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Tiffany Chung

09 Mar 2021

Text by Tiffany Chung

ØLÅF CITIZENS: Alex Zeta

09 Mar 2021

Alex Zeta is an intuitive creator that transforms emotion and feeling into works of art. In this edition of Citizens, the up-and-coming artist talks to us about how life in Spain, The Netherlands, and the pandemic have shaped his body of work.

 

Hi Alex, you’re the first artist to ever be featured in the new ØLÅF window gallery. Tell us about your installation.

“It’s called ‘Now, but not now, but maybe even never’. It’s inspired by the sadness I felt my first winter in Amsterdam because of the lack of sunlight and the anxious time we are all living in now. It’s a concept called ‘solastalgia’ which describes the anger, anxiety and different feelings you get when your environment is changing around you. So, I created this fountain that combines fabric and liquid representing a kind of fluidity and adaptiveness to change that brings hope and new energy. I also used tanning bed lights to give the feeling of sun and combat the lack of light."

 

Did you always know you wanted to be an artist?

“When I was a child, I used to say to my mother that I would be an architect. But I studied graphic design in Spain and worked in a design school for 4 years as a graphic designer. I decided to quit my job because I needed something else. I was more interested in creative spaces, how objects work in spaces, and creating atmospheres."

 

 

Was the decision to quit and move to Amsterdam easy?

“I thought about going to Berlin first. But I visited some friends in Amsterdam and decided to apply to the Gerrit Rietveld Academie instead. I started contextual design but realized that it wasn’t for me. So, I switched to another department called ‘Design Lab’ that is based on material research. It's very open and very free."

 

How has Spanish culture and Dutch culture influenced you creatively?

“They’re really different. I think there’s something very special and particular to Spain, the atmosphere of the people, and I would like to do something creative with it in the future. In the Netherlands, there are many artists from different countries here so this can inspire and blow your mind."

 

Alex in the studio.

 

Where is your studio?

“In Amsterdam Noord. I'm quite lucky because I literally live in front of my studio which is something that I never thought could happen. It's super cool. It's very important to be in a domain for you to develop your things."

 

 

Do you listen to music while you work?

“Yeah, it depends on how I feel. My work is very intuitive, my methodology is guided by emotions most of the time. I like techno or electronic music when I want to keep my energy up, but sometimes I just need something more pop or relaxing. Sometimes I need silence."

 

You seem to work with ceramics a lot. Do you prefer it?

“It’s funny that you ask that because I think that’s the expectation now but it’s actually because of this situation with Covid. I was not feeling very good, being alone every day, not in the studio. Then, I met some people that were working with ceramics and I thought I’d try to just make something out of nothing. No serious expectations, just fun."

 

Ceramic piece from the future.

Table for tea ceremony.

 

 

That’s how you started your @bufffetbufffetbufffet account?

“Exactly. I made some vases, tiny pieces, and then I decided to make candle holders. Basically, I started to post on Instagram as a way to make some income during Corona. At first, I was afraid to post and wanted to delete it, but then I got many messages from people that liked it. So, I continued to do more and found myself selling candle holders."

 

What do you see yourself doing after school?

“I have no clue. I really want to try to explore more things and see what I can do with it. I want to develop conceptually. I want to move to another city too. When you move to a place, you get new ideas. I love Brussels. I think it's a very good city because I like the flow of the people and I like that it’s a bit dirty. It’s also a very queer city. There are also possibilities for creators, like designers and artists. Then, I’d like to go somewhere else like Mexico."

 

Alex working on the fontain.

‘Now, but not now, but maybe even never’

 

 

For our last question, can you name a person, place and thing that inspires you?

“People on the street inspire me. In Spain, I used to take many photos of people and observe how they are different. The pictures are on my @v_____________i______________p account. To me, these people are real heroes because they might look a bit weird, but I think they are very authentic. They are their true selves no matter what. That’s very cool and I wish more people were like that."

 

“Also, conversations inspire me. I learn more by talking with my friends. Many of my friends are artists, so I can talk with them about work and ask how they see things, or how they express things, or what their process is like. I think it's very powerful to have conversations and get different perspectives."

Tiffany Chung

03 Oct 2021

Text by Tiffany Chung

CiTIZENS: Cynthia Cervantes

03 Oct 2021

From working in educational reform and becoming COO of a high school, to cofounding a creative studio dedicated to celebrating stories of black, indigenous, and communities of color, Cynthia Cervantes has spent much of her career focusing on building a better future for the people around her. In this edition of Citizens, Cynthia tells us about her new city, life as a working parent, and Maroon World, the studio she launched with her husband, Travis Gumbs.

 

Hi Cynthia, tell us how Maroon.World got started.

“It grew out of frustration of having very veiled conversations with clients who wanted a specific look – at that time, everyone was calling it ‘urban content’– but they didn‘t have the language and were not in a position to say what they wanted to say. We wished we could do work that spoke to our own communities in a way that was authentic - made by US for US, so we decided to just do it ourselves. Everything we worked to put out in the world was made specifically for people of color, made by people of color. That’s where it was born from."

 

Do you have any advice for clients on how to have those conversations?

“If you’re a brand, it starts with having a diverse team. Not just bringing in people to fill periphery positions. When we’re at a table and speaking to a creative team, VP, or whoever is in charge of making decisions, those people need to be people of colour. You have to have people representing the audience you’re trying to connect to."

Photography by Travis Gumbs.

Art direction BY Cynthia Cervantes.

 

What are your goals for Maroon.World in the future?

“As time has gone on, we’re trying to diversify the kind of work that we’re doing and spread into other areas. It‘s not just about creating content, we're really thinking about how our ethics and our intentions manifest themselves through our work and day to day lives."

 

What key elements are needed when telling someone’s story visually?

“It starts with intention. What is the intention of what we're trying to relay? What is the intention of the story? In storytelling or stories we were told as children, they always end with ‘the moral of the story is…’ and that’s what we’re looking for. Second, is really understanding who or what it is we’re working with. Then you get a sense of what the imagery is. It’s about becoming inspired by that person's story and finding the nuances that are a part of that."

 

Photograph By Shaniqwa Jarvis.

 

How do you overcome any challenges you face in your work?

“I try not pressure myself to create anything or be creative at all. I just focus on the present and do something that makes me happy like meditate, cook, or spend time with my son. He likes drawing, so we draw together. It helps me get to a place where it feels good to create again."

 

Name a project or accomplishment from your career that you’re most proud of.

“Now that our lives are so different because we have a child and our energy is divided into many different arenas of life, I think differently about my past accomplishments. I am thankful for them, and for the path that has led me to this place in my life, but more than looking backwards at the past, I am more so inspired to think about what my future accomplishments will look like."

Photography by Travis Gumbs.

Art direction BY Cynthia Cervantes.

 

 

Can you share news on any upcoming projects?

“I am very excited about a project my husband has been working on for almost two years now. It‘s an extension of the work we’ve done together, specifically in regards to honouring our cultures and ancestral knowledge. It’s called Medicinal Plant Index. It’s an herbal supplement line and resource guide for medicinal plants. It’s going to launch at the end of the year. We’re currently working on building out the resource guide, which explores traditional uses of herbs, documents the people that have been working to cultivate medicinal plants , and provides an understanding of how herbs can be incorporated into our daily lives."

 

You work with your husband a lot. Has parenthood affected the way you work together creatively?

“Parenthood has exposed very specific parts of our partnership that are very strong and that we rely on daily in order to make it through the day. We often talk about the fact that because we’ve known each other for so long and have worked under extremely difficult circumstances professionally, our transition to parenthood has been really interesting and fun. I think it has also made us reevaluate where is it that we really feel is important that we show up for each other."

 

 

Okay, let's play a ‘this or that’ game. New York or Mexico City, which do you prefer for food?

“Mexico City. Hands down. We don’t eat gluten and we eat a mostly plant-based diet, so the food in Mexico City is next level - you can just spend every single day eating your way through the city."

 

What about a night out?

“New York! A lot of my friends are in nightlife so it’s always just a cute vibe. Also, there's such an incredible mix of people and cultures."

 

Which city do you prefer for art?

“That‘s really hard. I‘m going to say a tie. New York and Mexico City are so inspiring in such different ways. Both places really push you to want to make work, but I think the vibe is so different in each place. I think Mexico City is much more experimental."

 

Last one, New York or Mexico City for style?

“That’s so hard. They're so different! For me, in Mexico City, the best style is found on people you pass on the street, who aren’t necessarily in the fashion or art world. In New York, the looks I find most incredible or inspiring are usually on people who are in the scene."

 

In Mexico City with fam.

 

Can you describe how your own personal style has evolved?

“It’s been a journey! I definitely had my ‘fashion girl’ moment - a mushroom haircut with shaved sides and COMME des GARÇONS silhouettes. Now, I'm definitely giving off 'on-duty' mom vibes hahaha. It’s more about being comfortable because I am so active. Can I sit on the floor and play? Can I run to the store and grab something? It's pushing towards more classic, I think. I'm heading into like a more simple phase for sure."

 

Name a person, place, and thing that inspires you.

“I am forever inspired by my grandmother, Ofelia Alvarez. I have her picture hanging by my desk and whenever I feel anxious or depleted I look to her for inspiration and for encouragement to push through. She was such an incredible human being, and she would always make sure I knew how proud of me she was and how much she loved me. Everything about her inspires me – her fierce and profound love for her family, her tireless work ethic, her style – everything!"

 

“A place that inspires me is Mexico City. I love being here. I love walking around the streets. I love hearing music. I love hearing Spanish all day. I love hearing parents talk to their children. I love everything about being here. There's nothing like it."

 

“The other truly inspiring driving force in my life is my son, Tenoch. He inspires me every day to be a good person and to live the kind of life that I hope he will emulate and take to the next level. I just want to create a life experience for him that is so full, rich, and undeniably full of love."