Another artist interview for you all! This time it's with Lisa Anderson Shaffer, the designer behind the handmade accessory line, Zelma Rose. Lisa is a New York native turned San Franciscan, and I had the pleasure of asking her questions about her work, her background, and her experience in art school. Check out her very thoughtful answers below!
How has growing up a New Yorker and now being an honorary Californian influenced your work?
Much like my days in San Francisco, growing up in New York I lived right near the water. Even though I was in the burbs out on Long Island, Manhattan was a really big part of my life. I started taking the LIRR into the city alone as young as 13. My parents handed me a map, dropped me off at the train station and said they would see me at 6 pm. I knew my way around from going in and out with my parents and loved exploring on my own, even at a young age. I'm famous among my New York friends for getting lost in the village seeking out cool shoes. Even when I moved out to California I always had a love of the mix of urban landscapes with incredible natural ones. I love the juxtaposition of texture, color, and sound between the city and the country. I think that mix, conflict, and tension of landscapes has always influenced me, especially when it comes to the shapes and textures in my designs.
According to your site, “Zelma Rose” seems to be very much an homage to the family members that have influenced your life and your interests. Do you think it’s important for people, especially artists, to recognize personal and inspirational heroes?
The gene pool can be wide and deep or fit on the head of a pin. I am a big believer in understanding where we come from, could be the psychotherapist talking, but I love following family trends of interests, behavior, biology, and passions. When we get to know the story of our family, they can live on with us. It's like a continuation of the book, another chapter, instead of a conclusion. I like the wide focus of that. Yes, artists need inspirational heroes! It doesn't matter who or what they are. Sometimes I have talked myself back into the studio by simply seeing a Marc Jacobs magazine ad that set my soul on fire. Other times it is seeking out a visit with a colleague who gets me motivated. When the going gets rough in life, and it will, a museum visit, a simple song, or touching the fabric of a $10,000 dress at Neiman's has always kept me afloat. In the end whatever floats your boat and gets the creative juices flowing again. Influence is everywhere.
Actually, other than playing “summer intern”, I (Steph) am currently an art student pursuing a BFA. How has your art school experience (and your masters degree) influenced your perspective as a designer?
Art school is hard. It separates the mice from the men for sure. SFAI is no joke and while there I was immersed as about as deeply as one can be in fine art. While SFAI at the time did not stress the business side of art, I think I learned more about being a business person there than anywhere else. To be able to speak about your work clearly, and thoughtfully, to be able to accept constructive and not so constructive criticism and skills that are unfortunately not highly stressed these days, is of critical importance. If you want to own your own business, or pursue a creative endeavor, you must be able to talk about yourself and not cry and breakdown when someone doesn't like or notice what you are doing. Success is built upon many failures. Sometimes they are right, your work does stink, sometimes wrong, but either way you need to be able to listen and think on the feedback, this is essential to success in any field. Surprisingly, my masters program in Clinical Psychology taught me many of the same lessons. Grey area is where it is at. Nothing is black and white ever, even when we desperately want it to be. Success and happiness depend upon how well you can navigate the unknown, change, and chaos. For those of us who like the roller coaster ride, this is always good news!
On the Zelma Rose site, you also mention how you tend to write down your ideas in words as opposed to sketch them out, and I think that’s really great and comforting to see. Do you have any advice for aspiring artists on how to approach the concept of a “sketchbook”?
Break the rules. When it comes to how you do your work, as long as you are productive, it doesn't really matter. I fought with myself for so long about feeling frozen by doing sketches. In stopping to sketch, I was losing part of the process that I love, which can only happen in the making. Sketching was limiting my conversation with the materials, and this part of the making process for me is where things really start to unfold and decisions about design are made. When I decided to stop sketching it was such a liberation. However you can most clearly communicate with your work, that's where you need to be as an artist. Psychoanalyst Marion Milner refers to the artistic process as a feeling of oneness. There is no separation between the artist and their work. That feeling, if you are an artist, you know what it is for you, is the magic of this work. Preserve it on your own terms.
What food, if offered to you, could you never turn down?
Coffee or tea?
Favorite 90’s hip hop jam?
So hard to pick just one. This is my genre of choice in the studio. I think it has to be California Love. Where else can you find Tupac & Dre?
Lisa is now based in Marin, just across the Golden Gate Bridge from the city. If you want to find out more about Lisa and Zelma Rose, check out her site here. We also carry many of her necklaces here at the shop.
Until next time,