shapers

SHAPERS /// KELLY NEWFIELD, Founder of DRESSMAKER + VOLUNTEER

Kelly Newfield is an artist, clothing designer, creator of bespoke cushions, and loving momma to Vida and Clara, two sweet old lady pit bulls, in no particular order of importance. Because Los Angeles animal rescue is essentially a massive Venn diagram and we're basically six degrees  removed from "that overweight black lab relinquished at South LA Shelter" (specific shelter dog reference subject to change), we frequently cross paths with others sharing our obsessions for all wonderful things dog and design. Naturally, Kelly's newest creative project, Dressmaker - designing and producing hand-dyed, cut, and sewn one-of-a-kind luxury pillows, immediately had us both intrigued and salivating like lunatics because we want ALL THE DRESSMAKER THINGS, people. 

Kelly graciously took a few moments away from creating her stunning, sophisticated pillows in her Pomona studio to divulge what's currently on her nightstand, how we can live a beautiful life with our dogs, and her theory on "trends." Thank you so much, Kelly, for agreeing to be a part of our ongoing SHAPERS profiles featuring extraordinary doers and makers ! We dig you and all your gorgeous textile ingenuity.

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Were you the kid always stitching up awesome outfits for yourself and your friends? How did you transition from clothing to home decor/pillows? Do you feel there's a comprehensive overlap of these two types of couture craftsmanship?

I did start altering my clothing from an early age, I think out of a need to create and self-express.  The cushion project came about out of necessity (as most things do).  I made some velveteen cushions for my living room, and thought, I like these, maybe someone else would like these, too.  Also the idea of being able to experiment with textiles, without the limitations that come with clothing (wearable colors, sizes, etc)…is very appealing.  Craft, quality and integrity of design are profoundly important to me.  Making things one at a time, slowly and thoughtfully.   Designing and making things has always been therapeutic for me.  It doesn't really matter what it is; a dress, a room, a meal, a garden.  I have this irritating habit of redesigning (in my head, of course) the front yards of the houses that I drive past in my neighborhood.  


       Just a coupla' cute old ladies from Los Angeles' animal shelters, enjoying their best lives. 

       Just a coupla' cute old ladies from Los Angeles' animal shelters, enjoying their best lives. 


As a dog momma, what's your advice to people who feel like they "can't have nice things" because they have a dog?  

Adopt adult dogs, and set boundaries.  Never give a new dog the run of the house, let them earn their privileges  Dogs are smart, they’ll get it quickly if it’s presented clearly.  

Also, being somewhat flexible (about everything, really) is helpful.  Don’t get upset if someone vomits on the rug, or sneezes on a freshly painted wall, just deal with it and move on.

                                                                 It's a beautiful life. 

                                                                 It's a beautiful life. 


Are you a morning person or a night owl?

Night owl but I've had to adapt.  My husband makes breakfast for the dogs.  It’s best (for everyone!) if no one tries to communicate anything important to me before 8am. 


What's on your bedside table right now?

Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea and the Deep Origins of Consciousness, by Peter Godfrey-Smith, Being a Beast: Adventures Across the Species Divide, by Charles Foster, and The Developing Genome by David S. Moore.  I am fortunate that my husband  brings home a stream of fascinating books.


Name your three favorite textile colors. 

I favor cool, moody colors, my working colors could be considered a “bruise” palette: combinations of weird greens, chartreuse, blue violet, greys from dove to charcoal, and of course black.

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Do you foresee any particular, imminent trends in the home decor industry? 

I go out of my way to avoid trends. Even the word “trend” bothers me, and don’t even get me started on “trending”.  I am happiest when the things that I like (Victorian, Spanish Revival) are not in style and I can find them easily and marked-down in the antique shops.  The same goes for designing clothing.  Ideas will naturally evolve from season to season.  Try to incorporate trends and you will quickly lose your way and your own vision.


MORE KELLY SCOOP: I am from Los Angeles.  My husband and I moved from Mid-city LA to a historic home in Pomona, Ca a few years ago to be closer to his professor job at Pitzer College in Claremont. I went to art school and am mostly self-taught as far as clothing design.  I have been designing, manufacturing, and selling wholesale to specialty boutiques and better department stores for 25 years – mostly women's clothing, and mostly for my own label.  My current label for clothing is Volunteer, although lately I have been focusing more on the cushions, and working on restoring/furnishing/painting our old house.  My 98 year old mother also lives with us.   I have been involved with animal rescue in LA for the past 15 years and we have two seniors, Vida (from East Valley Shelter) and Clara (Inland Valley Humane Society).  My girls share my workspace. They are sweet and hilarious and good at reminding me daily about what is actually important.


*Lily Spindle's SHAPERS profiles the people whom we consider to be remarkable movers and shakers, doers and dreamers, trailblazers and big thinkers, the people who are doing things a little bit differently and unconventionally, with immense heart, passion, and authenticity. Artists, designers, writers, philanthropists, iconoclasts, artisans, heroines, voyagers, and all kinds of extraordinary extraordinaires will be interviewed in our SHAPERS series.

SHAPERS / / MEG CRANSTON

Strolling through the massive Art Los Angeles Contemporary show earlier this year, we spotted (and Instagrammed) one of Meg Cranston's incredible dog portraits and we immediately knew we had to feature her in SHAPERS. Currently the chair of the Fine Arts Department at Otis College of Art and Design, her sculpture, paintings, and video/performance work have earned her international accolades and she's exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Neuer Aachener Kunstverein, The Getty Museum of Art, The Hammer Museum, Museum Abteiberg, Mönchengladbach, The Carnegie Museum, K21 Museum, Dusseldorf, and the ICA, London, to name just a few.

Also, she has a super cute pooch named Jenkins and began a shelter dog photography project back in the mid-2000s, which ultimately helped to increase the number of dog adoptions, and we are always and forever 100% fans of that kind of altruism and creativity! 

Many,  many thanks to Meg for so intelligently and thoughtfully tackling this SHAPERS q+a! Enjoy!  

Can you tell us about your project photographing shelter dogs back in 2008? What was the experience like, what inspired the project, what was the endgame artistically or otherwise and how did it affect you/your work?

I was looking to get a dog and spending some time on the shelter websites. I decided to try to photograph all the dogs in LA shelters over a one month period. I tried to photograph them myself but quickly realized it isn't that easy to photograph a dog. So I partnered with the various shelters to get their photographs. That was a bit tricky because it involved working with the Chief of animal control. He was suspicious at first because he had to make sure I wasn't creating an expose on the shelters but then was happy to help. The most interesting thing was the quality of the photographs from different shelters varied a lot. At one shelter, the worker taking the photographs was careful to "art direct" the images. He posed the dogs in green settings even with some fake flowers arranged. He had the dogs standing in action poses so they looked lively and happy.

Compared to other shelters ,were the dogs were photographed in cages or on leashes, those animals looked highly adoptable. That shelter in fact did have higher rates of adoptions.

Because people primarily look at shelter dogs on websites, being photogenic is a life or death issue. 

The paintings I did of the shelter dogs takes that a bit further. Historically there are many dogs in paintings though typically they are high status dogs - hunting dogs or pets of wealthy people. The paintings of George Stubbs would be an example. I decided to do rather monumental portraits of ordinary dogs - shelter dogs who would not typically be painted.

Meg Cranston, "Corgi," 2014. 

Meg Cranston, "Corgi," 2014. 


Meg + Jenkins. 

Meg + Jenkins. 

What's your favorite thing about living in California?
I like the attitude of people in California. Theyhave a relaxed confidence that's easy to be around. The artists in Los Angeles aren't freighted with a lot of rules. They do whatever they want. Europeans especially admire that. 

 

How does teaching art influence your own artwork?
Besides paying the bills? I love teaching because in my courses, I have to write lectures about new topics all the time. If I didn't teach I doubt I would read as much or stay as current. Also there is a part of me that's a performer. Giving lectures is a kind of performance. It's fun. Of course the students are all fantastic. I have said many times, I have never had a bad student.

Art students are the best and most interesting students one can teach.

Meg Cranston, "Poodle Mix," Installation view, Michael Janssen, Berlin, 2014

Meg Cranston, "Poodle Mix," Installation view, Michael Janssen, Berlin, 2014


Which decade resonates most poignantly with you - 1960s, 1970s, or 1980s? I admire art of the 1960's for its clarity and optimism, art of the 1970's for its intellectual rigor, art of the 1980's for its focus on recasting artistic values as political. 
 


Meg Cranston's "California" and "Fireplace 12" at the Hammer Museum for  Made in L.A. , 2012.

Meg Cranston's "California" and "Fireplace 12" at the Hammer Museum for Made in L.A., 2012.



The scariest thing you've ever done?
I do stand up comedy. That's pretty scary especially for the audience.


Are you a morning person or a night owl?
I am a night owl who has to get up at 6am. It's a dilemma.


Name three of your favorite sculptors/3-dimensional artists and use a single word to describe each.

Alberto Giacometti  -  armature
Brancusi  -   base
Franz West  -  scale


What books are currently on your bedside table?
Grand Hotel Abyss: The Lives of the Frankfurt School

 

*Lily Spindle’s SHAPERS profiles the people whom we consider to be remarkable movers and shakers, doers and dreamers, trailblazers and big thinkers, the people who are doing things a little bit differently and unconventionally, with immense heart, passion, and authenticity in what they do. Artists, designers, writers, philanthropists, iconoclasts, artisans, heroines, voyagers, and all kinds of extraordinary extraordinaires will be interviewed in our SHAPERS series.

Take your pleasure seriously

Last week, us Lily Spindle ladies were fortunate enough, thanks to the magnificent Lisa Chester Schroeder (read our SHAPERS profile on Lisa right here!), to get an extremely special, private, nitty gritty, anecodote-laden tour of the iconic Eames House and Studio in the Palisades. We began our day in Los Feliz doing a speedy outdoor patio installation, spent the afternoon shopping and eating in West Hollywood (Lawson Fenning and AMMO, respectively), and then drove up the respendent Pacific Coast Highway in the early hours of the evening to meet with Lisa and our wonderful guide, Catherine. Set on a bluff surrounded by eucalyptus trees, Case Study House No. 8 is an ingenious merging of work and life, as well as a brilliant collection of oddities, furniture, textiles, intimate ephemera, art, and books guaranteed to inspire you in unexpected and magical ways.

Among other tales, Catherine shared with us the story of the fragile and fantastic tumbleweed hanging from the ceiling by a string: when Ray and Charles were married in Chicago in 1941, their honeymoon-on-a-major-budget was a road trip to California to start anew. Somewhere in the Southwest, they came across this beautiful tumbleweed and popped it in the back of the car, later hanging it from the ceiling of the Case Study House No. 8, where it has remained and decayed bit by bit over time. Eventually, it will be replaced by another tumbleweed, chosen by the surviving Eames' generations and hung once again in that same place, continuing the tradition. 

The Eames House, as photographed by Julius Shulman in 1950. Photo: J. Paul Getty Trust. Julius Shulman Photography Archive, Research Library at the Getty Research Institute

The Eames House, as photographed by Julius Shulman in 1950. Photo: J. Paul Getty Trust. Julius Shulman Photography Archive, Research Library at the Getty Research Institute

While we were gazing upon the gorgeousness of the home's interior, we discussed the design trends of today, the impatience of our culture, the unfortunate myopia so often present when it comes to architecture and its relation to the natural environment. Deb commented on the books within the case, everything from high literature to "Where the Wild Things Are" and "The Little Prince," and we applauded their freedom in displaying whichever books they happened to love and revere, rather than those intended to intimidate or impress. Catherine laughed and brought us around the backside of the bookcase, where rows upon rows of Charles's softcover science fiction books were arranged. These beloved books were decidedly not given the esteemed placement of "forefront." As all couples do in shared spaces, in order to continue sharing a space, you compromise.

Interior photographs are forbidden during tours, so I'd like to defend myself in announcing this is not in fact my own photograph. Rather, it's one I've borrowed from the internet. The house and studio, including the kitchen and living room's interior furnishings and details, are shown today as they existed upon Ray's death in 1988. Uncanny fact: Ray died exactly ten years to the day following Charles's death.

Interior photographs are forbidden during tours, so I'd like to defend myself in announcing this is not in fact my own photograph. Rather, it's one I've borrowed from the internet. The house and studio, including the kitchen and living room's interior furnishings and details, are shown today as they existed upon Ray's death in 1988. Uncanny fact: Ray died exactly ten years to the day following Charles's death.

You can read about the history of the home/studio on the Eames Foundation site, but here's an excerpt: The Eames House, Case Study House #8, was one of roughly two dozen homes built as part of The Case Study House Program. Begun in the mid-1940s and continuing through the early 1960s, the program was spearheaded by John Entenza, the publisher of Arts and Architecture magazine . . . Charles and Ray proposed that the home they designed would be for a married couple working in design and graphic arts, whose children were no longer living at home. They wanted a home that would make no demands for itself, and would serve as a background for, as Charles would say, “life in work” and with nature as a “shock absorber."

Charles and Ray moved into the House on Christmas Eve, 1949, and lived there for the rest of their lives.  The interior, its objects and its collections remain very much the way they were in Charles and Ray’s lifetimes.  The house they created offered them a space where work, play, life, and nature co-existed.

We cannot recommend a personal visit to the mystical, gorgeous Eames house more vigorously! Take a picnic with you, sit on the grounds, and experience the enchantment and quiet power of this space. I promise you it's life-altering and absolutely worth it.

xx ~ Rebecca
 

Many, many, many thanks to Lisa for arranging this private tour for us! And huge gratitude to Catherine for spending the last hours of her work week with us and starting our weekend immersed in inspiration and beauty.

Many, many, many thanks to Lisa for arranging this private tour for us! And huge gratitude to Catherine for spending the last hours of her work week with us and starting our weekend immersed in inspiration and beauty.

There's much about this maxim that galvanizes me - turning your passion into something relevant and meaningful. And it's nearly as good as this other Eames gem: "Any time one or more things are consciously put together in a way that they can accomplish something better than they could have accomplished individually, this is an act of design." Hallelujah!  (sidenote: our visit did inspire a conversation about feminism - its current version, as well as the challenges that Ray no doubt faced as a five-foot-tall woman in a predominantly male world. This is another story, however, for another blog post!)

There's much about this maxim that galvanizes me - turning your passion into something relevant and meaningful. And it's nearly as good as this other Eames gem: "Any time one or more things are consciously put together in a way that they can accomplish something better than they could have accomplished individually, this is an act of design." Hallelujah!

(sidenote: our visit did inspire a conversation about feminism - its current version, as well as the challenges that Ray no doubt faced as a five-foot-tall woman in a predominantly male world. This is another story, however, for another blog post!)

SHAPERS /// Todd Squires

Take one glance at Todd Squires' Instagram account (along with the considerable 46.5k followers already enchanted by him) and you're immediately a smitten kitten, enraptured by his urban architectural shots from any and all parts of Southern California, his irreverent and charmingly deprecatory selfies, his ingenious portraits of the beautiful humans he intimately knows or has just moments ago met for the very first time, and the magical captures of his constant and steady companion - Sonny the handsome Labrador mutt mix. He owns an independent framing shop here in Los Angeles, Fourth Corner Conservation Framing, and, as a photographer and the son of a lithographer, totally gets the artistry of framing and his now ten-year-old shop is a go-to for the heavy hitters of the art world like, ahem, Ed Ruscha. Todd also happens to be a lovely person, in addition to wildly talented, and we're honored to feature him as the first profile of many in our SHAPERS* series.

Ghost Bike, Todd Squires

Could you tell us a little bit about your framing company, Fourth Corner Conservation? How long you've been in business, who some of your favorite clients are, your most fun project you've worked on?

I’ve had my business Fourth Corner Conservation Framing, Inc. since 2003.  The idea behind starting it is to provide a nice experience for people who want to feel safe about the way have their artwork framed.  My approach is rather minimal and simple, and I make sure that the artwork will be protected from the outside elements that can cause future deterioration by using only archival materials.  A lot of people are afraid of going to the framers because they think they’ll be taken advantage of, or make the wrong decision with some sort of pretentious framing  designer.  I try to make it as easy and friendly as possible, using only the simplest explanations and making sure everyone understands the whole picture (no pun intended). I also enjoy woodworking with my hands and making a lot of the frames myself.  We hand join most of the frames, sand them down and finish them ourselves. I suppose there’s a certain pride to that.

You're pretty much an Instagram superstar and have IG meet-ups with fellow Instagrammers throughout California, yes? What makes Instagram so special in its outreach and sense of community, support, and creative energy?

I love Instagram because it has helped me rediscover my love of photography and has brought so much positivity to my life.  It started out as fun little picture sharing app, and soon turned into a creative obsession.  It has made me open my eyes to the world and see things a little clearer.  I also notice and appreciate so many more things. Soon after I started using Instagram, I noticed there were these things called instameets, where a bunch of like-minded lovers of photography (and the app in general) would get together and meet each other and explore the city together.  The fact that a social app can actually get people outside to be more creative, socialize, exercise and see more, I think is a true testament to the developers of the app.  I also love to use Instagram as a curator for my work when I have actual exhibitions.  I naturally only post photos I truly love and that resonate well with me.  Instagram helps tell me which ones resonate well with others, thereby allowing me to create a great comprehensive show.

How long have you had Sonny and has he always been such an outstanding model? Describe Sonny's personality and what makes him such an amazing companion.

From the moment I laid my eyes on my dog Sonny and stuck my hand through the bars at the Pasadena Humane Society, I knew he was the dog for us.  That was about 14 years ago when he was only 1 year old.  He is now 15 and still just as cute.  He of course has majorly slowed down over the past year, but he still maintains this playful spirit and nature that keeps me feeling alive too.  

 

When he was a lot more flexible, could hear, and was more athletic, it was easy to get him to run or sit or pose in all the ways I needed him to so I could take pictures of him.  He was always happy to do it too because of the attention it brought him.  There were also a lot of treats nearby too.  He has always been such a good listener and loved having the camera on him.  He especially loved it when I would set the camera up so I could be in the shot with him doing whatever silly or serious thing we needed to do to make a great shot.


Are you a morning person or a night owl?

I’m both a morning person and a night owl.  It all depends on when my creative juices are flowing.  I’ve been known to stay up late continuously working on my own personal writing, editing photographs, or editing my video art that I used to do. Mornings are when my mind and body are freshest, so I like to use that time to run or hike or exercise.  I’d try to trick my body before it totally woke up into doing active things, and it’s been pretty successful so far.

Name your top three favorite contemporary photographers and describe their work using one word.

Nan Goldin  — intimate
Catherine Opie — epic
Todd Hido — mysterious

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What are some of the things that influence you/your work and your aesthetic?

My influences change and stretch all over the place.  I am generally influenced by great philosophers who encourage people to think for themselves. Creatively, I can’t deny that Ed Ruscha has had a profound effect on my work.  His style, with light or object invading entire spaces from a corner, or his effective angles in his photographic documentations of his time in our city of angels. I think I’ve been influenced a lot by Rothko and his blends of color, and the way he might change perceptions of solid blocks of those colors by simply having them intrude into each other.  There are a myriad of filmmakers (Kurosawa, Kubrick, Wes Anderson, Orson Welles, the list goes on and on) and their cinematographer counterparts who have all shaped my vision of the world and the different ways you can present it through a lens.

What is your favorite room in the house and what surprises would we find there?

My favorite room in the house is the living room because it’s the place where all our friends mostly sit and talk and have a good time.  I also love the little office that is my mancave. It’s where all my technical creativity comes through.  The only surprise about the office is that it looks extremely cluttered regardless of the fact my mind is very structured.

If you could have lunch with one famous person, living or dead, who would it be? And where would you dine?

I’d love to have lunch with Paul Rudd or Louis CK. If Hal’s were still around, I’d love to have lunch with them there.  One factor of my personality is deeply rooted in humor.  I think it’s actually one of my driving characteristics.  Both of these actor/comedians have brought so much joy to my life with their dry wit and hilarity.  I always wonder what it’d be like to just sit down with either one of them and see where our conversations would take us.


*Lily Spindle's SHAPERS profiles the people whom we consider to be remarkable movers and shakers, doers and dreamers, trailblazers and big thinkers, the people who are doing things a little bit differently and unconventionally, with immense heart, passion, and authenticity in what they do. Artists, designers, writers, philanthropists, iconoclasts, artisans, heroines, voyagers, and all kinds of extraordinary extraordinaires will be interviewed in our SHAPERS series.