Handmade Conversations: Lisa Solomon, Mixed Elements Artist

Posted by on May 29, 2012

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Photo by Andrew Paytner


In our "Handmade Conversations" series, we ask amazing people in the craft, food and fashion industries a few questions that provide you with a glimpse into their world. 

This week's featured person is Lisa Solomon, an artist who fuses traditional craft with fine art. Lisa's work, among other things, looks at the relationship between seemingly unrelated objects and concepts, such as tanks made out of pretty felt and threadless sewing. Her work has been featured at the Walter Maciel Gallery, the Clayman Research Institute and more. 


Lisa as a child
What was the first craft item you made?

I honestly have no idea what my first craft item was. There was a lot of crafty stuff happening around me. My grandmother was an avid knitter, embroiderer and crocheter. My mom was super handy and made stuff with me all the time. A couple of things I remember clearly: I had one of those pot holder woven kits when I was a kid (fluorescent colors included). I also remember making these tiny little snowmen out of cotton balls, with googley eyes and, I think, little hats. My mom and I sat at the coffee table making these for days.

What is your craft medium of choice, and why do you prefer it?

I don’t really have a craft medium of choice. As an artist, I’m really interested in the integration and amalgamation of the ideas of "art" and "craft." So I use tools for both while making both — if that makes sense. I use crochet and embroidery in my artwork all the time, and incorporate acrylic paint and formal color theory ideas in my craftwork all the time. I’m one of those people who obsessively wants to try out tools and crafts —  so far I haven’t met a craft medium I haven’t found useful for something. I also really like the idea of updating "traditional" crafts, taking something that may have certain implications (say macramé) and attempting to update it and make it contemporary in some way. I keep threatening I’m going to make an uber cool macaroni piece.

Who or what inspires your creativity?

It sounds dumb but really EVERYTHING around me is inspiring. I like looking for moments in my day: the way the light looks, a combination of colors, a grouping of objects and flowers, etc. I’ve been using Instagram lately to capture these vignettes. You can see some here, or request to follow me to see my Instagram antics. In terms of what physically inspires me, the act of making, being still, books (oh god, always books), materials (the right fabric, thread or pen) and listening to someone be passionate about something are all inspirations to me.

I also am really inspired by other artists. You can see some of my friends and those I like on my links page. I write a column for Poppytalk where I’m building up a make-believe art collection of some faces. I’ve also started trying to put stuff on Pinterest. I’m not a regular at it, but I like it as a way to archive visual thoughts.

Tell us about your crafting experience.

I’m a craft-when-you-can kind of gal. I sort of hate just sitting so, if I can, I’ll make something instead of sitting. I often listen to music or am in front of the TV. The supplies I use depend on what I am making. There is usually some tea or water nearby, but I don’t snack for fear of getting what I’m working on dirty.

One crafting session can be anywhere from 30 minutes (any less than that and it’s not very satisfying) to a whole work day (like 8 hours).

What is your dream craft project?

You know, I can’t really think of a dream craft project. Here are some things I’d love to tackle in the next, um, 20 years, maybe?

- A Chevron Crocheted Afghan
- A quilt. Some kind of quilt.
- Sewn (fabric because I’ve made her sweaters) clothes for my daughter. Maybe some matching (but not completely) outfits for me and her.

Describe your personal style in 3 words.

Contradictory (in the idea that I like opposites, like retro/modern, messy/clean, cluttered/sparse), eclectic and giggly

In addition to crafting, what other talents do you have?

Hmm, talents? I don’t know if I’m talented per se, but I like taking Polaroid photographs. I like cooking although, truth be told, I like eating more. I used to really like gardening, but that hobby has fallen by the wayside as of late. Luckily my husband has taken up the slack in that department. Oh, I sing a MEAN tune in the shower, and now I spend a good deal of time trying to parent. I’m definitely not talented in that department, but I’m giving it my best shot.

What advice would you give to aspiring craft authors, professional crafters and designers?

It boils down to this: Make what you love and love what you make. I’ve been so lucky. I’ve found many, many ways to make money creatively over the years — graphic/web designer, working in the arts at galleries, assisting a woodworker, making crafty things to sell. I also just wrote a book, and I’m a professor. I’m never bored. I’m constantly working my butt off, but I really do enjoy what I’m doing (most of the time) and so for that I’m grateful. 

I think my advice would be to dive in. WORK HARD. Make things that you believe in. Oh, and be NICE. Really. many opportunities have come my way completely by chance, or by word of mouth, and when you are nice people want to work with you.

If you were only allowed to send out one tweet for the rest of this year, what would you say?

Let’s have a great day. Let's learn something, see something that makes us pause, eat something delicious, laugh hard and make something. — @lisa_solomon

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