Yay! We're back with more ORIGINS posts this week. First up, we're chatting with one of our newest house artists Maia Leppo. Based out of Chicago, Maia creates sculptural oxidized stainless steel pieces that hit us right in our little #allthingsblack soft spot.
C9: Why do you make art?
ML: Part of me makes art for the more traditional reasons, the opportunity to express myself artistically and use my hands. But another part of me is fascinated by the fact that as I am working on a specific piece, in the midst of it, whether in the design phase for a new pair of production earrings, or the construction of a new one of a kind necklace, I am so immersed in the piece. I think about it before I go to bed, when I wake up, when I am out for a run. Trying to work out any kinks, solve any problems I am running into. Eventually it comes together. I create the final design for the pair of earrings and they go into production. The necklace is completed and is sent to a gallery or customer. I have to transition from this totally attached feeling towards the piece and then become completely unattached. But I love the fact that these pieces (hopefully) go to people who are now attached to the piece, wear it, use it, show it off.
C9: What themes are in your current work:
ML: While in graduate school I became very interested in the idea of improvement. I conducted research and became interested in the work of ethicists Ingmar Persson and Julian Savulescu. I feel that the modern era can be characterized as a constant stream of updates and upgrades — new tools, hardware upgrades and software updates. Medical science has progressed to be able to treat and cure on the molecular/genetic level. Persson and Savulescu have questioned the moral imperative to change and improve. In this era of constant, so-called improvements, what are we looking for? How can we define success and who is qualified to do so? Is there a point at which our improvements ultimately become a hindrance? These questions have prompted my own exploration of new possibilities for natural motifs in body adornment. I also question how much modification is too much, and what will the consequences be? These are the questions running through my head while working at my bench.
C9: How has your work changed over time?
ML: On the most superficial level, a few years ago I transitioned from using steel wire, to almost exclusively steel sheet. Once I made this shift, I felt like I was able to put more of my voice and aesthetic into the work. It was the first time that I could look at my work and say, "yeah, thats me."
C9: Best piece of advice you have gotten?
ML: As cheesy as this is, someone showed me this quote when I was just getting started and it has always stuck with me:
“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”