art

meet pierre lamielle

photos & illustrations courtesy Pierre Lamielle

Talk about a Renaissance man. Pierre Lamielle is a Calgary-based author, illustrator, cooking instructor, graphic designer, blogger, and chef. His fabulously quirky illustrated cookbook, Kitchen Scraps, was published in October and will represent Canada in the Best Cookbook Illustration category at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards on Feb. 11th.

Pierre graduated from the Capilano University graphic design and illustration program and worked for three years as a graphic designer at the Vancouver Sun and Province newspapers before accepting a design and illustration position at the Calgary Herald. When the Herald’s critically acclaimed SWERVE magazine was born, Pierre and editor Shelley Youngblut dreamed up a column that combined Pierre’s lively illustrations with original recipes for gems such as the “stud muffin,” “Adam’s apple ribs” and “hot under the collard greens.”

A couple years later, Pierre left the Herald nest to attend the famed French Culinary Institute in New York City, while continuing to write and illustrate his popular SWERVE column. When he returned to Calgary, he successfully pitched Kitchen Scraps to Vancouver’s Whitecap Books (after several rejections that claimed the book was “too wacky and weird”) and launched his new, multi-faceted, freelance food-and-art career.

I chatted with Pierre just before he jetted off to Paris for the Gourmand Awards ceremony – and an envy-inducing itinerary of exploring, tasting, shopping and “getting jazzed up” for his next book. While he’s certainly hoping to bring home top honours in Paris, Pierre says he’s “totally fine” losing to Chocolate: A Love Story by Max Brenner. “The other two… I don’t know.”

Good luck!

1. What fuels your work?

Organized chaos is pretty helpful – especially when you’re trying to be creative. But everything around you needs to be organized in a way that doesn’t make you crazy. That means going to the library, looking in different sections that you’re not used to and exploring things that you’re not familiar with. Researching – that’s the chaos side of things. The organized side means that you need to have a system that you can feel comfortable in and make slightly repetitive. It’s important to create habits, but also when you’re in the creative process, it’s good to go elsewhere to find new ideas.

2. What are some of your habits?

I find that dangling carrots is effective. For example, I’ll tell myself that I can’t have a cup of tea until something is finished. And when I’m doing illustrations, I use a specific pencil, I use a specific pen, and I have a set way of doing things. Writing is a little bit more free form, but I try to keep a consistent format.

3. How do you organize your life so you still have time, energy and focus to practice your craft?

I don’t keep it all that well organized. My mom’s in Vancouver, and she has an accountant that helps me with my taxes. I give her a shoebox, she takes a look at it, then gives it to her accountant. I’m sure it’s riddled with mistakes, and I miss lots of things and I don’t write off everything I should.

Day-to-day life can get bogged down, but luckily I’m not very important, so I don’t get very many emails. I keep a low profile. I don’t have anyone I need to talk to on a regular basis. But it does get interesting, because I juggle a few small jobs. I do the column, I teach cooking classes and I try to work on my new book. I also live with my girlfriend and we have her two small kids with us every other week, so it’s hard to keep things consistent. It’s a day-to-day juggle.

4. How many revenue streams do you have?

I teach cooking classes and write the column for SWERVE. And then to supplement, I do illustrations for clients. I don’t solicit, because I find that you just don’t get anywhere. It’s a real struggle to approach art directors. So, I wait for them to come to me, and basically, I’ll say yes to anything that’s about food. Then I do some small catering jobs on the side. Oh, and there’s also the book. It’s an income stream, but I would say it’s the most work I’ve ever done for the least financial payoff.

5. What is your bread-and-butter income source?

It’s a combination of the cooking classes and the column. I teach at The Cookbook Co. Cooks in Calgary, which has two demo kitchens, a wine shop, and a book and food emporium. I teach both public and private classes. So, it’s either group of accountants from an oil and gas company who come down and cook themselves a five-course meal – and I just make sure it tastes good. Or it’s the public class, where couples or singles or little groups of people come in and mingle and make a five-course meal.

6. Do you have a passive income stream?

No. I wasn’t organized enough to think of anything that I really wanted to merchandise for the last book, Kitchen Scraps. I didn’t want to do illustrated prints, and I didn’t want to do mugs or anything like that. For the next one I’ll probably be more organized and now that I’ve got the process of a book down, I might be able to figure something out.

7. What has brought the most opportunities and attention to your work?

The book and maintaining a blog along with it. I think those two, hand-in-hand, have helped each other out. But that being said, I’m kind of sick and tired of doing a blog, because there’s no revenue stream, and it’s an awful lot of work. You either have to have some really good bread and butter work and be passionate about the blog, or be marketing a product and use the blog as a small marketing tool.

8. What is the best investment you’ve made in your career?

Education. That’s pretty safe to say. Going to graphic design and illustration school was huge and got me on that career path. But then going to cooking school was phenomenal, too, because as much as I loved cooking and I’d always cooked, there’s something about the structure of a learning environment that catapults you way beyond anything that you can self-teach. There are aspects of being self-taught that are phenomenal and invaluable, but it’s also invaluable to get the foundation for learning.

What has had the least financial or professional payoff?

It’s hard to say. I’ve done this blog for about a year and I don’t really know the cash value of it. I suppose I’ve expanded the book’s reach, but I also don’t think it has really catapulted the cookbook anywhere.

9. Where do you stand on the “selling out?” debate?

I think you could quite easily sell out. I certainly wouldn’t want to do anything for fast food. Basically, wherever your personal ethics lie, if you feel strongly about something and you go against that grain, that’s selling out.

10. Is there anything else you’ve learned and want to share?

When you work at home, it’s really easy to wear pajamas. Your other pants will quickly become outdated. In fact, I just bought five pairs of pants the other day, because I realized that I had no pants – just one pair of jeans.

Thanks, Pierre!

posted 9 Feb 10 in: art, business, design, food, interviews, media. This post currently has 2 responses.

everyday inspiration

Victoria, the prolific and design-savvy blogger behind sfgirlbybay, just did a lovely post on inspiration boards. Peeking at other people’s creative mishmash of photos, clippings, mementos and objects is like reading their diaries. I’ve got one hanging beside my desk, and Victoria’s post is a reminder to keep it fresh. Here are some great images from the inspiration board 2010 Flickr photo pool. Click on each photo to see the original upload. Enjoy!

from Aunty Cookie

from beatriz macias

from chelliswilson

from afewthingsfrommylife

from coco+kelley

from Lari Washburn

from museumpiece

posted 3 Feb 10 in: art, design, fashion. This post currently has no responses.

welcome 2010

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There’s nothing like a calendar flip to get the juices flowing. Here’s to inspiration, creativity, risk and reward.

Happy new year — and watch for fresh interviews and conversations, coming soon.

posted 6 Jan 10 in: art. This post currently has no responses.

anton the great

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Ready for a treat on a dreary fall afternoon? Steer yourself over here and dive into the moody, gloomy, dirty glamour of Anton Corbijn. He’s the legendary Dutch-born photographer and film director who has shot some of the world’s most iconic musical acts, including U2, Depeche Mode, Joy Division, Iggy Pop, Bjork, David Bowie, Miles Davis, Nirvana and R.E.M.

Depeche Mode was my first major band crush. Their edgy electro-synth sounds offered the perfect soundtrack for my teenage angst. But even then, I was awestruck by Corbijn’s videos for singles including Strangelove, Never Let Me Down Again, Behind the Wheel, and World in My Eyes. Music videos were just emerging as an art form, and MTV was almost garishly colourful — reflecting the bouncy, mainstream pop of the era. But Corbijn created fantasy worlds that were gritty, grainy and dark. His camera captured beauty edged with ugliness and more than a hint of subversion

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The men in Corbijn’s viewfinder are rock outlaws, all distressed leather and louche attitude. The women walk dogs in stilettos and skintight dresses with Eurotrash indifference. They function as props — lounging in lingerie on couches and pouting in doorways, nonchalantly aware that they’re being filmed right into history.

Corbijn’s images were a massive departure from the fresh-scrubbed acts of the ’80s, and he continues to produce some of the most breathtaking photography around. If you haven’t seen his 2007 film, Control, about Ian Curtis and the rise of Joy Division, you need to book the night off right now. I mean now.

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More than anything, the man is seriously prolific. Corbijn shot Echo and the Bunnymen in 1984 and still found time to tart up The Killers in 2008. He’s done stacks of books, major gallery exhibits, and I can only imgaine what new projects are rattling around in his creative mind.

Surfing through his website, I’m reminded that a creative life piles up day by day, project by project. When you stay on course, stay true to your influences, and work hard to hone your craft, the results can be extraordinary.

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posted 19 Nov 09 in: art, business, music. This post currently has 3 responses.

crushing creativity

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I just read an interesting article by Carlin Flora, called “Everyday Creativity,” in the December issue of Psychology Today.

It was rich with ideas I want to explore in future posts. But even before I flipped to the story,  Kaja Perina used her front-of-book editor’s note to explain “how to crush your last shard of creativity.” According to Perina, these are five “surefire tips to extinguish the creative spark:”

– Know exactly what you’re doing before you get started

– Be careful not to offend

– Get permission

– Run it by everyone first

– Criticize yourself at every step

All those saccharine motivational sayings (“leap and the net will appear!”) just make me snicker. But I’m ready to post this list right on my desk. There’s nothing like a set of rigid rules to awaken my inner rebel, and this is such a cheeky reminder of how to actually be creative.

Then there’s the deceptively simple concept of everyday creativity. Yes, the Sistine Chapel can steal your breath. Mozart’s Requiem routinely makes happy people weep. And I once lost a full half-hour in front of a de Kooning painting. But when people take everyday ideas, objects, sounds, spaces, events and ingredients and transform them into something better — something inspired and surprising — that’s the foundation of a creative life.

As Flora’s story argues, engaging in creative behavior makes people more dynamic, conscious, non-defensive, observant, collaborative, and brave. People who spend their days immersed in innovation know that creativity is less about divine intervention and more like working in a coal mine; you just have to show up and keep digging.

Would I post that on my desk? I’m not sure. But I do know it’s better than “shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”

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posted 17 Nov 09 in: art, media. This post currently has 2 responses.

meet teresa smed

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If you’ve attended a fashion or handmade gift show in Vancouver, you always know when Teresa Smed is in the house. Women swarm her Dotted Loop booth five deep – making it nearly impossible to glimpse the deliciously tangled pieces she crafts from ribbons, charms, chains, pearls, feathers and found objects.

Fashion runs fast in Smed’s veins. As a student in Athens, Georgia, she developed a line of bags and clothing made from recycled vintage fabrics. She returned to the creative drawing board, however, after a house fire destroyed her collection and life as a single mom of two brought her back to Canada in 2003.

She took a jewellery class and quickly fell in love with the medium. On a road trip to Calgary, Smed stopped at an antique store that was shutting its doors. She glimpsed the shelves of glittering antique baubles and suddenly, Dotted Loop was born. “Instantly, my whole world came together,” says Smed. “I just knew that’s what I was meant to do. I bought the entire collection, came home and started taking it apart and making new stuff.”

That collection is long gone (save a few key pieces that adorn her home studio), and Smed has since burned through piles and piles of remixed and recycled treasures. Her work has been featured in Elle Canada, Fashion, Flare, the Georgia Straight, and sells at retail stores across Western Canada. Then there are those insatiably fashionable women (and men) who snap up her pieces at shows like Portobello West and One of a Kind. As Smed sums it up, “beauty does come from ashes and old can be made new again.”

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1. What fuels your work?

Antique and vintage jewellery. It’s unbelievable how inspirational it is. I’m also totally inspired by rock and roll. I just designed an entire collection around Jimi Hendrix’s Are You Experienced album and the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. I’m also really inspired by Gucci, Coco Chanel, and couture. Runway fashion is huge. I read Vogue religiously.

2. How do you organize the administrative parts of your business so you still have the time, energy and focus to practice your craft?

It’s really, really, really challenging. I spend so much time developing the business and building it and doing everything it takes. Little by little, I’m hiring people to help out, but I still do a lot of it myself. I have come to realize that I can’t make the same things more than once. Everything is one-of-a-kind, but the Glam Vintage Remix collection uses the same designs with different materials. So, outsourcing and having those re-created is a very good thing. It also helps me to stay focused on the more higher-end, wearable art pieces.

3. Is there an artist or creative pro whose business model you admire?

I pick and choose, and lots of different people definitely inspire me. I’ve worked closely with Wardell Professional Development and gotten tons of advice – things like putting systems in place and outsourcing where you need to do so, plus organizing a business in a way that’s sustainable.

I often think about the woman who created Robeez shoes, Sandra Wilson. She’s a mom and she grew her business, but not too quickly. I also talk to lots of local artisans and I like to take a lot of people’s opinions into consideration. To me, that’s how you learn. I never want to have the perspective that I’ve got it all figured out. I always want to learn more.

4. How many revenue streams do you have?

I sell wholesale to boutiques across Canada, I sell directly to consumers at markets and tradeshows, and I sell pieces directly from my website. I also donate to silent auctions and charities. Technically, I’m giving those pieces away, but I really feel it puts my name out there and brings in business.

I chose not to go on sites like Etsy. There’s some unique, amazing stuff, but there are also lots of people ripping each other off. I feel you can put yourself in a really vulnerable position, because there’s so much copycatting going on.

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5. What is your bread-and-butter income source?

It’s split about 50 / 50 between wholesale and retail. I’m currently working to find ways to improve my online sales and I’m working with web developers to enhance search engine potential. That’s an area I’d like to maximize, but I need to get comfortable with updating the site all the time. It takes lots of work.

Press also brings a lot of traffic to my website. Whenever I’m featured in a magazine, my website sales usually spike for about two weeks.

6. Do you have a passive income stream?

The wholesale side requires a lot less time and energy. You do need to follow up, but you just fill the wholesale order, people re-order again in 2-3 months, then you package it up and send it out. It’s not the same as having to be physically present at the shows, having a killer booth and chatting with people for four days straight. It also leverages the power of outsourcing those repeated designs.

7. What tools, money-making opportunities and ideas do you think most artists don’t fully exploit?

I invest a lot of time and energy and resources into marketing, and I think it really pays off. It’s so important. I have a graphic designer who has worked for me from the beginning and I have a publicist who does quarterly press releases. I have a professional photographer doing the photo shoots. I really want that area to be polished. I’m all about bootstrapping and pulling together friends and family to make things happen, but when it comes to marketing, I firmly believe in spending the time, the energy and the money it takes to make it super polished and to communicate what you’re doing.

Also, I don’t consider myself on the playing field with all the local jewellery designers in Vancouver. I consider myself on the playing field with Louis Vuitton, Yves Saint Laurent and Gucci. I want to be considered a high-end, fashion-forward jewllery designer. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t think I’m Gucci – but I’m setting my goals and my bar at the highest possible level, not somewhere in the middle. I want to push myself to attain my goals.

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8. What has brought the most opportunities and attention to your work?

Having a publicist. And nobody really cares who you are until you’ve been featured in a magazine. For example, with one magazine, I had to overnight product samples, pay huge FedEx fees and send jewellery on at least 15 separate occasions. It didn’t go to print 15 times, but on the 16th time it went to print and it changed the face of my whole business.

9. What has been the biggest waste of time and / or money?

There are many things that I have done that one might consider “mistakes,” but sometimes mistakes are the most valuable thing a person can do. The ability to learn from your mistakes makes them all worth the while.

10. Where do you stand on the “selling out?” debate? Do you believe it’s possible to sell out?

Good question. It is very possible to sell out. I almost think I am selling out by selling anything at all.  However, I believe it is important to stay true to my values of honesty, growing organically, buying and producing locally, waste reduction, and prioritizing community and family sustainability.  If I remain true to these fundamentals, then I won’t be selling out.

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Thanks, Teresa!

posted 6 Nov 09 in: art, business, fashion, interviews. This post currently has 5 responses.

mixing it up

Last Thursday, I attended Vancouver’s CREATIVEMIX conference. In addition to some excellent catering (a true rarity at these kind of events), standouts included speakers Terry McBride of Nettwerk Music Group, Cowie & Fox ad agency director Noel Fox, and Steven Cox of design and consulting studio Cause+Affect.

I wanted to focus on Steven Cox for a moment, because I was struck by one key point from his talk. As a former architect, Cox launched his career in the UK with Alison Brooks Architects and SOFTROOM. He’s worked on housing developments, retail interiors and brand campaigns for clients like Virgin Atlantic Airways, Volkswagen, Selfridges and Volkswagen. He had a rising career in a wildly vibrant international city.

But when Cox and his equally accomplished partner (in life and work), Jane Cox, returned to Vancouver and launched Cause+Affect in 2004, they were struck by how many people complained about life in Lotusland. From the tired “no-fun city” tag to an apparent obsession with polar fleece and strumming Jack Johnson riffs by the sea, Vancouver had a bad rap as a no-go destination for edgy fun. As Steven told the crowd of creatives last Thursday, the pair decided to “make Vancouver their project.”

I love this attitude. Unhappy with the cultural and artistic climate in your city? Change it. Stretch your creativity to enrich your community and develop new ways to talk, think, share and celebrate.

Cause+Affect certainly has. In just five years, their cultural resume now includes Pecha Kucha nights, the hugely popular Fuse events at the Vancouver Art Gallery (just try to snag a spot to watch zombies dance the Thriller), the Movers & Shapers exhibit, the Cheaper Show (cheap! art!), and the EPIC sustainable living exhibition. If it’s fun and buzzy in Vancouver, Jane and Steven Cox have probably had their hands in it. They’re making this city a more interesting place to live, while building a stronger brand for their own business.

The lesson for entrepreneurs of every stripe: Tackle something close to your heart. Figure out how to excite people and cause a stir. Do it because you see a need and you’ll naturally attract the clients, customers and artistic collaborators who speak your language.

photo by kimli

photo by kimli

posted 28 Oct 09 in: art, business, media. This post currently has no responses.

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