Film

Creatives of NY - SF Edition // Entry #012 // Lily Homer // Fiber Artist

I traveled to San Francisco in October for the first time, and I immediately knew after purchasing my plane tickets that I wanted to interview someone for this series residing as a creative in the San Francisco Bay Area. I found the amazing Lily Homer’s artwork via a quick Instagram search under a San Francisco-related hashtag (I cannot remember which hashtag it was at this point in time, but I was drawn to her work and decided I wanted to meet up with her.)

The Chicago-born artist made the move to Berkeley shortly after graduating from college in 2017 at Wesleyan University where she was a Studio Art (Architecture) major with a minor in Art History. Currently working at San Francisco School of Needlework and Design, Lily is in charge of marketing and communications while also gaining experience with hand embroidery.

“I have yet to use that degree in architecture, but I have started working on my own in fiber and textiles, and incorporating a bit of what I did in my thesis, which was metalwork… I’m finding flat methods a.k.a. hand embroidery, and blending it with what I know academically about structure and three-dimensional work, so I’ve yet to pin down what I do specifically, but I kind of like it that way. It changes and has more flow to it.”

For Lily, she’s recently found inspiration in natural systems that are beyond the individual’s control, but are affected by the human race. Listing greenhouse gases and climate change as an example, Lily shared, “It makes me feel small, but simultaneously responsible and connected to other people. I’d like to reflect more on the materials I use going forward. I’d like to be more responsible in the materials that I choose. For example, with metals, where are they coming from? Are they recycled? Similar with the threads… if I’m using fancy silk threads in embroidery, what did it mean to raise the silkworms? Where did that come from? What are the implications of it environmentally?”

Lily also added that craft is an important part of her heritage and another source of inspiration: “I don’t have a place that I feel is my geographical or lineal home. My ancestors, from what I’ve gleamed, found their home in production. Across the board, we’ve got furniture makers, textile makers, paper printers, and women’s clothing makers. It seems like the people that I’ve read about and started asking my family about have all subsisted on what they could make physically, which has inspired me a lot and makes me feel like I am doing the right thing and I am in the right place.”

A recurring theme in Lily’s artwork is repetition (of both the physical and visual sort). “I find that every time I start a new piece, I am basing it around fierce repetition. I realize this work has other influence and other implications. I am learning more recently about the home handworkers economy - there are probably around 300 million people who work from home on textiles, who aren’t counted in the global GDP. In some countries, the garment industry accounts for 30% of the actual annual national income, but so many workers are not taken into account and it's difficult to investigate just how many. I think anyone who hears that can be struck by the sheer number of people whose entire livelihood is not taken into account when the government does its economic census.”

For Lily, that kind of knowledge sparks a commitment to understanding the ethics behind creating new artwork. “I know that when I create this work I need to know about the greater context of my methods and be responsible. I find myself fighting with questions about art and labor, like, ‘Why should I get to make my art in the first place?’, and I hope I to arrive at a place where I can make things with intention and not fetishize the idea of labor. I think that fetishization happens a lot in the fine arts, whether it’s conscious or unconscious. It’s a hurdle to get past, because repetition in art is so beautiful. That’s one idea I’ve been grappling with.

“The idea of mass production is related as well - I find that when I’m doing embroidery, crochet, or even welding, that there’s a physical movement that’s quite meditative. I’m hoping ultimately to access something that I think is lost in mass-produced goods that we’re just able to find so quickly, but then again recognizing that mass-production can mean accessibility. Anyone can go to IKEA and decorate their kitchen beautifully for a reasonable amount, but then does it lead to us not appreciating the goods that we have? The textile industry is the second-largest contributor to greenhouse gases in the world, right behind oil. We throw out so much of what we buy without giving it proper use. Ultimately, it would seem we don’t really value the things that we own. I am getting back to appreciating raw material and trying to figure out how I can more responsibly interact with the material world and be producing rather than just consuming.”

Lily also finds inspiration in viewing the work of other renowned-artists, but finds complexity in the potential dichotomy between admiring the artist versus admiring their work. “I love the work that Mark Rothko produced - I don’t love what I’ve read about him. I’m trying to figure out how, and if, I should be separating the work from the person - I think that’s really a fascinating conversation. In creative fields, if you look at who’s famous for their work, who we value as a society for their intellectual or artistic contributions, and you look up who they are personally, odds are you’re gonna find something you don’t like. I think that this tension is hugely important to talk about, and is an ongoing problem I don’t know the answer to.”

As to my question, “Why San Francisco?”, Lily commented that she was still figuring it out. “I moved here right after I graduated for an internship at the de Young Museum, and then I found this great job in communications. I’m slowly making friends, but really my whole family is in the Midwest. It really is an extension of the feeling, ‘What does home mean? Where is my home? Is my home just the people that I love? Can I make a home anywhere?’

“I live in Berkeley and work in San Francisco. I absolutely love Berkeley. I fucking love Berkeley. My favorite hike is ten minutes from my house. It’s early October now, and I’m used to the impending doom of winter, and now year-round I can be outside enjoying myself. The East Bay is unbelievable.”

The Bay Area presents its own unique challenges and struggles, but Lily ultimately finds it to be a great place. “The natural beauty compared to Chicago - I’ve never seen anything like this. I love the people, and I’ve met some really wonderful people who were born here and I admire and respect.”

If she had the opportunity to practice her art anywhere else in the world, Lily would choose Fiesole, Italy: “It overlooks Florence and is so ancient - I’ve only been there once, and I didn’t want to leave. I was Bat-Mitzvah-ed in Florence, and my most recent piece is based on the Orthodox temple there, which was used by the Nazis in World War II as a horse stable, and so it has a lot of history. There are still bullet holes up on the bimah where the Torah is kept - it’s a crazy, historically-packed building, so I’d love to be able to travel there regularly. I weirdly feel like I have a lot of memories of that area even though it really has nothing to do with my family.”

As for my favorite part of every interview in this series, I asked Lily what piece of advice she would give to other artists. “Do what you like to do, even if you can’t do it for your 9-5 job. I get home around 6pm every day, and I’m exhausted, but if I can make myself do a half hour of what I love, and I’ve heard of this for writers as well, if you can force yourself to do a little bit every day, eventually you’re gonna end up with something. Keep exercising that part of your brain, your creative urge. Years from now you won’t look back and say, ‘I wish I had kept that up.’”

You can follow Lily on Instagram here.

You can visit Lily’s website here.

Lily on 35mm film

Lily on 35mm film

Lily on 35mm film

Lily on 35mm film

Lily on 35mm film

Lily on 35mm film

Lily on 35mm film

Lily on 35mm film

Lily on 35mm film

Lily on 35mm film

Creatives of NY // Entry #011 // JAYKO Studios // Collaborative Visual Artists

Hello readers,

It’s been awhile since I last posted an article or transcript from this series. I was dealing with a very serious ankle injury, and then that blended into an illness in my family; however, I am back, and I am ready to start up this project again.

I am very excited to re-launch this project with a feature on the talented artists of JAYKO STUDIOS. I initially met up with Jayson and Yoko at Karaoke One7 in July of 2018, the place where these two talented visual artists first met. 

Both from different backgrounds, Jayson from New Jersey and Yoko from Japan, this duo collaborates to create work that is greater and even more dynamic than just the sum of its parts. Jayson always knew he wanted to be an artist, and set his sights from a young age on attending the Fashion Institute of Technology in the city - it was the only school he applied to. He was admitted, and at 18 took the leap and moved to the city. Yoko, born in Osaka, Japan, was an only child and had strict parents - she wanted to attend art school, but wasn’t allowed to follow that path. She started working, and when she turned 33 she moved to New York City: “I came here just to study English for one year, but I just decided to stay, and I started working here. I met Jason in maybe 2013 or 2014, and he helped me with drawing and painting and such.”

The pair got together and repainted the outdated private karaoke rooms in Karaoke One7, giving new life to each room with a brand new theme. Jayson remarked, “We both actually had no idea that we were both artists, until we started working on the rooms here together, and that’s when we decided to start our own company and just focus mainly on art, fashion… anything that has to do with art.”

Together, Jayson and Yoko developed a distinctive style and formed JAYKO STUDIOS - “At first, we would just say what we were going to do, and she would work over there in one corner, and I would work on another corner, but our styles were a little different, so it stood out. Then we just came up with this whole system where we kept switching back and forth so the whole piece would look uniform, but now we’ve gotten to the point where we forget who did what because our styles have become so similar because we’ve been working together so long,” Jayson said.

The duo is inspired by street art, taking further inspiration from artists who make their work accessible on social media sites such as Instagram. For Yoko, her favorite artist is OkayTina and for Jayson, he grew up admiring Edgar Degas, Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, and Keith Haring, but nowadays enjoys the artwork of Alec Monopoly, Mr. Doodle.

The pair said collaboration isn’t all smooth-sailing - fighting does happen: Yoko laughed as Jayson stated, “It’s two different artists with crazy heads and so many ideas, so to work together as a team, we go through it sometimes, but we’ll just sit down and we’ll figure out her ideas and my ideas and we try to put it together as one idea, and then we build from there.”

“I feel like we have to have each other to make this work. Jayson has a fine arts background, and he taught me all the art techniques and everything,” shared Yoko. Jayson noted that Yoko picks up new mediums quickly and has a meticulous nature when she creates, sometimes making adjustments as she goes.

The artists make sure to encourage one another in the creative process: “Sometimes when I have an idea and I start it, I get really hard on myself because I don’t see it how I am seeing it in my head, so she’ll be like ‘Keep going!’ and I’m like, ‘No, I hate it!’, but then I keep working on it and then I’m like, ‘Fine, I like it.’”

Yoko takes inspiration from her heritage in her process: “Some of my painting and doodling is from my childhood - I’m Japanese, and it’s a Japanese thing, there is a drawing song for the character, and there is a song with the drawing and I can dance to the beat of my childhood, like a younger me. Mainly American people can’t notice it, but Japanese people can sit and notice it’s a childhood drawing,”

Visually-driven, one can’t help but take note of their great sense of style - Jayson and Yoko often sport similar outfits, both sharing an interest in fashion. Yoko said, “So many people ask me, ‘Where did you buy that? Where did you get your clothes from? I want the same clothes as you.’”

Jayson added, “We’ll take clothes and we’ll cut them and sew them up. By accident, I’ll get paint on my clothes while we’re painting. She’s smart - she wears a jumpsuit. I’m always covered in paint, and she’s always the clean one, but I’ll get paint on my clothes and then I just add more paint and wear it again anyways.”

The journey to becoming an artist is a long one; during our conversation, both artists spoke fondly about the people that helped them grow as artists. For Jayson, his high school art teacher helped him build a strong foundation as an artist while providing valuable insight and also managing to keep things light: “I had Nicolle Schuster for several different classes throughout my high school career. She always took me in - I would have breakfast with her every morning, and we would talk about art. She would always make jokes about my art. Still to this day, we’re friends on Facebook, and I post pictures of my artwork and she’ll be like, ‘What happened to that ugly tree you used to draw?’ She was always my favorite - to this day I still love her.”

Yoko said, “My mentor is Jayson, but sometimes I feel that I am better. I can do better.”

(Jayson added jokingly, “We’re in a competition now!”)

The pair of artists values collaboration with other artists and organizations as well - in June 2018, they worked with twenty other artists on “We B Poppin” to raise money for Chashama’s annual gala. “Yoko and I were all visual, as far as when it comes to the lights, the color, and then we had our friend, Anthony Rodriguez, who was all performance, and under him were other artists such as singers and dancers.”

Jayson described the event: “It was a huge gala for about 1,000 people. It was on the 22nd floor of 4 Times Square, and there were probably about 150 different artists/performers that were involved in the gala, and it’s an old office building - it’s actually the old Vanity Fair office - each artist got their own room or space within the office, so the whole thing was that the people who bought tickets for the event would be able to experience what was going on in each artist’s room or space. The event lasted for six hours, so something had to be going on inside of your room at all times for six hours. We actually ended up getting the lobby of the 22nd floor, which is the largest room, so everyone would come out of the elevator and already be part of the ‘We B Poppin’ experience with our entire team.”

Most recently, Jayson and Yoko had the opportunity to paint the inside of a silo of a warehouse for Elements Fest in the Bronx in August. The room was lit with a blacklight, making their creations glow in neon along the walls. (Click here for pictures of this amazing installation.) They also had their first art show in December at Artspace PS109 featuring some of their newer works.

For both Jayson and Yoko, living in New York City is central to their artistic experiences. “New York is really cool - for me, I don’t have any art background, but so many people have given me so many opportunities... I can do what I want to do… it’s a good thing that I’m here; I’m really here,” Yoko said.

As for aspiring creatives hoping to move to New York, Jayson left this piece of advice: “Just follow your dreams. Do whatever you love. Don’t listen to what other people say about your work. If you like it and feel inspired to do it, then just do it… there’s always going to be somebody who’s going to like your work.”

You can find out more about JAYKO STUDIOS on their website or follow them on Instagram.

Yoko and Jayson on 35mm film

Yoko and Jayson on 35mm film

Yoko and Jayson on FP-100c

Yoko and Jayson on FP-100c

Jayson and Yoko on 35mm film

Jayson and Yoko on 35mm film

Yoko and Jayson on 35mm film

Yoko and Jayson on 35mm film


Creatives of NY // Entry #002 // Cecily Lo: Designer and Filmmaker

Cecily and I go way back; in the summer of 2011 we attended Joffrey Ballet School's Jazz and Contemporary Summer Intensive together. After we both graduated college, we both found ourselves living in NYC. Myself, as a photographer, and Cecily as a designer and filmmaker, but both of us remained intertwined in the world of dance, exploring choreography and meeting in the fall to have a discussion about the choreographic process. When deciding where to photograph Cecily for this project, we both knew the location shouldn't be picturesque - Cecily's work is raw and human, and I felt these images should be focused more heavily on expression rather than scenery. I decided we should shoot at night in the Lower East Side. I had never shot on film before at nighttime, but I think the images we captured turned out quite great. Check the photographs along with Cecily's interview below. 

Allison: Tell me a little bit about your background.

Cecily: I grew up in the Washington D.C. area and went to Tufts University in Boston for college. I studied computer science. In high school I really thought I wanted to study engineering, so I applied to the engineering school at Tufts. Halfway through college I said, "Wait a second. I don't actually really want to do engineering." I just sort of felt a little bit pressured into that. So I stuck with my major and I self-studied a lot. Tufts has a partnership with the Museum of Fine Arts, so I took a lot of design classes there. Now I live in New York - I've been living here for about a year, and I'm a freelance video artist and digital designer just trying to find my way in this big world. 

Allison: So how did you get into videography, filmmaking, and design?

Cecily: I came from a pre-professional dance background in grade school in high school, mostly in modern, ballet, and jazz. In college I was in an extracurricular dance company called Sarabande Dance Ensemble where I started choreographing and I became really into that and very serious about it within my school company context. From there I started filming myself dancing and would create little montages or short films, pair it with music, and sort of create a video piece out of it. That developed into a more artistic approach my senior year. I knew some people who curated independent art shows in the Boston area, and I started creating video art, movement-based pieces for that. The exhibition's called Polykhroma, and so through that I really found a voice with video art and dance film and performance art. Through a lot of self-studying, through freelance work, and through internships I honed my skills in video production. 

Allison: What other artists, either from your medium or other mediums, inspire you? 

Cecily: So I've always really been inspired by net art. Some specifics, Molly Soda, Petra Collins, Signe Pierce recently... in terms of aesthetic, I follow a lot of CGI artists and 3-D artists with holographic aesthetics. Signe Pierce is one of them, Jess Audrey Lynn, Nicole Ruggiero... a lot of Instagram names. They do more 3-D modeling, which I've always been interested in. It's kind of a very steep learning curve, but their general aesthetic I really like. 

Allison: What are some of the inspirations and influences behind your work?

Cecily: I think coming from a choreography background, and that a lot of my early work was self-portraiture and filming myself, a lot of my work is inspired by my body and my personal depictions of my body and how the outside world perceives my body versus how I perceive my own body. I think body image and bodily autonomy and how that intersects with social constraints or expectations has been kind of a fundamental underlying tone of my work. I'm just going to be open about it - I've struggled with eating disorders and body image issues in the past especially with my dance background. It sort of was a way for me to take that anxiety and that internal struggle and deal with it and also create something out of it. I feel better about myself now, but whether that's causation or correlation, I don't know. 

Allison: Who were some of your mentors you met along the way?

Cecily: One of the first professors I had through the Museum of Fine Arts, her name is Sophie Hodara... she was one of the first people who really convinced me to pursue something artistic and creative, and she gave me this confidence and reassurance that maybe this isn't just a dumb hobby or something I do on the side. There may be a future in this. She helped me with my first portfolio - this was when I was taking beginning graphic design. I think before then, it was my high school dance company director. Her name is Helen Hayes, and honestly, in elementary and middle school I wasn't dancing seriously. It was a recreational, few times a week thing, and then I on a whim choreographed for a youth choreography showcase that she was one of the judges for. She actually reached out to me after and asked me if I would audition for her youth company, and she ended up being one of my greatest mentors in high school and really helped me develop this creative voice originally through choreography, which then blossomed into something else. She was really the first person who told me, "Hey, you actually are pretty good at this." 

Allison: Use three words to describe your style of art.

Cecily: Glitchy... Dreamlike... Shiny. 

Allison: What's the most rewarding part of your medium?

Cecily: I think it's a way that really connects a lot of different aesthetics and aspects and things that I like. What I mean by that is that I've always loved music... I'm not a musician by any means, but I'm also a dancer, I'm also a choreographer. I am very moving-image based, and I do love film, movies, TV, and entertainment in general. I feel like it's a very natural and interesting way to put music and movement and images together. 

Allison: What is your relationship between ideas of self and your art? 

Cecily: I think that a lot of my art is autobiographical. Most of the themes come from personal struggles or personal stories that I've experienced. I think it's hard to create art that doesn't come from something somewhat personal, and I strongly believe that if you haven't really experienced it, unless you do tons and tons of research, it's really hard to accurately portray a message about what you are trying to say. I think it comes from a somewhat... "fraudulent" isn't the right word, but it's difficult. For me, it's always easiest to go back to what I know personally. That being said, I have a ton of respect for directors and artists who do communicate other peoples' stories in a respectful and accurate way. I think that's really hard, and it's something that I'm not necessarily that good at, which is why I try to stick to the personal. 

Allison: What are your favorite and least favorite things about being an artist in New York City? 

Cecily: My favorite thing is the creative freedom - I was working at a digital ad agency a little bit ago, and while I loved working there and while I loved working on the creative production team, at the end of the day they weren't my ideas - I was selling a message. I was selling someone else's message, and to have complete liberty over your own message I think is the most rewarding part. The worst part is when no one ever wants to pay you. I don't know - that's kind of a cop-out answer, but it does suck. I think this isn't really New York-based, but it's kind of a personal thing. I hope my parents never read this interview... they support me and they're proud of me and want to see me succeed, but I think fundamentally they don't really understand what I do. I wish that they did. I can't ask them to, but it's a little bit of a "Dang, maybe if I were just a software engineer who worked for Google" they would get it more. I remember showing them a piece that I made with one of my friends: he directed it and I danced in it, and I helped edit it. It was about mental illness and sort of suicide, or this internal self versus your external self within the lens of mental illness. I remember showing it to my parents and they thought it was supposed to be funny, and I was like, "That's not quite right," and they obviously didn't mean to hurt me or hurt my feelings, but I was like, "Oh... that's a bad take." I can't really blame them; I don't think they grew up in an artistically-enriching lifestyle like I have, but that was hard for sure. 

Allison: Where do you see yourself heading with your art? What direction are you hoping to go in? 

Cecily: I'm in the process of applying for grad school. I'm looking at commercial film and production-based programs, like directing and such. I feel like I'd like to get the more commercial side under my belt, and I feel like that would really help diversify my strengths and hone my narrative voice. Past that, I don't know. I can see myself working on and directing music videos, which is something I've begun to delve into. In a way that feels very comfortable and at-home for me based on music, dance, entertainment, video... all that. 

Allison: How does your dance background influence your work with film?

Cecily: I think that whenever I listen to music I pretty much always imagine movement going along with it, or I move along to it - it's ingrained in me. I think it's easier for me to see a dynamic arc or how music ebbs and flows in a movement-based or image-based way, just from dancing and choreographing. I think in a way, producing a short film that's set to music, which is often what I do, is the video equivalent of choreographing a piece, and I tend to view my approach in the same way. 

You can follow Cecily on Instagram here. 

You can view Cecily's website here.

Cecily Lo on 35mm film

Cecily Lo on 35mm film

Cecily Lo on Polaroid 600 film

Cecily Lo on Polaroid 600 film

Cecily Lo on 35mm film

Cecily Lo on 35mm film

Cecily Lo on 35mm film

Cecily Lo on 35mm film

Cecily Lo on 35mm

Cecily Lo on 35mm

Cecily Lo on 35mm film

Cecily Lo on 35mm film