One on one conversations with inspiring creative minds from various worlds. Influencers are everywhere around us. Their stories and passion bring light to our lives, prompt and motivate us to be all we want to be as humans…fulfilled.

MEET THE BRILLIANT PAINTER

MARIO ARISTHENE

Who is Mario Aristhène?

Mario Aristhène is a multidisciplinary artist, born in Petit-Goave, a town about 66 km from the capital of Haiti.


When did you know that painting was your life calling?

I have been told by those who knew me as a child, that as far as they can remember I was always drawing on everything I could put my hands on, but it was in 2004 when I won 1st place in a contest organized by Haiti’s National Palace that my faith in my talent and ability as a painter was sealed.



Have you studied fine art?

I studied and obtained my bachelor’s degree in visual and media arts at the Université du Québec in Montréal in 2015.


Who is your favorite painter?

I have a few, but the first that comes to mind is, Jean Michel Basquiat.


Would you describe your painting as abstract?

Every painting is different for me; although I paint some abstract, you can definitely also see some traces of figuration as well. I would say my paintings are more contemporary.


Have you had your own exhibit before?

Yes, I have had several of them, locally and internationally.


Is your art influenced by your Haitian roots?

At the beginning of my career, I was solely influenced by my Haitian roots and culture. However, after moving to Canada and after my studies at the university here, that influence has widely broadened. Now it varies periodically based on which art books I have just read, or the last research I have conducted. Some days, it is the classical greats that move and inspire me, some other days, it is the impressionist ones and yet on other days it is the contemporary ones.


How long can you work on one painting?

It really depends on the subject that I am working on, the emotions that are going through me at that moment, the size of the canvas and the overall energy of that day. The same size painting might take me 3 days to complete in one period while in another period it could take me a month.  I never know until I start working on them.



What are the emotions that drive you to paint?

Every one of them! The whole gamut of emotions!  Anything that touches me emotionally drives me to paint. Love, pain, joy, sadness, my surroundings, inequality, frustrations, regrets, sorrows…just about everything.


What is painting to you?

Painting is one of my ways of expressing myself, to share what I am feeling, sadness or joy…it is also my way of expressing, and bring light to what is happening in the world politically, socially, culturally and religiously.  Painting is a therapeutic treatment and as such it allows me to connect with myself and helps me live in the moment and know who I truly am. It is also my way of connecting with nature.

 


Any exhibition in perspective?

Yes, I am currently working on a project for 2017, which is a mix of painting, poems and music that will be done in Quebec, New York and Miami.

MEET  SVETLANA CHOVNIK

A YOUNG RUSSIAN PHOTOGRAPHY PRODIGY

Who is Svetlana Chovnik?

Creator,human being and an innocent sorcerer.

What styles of photography do you specialize in?

I specialize generally in black and white portraits, people and psychological aspects are my main focus. Nevertheless lately I caught a great deal of interest in fashion photography lately.

Do you shoot both digital and film?

There was a time when shooting in film was the only way for me, but it was when I was in VGIK Russian State University of Cinematography.

Now it’s all about digital but I am still loving it.

Which photographers influenced you, and how did they influence your thinking, photographing, and career path?

 Irving Penn , Peter Lindbergh, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Richard Avedon and Aleksander Rodchenko.

I was always bewitched by Irving Penn’s photographs, they are full of inner life as if those depicted personages were alive and could move; you are lucky to catch them at those moments, even talk with them silently just by exchanging a glance.

I am fascinated by the way the masters managed to create their prominent inner soul which exists in their models and you can notice it in the photographs with the help of necessary light and composition. 

I adore Lindbergh’s philosophy connecting women’s beauty. The true beauty of a woman is in everything she is, including all imperfections and perfections. A woman’s beauty is herself as she is.

Exactly what is it you want to say with your photographs, and how do you get your photographs to do that?

 Oh I like it, it’s  a tricky question actually and a very important one too.

Through my point of view I don’t want to talk with my photos. My message is not in a category which I can describe as something about which one can talk. For me it is important to find the innocence of the occurring moment and gently guide it into the world of photography.

It’s all about the process for me. If I am embraced by the process my model gets embraced by it too, only then is there a chance for us to find this moment of innocence.

This moment speaks for itself not me.

Is photography something you do full-time?

 Mostly… yes. I may say I do it full-time. But from time to time I shoot video, create illustrations, I am into friends’ every interior design project… and the spiritual work over myself takes time everyday too.

Can you describe that “moment” (experience, emotion) when you knew that photography was something you just had to do?

 I think it happened when I was 12-years-old and as always I was wandering around with my best friend. I had my parents’ snapshot camera with me and I shot a picture of a puddle with my friend in front of clouds that were reflected in it. I remember downloading it later into a computer program to play with color and cropping and that moment was a revelation for me that I wanted to dive into the world of photography and do it as often as I could.

What technology/software/camera gear do you use to keep focused on what you do best, as you photograph?

 I retouch pictures in Photoshop. There is always room for the quest of which technique of editing is best suited for taking photographs. Same strategy with cameras. I remember when my parents gave me my first professional camera as a present on the day I turned 15. It was a Nikon D80. I couldn’t part with it and praised it. Two years later in one of my adventures cross country my dear Nikon was stolen from me. I left it in a camping tent and the most priceless thing about the camera at that moment was the photos I took.

After that it was a Nikon D90 and guess what? Few years later it was stolen too. Again! This frustrating experience taught me a lot. And above all it taught me not to grow a bond with the tech… Taught me that my connection with it should be fluid. Because it is not the camera which makes you a photographer, mastery and talent are not tangible. Nobody can steal your love for what you do.

Now I rent all different kinds of cameras. So it depends on the mood and on the task. Canon6D, mark III, IV. I have my own lenses – zeiss planar 1.4/85 ZE and Canon EF 70-200 mm F/2.8 L 

Sony RX 100 is great for documentary photography. For It is compact and results may surprise me with their resemblance to a film effect it is an important trait sometimes.

What motivates you to continue taking pictures economically, politically, intellectually or emotionally? 

Creation is a sacred process for me. I take photos because I cannot bear  the feeling that I won’t be able to do it. I create because I can’t stop taking pictures once there is a call on my inner beauty sensor. It’s a lifestyle, a way of thinking. 

Find beauty in everything. 

Find the innocence of the moment in everything. 

Allow it to happen and guide it through the world of photography.

Share it with the community the way it is.

Sharing is caring as some people say in my surroundings and in this case I agree with them.

Among your works, which one is your absolute favorite? Why?

There was one which I did in my high school years. It is my favorite because it was acknowledged by a magazine of photography which was one of my top-3 at that time. So it was a moment of faith because there was a story behind it and they felt it. I knew they did.

That shot was taken on a gloomy freezing day when I recklessly was driven by a sudden urge to go for a walk with my camera. Crazy cold was giving me a good motivation to walk faster and eventually I stumbled upon a traveling circus and these children standing in a line. Their faces full of life and emotional experience captured me completely; I knew that I should return the favor.

What are some favorite things about being a photographer? 

I think it is an ability to see something more, an ability to look in the depth, in the very essence of things. It is also a unique atmosphere of connection with people or nature during the creative process. It seems that everything starts performing the dance of art and beauty. Moreover, it is a possibility to show people their essence, hidden from their own eyes.

What are some challenges you’ve encountered?

It is always about fear. Main obstacle. As one of the great people I care for said “This is one of the greatest problems. That is a self made obstacle, because if you are not creating obstacles to yourself and by yourself then there are almost limitless opportunities!” Fear and questions of “What-to-do-next?” are my main challenges.

When I was studying at the University we had this course of photo composition where professors were criticizing our works. They showed us great dissatisfaction and taught us that shown material has no value at all. Mostly because of that I harvested a great deal of fears and couldn’t return to photography for a while. I needed to recover my mental state. My belief.

Nevertheless afterwards there were times when clients were not accepting the work I did. I needed to find courage to go through rejection. After all it didn’t work on me as well as it did before I managed to see through these critics. To see that they don’t like the results not only because there is always a space for improvement but because sometimes these clients don’t accept themselves. Sometimes they may not accept the way they look in this moment even though I find it magical. Sometimes they may not  like one of their own features, they are not ready to see themselves in a photo. But this is the struggle to learn from experience and not diminish yourself but improve, not to judge them harshly but to see the support which this given client needs. A dance of balance with fear so it won’t turn to a self-made obstacle but instead teach you and become your ally.

What is the one thing you wish you knew when you started taking photos?

Support and develop your unique vision, feel the innocence of the world in its edges. Please forget about opinions which make you behave accordingly and follow someone else’s standards. And that thing about the greatest of  masters! They are in the past, find yours and open yourself to the best works. Learn from them that they would be pleased to live in your art. Reinvent, enjoy, create.

 Any current project?

Now I am developing a photo project dedicated to Greek mythology and archetypes.

MEET MONISHA RAJA CREATIVE DIRECTOR AND OWNER OF

THE VEGAN SHOES AND ACCESSORIES LINE LOVE IS MIGHTY

Who is Monisha Raja?

Someone who wants to create, share her vision with the world and have fun while on this journey.  

 

What is your background?

I was born and raised in india. I am from Kerala in the South, but was born in Calcutta and lived all over India. By the time I was 19, I’d had quite a nomadic childhood. Then I made my way to NYC to pursue my studies in Fashion Design at Parsons School of Design.

How long has “Love Is Mighty” been on the market?

I have been working on the brand since 2011 but mostly focused on building relationships with the artisans and setting systems in place. I am now ready to bring it to market.


What’s the drive behind the Line?

I wanted to share my love of fashion, adventure and animals with the world. I created a brand that engages indigenous artisans to preserve culture and create beauty, while not harming any animals.


How did you come up with the idea?

I’ve been working in the fashion industry for over two decades and being vegan, It’s been a challenge to find stylish shoes without the use of fur and leather.  At the time, I was working with the Creative Director on shoes for Tory Burch. Seeing this big hole in the market, I suggested that Tory start a vegan shoe line. Mercedes Castillo quipped  “Monisha, why don’t you do it?” I took that seriously and headed to India to explore that idea in 2010.

I traveled off the beaten path and met with tribal artisans. I was astounded by their beautiful handwork and color sense. I knew that I had struck gold.

Why designing vegan shoes and accessories ?

I am vegan and wanted my personal and professional lives to be seamless. I believe that we can be good to our fellow animals and the planet without sacrificing style. Factory farming of animals is extremely cruel and an environmental hazard, resulting in deforestation, water shortages and increase in toxic gases. The impact is extensive.

I wanted to create a business that would engage in healthier practices, which would also benefit the communities it serves.

What is your creative process?

I don’t really have a pattern or a system set in place. I am most inspired when I travel. Collaborating with the artisans lights me up as it’s a true meeting of minds. I’ll have sketched a whole line of what I want and then I work with them, and everything changes. The artisans will present me with ideas that I hadn’t thought of before, or I’ll see a beautiful headpiece on a camel in the desert and a new shoe design will come to mind.

Where is your point of fabrication?

All my materials are sourced locally, in India. I get all the uppers made.


Any point of distribution in other countries?

Not yet. I have customers in Europe who buy from me and my dream is to scale the business and grow distribution channels in Europe and Asia.

I’ve got to start here first.

 

Do you think that “Love Is Mighty” can be labeled as humanitarian?

I see it as a form of social reform, without being a charity. So, yes. I believe in empowering artisans, women and men, and giving them their dignity back through engaging them in work that pays well. They are proud of what they do.

People and animals are not resources.

 

Tell us about your Peta Award.

I was honored to receive the PETA fashion Awards in 2014. It was a lovely surprise. Every few years PETA awards a designer for their dedication to animal rights and fashion. I love what I do but It’s so sweet to be acknowledged for the work I’m doing.

 

Is there a new collection in projection?

Yes, and I can’t wait to see it!

VISIT MONISHA AT SELIMA OPTIQUE POP-UP SHOP:

7 Bond Street

New York, NY 10012

 

OR ORDER ONLINE AT:

http://loveismighty.com/

MEET THE EXCEPTIONAL ARTIST

PETER BARDAZZI

Who is Peter Bardazzi?

I am a procession of creative episodes representing different quests, challenges, experiments, discoveries, images and visual expressions which center around art.  I try making my paintings a dramatic reflection of this with the medium of metaphors, my mind and creativity.  Sometimes this all takes on a bizarre or awkward appearance, a little madness, primitiveness, or beautiful fascination, but it justifies my fulltime working at creating good art.  My artist’s life is a creative experiment and exploration with lots of serious hard work and an eye on the culture.

 But just as my paintings have integrated complex relationships, my career’s creations have been culturally varied.  As Professor of Art at New York University, I founded The Center for Advanced Digital Applications, in collaboration with George Lucas’s Industrial Light & Magic, Pixar and Sony entertainment.  We produced some of the very first student feature length digital animations and large scale visual effects for live action at a university. As a Professor of Art I also lectured and taught at Yale University and New York University emphasizing the arts relation to cultural change, history, and the value of meaning, even in the studio classes.  I also lectured extensively on the cinema, focusing on its relationship to a changing society, and the work of the cinematographer: telling a story with color and light.

 I have presented my ideas about the cinema, the popular culture and art on television and in news media including guest appearances on CBS-TV News, NBC Today, Fox In The Morning, Good Day NY, CNN-TV, and written about in The L Magazine, The Huffington Post and Art F City, The New York Times, The LA Times, New York Magazine, The Washington Post, Art News, Arts, Art Form Business Week and USA Today.  

 So my art isn’t only a painting, collage and sculpting.  My art can be anything that’s creative, passionate, and personal. If it is good it will resonate with the viewer, not only with the creator.  My way of understanding life, is to add something to it by way of art.  But I always end up in the studio painting or making something because great art exists in the making of it.


When did you know that painting was your life calling?

I remember clearly that It happened in three distinct stages.  First, you have to know that I was always drawing something on any piece of paper that I could get my hands on when I was a kid.  This is important to remember because it never really stopped once it started back then, except that now the subjects and how I draw seems to always change radically.  The second point or event was when my parents took me to the newly opened Guggenheim Museum. It was the thing to do, to see the crazy Frank Lloyd Wright building.  It was my first visit to an art museum, my first encounter with “modern art”, and it was very large exhibition of the surrealist movement.  The work that struck me the most was Soft Construction with Boiled Beans (Premonition of Civil War) by Salvador Dalí. I felt a certain kind of visual power with strange imagery that I didn’t understand, but was very much attracted to it and kept looking at.  I wanted to “make” paintings and objects like that too, I must have said to myself. It must have had a strong affect on me because as soon as we got home, I asked my parents to buy me an oil paint set.  The final experience was several years later when I took my first evening art course and the teacher assigned us to see two major exhibitions that were happening in New York City, the Kandinsky and Arshile Gorky retrospectives. I studied all the paintings closely and also read as much as I could about the artists lives and saw that they worked hard on visual challenges, struggled with their personal lives to present meaning in their work but in the end created haunting and beautiful paintings, that are still fresh today. Gorky’s The Limit and Kandinsky’s Blue Rider paintings never left me. It was then that I knew that I wanted to paint and make serious works with meaning.   


Have you studied fine art?

Yes, and always. I received a master degree, MFA, in art from Yale University and an undergraduate degree form Pratt Institute in graphic art and painting.   Yale University was great because you had the whole university to integrate with your study of art and painting.  You were exposed to real artists and lectures from all over the world with big ideas and some very talented students. The key was that it encouraged change and experimentation while showing the importance of traditional painting.  But I want to add that visiting Sanjūsangen-dō, 1000 Buddha Temple in Kyoto and really looking at that procession of images before you and trying to understand what’s going on or looking at The Holy Trinity, fresco by the Early Italian Renaissance painter Masaccio at Santa Maria Novella, in Florence can be like a getting a master’s degree also.  I have also been learning about Asian art in depth, specifically Japanese art recently form my wife, Asayo.  It has been very revealing and it’s become clear to me now that the western tradition in art is not an adequate explanation of cultural history and that so much art and art history is left out.  You have to keep looking and thinking about what you see.  The process of learning and gathering clues never really stops in your personal quest if you think about art seriously.


Who is your favorite painter?

I don’t have a favorite painter, but for sure there were artists that meant a lot to me or had an enormous effect on me during my career at different points.  Some were guiding lights, some were sources of structure and color, some were intense painters with a visual presence unknown to me and some were enigmas that I wanted to learn from.  They included Piero della Francesca, Rogier van der Weyden, El Greco, Hieronymus Bosch, Caravaggio, Karel Appel, Picasso, Max Ernst, Man Ray, Francis Picabia, Joan Miró, and Cy Twombly.  But I also want to add that there were film-makers that influenced my visual perception and sense light in painting like Michelangelo Antonioni, Akira Kurosawa, Federico Fellini, and cinematographer Vittorio Storaro.


Would you describe your painting as abstract?

If abstract art uses a visual language which exists independently from visual references in the real world, or if it is based solely on color, emotion or action, then I am not an abstract artist.  I am very much connected and integrated with ideas real and unreal including philosophical concepts.  In my work I use found objects, imaginary form, and designed elements to express myself.  This does not mean that my work is tied only to the tangible world, on the contrary, I am also very much connected with super charged imagery, extremely expressive pictorial forms, experimentation, history and the future.  

 It may appear that I am part of or influenced by Neo DADA, Neo-Expressionism and Neo Futurism.  But when I went to graduate school at Yale University most of the student painters were minimalists, and the student sculptors were conceptualists that had their careers all plotted out. I saw the time as experimenting in a candy store of artistic ideas, so I tried to absorb as many influences as possible avoiding trends at all costs.  I looked at Bosch, Breugal, De Chirico, the landing on the moon, rare books, DADA, the ancient Egyptians, and Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns.  I am still like that today, watching for clues, making connections, open to visual fascination, new ideas that could be integrated into visual expression.  


Have you had your own exhibit before?

Yes.  I had several solo exhibitions including early solo shows at the Cordier & Ekstrom Gallery NYC and group exhibitions at the famous Stable and Leo Castelli galleries.  I also participated in major group shows at museums and public spaces including the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía Spain, the Basel Art Fair, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, Holy Bos Bushwick, the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, Japan, the Neuberger Museum of Art, and the Smithsonian Museum of American Art Washington DC.  I am also in the permeant collection of Museum of Modern Art, NY, Neuberger Museum of Art, JP Morgan Chase Art Collection, Smithsonian Museum of American Art Washington DC, Wesleyan University, Kutztown State College, Rockefeller University, and Weatherspoon Art Museum.


When do you know that a painting you are working on is done?

This question is artist specific because some artists are very relaxed about the “end or finish” and others are anxious or unsure about whether its finished or not.  For me it’s a little difficult but always gets resolved.  My painting process contains destruction, creation, building, connecting, mixing, thinking, action, etc.  A finished painting for me might contain metaphors, unknown but believable signals, light, color, form, motion, and contradictions, so it’s difficult to plan an end.  What actually happens with my work is that the painting actually stops on its own. I just have to be aware of it with confidence.  That’s it, then it’s over.  

 


How long can you work on one painting?

Art is something you must concentrate on fully and have to be aware of its goals at all times especially during the creative and building process.  During that concentration you lose a normal sense of time and how long the project might take. It actually depends on a lot of the nature of the materials and scale and if there are any self-imposed deadlines.  If the intellectual content of a work is complex and its expression is difficult then a work appearing simple in its execution can take a very long time to paint.  Also for me when I work on anything, the “painted aspect” of the total work has to be just right, and that can be time consuming.  But in retrospect when I look back I could say I could spend a few months to a few hours on a work.  


What are the emotions that drive you to paint, is it happiness, sadness or simply a combination of both?

I keep emotion out of the process.  Simply put, I don’t paint with emotions or excessive feelings, I paint with my brain.  I never paint dreams; I paint ideas with my conscience intellect.  That said it is also true that painting is sometimes a reflection of the artist or society or both and those states can be very emotional.  So I approach painting as kind of a collaboration between the artist and a form of intellectual and imaginative inquiry, not any high ideal.  I think it is fine if other artists want to paint in an absorbed emotional fashion, but today with huge amounts of information and visual overload constantly present, you really need critical thinking.  You have to find an honest way of analyzing and evaluating your art with the goal of improving it.  It’s important that the artist must exercise control over their creations and the way the work might be viewed as cultural artifacts.  I think imaginative experimentation needs both thinking and skill (the hand) but not so much emotion.


What is painting to you?

It’s a place where I can speak in my own luminous language and act in the purest sense.  Where I can launch a complex set of challenges with unique goals and strive for simplicity.  It’s where I can participate in a subversive and informative process that sometimes produces beautiful things.  I paint for myself as if I am being watched by the great masters and feel it is my inherited responsibility to deepen the mystery that they started a long time ago. It can be hard work also, with long hours, technical problems, difficult changes, but with joyful and encouraging achievements.  Also painting comes with an enormous responsibly to make good art that has meaning, not actually knowing what the criteria is to fulfill that task. In the end this is a question that artists should not think about…. never think about making art, just make art.


Describe a day in the life of Peter Bardazzi.

I live each day open to surprises, strange encounters, and learning, trying keep my identity growing and intact, but sometimes finding myself in a fictionalized realty.  The day always starts with coffee and my wife Asayo Mogi Bardazzi.  We talk about everything necessary and humorously unnecessary, but always interesting.  She is a writer and loaded with great stories, information and stimulating ideas.  Some of those ideas can launch me into a painting or how to think about art from an Asian point of view.  Then we organize the day as best we can and set off on an adventure.  My studio time starts early afternoon, lunch, then work again into the night.  Asayo is also a great chef with Japanese influences and I make pasta so we eat well, workout regularly and stay healthy. We Travel a lot trying to see things that are important to us, for work or discovering new clues to our personal mysteries and keeping vital human connections and discourse alive.  I guess if there is any struggle, it’s avoiding any classical approach to art and consumerism. Doing what you want, the very best way possible like a surfer riding the high and low waves. It’s a day hopefully filled with exploration, fun, good food and very hard work at art.

 

Any exhibition in perspective?

We have something planned in Asia and we are thinking of an open studio to inaugurate the new location.  When all the stars are aligned, we will definitely go public with the events.  

 Peter Bardazzi

www.bardazzi.com

peterbardazzi.blogspot.com

MEET STACEY CHANG THE CREATOR OF

THE VEGAN SHOE LINE VEERAH

Who is Stacey?

Stacey is the Founder and Chief Warrior of VEERAH (@veerahoffical), an e-commerce startup that crafts luxury shoes merging comfort, compassion, and chic.

What is your background?

Originally from Taipei, Taiwan, I came to the U.S. alone when I was 15 to attend boarding School in Culver, Indiana. After that, I went to Boston University for college.  Following college I moved to NYC and worked at Coach Inc. HQ with various roles in International Sales, Merchandise Planning and Material Management. I loved my time in NYC, but decided to get my MBA at The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. After my MBA, I wanted to be part of the growth taking place in Asia and also to be closer to my family in Taiwan, so I moved to Shanghai for a few different startup gigs. Eventually, I landed a role with The Estee Lauder Companies in Hong Kong for its Asia Pacific business. Nearly 3 years ago, I left corporate America and began work on my own women’s footwear venture – VEERAH – and moved back to NYC.

How long has “Veerah” been on the market?

While I began to work on the line in 2014, VEERAH was officially launched in October 2016. I definitely underestimated the amount of work and time that is required to build products and a brand from scratch!

What’s the drive behind the Line?  Why design vegan shoes and accessories?

As a socially and environmentally conscious woman, I felt that there had to be a way to find a balance between style and conscience. I didn’t want to sacrifice style for a plant-based lifestyle and I also never wanted to hurt any life for the sake of beauty – but that doesn’t mean that looking and feeling good is any less important. I came up with the name VEERAH when I was practicing “Virabhadrasana”, the warrior pose in yoga. It is the perfect name to represent our drive to recognize the warrior spirit within all of us and to serve women who balance strength and femininity everyday.

At VEERAH, we are inspired by women. Our shoes are made for warriors. I created VEERAH to merge style, quality, compassion and functionality for women today (who we refer to as #VEERAHwarriors). I am so excited about what we have developed and I hope that VEERAH fills that void for so many women out there who are looking for a better way to align their closets with their values. We promise that all VEERAH warriors can always “Do Good. Look Incredible.”

 

How did you come up with the idea?

I love shoes, but I was frustrated by the lack of options in the marketplace to serve modern women’s fast-paced, dynamic, and conscientious lifestyles. I was traveling a lot for work, but it was difficult to travel with a carry-on and with just one or two pairs of heels for all the events that I needed to attend. Further, I couldn’t find comfortable designer heels! I found many women shared similar problems, so I decided to solve that by creating VEERAH, the first and only luxury shoe company that delivers high fashion, high function, and high impact. Our shoes are classic silhouettes that come with removable accessories for multiple looks. Crafted innovatively, VEERAH’s custom soles are supportive, comfortable, and flexible. Lastly, all of these premium materials are eco-conscious and 100% cruelty-free!

What is your creative process?

A lot of my creative process is to think about what modern women do want – beauty, comfort and sustainability. A lot is based on my gut feeling and customer feedback. Then, I think about the story that I want to communicate to ensure each collection is coherent. I like to start with a classic silhouette and from there work on what women need – from cushioning for increased comfort to the removable accessories that add fun and flair to our shoes.

Where is your point of fabrication?

They are made in China by an excellent manufacturer. I love the partners that we are working with. I spend a significant amount of time in the factory working directly with the managers and workers to ensure that they understand our vision and quality standard.

Any point of distribution in other countries?

We are selling online exclusively and shipping worldwide.

Do you think that “Veerah” can be labeled as humanitarian?

That’s certainly our goal! We are a Public Benefit Corporation, which is a legal entity that defines its goals based on positive impacts on society, community, and the environment. A big part of our company’s ethos is giving back and we are currently partnered with She’s The First, an incredible organization supporting girls’ education. We have also created our “1-10-100” battle plan”. This means that we donate at least 1% of our proceeds to social impact causes, 10 hours are paid to our employees per month to volunteer or take self-improvement courses, and for every 100 feedback forms we receive we will support a full year of a girls’ education with She’s the First. We aim to grow together and give back!

Is there a new collection in projection?

Yes! We are launching a new style in mid July with a super fun and flirty removable fringe. We will introduce a brand new material that has not yet been used in any women’s shoe brand in the fall. Stay tuned!

MEET THE CREATOR OF THE DREAM HOODIE

JUAN CARLOS ANGLERO

Who is Juan Carlos Anglero?

Juan Carlos Anglero is a dreamer with a vision, he wants to create pieces people love to wear in the most private moments of their lives, he wants to help with his vision.

http://www.anglerony.com/dream-hoodie

What is your background?

That’s always been a complicated question for me but here it goes. My father is Puerto Rican, mother Colombian. I was born in Miami and raised in Sevilla Spain and have been living in New York for 17 years, the only place where my story is one of many so I don’t feel like a foreigner. This is my home, I’m a New Yorker.

How long have you been designing apparel?

I went to FIT for pattern making in 2002 and have been working in the New York fashion industry ever since. I had been designing hoodies and sportswear since 2007 but mostly worked in the sales side of fashion, now I see how valuable it is because I design for people to actually wear; my design perspective is to satisfy the customer, not my own view of what I consider beautiful.

Tell us about the Dream hoodie.

The Dream Hoodie is my pursuit of a perfect hoodie, my signature product. 10 years of testing materials, fits, customer’s reviews and constantly searching for innovative features culminated in one product ” The Dream Hoodie”; the biggest reward at the end is having friends and fans simply tell me,  Juan Carlos, this is my favorite hoodie, thank you!

How did you come up with the idea?

My purpose for ANGLERO New York is to be the best brand specializing in hoodies. I need to perfect my signature hoodie first so I only produce the Dream Hoodie which I upgrade and release once a year. The main feature of the Dream Hoodie 1.0 was the detachable travel eye mask; the idea started in 2008 when I was trapped in Buenos Aires airport for 2 days. There was a customs strike and foreigners couldn’t be processed out of the country; my friend was wearing my first collection and kept pulling the hood over her eyes to sleep on the airport floor. That’s when I started thinking about an eye cover to sleep while traveling. Then, the main feature of the Dream Hoodie 2.0 was the lover’s pocket. I was on a road trip in West Australia with another friend, both wearing the DH1.0; we were on top of a windy cliff overlooking the Indian Ocean, embracing each other by the waist at the stunning view. I was touching the softness of the fabric when the idea to make a back pocket started brewing as well. There’s a story for every component of the Dream Hoodie.

How long have you been on the market?

4 years under the brand EVENAGAMBA and 3 years under my own ANGLERO New York

I heard that it’s a favorite of Lady Gaga, is it true?

Amazingly yes, I never met her but I knew she acquired the Dream Hoodie 2.0. I just wished for a paparazzi shot but something better was in store because she posted a picture on her Instagram saying ” I love this hoodie” . It was incredible for one of the biggest stars in the world who has all the big brands after her to make that statement for a small brand.

Tell us about your fabric and point of fabrication.

I love my cotton; it is where the biggest portion of the budget goes. I started using Peruvian cotton with my first collection in 2008 and after washing and drying it for almost a decade I was stunned by it’s durability, softness and color retention. Then when all my first customers raved about it I knew this had to be the main component. I have been getting this fabric produced specifically for me from the same mill since 2007. Like an exceptional wine,  Peruvian cotton is the world’s finest because of the perfect equatorial conditions, soil, and the fact that it is hand picked. The fiber grows exceptionally long, making it silky soft, highly resistant to pilling and extremely durable.

Is there a new version of the “Dream Hoodie” in projection?

Yes, I upgrade and release an upgraded version via Kickstarter once a year. The latest Dream Hoodie is scheduled to be released on July 7th 2017.  I don’t do fashion shows but a video presentation explaining every detail and process.

Tell us about your next Kickstarter and ABC Funderdome appearance.

There will be a  release on Kickstarter for pre orders on July 7 for 30 days and I compete on Steve Harvey’s Funderdome on July 16 at 9pm. Funderdome is a Mark Burnett show where instead of pitching to investors,  entrepreneurs compete with their ideas and pitch in 90 seconds to a studio audience, then the audience votes on which product they want to buy. Wish me luck.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/anglero/dream-hoodie-30-the-superior-hoodie

What is your daily routine?

I wake up without an alarm usually around 6am, I give thanks for the simple things in my life: shelter, family, friends, water, etc, take an hour to drink coffee and I start writing notes of whatever I need to do that day. I hit the gym around 7:30, eat breakfast and head to the office at 9am. I’m small so I manage all aspects of the business: sample making, sourcing materials, marketing, sales, production etc. But is very important to be involved in every single department of your business because you learn what can go wrong and then you know to hire someone better than you.

Tell us about ANGLERO 2.0

This is the best part of the job, after years of looking for a way to further help with my company, I decided to donate 20% of profits to support orphanages and finance the kids’ education after 18. When I started working with production in Peru, a friend introduced me to “Hogar La Aurora”, a small home of 22 orphan kids and kids of parents who can’t afford to feed them. This home is run by nuns and is financed entirely by donations; they don’t receive any help from the state. First I want to make a difference in one home and set up a college fund for the kids, then I hope I can do the same with more homes. I want to be involved in all aspects, I don’t want to just give fish, I want to teach them how to fish.

MEET SAJATA STEPHANE THE WOMAN BEHIND

THE NATURAL BEAUTY CARE LINE COCOLENE

Who is Sajata Stephane?

Sajata Stephane, is the creator and founder of Cocolene, Natural and Organic skincare;  A dreamer, visionary, lover of life. A mom, model, and an entrepreneur whose true passion has always been to see the joy in others.

What is your background?

I began my journey as an international model for Elite and Next Model Managements. Living this global life of fashion and style, I recognized that healthy skin is a fantastic foundation, and if we could simply care for that, our largest organ, in natural wholesome ways, we could enhance our natural beauty. Now that I’m aging gracefully, raising 4 children, products like our Rescue Salve, Scalp Stimulator, and Rosehip+ are saving my life everyday.      

 

Born and raised in Long Island, NY, I identify myself as Jamaican & Haitian, being first generation American from Caribbean parents. When I became a mother, raising a healthy family was most important to me. This was the seed, essentially, the start of Cocolene.

Since my studied in Law at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and went on to study Conflict Resolution as a Caux Scholar in Switzerland. This knowledge has guided and led me to where I am today with my business.

How long has “Cocolene” been in the market?

Cocolene has been on the market long before we actually became a business. I had a passion for experimenting with herbs and aromatherapy. Basically exploring the medicinal benefits of natural ingredients. My friends took an interest in my creations and requested more products for their specific skin and hair care concerns, they also encouraged us to get our products out there.

In the summer of 2014, a turning point occurred for our business. A phone call changed it all, it inspired a bigger vision for Cocolene. One of our clients, a gentleman said he needed to get more Hair Elixir for his wife because her hair had grown so much and she was almost out. She had been distraught for the past 3 weeks because she did not know where to find us. At that point, we realized we could no longer play small, it was time to share Cocolene with the world! These testimonials became small (and big) miracles for our clients. We were inspired to expand our product line and create products to change more lives, one person at a time.

What’s the drive behind the brand?

We are driven by the JOY of our clients. Their joy encourages us to continue to use the highest quality ingredients to make the best products we could possibly make. We are driven to make a meaningful difference. From the beginning, we were always passionate about finding solutions for ‘impossible’ problems which caused unnecessary suffering. Our products have proven to be life changing; Derma Relief for those with eczema and dermatitis, Rescue Salve for those with cold sores, hemorrhoids, and athlete’s foot, Soothing Body Balm for Psoriasis, Tamanu+ Sandalwood for ingrown hairs & soothing the throat for vocalists. The list of testimonials and miraculous stories are a blessing, to help us know how the products are impacting people’s lives in an important way.

           For us, the best thing that can happen for our clients is their belief and experience in the healing properties of plants. Cocolene encourages clients to seek out natural remedies instead of synthetic ones. We want our clients to be empowered. To become fully aware of how the chemicals in skincare, foods and medicines, impact our bodies and our planet. Our hope is to enlighten others to become so furious they want to fight to protect the human race as well as the planet.  

How did you come up with the idea?

The start of Cocolene was inspired by a heartbreaking situation in my own family. And now, we are able to inspire other families with what we have created to overcome this difficulty. When my daughter was 6 months old, her skin started to develop eczema. As her doctor wrote the prescription for a steroid, I asked if there was a natural alternative. He told me that the steroid was safe as long as I did not use it for 10 days straight, because then her skin would split open. “So you mean it weakens the skin?” “Inevitably, yes.” I replied, “Not to worry Dr I will find a natural alternative.” I was determined to find an alternative solution, but I could not. The product didn’t exist. In my own frustration as a mother and as a consumer, I started to study the skin; what it needed to be healthy and strong. In my search, I turned to herbs for their nutritional and healing properties.

Six years ago, in 2011, we started making natural products that supported the skin’s healing process. 2 years ago we decided and committed to make it our business. We are committed to helping our clients advocate for themselves by expanding their choices of products beyond the traditional options presented in conventional ways.  

What is your fabrication process?

Cocolene products are handmade in our customized Cocolene lab with high-quality natural, organic ingredients and stored in glass containers or metal canisters (to prevent toxins from plastics and reduce the effects of plastic on the planet). The herbal ingredients are carefully selected and blended with care to create a wonderfully light aromatic experience for the client. Our products are made with love and blessed with healing intention. Many Cocolene products are infusions of herbs in oils, essential oils, and beeswax. Our sincere hope and wish is for anyone who uses our products to be blessed in their life. Spread the love and spread the healing benefits!

Are all your products bio?

As we encourage others to use natural products, we use only natural ingredients in Cocolene products. As most of our ingredients are plant based, they are also bioavailable. This means their active, nutrient-rich compounds are more readily absorbed by your body. Greater absorption of nutrients, means better results for your skin. Because of their bioavailable nature, we have products like Derma Light that slows down the overproduction of melanin for those who have hyper-pigmentation. A perfect gift for moms and sun lovers!

Talk to us about your favorite from all of Cocolene products?

They are all my favorite! Ooh, that’s a tough question but the most consistent favorite product for me is the Rosehip+ Serum, which is an essential part of our 4-step Anti-Aging Beauty Routine

First step: Clients wash with the Face Duo for their skin type, which offers 2 bars of soap. Second step: Clients then use the Balancing Face Toner which brightens the skin and tightens pores. Third step: Treatment! This entails using one of our potent serums like like Tamanu+ Immortelle for Cystic Acne. Fourth step: Clients apply Rosehip+, Cocolene’s moisturizing serum. This Rosehip+ Serum is and has consistently been my all time favorite product that I use twice a day and will not leave home without.

I started the creation of Rosehip+ one morning after I woke up with wrinkles the shape of an 11 between my brow. “What! They had not been there the night before, how did they just appear? I was not having it. I researched to find the best natural ingredients to nourish and plump the skin. I came up with this beautiful blend called Rosehip+.  It gives my skin a beautiful glow, and keeps me looking young and beautiful.

Do you have any product for acne?

Cocolene has a few unique solutions and natural ingredient remedies for resolving acne. For our clients with oily, acne prone skin, they have experienced success utilizing our customized 3-step process: 1) Lavender Charcoal Soap (for oily) and Geranium (for dry skin), 2) Reviving Face Toner and 3) Rescue+ Moisturizing Serum.

We also believe that acne is not only skin deep. Most of the time it has to do with either diet (sugar intake for example), an imbalance of hormones, or an overload of toxins in the body. For pre-teens, teens, and adults alike, we suggest including herbal teas as part of the beauty and skincare regimen to take care of these internal issues that show themselves externally.

Where is your point of fabrication?

We create these Superheros in our lab in Raleigh, North Carolina. It seems like a lifetime ago we were mixing in our kitchen. Now we mix in our lab with the same love that initially inspired us.

In the beginning, like any other business,  there were all the reasons in the world as to why we could not start this business. Although there were challenges, we were unstoppable because we had found passion. Every morning, I woke up at 3:30am and studied for hours until my eyes could no longer stay open. This work means everything to me. These life changing products were created on the belief that we could create them, with the intention of them being outstanding.

I kept believing in myself, this is my destiny. Each night after putting the children to sleep, it was as if this inner chemist in me emerged. I was creating beautiful synergies of blended herbs, oils, and cremes in magical harmony.

Cocolene as a business was fabricated on faith the size of a mountain and persistence which knew no bounds. We all need to believe in ourselves and go after our dreams. Our dreams were given to us, it is our purpose to fulfill them. No one can fulfill your dreams better than you!

Is there a new product addition  in projection?

Cocofans can look forward to our cooling peppermint spritz for hot flash and summer heat relief. Down the line are:  essential oils,  natural perfumes, and organic hair cleansers/conditioners. We are so excited!

Cocolene fans can also look forward to our natural deodorant. I have to continue to be fearless with innovation in creating new products for the brand. Deodorant is an interesting venture because everyone has a different body chemistry. There will most likely be 3 types of deodorant, so there will be a right one for everyone. It is so important for girls, and women especially to use a natural deodorant without aluminum as it has already been linked to breast cancer. (Bonus tip! Drinks in plastic like bottled water have also been linked to breast cancer, take your drinks in glass bottles only!)

Where can we buy Cocolene products?

Your readers can find our latest products and creations at www.cocolene.com.

Follow cocoleneUSA on FacebookInstagramTwitter as we have contests to win products regularly.

As a gift to your readers, make sure to stop by the site to learn how to make the best DIY toothpaste ever!

For local residents to North Carolina, Cocolene can be found in our store in Streets of Southpoint Mall in Durham, North Carolina. We often travel for expos and health fairs, find us coming to a city near you!

We have also extended to our Tribe CocoPartnership. Our CocoPartners earn income based on their values and passions, get free products, and have reasons to throw  parties regularly. Care about your friends and family’s health? Want to take part in saving our planet? If so, Become a CocoPartner! Contact party@cocolene.com today! We would love to hear from you!

 

 

MEET THE TALENTED ARTIST MYRA KOOY

Who is Myra Kooy?

Myra is a Black, gender- fluid Person, who loves living life. I have a wife, Leonore Gordon, who is a poet, family therapist and social activist. Eighteen years ago she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and while we both live with its challenges, she continues to be very active much of each day, and is very involved with local, national, and international Parkinson’s communities, as am I. We support and love each other while helping each other navigate through the waves of life. I live to create works of art and experiences in which people from different walks of life can find personal self-expression. I challenge myself to push artistic boundaries to their edge and peek over to see something new.  90% of the time I see the glass as 3/4 full and the other 10% as 1/4 full.  My art is a direct response to my immediate environment, my past experiences and an ongoing investigation of heritage and culture. I explore interconnections and relationships of particles and their ecosystems as they compare to societal units—family, racial, economical, for example.   

What is your background?

The beauty of my life is that my parents chose me in 1962 before my first birthday to join their family of three biological white boys and one black girl. After WWII my teenaged parents immigrated from Holland, an experience that I believe gave them a unique ability to never really see problems as obstacles. Rather, they saw opportunities to build bridges to reach the needed outcomes. As a child I played with real carpentry tools because my family was building our house. My family’s decision to live off the land meant that we milked goats, raised chickens and froze and canned fruits and vegetables. It has become clear to me that there is such a thing as divine intervention—this was the perfect home to nurture and organically develop my passion to express myself through art.

Is art something you always wanted to do?

No, I never thought of art as a separate thing that one does as a profession.  I have always thought of art as a lifestyle, something that is incorporated into everything that a person does.  So painting a  mural on my living room wall, dragging a large piece of bark out of the woods to create an assemblage or building a shelving system for my favorite books have always been ways for me to create an environment that spoke to my person.

 Did you attend fine arts school?

No, I got a Bachelors degree in Literature and Education.  At the time that I went to college, I didn’t think of Art as a field of study as much as a way of life.  Although I spent most of my spare time painting and transforming rooms in my various apartments into oasis that removed me from city life, I called my creations  “installations.” Curiously, I never called myself an artist and yet I engaged in a creative process everyday.

How long have you been making your resin bow ties?  

The resin bow ties have been in the works for about a year.

CLICK ON THE LINK TO SHOP MYRA’S BOW TIE AND TIES:

https://www.etsy.com/shop/MyrasArt?ref=seller-platform-mcnav

What is the process or techniques of making a resin bow tie?  

I will quote my Grandmother, “ Never give everything away.  Always hold something back from your recipe.”  All that said, I create a replica of a shape that I am interested in using and then make a mold.  Then, with a non toxic resin I engage in a layering process with and without a mold, a careful process which can’t be rushed.

Did you have your own exhibition in the past?

Yes. I had a solo show at Trestle Gallery, and have been part of many group shows over the years, including annually as a participant in Gowanus Open Studios. Earlier this year my burlap series was part of a “Found Art” show at the Huntington Public Library. The previous year my work was exhibited at the Long Island Children’s Museum.

My leather bags have been accepted at juried shows at the Smithsonian in Washington DC and the Lincoln Center craft fair

I wear many hats.

I am a craft artist, a local curator and a fine artist.  I have found that engaging in the art world on all these levels is rewarding.  Each one of these creative processes calls for a different venue in which to exhibit.  So, in the craft world I am working toward creating a business that will help other people though employment.  I will participate in one or two craft shows in the fall and have an application in for one of the big holiday shows.  I am keeping my fingers crossed and do not want to jinx it by saying any more.

As a curator and fine artist I presently have abstract oil paintings displayed at the COMPASS Park Slope, @ 514 2nd St. Brooklyn, NY 11215.  This show, “Spring has Sprung” will come down at the end of June.  The new show that I curated is named, “Navigation” and will have its Opening on July, 7, 2017 from 6:00 – 8:30.

My art will be included. The art at the most recent “Members Salon” at Trestle Gallery in Brooklyn, NY. was just taken down.

MYRA’S WEBSITE:

http://www.myrasight.com/home

INSATAGRAM:

https://www.instagram.com/myrakooy/?hl=en

FACEBOOK:

https://www.facebook.com/Myra-Kooy-1026566384078535/

 

Any project coming up?

I am working with Brooklyn Art Slope in the capacity of Civic Council Trustee, to host a Film Festival on October 13 and 14.  I am also working with Gowanus Arts on organizing Open Studios on October 21 and 22.  During this time I will also have another Opening at COMPASS and am working on curating an exhibition for Park Slope and  Gowanus artists to be featured for Open Studio.  It would be great to have you come back and see these events unfold.

Is your art a sort of activism, or is it solely pleasure?

My desire and ongoing commitment to being Socially responsible by providing venues in which to exhibit local artists is a form of activism.  I also am committed in this work to reach beyond the local borders and create opportunities for unique community exchanges.

My fine art work is both cultural and natural.  I use my work to keep me grounded and it gives me great pleasure both to create and offer to others.  I feel that an activist needs to come home to a peaceful home in order to stay strong and centered and go back out there to do it all over again.When the new president took office, I felt paralyzed and made a poster which said, “Unite Against Hate”.  I have helped create many tomb stones for an action that needed artists.  I also made a life size coffin for another action.  When I can,  I will help with visual art part to empower the people that are on the front lines.

Being a fluid, eclectic artist, I have recently playfully embraced and reclaimed this thing called “a tie.” My mono-print ties and resin bow ties are warm, playful, colorful accessories.  Although they are traditionally considered a male accessory, I have given them a flair that invites a much more universal audience to share in the world of ties.  On a personal level, when I put on a tie that I have made along with a hat that I have painted and a shirt that I have printed, there is a joyful harmony that floats through me.  This joyful harmony is what I want to share with others.

Are you an advocate for the LGBTQ Community?

Yes, as a younger person I participated in all the rallies and marches.  Now, my wife and I are a part of The StoneWall Foundation and in our way support the LGBT community.

Tell us about a day in your life?

The beauty of what I do is that no day is the same.  For example, today I am home for this interview.  Most weekdays I spend at least 6 hours in my studio engaged in the creative process. For me this is Food.  In the early morning I meditate and say thanks for the abundance of gifts I have in my life and at night before I fall asleep I do the same thing.  My days are filled with keeping all my projects up in the air.  I am just now learning how to pass some of the work on to other persons and this is an exciting growth spurt for me.  At the end of the day, I am always happy to sit with my wife and share a light bite to eat and catch up on both our days.  After that, most evenings  I am still editing pictures or uploading works of art to a site or building a campaign for one of my projects.  I have a very good quality of life and am grateful for it every day.

 

MEET THE ACTIVIST AND OWNER OF “TWAFEY”

APPAREL LINE, ATIBON LEGBA 

Who is Atibon Legba?

Atibon Legba is a Haitian, a father, a lover, an activist, a proponent of beauty, love and justice…a bon vivant.

What is your background?

Haiti is the piece of land where I sprung from. I initially was to be a MD but “la Boheme” took the best of me. I attended Boston College and trained in theatre at Harvard University. I am a percussionist, a photographer, a silk screener among other gifts.

 

How long has “Brooklyn Loves Haiti been on the market?

The line Twafèy started with the Brooklyn Loves Haiti collection in 2010 as a response to the negative media bombardment that followed Haiti’s Jan 2010 devastating “earthquake”.

What is the drive behind the Line?

Haiti with all of her idiosyncrasies has everything to stand in beauty and dignity among all nations. After the “earthquake”, I was looking for means to contribute to the relief efforts to alleviate our pain. To make a long story short, I had the fortune to buy a few boxes of tee shirts to donate to the cause.

How did you come up with the idea?

One night I had an epiphany and realized that sending the blank shirts to Haiti would help temporarily; however if a message, a positive propaganda was printed on the shirts, it would have a greater impact.

Why is vèvè a big part of the line’s design ?

I started to sketch and since Brooklyn, my adopted home showed a lot of love to us, I surrendered to my muses, my Loa. And what better entity but Èzili, the mother of all mothers, the lover of all lovers, the warrior of all warriors to represent the vision?

What is your creative process?

Each and every piece is hand printed by me on my Kitchen table.

What is the message of the brand?

We are changing the narrative about Haiti, Vodoun one tee shirt at a time.

Is there a new collection in projection?

We just launched the Vodounchild collection this past month.

SHOP THE LINE:https://www.etsy.com/shop/Twafey?ref=search_shop_redirect

INSTAGRAM: https://www.instagram.com/twafey/

MEET FILMMAKER AND ACTIVIST

CHRIS MASON

Who is Chris Mason?

I am an independent documentary and experimental filmmaker, who also works as a museum assistant, and volunteers as an anti-oppression educator and trainer.

What is spinning goat?

Spinning Goat Productions is the name of my filmmaking and production entity, which is basically just me right now.  I just got started in filmmaking in 2012, and produce on a very low budget, so no steady crew yet.

Why the name spinning goat?

I got the name because I am a Capricorn (goat), and I have studied Turkish and eastern European fusion dance, and I tend to spin A LOT while dancing.  So I put the two together. 🙂

 What projects have you worked on?

I’ve actually produced about 50 films and videos, but my main works are Machete Kisumontao el Documental, a documentary short about a Pittsburgh Puerto-Rican band, which screened in Puerto Rico and New York; quite a few experimental works including licht ex, grafik, and grafik II, tunnel, Command Performance – dub edit, and States Past as well as music videos for local artists and promotional and educational videos for nonprofits and grassroots organizations.

What projects are you working on now?

3 Rivers to Cuba, a music and social issue documentary and photo project that traces the African influence on Cuban music and culture. I’m finishing a feature length piece and a photo project from my trip to Cuba; and TRANS: a documentary featuring two Transgender individuals who discuss their Trans identity, triumphs and challenges, and creative performances.

 Did growing up in Pittsburg and being aware of social injustice there influence your work?

Since I was a child, I did not understand racism and treating others badly just based on the way they look.  In high school, I was also drawn to international organizations that supported political prisoners and I was active around environmental issues. So, I was kind of an outcast, lol.

As I grew older, I found I was unable to accept the racism and xenophobia that persisted in my hometown, so I gradually learned about race, privilege and oppression, and I now share information about these issues of injustice and inequity, and I facilitate workshops to train people – mainly white people – to understand oppression and white supremacy in order to dismantle the systems that support it.  Basically, I think it is very wrong for anyone to suffer from injustice and violence based on their skin color, gender identity, ability, age, religion, etc.  As humans, I know we can do much better than we currently are.

Do you think that music plays a crucial role in activism?

I think that music plays a huge role in activism, but over the years we have seen government and private sector suppression of music with a message in order to market music that may be fun, but doesn’t have the substance – that isn’t going to lead to any change or rebellion.  But the artists are still out there, all over the world, sharing their struggles and waking up the young, if not the old, to the issues that affect them. Every revolution has music! 😉

Do women have an important role in your projects?

As a woman director and producer, I value the importance of women and transwomen becoming even more prominent and prevalent in the film and other industries. C’mon, it’s 2017!!!

As far as participants in my films, I have a mixture of genders and identities, so I have not been solely focused on women/trasnwomen. But on the production side, I always reach out to women and transwomen to serve on the crew and for other things like graphic design and research, etc.

 Would you call yourself a feminist?

I don’t call myself one, though I suppose I am.  But I include transwomen in my version of feminism, and some don’t. I believe in women and transwomen being empowered to make their own choices, and I’m tired of myself and others being minimized, our contributions and voices being ignored, and laws being passed restricting what we can and cannot do with our own bodies – by men who are old and white.  That shit is OLD.

Tell us about the project you filmed in Cuba?

3 Rivers to Cuba is a documentary and photo project that shows ties between some people in Pittsburgh to the people and culture in Cuba.  A photo exhibit is being developed that shows Cuban life and its diversity.  The film is a hybrid film that I’m still editing, though a 40 minute version is available to watch online. The film includes music and dance performances and history, and interviews with two Afro-Cuban activists in Havana, and much more.

The underlying theme is to show the African influence on music, culture and society in Cuba, and highlights work by activists in Havana to restore Afro-Cuban identity, acknowledge their historical and present day contributions, and to increase their economic opportunities and political participation.  Racism and inequality is not a topic the Cuban government allows to be discussed in public spaces, but Afro-Cuban activists, artists, and musicians are expressing themselves and taking action in order to educate and create a more equitable society in Cuba. I traveled and filmed primarily in Santiago de Cuba and Havana in June 2016. I hope to return to Cuba to focus on underground hip hop musicians and artists, in a follow up film.

How do you express your activism?

I focus my activism and advocacy through my filmmaking and trainings. Many people suffer violence on a daily basis, while many of us look the other way. Too many children of color are being killed by police in the streets in the U.S. Too many innocent people are being bombed or attacked by the U.S. or extremist entities. Too many people fight for basic survival needs while others waste the surpluses that they have.

It is our duty to protect the innocent and the planet we live on. We have to reweave our humanity together with everyone from around the world.  To quote Alice Walker: “Activism is my rent for living on this planet.”

 MEET ELOUINIA EXANTUS AN ECLECTIC JEWELRY DESIGNER

Who is Elouinia Exantus?

Poet, Music artist, Grill designer, wearable Art & Jewelry Designer, Creative Director, Runway model and Runway model trainer, Stylist, Visual Artist, Event Producer and painter.

CHECK OUT HER WEBSITE:

http://www.eloexa.com/

Elouina wearing Eloexa’s glasses.

How did you start designing wearable art?

I started designing wearable art during my last semester of college. I was inspired by another jeweler who would create pieces that I drew out for her to make for me. I also had surgery on my ears, so not being able to wear earrings inspired me as well.

Any art or design education?

I didn’t attend any jewelry making school. I just start with a flow of ideas and polish the work along the way.

Do you think that your background influenced your designs?

My background doesn’t influence my designs. They all come from  my imagination.

Would you consider yourself a conscious artist?

I think consciousness is one aspect of how I define myself artistically.

Who is the Eloexa customer?

My customers’ range: all ages, sexes and types. International to local.

Keri Hilson trying on Eloexa’s glasses

What in your opinion is the Eloexa piece to have?

Definitely my grillz. They are my favorite. Unusual and distinctive.

What is your jewelry making process?

My jewelry making process is hand crafting ideas that pop up in my mind and collecting pieces to upcycle, breaking them apart and recreating them.

What is the message of the brand?

The message of my brand is that one should  be open; curious, futuristic, unique and artistic.

How did Erykah Badu end up being the face of Eloexa?

I met Erykah at a DJ spot, Essence fest to be exact. She loved my brand and started supporting the project.

Any exhibition or project we should expect in the near future?

I’m developing an idea for a project, stay tuned for details.

MEET THE PIANIST AND DAREDEVIL

DALE NICHOLS 

 Who is Dale Nichols?

I’m a citizen of the world, currently based in Dubai, UAE where I stay busy working as a musician and living an active lifestyle.

What is your background?

I grew up in Saskatchewan, Canada and eventually made my way out to the west coast as an adult. Growing up I was heavily involved in sports: playing hockey, cycling, track & field and other school team sports. I’ve kept up with fitness throughout my life and continue to take training courses from time to time. I’ve studied and worked in information technology, aviation & helicopters and music, which is my main focus today. I’m also an avid traveler and have been fortunate to visit several different countries and make friends all around the world.

 How long have you been playing piano?

Pretty much my whole life! I got started when I was just four years old.

When did you decide to be a professional pianist?

I think I probably made the decision subconsciously when I was around 10 but I didn’t actually take it seriously until I moved to Dubai at the age of 29.

How is a musician’s life in Dubai?

As long as there are steady gigs it can be quite nice! But as things usually quiet down here during the hot summer months and the holy month of Ramadan, there’s a period where it’s beneficial to have some other skills to fall back on—or take a long holiday!

Are you working on any compositions of your own?

Yes, I’m always working on something of my own. I have some personal projects I’m chipping away at when I get a chance; mostly solo piano works and some orchestral material. However, much of my time is focused on composing for other film & media projects I get commissioned for. I’m also very busy with The Jazz Quarter, the band which I’m musical director and pianist for.

Watch and listen to Dale’s composition below:

https://vimeo.com/217018397

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EVll9xcu8uM

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y4o5Kid-CIA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qmUzmx1EY9w

I know that you are also a photographer, talk to us a little about it.

I got into photography when I was a teenager. I’ve dabbled a bit in film photography but at the time I was getting into it, digital photography was on the rise. With my fascination with computers, seeing the technologies overlap I was immediately hooked. Once I started travelling some more I felt really inspired to take photos of my journeys. It’s a great way to preserve the memories and share the stories.

How did you catch the travel bug?

When I was about 12 years old my family took our first overseas trip to Europe. That trip was really the first-hand experience that opened my eyes to the rest of the world that’s out there. When I made the leap to travel alone at 21 and found myself sitting under the stars at a camp in the Omani desert being fed fresh palm dates and mint tea by people speaking a language completely foreign to me, there was no turning back.

How do you combine your passion for sports and your passion for music?

I suppose it just happens naturally as I practice both. Sometimes when I’m doing an endurance activity like hiking, stand-up paddle boarding, or long-distance running I’ll get musical ideas flowing in my mind. If the ideas stick with me I’ll turn them into something when I’m back sitting down at the piano. When practicing music I can look at it from the same perspective as strengthening a muscle or refining a sports move. One of the beautiful things about both activities is there is always room to improve and learn more, no matter how long you’ve been doing it.

Do you have a training schedule?

If I have an upcoming event on the horizon I’ll create a specific training plan and stick to it, but otherwise I like to keep things free and just do what I feel like on the day. Sometimes that’s going for a run, lifting weights, swimming, or even just going for a walk to get some air and move around. Getting out for exercise is always easier if it’s an activity you enjoy.

Any advice for aspiring daredevils?

Stay curious and keep exploring; you never know who you might meet, what you might learn, or where you’ll end up.

 MEET JOAN KAUFMAN A LUXURY PERSONAL SHOPPER

Who is Joan Kaufman?

I love refinement, elegance, great taste and style for art, design and fashion.

http://joan-kaufman.com/

Tell us about your background.

A graduate of New York University, I started my career as a Fashion Stylist which led to my work on

television commercials and music videos. Realizing my passion to work in the film industry, I began my

work in the Costume Department as Shopper, and rose to the position of Assistant Costume Designer

and Costume Designer. Shopping for actors was challenging and rewarding, as I have had the opportunity

to work with Morgan Freeman, Jennifer Garner, and Susan Sarandon to name a few. Shopping for actors,

frequenting the designer boutiques, assisting with VIP dressing requests and facilitating requests was the

catalyst to assist private clients with their personal taste, style and elegance.

What is a luxury personal shopper?

I assist men and women with their personal shopping request for elegance and style while shopping at the most

elegant American, French and Italian designer boutiques along Madison Avenue and Fifth Avenue to the unique

shops in Soho, the charming West Village and vibrant Meat Packing District. My personal shopping service offers

impeccable service to global high-end clients, for sophisticated and well curated selections of the season for designer

wardrobe and luxury accessories.

How did you become a luxury personal shopper?

Shopping for wardrobe and accessories for film, I had wonderful resources for fashion designers

and contacts at the department stores and boutiques which I enjoyed working with for several

years. I thought it would be wonderful to share my knowledge of fashion and the interesting

boutiques from Madison Avenue and Fifth Avenue, to Soho and private designer ateliers with

people living in the city, as well as people visiting NYC looking for a sophisticated shopping

experience, the best of New York fashion!

How long have you been in the industry?

Ten years.

What are the challenges of a luxury personal shopper?

It can be challenging to find that one special gown or dress when shopping for a

client. I go to every designer boutique to view their collections to find the perfect

piece for each client.

Who have you shop for?

I have been asked this question many times, and I hope my discretion and integrity for my

clients is more important than revealing my list of clients. I have had the great pleasure to shop

with men and women in the US, Canada, Europe and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Any project now?

Most recently I was asked to select my Father’s Day gift ideas for Where Magazine.

I loved this project as I selected tasteful, classic and handsome pieces, such as: objects of

design from London, a fabulous race car book from the late 1960’s-1970, and selected pieces

from a luxury men’s wear designer.

 

Describe to us a typical day of a personal shopper.

I visit the designer boutiques and take photos of the seasonal collections of the season for men

and women. The photos become my diary for social networking, as well as selections to show

clients for their shopping request. Additionally, I visit the designer truck shows to keep abreast of

new collections each season and follow American, French, Italian and Japanese collections each

season.

What are your advice to the young personal shoppers?

Good luck and follow your dreams!

MEET THE ENVIRONMENTAL ARTIST

DANIEL LANZILOTTA

Who is Daniel Lanzilotta?

Earthling. Sack of bones covered in a package of flesh.

A collection of temporary cells expressing itself just the same as all living expressions. As I have learned I am a different expression of you and everyone else.

I am a flavor. I see the world as flavors.

 

What is an environmental artist?

An environmental artist is a person that observes their environment as they exist in time and space. I observe how nature and manmade environments clash or attempt to work together.

In that relationship or lack of a relationship. When nature and manmade environments clash, there is fallout. That fallout expresses itself as waste. We as human beings are an expression of the universe and earth herself holistically speaking. We are complete biological systems. We consume, we process and we eliminate waste. 

The waste in our environment is what I usually use to bring attention to: the unbridled and out of control debris that is choking the earth in rivers, streams, lakes and especially our oceans.

As an environmental artist, my mission is to bring significance to the seemingly insignificant and to bring it back to how humans treat each other. If we can’t learn to respect each other how can we expect to treat our planet with respect? Litter is nothing more than an act of disrespect.

I use art that can and does stand on its own merits to bring awareness of global issues of consumption.

 

How did you start?

I started innocently by making little odd assemblages in Southwestern France on the Atlantic Ocean in Biarritz.

I lived there for several years, minutes away from the ocean and I would go with my son who was three years old at the time. He would play and I would collect debris.  That was the late 90’s.

I kept finding lots of plastic. I didn’t think much of it. Then as time went on, I started going to the beach without my son.  I realized that there was a problem. At that time, the debris was up to my ankle. In 2014 I went to France to create a body of work. I arrived on November 5, 2014 and started making sculptures on November 6th. 

The debris at times was then just below my knee. The increase was mind blowing.

 

Why in your opinion is plastic the worst thing that ever happened to humanity?

Plastic isn’t the worst thing that has ever happened. 

I am not against plastic.

Plastic isn’t going away any time soon.

I use plastic too. I am very aware of my consumption and what I choose to buy.

We can’t escape it now. It is literally in everything we do as humans.

What we can do is limit in small steps until we can get to a place where we are so cognizant about our choices that we can perhaps have a “zero waste” life style.

I am about how we see objects and the objectification of the things in our lives.

We say we love our cars. We say we love our shoes. We say we love our cell phones. We objectify our stuff. We have a hard time saying we love our fellow human being.

Plastic will evolve as the demand for it decreases and manufacturers and science see that we need plastics that can be more easily recycled and sustainable.

This is happening but we have further to go.

 

Would you consider your art political?

It can be. If you understand that all plastics as we know them are manufactured by using fossil fuels. Crude oil. Crude oil is a political issue. We invade countries to get It. Send young people off to secure those territories. We build pipelines through sacred lands of indigenous peoples. We rape the land to frack and pollute ground water. Follow plastics backward and you will find the money.

Yes, it certainly can be political.

Every time we use plastic we contribute to its procurement.

That means we are dependent on foreign governments and market manipulations to get crude oil solely for the trinkets in “dollar stores”. It’s far more than that. From Ferrari, high end cars to plastic straws we are drowning in fossil fuels.

 

 

Have you ever had your own art exhibition?

Yes! I am featured in three shows in three different states as we speak.

I have had shows in France, New York, New Jersey, California, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and the list is expanding as we speak.

 

 

Talk to us about your totem that was at one of Warhol’s exhibit?

My totem was made in Biarritz France mostly from ocean debris and some street debris from Paris and New York.

It is about ritual and the lack of it in our daily modern lives.

I graduated from Carnegie Mellon University and they were having an alumni show at the Miller Gallery. Andy went to Carnegie Mellon. He had a piece in the show. I was lucky enough to get picked. I was living in Connecticut at the time.

I crated it up and shipped it to Pittsburgh.

 

What is your creation process? For example, for your head pieces.

My creation process is to live my life in the environment and as I go about my day I see thousands of pieces of debris in the environment. From loose litter on the roads to trash pickup on the sidewalk.

I am never lacking for materials to make art.

I collect what I find to have an interesting spirit or use. Can I render it to be something other than itself? That is the Gestalt of what I do. What can this object become? What other purpose is there for it?

I deconstruct those items and I play with them and start to manipulate the object. 

I make dozens of pieces before I even know what I will use.

Sometimes as in the case of a hat or headdress I know I want to create a hat. So, I will start with a base that speaks to me and I go from there applying pieces I have previously made. Sometimes I will make pieces to apply as the need arises.

I am constantly making parts for a future use.

 

How long does it take to create a piece of art from a water bottle?

I use mostly heavier plastics from laundry detergents and other bottles such as these.

I tend to not use water bottles per se. I use water bottle caps.

A piece can be completed in a few days or several months depending on the complexity.

Other times I just let them sit for a while. Because I make pieces first and keep at it constantly I wind up spending most of my time assembling a piece.

 

What do you think about when you are creating your art?

I am thinking about nothing other than what I am doing. I am completely involved and creating problems to solve. I challenge myself to develop better technical skills and to push the use of the materials. What happens is that the materials tell me what to do. All plastics have their own personality and chemistry.

I am constantly learning from the work. I am mindful of the purpose and enjoy the process with an idea in a flexible sense.

It’s a journey to take with each piece because of the technical aspect of what I do.

I am seeking beauty all along the way.

 

Daniel in depth.  Is Daniel Lanzilotta more of a private chef than an artist?

I am a person that puts a lot of thought and consideration into everything I do. If I am making my bed it is going to be ritual and have an artistic intent. I make an awesome bed.

Here is where we, as a society have lost our way. We no longer do things for ourselves. We hire others to do what a person used to do.

We buy prepared foods.

We buy clothes off the rack.

We buy $5.00 coffees because brewing a pot of coffee is so difficult. 

We have others clean our homes and cars.

We send our laundry out.

We buy can, frozen foods and microwave everything.

I am a maker.

I am very skilled in many trades and crafts.

Cooking at home or professionally is no different than making sculptures. It is the intention behind it. 

Food preparation is about flavors, textures, temperatures, mouth feel, visual impact, composition, smell and even sound. Those same principles apply to art and design in all disciplines. 

I don’t fracture myself or my method of thinking as food in the modern world is part of my work as an environmentalist. The ocean is one of our greatest resources of food. I am a spokesperson for the oceans and I cast a light on how we are destroying them. Food packaging, food transportation, food politics, food waste, food production and farming especially are all part of my vision and the earth’s health at large.

It is about creating one’s own world with doing as little harm as possible to the “in between”. The time we get here on earth. 

We are supposed to be stewards of our planet. 

Food and art are life giving forces. I see myself as its conduit.

 

 Any project, exhibition, or talk in the horizon?

Yes! I am one of three featured artists in Thompson Hospitality’s Unity Magazine’s Sustainable Issue. That comes out in June.

I have two pieces in two different states and nine sculptures in a show in Connecticut.

I am doing a debris arts workshop for kids and parents in June.

I have a radio interview in Connecticut in two weeks.

And an article in conjunction with the show in Connecticut.

I am looking for representation for galleries in Brooklyn and Manhattan. 

I just finished an 18 month interior construction job doing fine woodworking and now doing an apartment in Brooklyn.

I work with all materials from metal, wood, marble, stone, ceramics. I prefer artsy projects.

 

 

MEET SORAYA HAMDOUN SHOE DESIGNER AND OWNER OF NOMA BOUTIQUE PARIS.

 

 Who is Soraya Hamdoun?

I am a warrior. A dynamic passionate sportswoman. Courageous hard worker ambitious, sociable, helpful.

I love music, I love traveling, I love cooking, I love people, I love life, I love to laugh and share …

I am and I have been a Leader, I organized outings trips, restaurants, sporting events …

I share my free time with people as passionate as me and especially positive people only.

Ambitious people who also like to take risks.

Modern warriors !!!!

 
What was the hardest thing for you when you moved to New York?  

The hardest thing for me when I left Paris. I arrived on December 12, 2013 in the middle of winter. A rough winter. I suffered from the cold of the Snow and the short days. I was missing my family. I suffered for a long time. I never thought I would suffer as much. I did not know anything about NY. Get myself to speak English. Understanding people on the telephone, bank, post office, administrative center, doctor ….

And find in NY these French products that I missed. A very good baguette, a good cheese …. Step by step. It was ridiculous. Everything was very difficult, for more than 3 months. Find contractors for the work in the shop.

Deal with all the administrative procedures, SSC, ID, Tax, Accountant, Expert Accountant … Staff and Business. Finding a high school for my son, who was 14 years old. I had ripped him away from his  life in France, his school and his friends there, for NYC. He suffered. For more than 3 months, he was depressed, he did not want to be in NY. A teenager, the worst, reproached us for taking him to NY. Now, it is only a bad memory. But I have suffered enormously.
I had come to question myself a lot, wondering if I had made the right choice. Guilt ! NY is not that easy for us investors. To get our investor’s visa we had to justify a lot of things.

Plus all the antecedents in France : taxes, bank account … It was a long journey!

What is your background? 

I have always worked in the world of fashion, since I was a little girl, I loved the originality,the chic, the silk the muslin … I was a hairdresser visagiste for a long time. I worked with great hairdressers. We did shows in Paris and all over Europe. I had fun taking care of people who needed a change in order to beautify themselves. I gave them more confidence. Working with passion has always been my priority, then I joined a distribution company CLOTHING ACCESSORIES SHOES …Our products were distributed in France and all over Europe: GALERIES LAFAYETES, LE PRINTEMPS, BHV, and of course to retailers ….In all these areas, I was in my element, I appreciated what I was doing. It was very rewarding. I was doing relooking. I brought my expertise to my clients, my friends, my family ….Until today.  

When did you and your husband, your partner, open Noma Boutique?

We opened our store on December 19, 2013. We were in NY, several times that year and in October 2013, the last day of our stay we were on Bleecker Street. Between SOHO and Chelsea. I would admit that we were disappointed, tired, and as I was turning to greet a friend, I saw a very small post and I found my little shop in the West Village. I adore the neighborhood, these small buildings, these beautiful streets, it reminds me a little of Paris. A very nice neighborhood of NY, my favorite. I figured this is where I wanted to work. I wanted this shop and that is how we started the negotiations to get our store. Everything went very fast. Seize the opportunity, sometimes it is not necessary to think too much I order to launch something. Take risks!!! We signed our lease on November 15, 2013, opened on December 19, 2013.

Big winter storm. The Snow did not spare us that winter. Winter in NY is rude. First winter in NY, it was very difficult …

 

Tell us more about Noma Boutique Paris.

This shop has the image of WEST VILLAGE, with its brick walls and its large mirrors. The shop is located in a class building, LAND MARK BUILDING, its rectangular in length. We have made transformations, embellished the shop. We offer our customers a vast majority of artisanal products. LA MAISON DE L’ESPADRILLE, a company of the living heritage of artisanal craftmanship, HOUSE PERRIN, 1926 BERTHES WITH GREAT FEET, XUZ, KARMA OF CHARME, MIGUEL VIEIRA …. All our products are manufactured in Europe, we have French, Portuguese, Italians designers… We follow the trends, we advise our suppliers. Noma boutique Paris, brings originality, fashion, classic, chic, smart, sporty, new design. Like we say in french, LA FRAICHEUR ….

 


How long have you been designing shoes ?

We have been doing this for more than 15 years, and we remain faithful to the artisanal methods. The new techniques are good and fast, but there is nothing like handmade work.

 

What is your creative process, from designing the shoe to making it?

Inspiration, drawing, sketches, computer software. I work with specialty designers in France. Our best sellers are our ideas, thoughtful and submitted to our team of designers. All of our articles are manufactured with noble materials and chosen with delicacy. All the manufacture of our shoes remains European.

 


How long have you been carrying «  LA MAISON DE L’ESPADRILLE?

We have been dealing with this brand for 2 years. We are developing the North American market. Below you can find the history of LA MAISON DE L’ESPADRILLE. In 1960 the brand “GOES EXTRA” was created by Mr and Mrs Arauzo, today it is their two sons who took over the family business by founding the brand “LA MAISON DE L’ESPADRILLE”. Established in the south-west of France, it also has several points of sale on the Atlantic coast. They create new shapes, new models, with new materials, such as leather, develop the “mechanical” method while preserving the traditional and the indispensable “hand made”. It’s more than 500,000 classics and fantasy sneakers that are made every year by them. They started distributing in the United States of America, and of course all over Europe. La Maison de L’espadrille, always offers fashionable products!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MNtF0aj1QAs

 

Any other point of distribution other than New York?

 LA MAISON DE L’ESPADRILLE is distributed throughout the American territory ….We participate in the show of LAS VEGAS “LE MAGIC PLATFORM” In New York, Le Sole Commerce, Cotteries … Which allows us to make ourselves known, and we hired  representatives. The goal of the distribution is also to make known the real Artisanal work of our espadrille. To this day the shops that trust us all have very beautiful shops. This perfectly fits  LA MAISON DE L ESPADRILLE. 

In your opinion, what is the perfect shoe?

In all honesty, perfection does not exist, because each customer has different tastes and requirements.

NEW COLLECTION SNEAK PEAK

VISIT:

NOMA BOUTIQUE PARIS 

321 1/2 BLEECKER STREET

NEW YORK, NY 10014

STAY IN TOUCH WITH US ON FACBOOK:

https://www.facebook.com/NOMABoutique/

INSTAGRAM:

https://www.instagram.com/nomaboutiqueparis/

 

MEET THE BRILLIANT PHOTOGRAPHER

DENIS RION 

Who is Denis Rion?

I am a photographer, I live in France, I am 59 years old.
I love the light, I love languages, I love the arts.
I like airports, ports, railway stations, roads.
I love bistros (cafés), I like to discover the cuisines of the world.
I love traveling, I like to immerse myself in other cultures and thought systems.
I love to be clueless about things so I could learn.
I am a man I naturally love women.

What type of photography are you specialized in?

I am a photographer specializing in shows, especially contemporary dance.
For several years, I have been working on a memory of contemporary choreographic creations through the photographic image. This work is done in various countries.
Now, I am focused on Africa and Madagascar in particular.
I also work with unprofessional female models.

Which type of photography do you prefer?

Difficult question…
I love women, I like to photograph them, I like to try to sublimate them.
For dance photos, I like to enter the movement and grab it on the fly.
A choreographer said that I dance with my camera, it is one of the most beautiful compliments I have ever gotten.

Do you also shoot on movie sets?

Not the fixed image (photo) and the moving image (film), although having constraints and common points (subject, light, framing, depth of field, etc.) are for me two very different ways of shooting.
In pictures I stop, I capture ,stall , and / or I unveil the moment, the movement.
I am very interested in this in dance, I try to isolate the moment of the movement of the dance.
I worked once as a set photographer for a movie.


How did you become a photographer?

I took my first photo when I was 7, it was the Eiffel Tower in Paris with the camera I had “stolen” from my cousin for the occasion!
Then I was a lighting designer for the theater and for dance for 20 years.
The creation of the lights for shows naturally led me to the photo.
The theater scene is like a painting or a picture; Composition, light, balance or imbalance.
Because of my constant interaction with artists, directors and choreographers have been decisive in my desire to capture and transmit.



Which photography tools do you use?

 I use a Nikon D800 and a small Lumix pocket.
I work with the Photoshop Lightroom software for slight adjustments of framing or brightness / contrast.
I never use a stand to be completely free of my movements


What led you to your photography career?

I left school very early at age 15. Since the age of 17, I worked a multitude of jobs: deliveryman, factory worker, florist, horse breeder, industrial draftsman, stage manager and lighting designer and finally photographer.
I loved each of these jobs.


Tell us about your career accomplishments?

I will only speak about the accomplishments related to photography.
I have made numerous exhibitions in these countries, Mali, Madagascar, Togo, Guyana, Brazil, South Africa and France, of course. Each time these exhibitions were linked to an event.
“Dense Bamako Dance” international contemporary dance festival in Mali
«I’Trôtra» international contemporary dance festival in Madagascar
«Rencontres de Danses Métisses» International contemporary dance festival in Guyana
“Encontro da Dança, FIDESP, International contemporary dance Festival in Brazil
“Festival des divinités Noires” International festival of contemporary dance in Togo
«Festival au Féminin» «Festival Lyannaj, Contemporary Caribbean Biennale of Contemporary Art» in Paris.
«Festival d’Avignon» International Theater Festival
The theater company KS & Co of Guyana published the book “Kokolampoe, a plurilingual school theater in the Guianas” with illustrations of my photos.
The National Choreographic Center of Nantes also illustrated its book “20 years of dance” with my photos
I published in collaboration with the theatrical circus company, “Attention Fragile” a book of photos of their shows.
I produced with the French painter Manuela Noble several series of photos of Bodypainting with actresses or dancers.
But I am also interested in a more “dynamic” exhibition of my photos.
I produced with the Martinican poet Nefta Poetry (Stéphanie Melyon-Reinette) a projection work at the theater “Café de la Danse” in Paris on a text she wrote about a selection of my dance photos.
I have just completed a collaboration with choreographers Gaby Saranouffi and Moeketsi Koena. We created a show featuring a close relationship between the photo of painted bodies and the dance, the photo was “actor” in the show.
This work was supported by the French Institute of Johannesburg and presented at the festival “Dance Umbrella” international festival of contemporary dance in South Africa.
My photos were also the support of many posters for companies of shows or festivals.
And finally I trained for 3 years with young Malagasy photographers to sensitize them to the photography of shows.

I know that you travel for your shootings, can you tell us why?

Five continents: a wealth of cultures, lifestyles, thought systems, rhythms.
Going to meet “the other” in his art and in his life has always gotten me more and more interested.
Attempt to bring back a few essences from elsewhere to tell our differences but also that the world is one.
Dance is a fundamental part of each country’s culture, and I am very interested in this.


Any big project now?

Many projects!
I am working on a documentary about the dancer Yan Liping in China and a collaboration proposal to the singer Isla; Writing songs related to my photos and creating a singing / image show.

Also, I am working on a photo-reportage about two national roads, one in France and the second one in Madagascar:
The first starts from Paris and ends in the south of France. (In France, the national road 7 is a mythical road like ROUTE 66 in The United States.) The second starts from Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar and it ends in the south of the island.
In both countries, it’s a holiday route to freedom. I like to pair the two stories.
I want to continue to support the Dance Festival in Madagascar by organizing exhibitions, photo workshops, reporting and communication of the festival. I am looking for funds for this project.
And finally publish a book / CD on photos collected around the world about contemporary dance. I’m looking into publishers.


Which one of your photographs is your absolute favorite?

It is too difficult, I have two, similar for me because they are two women, two artists, two women from Africa.
The first is a photo of a young Togolese dancer I took during the « Festival des divinités Noires » in Aného in Togo. There are no words for the  beauty of this woman.
Her smile and the depth of her look amaze me every time I look at her.
The moment between the photographer (me) and this artist is suspended in time.
The photo is in Black & White



The second is a Malagasy dancer, the particularity of the company in which she dances in, is that they dance naked.
In this photo (back), I like the movement, I like the color of her skin, I like the position of this dancer, very curved, a body sublime, carnal, very sensual, never vulgar.
The photo is in color

 

Your challenges as a photographer.

I would like to transmit. Transmit my love of dance, and movement. Transmit my love of the world. Transmitting my respectful love of women. Transmitting to young photographers this love, and it’s a fine line.

 Your advice to aspiring photographers.

Make photos tirelessly. Be patient, be humble.
There is no bad picture, there are the photos that we like to do and show.
Look at your own photos even after several years, there are always new traits to discover, the views evolve because there is the picture that we want to do, the one we think we did and finally the one we did.
Do not take a picture if it disturbs and especially always ask the agreement of the person photographed before publication.

MEET BRUNO ROMAGNE  A MULTITALENTED DESIGNER

Who is Bruno Romagne?

I’m French and I was born and raised in a little village near Le Mans, the city that is famous for its 24 hours race car, and the movie with Steve McQueen. I’m a fashion designer and a painter, and I have been living in NYC for 3 years now.

Why did you become a designer?

At 11 years old, I watched a documentary on tv about Ines de La Fressange and the “renouveau” of Chanel, at the time models were the new super stars, and it was a revelation! I decided I would be a fashion designer. At that time, I was already drawing sketches on my notes and class books, and reading Marie Claire, Elle and Vogue which was the reference for Haute Couture.

 

I understand that you are a mixed media artist, tell us what’s your preference between being a designer or an artist?

I don’t have a real preference between a designer or an artist, they are complementary, and they are giving me a balance. As a designer, I mix creativity with skilled techniques of patterning, but keeping in mind the business part as the clothes need to be wearable and saleable. It is a subtle alchemy! As an artist, I have no limit in creation, and create without boundaries.

 

Can you tell us more about your design background?

After graduating from La Chambre Syndicale de la Couture in Paris I started my career at Dior in the atelier Haute Couture, then moved to the studio and closely worked with Gianfranco Ferre and after him John Galliano. An amazing experience with 2 incredible designers with their own aesthetics. I worked also for Nina Ricci, Agnès B, and Kenzo. 3 years ago, I had the opportunity to cross the Atlantic and work in NYC!

 

Describe your creative process.

A collection usually starts by my mood board assembling materials, textures, colors, fabrics… I begin to draw a few silhouettes giving the main theme of the collection. Then I develop by group: dresses, skirts, blouses…

 For my painting, I start usually to do the framing in wood. Indeed, each painting is made of several canvases assembled. I work afterwards with colors and add volume with webbing, wood, horn and much more…

What are you working on now?

I’m working on the resort 2018, and a new series of painting.

Tell me about a project you’ve completed that has made you the proudest.

The creation of my own brand Almire Paris.

What inspires you?

A shadow in the street, an architecture detail, a piece of fabric…

What’s your biggest fear?

The white page could be scary, but it allows you to surpass yourself and is very stimulating!

Never take anything for granted…

What was your biggest challenge moving to the United States?

To be.

Your advice to the new wave of up and coming creative minds.

Authenticity and humility.

Tell us about your daily routine?

The less routine the better it is. But one of the few things I do almost every day is a banana and cookies for breakfast, a homemade smoothie, gym.

MEET VIRGINIE SOMMET AN INCOMPARABLE MIX MEDIA ARTIST

Photo credit: Leslie Kee for the campaign ” Power People” to inspire the Japanese population to rebuild after the Tsunami.

Who is Virginie Sommet?

I am a creative person, Chameleon, impatient and multitasker. Born in Normandy (France) in a very conservative, provincial, practicing catholic and preppy family. I love “Decontextualization” in everything, the learning process and the New York challenges. Certainly, a sensitive and spiritual person with a global mentality, engaged in supporting all minority groups to balance it out in our blind white supremacy. I love to go from one social box to another!

http://www.virginiesommet.com

Why did you become an interior designer?

I became an interior designer for myself by necessity because I could not find anything that I liked so I had to create and construct it. I did two apartments and a loft in Paris. In New York, I also did two apartments, six lofts, the hallway of a “24 apartment’s building”, and one brownstone. I did more than 20 Brownstones for different clients. I have created furniture. I like round rooms, round windows and oval furniture.

Bookshelves design by Virginie Sommet.

You are also a dancer, have you abandoned that field completely?

I had my own Dance School in Montmartre (Paris) with 157 Students. I was renting the ”Petit Trianon” every year with 800 attendees and 20 Choreographies. I danced 22 Years and taught 10 years, I stopped because I needed some new challenges. When you dance so many years you never stop to be a dancer.

 

I understand that you are a mixed media artist, tell us what’s your preference between being an Interior Designer or an Artist?

I love both, they are part of the same process: creation.

They are interconnected and need each other.

They are both aesthetically part of the house.

My Installations are Pop, sociological and political.

My Interior Design work is minimal, futuristic with a twist of Barbarella.

Bookshelves design by Virginie Sommet.

Metal table and chairs designed by Virginie Sommet.

Can you tell us more about your background?

As a little girl, I was familiar with construction, I always saw my mother repairing or building stone walls, sewing curtains, covering Louis XIV chairs, repairing antique furniture, my father doing insulation in the attic, painting, going to the antique stores. They often restored several churches on Sunday and we had to be there to help. My father always gave us huge “out-building” for my sister and I to transform the way we wanted to have a play- room. It was exciting, we were working long hours to make it look good to invite our friends over. We were doing this from about age 8 until our late teens.

I can say that I was a life intern with my parents who were dedicated to Interiors and accuracy of Design. Anything inauthentic had to go straight to the fireplace!

I have a MFA in Art Studies which is a precious mix with the above!

 Installation “Dream Catcher” by Virginie Sommet

Exclamation Point Kitchen Cabinet designed by Virginie Sommet.

You have designed award pieces for the best of this world. From Mandela to Anderson Cooper, to name only these men, what was your thought process during these creative phases?

 Yes it was a big honor to be able to do these awards for President Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Susan Sarandon, Terry Georges and Anderson Cooper.

It was for the Action Against Hunger Gala, the theme was hunger.

I decided to decontextualize the spoon and transform it into a material itself, then embedded it in resin.

Describe your creative process.

I always like to wander where I am not supposed to be, to discover, to be surprised, to learn and to fight the prejudices. I often encounter interesting objects, I discover different cultures and creative ideas often pop. Then I do extensive research on line on the idea to develop it.

You have a piece named ” She Male” that I am in awe with, tell me more about it. 

The Village Voice used to be very useful before internet in New York, you could get roommates, apartments, jobs and escorts! The last two pages were filled with “She Male” adds and I could hear many heterosexual men saying that they were women? Then I got the idea to do a piece about “She male” to diffuse the information that they were Male with a penis and breasts. The numbers of She males keep growing until today. I decided to cut out a lot of the black and white pictures of the “She Male” and create a newspaper underwear on a male mannequin.

How do you get unstuck creatively?          

I have been lucky so far, it never happened to me.

What are you working on now?

I am writing a talk about Ectogenesis in collaboration with a philosopher.

I am creating my meditation series.

I am designing exterior, interior and garden of 2 brownstones and 6 apartments buildings.

 

How do you stay organized when you are provided with multiple design assets, files and ideas?

I think I was born with a busy schedule. My sister and myself had 14 hours each of extracurricular activities every week. It was a true marathon. Our parents and grandparents were extremely organized, so no merit here.

Tell me about a project you’ve completed that has made you the proudest?

Certainly, the award that I created for President Nelson Mandela. I called his secretary and she told me that my piece was on his desk. He represents the fight against racism for the planet, I could  have never placed any collector above him. I am very honored.

 Award for President Mandela.

What inspires you?

Unfairness, marketing, stupidity, 99c stores Knick knacks, stereotypes, cultural differences, subcultures, sexism, meditation, prejudice, racism, cruelty, ignorance, mass culture and imagining the future.

What’s your biggest fear?

My biggest fear is to not have enough time to experiment immortality in my body and my psyche, hoping that it will help humans to be more evolved than now. I would love to experience this!

Your advice to other inspiring artists.

Stick to what you really like to do. Be stubborn in it, do not listen to too many opinions and you will succeed.

http://virginiesommet.blogspot.com/

My Book – En Francais and English:

http://www.lulu.com/shop/search.ep?contributorId=406226

http://www.amazon.com/

 

MEET FREDERICK V. NIELSEN, A PHOTOGRAPHER WITH EYES LIKE HAWK

Who is Frederick V. Nielsen II?

I’m a visual artist. Born & raised in Harlem NY now living in Brooklyn USA. My current medium is digital photography. 

http://featherrock.smugmug.com

What style(s) of photography do you specialize in?

My photography is focused in fine art portraiture.  I’m influenced by the past and inspired by the present. 

 

Do you shoot both digital and film?

I began my photography in film and still use film on occasion.  I find film slows the process down which can be more exacting in the creative process. But digital you can be more daring since you’re not spending money on every frame. 

Where do you find your inspiration?

I like to look back at album covers and movies of the seventies, and make contemporary images that make me feel like those made me feel as a youngster.

Which photographers influenced you, and how did they influence your thinking, photographing, and career path?

Many photographers influenced me. I’m in love with Keith Major’s work. I love the masters like Gordon Parks of course and the fashion Photographer Thierry Le Goues.

I know that you worked for Spike Lee for over twenty years. How did that start?

When I left college in ’81 there were no black film makers so for 6 or 7 years I worked as a freelance video cameraman for nonprofit arts institutions. Then in 1986 I got a job as a Production Assistant for Melvin Van Peebles.  I met a few film professionals that introduced me to Spike Lee and I worked as a PA on “Do the Right Thing”. But the more significant thing about my Spike Lee experience is that I met my wife on the next film “Mo’ Better Blues”.  We’ve been married now since ’92.  I later moved on to be a camera technician on countless music videos during the golden era of hip hop. Artists like EPMD ,  Queen Latifah and Run DMC to name a few.   I feel some pride when I see young black filmmakers creating art. We opened a door for them and now I think cinema studies are the top major for black students in college today. 

Exactly what is it you want to say with your photographs, and how do you get your photographs to do that?

I most enjoy the collaborative nature of the portrait process. Examining the model subject and finding an emotional artistic connection and hopefully capturing that. I especially love taking normal (non professional model) and finding beauty and bringing it to the surface. I think or I hope I achieve this by the subject trusting me to be sensitive to their individual needs. I know I’ve achieved my goal when I see their reaction to the finished product. 

Can you describe that “moment” (experience, emotion,) when you knew that photography was something you just had to do?

I’m sure movies like ‘Shaft’ and ‘Super Fly’ where huge influences as a child.  Seeing Black people’s style and beauty. I remember laying on the floor looking at the Jackson 5 album cover while listening to them and mesmerized by the pictures. I still feel that when I look through my lens today.  My mother was a fashion designer when I was young. She returned to college when I began college so we went to college at the same time. She told me that being an artist was a viable vocation.  But back in the days people laughed when I told them I was a cinema Major in college. It took passion to ignore the haters.  

What was your career path? How did you get from being an aspiring photographer to doing it full time, for a living?

 I was a freelancer most of my adult life. So, when I left the film business in 98 or so, I wanted to be closer to home and be a more attentive father to my son. Digital photography just began to become close to what 35mm film could do. I saw that this was going to be the future of photography. I bought a small Sony camera and began teaching myself Adobe Photoshop. I owned a nonlinear editing system so the digital process wasn’t foreign to me. But in 2004 I took some continuing education classes in Adobe Photoshop at the School of Visual Arts in Chelsea. And I was off. Opened my studio in 2010 in Brooklyn until 2015 when I had to move. 

What technology/software/camera gear do you use to keep focused on what you do best, as you photograph?

I’m currently using the Sony Alpha camera system with Zeiss optics. I really love the system. I’m still using Adobe products for post work. I also shoot with my IPhone with Zeiss optics attached.  And edit on an IPad for my personal pleasure. I’m fascinated at how far digital has come since the late 90’s. 

What motivates you to continue taking pictures?

I love people. I find myself people watching all the time. I just think faces are full of emotions and mask that sometimes I think I can see through. Finding beauty in people motivates me. 

Among your works, which one is your absolute favorite? Why? 

People ask me about favorite photographs. But I think my next photograph will be my best work and favorite. I hope that continues being the case. 

What are some of your favorite things about being a photographer? 

I like being in control over my life and schedule. I love being around wonderful people. I’m inspired by young people and their perspective on art and culture. 

What are some challenges you’ve encountered?

Financial insecurity has been a constant challenge. Now that the cell phone has taken such a dominant place in our creative community. I’m not sure people respect the path of the professional photographer.  Now people don’t train to be photographers they buy a Camera start a blog and they are on their way. Don’t get me wrong I like the democratization of the medium. But it’s harder to break through the noise of the digital age we live in. 

What is the one thing you knew when you started taking photos?

I knew that this path of living as a photographer would be challenging. But I’m happy about all my experiences, failures and triumphs. They made me who I am today. 

What would be your advice to an aspiring photographer?

I think people who want to be photographers should study a subject that they are also passionate about and take pictures of that. I.e. If you like diving, do underwater photography or sports photography and the like. Be intellectually curious about life and never stop learning. The technology will just keep getting better and better. Ride the wave and keep your heart and your eyes open. 

http://linkedin.com/in/featherrock

http://facebook.com/fvnielsen2

MEET KAREMA DEODATO A MILLINER WITH FAIRY HANDS

Who is Karema Deodato?

Karema Deodato is a mother, a wife an entrepreneur and a skilled milliner. She creates luxurious hats for the uber chic consumer. She is a habitué of fashion with a keen focus on the artistry, innovation and flawless construction of many great and also forgotten early designers. Her millinery techniques are inspired by couturiers and fashion designers from the early 1900’s alongside modern techniques and aesthetics. 

 What does a hat symbolize to you? 

Many things: art, glamour, necessity but most of all a hat represents confidence in oneself. It is often the last thing to put on but the first thing that people see on you!

 How did you become a milliner?

I grew up inspired by my grandmothers, one a confectioner and the other a dressmaker and embroiderer. My mother also did quite a bit of sewing so she always had materials around. As a teenager, I made my first hat, a small black velvet fez. Perfectly charming with such old world elegance but yet it had a jaunty modern twist. From then on my obsession to create artistic headpieces was born. I later perfected my craft while working at the Metropolitan Opera-an incredible experience and education in costume and sewing history!

 How long have you been designing and making hats under the label Karema Deodato Millinery?

Karema Deodato Millinery has been in existence since 1999

Ater 9/11 I took a break. My daughter was born in 2012. I began to design and create again in 2012.

 What inspires you?

Nature, its unspoiled beauty and many surprises. From my memories of the vast open sea from my sailing trips as a little girl, to the dizzyingly high altitude of the Colca Valley in Peru that I visited years ago. Days in the country at our old farmhouse picking wildflowers and berries with my daughter. A child’s boundless imagination is forever inspiring to me! 

And of course my customers! Who would I be making hats for if it were not for them? 

 

Explain to us the process of making a hat?

The process begins with the customer -what is their lifestyle, their color palette? I measure their head and then I get to work!

 Let’s say I’m making a felt fedora: 

• the felt gets steamed and then molded around a hat block (usually made of solid wood) 
• then set in a special oven or air set overnight
• The felt can then be removed from the mold and lacquered if needed to stiffen and maintain its shape
• the finishing is done -wiring the brim, stitching in the sweatband
• then embellishment trims are added 

 This is just one of the many processes. Felt can also be draped free form on the block which is a very improvisational technique that I love!

 

What material do you use to make your hats?

It depends on the season. I love the feel of luxurious fabrics. In the Fall and Winter, I love cashmere and rabbit fur felts. I’m also an obsessive knitter so I try to incorporate hand knitted trims in a couple of styles for the winter. In the summer a lightweight natural colored straw is a must and I cannot live without a white tablecloth linen bucket hat. Right now I am working with a beautiful assortment of menswear shirting fabrics from Italy: windowpane plaids, checks, ginghams and clipped dot stripes-yum! 

 Which one (material) is your favorite and why?

That’s a tough one but I’ll have to say I love fur felt the best. It is so unique and chameleon -like in the way it becomes so malleable when steamed -the possibilities are endless with this material. Oh and it feels like pure luxury.

 Often people say I love hats, but I dont look good in them” would you agree?

No absolutely not! There is good hat for everyone. That is why a custom hat is the best way to go.

 Are your hats accessible to the public and where?

Yes, at my website www.karemadeodato.com 

Follow  Karema deodato on Instagram @ https://www.instagram.com/karemadeodato/

 What is your biggest fear?

Not living life fully -as Mark Twain said “The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man/woman who lives fully is prepared to die at any time”

 Describe a day in your life

I wake up around 5:45 AM, grab my coffee and mentally organize my day. I wake up my 5 year old from her peaceful sleep to get her ready for school, drop her off and then the constant hustle, filling orders, social media, emails, talking to suppliers, creating new designs and if I’m lucky I’ll go to the garment district where I’m surrounded by beautiful felts and fabrics. I try to control my temptation to buy everything-not easy!

 Evenings are family time, once I put my daughter to bed I wind myself down with a good read or some knitting and then it’s eyes shut!!

MEET KYLE ANDREW SZPYRKA A YOUNG GIFTED PAINTER

 Who is Kyle Andrew Szpyrka?

I am a 28 year old emerging fine artist living in Stamford,CT. I wait tables during the day at Bistro Versailles on Greenwich Avenue in Greenwich, CT and spend mornings and evenings in my home studio pursuing my art. I hope to build a successful career as a fine artist sharing my works, traveling, and learning even more about the different spiritual traditions that influence my art and my life as an artist.
 

 How did you discover your passion for painting?

 
I’ve known since I was very little that I wanted to be an artist. As a kid I never really played with toys. All I ever wanted to do was create. We would go to the store and my brothers would run to the toy aisle, but I always wanted to be in the craft section. Paints, markers, clay, yarn, frames, fabric….all of it… I just wanted to play with it all. Thankfully, my family was very supportive and they let me. My great grandmother taught me to sew, how to crochet, to knit, play piano, bake… anything that I asked. When I wanted clay to mold, she got me clay. Similarly my mother and father supported me each in their own ways too. My father was always interested in teaching me how to build with wood, how to fix things around the house. And if my mother wasn’t supplying me with paints and colored pencils and sketchbooks I was helping her wallpaper the house or refinish rooms in our old house. And all the time I thought “This is what I want to do with my life…. create…build….share.”
 

 What drives you to paint?

 
My faith drives me to paint; wanting to know things that I don’t know yet…wanting to understand the world, its secrets… wanting to learn all the ancient wisdom that has been with us here since the beginning of time and expressed through so many different traditions throughout human history, across all the cultures and spiritual beliefs… that magic… that silver lining… that thread that runs through them all and holds all the answers to life and the mystery of what’s beyond… the mystery of energy and how to play with it, how to respond to it, how to BE it and let it work with/through you…. that is what drives me to paint, the chance to learn this. Painting is the place I can go to bring all these faiths together and feel my way through them and connect them to my life in a meaningful way.

 Do you have a painting schedule?

I do. It’s not very rigid, but I certainly find that I have a rhythm for my days, and painting is always a part of that. The first thing I do when I wake up is grab my cup of coffee and head to my studio to sit and write for about an hour. Then I am right into painting in the quiet until the sun rises. Usually from about 6 to 8 am. Then it’s off to work for the day. And on my days off this time gets extended to after breakfast until about 4 pm.  I rarely ever paint at night as that is usually the time I feel the need to exercise and be with my body, whether it be yoga at home or the gym. But I definitely find the balance of these two are critical to my work as an artist. It took me the first 3 years of my painting career to figure this balance out, though it is always free to evolve and change.

  Did you attend fine art school? If not how did you learn your techniques or who taught you?

 I did, I attended The College of Saint Rose and earned my BFA in painting and sculpture.
 

Which artist inspires you the most?

 
I’d have to say Michelangelo. Just the sheer VOLUME of his work is amazing! I think of him often as I am painting and how it must have felt to be in the Sistine Chapel, laying on his back up in the rafters knowing that he had to finish the entire chapel, accepting the challenge his art presented to him, and rising to the occasion…. I think of how transforming the experience must have been for him…all that he possibly learned of himself, of God, of the world he lives in, simply through accepting the challenge his art gave him. This and his bold color and strength as an artist all leave me turning to him often as inspiration.

 

Do you feel close to that artist’s art?

It’s odd but I feel closer to the artist than I do to his art. I love the feeling of connecting with his human self and how that human self became the vehicle for such profoundly large works of divine creativity. I feel more connected with him as a friend I can turn to in my mind and ask questions of logistics than I do to his works, and for that I turn to Michelangelo the MAN for inspiration rather than to his art….if that makes sense?

 

 What is your painting’s genre?

 I would describe my work as contemporary transcendental. Or possibly contemporary spiritual art.
 
 

Are you working on anything now?

I am indeed. I am always working on several things at once. Right now I have six different pieces in various stages of completion, one piece framed and on its way out the door to be shipped, and 7 more frames on the way. As an artist I feel it’s important to keep my framing skills and creativity in practice while working on paintings simultaneously as it helps the two relate and work together more harmoniously in the end. And for the same reason, I feel its good to work on a whole series of pieces at the same time as it too will help problem solving and creative issues work themselves out in more scenarios than just one. The new body of work is an exploration of the process of alchemy and the transmutation of darkness into light. I am intrigued by alchemy and its principles in the spiritual, emotional, and physical senses. Hopefully this new work will help convey some the vastness of potential these concepts hold in a simplified way. That is the challenge as I understand it. 

 

 I have been to one of your exhibit at the Agora galleries and one of your paintings stroke me “Learning To Fly” can you talk about that piece?

 Learning To Fly was such a great experience for me. It was the first very big piece I ever created with as many figures, and it was my exploration of the theme of awakening. This was at the beginning of my personal intense exploration of this area of spirituality and I was very interested in the Gia Grid, that grid or matrix that underlies all of life in the physical world and our worldly connections and how we can free ourselves of their grip and  usher in our higher soul selves. This whole first-time experience of these things, of experiencing life through my higher self, of seeing the world in this way opened up a whole new world of possibilities and this piece is a part of that experience.
 

 Where do you find your inspiration?

 I find inspiration in the journey of life, in the journey of becoming, of awakening, of realizing new and before unseen parts of God in the world around me and within myself. I am inspired by the journey of looking inside and discovering what is there and how I can work with it. I am inspired by energy and learning to work with it and control it. I am inspired by the vastness of human potential to awaken within themselves all of the hidden knowledge for everything they could ever seek. I’m inspired by the journey to discovering and learning how to do all of this. 
 

 Have you ever participated in a gallery opening?

 I have, yes. I’ve participated in a group exhibition at Cherie Greene Interiors in Westport CT, a group pop show at Loft 594 in Brooklyn, and a solo exhibition at New Century Artists Gallery in Chelsea, NY. Though it is a small start, I am very excited to show more, and am currently preparing a body of work to show in Greenwich this spring/summer.
 

 Is your art accessible to the public?

 At this time it is only accessible to the public online via my website www.kszpyrka.com or Instagram https://www.instagram.com/kyleandrewszpyrka/. I hope to soon have work on display at a location in Greenwich, but will always welcome visitors to my home and studio if interested.

 

 What’s next for Kyle Andrew Szpyrka?

 I would like to focus now on rooting myself here in Greenwich, CT. As an artist I am excited to connect with the town and explore the art and the community it bolsters and become a part of that. I would like to meet other artists in the area and share work where I can. I am also excited to return to work on a collaboration project with fellow designer and business woman Francine Steadman and her line of Buddah Booths (http://www.buddhabooth.com/). I will be bringing my (custom) painted works to the exterior of her one-of-a-kind meditation booths. I am really excited to begin working together and creating something truly unique. These are the opportunities I look forward to in the future, creating and sharing organically the art that moves through us.
 

MEET SOPHIA THE AMAZING DESIGNER AND CREATIVE DIRECTOR BEHIND FANM MON

Who is Fanm Mon?

A Dedicated, driven, passionate woman, who is determined to make her dreams a reality.

 

 When was Fanm Mon created and Why?

About 4 years ago, the reason is not just one… But primarily to tear apart the stigma attached to “Fanm Mon” within my culture.

How did you come up with the name of your clothing line “Fanm Mon”?

Fanm Mon is very much like a Nomad… a villager, and such women make everything by hand. 

The name is befitting because the core focus of the brand is making our work by hand.

Although we primarily focus on the clothes, we also make jewelry, shoes, bags, and some home decor pieces as well.

 Where do you find your inspiration?

Nature!!! absolutely the biggest source of everything.

Nature teaches me, cares for me, it is only right I allow the love I have for it to manifest through my creations.

 What are your choices of fabric?

Most natural fibers, but I have got a very soft spot for quality pure linen…

I mainly use linen for production, so be it dress or coat, I just use different weight that are more suitable for the style, weather.

 Tell us more about your new collection?

It is extremely colorful, and full of bold options!

I must say that I love some of what is happening in fashion…The whole season/color/texture barriers, sort of feel lifted.

I love that people wear whatever the hell they want, how they want, when they want, I guess this has always been the case for NYC, but very happy to see it happening globally

https://fanmmon.com/

What is your biggest fear?

I have none!

Or maybe I do not see fear like most people do.

I see fear as a source of strength that tries to teach us, until embraced it defeats us.

So when I sense or and recognize any sort of fear, I embrace it, and get control.

 What do you do on your free time?

I have two very happy and active young boys. LOOL…

But I am working on having free time, I am working on a project in our home to create a sanctuary for me to read, rest, do yoga, meditation and workouts with my personal trainer. 

 Describe a day in the life of Fanm Mon.From waking up to Bed time.

My husband alarm clock wakes me up.

He is up a lot earlier than me, get the boys ready for school. Kerem continues his day, I stay in bed and start working under my covers.

I start to reply to the flood of emails from Australia, the Golf Coast and so on… by the time I am up for tea the mails from Europe starts to roll in.

I answer emails right away, I hate having my inbox with bulk unread/unanswered mails.

Have my BF, and my second cup of tea, read the news, prepare shipments, work on new designs. communicative with my staff throughout the day… and so on.

MEET THE TALENTED ECUADORIAN CHEF HUMBERTO GUALLPA

Who is Humberto Guallpa?

I grew up in rural Ecuador, where my family managed a small farm of vegetables and livestock for the sole purpose of feeding the family. I developed my intense interest in the culinary arts by assisting my grandmother in the kitchen and learning everything I could about the preparation of healthy, balanced meals.

 How did you discover your passion for cooking?

I entered the restaurant business as a dishwasher at the age of 17.  I discovered my talent and I was motivated towards becoming a great chef in these kitchens and worked my way up through the kitchens as Garde Manager, Line Chef and Sous Chef to my current title of Executive Chef.  My formal training led me to combine regional Ecuadorean preparations and ingredients, with French technique to create unique, mouthwatering masterpieces.

 Have you worked in the kitchen of any famous chef?

My most recent projects included “Play”: the sultry restaurant at the Museum of Sex; “Vandaag”: the Nordic-inspired restaurant which received two stars from the New York Times and Sag Harbor’s “Page @63 Main”, where my cuisine was inspired by the local farms on Long Island. Prior to that, I worked at perfecting my craft alongside many of New York City’s top-rated chefs, including Mario Batali, Marco Moreira, Paul Zweben, Larry Forgione, Marcus Samuelsson, Rocco Dispirito, Julian Alonzo and Franklin Becker. I also worked as a stagiaire in some of the country’s finest kitchens, including New York’s “Per Se” and “Eleven Madison”, Chicago’s “Alinea”, and “Guy Savoy” in Las Vegas.

 Any cooking award under your knife?

I received IED Awards 2016, and a Championship golden medal paella competition first place. 

 How did you come up with your pop up dinner series?

I started those popups because I want people to taste flavors from my country and share my Ecuadorian culture. After a long process of learning new techniques, ways to cook and how to use the ingredients and being through the best kitchens in USA, now I want to use that knowledge to make my Ecuadorian food and share it with everyone. I knew this wasn’t going to be easy, because I don’t see Latin chefs or immigrants in general under the radar. I want to showcase those chefs who want to share their culture as well, I mix Ecuadorian with Mexican, Dominican, Venezuelan, Filipino, Peruvian. These popups are designed to expose culture and flavors.

 Are your pop ups mainly based on Ecuadorian cuisine?

All my popups are Ecuadorian cuisine based. 

 Where do you find your inspiration?

 My inspiration comes from several different places; walking through a farmer’s market reminds me of back home walking in our farm with my grandmother and grandfather, eating out with my fiancée and friends tasting different flavors, most importantly being with my daughter creating memories; she gives me the power to keep going every day and inspires me when I walk with her in the forest. These combinations give me so many inspirational forms and shapes for my everyday discoveries on new ways to cook.

  What are your choice of spices?

Star anise, Chinese dry ginger, Chinese cinnamon, cloves, black pepper, dry chilies, juniper berries.

 Tell us more about your next pop up?

My next pop up is Ecuadorian-Peruvian, with Peruvian chef Diego Sanchez, this tasting is created to share Ecuadorian and Peruvian flavors and crafting our own culture.

Six courses tasting menu, From the sierra to the coast, from the sea to the mountains “Andes”.

This tasting will be held at Jimmy’s No 43, March 5th 2017

for more information, click on the link below

RSVP: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/taste-of-ecuador-and-peru-tickets-31983400211

 Name one thing that you love to cook.

I love to cook everything, especially to cook fish.

  What’s your favorite dish?

I don’t have a favorite dish. I like every dish. But there is one in particular that I had so much fun cooking and which was inspired by my beautiful daughter Isabella; Pan Seared Wild Stripe Bass, buckwheat grain, fiddle head, Farmers market ramps, wood ear mushrooms, chimichurri. 

 What is your biggest fear?

My passion for cooking and my career don’t allow me much time to spend quality time with my daughter. The kitchen and cooking take most of my time and I just hope she understands. One day we’ll get to go around the world.   

  What do you do on your free time?

On my free time, I think about and research about food, spend some time with my fiancée, go for walks, bike, play soccer, hike, swim. 

 

 Describe a day in the life of Humberto Guallpa. From waking up to Bed time.

I wake up at 8AM in the morning. Take a shower, get ready for work. Get my cup of coffee on the way. I start working at 9AM and my day goes on in the kitchen. Greet everyone in the kitchen good morning, change into my chef clothes, then find out if all my orders were delivered. Check on the fish, meat, vegetables, verify if my food preparations are going smoothly, set up for lunch service. At lunch, usually it gets crazy but after all this craziness it’s fun time. After lunch, I think of my dinner specials, launch my food preparations make sure I have everything for dinner, the afternoon crew arrives and I summarize with them the tasks to make sure they don’t miss anything for service, then we share the staff meal. Dinner service goes on. At 10 pm I place my orders for next day. I go over and check what was left and make sure my staff does the prep list for the next day. Then a few minutes at the office to finalize my paper work and finally change back to my civilian clothes ready to leave. Most of the time I don’t eat at the restaurant, I get home and make instant noodles or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich while I watch some Netflix. And it’s ok with me. This is a day in my life and it makes me happy.

MEET LUIS RAMIREZ A YOUNG TALENTED INTERIOR DECORATOR. 

Luis E. Ramirez

Who is Luis E. Ramirez? 

I am the son of Enrique and Lupe Ramirez two Mexican immigrants who raised my three brothers and I on a farm in the beautiful and scenic, Sutter Buttes in Northern Cali.  My personality could definitely be defined as sassy and feisty. However, I am an ambitious and courageous individual who enjoys new experiences and embraces opportunities head on. I constantly strive to learn and develop new skills and techniques for my passion in Interior Design as I strive to do my best work! 

I believe in loyalty and integrity and take time to nurture and build long lasting relationships with friends and family. I am an animal lover. I own a dog, Mochi. I’m also a complete Food Enthusiast. What currently drives me is implementing my values and ambition to excel and relish in every day that goes by as the future lies within me. 

How did you choose your career path? 

My passion for Interior Design began at a very young age. My mother who owned a house keeping business would drag me along. One of my jobs was organizing and setting up China cabinets. I recall being mesmerized by the delicate details of the Fine China and Crystal Goblets, I mean I was only 7 at the time. 

Then of course secretly watching interior decorating shows behind my brothers backs.  My mother saw my talent and let me faux sponge paint my bedroom and constantly rearrange the living room. I’ve always been confident with my abilities in seeing color, texture, and balance. I’m grateful that my mother encouraged my creativity and passion. 

Luis and Designer Cynthia Rowley

Where do you find inspiration? 

This is simple for me, anything outdoors and in nature. My father was a migrant worker who was always out on the farm. I grew up raising goats and selling them at county fairs to save for my college tuition. Growing up seeing beautiful orchard blossoms extend for miles in the spring or the change in color of rice fields from a muddy brown, to a bright chartreuse green and lastly to a beautiful dry harvest gold. Color and change were constant in my surroundings. Nature just has a way of putting elements together so harmoniously and effortlessly. Now that I live in Manhattan I take full advantage of the beautiful parks and constant change around me! I get to see beautiful architectural buildings old and new that influence and inspire much of my work as an Interior Designer. 

https://www.instagram.com/luisdesign/

What is your preferred design genre?

Transitional Design. I design homes that first reflect my clients passions and lifestyles. I love neutral pallets with splashes of color and modern elements, which can very easily be changed in a more cost effective way. The spaces I design always feel homey, comfortable, and practical. Many of my clients have growing families so it’s crucially important that I design spaces that will suit their needs without limiting or sacrificing the creativity of the space as I love to surprise them. 

What do you fear? 

If I had to give an honest answer I would say, I fear having no fear. However, hearing a family member, friend or my dog Mochi getting hurt is something that I fear as I was taught to place importance to the things that matter most! 

What do you do on your free time?

I find myself frequenting and trying new restaurants especially with my friends Vicky, Fran, and Chelsea. They are women I admire who inspire me and remind me of the quality and attributions my mother and father raised me with. We sit and chat about everything. I also enjoy visiting many museum exhibits. I recently went to the metropolitan museum of art and took the tour of “Badass Bitches”, it was everything I expected. Thus, I’ll sign up for a night out dancing equally.

 

Describe a day in the life of Luis E. Ramirez from waking up to bed time.

Let’s see, first I walk  Mochi around the Riverside Sate park near my apartment in West Harlem. He always has an outfit on, of course!!  Then get dressed for work, take the train were you will find me listening to music on my headphones or reading a book; my current read is “Complete confidence” by Sheenah Hankin

 Always I stop for my bagel with egg and sausage before I walk into the office at this bodega on the corner of 20th Street and Broadway. That place is now a staple for me. Manhattan has done that to me! 

I arrive at my office and sort out my Calendar for house visits or preparing my presentations for new projects. My job is hectic as there are many facets from checking orders, fixing issues, or dealing with a client who is having a breakdown. Not everything is as glamorous as it seems.  

I always have lunch with my friend Luce at my office. She has become a sister to me and I can’t go a day without having our lunch gossip catch up and practice my fluent Spanish. 

By the time I’m done 7 or 8 PM, I head home and am greeted by Mochi barking and demanding that I rub his belly and take him for a walk. Lately I’ve been cooking a lot. Preparing every Mexican dish my mother taught me and sharing it with my friends. 

I always watch television at night. Cuddling up with Mochi in bed, drinking hot chocolate and nibbling on pastries is my night cap. But not before I say grace! 

Luis and Mochi

MEET MELISSA HENDERSON A YOUNG UP AND COMING WRITER.

Melissa Henderson

 Who is Melissa Henderson?

At the core, she is a writer and business woman. She is passionate, socially responsible and open to opportunities and good conversation. 

 How did you choose your career path?

I always wanted to be a writer and I naturally love technology. I interned at a magazine during college,  and the only position they had available was on their new website. The head of digital was super nice and welcoming and forward thinking about where editorial was heading. In general, the editorial world was slowly embracing digital and I seized the opportunity to build my skills for online writing and marketing. After college, I continued to work for various aspects of digital marketing while building up my digital writing clips. Although, challenging and a lot of sleepless nights, my career path has been very fluid and upward. 

 Where do you find your inspiration?

Inspiration finds me! People inspire me! Recently, I’ve been into my whole green period phase: everything that’s beautiful is not always good for you. I hung out in the Choco Rainforest in Ecuador for a few days and the energy literally recharged my mind, body, and soul. 

Melissa at Isabela Island

 What is Violet Summer Zine?

Violet Summer Zine is a small circulation of print zines released every summer on June 21. It’s long and short form chick literature. www.instagram.com/violetsummerzine 

 Any current project?

Issue 3 of VSZ is underway! 

 

What is your biggest fear?

To be tied up and robbed of all my diamonds and my (future) wedding ring in my rented Parisian apartment during fashion week. What a fucking nightmare!!

What do you do on your free time?

 I like to write or surf the net at a cute little coffee shop on the UWS of Manhattan.

Melissa in a Preppy Trendy dress

Describe a day in the life of Melissa Henderson. From waking up to Bed time. 

My ideal day…7:45AM Wake and Time To Get This Money.  Of course, I hit snooze on my iPhone alarm like three times before actually getting out of bed.

8AM Wash my face and brush my teeth. 

8:05AM Pick out my outfit and get dressed in less than 15 mins. 

8:25A Do my hair and makeup. This takes like 20-65mins on any given day depending on the look I’m going for; 20 minutes for a chic slick back bun at the navel of my neck. I use a brush, styling mousse, argan oil, edge control pomade, and hairspray to finish off the look. Hairspray is a MUST. Doesn’t matter the brand, as long as it’s a holding spray. My makeup application is simple and I always apply it at home. I pencil in my eyebrows, apply some brownish and red eyeshadow, along with a quick application of black liquid eyeliner. 

8:38AM: Make my bed. 

8:40AM Depending on the day, I’m heading to “Work.” At this moment, I’m working part -time at a factory in Long Island City. I lead communications and marketing efforts for a couture dry cleaners and restoration company. 

9:15AM:  Stop at health food store to get Runa juice, 2 boiled eggs, coffee, cut grapefruit and banana chips. 

9:30AM: Arrive at work. Eat my breakfast while I check and respond to emails, answer publication requests on how to maintain garments. Indulge in office gossip. 

10AM: Work on Print & Digital Projects, which may include: designing logos, corresponding with SEO team in Florida, looking over proposals, answering clients about garment care inquiries (i.e. Can you salvage my dried out thrifted fur?), updating company’s website, talking to the company’s legal team, setting up designer programs with brands like Lanvin, Fendi, Moncler, Chanel, and also taking photos of restoration pieces. Right now, I’m managing the restoration of one of Elizabeth Taylor’s dress. I also restored an 80s Givenchy evening gown that my boss’s girlfriend wore to a benefit. Then, I usually take a break to indulge in office gossip.

1:30PM: Order lunch or take a walk to a cafe to call clients about freelance writing stories and events. 

4:30PM:  Head to partnership meetings that take me weeks to set up with my boss. This is the fun part! Some partnerships I’m currently working on are with The Real Real, Tom James Company, Net A Porter & Quintessentially.

6PM: Wrap up all this office work and go to a networking or blogger event! 

8PM: Arrive back home if I don’t have any events. I like to order seamless (if I have a writing deadline) or cook dinner. 

9PM: Wine down time! A face mask and wine is a must! I do my best thinking in a hot bath.  I also make sure to moisturize. My favorite brand to use on my face is la prairie. it’s expensive but it lasts for months!

10PM: Time to work on freelance writing deadlines and check/follow up with my personal emails I couldn’t answer during the day.  Right now, I’m working on a bunch of branded content for www.enjoyflowers.com, updating www.melwrites.com and I have a column coming out soon!  

12AM: Bedtime!