Featured Artist Interview with Moody Monday

I met Eliza Kesuma a while back when I visited the Abbeymount Studios in Edinburgh, for their Christmas open studio preview. Her energy, and ‘straight to the point’ attitude is infectious.

I knew I wanted to feature her in my WOMANS MONTH series, as a kick ass woman, doing her thing in the Arts!

I love your designs, they have a really modern, fresh take on quite a traditional way of creating. What made you decide on interiors as your medium?

Thank you! It’s always a delight to hear when someone is pleased or excited by your creation! ☺

Having previously started in fashion & textiles design before jumping ship to just textiles whilst training, I had to continuously face the harsh reality of how fast paced and throwaway the fashion trends and seasons can be, which was quite a sad realisation for me at the time. I really loved the freedom of style expression in fashion but really hated the time frame that the industry stipulates on how shortly it should last. As I tend to put so much time, thought and love into the designing, I feel the throwaway nature of fashion really devalues the effort that goes into the design process.

I suppose everybody works and thinks very differently throughout their own creative processes, I find that I work best when I can give myself time and space to breathe and let the idea develop and mature at its own pace, let it brew for a bit. Whereas some other creatives may find that they work best when they create really fast and more spontaneously. For me, my creative process is akin to growing a seed; it takes time to grow through thoughtful care and attention over time and once it’s reached maturity, the last thing you want is for that plant in which you’ve tended to for some while to go on sudden death from frostbites or picked before it’s ready to be taken away and then you have to go through the same process all over again. I want myself and others to be able to enjoy this creation with some longevity. I suppose fashion always kind of feels a bit like that for me. I love the excitement of how free and expressive fashion can offer but I don’t like the short life-span it has.

Then as I changed to focus on just textile design, I discovered that I still have that crossroads to face between textiles for fashion and textiles for interiors, which presents me with the same dilemma. However, through training and having worked in both industries since university, I discovered that the interior industry goes through a longer cycle, thus has more longevity. This is also the time when I discovered that I worked best at my own thoughtful pace and that’s just how I thrived, however I also loved and missed the freshness and freedom of expression that fashion provides, which I then decided to somehow translate that within interiors. As most of us are aware of, they (fashion and interiors) are always somehow connected anyways. In short, I like to create something that lasts.

Do you have a set way of creating a new collection? Do you start with an idea or colour and work from there?

I find that like most things in my life, things that seems to really inspire me are subject/ object that I have a strong emotional connection or objection with. As I really need this source of inspiration to give me enough energy to sustain my interest in it until I conclude or complete the project. So, if it doesn’t incite passion, I will lose interest in it and it will never see the light of day, no matter how interesting other people think it can be.

A really good example of this is the first studio collection “The Secret Music” where it has been inspired by abandoned musical organ I found in a junk yard. This collection is an act of defiance of what I have been taught as the normative way of designing in textiles, i.e. take inspiration from conventionally beautiful things that people already appreciate as visually appealing and then create a successful interpretation of what’s already a successful in the first place; like florals. I like a challenge and I like to challenge things, so I thought for somewhile;

“Why does it have to be that way? Isn’t our job as designers to problem solve?”

“Isn’t designing something beautiful from something already beautiful trying to solve a problem which isn’t a problem in the first place?”

“What kind of problem solving is that, if you’re not really solving a problem in the first place?

So I thought to myself; “What if I solve a problem, where I take something unappreciated, conventionally ugly looking, and see it from a different perspective and pick out what makes it beautiful to me and highlight this to the outside world (that is the universe outside of my head)? And we’ll see if I can communicate this visually to everyone else, so they can see what I see?”

I thought it was quite a befitting first studio collection to have, in order to launch my design business with at the beginning. A break from a customary way that I have been trained in and expected to be. Yet maintaining a traditional way of creating through the convention of screen-printing.

In  short to the above, it can start with anything! And then see where it takes me! ☺

As you straddle both creative and design, which do you prefer: the creative process and getting stuck in (the free spirited artist splashing paint around) or the more (in my head anyway!) intentional and organised nature of designing and seeing your final work literally up on the walls?!

It’s like asking which came first the chicken or the egg? Or (for the parents out there) which child you love most? ☺

I believe that they both go hand-in-hand, especially if you’re a screen-printer doing repeats, where you have to be somewhat methodical. I think, from my experience anyway, you have to be able to switch around from starting at free-spirited and going crazy and then intentional and organised and then at times, you may be required to switch over again until you get it just right.

You start from intentional and organised then you stifle the creative process. But if you start with free-spirited and then don’t pin it down to intentional and organised, then you’l end up with an unworkable (but maybe) beautiful mess. It’s like having to use both sides of your brain really, which is very exciting, I think anyways! ☺

As you are a woman in the arts – and totally rocking it! How do you balance your creative workload?

With Google calendar, plenty of calendar reminders, list-making, 3 alarms to wake me up in the morning; I am NOT a morning person, trying to survive in a morning people world! A copious amount of coffee and a great sense of humour! ☺

What advice would you give to other designers, perhaps just starting out, or even those at any stage in their career, in creating a niche for yourself?

Treat everyone with respect and I mean EVERYONE, even the cleaning lady/ guy or the postie or some random stranger that annoys you on a very touchy day. You don’t know who they are, or what they’re going through in their lives, much like they don’t know what you’re going through in your life. It’s a very hard and competitive industry, the creative industry (heck, it’s a hard and competitive life, never mind the industry!) – everybody wants a piece of that very small but delicious pie, you will rise and then fall down and then pick yourself up and rise again.. many times and over again, the least you can be is a kind and respectful person. Last but not least, never think you’re entitled to anything. You came into the world with nothing and you will leave the world taking nothing with you, so you should never feel entitled.

For your Secret Music Collection you took inspiration from an abandoned musical organ. Taking apart found objects and giving them a new lease of life in your prints is a great form of story telling! Is that something you always try to create in your work?

I don’t always intentionally try to tell a story through my work, I just do stuff that ignites  passion within me. So I can see how this can translate to some story telling inadvertently, passion is a good story-teller! I am delighted that my work tells a story, it tells me that it has a life of its own ☺.

What are you working on at the moment? Are you able to share any current projects?

This year I am primarily focused on getting my textile printing courses off the ground. Making textiles design and printing more democratic, thus encouraging more people to create and learn more about this skilful process beyond the perceived glitz and glamour of the design world ☺. So, designing is taking a bit of a back seat at the moment, it is going through some breathing and brewing time ;).

I have also been making some sweet sound with my band and muso friends I’ve been jammin with on the side of textiles, printing and teaching. Maybe some design ideas might sprout from this??

What’s next for Moody Monday, what have you got coming up this year?

In the spirit of making textiles and printing more democratic and increasing awareness for this craft. I am focusing more on building my professional relationship locally within Edinburgh first of all through teaching textiles printing, sharing my knowledge within the communities of individual who shares similar passion for design and textiles. All the while maintaining my creative brewing time until something is ready to blossom and burst into the outside world! 😉

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**All images are owned by the artist; Eliza Kesuma for Moody Monday. They have granted permissions for their use in this interview. They retain full copyright.

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