Can you believe that we’re over half way through 2019? It seems like it was just January and now here we are at the end of July. In the post 7 months I’ve had the opportunity to talk (either over the phone, in person or via email) to 26 amazingly talented women. From my first interview of the year (with Elisa Marshall of Maman) I’ve ‘traveled’ throughout the US and abroad to share the stories of artists, creatives and entrepreneurs.
I can’t even express it in words how grateful and humbled I am that these women would take the time out of their busy schedules to share the stories with me, and I look forward to sharing many more of these inspiring stories with you all.
Your menu is a combination of savory and sweet, French and American, what are some of your favorite dishes from the current menu, and what do you enjoy most about planning the menu from season to season?
I love working with seasonal items, I am an avid cook and love shopping at markets playing with what’s new and what’s fresh and it’s fun to work alongside our head chef and incorporate that into our menu. We like to create a fusion of French and American cuisine – a delicious croissant or jambn au burre, or avocado toast and matcha latte we try to have a variety to appease all pallets, but still putting focus on our principals of fresh seasonal ingredients and dishes your mom would cook!
When did you first become interested in creating jewelry?
When I was in college, I wanted a necklace similar to one I saw on Pinterest before online shopping was a thing, so I made it and one thing led to the next.
When did you first discover your love of baking?
I have really precious memories of baking with my mom growing up, but the baking deep-dive started for me in college. I spent a lot of my free time perusing blogs, searching for new creative outlets and ways to pursue balance between cramming sessions. I started teaching myself to bake with my mom’s old Betty Crocker cookbook. Once a recipe felt familiar, I’d brainstorm and branch out, decreasing sugar content and focusing on allowing unique, flavorful ingredients to do the talking!
Tell me about the process of creating one of your pieces?
Once I have finished with the photographic component, I continue to create through several other mediums. My mixed media works are individually created with multiple layers. I start by painting a dimensional board with several layers and textures of paint. I then use an image transfer process that I have developed to add the photograph to the board. When I am finished with this step there is no paper left. I then finish each of my works with a poured layer of high gloss resin. The combination of these techniques brings each of these individual works of art to life. Mixing the distress of the transfers with the brilliance of the resin creates a beautiful mix of nostalgia and high concept polish.
While you work primarily with oil, you also sketch and create prints using aquatint and sugar lift techniques. What do you enjoy the most about transitioning from working with oil on canvas and printmaking?
The unexpected. With brushes, I know that if I mix this color and that color, the end result will be such. I am an intuitive and gestural painter. I do not plan much ahead. The painting develops as I go, right under my eyes. I can paint over, scrape off an area, add a last minute detail.
Printmaking is an art form with a million rules. There are steps to follow and in a very specific order, times to respect, and the printing itself is incredibly tricky and touchy.
When I engrave a copper plate, I hardly see what I am doing. Then it goes in the acid bin and miracles happen!!!! Every time I lift the paper from the press, I witness the unexpected.
My best oil paintings are those where happy accidents created the unexpected.
What has been the most rewarding part of founding and helming Primally Pure?
So many things – ultimately the most rewarding parts have been three-fold: seeing the PP team grow and having the privilege of employing so many incredible people has been incredible, working with our influencer fam of over 600 talented individuals and seeing their businesses grow as a result is such a joy, and of course, the opportunity to bring safe and effective skincare products into the homes of tens of thousands of people across the globe is priceless. I’m beyond grateful for everyone in the PP community and that Primally Pure is at the forefront of this incredibly important movement.
Tell me about some of the essentials for someone who is just starting to learn the art of hand lettering…
A willingness to be a beginner and an open mind to not just quit when “yours doesn’t look that good.” In addition, I believe this art form is more than just muscle memory. The essence of anything I’ve put out into the world, whether it’s me teaching in-person or online, or my books, I talk about being mindful. Taking a step back and being able to dissect your own lettering and see where you can grow, is what will help anyone one. It doesn’t matter if you are a beginner of if you’ve been doing lettering for awhile. This isn’t just “your handwriting,” and I believe there is so much power in knowing why and then beginning to learn the how.
Where are the best views in Paris?
That really depends on what you want to see. The views from Sacre Coeur, the Arc de Triumph and Notre Dame are all wonderful and very well known. But there are so many wonderful vistas in Paris. All along the Seine are classic views of Île de la Cité and Île Saint-Louis, the bridges and the magnificent buildings such as the Grand Palais and the Musée D’Orsay.
What’s the energy like on one of your photoshoots?
I offer a lifestyle approach to photography. My family portrait sessions are relaxed and fun. My goal is to capture genuine emotion, and my style is candid, photojournalistic and natural. While some of the portraits will be posed, I also try to capture the natural moments in between. I find it best to let kids be kids and will spend time interacting and playing with them to draw this out. Great family photos don’t necessarily mean everyone’s looking at the camera and smiling simultaneously. In fact, my favorite images are the ones that capture family interaction, sweet gestures, and emotions of all shapes and sizes; all of which have nothing to do with saying “cheese”.
What do you enjoy the most about owning and operating Studio Carta?
I love the creativity of my studio and how I can work with just myself or with my three assistants and my husband. I never feel alone, and I enjoy seeing how people use our products in floral arrangements. That keeps me going, and helps me think of new and fresh things. I enjoy seeing something new. I take all the photos for our shops website and Instagram, but I like seeing how our customers use our ribbons as props. That’s what I enjoy the most.
Do you have any advice for young artists who are just beginning to explore the artistic world?
I believe that making art is an innate talent, something one MUST do if so inclined. Having a habit of making that art is important, in moving forward with your skill, and grounding oneself. It should be a priority in your life. Sketch every day, for example. Spend time with creative people. Study art and art history. Learn all you can to contribute to your own expression. Practice and learning add up over the years!
Tell me a bit about the process of bookbinding.
For me, the inspiration comes from the materials people want bound—it might a collection of photos, or a treasure trove of ephemera, or an old cherished volume. My approach depends on what we’re trying to create. Then comes selecting the materials—and the choices are practical as well as aesthetic. How a book ultimately looks and feels is incredibly personal. The actual construction is, in many ways, repetitive—I have made thousands of books, but each one is distinguished not only by its materials, but also by the “new life” its owner will infuse it with.
When did you first come up with the concept for French Consul?
Watching my Dad die in April 2017 was a real wake up call for me. I promised him that I would see more of the world so in September that year, I quit my job and took some time-out to travel solo. I spent a lot of my time in Paris and Provence looking for linen tablecloths and cushion covers with a classic French ‘grain sack’ stripe. Grain sacks were once widely used by farmers across Europe to identify their grains when they sold them at market – each family had their own color and stripe pattern on their grain sacks. I couldn’t find the products anywhere, or even the fabric or antique versions to make up for my own home.
When I returned to Australia after the 3-week trip I had the post-holiday blues so bad (as you do! Because Paris!) but I was so inspired to find a way to make France, and the calm I’d been searching for, a regular part of my life. Not being able to find the French grain sack products here in Australia, and knowing that so many women worldwide covet the designs, I knew there had to be a gap in the market that I could fill. I launched six months later under the brand name, French Consul, the ‘consulate’ or ambassador of all things French.
As a fashion lover, it must have been an absolute dream to work the Dior for their Dior Culinary experience at The Franklin London. Tell me about what the atmosphere is like at an event given by such a well known fashion brand and what is was like drawing and talking with fashion influencers in attendance?
I feel very lucky to be able to ‘look forward to going to work’ but I really do and events like this are exactly why. I was able to draw and interpret bloggers in their dream Dior outfit which itself was quite the dream for me! Dior is an iconic brand that really was a joy to draw and paint-I was so… so busy at the event, but I was genuinely looking forward to drawing one outfit to the next! It’s often people’s reactions that I get a buzz out of too and the fashion influencers couldn’t have been nicer about their drawings.
What is your greatest source of inspiration?
Besides online sources like Pinterest and Instagram… window displays, stationery stores and bookstores in NYC are the places where I spend the most time. Even a short walk in the park gave me some new ideas and inspirations. Living in New York, you are expose to so much creativity and endless possibilities. Also having a diverse group of friends has allowed me to keep an open mind. I considered myself lucky to be surrounded by people who are both passionate and will always go the extra mile to what they love.
For International Women’s Day, you created a portrait series of influential women for Carolina Herrera which featured notable women such as Carolina Herrera herself, Oprah, and Reese Witherspoon just to name a few. What was it like working on this project?
I don’t normally do portraits but I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to celebrate National Womens Week. It was an intimidating project but I was happy with the outcome.
Last year you decided to create 100 Portraits in 100 days, how did you keep yourself inspired during this project? Was there a particular portrait that was a personal favorite?
Creating 100 portraits in 100 days was defiantly an experience and a challenge, by day seven I was ready to throw in the towel. But, I really wanted to see what would happen if I completed the project. I found that if I started everyday at the same time and planned on working for 2-3 hours, I would find a rhythm – I made a cup of coffee, put on music and just started drawing.
My intention was to see if something would shift in my work. Overall, I did see a change in my work, but it really didn’t start showing up until after I finished the 100 portraits. Once this “self-imposed” project was complete, I could relax and just draw. I felt looser and more confident in the way I approached drawing the portrait. Most importantly, I finally came to terms with my own insecurities as an artist. I now accept and embrace that they are an important part of my work and my style as an artist.
The Soloist and The Green Velvet Coat are my two of my favorites.
Throughout the past several years you’ve been featured in magazines such as Garden & Gun, Southern Living and Architectural Digest. What was it like when you saw one of your pieces in print for the first time?
I think I had a heart attack. I literally sat down on the floor of CVS and took a moment to soak it all in. I read the magazines right there on the floor of CVS. It was such a good reminder to take moment and celebrate the things that you’ve accomplished. It’s always been a hard thing for me to stop and celebrate, especially in today’s culture where you’re always moving. We need to celebrate things more. As a one person business owner it’s a good lesson to pause and reflect on how grateful you are.
From brands like Vietri to popular brands like blogger run Cupcakes & Cashmere. What do you look for when selecting a brand to introduce to your customers?
If it’s a well known brand, it’s not a hard choice. I already know the quality and the cost. For clothing brands I’m looking out for both cost and fit. I’m always looking for items that will suit young brides and people just starting out.
When it comes to unknown brands, I rely on my gut feeling on whether it’s a good fit and then I’ll take a chance on it. I research to see what other shops are carrying and that helps me be aware of what’s available. I also have a good relationship with my current vendors and I’ll ask them for suggestions.
One thing I try to keep in mind when I introduce new brands is keeping the overall southern aesthetic.
Le Vie in Rose is also one of the paintings from your floral palette knife series. How does the technique differ when using a palette knife versus paint brush? Do you prefer palette knife over brush?
I paint with a palette knife 99% of the time now. My love of this tool came out of a phase of experimentation. I was trying to find my groove and do something different. It began with using a cake and icing spatula from my kitchen to spread paint for an under layer. Then I began to use it more for backgrounds. And finally one day I used it for an entire painting. The feeling I got once I finished it was a sense of victory. I finally felt like I was creating art that was 100% authentic and unfamiliar. So then I figured I should probably purchase some real painting knives although I still use my spatula in almost every painting. I have about 3 or four that are my favorites to use no matter the size of the painting.
The knife also forces me to paint in my own way. There are no rules. I didn’t study how to paint with it because I didn’t want others to influence my art. I want to create a painting that looks aged and has distinct features that are unique only to me. There are areas that are very thinly applied and other areas that are extra thick. Even though the lines are crisp and the colors are solid, the way I use the knife allows me to create a rustic painting overall. I have developed a certain feel for it. Varying pressures and angles produces different marks and textures. I’ve enjoyed perfecting my skills and making my own rules using this tool.
Your work features several genres from horses and animals to figures. What was it about these genres in particular that drew you to them?
I wish I had some extraordinarily intellectual line about this but I do not. I can only say, I have been sketching the female form my whole life. (It is what I did instead of listening in my higher math classes.) I am addicted to the line of the female form. I stay in awe of the power of the our bodies and the beauty. To me the females of every species have this strength that is masked by vulnerability. I find this intriguing paradox lovely. The horse and the female form are the same thing for me. One can express our power and strength the other our vulnerability and nurturing way. I use both to capture these feelings.
It is in my figurative work where you find me. For some reason my figures connect more to the viewer. I guess the figure chose me more than I chose it. It is what I am suppose to paint and express. I am still searching for the painting that is trying to get out. Hopefully it will be awhile before she shows herself as I am loving the quest to find her.
Inside ‘The Little(r) Museums of Paris: An Illustrated Guide to the City’s Hidden Gems with Emma Jacobs
You came up with the idea to write a book after you moved to Paris in 2015. How long had you lived in Paris before you came up with the concept for The Little(r) Museums of Paris?
This project going from a hobby to a book happened fairly gradually. Pretty soon after I moved to Paris, I got in the habit of trying to visit a museum a week. I found each one really unique and it got me out to new neighborhoods I might not have otherwise found myself in. Most French museums are also free to journalists (take note, North America!). I had the thought initially to do a little chapbook as more of a personal project for friends but it became clear that would take a lot of work, so I started to think about pursuing it with a publisher. I actually had left Paris by the time I finished the formal proposal. I came back to Paris for two and a half months to finish the visits and do interviews and research.
Before starting your business 4 years ago, you worked for a magazine. What was the hardest part about transitioning from the ‘corporate’ world to having your own business?
Something that I always like to tell people, is that owning a business is extremely hard and I don’t think people talk enough about that. There are challenges and responsibilities that you have to take on when you own your own business. It took a lot of learning and hard work. There wasn’t a rule book for this kind of business, so I kind of carved it out for myself. I love having my own business and being my own boss.
Another thing people might not realize about working in this field, is about 20% of the business is the final beautiful product and 80% is the hard ‘nitty-gritty’ which includes things like prop sourcing, invoices etc. It’s not pretty.
I guess the hardest part about transitioning from working at a magazine to having your own business is juggling all the responsibility of being your own boss. You have to accept all the successes and all the failures. I think it takes a special kind of person to go into business for themselves and be their own boss.
Now that I’m in my fourth year I feel like I’m really hitting my stride, and I’ve learned how to talk to brands and what to say.
You were born in France, spent your childhood in Africa, and lived in Paris for over a decade before moving to the States. How did living a life filled with travel and different cultures influence the creation of Atelier Aliénor?
I think I’ve been very lucky to be able to travel and live overseas since I was a kid. Everyone that I had the chance to meet and what I saw made me who I am today.
For my parents it was important to have roots and know where we came from. My sister and I always had a great attachment to where we call home in the South of France. When I was 28 I had just had a baby and we (my husband and I) had been living in Paris. When we had the opportunity to move to the US, I wanted to bring a piece of me and where I’m from to the US.
Nothing says the South of France than like a pair of espadrilles.
Espadrilles are a very authentic shoe made with natural materials and ours are handcrafted in France. Many people don’t know this, but espadrilles are originally from France and Spain. They came from the Pyrenees, the mountain range that forms the border between France and Spain. In the South of France people are wearing espadrilles all the time.
The Bespoke Southerly capsule collection has five silhouettes with a theme of classic glamour. What inspired the capsule collection?
In addition to my Southern upbringing, I was inspired by vintage couture and the idea of creating pieces that reflect that quality, but have a more modern silhouette in both classic and on trend color options. I wanted the collection to include a variety of skirt styles and necklines since we were starting with just a few designs. I was also heavily influenced by my aunt, an elegant and fashionable woman with great style. She knows what looks good on her and rather than always following the trends, she invests in beautifully-made, quality items that she can enjoy from season to season. So, my collection evokes that “Southern Woman”. Perennially pulled together!
Your Portrait series is titled, ‘Warrior Girls,’ What inspired the title of this series?
The Warrior Girls came about as a result of having a couple of very sad years in my life due to loss. I had no desire to paint and just prayed a lot for guidance and inspiration. I was literally painting through the tears and then they kind of took a life of their own. So I love the Warrior Girls; they represent strength and resilience. There is a verse in Proverbs that says, “She is clothed in strength and dignity and she laughs without fear of the future.” That really resonates.
I have just started a new series with the Warrior Girls; I’m doing the States and have just completed the first three which are the states I have lived in; Texas, Louisiana and Florida. I’m working on Georgia next, so we will see how this goes!