Inside the Artist Studio: Lisa Solomon
I recently caught up with local artist, designer, illustrator and educator Lisa Solomon and had a fun opportunity to visit her home and studio. She has lived in the East Bay for over 20 years and currently resides in North Oakland in a charming abode she shares with her husband, daughter, two pups, two 3-legged kitties and some fish. Her work combines plenty of color + craft and her large installations can range from precisely 1000 to multi-thousand gathered pieces (check out CHROMA!) She has many exciting projects in the works—many of these popping up in the Bay Area, so I wanted to take a quick opportunity to take you “Into the Artist Studio” and get to know a bit more about Lisa.
Tell us a little about your work and profession.
I am a mixed media artist that often contemplates the notion of hybridity [I’m happa – 1/2 Japanese, 1/2 Caucasian] often utilizing materials and techniques that are traditionally linked to domestic crafts [i.e. crochet/embroidery]. I’m interested in the meaning of identity, personal histories, color theory, and finding beauty in the mundane and/or things I find frightening or out of my control. My work usually manifests as small to large works on paper and big site specific installations. Recently I’ve been exploring more of a social practice aspect. I also moonlight as a professor, illustrator and graphic designer.
Tell us the story of your studio.
My studio has a really special story actually. I was pregnant with my daughter and my grandmother was ill – she had lung cancer. She lived in LA and I would visit her often. We would also go to a nice lunch. During one of our last lunches together she turned to me and said… “Listen, I’m going to be leaving you a nice chunk of money when I die. You can use it however you want – you can save it, you can put it in a college fund for your daughter, you can go on a trip, you can buy a car… then she paused and looked me directly in the eye. But what I really think you should do is build a studio in your backyard. You are about to have a child which is going to change your life in ways you don’t even know yet, and you are an artist and you have to keep making art. A studio in your backyard would make sure you could keep making work.”
Who was I to argue with my wise and very Jewish Grandmother?
What materials do you work with mostly?
I work with a lot of paper and vellum – particularly duralar. I’m always crocheting and embroidering so there’s a lot of floss, thread, needles and crochet hooks. Colored pencils, felt, watercolor, graphite, acrylic paint and ink also make plenty of appearances.
What are some recent projects and what are some upcoming ones?
Last month Christine Buckton Tillman and I put up a big installation at a non-profit art space in Baltimore [her home town]. Entitled CHROMA we collected items from people around the world and hung them on the wall in color order. There are a lot of views on Instagram with the hashtag #chromagalleryca. You can see all the contributions we received [we photo’d them as mini installations] at the hashtag #chromainstallation. There are also some fun interviews about the project on Baltimore’s Art Blog and Lisa Congdon’s blog.
Upcoming I’ll be doing a residency at Irving Street Projects in San Francisco. It’s run by Kelly Inouye [an amazing artist in her own right]. I can’t wait – I’m going to be doing this social practice project that I’ve wanted to do for quite some time. It’s called The Keepsake Project, I’ll be documenting and working with people’s keepsakes.
Describe the gallery of work currently on the walls of your studio.
There’s some work from an older show – 4 pieces that chart the radiation that came from Fukushima 5 days, 1 month, 6 months and a year after the tsunami/disaster. There’s also work that is going to Nahcotta Gallery for their Enormous Tiny Art Show. Some giant french knot trials [working out an idea]. And lots of prints from my recent residency at Kala Art Institute. I did a series of plates that relate to the last big body of work I completed – SEN – I was working with the number 1000 and how it relates to luck in Japanese culture. I explored imagery of things that often come in 1000 – cranes, buddhas, and also pulled it into my own lexicon culminating in a project that used 1000 doilies. There’s also some tests for a cardboard loom class I’m about to teach… and just stuff I like or find inspiring.
Is there another talent you wish you could master?
I wish I was really good at ceramics. I have ideas, and I even have a kiln, but not enough time.
Any favorite places you like to work outside of your studio?
I had a really nice time working at Kala – their facilities are amazing. Otherwise I’m mostly at home. Occasionally I’ll go to a café to get some computer/planning work done. Pizzaiolo, Farleys on 65th and the new all-white Trouble Coffee in West Oakland are old and current favs.
Any new places in the world you want to travel to next and why?
This is hard because I want to go so many places… I’ve never been to France or Spain, so those are big. I’d also love to go to Sweden and Iceland. But I need to get to Yosemite, too – I’ve lived in California my whole life and never been. What is wrong with me. The why is all the same – to see and experience new things. Traveling always opens my eyes and heart to new ideas in the best possible way.
Other local artists and makers you’re currently admiring?
This is so hard – there are soooo many good folks working in the Bay Area. Ok off the top of my head… newer to me… Kelly Ording and Carissa Potter. Always favorites…Katherine Sherwood, Maria Porges , Freddy Chandra…And the local artist/maker posse… Courtney Cerruti, Kathryn Clark, Sonya Philip, Tiffanie Turner, and Jen Hewett [I totally feel like I’m forgetting people].
Where do you go for inspiration?
I find so many things inspiring. I don’t even have to go anywhere…. That sounds corny but it’s true. I like just looking at objects around my house, or my friend’s Instagram feeds. But I’ll try and list some more concrete things. I love to travel – anywhere outside of “home” is always inspiring. I find I look harder and longer and see more details in places that are unfamiliar. I love taking walks – I love going to the beach, or to Lake Temescal, or the Rose Garden.
Tell us about your new book.
It’s called 20 Ways to Draw A Chair and 44 Other Interesting Everyday Things – it comes out September 1st! It’s the biggest illustration job I’ve ever done – 900+ illustrations. It was a lot of fun and totally different from my first book – Knot Thread Stitch which was a mixed media/embroidery craft book. The 20 Ways books are a really fun series – you are supposed to use the 20 different versions of something that I’ve drawn [say bowls] for inspiration to try your hand at it. There’s blank space on the facing page for you to jump right in. The great thing was that I got to research and draw a lot of vintage stuff – like cameras and TVs- stuff I like looking at anyway. Each book in the series is done by a different artist/illustrator and it’s really fun to see how personal style comes through.
So what’s next? Where can we find you?
As mentioned earlier, up next is my residency at Irving Street Projects in San Francisco. It’s run by Kelly Inouye. I can’t wait – I’m going to be doing this social practice project that I’ve wanted to do for quite some time. It’s called The Keepsake Project, I’ll be documenting and working with people’s keepsakes. Please check out the Tumblr and participate! I need you to share your keepsakes with me!
*All images by me, Leslie.