Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Lizette Greco Interview

Lizette Greco is truly original and inspiring. She has participated in Plush You! for the last two shows and I am very happy she wants to go for another round. What makes her work so fantastic is that it is all based on children's art, primarily provided by her own children. To be honest, I would be suprised if anyone reading this blog is unaware of who she is. Her work is obviously made with love, her craftmanship is amazing and all the details involved makes each piece special. If you purchase a piece from Lizette, it is accompanied by a copy of the art it was designed from. Who in the world does not love children's art? It's creative, imaginative and clever. Children are very smart and I am so happy that people like Lizette exist in this world. You can visit her flickr account to see all the work she has done. It truly is inspiring to all. Thanks so much to Lizette for taking the time to answer some questions regarding her and her work. Enjoy!

S-First off, I love the concept behind your work. What is the background behind doing toys based on children’s art?

LG-I was making birthday presents for friends and family. After a few of my own illustrations appliqued on bags and totes, I turned to the kids drawings because I wanted to make something more personal from our kids to their friends. My husband suggested that I try to turn the same drawings into plush toys and the rest is history.

S-I LOVE kids art. It’s really imaginative. Have you always been a big fan of children’s art? Or did it evolve more once you had your kids?

LG-I have always loved kids drawings, but when I had my own kids I turned into a fanatic. Now I have boxes filled with years of scribbles, drawings, and stories. It sounds silly, but it seems we have saved everything the kids have drawn. One of my favorites is a drawing my daughter made when she was three. On the back of the drawing I wrote down the story she narrated to me at the time. Once you read it, you can actually see the tree in what perviously looked like a brown spot, or the towel rack in a simple line across the page.

S-Since discovering your work, it seems to have grown into a lot of different facets and collaborations. Has that been a natural process or something you have worked towards?

LG-As I gained confidence in my sewing skills we've tried bigger and more challenging figures, evolutions of drawings and characters. We've also tried all kinds of fabrics and materials and now only use fabrics and pieces of clothing from thrift shops, yard sales, flea markets, rummage sales and some (that might be new) from trades through Flickr. Also, it has always been a collaboration between my children and my husband and me. It seemed natural for us after trying different types of objects (bags and totes for friends, costumes, baby shower gifts) to spend more time makings soft toys. Now we make them for toy shows and art exhibits.

S-It looks like you are also doing custom work. How much custom work are you doing these days?

LG-Most of my custom pieces are for family and friends. I ask my friends to give me one of their child's drawings so I can make a personalized present for them. Recently, I have turned down some requests from other artists/illustrators to sew their prototypes and some wholesale requests in order to keep making our one-of-a-kind creations that people love.

S-What has been your toughest learning lesson as an artist and businessperson?

LG-I gave myself time to become an artist, making mistakes and learning from them, trying new techniques and enjoying the results. Sometimes it's frustrating, more times is rewarding. I also don't like to call what I do a "business" because we put so much care into each soft toy we make. We look forward to telling a story and see/read people's reactions. If I had to choose between making art enjoying it or mass producing things that would sell, I think I would stop enjoying what
I do. Each piece is made with so much care that I'm usually happy if it doesn't sell right away and stays with us for a little longer before it heads off to a new home. I'm sad to see some pieces go (sell) but I also love to see the faces of the people who buy them. I'm in the stage of wanting to share what we do and what my kids draw because we love it so. That makes me a bad business person I guess.

S-Probably attributing to the fact that you are making toys designed by children, all your work seems to have a life of it’s own. Have you thought about doing a book or something with more stories around all these amazing creatures?

LG-I would love to make story books using our softies in dioramas. Our kids often create mini story books or magazines to accompany the pieces we make. I would love to explore more into the narratives our kids make when they play with toys. I often stop and listen to what they chat about and like to hear their point of view on a wide variety of issues. Kids are very insightful and remind you of little things you oversee or forget about in your daily busy lives.

S-Not only are your creations beautiful and creative but also your photos are awesome. Bringing even more life to the work. How much thought do you put into this part?

LG-I put a lot of sweat and tears into photographing our pieces. Just kidding. It has been somewhat hard to learn and I'm still learning about light and backgrounds and composition, etc. Each piece has a title and sometimes a story and we try to put all that into the photographs. It's challenging, and we're not always happy with the results, but we keep learning.

S-Do you have a background in art and sewing?

LG-My electives in college included paper and book making, different printing techniques, and sculpture. That is my art background. In terms of sewing, my grandfather used to sell sewing machines and I inherited an old Singer where I used to mend clothes. Several family members knit and sew clothing and I grew up watching and learning from them. Ultimately, knowing the sewing basics I taught myself to sew stuffed toys, but it is my husband who taught me to adapt drawings into a three dimensional form. I rely on his help with most projects. He is a very good designer and builder of things and we work as a team.

S-Your kids are so lucky to have you. Not only do you do amazing stuffed versions of their drawings but also you have made them some really awesome costumes. They really are amazing. Have you thought of venturing more into that at all?

LG-We look forward to Halloween and creating fun costumes for our kids. This is a very time-consuming process and planning ahead doesn't always help as their interests often change. I think I'd like to do costumes, props, and backgrounds for a theater, film, or something similar in the future.

S-You seem to be an old hat at shows such as Plush You! Any advice to those those are too shy or intimidated to apply to such showcases?

LG-If you are new, and apply, and don't get into a show, that means that you have more time to work on your craft/art. That's a comfortable way to approach shows. The more time you spend working on your techniques the better you get a it. Then you can go into a show to get the public's feedback but you can also get feedback from Flickr viewers. Flickr is great that way: it helps you build up your portfolio by posting pictures of your work as it develops.

However, create for yourself, not for what you think others will like. At the end of the day, no one wants to be rejected for a show, but I think that's better than creating something that doesn't come from the heart. Besides, there's usually nothing to lose in applying, but only regret to gain by not doing so.

S-Future plans for yourself you would like to share with us?

LG-We are working on a few ideas for gallery exhibits. We'd love to have our own show and fill a whole room with our work. We would also like to travel. How about a traveling exhibit? We are ready for requests and open to suggestions.


lookwhaticando said...

I am in LOve with Lizette Greco's work. I loved this interview!!!

Tracy said...

huge fant of lizette! great interview!