work with this woman.” And I had never considered being an illustrator or licensing my work or anything. It’s sort of interesting that I sort of fell into commercial artwork by just being a fine artist. My work lent itself to a certain extent to licensing, and being put on things. So, I didn’t realize I was breaking any rules. I wasn’t represented by a big gallery, it’s not like I was… So that kind of happened, and then my friend was like, “You need an agent.” Well I realize now, I didn’t need an agent. I’m glad I have one but, you know, it is really possible to be an illustrator and not be represented. Especially now, you don’t necessarily need somebody to promote your work for you. Anyway, I got an agent, and I started getting more illustration work, and I started licensing my work. So, and then I started making books because when you have a lot of opportunity, you get to try a lot of different things. I did editorial illustration, and I started doing book illustration, and surface design, and I taught myself how to make repeat patterns, and so I was doing all of these things that lent themselves to different mediums or genres. I illustrated some books, and I was like, This is really fun but I want to make my own book. You know? So I started… In 2011 I published my first book, and it was based on this year-long project I did called Collection a Day. So this actually not even—it was an art project, but it wasn’t my illustration. It was photographs mostly, of things arranged—of collections—of things I actually had that I put in these arrangements on an imaginary grid on a white background and photographed, and then it kind of blew up. It was around the same time that guy started that blog, Things Organized Neatly. In fact, I gave a Creative Mornings talk in 2011 about that very phenomenon of people being addicted to seeing ordinary objects arranged neatly.
NAMITA: And that was seen for sale in Amsterdam, too.
LISA: Oh, my book? Oh, that’s cool. I did that with a small publisher, and I ended up illustrating a book of Gertrude Stein poetry. Of course Gertrude Stein was the author, but that was a big project for me through Chronicle. I did another project in 2012 where I hand lettered something every day in an attempt to get good at hand lettering, and that also turned into a book. And now I’m doing a sequel to that. That’s one of the books that’s coming out in 2015.
NAMITA: Is that the swimming…?
LISA: No, no, that’s another one. I’m publishing my first personal book. I’m obsessed with swimming and swimming pools. Not competitive swimming necessarily, just swimming, swimming culture, swimming ephemera, swimming suits, swimming history, everything pool and swimming related. So, I am starting now a book basically on swimming. It’s mostly going to be illustrated, there’ll be some essays. That’s my first personal project book.
NAMITA: So, thinking about this, there are a couple of things that struck me when you were describing this. So, you’re doing an illustration. It may be for the book, it may be something that you’re working out in a different way. What then is the relationship between… I think in some ways the swimming book is really what’s making me think about this, is it’s a way you’re bringing together so many of the different parts and pieces.
LISA: Right. The swimming book is interesting because it will have hand lettering, repeat patterns, some kind of surface design, some abstract paintings, which is basically my painting practice if you know anything about my work. My fine art practice is all abstract painting now. Probably some vintage ephemeris and collections, so it’ll have photography and illustrations that I do, and writing. Because now I’m also a writer. Yeah, it’s like basically I get to make this thing which includes all of the ways that I work which is a lot of different ways. I’m kind of all over the place. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Basically, the publisher was like, “Choose a topic that you’re passionate about, that nobody’s ever written a book like this about before,” so I was like, “What about swimming?” and they were like, “Oh, okay.” So I turned in some sample illustrations and ideas and they went for it. But yeah, it’s this way to sort of pull together… It’s not a monograph, in the traditional sense, but it is in a way. It’s just around a particular topic.
NAMITA: And what I think is really intriguing is the way that you have created projects for yourself that help you drill down into certain skills or certain ways of working. Like, the illustration project and then the collection project. But it’s really fantastic to hear about how all of it is coming together with this one new project.
LISA: Yes, I’m excited about it. And personal projects are a great way to not just expand your skill set, like if you do—it doesn’t have to be every day. Like I did this project last year with Maria Popova, who writes Brain Pickings. It’s called The Reconstructionists and I drew a portrait every week and she wrote an essay every week about some woman from history who we admired and so that was just a weekly thing that we did. It was still a lot of work, but my projects in 2010 and 2012 were both daily projects, which is kind of intense when you’re also a full-time working artist. But they’re great ways to, like, build your portfolio, build your repertoire, hone your skills. I mean, the lettering I was doing on January 1st 2012 was very different than the lettering that I do now because—or even that I was doing on December 31st, right? Because I had gotten good at it and I had sort of honed styles, and even two years later, you know, I can’t even look at the lettering I was doing two years ago. It looks so bad to me, for lack of a better word. So, they’re great ways to get better, to put your work into the world, but they require an enormous amount of discipline.
NAMITA: So what happens, and how do you manage it, on that one day where you think, “Oh my god, who came up with this idea? To do this every single day?” And how do you manage that, or have you had those moments? Where you think, “This is crazy.”
LISA: Yeah, totally. But, I also care a lot what other people think. And maybe it’s because I know people are actually paying attention to what I’m doing. And even if they didn’t, I’d like to think that they’re paying attention. So I’ll be like, “Oh, I can’t quit this now because I’m already 70 days in and all these people are gonna think I’m a failure if I quit, or whatever.” So I’ve actually completed every project I’ve started. I did start a project this year, though not in the official sense, where I was gonna try to sew… Either buy vintage or sew all my—like I wasn’t gonna buy anything new, and I’ve kind of broken that rule a little bit in the pants department because you can't—it’s hard to buy vintage pants or sew paints. But I have sewn a lot of clothes. In the beginning I was making a new article of clothing every month, and then of course by April, I just got so overwhelmed by work, I’ve only made a couple more since then. You know, life happens and sometimes you can't… But the daily projects are the most intense and yet, I think the most can come from them if you do them. And a lot of people do these kinds of projects now. I was in the first wave of people; Kate was also. We were doing these personal projects that we were posting on our blogs, and I think they’re great.
NAMITA: How do you… How do you say no, when things come your way that—How do you decide that, “This is something that I’m gonna not be able to do,” or, because you can’t do everything that comes your way, right?
LISA: No, no. So in the beginning, when I started to get really busy, I used to get super overwhelmed. So I came up with this list of criteria for saying yes, which is four things: Decent pay, possibility for good exposure, fits into my timeline, my aesthetics and whoever's—whether it’s a gallery asking me to contribute something to a show, or a company that wants to hire me to illustrate something, that there was like a, that we jived aesthetically. Or that it was a company or a gallery that I’d want to work for, right? That there was some resonance there. Two out of those four criteria had to be in place for me to say yes. And that’s how I started. Now I’m so busy that I have to have, like, pretty much all four things have to be in place, and the time being the big factor. Because if you don’t have time to—If you don’t have time for something, you’re not gonna do a good job, you’re not gonna feel proud of it, it’s gonna be a horrible experience anyway. I have to say no a lot, and I’m getting better and better at it. It just takes practice. It never feels really good because I wanna say yes to everything. Because when people come to you as an artist and they want to work with you, it’s like the best thing in the world. And I never want to be that jaded person who’s like—doesn’t appreciate when people are interested in working with me.
NAMITA: So what’s one thing that you haven’t done yet that you would like to do?
LISA: Um, let’s see. Well, I am very interested in continuing to be interested in surface design, and I have done some—licensed my work to be printed on fabric and things like that. But, I’m interested in either expanding into some kinds of home decor that are sort of edgy and cool, and different than anything anyone’s ever seen which is a hard thing. Which is why I haven’t done it, because I haven’t figured out what that is yet.
NAMITA: No pressure on yourself. [laughing]
LISA: No pressure. I love clothing and I love fashion and so of course I’m really intrigued by the idea of fashion as art. You know, I like to make my own clothes and I’ve been block printing my own fabric and things like that. Just figuring out ways to see my work live in the world in different ways. And not just on something that gets sold in the mass market, right? Something that’s a little bit more limited and well-made. Who knows what that will be yet, though.
NAMITA: Cool. Awesome. Thank you so much. I really, really appreciate it. Thank you for all the time and information.
LISA: Thanks, thanks for having me. Thank you for coming.