Posts tagged #dc

Cardboard Reliefs: Jason Yen

Jay Yen at Work

Many of us are quite used to collapsing and discarding the delivery cardboard boxes that come to our doorstep. Amazon Prime, Birchbox, Wine of the Month Club, Mom's quarterly care package? Whatever your flavor, most of us see cardboard as a delivery vehicle. However, local DC-based artist, Jason Yen, sees more than corrugated fiberboard. By day, he is lead designer of DC community magazines/newspapers, HillRag, MidCity DC, and East of the River. After hours, Jay is also a food enthusiast and mixed media artist. This month, Jay has a gallery of cardboard reliefs up at the Hillyer Art Gallery in Dupont.

The exhibition remains open until February 28 so if you are local and can make it, it's worth seeing. 

At times taking a critical view of social, political, cultural and personal issues; Jay's work also takes on the versatility and lightheartedness of having no significant meaning attached but rather, a comical and fictitious play of puns and pop culture. Articulating his desire when others see his work, "his aim is usually to see people smile in a clever way." Seeing his work online presents a two-dimensional picture of a story or statement. However, up close and in person, his work reveals dimension and depth as his process of cutting, pasting, layering and coloring gives a unique intricacy and complexity. 

Jay Yen Cardboard Relief
Jay Yen Cardboard Relief

Talking with Jay, he shares more about his process but also purposely restrains allowing others to perceive and interact with his pieces personally and uniquely. Whether one sees symbolism or one gains a laugh, that is the intent. 

What about cardboard and mixed media inspires you as an artist?

Finances inspire my use of cardboard/mixed media. I also have the freedom to use any thing I want in the creative process. Traditional art supplies can be costly so starting out in cardboard, I've been able to build upon this base using magazines and print publications. It's also become my way of being environmentally responsible in my art. 

How did you get started and what was your first piece?

I've been pretty creative my whole life. In high school I started to paint... I did that for many years, but got tired of it. My first piece in cardboard relief was a girl sitting on some steps. I sold it a couple of years ago. The next closest is the girl in the library. If you look at that piece and the latest piece you'll notice a difference in skill and quality.

Who influences your work and who do you look up to?

Nobody really consciously influences my work, but I like all kinds of fine art and street art, so I'm sure there are bits and pieces that my mind collects.

What's your Dream BIG? Where would you like to see your work displayed?  

I would like to influence other artists, continue to find joy in creating, and selling my work to use the proceeds in a Godly manner. I mean, I'd love to be a famous artist; a pillar in this event art period of anything goes :). But that's a slim chance. So really, finding joy and using the money in a missional way. But who knows... I always tell Katie, I'm doing better in my art career than VanGogh did in his...

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Lincoln Monument
Man with Bouquet
Dim Sum
Posted on February 24, 2015 and filed under Fancy That.

Maven Style: Printed Wild

Working as an independent designer and maker, your brick and mortar rotates on a weekly basis surfacing at one of several pop up craft markets in the DC area. Spending weekend after weekend in these markets, you get to know your fellow vendors. One vendor who I have had the pleasure of getting to know is Eva Calonder of Printed Wild, a line of nature-inspired handmade accessories including but not limited to canvas and leather totes, clutches, makeup bags, throw pillows, glass candleholders, cards and illustrations. Printed Wild emerged on the DC scene two years ago and since then has steadily grown a presence in DC and New York craft fairs, entry into local stores like Salt & Sundry and a prominent full-page feature in the Washington Post. I had the pleasure of sitting down with Eva, who is coincidentally my neighbor. On a sunny morning in her dining room sitting on a chair hand-painted by her talented cousin, Andres Tremols, we sipped French press coffee and enjoyed homemade madeleines. We spent the morning talking about creativity, business, and all things Printed Wild.

Where were you in the world and in life before DC?  Seven years ago, I was working as a graphic designer in Cambodia. While there, I met Bertrand, who is now my partner. We both came from the same region in France and after 8 months of working in Cambodia, we decided to move back to France to spend time with family. We lived in Paris where I worked as a freelance graphic designer and afterwards, we moved to Rome. Bertrand received a job opportunity to work with the World Bank and that is how we ended up in DC. We have lived here for 3 years now.

What is your background and what led you to start Printed Wild? I am trained in graphic design and illustration...I've always loved illustration. After a few freelance jobs with a few organizations in DC, I wanted to take the time to figure out what I really wanted to do. I love being creative but working for ad agencies was not the right fit. Bertrand and I worked it out and I began to research options online when I found surface pattern design and knew that this was it. It was such a good match between my training, love of illustration, and application of designs to fashion fabrics and interior decor. I love natural and interesting textures - Printed Wild seemed a fitting name.

Tell us about your process making your line.  I draw the patterns in person as much as I can and make the stencil. I transfer it to the block or screen and use watercolor or ink to print it. A friend taught me how to sew and that is how I got started making the bags. My first craft fair was at the Hillyer gallery in Dupont Circle which was perfect. I was a mess figuring out everything for the first time but it was perfect for the size and vision of the venue where I had pillows, keychains, and coin purses to sell. Next, I took silk screening courses at the Corcoran Gallery where I learned dyeing, shibori, block printing, and screen printing techniques. I also took another course at the Textile Center in New York which focused on repeat printing. Locally, I took sewing classes at Bits of Thread to continue to improve my skills. I laugh because my friends ask me if I remember my first products and say how now, my products are much better. I love natural textures. This year, I added leather to my bags because it really adds another dimension to the product. The challenge with this is that there aren't any leather shops in DC so I travel to Baltimore or New York to find leather material.

What has been your experience growing the business? It has been a two year journey. In the beginning, it is so important to be patient. Recalling the first year of my business, I wanted so much for this to be my day job. Now I am not in a rush. I know this that works. I get good feedback but this is going to take time. If you want quality, you cannot rush it. It also took a while to learn and integrate each part of the process together. As a maker, you want to be in stores as much as you can. However, when it is just you and you get an order for 200 units of product sold at wholesale, it was difficult to find a way to do it and make money from the sale. Of course, it is so great to be in a store but now I will make sure that it makes sense for the business.

Is the product that you are making now your ideal product? Not yet I would say. I know what I want to sell. First I was limited by what I could do. Now I know how I want my brand to evolve. In the beginning I had no idea. I was just waiting for returns. At first, you see what people buy and what people don’t buy. What kind of quality are you looking for? How much do you want to invest in the materials? Now I know what I want to make and I feel the products can still improve.”

What has been the most challenging part of the business? Starting a business, you have to do everything. The creative, administrative, web, social media - you need to do everything. I love the creative part but you can't do all the creative part all the time. Also working from home is great but it's not great sometimes because working alone can be lonely. What is the best part of the business? Everyday it makes me so happy to be able to be creative and have a design or product come alive. Since I started this business, I also discovered the creative part of the city and it made me fall in love with DC. I also like getting feedback from customers. When they come back and tell me how much they love one of the products, that really makes  me happy.

What advice would you give to other creatives who want to start something? I feel like I am still at the beginning of this too but I would say to others "Go for it." Start with the time that you can and find a way to support yourself while working on your creative business. Starting something in the States is different than in France. There is an optimism and encouraging environment - almost like it is natural to start something and have people be supportive of it until they're not. In France, they won't support you at the beginning until they eventually do. This made it easier for me to start a business in the states. So I would say find a way to do it. Many thanks to Eva Calondar and Bertrand for opening up their home to Fashion & Philosophers and sharing such good bits of wisdom, experience and creativity with us. You can find Eva's designs online at Printed Wild and purchase her products on Etsy.

Maven Style: An Interview with The Metallist

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In the hours that I am not writing, blogging, and exploring, I also run a socially conscious business called Kicheko Goods. Kicheko participates in a few local markets based in the DC area and through these events, I meet makers and business owners who inspire and whose craft and work speaks volumes. One of these small and mighty businesses is Ashley Kriehn of Metallist, a handmade artisan jewelry line that incorporates natural and architectural influences. Each piece is well made and many of them come with a backstory and personal linkage. I asked Ashley if I could interview her and showcase some of her work. Everyone, meet the Metallist.

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Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do.

My name is Ashley Kriehn and I am a mostly self-taught metalsmith with my own business Metallist. I make contemporary jewelry primarily out of sterling silver. I strive to push the boundaries of my art form as well as my medium.

How did you get started with your business?

I went to The Art Institute of Dallas and received my bachelor’s degree in Interior Design.  After graduation, I worked for an architectural interior design firm in Dallas for three years before I got engaged.  I moved to Northern Virginia the summer of 2009 to be near my fiancé (we had grown up together and reconnected later in life). I enjoyed working as an Interior Designer, but upon my move to VA, I was faced with some pretty big obstacles. Firstly, it was 2009 the height of the recession and no one was hiring.  I actually went on an interview where the designer wanted me to work for free. Secondly, my fiancé, now husband, had lived in Northern Virginia for five years and had already purchased a condo in Manassas. The commute would have been lengthy since most design firms are located in Arlington, Alexandria or DC. I began searching for a way to solve the problem. However, in the interim, I settled for a dead end job at a call center that I absolutely hated.

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During the first few months of living in Northern Virginia I went shopping for wedding bands with my then fiancé, now husband, at the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria VA.  I was intrigued by the handmade jewelry offered in the artist’s studios there.  I have always loved making things and loved jewelry.  I had been making jewelry with pre-made components and beads to satisfy my desire to make for a few years at this point. The jeweler who made our wedding bands told me about a jewelry class offered at The Art League by artists at the Torpedo Factory. I decided that once we got married I would quit my job and take a jewelry class just to see what happened. Honestly, the first day of class, I knew that I had found what I was meant to do. I have never looked back. I think about jewelry constantly, which I think is probably abnormal. I took classes for the entire year between 2010-2011, wherein I learned the fundamentals of jewelry making. In the summer of 2011, I opened my Etsy shop and the Metallist was open for business.

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I noticed your pieces have unique sculptural qualities? How did you develop this aesthetic?

I think that my training and time as an interior designer heavily influence my designs.  I have a strong background in Art and Architecture history from college that I am able to draw from when conceptualizing a piece.  I look at each piece of jewelry as a piece of art.  I think about the details and how it will look from all angles.

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Since joining Etsy, what has been the response to Metallist? Online shops are such a presence now. What is the difference between online markets and in-person markets like DC Meet Market?

Etsy has been a good fit for me. I had my first two sales within the first week of activating my shop and I was overjoyed. I still find it exciting every time I get a sale on Etsy and it has never been a burden or overwhelming. I have also gotten a lot of positive feedback through favorites and the sales that I have made. At the same time I am definitely not the largest shop on Etsy. It’s a big marketplace and it’s hard to compete in categories such as jewelry where there is immense competition. With that said, I enjoy getting to sell my jewelry in person even more. It is so rewarding to see people try on my pieces and get excited over something that I have poured myself into. I think that connection with the buyer is the ultimate reward for the maker.

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What is your process?

Every piece starts as raw material, sheet or wire in various gauges and forms.  Like many other artists, inspiration strikes anywhere, everywhere, or nowhere.  I am usually operating on "I have so many ideas running through my head that I don’t have time or energy to make them all" or "I can’t think of a great idea."  I am most often inspired by architectural forms, nature, or the present materials I have to work with in my studio. I usually start with a vision in my head. I don’t often do complete sketches of jewelry, but I do make paper models to figure out scale and do some preliminary problem solving.

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You are also a wife and a mother among other roles. How do you balance home life with your work?

I have had to realize that work and motherhood is a balancing act.  It feels like even more of a struggle since I work from home.  I face a lot of scrutiny, whether real or imagined, about my job being viable. If I am in my studio, then I am usually missing out on time with my little girl. If a day goes by that I don’t make it into my studio, then I feel like I’m falling behind. I never feel 100% prepared for markets. I was naïve before I had my daughter and thought that I would be able to easily work while I took care of her, but it’s just not that easy. I’ve had to learn to work in smaller chunks of time and although I prefer working in the early hours of the morning, there are many days that I don’t get into my studio until mid-afternoon.

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What is the best part of what you do? What is the most challenging part?

Hands down, the best part of making jewelry is when it is complete. Metal-smithing is physical. It’s sawing, hammering, filing, etc. My hands are usually cracked and black from metal dust. My shoulders and hands ache after a long day in the studio, but at the end of all the hard work I have a beautiful three dimensional object that I have transformed from sheet metal with my two hands and a few hand tools. This makes the connection that a person has with my work that much stronger. Although they may not know how much work went into the making process, I do, and to see them excited about the piece helps me to know that it is going to the right owner.

I think the most challenging part for me is pricing. I don’t think any artist ever really gets paid enough, sometimes at all, for his work. In our culture so many things are mass produced that people just think things appear. They think everything is manufactured.  This is of course not the case with a lot of handmade products. Many times I don’t charge anything for the actual time it takes me to make something.

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Any advice for fellow artists who are starting their own businesses or thinking of going into business?

I think some things go without saying, like stand behind your product, be prepared to work harder than maybe you’ve ever worked before. (There are times I feel like I’m working as hard as I did in college). But I think above all you have to believe in your business and want it more than anyone else. No one is going to do that part for you. You don’t have to wait to have everything just so to start, there is a little growing room, but have a plan in mind. I have an ultimate goal and I set personal goals which build towards that ultimate goal. For instance, the first step was starting my Etsy shop, and now it is applying and gaining acceptance into more juried shows. One of my ultimate goals is to get into the Smithsonian Craft Show.

My thanks to Ashley for sharing her heart and craft with Fashion & Philosophers. Her pieces are truly one of a kind designs. I went home with the fine silver woodgrain wrap ring and I am obsessed with it. The wrap is weighty and sturdy and the woodgrain etching onto the silver gives it a natural texture. Check out her Etsy shop and learn more about the Metallist.

Street Style: Stephanie

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Stopping at Baked & Wired (can't get enough) in Georgetown, we met Stephanie Moki. Bottoms up, she wore wedged sandals, a flowing sheer skirt and dress from Forever 21, leather jacket, and Lacoste fedora. She gave us a very casual easy-going vibe while tucking away some mystery behind her eyes. With this week's heat wave, the jacket won't stay on for long.

Posted on June 19, 2014 and filed under Street Style.

Street Style: Amit & Jon

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This past weekend, it warmed up to the low 80's and I saw many a tourist and resident baring limbs and letting arms, shoulders, knees and toes see the light of day. It was glorious. And then the first half of the week returned to cooler temps requiring me to wear a wool beanie as I went for my morning jog. The weather is kind of like WTF. However, style rests for no weather. Meet Amit and Jon. I asked Amit about his style and a few favorite places in DC.

Describe your personal style. Bombay and Savile Row conceived a post-colonial couture love child in Brooklyn and named it Madison, after their favorite haunt. The sartorial family likes to take trips to Nantucket and Italy.

What little known places in DC do you like and think people should know about? Maple Restaurant on 11th St in Columbia Heights. It is a small place that has been buzzing with locals descending on the restaurant for its craft cocktails, carefully selected and individually sourced wines from Italy, and modern Italian fare that is uncomplicated but always surprising. Add to these things the finest wait staff in DC and most diner-friendly management, and you've got the perfect evening or Sunday brunch.

Boathouse at Fletcher's Cove is at the bottom of the sheer cliff upon which Canal Road is situated, halfway between Georgetown and the Palisades. Very easy to miss but not to be missed. You can rent kayaks, canoes and rowboats to use either on the Potomac or on the historic C&O Canal. You can also rent bikes to use on the C&O Canal trail or Capital Crescent Trail.

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Where do you shop? New York, Paris, Bombay, New Delhi and online.

When I'm feeling particularly Chelsea, I traipse to Behaviour, a men's boutique with only two locations that sources designers from every part of the world. They are particularly bold with patterns and cuts. If the occasion requires suiting up, Emporio Armani is unparalleled for modern off-the-rack style and Alton Lane has provided my custom-made suits (they are now in DuPont). When I need a Brooklyn fix, I rely on Mary Meyer, a dear friend and breakout Brooklyn star who transforms cottons into comfortable, easy-to-wear pieces with a combination of geometry and asymmetry that is unmatched.

My annual trips to Paris always yield something fun - a blazing rust-colored, shrunken worsted wool blazer with contrast lapels and elbow patches, periwinkle jersey trousers, patent leather lace-ups that kill your feet but are altogether too fun to wear.

I have over 60 scarves and shawls from 10 countries but mostly from South Asia. My favorite Indian designer is Rajesh Pratap Singh, who uses everything from linen to silk to sequins to handmade pieces inspired by traditional South Asian garb, by the British Raj, and by the desert. Nobody does shawls and scarves like the South Asians, and purveyors such as Amarsons in Delhi, Fabindia, and the individual producers in Kashmir are the best places to go. I also have a few brightly printed pieces from Pakistan, courtesy of some obliging friends visiting my ancestral home that I have yet to get to myself.

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What music are you listening to right now? Ella Fitzgerald is always telling me to accentuate the positive. I've taken a particular liking to the Very Best, a collaboration between London-based DJ Radioclit and the Malawian singer Esau Mwamwaya. They take dance, electro-pop, hip hop, southern and west African beats to a whole new level and you can't possibly stay seated when their tracks come on. Also, AR Rahman, the brilliant and superstar Indian composer and singer.

I love capturing locals on ordinary days showing pieces of their personality through their sartorial choices. If you have recommendations on places Fashion & Philosophers should visit to capture more local flavor, let me know in the comments. My friends and I might be strolling and snapping on a street near you!

Photo Credits: Erica Baker Photography

Posted on April 17, 2014 and filed under Street Style.