Featured Artist (almost) Friday: Andrea Canalito

As Erin and I have both mentioned before, one of the raddest things about running Design Crisis is meeting new peeps.  Despite almost a year in web publication, we still get all weak in the knees when someone sends us an email love letter, especially when that someone is an artist who's work we already know and love.  Recently, Andrea Canalito a mixed-medium artist from Houston, TX contacted us and we were giddy with joy.

Twinkle Twinkle Baby, Mixed Media Installation, 2008

You already know how much I love animal furniture, so when I first came across the Deer Cupcakes (with GOLD!!! cups) I nearly fainted.  I was so excited when Andrea contacted us so I could find out more about her work and what inspires her.  

K: In your original email to Design Crisis, you said you were "hungry for aesthetics," what designers and artists are currently filling your appetite?

AC: I look at a lot of design websites such as design crisis, notcot.orgdesignboom.com, andy altmann and why not associates, and artists like wendy walgate, philip toledano, laurie hogin, elizabeth mcgrath, just to name a very few. 
Below are some shots from a few of the favorites she mentioned:
clockwise from Top Left: Wendy Walgate, philip toledano (psst, you may remember Philip from this post), Laurie Hogin, Elizabeth Mcgrath,
You can certainly see that, like me, Andrea has an affinity for the animal art, I'm liking her more and more!
K: How much do you find that other artists and designers influence your work?  What other inspirations do you have?
AC: Really, I see things everywhere that interest me, mostly including simple and bold contemporary art and design. I'm not a fan of hum-drum and beige. Nor am I a fan of things that do not carry an element of the "strange". It's funny because when I meet other designers, I feel like I am so inquisitive about their method and process and it always feels like I am more interested in what they do than they are. I find myself wanting to know how everything works in every arena of aesthetics from digital to traditional. I am also very attracted to city lights such as neon lights, signs, and music video aesthetics from artists like kanye west, lady gaga, and gwen stefani. And, of course, music itself.
K: Without revealing any of your creative secrets, can you tell us a little bit about what goes into making a deer cupcake?
AC: Haha, there are no secrets. They started out as a an idea in my head, and a drawing. I don't know where they came from, and I couldn't understand it at the time, but I decided not to try and smother it with sense. Turns out that's what works for me, so I decided to take a big chance and spend 3 months constructing Twinkle Twinkle Baby, with the deer cupcakes. They are made from various types of foam, modeling material, and paint, so they are surprisingly light. 
I asked Andrea if her cupcakes were for sale, and THANK GOD, they are, you may contact her through her website for pricing information
I love when you can see an artists work and understand their progression, the above two images of Andreas certainly foreshadow the oncoming of her deer cupcake field.
I also catch myself drooling nonstop at these trays on her site:
But WAIT!  I still have more questions:
K: What is the creative scene like in Houston?
AC: It is vast. I always feel overwhelmed trying to find art in a large city because there is so much of it in so many different places, some large spaces, some nooks and crannies. I wish there was one definitive website that would tell you EVERYTHING design/art oriented in the city.  I feel like there is a lot of opportunity for young creatives in Houston, which is good, especially for emerging professionals. There is also a thick traditional art community here, which I have yet to explore, but I'm sure is noteworthy.
K What's next for you?
AC: I am working on a series of "princess" or rather "not a princess" drawings in collaboration with another artist. They have to do with the idea that as girls, we never reached the princess we always thought we could be. What if there is no magic come to save you? The castle we take is the empire we make with our business cards, our risks and our skills. 
I would also like to work on a concept about my dreams of flying/floating. Both as a form of this physical and mental freedom and ambition. The dreams are so rare, but so great and just make me feel like anything is possible. 
At this point, I'm quite smitten with Ms. Canalito, the aesthetics she is drawn to, as well as the ones she creates herself, mirror my own preferences.  She also seems very busy, creatively. I love when someone has lots of irons in the fire, and Andrea's irons are very very pretty. 

Designer Spotlight: Redstart Design

Last Sunday, just after watching back to back episodes of my two favorite shows:  Rock of Love Bus and Tool Academy, I was ripped from the comfort of my bed by a prior obligation.  I had promised a few of my favorite ladies that I would join them for drinks.  Of course, I made said promise at 11 a.m., and was remiss to fulfill said promise at 11 p.m..  Yes, 11 p.m., on a Sunday.  What had I been thinking?  Well, anyway, I'm quite glad that I pulled myself together and scooted out the door because, not only did I have a great time with the favorite ladies, but I also met Michelle Marchesseault of Redstart Design.  

Michelle and her business partner, Rachel Shannon are notorious in Austin for their Op Art commercial and residential murals.   Using nothing but tape (only sometimes) hand painting, and a lot of math, these ladies put together the freshest non-wallpapered backdrops in town. 

The residential mural above was achieved using silver leaf.  Do any of you know how tedious that is?  The painting I did in my living room (by hand-cut stencil and latex paint) took a week and a half, I can't even imagine how long this takes the ladies:

Perhaps if I had conducted an interview (per our Sunday discussion) I would have learned the answer.  But I was busy working so you dudes get pretty pictures and lots of unanswered questions.

This photo of former partner, Jason, does provide some insight on what a bitch this job must be.  But I have to say, that finished ceiling is out-of-control amazing, and totally worth the effort. 

Clearly, these ladies like ceilings.  Writing this post is only heightening my ever-present craving to scrape all of the popcorn off my ceiling so that I, too, can have the Redstart treatment.

The Vivid Walls of Austin's Viva Salon

One of the many bedrooms for, ahem, the Real World Austin set

I love when artists and designers post pictures of their process.   Same with set building on DVD extras.  I could probably skip most of the movies I watch and just enjoy all the behind-the-scenes design goodness alone.  Ok, actually, I have done that before, it was pretty damn awesome.

This freeform latex and GOLD LEAF(!!!!!!!!!) residential mural Speaks directly to my heart.  Shhhh... can you hear it?

And I know that I was just getting all mad at Elle Decor the other day about their piss-poor butterfly trend prediction, but I really like the space above.  I'm 100% sure it's the palette, and the fact that the butterflies aren't all lame and colorful.

Speaking of animals I love:

This lovely horse is snugly nestled in at one of my favorite bars in town, the Red House.  There are plastic and painted horse heads everywhere, and that, my friends, is a motif I can get behind.

The mural at Frou Frou always caught my eye when I lived a couple of blocks away.  Somehow taking things I don't generally like on their own:  red and pink, and putting them together, really does it for me.

The ladies of Redstart don't just sit around contemplating repeating pattern and huffing paint all day, they also get their exercise on by participating in Austin's own synchronized swimming troupe, The H2Hos.  

So, looking back on my Sunday night on the town, I have to admit, it wasn't so bad after all, almost as good as Rock of Love Bus, almost.

Featured Artist (the day before) Friday: Rachel Denny

You may remember, way back at the beginning of the year, we promised a new installment here at Design Crisis: Featured Artist Fridays. Well, tomorrow is Erin's day and I don't want to make you wait another week to meet artist Rachel Denny so, Thursday it is. We first stumbled across Rachel's work months ago and were delighted when she wrote us with kudos on our blog (we love nothing more than compliments around here) bells and firecrackers went off and the angels began to sing when we saw her new work and we knew we had to share it with you. Rachel has a stockpile of stunning works in her wake as well as big designs for the future. Let's start at the beginning:

Green Doe, 2008, polyurethane foam, wood, wool

Upon first seeing Rachel's work my mind went into a whirlwind considering the amount of math, time and planning a single piece must take. Once I recovered from my admiration fatigue, I was struck by the brilliance of the pieces: they seamlessly converge the dichotomous imagery of masculinity and femininity with a thought-provoking balance of serenity and humor. I asked Rachel how she began tying these images together:


I grew up in rural Northern Idaho and Montana and my father would take me hunting as a child. I don't think I ever actually hit anything ( I was very young) but it did make a strong impression on me - the seriousness of the task and the quiet waiting in the forest for hours. There was a lot of wonder and also necessity in it; at that age it seems a bit surreal. The knit pieces just came together and made sense to me with these memories.

Her explanation conjures up memories of my own family history: my grandfather was a hunter and his wife, my grandmother made clothing for the family. Her knit deer would have served as an ideal icon for my own family. Add to the list of accomplishments found in a single Denny piece: the ability to connect with it's audience on a profoundly personal and familial level.

(left) Nordic Knit, 2008, wool, polyurethane foam, wood, thread; (right) Arrow Buck, 2008, polyurethane foam, wood, wool, thread, zipper

Rachel tells me

The first knit piece was intended to be a chromed deer head mount, referring to the carcasses seen on the side of the road, but it proved too expensive to make for me at the time. I played around with the imagery for awhile, looking for a suitable replacement and this juxtaposition came about.

I am from the school of thought that believes that creativity flourishes under restrictive circumstances. While I would never turn a stray chrome deer head away from my living room, I think the knit pieces are so meaningful and stunning (and, of course, proof positive that I am right about that whole creativity flourishing thing, and I love being right)

Blue Doe, 2008, wool, polyurethane foam, wood, thread

Quick! Let's make a list of all the amazing things happening in this room: #1 Blue Doe (obv.) #2 HORSE FIGURINE! & tied for second, Design Crisis Gift Guide approved, Carlos Night Light!

Are you wondering why I didn't mention all that glove action going on in the mirror? Are you thinking I'm a horrible person for putting a silly dog light above what just might be one of the greatest pieces of art ever made? Well then, you're very astute, now aren't you:

Proper Lady

Like Rachel's knit deer, the Proper Lady rug works on so many, often opposing, levels: Repurposing the gloves to warm the feet while simultaneously mimicking a shag rug is genius. I also love that these gloves in particular are generally reserved for the purpose of protecting debutantes and other do-gooders from getting their hands soiled, but in this instance, they are offering themselves up as little sacrificial lambs to be tracked upon by whatever comes their way. Even the draped nature of the gloves makes them appear as though they are bowing down before you. And, well, you know I like that. Let's get a closer look:

By this point I want to crawl inside Rachel's head and poke around awhile to find out how she comes up with these brilliant pieces:

The "Proper Lady" idea began its life as a quilt, but it seemed unfinished - a bit flat and I didn't like the texture on a bed. The piece took on even more meaning when demoted to the floor and I loved the contrast of these prim, ladies gloves as a rug. I like when a work can take on multiple meanings and I also like leaving that up to the viewer because they bring in their own experiences to work.

I appreciate that, like the original chrome deer that evolved into a knit work, Rachel allows the works to speak to her, dictating their own outcome as she goes. I believe it is because of this that her pieces can exist on so many levels. She mentions that she was initially hesitant to let humor show through in her work. Noting "I wanted to be taken seriously, but I feel humor and beauty are often very successful ways to get someone to approach a new idea." I couldn't agree more. I also think it is the existence of humor in her work that adds the final finishing touch to each piece.

Buckshot, 2007, Lead, nails, foam, wood, steel, life size

When sifting through Rachel's portfolio I find the above piece, which appears to be laying the groundwork for her later works: early conceptions of the chrome deer head, and a shag rug that will later take its form in a landscape of lady's gloves.

One of my favorite images on her site is a snapshot of her studio:

Most of the pieces from her current body show themselves in various stages of completion. Rachel mentioned that she is best when kept busy, but the appearance of at least 6 projects here makes my head spin.

And, in case your wondering, that lovely turquoise piece in the bottom left corner now looks like this:

Clover, 2008, angora, polyurethane foam, thread, steel

Unfortunately, someone has already snapped this little guy up, otherwise, I would love to have an angora rabbit in my home. I am sure I could also be quite happy with this:

Antler Buck, 2008, Wool, thread, antler, polyurethane foam, wood

I am so enchanted with how snugly the wool fits each piece. Rachel uses found sweaters rather than knitting the pieces by hand - can you imagine how long that would take??!! -  often felting the pieces before stretching them around the musculature of a deer (that she made herself, mind you).

Unfortunately, you can not currently come to my home to see Rachel's works in person, but you can look for her work at Rare Device in San Francisco this May. She will also be featured on the cover of the Western Humanities Review this fall.  Most works are available for purchase on her site: racheldenny.com