“all of my creative output finds its inspiration in the intricate details of the natural world, while exploring the colors of humanity. my deceptively simple, nature-inspired style stems from a childhood romping through northern california orchards and cow fields, and then going to art school in new york and san francisco. i’m currently on sabbatical, adventuring & drawing in the wilds of west coast nature.”
the first decade+
i began working as an nyc-based freelance illustrator and graphic designer in 2000, after graduating from parsons school of design. moving back to san francisco a year later, i put my html skills to work and established blissen.com, a website devoted to selling limited edition items made from left-over materials and made by various artists and crafters. together, we created many collaborative projects such as fine art pieces, stationery items, handmade jewelry and useful sewn fabric items. blissen, and other diy-enthusiast websites like it, were the small-scale equivalent of today’s etsy.com and it’s community. this was before blogs, before facebook, before mass emails and database websites. it was grassroots, people! you crafty kids today have it so easy!
in 2008, a move from california to oregon prompted big changes. my studio, which had been employing a few others, became just me again. i realized working 80+ hours a week is insane, even if you love what you do. i began investigating ways to simplify my life so i could still do what i love but not so much it made me crazy. i was able to re-focus my efforts on the original ideas and art behind all my work, to work alone for the first time, and begin teaching what i’ve learned to others.
2012, 13…? / in the field & in the studio
in september 2012, i left my studio in portland oregon and set out on a year-long west-coast travel, art & nature adventure! you can participate vicariously & virtually via my monthly newsletters, my blog, instagram & twitter.
and yes! you can still order from my online shop while i’m away! your direct financial support is greatly appreciated! while i’m out gypsying around, my goods are safely stocked and being shipped from the buy olympia warehouse in portland [yeah, you read that right!]. periodically i’m dispatching limited edition art & design pieces to the warehouse. these items are for sale exclusively in my online shop and will directly fund my travels!
my work / cross-pollination / it’s all a circle
in all the work that i do, i’m interested in the boundaries between separate communities or ideas—the common ground where things intersect, cross-pollinate and co-habitate. in ecology, an area that contains habitats common to two communities, as well as others unique to the transition zone itself, is called the ecotone. this area is typically characterized by greater species diversity and population density than occur in either of the individual communities. this is where i pitch my tent, break out the camping gear and chill.
in my mind, “people, plants and animals” or “art, craft and design” are not so different from one another. i believe that everything and everyone are interconnected and similar—it’s just a matter of each functioning with a different set of materials, and at varying speeds and scales. i hope to call attention to these ideas in my work, and to celebrate the small overlooked details that showcase these interconnections and samenesses.
my visual work has always used humble materials such as ink, paint, and thread – i test their limits marks-wise and color-wise. thematically, i adore depicting individuals from the plant and animal worlds using visual vocabulary elements from human portraiture. my hope is that others will see these portraits as depictions of individual living beings. in the words of stephen buhner, to see each as “one that has a life as important to it as yours is to you. one that has a history, ancestors who have shaped the life you see now in this one moment of time. one that has a purposeful existence. one that has friends, offspring about whom it cares, troubles with which it must struggle each day.” you know, plants and animals are people too!
my design work usually incorporates my visual work. the design and construction is always simple, honest, functional and as well-made as i can make it. i love artisanal DIY, instilled in me by my dutch mother and grandparents. i love stuff. i love figuring out how to make stuff. even all my drawing stems from trying to understand the connections and constructions of and between everything that crosses my path. i’m especially fond of anything made from paper, fabric or wood. yum!
my teaching / consistent authenticity
i’m very aware of how privileged i am to have the education that i do [ba fashion design - bfa illustration /parsons, ny - mfa design /cca, sf] and i feel the responsibility to pass on my knowledge. it’s rewarding to show others what they already know how to do, and to show them how to do it consistently and authentically.
as a student, i was taught that all of us have a unique creative voice and, no matter how our work evolves and changes, we all tell the same 2 -3 stories over and over. and, yes, a common thread of both line quality and subject matter really does run through all my sketchbooks and work since the beginning! so, this is what i concentrate on imparting to the next generation of creatives: first deconstruct your work and the work of others you emulate and figure out the essence of what it is you love about it in terms of colors, shapes, subject matter, materials. once you’ve figured that out, you’ll have a solid base for yourself as a creator and person from which to create and live your life.
our everyday world consists of both human-made and natural environments that co-exist, which is something we all have to find ways to recognize and come to terms with – whether it be planning, speaking, drawing, photography, writing, what have you. we all have the potential to be thoughtful, creative cultural producers AND consumers everyday!
[all photos on this page by kati kim & jill bliss]