Tag Archives: Creative Process

Artist Feature: Stella van Lieshout

Stella van Lieshout

Sometimes writing is a way of making sense of the world as I experience it. But my writing is also meant as a ‘conversation’. Meaning is created partly through the eyes of the reader or the audience and my work doesn’t try to show the truth, but can contain many.

– Stella van Lieshout

Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?

SvL: My name is Stella van Lieshout. I grew up in a small town near the coast in the Netherlands, lived in London for a year in 2012/2013, spent 3 months living in Kathmandu and currently I’m preparing to go to Malta for two months as a writer-in-residence.

What does Reflection and Response mean to you?

 SvL: To me, reflection and response are extremely important during the writing process and even after the play is finished. I write alone and preferably night after night, but there are always several moments where I discuss the play or story with different people from different backgrounds to sharpen my thoughts and get valuable feedback to make it even better. The best ideas are often created with more than one mind.

Staging the play after writing is continuously reflecting and responding as new ideas and thoughts emerge from the minds of the director, actors and designers and through working with the material itself. And these connections are extremely valuable and can teach you a lot of new things.

Reflection also means hiking. I’ve walked a couple of long-distance paths and for me it is a way of processing experiences and reflecting upon them, while discussing with myself along the way.

 How does your work fit in with that definition?

 SvL: I write a lot about people who feel stuck and lost or are trying to find a sense of belonging. My characters usually have strong beliefs and dare to question. Through these characters I can reflect on life and respond to issues that are important to me from different points of view. Sometimes writing is a way of making sense of the world as I experience it.

But my writing is also meant as a ‘conversation’. Meaning is created partly through the eyes of the reader or the audience and my work doesn’t try to show the truth, but can contain many.

What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next?

SvL: The last play I wrote (and directed) was a play for a group of young actors (19-24) in Kathmandu, titled “+2, The School of Life”. In the play, a group of friends forms ‘The School of Life’. It’s a secret society where they learn everything they find important to life, but don’t learn in school. The play was written in English and then translated and performed in Nepali, an amazing experience.

Fragment from “+2, The School of Life”, 2014


The Narrator walks up on stage and comes really close to the audience. In the back, THE BOY and THE GIRL dance, without touching each other.


In the last few months there were so many cups of tea
That even I lost track of time
She had been afraid to let him know
that she had been following him
He was afraid to tell her what he was doing
And so they spoke about all and more,
but never about the School of Life.
It was something that slept between their dreams
So they could never be close enough
Until today…

THE GIRL AND THE BOY have stopped dancing. She looks very serious.

THE GIRL:                   I want in
THE BOY:                   You can’t
THE GIRL:                   Do you want people to find out?
THE BOY:                   You wouldn’t
THE GIRL:                   Wouldn’t I?
THE BOY:                   You don’t even know what it is we are doing
THE GIRL:                   I know nobody is allowed to know.
That should be enough

THE BOY:                   You have nothing. No proof.
Besides, It’s not like we’re doing anything illegal
THE GIRL:                   You call it the School of Life
And you really believe nobody will be mad?
That they just allow you to think, dance and speak out loud?
And in the middle of the night…You must be joking!
THE BOY:                   Can’t you just leave it?
THE GIRL:                   I want in
THE BOY:                   No girls allowed
THE GIRL:                   Girls are also a part of life
THE BOY:                   You got me there
THE GIRL:                   You have no reason not to let me in
THE BOY:                   Can you dance?
THE GIRL:                   I think so
THE BOY:                   Where is Paris?
THE GIRL:                   In Europe. France. Too far away.
THE BOY:                   What do you dream of?
THE GIRL                    Doing the impossible
THE BOY:                   All right. Can’t say no to that.
Guess you’re in.
THE GIRL:                   Guess I am
THE BOY:                   See you tonight
Bring your dancing shoes
THE GIRL:                   I will.

Girl turns around, ready to walk away.

THE BOY:                   Wait! You need to go to…

The girl turns back again and looks at him

THE GIRL:                   I know where you’re hiding

Currently I’m working on a play about six people surviving death after ‘the others’ burned down their town. In June and July I’ll write a new play as a writer-in-residence for a theater – Teatru Salesjan – in Malta, where we’re looking beyond the borders of culture and writing. I’m very excited to see what comes out of that project.

Who or what inspires you?

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Artist Feature: Wax Roof

We met music producer Wax Roof through our homie and fellow LIFESTYLE collective member Mike Summer. Originally from Santa Cruz and now living in Oakland, Wax Roof discusses the importance of personal experience when listening to music and the unique connections each of us have with different sonic textures. He stays busy putting out solo instrumental records while also working on upcoming collaborative projects with vocalist Genoa Brown and MC Marc Stretch. Peep his words below and check out some tunes from an ill Bay Area beatsmith!

Wax Roof

Your taste and receptiveness to certain sonic textures are the product of a lifetime of experiences, musical and non-musical. No one can take that from you.

– Wax Roof

Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?

WR: I am originally from Santa Cruz, and now live in Oakland. I grew up in the Santa Cruz Mountains before going to high school and college in Santa Cruz and finally working and living in the Bay Area. So the migration has gone woods, to the beach, to the town.

What does Reflection and Response mean to you?

WR: Well that’s a really hard question, isn’t it? I mean those are two aspects of existence that are so vast and personal I am not really doing them any justice trying to define them in a cute one liner. I think they mean more than I can ever fully understand, but put simply to reflect is to try to find meaning, and to respond is to try to do something meaningful.

Wax Roof

How does Wax Roof fit in with that definition?

WR: Wax Roof is the ever evolving sum of my journey through the cycle of reflecting and responding to life and the music I witness within it.

Your taste and receptiveness to certain sonic textures are the product of a lifetime of experiences, musical and non-musical. No one can take that from you. It is very unique and in the same way that you search for identity and a sense of happiness [it] is sought through REFLECTION and RESPONSE, so goes your pursuit of music that moves you. Everyone should take pride in their musical taste, whatever it may be, because it is something YOU have created. Wax Roof is the by-product of my taste as a fan for music, who also has the means to create their own.

We are never passively observing culture, we are always creating culture simply by internalizing that which we witness.

What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next?

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Artist Feature: Naïmah

I had the good pleasure of meeting Naïmah at a local coffeehouse in Greenpoint, Brooklyn a couple weeks ago. A Washington D.C.-based singer-songwriter, Naïmah is currently working on her own EP, writing songs for a handful of other artists, and playing shows in the DC and New York areas. We’re happy to welcome her to the Collective as she discusses her understanding and application of Reflection and Response, the creative process behind her song Wolf and I, and various other topics. We’re looking forward to a lot more dope work from Naïmah in the months and years ahead! Check out the dialogue below.


Support each other. I’ve witnessed too much animosity in the art world, especially jealousy-driven. Everyone has their own gift, their own individual way of looking at something, and at the end of the day, no one can replicate that.

– Naïmah

Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?

N: I’m from Washington, D.C., and after going to boarding school in Boston, and college at USC in Los Angeles, I’ve made my way back to the District. A bit surprising to some, as I’m emanating those California vibes “for sure”, but it’s nice to be home and planting my roots and growing where I first got started.

What does Reflection and Response mean to you?

N: Within the harmony of those two actions I find the creative process at its best.  The thing about art as I see it, or at least how I approach my music, is that it is always a response to a reflection on a moment, a person, a feeling, and so on.

Whether I realize something is on my mind or not, songwriting helps me navigate through that process of reflection, and to figure out just how much that subject meant—or means—to me.  Each song is me saying, “This is my response about X. This is how I feel.”

And the incredible part is when that individual reflection and response, my response, captures the way someone else might also feel in their own reflection, or to allow them to see their feelings in a new light.

It’s hard to make this intangible transaction into a tangible explanation, but I hope that all makes sense.

How does ‘Wolf and I’ fit in with that definition? 

N: It doesn’t get more “reflection and response” than in Wolf and I. Well, it does, but prior to writing the song I’d been in a phase of day-dreaming and imagining and writing songs based on these scenes I made up when, after a trip to New York, I was headed back home on the bus, feverishly free-writing in my notes on my iPhone (let me say how restrictive auto-correct and that little screen is) as I attempted to capture how I felt about the events that had just occurred, and all the moments and experiences making up my relationship with this particular person and situation.

Wolf and I is a love song in its most basic interpretation, but I think the fact that it’s really so much more than that below the surface is why people have been able to connect with it. It’s about perception, the way you look at something, the good and the bad all at once.

Wolf is a simile I used to describe someone and something both close and distant, endearing, and in the process of change; and Wolf and I was my reflection, my attempt to articulate, all these thoughts in some kind of compact organization that I could store them in.

Since writing the song, I’ve opened back up to the realization of how important reflection and response is, and how my songs come to life when they are created in this frame of mind.

Photo by Alexandra Howland

Photo by Alexandra Howland

What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next?

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Artist Feature: David Bornstein

Songwriter David Bornstein comes at us straight out of Madrid via New Hampshire. We got a chance to catch up with him in Madrid after a performance at Café la Palma, and he brings us some inspiring Reflection & Response below. Exploring themes around his music and independent creative processes, David lets us know what’s good from the mind of an active creator establishing his own lane. Peep the dialogue below and catch his group PATIENT 108 live in Madrid this Saturday!

David Bornstein

I believe music has the power and place in society to create awareness and make people think and question the world in which we live. Candor is the key.

– David Bornstein

Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?

DB: I spent most of my life in Durham, New Hampshire. I went to the school district and then after traveling/working majored in history with a dual major in International Affairs.

I didn’t really start playing the guitar or writing songs until after I graduated high school, but slowly and surely it became a part of me. After I graduated from U.N.H I came to Spain to work on a music project with an old friend fusing original alternative rock with the technicality of flamenco guitar. After many a trial and tribulation and multiple attempts at making the project work I found it necessary to cut the cord and move on. When people ask me what I’m doing in Madrid, I can´t help but remember that I originally came here to work on that project. In the end, Madrid has been the place where I learned to find myself and grow as an artist. That’s something I find more important than any song or work alone.

Shortly after the project ended I started playing solo gigs and organizing shows with other musicians at bars and pubs around Madrid. During this time I focused on improving my abilities on the guitar and developing a more percussive sound to emphasize rhythm.

Right now I’m playing with my newly formed band PATIENT 108.  Kester Jones (electric guitar) hails from England, Xabier Aquino (bass) is from Mexico, and Q (drums) has an identity crisis. They’re all phenomenal musicians and a pleasure to work with. We released our first, 5 song EP, Preacher’s Got The Gun,  in October 2013.  You can stream or download that album here:  http://patient108.bandcamp.com.

Our next show is February 1st, so be sure to come if you live in Madrid!! Details below.

What does Reflection and Response mean to you?

DB: To me the ultimate test of good music is candor. If music, any type of music, comes from someplace honest and earnest with love or passion, then the result will be something naturalunforced, and unique. There are no rules or genres to this, it’s just something I feel when I hear something.

Music doesn’t have to have a message or exactly mean anything at all to be earnest, but I try to write songs that say something or raise questions I think are important without giving any exact answer. I’ve become interested in working on songs with themes of human nature, war, identity, and illusion. I spend time reflecting on these issues not only as objects to be studied apart from myself, but as an inward study of self inquiry. The end result is a response; a social commentary, and a reflection of society which ultimately serves to express my individual experience and perception. I believe music has the power and place in society to create awareness and make people think and question the world in which we live. Candor is the key.

How does your work fit in with that definition?

DB: Each of the three songs I’ve included deal with themes mentioned above in their own particular way. I don’t like to say too much about a song, allowing instead for each listener to reflect and respond to them in their own way.

Child of War explores humanity’s  relationship with war, progress, civilization, murder and denial.

Transmigration deals with identity, temporality, and the interconnected nature of all things.

Right Gun looks at power structures in the U.S. and how we are used as weapons against ourselves.

What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next?

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Artist Feature: Javier Blanco

El estudio de Javier Blanco se encuentra en una calle estrecha empedrada en el Barrio Gótico en Barcelona, un barrio histórico y energético. Andabamos en el barrio un día durante nuestro viaje a España el verano pasado cuando encontramos el estudio/tienda/taller en el que se ve las varias obras y piezas en escultura, dibujo, y diseño gráfico del artista. Después de una charla inicial optimista en su espacio llena de bienvenida, volvimos unos días después para hablar más con Javier de Reflexión y Respuesta, su trabajo, y las experiencias de su vida. Nos sentamos en el cuarto interior y la discusión resultante, que se presenta debajo, muestra su perspectiva reveladora acera del arte y interacciones interpersonales.

Javier Blanco’s art studio is located on a quiet, narrow cobblestone street in the historic and energetic Gothic district in Barcelona. We were walking through the neighborhood one day while traveling through Spain this past summer, and came across Javier’s studio/shop/workspace featuring his various creative works in sculpture, drawing, and graphic design. After a great initial conversation in his welcoming space, we came back a few days later to talk further about Reflection and Response and Javier’s work and life experiences. We sat down in Javier’s office in the back room of the space and the ensuing dialogue, recorded below, showcases this artist’s engaging and enlightening perspectives on the arts and interpersonal interactions.

Javier Blanco

Para mi el arte desde principio es una forma de reflexionar. Hay una frase en el catalá que es “hago mi obra porque me ayuda a pensar a sentir a entender el mundo en el que vivo.” Es una manera de entender. La ciencia formaliza el conocimiento mediante una formulación matemática. El arte lo formaliza mediante una forma estética pero es conocimiento en definitiva. En este proceso de crear esculturas es en el que de alguna manera voy reflexionando acerca de como entiendo el mundo como entiendo las diferentes cosas, no solo el mundo también las relaciones interpersonales.

For me, art is, at its core, a form of reflection. There’s a phrase in Catalan that says: “I make my work because it helps me think, feel, and understand the world in which I live.” Art is a form of understanding. Science formalizes knowledge by means of mathematic formulas. Art formalizes aesthetic forms, but this is knowledge, by definition. The process of creating sculpture involves some form of reflecting on how I understand the world, how I understand different things – not just the world, but my relationships with other people.

– Javier Blanco

Para empezar con algunos puntos básicos, de dónde vienes? Dónde estás?
Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?

JB: ¿De donde vengo físicamente o de dónde vengo emocionalmente?

JB: Where I come from physically or emotionally?

Los dos.


JB: Yo nací en Barcelona y sigo en Barcelona. Bueno he vivido en Canadá en Toronto pero durante un año académico pero mayormente  (he vivido) vivo siempre en Barcelona. En principio empecé a hacer cosas así a un nivel artístico ya a partir de 20 años cuando por un casual fui a una escuela de diseño y arte y bueno me pusieron a dibujar y en el primer dibujo que hice dije joder eso es lo mío y hasta entonces había sido muy mal estudiante. A partir de ahí me apunte a bellas artes, estudie bellas artes paralelamente hice aquí un diseño para la escuela en que utilizaba el vidrio. Contacte con el socio amigo de un tío mío que trabaja vidrio – mi tío tenía un taller de vidrio – para poder hacer esta pieza que había yo diseñado. Entonces me asisteron me ayudaron a hacerla y me dieron el contacto de la escuela de vidro donde fui y estuve haciendo los estudios de vidrio parallelmente a los estudios de bellas artes y la especialidad de escutula. La misma escuela de vidrio me dio una beca para estar un año en Canadá en una escuela en el Sheridan College hacieno el programa de diseño y arte en vidrio y a la vuelta estuve trabajando un tiempo en la escula de aqui, preparando y haciendo los talleres de fotografía y también luego de professor de esutula de vidro y de diseño en vidrio.

Con lo cual mi trayectoria siempre ha sido el trabajo del arte y en concreto escrutura del vidrio pero ahi si que es verdad que es donde un poco esta mi dualidad o no un tema en el sentido en que hasta que punto me considero o me consideran artista en vidrio siempre de alguna manera para mi por más que he trabajo mucho con él y en principio conozco y entiendo bien casi toda su técnicas no todas y no deja de ser un material es un material como hay otros. Entonces a la hora de hacer arte lo trato como tal. Cuando me interesa el vidrio como material lo uso, cuando me interesa otro material uso otro material. No me considero artista en vidrio porque no necesito que mi arte se exprese en vidrio. Se puede expresar y de hecho se representó durante tiempo en todo tipo de material contanto pues con como un color de la palta un pintor usa.

Para mi cada material tiene una personalidad propia y evidentemente está diciendo una cosa no concreta pero si está surgiendo con la cual el significado de una pieza por el hecho de ser un material o una mezcla de materiales es uno u otro. En este sentio me limito, si quiero hacer solo vidrio me limito. Las  piezas que son en vidro son las que llamaron major más la atención. De tal manera que por parte de interioristas, de arquitectos , este trabajo en vidrio es lo que de alguna manera me han venido a reclamar mayormente y el estudio mio que es de arte y vidrio durante bastantes años estaba dedicado bastante a hacer encargos para casas particulares para organismos oficiales para diferentes sitios así como incluso trofeos, no sé hay una lista de clientes. En el que normalmente me han venido a buscar es la facultad de vidrio. Quiero decir con eso que yo utilizo muchos materiales pero profesionalmente quizá se me busca en esta faceta de vidrio más que en otras. Doy que actualmente eso durante los últimos dos o tres años ha cambiado y los 10 años anteriores estaba haciendo especialmente encargos de vidrio.

Actualmente no es tan asi sino que estos encargos para arquitectura para el interiorismo han bajado mucho y me han dejado la oportunidad de empezar otra vez de volver otra vez hacer piezas más personales digamos con lo cual me estoy dedicando últimamente más a hacer piezas quizás de pequeño formato quizá más fáciles de asumir porque me interesa que el estudio sea más dinámico yo como un punto de interés que tanto en vidro como no en vidrio siempre he tenido este hecho de llegar al público. No me interesa excesivamente el arte como objeto elitista sino que me interesan mucho los procesos de poder llegar a todo el mundo. Por lo tanto como es escultura ya iniciada la acción no es escultura interactiva donde quizá no era necesario comprarla por parte del público porque no tenía necesidad, pero si que me interesaba que el público participase y me gusta la idea de que el público en esta escultura se exprease se disfrustase jugase con ella incluso los niños hacían cola para subirse pueden subir en ella. Esto ha ido variando y actualmente loresuelvoo de otra manera. Lo resulevo mediante el diseño de manera que el arte se funde en esta pieza que utilizas y lo resuelvo también mediante la pequena pieza de diseño escultura, diseño muy personal que es más fácil por parte de todo el mundo de poder comprar de manera que si me interesa que no solo una elite pueda comprarlo.

JB: I was born in Barcelona and I still live in Barcelona. I studied in Toronto, Canada for a year, but for the most part I’ve always lived in Barcelona. I started working on my own artistic projects when I was 20 years old, when, by chance, I was attending an art and design school. They put me in a drawing class, and after I made my first drawing I realized “wow, this is me!” – up until that point I had been a really bad student. From then on, I registered for fine arts classes, and studied fine arts while also producing a design for my school, using glass as my medium. I got in touch with my uncle’s business partner who worked with glass – my uncle had a glass workshop – in order to be able to make this piece that I had designed. So they helped me make the piece and they gave me the contact information for a glass art school where I went to study glass work, alongside my studies in fine arts and sculpture. The glass art school gave me a scholarship to study in Canada in a glass art and design program at Sheridan College, and when I returned to Spain, I worked for a while in the school here preparing and facilitating photography workshops and, later, working as a professor of glass sculpture and design.

Thus, my trajectory had always been working with art, specifically glass sculpture, but the truth is that I encounter this duality in the sense that where do I consider myself – or am I considered an artist – working in glass, and though as much as I’ve always been involved with glass in some form or another and understand the vast majority of glass techniques, it remains one material, an art material as any other. So when it’s time to make art, I treat it as such. When glass sparks my interest as a medium, I use it, or when other materials spark my interest, I use other materials. I don’t consider myself a “glass artist” because I don’t need my art to be expressed only through glass. It can be expressed and represented through all types of materials, as with the various colors on a painter’s palette.

For me, every medium has its own personality and conveys something non-specific, but suggests something and the meaning of a piece can be based on the fact that piece is made from one material or another. In this sense, I would limit myself if I only worked with glass. Glass pieces have become my most popular. This glass work is what has drawn interior designers and architects to my work, and for many years, I dedicated most of my art and glass working studio to producing commissioned work for specific houses, organizations, or various other sites – there were a lot of different clients. What they would usually seek me out for was glass work. What I mean by all this is that I work with many different mediums but professionally I’m known more for glass work than anything else. Granted, this has changed a bit during the last two or three years, but for 10 years prior to that, I was primarily producing commissioned glass sculptures.

Right now, I have fewer commissions for interior design or architecture projects, which has given me the opportunity to get back to creating more personal pieces that I’m ultimately dedicated to, creating pieces that might be on a smaller scale, or might be easier to take on because it’s important to me that my studio is dynamic. I’ve tried to make it a point to work as much with glass as with other materials, always with the goal of reaching an audience. I am not particularly interested in art as an object of the elite, instead what attracts me are the various ways to access the world [through art]. As far as this [one specific] project is concerned, because the sculpture had already begun, it’s not an interactive sculpture that I needed to market to the public – instead, I was hoping that audience participation would lead to public expression and enjoyment, and kids even lined up to play on the piece. I explored this theme and now I deal with audience participation in another way. I now focus on participation by making pieces that aim for public interaction and use and I aim to connect with a wide audience through small design pieces, which makes them easier to consume for a greater number of people – which is the whole point of making art accessible beyond the elite.

Blanco Studio Arts and Glass (Barcelona, Spain)

¿Qué quiere decir “relfexión y respuesta,” y cómo se mete esto en tu arte?

What does Reflection and Response mean to you, and how do you locate those ideas in your art and sculpture?

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