You may be familiar with Allison Kunath from our Art Blossom feature some time last year. She has since grown as an artist and as a person and now has ventured into the world of fashion. She is currently amidst the launch of her first garment, a dress. Allison has never gone to fashion school and doesn’t really know much about fashion or retail so it seems like a pretty big jump. After speaking her we get the impression, that she knows what she is doing, at least in some instinctual way. Citizens Of Culture wondered if this was not as much of a departure as it initially seemed.
Citizens Of Culture:
So, how did you get into this project?
Allison: I was the kind of person that never really got a compliment on what I wore, then I wore the dress and people were telling me they liked it. So that was a big difference to have never gotten a single fashion compliment and then for it to be about something that I made. I am such a maker that I thought “I could make these for other people too.” So I started making them on a custom order basis.
COC: So then you decided to start a business?
AK: It was originally something that was supposed to be super simple and was going to die because I was getting really frustrated making them all by hand. It became work and the process became tedious because I wanted to make them better than the ones I made for myself because people were paying for them.
COC: Why didn’t you just stop, it seems like you are going in the opposite direction?
AK: A friend of mine who had seen me wear them and appreciates it,just got on my ass about it and was asking me, “What are you doing?!” It seemed like a crazy idea but what is that saying to the universe if I have this thing that could pay the rent and let’s me paint.
COC: Did you decide to get a manufacturer immediately after realizing that you wanted to move forward?
AK: No, but making them myself became un-fun really quick. I like the design process and making them for my self but after about dress five it was just filling an order. I never do the same piece twice, I would never paint an exact replica of a work I had already done.
COC: So this is a way to have the art live on for people without you having to replicate it over and over again..
AK: Yes but also for quality, so that I know that manufacturing matches the design and matches the way a woman will feel when she wears it. One of my customers has called it a “Goddess Dress”.That is a big part of why I am doing it,when people put it on I know they are going to feel very good.
COC: Tell me about that feeling…
AK: The design is very basic and understated but it has a sort of regal feeling. You slip it on and you feel elegant like a queen. The dress accentuates there really beautiful parts of your body like, your shoulders, and neck, and back. Its female empowerment. Here I am trying to convince myself how beautiful and regal I am and if there is a garment that can do that for others that is pretty awesome.
COC: Amazing. Now that you have decided to move forward how are you going to proceed.
AK: I am playing it by ear, I am going to sell them on my site and try to approach a few boutiques but that is where the fear lies. I have no knowledge about the fashion industry. Its scary to jump to into a world where I don’t know what to say to get them in the door. At first I was just to scared to wrap my head around the business part to even get the dresses picked up on time.
COC: How do you feel about it now, looking back?
AK: I don’t regret it, it is all perfect timing, but in theory had I pushed through it. I could have maybe been on my third round of dresses by now. So it is just a lesson in where my strengths and weaknesses are.
COC: What is the risk here versus how you sell your art?
AK: There is no solicitation with my art. People come up and they buy it because they want to. With the dress the rejection is more apparent. It is me needing to broadcast yourself.
COC: How long has it been since you made the first one?
AK: I made the first one for the client the Summer of 2012. I made one for myself the winter prior to that.
COC: When did you decide to go into production or when did you place the order?
AK: I started the pattern-making and buying fabric in June, and I just received them today.
COC: So what is the feeling like to have something that you designed made by someone else?
AK: It feels really good, it also feels amazing to have a quality that is better than what I could have done by myself.
COC: Going back to this feeling and the intent of the dress, how did you come to create it? Is there a central message?
AK: Well I find that there was a theme during the time I created the dress. I was working on a series where I was putting my face on queens from different regions and periods in history. I was surrounded by all these strong beautiful women, and I made this dress. I realized I was making art in all forms to instill confidence in me and find my beauty and pride in my own womanhood as a queen. It all makes you stand taller and convincing myself how beautiful I am. It was so sub-conscious it was really telling.
COC: So you have overcome some of that fear in selling the dress and along with creating the dress created more confidence in yourself. That is kind of prolific.
AK: Yes I realized that there is a really fine line between me, the person that is terrified of moving forward and the me, the person who is paying their rent with their art. It is still scary but it is very simple to take the first step. You just have to just go for it, and forget the rules about what you can and can’t do.
COC: Is there anything else you have imagined that seems far off now but could be possible?
AK: I thing a creative recreation center is an amazing idea, and I think jewelry design would be nice. I am going to be doing my first mural in a museum this spring, and I have never done a mural before.
Allison, has created a garment out of a need to send her self a message of empowerment and recognition of her own beauty. She then, shared that garment by wearing it and received positive feed back on that creation from the people that it resonated with. Now she is making a business behind sharing that feeling for others that need to feel it. There is no other technology capable of sharing feelings so accurately as art. There is no other feeling so worth sharing as the one you hope to feel yourself, as it comes from a genuine place.
This is the true purpose and calling of art, and commerce created in away that truly benefits our culture.
Reach inside yourself, find something worth sharing, and do exactly that. What follows may surprise, you, it may, challenge you, and facing that challenge will help you grow. That growth echoes through your community and collectively we all do.
Thank you Allison, for sharing yourself, and your work. And thank you again for letting us watch you grow.
Los Angeles, is a city often shrouded by the stigma of the entertainment industry. It is seen as a superficial place devoid of community and soul. Much of this judgement comes from bad experiences in a town that publicizes mostly celebrity news and award shows. In the afternoon of Saturday, December 15th the shopping center at Hollywood and Highland was overrun by a crowd. They were not waiting in line for red carpet entrances to the Kodak Theater nor were they clamoring to spend their money in the shops, or even to see a show. The crowd formed just to sing and dance, and smile. Odd huh?
Perhaps odd if you think of the context that city has been painted with. It is indeed odd for a group of actors, musician, dancers, business people, from all walks of life and religious backgrounds to come together to shout, and hug strangers. Odd perhaps, but maybe a better word is extraordinary.
Hundreds of people poured into the plaza and at the chime of guitars, began singing “All You Need Is Love” by the Beatles.Their harmonies were not perfect but their hearts were filled with a motivation to do more than just “like” and post but also to act. For a generation that is all to often described as wayward and without cause, this group of people seems to have found one.
The group was formed by Preston Smiles, an actor, artist , surfer and LA native. He’s decided to get together as many people as will join him to propel a movement that is dedicated to spreading love. It is a simple goal, but somewhat complicated in execution. So many of us have become jaded and cynical that we perceive pessimism as realism. Preston, is an optimist, a person who believes in the human potential and knows though brilliant, we sometimes need to be reminded of our own light.
The Love Mob is the reminder that we are not all chasing dollars, and the world is not entirely corrupt. It is a calling to anyone who has seen the beauty of another person, or shared a deep moment with a stranger. It is a break from the stigma Los Angeles has been covered with, it is a breath of fresh air amidst all the pollution.
In light of the recent shooting in Connecticut, this reminder is all the more essential. Preston is not alone, he was joined by friends, family, and strangers. Once the music began even more people started in the singing and marching. The event was a momentary distraction from the holiday hustle. It was human graffiti sprawled out stopping everyone to help them notice that is isn’t all bad.
The Love Mob isn’t over. There are plans to carry out a larger event in 2013 and keep the effort going. With the speed of information, we will have soon moved on to other news that may bring that cloud over us again but for now we can enjoy it, and soon there will be another reminder.
If you think it is a little odd, consider what you think is normal. To take a stand for what you believe in, to inspire people to be kind, hopeful, and loving are all things that should be the norm. So given the choice, I’ll say that we could use a little bit more oddity in Los Angeles.
“She draws like a poet.” That is the first sentence that came to my head as I sat down to write about Allison Kunath. I’ve have watched her grow as an artist and person for the past few years and am always surprised and impressed by what I find when we get the chance to meet. You may know her for doing live blind contour drawings in and about LA’s art scene but she is also a freelance painter and graphic artist and a member of the design boutique, Polychrome. She often asks herself if she is doing all she can with what she has been given. With a ripe talent in her pocket, and the taste for change on her tongue the question that hangs in the air for Allison is one present in the minds of so many young creatives after they graduate from art school and get jobs in fields they didn’t major in, “What do I do now?”
Time doesn’t allow for a formal Q and A, because of course, Allison has somewhere to be. So as the sun begins to set we rap about what is on the horizon; goals, aspirations, and pressures. Allison is aware of the grass on the other side of the fence, she wants it, but maybe not wholeheartedly, she knows it isn’t always greener. “If you would have asked me a year, or even 6months ago, I would have more clearly stated a desire to transition into more independent work. But these days more than ever, I am excited about the work we are doing, and I wanna stick around to see what we can create together.” Allison’s is one of five that make the creative solutions firm Polychrome and has had to struggle with seeing herself as an employee in a small firm but I wonder if that wasn’t in part due to her own perspective.
Let’s face it, if you are working, you have a boss. Even if you are a freelancer your clients are your bosses. If you work in sales, your customers are your bosses. The difference is in how we see the contribution we make at our place of work and for those of us with a wild spirit, it is also in what we get from where we work besides a pay check that matters.
When comparing her job to others, you might say she has nothing to complain about. She has stable work in tough times, she’s not rich, but can certainly support herself. Allison is not one to ignore that she is in a good place but she has a constant itch for more, to continue to grow, and stretch herself beyond where she is at present, and that can make things confusing.
I get the sense that everything going well for her and maybe she has reached a comfortable place in life. As we know when things are going well there is a tendency to become complacent. The word complacent does not sit well with Allison. She reacts physically, like I just spoke a nightmare. “I got a little chill when you said that, it is my least favorite idea. COMPLACENT?! Fuck that.” Fear is one of the cardinal points in our belief system, and it seems Allison is afraid of stagnation.
Specifically she wants to do more at work, contribute to that five person team. She wants to continue to sell her art with shows and gallery placements. There is so much more in personal development, fitness, relationships, for some one that is already busy Allison is trying to cram so much productivity into her days I have to ask Where does it end?
“I haven’t thrown up yet. I’ve finished some games okay, and some where I was really tired, but none where I can say I left it all on the court.” This metaphor sums it up like any athlete, calling on her college volleyball past. It is poignant because it illustrates that gratificatin actually has less to do with the final score but more the knowledge that you have put forth every fiber of your being to accomplish something, even if that something is everything.
For Allison, it is not enough to be successful by any worldly measure, because she knows that is all relative. The grass will always be greener on the other side, but it is appreciating the grass beneath your feet and cultivating a rich lawn. Allison fears complacency because she knows that life is precious and we do not have the luxury of wasting any of it, even if it is intentionally spent relaxing. Allison Kunath understands that what she puts into her job, and her art, she gets out of it equally, if not more. She understands that no matter what the score board says, if she has not “left it all on the court” she won’t get the feeling of accomplishment she is after.
I think she may have more figured out than she let’s on, or maybe more figured out than she knows, but it is inspiring to see her unfold. It is inspiring to see a person push themselves to be better each day in little ways and stretch outward in many directions. It is inspiring to see Allison grow as an artist and blossom as a person. She is one of my dear friends and continues to surprise me regularly.
What is better than breakfast?
Breakfast with friends!
To me, there is almost nothing better than sitting at a diner, cafe, or restaurant with a friend in the AM. I found that I could not schedule enough breakfasts to accommodate the number of people I enjoyed having as my company so I started a club.
The goal is just to meet with good people and find out where the good food is for the morning.
TV Cafe was supposed to be Nick’s Diner but since I am bad at planning we had to nix Nick’s and head to the corner of Olympic and Alameda.
TV Cafe has a huge burger and fries atop the patio, I didn’t see them on the menu but they sure look delicious. Upon entering, I oidn’t see as many TV’s as I think I might so I asked the girl at the counter where the name came from, and where all the TVs are, she said it was because “We are always on.” I guess we have that in common.
Don’t spend too much time looking at the menu or your get a crink in your neck since the menu is mounted to the ceiling. They certainly do aim high.
On the corner of the breakfast menu it reads “3pm to 11am” which but Allison , who was last to arrive strolled in at 11:20 and ordered right off the breakfast side with not even a mention of that sign, so don’t be scared. I’m sure they’d rather have you money 20 minutes late than not at all, especially since there is only 4 hours when they don’t serve breakfast.
The food was edible but not exciting. This place was closer to empty at a busy intersection on a sunday afternoon. We got a pretty huge booth for w 3 people though. I only ate one of my pancakes. Def Sound ordered vegetarian huevoes rancheros, but they decided he need to “beef up” so he found pieces of meat in his meal.
I don’t remember what Youssef ordered, not only because I am a bad journalist but my food arrived before his and I had already begun to dig in by the time he got a plate. Picture looks like tacos right?
Allison’s coffee and oatmeal cookies were not worthy of a photo. I got a standard breakfast, as will almost always get. Eggs, bacon, hash browns and my personal favorite, PANCAKCES!!
The pancakes were flat, not fluffy, but not bad, as I said ‘unexciting’. What was exciting was the quadralogue we had at the table.4 artists, born and raised in the technological age, we are the last generation to remember a world without internet.
Before the food arrived, Def Sound browsed through tracks on his Iphone. Allison mentioned a book, and by the time she was done talking about it Youssef already had it on the way to his house via web order. We passed phones back and for just as passed thoughts.
The internet was so accessible to the four of us at the table but we realized not everyone is so fortunate. There are still millions of people in our country without access to something we rely on daily. It was a reality check to us all, it certainly brought home the message of gratitude and we all left a bit more appreciative of what we have at our finger tips.
It is 2010 and I found myself sitting in a TV cafe, sharing, breakfast and mobile broadband, broadening my horizons. The future is so fun, I can’t wait to see more of it.