Student Spotlight - Meet Jodie Beechem

I hope people are inspired to look deeper than the aesthetically beautiful in order to discover the hidden gems of this weird world we’re living in.
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WeMake loves to showcase and support the future of the arts in our Student Spotlight Series. I recently had the pleasure of being introduced to Jodie Beechem at Tillamook Station, an illustrator and maker at PSU (Portland State University). Jodie specializes in illustration based projects, but absolutely loves just about everything you throw at her! She is very involved with the Portland community and loves working with local bands, companies, venues, friends, and strangers. 

Here's what Jodie had to say about her work and process:

Tell us more about Jodie!
I’m originally from Nashville, TN but moved to Eugene, OR when I was really young. I grew up in Eugene, and then as soon as I turned 18, moved up to Portland to go to PSU. I’m currently a senior in the graphic design department there. My favorite medium to work in is pen and ink, but I also really enjoy doing digital illustrations.

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How did you find the medium that best worked for you? What was that process of discovery like?
As a kid I was constantly making art and trying new mediums. I was fortunate enough to take a bunch of art classes with some incredible teachers at Maude Kerns Art Center in Eugene. While there, I was pushed to work in all sorts of mediums–watercolor, acrylic, graphite, collage, etc. At the end of the day though, I always found myself having the most fun just using pens.  

My mom is really crafty, and my dad is a crazy Einstein scientist type. I was lucky enough to get a good dose of both in my personality, and I think this is why I love working in pen & ink so much. It satisfies the part of my brain that thrives on wacky creativity, while also satisfying the part that needs everything to be perfect and precise.

What were some of your early influences to pursue an education in the arts? Did you always want to be an artist when you were a child?
I always wanted to be an artist, but it wasn’t until I got a bit older that I realized it was an actual possibility. I work really well when I have a “purpose” if that makes any sense, so school seemed like the perfect way to push myself to learn and grow as an artist and designer. 

I’ve always been really inspired by everything morbid, creepy, and weird. It’s easy to find the beauty in flowers, but it’s more interesting to me to find beauty in the darker parts of the world. On top of that, I’ve always been a huge art history nerd; I find myself lost in the stories behind paintings, and constantly find inspiration there. It might not be a huge surprise that my two favorite paintings are The Death of Marat by Jaques Louis David and The Death of Sardanapalus by Eugène Delacroix.

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Outside of your art—what feeds your imagination and soul, and brings you joy?
Outside of my art, I love going to see live music at local venues. There are so many great bands here in Portland that inspire me. In turn, most of my friends are in bands, so I end up getting to do a lot of band tshirts, posters, album covers, etc. On nights where I’m not at a show, you’ll probably find me either at the bowling alley or an arcade playing pinball.

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Our theme for this quarter is “welcoming”. As an artist, what does this mean to you?
In times like these, it’s more important to be welcoming than ever before. Art has a special ability to bring people together and it’s so amazing to be part of such an inclusive and welcoming scene. There are so many different voices that are being showcased, and I can only hope that this gets pushed even farther to highlight more and more people from all different walks of life. 

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How do you hope your personal expression will reach others, through your art?
I hope people are inspired to look deeper than the aesthetically beautiful in order to discover the hidden gems of this weird world we’re living in. 

To see more of Jodie's work, visit her website at www.jodiebeechem.com
IG: @jodiebeechem

 

An Interview with Luke Choice—Experimenting with Abandon

Stop looking at what everyone else is doing.
— Luke
Luke Choice

Luke Choice, aka The Velvet Spectrum, is an Australian graphic artist based in Los Angeles, who specializes in typography and 3D illustration. Starting out his career designing for the music industry Luke has formed the base of his portfolio with a strong focus on dynamic color and composition.

Catch Luke on the stage at WeMake Celebrates on October 13.


This year, our conference’s theme is ‘experiments in process,’ which complements your work perfectly! Could you describe how experimentation plays into your process specifically? How do you go from inspiration to implementation?

The process is a large part of what inspires my experimentation. Diving into artwork with no real intent of where I want it to end up, gives me the freedom to react to the colors, forms and movement that present themselves. I often look for abstracted concepts within the experiments to inspire the direction of the artwork. 

You have a lot of bright, vivid colors in your work, what is it about hot tones that inspires you? 

There’s a lot of early inspiration from the comics that I read as a kid and to my early years designing for the music scene back in Sydney. Once I began to learn digital programs, it was a case of “more is more.” I didn't resign myself to simplicity in my work, because the new tools were so exciting to explore. 

What is the strangest thing that’s inspired you to create? 

An artwork inspired by fecal matter for a WaterAid exhibition a couple of years ago. 

Luke Choice’s “Poop Art” (all images courtesy WaterAid America)

Luke Choice’s “Poop Art” (all images courtesy WaterAid America)

What has been your favorite project and why?

At last year's Adobe Max conference I created the visual language for an interactive partnership between Adobe and Emotiv, which develops advanced brain monitoring technology. Attendees were fitted with EEG headsets that read five key emotions (Stress, Interest, Excitement, Engagement and Focus) triggered during the creative process. These visualizations were broadcast on monitors to show the brain activity fluctuate during the process. The challenge came through trying to find a complementary graphic style to best represent each emotion, while not over-complicating the scene. It can often feel isolating behind the computer, so having the opportunity to watch people interact with something I created was such a rewarding experience. 

What is the ultimate goal of your work? 

I want to convey a positive energy through my work, whether it be playful messaging or vibrant color palettes. There's a lot going on in the world that's hard to digest, so my aim is to cut-through and cause people to stop and connect with something surprising and light hearted. 

Why do you make?  

A constant pursuit of developing the technical skills to realize my creative ideas. 

What advice would you give people to experiment more? 

Stop looking at what everyone else is doing. Start simply and build up around core principles that excite you. 

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Catch Luke at WeMake Celebrates on October 13.
 

Alice in Wonderland

I have my dream job.
— Alice Kendall
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A rare bird.

WeMake has been hosting sketchXchange for six years, but we've never had a tattoo artist speak, until recently. It was inspiring to hear about the path and process of local artist, Alice Kendall and to have her husband, William Kendall, moderate—another first! William was a natural at asking the questions, but of course, Alice stole the show.

The process of working with clients from design to tattoo is similar to the experience of any designer. You get a creative brief from the client, you research, you share initial ideas, and then you execute. The difference? Tattoos are permanent. And with designing forever art, there's not much room for making mistakes.  Finding a style and mastering the craft is what sets one tattoo artist apart from the other. Today, the art of tattooing has changed dramatically, both in style and in culture.

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With the help of William, Alice arraigned her process sketches from her early career (pencil drawings) to her present day work (all done exclusively on the iPad!). A sea of birds, florals, and the occasional mouse with other tidbits flowed into each other, creating a wave effect that cascaded over two large walls. A small portion of the show hung full colored originals.

Alice considers herself to be a collage artist. Tracing portions of things found in nature to keep the drawings life-like, but taking liberties with the art to make the final pieces her own— detailed and intricate. She adds to the authenticity by taking her own photos of reference materials whenever possible.

It was a beautiful night, a great show and a nice way to end a year of sketchXchange.  


Tattooing from the heart. 

Sometimes it takes something tragic to start a new journey. That was the case for Alice Kendall of Wonderland Tattoo. It was a motorcycle accident that sparked her career and helped her buy her first tattoo kit. Back then you didn't go to tattoo school, you got a machine from the classifieds in the back of a industry magazine and you learned by apprenticing in a shop.  It was in San Fransisco that Alice started on her path, but it wasn't until she moved to Portland that her career bloomed. 

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"I remember calling my friend Amanda who owned a tattoo parlor in Portland and leaving a message on her machine that I was ready to start working in the industry. Then I got a call from her the next day, she told me that I should come to Portland and start working with her. I asked if she got my message, but she had not, because they were vacationing in Mexico at the time. She just felt the urge to call me and invite me up. It was fate, or something, and then I moved to Portland."

Alice worked for Amanda and Paul for 14 years at Infinity Tattoo Parlor. At the time she often made her own needles and learned to tattoo on the fly. Infinity wasn't a flash shop, they did custom drawings, where walk-ins were always welcomed, something that doesn’t often happen today. 

When Alice left Infinity, she started Wonderland Tattoo and hired Alice Carrier as her first employee. On the day she opened, the shop was overwhelmed with callers, so much so that the phone lines went down. The response to the work she had been doing coupled by the work of Carrier, and their combined experience and style of botanical art would close their books for long runs from that day forward. You can get in, but it is a process of applying and waiting, as most of the now five artists take on new clients every quarter. 

This feminine style of tattoo art has changed the way tattoo parlors were once perceived. Wonderland Tattoo embodies these changes, with a welcoming vibe and tattooists who want to get personal with you. For Alice it's a way of researching and part of the process. They respect that tattoos are very personal and sometimes a way of healing. 

" I think it's important to create an environment I am happy in as well as others. I want people to feel welcomed, and I want to hear their stories—it's part of being intuitive in the process. I try to create a safe space were people can trust me, I don't want people to feel intimidated with the experience."

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Alice has created a rarity in Wonderland. Designing form the heart and making it a mission to give back to the community. They host pop-up fundraisers throughout the year, and make opportunities to form relationships with local non-profits. For instance working with the Audubon Society, or launching a project where they will be able to provide free cover-ups for people who have tattoos related to drug use, sex work, or violence.

Take a step down into the rabbit hole of Wonderland, a place where science meets art, and the art lasts forever.

Photos by Rowan Bradley, Yvonne Perez Emerson, and Alice Kendall

Alice Kendal on Instagram

Wonderland on Instagram

See more photos on our Flickr page

An Interview with Nick Misani—Type, Style, and Freelancing

My parents were both jewelry designers, and I think that was influential, not necessarily because it taught me to think visually at an early age - which it did - but it forced me to rebel against my upbringing.
— Nick
Photo by Ahmed Klink 

Photo by Ahmed Klink 

 

Interview with designer and guest writer Melissa Delzio

 

“It’s my first real day of full-time freelance,” Nick Misani says with nervous excitement. I congratulate Nick on getting out of pajamas on day one. “Well, half out of pajamas,” he admits. “I’m still just coming to terms with being accountable for my time and staying on schedule.” Nick is fresh from a three year stint working at Louise Fili Ltd, and before that, Penguin Random House. His book design, lettering and packaging design work is varied and strongly references historical design movements, which he says Louise helped impart. An Italian American, Nick was born in Italy, studied in Japan, and finally found his way to New York City and to graphic design. 

My interview with Nick covers the winding path of this Young Gun’s career, his inspiration, thoughts on having a style and his hopes and fears for the future of his career. 

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Melissa: Your work is very worldly, what influence does travel have on your work?

Nick: One of the things that is inspiring beyond just travel is the expectation of travel. I recently started this personal project that is travel centered, and it came about because I didn’t have any vacation days to use. I was in a really small studio. I would reminisce about past trips or think about trips I’d like to take.

When I do travel I try if possible to switch off and just enjoy where I am and see what comes. I remember an instance when I was working at Penguin, I was working on a book cover design and I happened to be in Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico had nothing to do with the book, but there was some lettering I saw on a building. I wasn’t actively looking for inspiration, but it happened naturally and that is the best thing. I find when I am actively looking for something I can’t find it.

Melissa: And how did you end up studying in Japan?

Nick: I grew up in Italy, our high school system there is a five year system. In the fourth year, there was an option to take that year remotely. Nobody seemed to want to go to Japan, that program wasn’t available, so I had to go through an American school to get that to happen. I stayed after the school year was over and worked there awhile. My high school was specialized in architecture and industrial design, but when I was in Japan I was just focusing on the language.

Melissa: You’ve studied architecture and industrial design, how does that background support your current work, or does it?

Nick: It got me thinking about things structurally and visually from an earlier age, but I don’t think there is a direct correlation between the two. There was a period of time between when I studied architecture to when I arrived at design when I studied music in college. When I moved to the states I was a classical music major. Because of that buffer, I don’t see the architectural part and the graphic design part as one leading into the other. I do remember that I wasn’t loving architecture. There was a lot more tedium than I imagined, dealing with building codes and all that wasn’t interesting to me. I transitioned into music and I did that for awhile, but what really prompted the move to graphic design was that I really just wasn’t a talented enough musician to make it in that field, or I didn’t start early enough. I decided to explore another interest I had dormant for some time [design] and I ended up really liking that. 

Melissa: Your work references many different historical design movements. Do you have a favorite time period?

Nick: The studio I just left, Louise Fili Ltd. is really well known for this type of historical design. That experience has helped give my work a stronger connection to history. As far as periods that have a special place for me, I really love Art Deco. I came into my experience working for Louise really loving Victorian typography. It was on trend at the time, a few years ago, and I was seduced by the ostentation of it. Deco is a lot more paired back, it’s more about geometry. But there is a drama and glamor about it that I think is fascinating. I also really love Art Nouveau, which I hear is really popular on the West Coast, or at least in the San Francisco area. I used to hate that style because it reminded me of 60s psychedelic posters, which were influenced by Art Nouveau, just like 80s design was influenced by Art Deco.

There is this other time period that is a transitional phase between Art Deco and Nouveau called Wiener Werkstätte. That is not as played out as the other historical styles. It has the geometry of Art Deco but its a little bit softer. 

The Arts & Crafts movement with William Morris and Dard Hunter is also really fascinating to me, or anything before the 40s; that’s when I start losing interest. I really don’t care about 50s type, that whole atomic look, I’m not into. I can get behind some 60s typography (Herb Lubalin’s work), that over-the-top lettering. Louise worked for Herb Lubalin. Loise is a great in her own right. My excitement and desire to work [at her studio] was completely because of Louise and I didn’t even know who Herb Lubalin was at the time. As far as graphic design history in the states, Herb is very influential. Loiuse would tell Herb stories, just like you would talk about any other boss, and you forget that he was this amazing designer that books are written about. Herb was like a grandfather, his legacy was felt.

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Melissa: Do you feel like you have a style?

Nick: I think about this a lot especially now that I have my own studio. How do I differentiate myself from my old boss? With Louise our tastes and styles matched up from the very beginning, she is leaps beyond me, but our interests were overlapping. It was easy for me to do work that fit within her studio’s output. Now that I’m on my own, the challenge is to figure out which part of the that feels like me and what part needs to be changed so that I can claim it as my own. I don’t think I have a definite style yet, people have told me that I do, but I don’t see it. I would like to.

Melissa: Should designers have a style?

Nick: It’s a big debate. For designers that specialize in lettering and illustration, having a style is encouraged. In design it is somewhat discouraged. Am I just a letterer or am I also a designer, those are the murky waters I am navigating right now. I don’t really have an answer. I don’t know if I want to focus more on lettering and follow in the direction of Jessica Hische or Dana Tanamachi, also alumnae of the studio I worked at. Or do I want to go more towards branding and packaging, more similar to the work that Louise does. Louise has a very definite voice even though she’s not just doing illustrative lettering. On the spectrum of an “invisible” designer to one that has a recognizable style, she is more toward the recognizable style. I’m not entirely sure which is better, I am still figuring that out.

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Melissa:  Do you worry about committing to a style and getting pigeonholed with your fauxsaics project?

Nick: Totally. From the very beginning, before I even started the project I thought about that. I posted my LA fauxsaic because I was going to LA. It was a one-off. I found that I enjoyed doing it and other people really responded. I thought about turning it into a series, but I considered, do I really want to be the mosaic guy? Do I want to put myself in that corner. As the series has grown, it is still on the forefront of my mind. It has given me a lot for a personal project, it has helped me grow my presence online significantly. It has given me a bunch of great opportunities. But I do sometimes feel like, what’s next? How does this project grow beyond what it is. Does it become more experiential, environmental? Or should I move on to something else? I am really interested in the decorative arts in general, things like mosaics, stained glass, wood block prints, and these older crafts. My style might evolve, but my core interests will hover around that for awhile. Something that has that old craft look to it, but is reimagined in a more contemporary way.

Melissa: Italy, Milan specifically is a design hub, and your family has a background in design. What role did your upbringing and surroundings play in your career path?

Nick: My parents were both jewelry designers, and I think that was influential, not necessarily because it taught me to think visually at an early age - which it did - but it forced me to rebel against my upbringing. I gave that direction up to pursue other stuff, which created a more indirect and winding path towards where I am now. It contributed towards my diverse interests. Had I just gone into jewelry design I would probably have had a pretty clear, easy path towards that. My dad had a company already set up, that had his name already on it. But I really wasn’t interested, so I studied music and I studied architecture.

As the years have gone on, I have a more nuanced view of what my upbringing has given me and I am starting to appreciate a bit more what my parents have passed on. The closest I have gotten to jewelry design is designing a few enamel pins, which is pretty run of the mill for designers these days. I don’t exclude the fact that I might go back to something jewelry design-related in the future, but I think it will be well in the future. It’s hard to be flexible enough to change course within a career, because you feel you’ve invested all this time into it. Even now, I’ve invested all this time in lettering, if I wanted to do interior design all of a sudden, that would be a scary move. I hope that if that desire presents itself strongly enough, I would at least to some degree listen to it, or incorporate it into my work and let it guide me toward something new. 

Melissa: It’s your first day freelance, what excites you and scares you about tomorrow?

Nick: I’m mostly afraid that I’ll be really lonely and that I’ll get into bad habits and not be as productive as I could be. Now that there is no clear divider between my personal and professional life, I want to be able to create boundaries for myself. I want to be able to shut off and have a personal life. I haven’t been able to have that in the past because when I got home from work I had to work on my other freelance work. If I’m able to keep those boundaries solid, I think my well-being and my relationship will improve in a way that I haven’t been able to experience. I am currently looking into being represented by an artist’s rep, which is also new to me. I am thinking about how my work is going to have to scale to allow me to support myself. Bigger clients are starting to get in touch, and I don’t know how to price myself and work with them, so having a rep is a nice idea. You have to be able to market yourself in a way that is very different than it used to be. It’s no longer about entering in some competitions, getting in a few annuals and sending out some mailers. I can see how useful it can be to delegate some of this work of self promotion.

Instagram and social media is fickle. If you start to get too sales-y or influencer-y that turns people off. Authenticity is very important as it producing work. Hopefully I will be able to keep up.

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Catch Nick at WeMake Celebrates on October 13.
October 14 Workshop: Learn the ins and outs of historical lettering design with a focus on Art Deco typography. 

Kelli Anderson and the Magic of Lo-fi

There are mysteries imbedded within the simple things.
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When we are children, it is easy to feel the magnitude of the world. New mysteries unraveling everyday with only more discoveries ahead in the future. As time goes on, this sense of wonder seems to shrink. Our days become ritualistic, and the unknown and the strange are foreign. Adulthood makes our world seem small. This is something designer Kelli Anderson would like to change.

As studious and successful as anyone could be, Kelli Anderson managed to hold on to a childlike perspective of the world. This is what makes her work so wonderful and real. “There are mysteries imbedded within the simple things, like a piece of paper,” says Anderson. “On an intellectual level, things that seem magical but scientific consistently inspire me.” Because our daily experiences shape our reality, Anderson’s goal is to uncover the hidden talents of everyday things. “We all hold a lot of assumptions about how the world works. And these assumptions almost always oversimplify things,” Kelli says. “I think my best projects show that amazing things are often hidden in plain view. If I can make something handheld and humble that sneakily challenge these misconceptions, I feel like I’ve done my job.”

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From her infographics for solar popsicle trucks to her incredible counterfeit news project around activism and democracy, Anderson delivers design projects that help uncover wonder in the commonplace experience. Her well of creativity overflows into personal projects too, including a seriously sentimental wedding invitation where she crafted a record player out of paper.  “I do my best work when I have a hunch that can only be confirmed by making. That’s the definition of ‘experiment’, right?” Says Anderson. “I suppose I’m selfish—I really want to learn something new when I’m working. Also the determination to figure it out helps pull me through the tough parts of a project.” Her drive to expose and experiment with the wonders of life is what makes Anderson’s work so extraordinary.

Before embarking on a life as a freelance designer, Anderson spent five years digitizing photographs at the American Museum of Natural History. In their archives she held photographs of Ernest Shackleton’s expeditions in Antarctica and Charles Darwin on his deathbed. Even after she left the job to pursue design full time, it’s clear that  the time spent at the museum time helped shape her attention to history and the legacy we all leave behind. You can see this in the immaculate detail of her infographics and her incredible branding work for clients like Russ and Daughters.

A fearless drive to create thought-provoking and shifting work has turned Anderson into a wealth of information. She documents her projects and creative tinkerings in immaculate detail on her blog. In her spacious loft-style apartment in Brooklyn, New York, Anderson becomes a wizard of reality. Amped up by indie-pop, she dives into her projects by seeking out new inspiration. Operating as a one-woman-shop, Anderson is constantly taking on new skills. “If you really want to force yourself to learn something new: raise the stakes,” says Anderson. “Being a designer differs from being a doctor in that—it isn’t an entirely crazy-irresponsible idea to learn on the job. I know that I often do my best work when figuring-stuff-out the first time—whether that is a new technique or technology or piece of equipment. It brings a lot of exciting energy to a project and forces me to think through the fundamentals rather than past-assumptions.”

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Today, Anderson describes herself as a ‘a designer/paper engineer who uses humble materials to expose invisible forces at play in the world.’ Her latest project is This Book is a Planetarium, an interactive pop-up book of functional contraptions, including a planetarium dome, a musical instrument, a message decoder, and more. “I think it is exciting because it proves that a lot can be done with very little. Because each pop-up works despite exhibiting no apparent technology, the book enables an intimate, firsthand vantage point on invisible forces at play in our world,” says Anderson. “My hope is that it gets other people excited about building things and experimenting with materials.”

This fall, you will have the chance to see the world through Anderson’s lens. Not only will she be a keynote at our WeMake Celebrates conference on October 13, Anderson will also be holding a workshop the following Saturday. In the 3 hour workshop, Kelli will show us how to craft a paper camera that can snap large format photos from real film.

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Don't miss the lo-fi magic of Kelli Anderson! Grab your WeMake Celebrates ticket.
October 14 Workshop: Make a Functional Camera Pop-Up Book with Kelli Anderson