March 7, 2010
LOCAL CELEBRITY: HELENA GULLSTROM
I’m really happy my friend suggested Helena Gullstrom as the next local celebrity. From the moment I met the Swedish Bombshell, I knew we had a lot in common–including our connection with our super cool moms. Helena’s one fun, tough (she once lived in warehouse in Inglewood just so she could do her art), creative, hilarious artist that I’m happy to feature as a local celebrity.
For our interview, I met Helena at her live/work loft in Santa Fe Lofts on Main Street. Her loft, “The Loft”, is such a cool space. She designed the space herself, and even did most of the renovation, including electrical wiring. (What? Who does that? I’m super impressed.) Helena even built a full service hair salon in the space, an art studio, and a living area.
CK: So tell me about your space here. “The Loft” in the Santa Fe Building.
HG: When I first moved in. It was a lot of work. I had construction here for like two months. I put a lot of work into the place. When I first moved here there was not a lot on my street. I was like what am I doing? But all this stuff started happening—all the all the restaurants and bars. And I was like, this was a good time to move here. But things have really changed. I have friends and clients in Beverly Hills and I asked them to come here. And when I first moved here there were a lot of homeless people laying on the street, and when I was giving directions, I was always like, “ just step over the homeless guy in front of the building, take a left and go into the door”. It just cleaned up and got better. It was never that hard to have people come down here.
CK: Why did you move to downtown?
HG: I’ve been on my way to downtown since I’ve first moved here. I’ve been wanting to live in a loft for a long time. I couldn’t afford it. I even lived in a warehouse in Inglewood so I could have a large space to do my art.
CK: Was it scary?
HG: Oh yes. It was a crazy time. It was like camping for a year. I made some good pieces. I wanted to move downtown, but I just couldn’t afford it. I love it down here. It feels European somehow. It’s not just the buildings, but it’s the mixture of people, and there’s no attitude. I love that. Now, if it only smelled better.
CK: Do you think people are more creative downtown?
HG: I don’t know. I like that there’s so many different kinds of people down here. It’s not like in Santa Monica, or Hollywood. Here, you get all these odd people. There so many different types–so many different ages. There’s a little bit of everything and I really that. It doesn’t feel very LA. I used to live in Santa Monica near Montana. There’s that feeling where you almost have to get dressed up to go to the coffee shop.
CK: Where are some of your favorite places to hang out downtown?
HG: Here (laughing) on this very sofa. I have a lot of people coming here. We kind of keep in this area between 4th and 6th on Main because it’s so convenient. I always go to Pete’s, Coles and Varnish. And, I like The Must.
CK: I detect an accent. Where are you from originally? How did you get to LA?
HG: I’m from Sunne, Sweden. It’s a small, little town. If you even want to call it a town in the middle of nowhere. And I came here on vacation to visit a friend of mine, she was living and working here as a nanny. I just thought I would take a month off. I was 20. It wasn’t a plan at all.
CK: What did you do when you first moved out here?
HG: I worked as a hair dresser. I got my license and everything to work here.
CK: How did you get into art? I mean, I know doing hair is an art, also–but how did you get into doing these sculptures and mixed media pieces?
HG: Well, I’ve always done it. Ever since I was 6 years old I was sitting in school drawing hoping to be an artist. It was a childhood dream. I think it takes a lot time to show your art to other people and feel comfortable with it. You’re putting yourself on a canvas for others to judge. It’s so personal. It’s kinda icky to see what people think about it. Everyone’s different. Some people love it, and others…But, you may see other art out there, and then feel that yours is okay.
CK: Did you go to Art School?
HG: Yeah I took classes at Otis. I didn’t get a degree or anything because it was really expensive. But I took the classes with Franklin Liegel. He still works there. And now he’s a good friend of mine.
CK: How did you discover which medium you liked to work in—out of all the mediums, why did you pick….
HG: What I like about art is when you don’t really know what you’re doing. You take something. It’s kind of like playing. You’re discovering. I like that part–trying different materials and see what happens. Mix this with that. I’ve always loved concrete. I love grey. I love metal and different materials.
CK: What inspires you?
HG: everything. It’s so hard to pinpoint. I like stupid phrases–like contradictions. I have this sculpture that’s a trophy wife.
HG (cont): I like dumb ideas like that. Or like “this one would look great over your sofa”.
HG (cont): A lot of art that I do is not something that can fit over a sofa–it’s more portrait. I want to make one that fits over your sofa, so I made that one. I like wordplay–silly stuff. The one with the word urge–I’m doing this series with people from downtown.
CK: So they are all people you met downtown?
CK: So how do you make them? Are those photos?
HG: Yeah. It’s a photo. I then take a cut out, mold in plastic and then press it down into the concrete so it get’s to be like a sunken relief. And when it’s the right time to take it off, I peel it off to get the texture. Then I paint it with pigments, spray paint, oil or acrylic. It’s very labor intensive.
CK: So you take photos?
HG: I love taking photos. I’m not a professional. But, I’m doing a coffee table book with people down here dressed up as bunnies.
CK: Do you make them dress up as bunnies? How did this idea start?
HG: They are mainly friends of mine. They did a photo shoot for a photographer in my loft. We were doing the hair and makeup for that. They accidentally left the bunny ears. I started playing with them and starting taking photos of people in them. I had a big party and started taking photos of lots of people in the bunny ears. So then they thought I was a photographer…and I’m not. But, how can you stop ? If you’re a creative person, you’re going to do all of it. You can’t just stop and say I only do this. You’re going to be creative in other parts of your life. So I started taking a lot of photos of people in bunny ears. Now I have a photo shoot coming up with like 10 people wearing bunny ears.
CK: You should have an exhibit with all the photos.
HG: Yeah, it would be called “Bunnies Behaving Badly”. But, it’s like stupid, silly. I like it.
CK: In your bio on your website, you say you put your subconscious to work when you do art. How do you not censor yourself?
HG: I do. (Laughing). You know somehow someone will look at this and judge you or judge this. And I’m a sensitive being. It’s a struggle. It’s a total struggle. Sometimes when you try just not to censor yourself it can look awful. It’s so hard to be okay with that. But I almost think it’s the whole thing with art. You’re supposed to feel like shit sometimes (laughing). You know what I mean? When I was telling my mom that I was having a tough time….It’s so funny. My mom, if you met her…she’s this cute.Well, she’s not conservative. But, she’s a little mom. And she tells me, “Helena you’re supposed to be fucked up. You’re an artist”.
February 10, 2010
You probably know Anna Lynett as this season’s humble hottie on Project Runway.
Yes, she is adorable–just like her designs. But, she is also incredibly intelligent and very well-spoken. Although she often appears as the quiet one on Season 7′s Project Runway, she has a lot to say about Art, Fashion, and Downtown Los Angeles.
With a BFA in Printmaking from prestigious RISD, Anna didn’t think about Fashion Design until recently. See Tim Gunn’s initial reaction to her work at a casting session for Project Runway here.
How did the 23 year-old, self-taught fashion designer end up in Downtown Los Angeles? Thanks to our recent interview, I was able to get to know another side of Anna and find out some of her favorite local hot spots. CK: Did you always know you wanted to be in Fashion? You have a degree in printmaking, how did you get from printmaking to fashion? Are there any similarities?
AL: Where other people see my work as compartmentalized by material, I see continuity across media. My prints are about light relationships, subtlety in form and opaque material combinations. I would describe the garments the same way. Whereas references in the works on paper are to landscape, abstracted movement and ancient and vintage forms, the clothing references uniforms, and the kind of clothing I imagine in classic American literature. Present in both is an attention to subtlety and a love of archaic formation. I arrived at printing and garment design out of necessity.
CK: Do you combine printmaking/art with fashion?
AL: I am working on a project that translates envelope liner patterns to fabric through screen print, a few of the initial garments are on my website. [My boyfriend] Brian and I are working on a luggage line that references air traffic in LA. We have been known to spend time on our roof watching all the helicopters and planes that rule the LA skies and have channeled our obsession with that kind of surveillance into a surface pattern for tote bags. Being able to control the surface treatment of fabrics is just another level of specificity that helps my work.
CK: How would you describe your personal style? Is it the same style as your designs?
AL: Because I began making clothes out of a desire to complete my personal wardrobe with pieces that are unique, there is a lot of overlap. For this reason, I have to be careful to maintain a critical distance from the garments I make. I think designing clothes that please my taste should be a starting point, not an ending point. In a way, raw design decisions that are based on taste preferences are necessary for the work to have a certain purity.
CK: What are your favorite current trends?
AL: I like the recent movement toward androgynous clothing. It’s so sexy.
CK: What inspires you?
AL: I’m inspired by contemporary art, I suppose that was my first creative love. I imagined my employment in LA would take the form of Gallery Assistant, but I’m so glad I get the opportunity to work with my hands every day at Gemini G.E.L. There is something very powerful to me about taking disparate raw materials and being the catalyst for their combination into a print or dress. It is power to fill a void in the world where I think a drawing or garment should be.
CK: Why did you move to Los Angeles?
AL: A year and a half ago my boyfriend, Brian, and I were graduating from RISD and growing tired of the East Coast. We are both from the Midwest but we packed a VW Golf with everything we owned and drove right past it. We didn’t stop until we arrived in LA!
CK: Why did you move to the Arts District in DTLA, particularly?
AL: One of Brian’s friends from school was living in a big warehouse on 6th street and offered to let us live with him. We arrived to find our “room” was a 10 x 10 foot platform on wheels in the middle of a huge space. The price was right and seemed central to various job opportunities we were seeking, plus a good portion of the loft was a shop for Brian to work on furniture pieces. The first thing I sewed in LA was a set of curtain walls for our cabana bedroom.CK: Where are some of your favorite DTLA hot spots?
AL: We end up at Wurstkuche embarrassingly often. We are regulars at the Church and State bar, as well, and at 7 Grand. And when my Japanese half craves sushi, we make our way to Hama sushi on 2nd street. I could be spotted at the American Apparel Factory Store and love an afternoon at MOCA or the Central Library. Oh I just discovered The Last Bookstore in LA and will frequent their shelves, and Brian is an architect so we’ve been known to sneak into Sci Arc and reminisce about our days in the academic sphere. I was in love with Apartment 3 when it was on Industrial Street. Kristin Knauff, owner, was the one who encouraged me to apply for Project Runway.
CK: On Project Runway, you spent time in NYC, what are the similarities and/or differences between NYC and LA?
AL: There is definitely a difference in pace. Something about the speed of NY is really exciting and was great for the show, but I think that same intensity can be overwhelming. LA provides the opportunity to have an ambitious lifestyle but the city doesn’t bombard you when you walk out the door.
CK: Did you get any sleep on Project Runway? What did you guys do on your off time?
AL: There wasn’t a lot of time for anything besides work!
CK:What did you learn from Project Runway?
AL: Well, I learned how to be tough in the face of all levels of scrutiny and how to adapt to kinds of stress that I’d never dreamed of. In my daily life there are no cameras waking me up at the crack of dawn or stern critics exposing all my “loose ends”. Project Runway reinforced for me that most experiences are best approached with a sense of humor. And that good and bad garments come into and out of this world but no single piece trumps the importance of the ability to continue moving forward.
CK: What advice do you have for young people who want to get into fashion?
AL: The act of making is the most indispensable way to learn and there are lessons in all those mistakes if you are humble enough to listen and watch carefully. I think many artists and designers get hung up on the function of work, like, why would I make this dress, who is it for? That series of questions helps us form our creative identity but can be the reason that creation stops altogether, and that’s a sad thing. The act of making, and perpetuating that ritual, is supremely important.
Be sure and check out Anna’s personal website here for more info and photos. Special thanks to Anna for providing all photos, and sketches. I’d also like to thank Megan Tantillo at Lifetime.
*Photo Credit (Anna downtown) Brian Hildebrand
January 17, 2010
” I don’t try to look like an artist”, says local celebrity, Lisa Solberg. ” I feel like my image is so opposite my work. Anytime someone comes for a studio visit, and hasn’t seen me, or hasn’t seen my work, seeing the two together is a huge shocker. I look more like a socialite…maybe, at times. But, I am who I am. I’m an artist.”
Solberg’s success started at a young age. Although her love of art started when she was a child, she was also an outstanding gymnast(until she grew too tall at the age of 11), and a professional skier in college(after skiing for less than a year). Now, she sells her paintings to collectors all over the world and has been featured in national magazines like Nylon.
Solberg lives in a loft in the Arts District of Downtown Los Angeles.
CK: So why did you move to Downtown Los Angeles?
LS: I was looking at spaces all over. I came and looked at the space moments before I got on my flight back to Chicago. I pretty much signed the lease right then. I felt like what I would be getting here is like a New York within LA. So, it really spoke to me in that respect. I loved everything about the neighborhood. I love any sort of industrial area because there’s always the potential for growth. I like the vibe of it.
CK: Does the industrial landscape inspire your art work?
LS: I feel like my inspiration used to be more direct, because I would travel and come back and paint. I have countless sketch books that are very elaborate, packed and layered with things that I see. There’s drawings in there that would take half a day. But now, the traveling has subsided a little bit, temporarily, because I always feel so inspired just being here. I don’t feel as much of a need to be going away. My inspiration, when I feel it, is basically bursts of energy. I guess it’s inherent and subconscious. Now I almost have to travel to not be inspired. It’s like the roles have reversed a little bit.
CK: Why do you paint in such large scale?
LS: When I was traveling, I lived in Munich for a while. I was mentored by one of the forefathers of graffiti. His name is LOOMIT . He kinda took me under his wing. Well he’s like this older guy, and he hooked me up with spray cans, and taught me technique, and got me commissioned to do a few big walls in Munich around the World Cup time. I’ve never really been interested in doing actually graffiti. But, it got me working large scale. Now, I feel restricted, first and foremost on a small canvas. I am capable of doing a small canvas, but on small canvases, I see realistic paintings. Large canvases give me so much space to really express what I’m feeling.
CK: How do you start a piece?
LS: I feel like everything comes out of scribbles for me now. When I was in a class in High School, one of my teachers used to tell us in writing session that if we didn’t know what to write, keep writing,’I don’t know what to write. I don’t know what to write. I don’t know what to write.’ After doing that for a while, eventually something would come up. That’s how I view things now. I always start out with a somewhat express or meditative movement scribbles, and that sort of forms somewhat of a composition. Whether or not that initial composition stays, it still kind declares the mood and tone of the piece.
CK: Do you ever throw a painting away? Or do you just work over it?
LS: I’ve never thrown a painting away. I have worked over a few. For some reason, I always sell those ones right away. People don’t know that it used to be another painting. I did a painting of Vincent Gallo as a vampire. Everyone loved it, but no one bought it. It had such a weird energy. It really spoke to people, but no one really wanted to own it. And so I painted over it. And it sold within two days. It’s kinda funny.
CK: What mediums do you use in your work?
LS: I use everything…a lot of house paint. I use acrylic, oil, china markers, oil markers. I use spray paint for patches of color. I have experimented with bleach.
CK: Do you have a favorite painting?
LS: Yeah, I think right now it’s Land Red Down. It’s my first painting where I’m using this sort of invisible waterfall-splotches of color mixed with oil and markers to blend. The movement from top right to bottom left is reminiscent of a waterfall or a willow tree. It kind of just came naturally. It got me on this whole tangent on working with that sort of movement. I filmed this one. I think it’s really important for people to see my process–especially for the style, which is somewhat abstract expressionism. A lot of people are like, I could do this, or my kids could do this. But there’s a lot more that goes into it. And it really connects people to it when they can see the process. (Click on Video below to watch creation of Land Red Down)
CK: When you’re not working, where do you hang out downtown?
LS: Wurstkuche. I’m a vegetarian, I always get Veggie Italian Sausage. The over all vibe of that place is amazing. It kind of runs parallel with the vibe of this neighborhood…It’s understated but really cool. It’s not necessarily trying to be anything that it’s not naturally. I love it for that reason. It’s really drawing an interesting crowd. Not one specific kind of person goes there. Everyone goes there and everyone enjoys it in the same way. And the communal seating is great.
CK: Anywhere else?
CK: So what’s next for you?
LS: I just did an interview with Elle magazine. And I was asked to donate one of my pieces to The Art of Elysium Gala, which is exciting. I’m talking with Red Bull. I’ve always wanted to something with them.They have funding for high profile events and I personally really enjoy and thrive off of doing live art events (where I paint). That’s a special niche. I’ve done it a few times–including for a hotel opening in West Hollywood. I thrive off of people watching me. I like feeling people’s energy while I paint. I go crazy off of that. I really love it.
For more info on Solberg,and to see more of her work, check out her website here.
December 31, 2009
My first LOCAL CELEBRITY, Dustin Coury, owns Perfected Foods (a fabulous company known for their vegan Soy Jerky). His family has been in the food biz for 30 years, so he’s been “pruned” for the job from an early age. He saw an opportunity to sell and market soy jerky after studying his step-dad’s TVP (texturized vegetable protein) meals. Dustin’s soy jerky is produced in the United States. It has no cholesterol. It’s all natural and vegan.
Until recently, the successful 26-year-old businessman lived across the street from me. Now, he lives in Echo Park. He’s lived in seven different states and three countries, but he calls East Los Angeles home.
CK: So where are can we get your Soy Jerky? Whole Foods? Trader Joe’s?
DC: No, just Whole Foods. You can get it Joe’s Market downtown. We’d love to be in Trader Joe’s. It’s unfortunate that Trader Joe’s has only beef jerky. And a lot of vegetarians would love some soy jerky. And TJ’s sells several million dollars worth of jerky a year. It’s incredible how much jerky they sell.
CK: Where do you sell the most soy jerky? California?
DC: Probably Los Angeles. I’m sure Portland will pull ahead in January.
CK: Is Whole Foods the only place you can get it? Or can you get it online?
DC: You can get it a bunch of different places including our website. We’re in 200 stores.
CK: How long does it last?
DC: A year and a half. That’s technically what our expiration is, but…it will last 5 years. You could open that bag and stick it on the table and it would sit there for the next 10 years and it would be edible.
CK: So basically, it’s just soy that’s dehydrated?
DC: It’s not dehydrated. It has that feeling..it has that chew of dehydration, but it’s not. It’s been heated up and extruded–that’s what we call it. We have a gigantic manufacturing plan in the mid-west.
CK: Is that where you’re from?
DC: My hometown would be Houston. I was born there.
CK: You lived in Venezuela. How long did you live there?
DC: For four and a half years.
CK: Have the places you lived had an effect on what you do?
DC: Every single place. I’ve lived in 7 different states, 3 countries, I lived in the islands-St. Croix. Park City.Oklahoma….All of them. So I got to see a lot of different places. I lived on a ranch in Oklahoma, so I got to see the whole rural kinda thing-dairy production and meat. Right after that was when I became vegetarian.
CK: So that’s why you’re a vegetarian?
DC: That and punk rock music. Punk rock music made me a vegetarian.
DC: Propagandhi. “How to Clean Everything” is one of the best albums. Minor Threat…Fugazzi.
CK: And their messages were what, don’t eat meat?
DC: Yeah. Essentially that’s what they said. There were a lot of bands when I was growing up that were spreading that message. I’m really glad that I was influenced. It’s just the way I was. And I think by moving to so many different places growing up, music was the core thing that I had.
CK: It’s great your jerky is Vegan.
DC: The carbon footprint of beef is insane. It’s ridiculous. I’m pretty disgusted by the animal abuse. It’s just senseless.If you’ve ever driven to San Fransisco (from LA), and the smell passing through….It’s horrible. And El Paso. It’s bad. Just think, we do that just for a meal. And we feed them all this grains and stuff. Our grains, our food core, everything is going to them. World hunger would be eliminated if it wasn’t for the meat consumption. I’m not saying people should stop eating meat completely. Reduce it–a couple times a week. Most other countries, you usually go to a butcher and tell them what you like. There’s not just slabs of meat lying around in cellophane. There’s not so much waste it seems like. It’s mainly the carbon footprint for me, to be honest. I think it’s a waste of resource…including land.
CK: I’m guessing most people don’t think about that. I bet a lot of people just think about the animal abuse…not environmental abuse.
DC: I get that. Abuse is horrible. It’s senseless violence. We were killing things long before now, but not at this rate. We’re one of the business contributors to PETA. We give money to PETA. There’s a couple hundred companies that are part of the PETA business group.
CK: So how did you end up Downtown? In the Arts District?
DC: I wanted to be away from Downtown-Downtown. When I was looking to move Downtown, I had friends tell me that this side of Downtown is more like the meat packing district of New York It’s not developed really. This [The Arts District] is the best place to be..hands down. It’s amazing.
CK: What are your favorite places to eat downtown?
DC: The Nickel. It’s such a good place. There’s an amazing breakfast place. They do all their own pastries and donuts.
CK: What’s your favorite breakfast item?
DC: I always get their tofu scramble and their brioche. What’s cool about their brioche, is that they make their own jams. They’ll do an apricot, they’ll do a strawberry, just different homemade jams all the time. The brioche is incredible.
CK: So you lived in the Arts District, are you an artist?
DC: I paint. That’s something I’ve been doing since I was three years old. I wanted an inspirational place. I had this idea that I just want to sit in a loft and paint. And, I love the history. That’s why I specifically moved into the Biscuit Company Lofts. It’s because it was an old Nabisco factory. Seeing all the trucks go by kept me very motivated [with Perfected Foods]. I didn’t start doing big truck loads until about 6 months ago. So, the whole time living downtown, I thought to myself, “God, I can’t wait until my product is in one of those big trucks.”
*photo credits:Dustin Coury http://www.celsias.com/ http://www.nickeldiner.com http://propagandhi.com/